Tuesday, October 23, 2018

When Learning Spanish, Learn Some Manners!


My Spanish-Speaking Drill Instructor,
Alberto, of  Chincha Alta, Perú 

 

It was my late Mexican-American friend, Yolanda Gutierrez,  who admonished me to learn Latin-American culture if I'm going to speak the Spanish language. I took that advice so much to heart that I committed myself to spending every vacation from work traveling to one or more Spanish-speaking countries where, as much as possible, I planted myself in the barrios (the hoods), far away from the facade of the tourist industries.

In my second trip to Perú, I chose not to attend a Spanish immersion school as I did in my first trip, but hired a local citizen, Alberto, who charged me an equivalent of five U.S. dollars per hour to spend three hours per day drilling me on my Spanish. We roamed around his hometown of Chincha Alta, Perú discussing a variety of topics while, at the same time, learning to navigate the city. 


Avenida Benavides (Avenue) in Chincha Alta, Perú

 

One day, while walking around the city's Plaza de Armas (the main square), I decided to stop in a store to get some needed stationary. As he and I walked in, I immediately placed my order. When my purchasing transaction was complete, the store clerk thanked me, and I nodded in acknowledgement before proceeding out the door. 

Alberto stopped me right outside and began to lecture me about my manners. In Spanish, and in his own Peruvian manner, he said to me, “Guillermo," the name I go by when I'm in a Latin-America country,  "when you go into a place of business, it is important that you greet everyone inside with buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon), or buenas noches (good evening) before you discuss whatever business you want to handle. And when you're done, you say permiso (excuse me), then you "bounce!""


Boarding a combi, a van serving as public transportation taking me
back to my homestay in El Carmen, Perú, 30 minutes away

 

I gladly accepted his reprimand as a learning curve in my Latin-American experience. I never forgot those words of advice. In my following trip to Mexico City, I tried what Alberto told me when I approached a group of Mexican nationals at the airport with a question. 

 Lo and behold, I then had trouble convincing those guys that I'm American and not Cuban all because I put into practice the Latin American etiquette that I had just learned. I had to bust some English and flash my American passport before they finally believed me. To this day, when approaching a Latin-American or entering a Latin-American place of business, I apply the same manners whether I'm in Colombia, Panamá, California or New York. There is more that I need to learn and am looking forward to further schooling.



Thursday, October 4, 2018

Sad Ending with my Afro-Peruvian Goddaughter



I was fascinated by a CD, "the Soul of Black Perú" that alerted me to this country's black population. And as a lifetime Spanish student seeking to learn about black cultures in Latin America, Perú joined my list of places to visit. Through my planing and research, I learned of a prominent black musical family in Perú's southern district of El Carmen that entertains and accommodates visitors wanting to explore the Afro-Peruvian community and its culture. My first trip took place in October 2005.

 
 Daniela and I hanging out in Chincha Alta, Perú

This family took me in as though I were a long, lost cousin making it easier for me to mix with residents in the community. One evening, while in the living room working on my laptop, a sweet three-year-old wandered in from next door, and I offered her some sugarless candy that I brought from the U.S. Her name is Daniela, and suddenly, I was deeply struck by a strong, paternal connection.


La Plaza de Armas (Main Square) of El Carmen, the hub of Afro-Peruvian culture

When she reached the age of five, Daniela asked me a question that has always been very dear to my heart; she wanted to know if she could be my daughter. I never met her father, but according to hearsay, he is quite a player running around with different women at will. In fact, I even met two of Daniela's half sisters fathered by this same man.

Daniela at an amusement park in Sunampe, Perú

Even while at home in the U.S., I would make calls to Daniela and her family and wire money hoping that she would benefit. As I made repeat visits to Perú, I would take Daniela and her family and playmates to dinners, amusement parks, and beaches. During her puberty, I taught her how to play chess, Monopoly, and Scrabble, and later bought her a bicycle. In addition to trying to get her started early in the English language, I made attempts to encourage her to develop her reading and math skills beyond grade level by purchasing children's books.

Daniela and I enjoying treats outside a local store

Unfortunately, because I live in the U.S. and she in Perú, I inadvertently missed far too many opportunities to be the influence in her life as I would have loved. Her mother sold the bicycle and all the other gifts and educational materials that I purchased for Daniela. Because of the marginalized educational system in this predominately black and brown community, her Spanish is now the equivalent of U.S. black "ghetto talk." Even though Spanish is not my first language, I quickly detected the poorly written messages she sends me through Facebook today as a teen. 

Relaxing at a local resort in El Carmen while Daniela's mother (background) 
supervises the kids on the waterfront.

When Daniela turned nine I noticed a marked difference in her behavior upon my arrival in El Carmen. It was obvious that she was surreptitiously influenced by her mother or other family members to hustle me, i.e, capitalize on the tender spot that I have in my heart for her by having me purchase items supposedly for her and her little sister, but in reality, for her mother to "sell." I really wanted to help Daniela enjoy her childhood, but her mother kept getting in the way for personal gain.



La Calle (San Jose Street) in El Carmen, Peru

On Daniela's 15th birthday, I paid half the expenses for her Quinceañera, which is like the U.S. Sweet 16 celebration, but for 15-year-olds. Still trying to encourage her to think about her future as she rapidly approaches adulthood, I sent her pictures of successful black women, such as Muriel Bowser informing her that this is the mayor of our nation's capital. Indeed, she was impressed by her beauty as well as her status as a black female, but not enough to try to think about her own life and future.



The sign reads, "We Are Ebony," at a children's community center.
El Carmen, Perú

I really spoiled Daniela's family! Today, as Daniela recently turned16, it has become blatantly evident that she is being used to withdraw an increasing amount of money out of me. Sadly, I caught Daniela in so many lies about her needs and wants and noticed inconsistencies and holes in her stories as she continues to come up with excuses to get me to wire more money, which of course, will go to her mother, and not to Daniela.
Daniela after an Afro-Peruvian dance class

A Peruvian-American acquaintance, told me years ago not to be fooled by all the love that I get from Peruvian people; "it's about the benjamins, moron," he insisted out of frustration. In some instances, he was right, but fortunately, I met others, such as the musical family who always gave me a place to stay never hitting on me for money, but treated me as a blood relative. They even cared for me when I got sick, and nursed me back to health. However, Daniela's family was different once they realized how much I really cared for her and were determined to take advantage.
 
We are toasting with our Inca Cola as we await grilled chicken dinners

No way do I blame Daniela as I believe she truly desired and valued our father-daughter relationship. She is only a child and was vehemently sidetracked by loved ones into going for the benjamins, which is far beyond her control. It is sad, but I chose to cut off all communication with her and her family and simply move on with my life.













Tuesday, September 25, 2018

LATINO HERITAGE MONTH: A Black Pictorial Celebration




Hispanic (Latino) Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, addresses little, if any, of its racial diversity consisting of Asians, Blacks, Indigenous, Jews, Middle Easterners, Whites, and a mixture of some or all of the above.

The Latino (Hispanic) black population has been around for over a century before that of the African American. Thus, I am presenting  22 photos denoting Black History in Latin America.


 María Chiquinquirá
Ecuador

She was the first slave to win her freedom in a court battle changing the course of history for thousands of black woman in Ecuador.


Nicomedus Santa Cruz
Perú

 Poet, composer, journalist, and folklorist helped raise awareness of Afro-Peruvian culture.


Victoria Santa Cruz
Perú 

Dubbed as the Mother of Afro-Peruvian culture, she is the wife of Nicomedus (above); a choreographer, composer, and social activist.



Statue of Lt. Pedro Camejo
Venezuela

He is known as El Primero Negro (the First Black) fight under the South American liberator Simón Bolívar.

    
  
Antonio Ruiz
Argentina

Thousands of Argentine blacks fought in Argentina's revolutionary war and on behalf of other South American countries seeking independence from Spain.

Piedad Córdoba
Colombia's First Black Senator


Vicente Guerrero
México

Before becoming México's First Black President in 1829, he is credited for liberating México from Spain in 1810. He is the son of an African slave mother and a Mestizo peasant father.


 Rafael Cordero
Puerto Rico

A monument built in San Juan in honor of the Father of Education



  
Soul Food Cook
Perú 

I had my tasteful enjoyment of this cuisine in Southern Perú where Afro-Peruvian recipes were passed down since slavery.


Mónica Chalá
former Miss Ecuador


Brigadier General Antonio Maceo
Cuba

He was known as the Bronze Titan in Cuba's revolutionary war against Spain.

Arnaldo Temayo Mendes
Cuba

World's first black Astronaut who flew with Russians in 1980.

 
 Lt. Estéban Hotense
Dominican Republic


Raised in Kentucky (USA), he became a member of the famous all-black World War II Tuskegee Airmen.



Alonso Illescas
Ecuador
   
Successful slave rebel, strategist, and guerrilla warrior built an alliance of escaped African slaves and indigenous people in Ecuador's black capital—Esmeraldas.



Statue of Gaspar Yanga
México

Originally from an area of West Africa now known as Gabón, this slave rebel created México's first free black town 200 years before the rest of México gained independence from Spain.



Remedios Del Valle
Argentina

Known as the Madre de Patria (the Mother of her Country) having served in many military battles in defense of Argentina.


José Leandro Andrade
Uruguay

Decades before World Cup soccer star Pele, Andrade was know as the The Black Marvel who enchanted international soccer fans with effortless grace and elegance.


Ballumbrosio Family
El Carmen, Perú 

I am in the back (2nd from right) with Perú's famous music family with whom I stay every time I visit Perú. 



Black Heritage Celebration
Caracas, Venezuela 

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Black Bolivians Celebrating their African heritage
 
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Jorge Medina
Bolivia
 
First Black Senator
  


The Garinagu (Garifunas)
Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, & Nicaragua

In the Bronx borough of New York City, black immigrants from Central America celebrate their ethnic heritage. They speak Spanish, English, and their native tongue Garífuna.