Things That Matter

10 Fun Ways Latinos Celebrate Navidad

As the holiday season approaches, Latino families are gearing up to celebrate Navidad in many festive ways. From dramatic light displays, to feasting on favorite recipes, Navidad is a time that community and tradition join together. Always the welcoming hosts, Latinos share their homes, exchange gifts and set off fireworks to light up the night in style. Parties erupt with laughter and music. Navidad celebrations even continue into the new year with unique ways to bring good luck. Here are 10 fun Latino traditions to help you celebrate Navidad from early December all the way through the first week of January. Felices Fiestas!

La Quema del Diablo and Dia De Las Velitas

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Depending on the area you are from, Navidad celebrations can begin as early as the first week of December. In Venezuela there is a special feast on Saint Barbara’s day, December 4th. In Guatemala, La Quema del Diablo kicks off the Navidad season with huge bonfires at dusk to keep Satan away from the festivities to follow.

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In Colombia, the first official Navidad celebration is December 7th on Dia De Las Velitas, or Day of the Little Candles. This public holiday includes lighting candles and lanterns to honor the Virgin Mary. 

Parrandas and Villancicos

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Nobody loves spontaneous group singing like Latinos do! The 9 nights leading up to Navidad, gather la trulla and surprise your neighborhood with Parrandas or Villancicos, traditional carol-like songs. In Puerto Rico, groups walk through town singing along with instruments like the cuatro guitar, maracas and drums. 

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This tradition is so fun, it’s not unheard of for the group to continue singing and growing larger as they travel through town well past midnight. Of course there’s plenty of food and drinks served along the way!

Posadas Navideñas

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In addition to parrandas, the 9 days leading up to Navidad also include Posadas Navidenas. Children love to dress up as Mary and Joseph and reenact the events leading up to the birth of Jesus by traveling throughout their neighborhood. 

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The Posada group is “turned away” from the host the first 8 nights representing the struggles of Joseph and Mary looking for shelter. On the ninth night, the host lets them enter, and a celebration follows. If you’re looking for fun the days leading up to Navidad, Latino neighborhoods are definitely the place to be!

Nacimientos

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Nacimientos are Nativity scenes created to help decorate Latino homes during Navidad, featuring Joseph, Mary, the wise men and animals. Our family had a very modest nacimiento but some include extremely detailed designs. 

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The figure of baby Jesus isn’t added until the night of December 24th, celebrating his birth. 

Niño Dios or Papa Noel

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Who needs Santa? While some Hispanic areas do acknowledge Papa Noel, many Latino children write special letters to Niño Dios, asking for presents each year. 

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It is far more common in the Latino culture for letters to be addressed directly to baby Jesus himself. With millions of excited niños waiting, that’s one busy baby each Navidad. 

Nochebuena

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Nochebuena is the main event for Latino Navidad celebrations. Families and friends gather together on December 24th for the ultimate evening of celebration. Gifts, sparklers and piñatas are all part of the fun. If your family is like mine, the heart of the evening will be sharing a delicious feast of favorite foods. Pasteles, lechon, roscas, creamy natilla and tamales are all favorites. My family  would hide an olive in the middle of each tamale to honor the Virgin Mary. 

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Of course no Navidad holiday would be complete without fireworks! And if you’re looking to add a little more spice to your evening, be sure it includes coquito; basically egg nog but better…think rum! Many families will wrap up their celebrations in time for the traditional Midnight Mass and then it’s back to la casa to open more presents! 

La Misa Del Gallo

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If you haven’t been to this special midnight Mass before, put it on your bucket list.  This Catholic tradition dates back centuries. Latinos across the world gather at their local church at midnight on December 24th, sharing in prayer and reflecting on the birth of Jesus.

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I remember the last one I attended was so crowded with people you could barely see the front of the church, but it didn’t matter because just being a part of that moment felt amazing. 

Ano Viejo

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Navidad celebrations extend beyond Nochebuena for Latino families. A favorite tradition takes place on December 31st when Latinos create scarecrow type dolls or muñecas out of old clothes stuffed with grass. 

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Symbolizing the year that is ending, the muñecas range from doll to life sized. On December 31st, light your doll on fire to represent the old year ending, adios!

Feliz Año Nuevo

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Quickly eating a dozen grapes as the new year strikes is another fun Latino New Year tradition. Don’t forget to make a wish for each month as you gulp those grapes! 

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If you’re looking for good luck in the coming year, join other Latinos in wearing yellow underwear to bed, or choose the color red if you’d like a year full of love.

El Dia de los Reyes

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Navidad celebrations usually wrap up with Dia de los Reyes on January 6th. This is the day of Epiphany, in honor of the three Kings who traveled to meet baby Jesus. If you weren’t one of the kids writing letters to baby Jesus or Santa, then you may remember leaving your hay-filled shoes out for the three Kings’ camels, hoping the Kings in turn would leave you a gift too.

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My favorite part of this day was enjoying the sweet bread Rosca de Reyes, although I never did find the small plastic baby Jesus hidden inside. 

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

Things That Matter

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

If you’ve ever wondered what someone with a bulletproof vest and an AR-15 would look like flossing — the dance, not the method of dental hygiene — apparently the answer to that question can be found on TikTok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as a part of some absurdist sketch comedy or surreal video art installation. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend of drug cartels in Mexico using TikTok as a marketing tool. Nevermind the fact that Mexico broke grim records last year for the number of homicides and cartel violence, the cartels have found an audience on TikTok and that’s a serious cause for concern.

Mexican cartels are using TikTok to gain power and new recruits.

Just a couple of months ago, a TikTok video showing a legit high-speed chase between police and drug traffickers went viral. Although it looked like a scene from Netflix’s Narcos series, this was a very real chase in the drug cartel wars and it was viewed by more than a million people.

Typing #CartelTikTok in the social media search bar brings up thousands of videos, most of them from people promoting a “cartel culture” – videos with narcocorridos, and presumed members bragging about money, fancy cars and a luxury lifestyle.

Viewers no longer see bodies hanging from bridges, disembodied heads on display, or highly produced videos with messages to their enemies. At least not on TikTok. The platform is being used mainly to promote a lifestyle and to generate a picture of luxury and glamour, to show the ‘benefits’ of joining the criminal activities.

According to security officials, the promotion of these videos is to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel with images of endless cash, parties, military-grade weapons and exotic pets like tiger cubs.

Cartels have long used social media to shock and intimidate their enemies.

And using social media to promote themselves has long been an effective strategy. But with Mexico yet again shattering murder records, experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia, in a statement to the New York Times. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

Mexico used to be ground zero for this kind of activity, where researchers created a new discipline out of studying these narco posts. Now, gangs in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and the United States are also involved.

A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows people are responding. Public comments from users such as “Y’all hiring?” “Yall let gringos join?” “I need an application,” or “can I be a mule? My kids need Christmas presents,” are on some of the videos.

One of the accounts related to this cartel community publicly answered: “Of course, hay trabajo para todos,” “I’ll send the application ASAP.” “How much is the pound in your city?” “Follow me on Instagram to talk.” The post, showing two men with $100 bills and alcohol, had more than a hundred comments.

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