All in CULTURE

Hispanic or Latino, which label is it?

In the US, the terms ‘Latino’ and ‘Hispanic’ are used interchangeably to refer to specific ethnic groups. But do you know the difference? More importantly, is there a difference? If so, which term is politically correct (as in which label do these communities prefer)? Where did these terms originate from and why do they matter? As a Mexican-American, I belong to these umbrella terms and I confess that at one point in time I didn’t know or care about the difference between these words. This topic is more relevant than ever before since 54 million Americans, about 17% of the overall population, trace their roots to Latin America or Spain. In today’s blog post, I provide my humble perspective and answer these questions.

How South Korea Honors Buddhism

One of the many reasons that attracted me to South Korea is the prevalence of Buddhism. In a country of about 50 million inhabitants, 18% of the population identifies as practicing Buddhists. Although Buddhism is not the current most popular religion, the influence of this faith is still an important part of Korean culture. Recently, I had the honor of experiencing Daegu’s Dalgubeol Lantern Festival, which celebrates Buddha’s Birthday. 

3 Cultural Characteristics That Define South Korea

I’ve been exposed to Korean culture for a couple of months now and during this time, I’ve noticed certain qualities that are a stark contrast from American or Mexican cultures. Before getting on a plane to Korea, I did research on the country’s history and culture to gain basic knowledge of the new place I’d call home. Collectivism, Confucianism, nationalism and hierarchy are some of the words that can sum up this fascinating country. Since living here, these seemingly abstract notions have become my new reality. Before, I had an intellectual grasp of these ideas but witnessing them firsthand has led to greater understanding. In this post, collectivism, hierarchy and the hurry, hurry syndrome are explored. It should be noted that these observations are my mere perceptions and interpretations.  

Helpless and Clueless in South Korea

It’s been only three weeks since I’ve been in Korea but it feels like months. It must be due to the fact that so much has happened in the last 20+ days. I left home sweet home Chicago, flew halfway across the world, had an intense but rewarding week-long orientation, arrived at my new apartment in Daegu, met my school staff and started teaching! Just the way I like to live my life – as productively as possible.

How your granny helped shape evolution

Have you heard of the Grandmother Hypothesis? According to the theory, grandmothers have played an essential role in helping increase human longevity. How? Because they were able to take care of their offsprings’ growing kids while the mothers cared for the younger children. This system of productivity or what we call an extended family provided an evolutionary advantage to humans. Basically, you should call and thank your granny for their essential role in evolution and life expectancy. How cool huh? I like this hypothesis because it speaks to the importance of old folk.

How a Shift in Language Leads to a Shift in Personality

People with the ability to speak more than one language have long been subject to scientific research in the area of brain function.  Many conclusions have been drawn including that being bilingual is associated with greater thinking flexibility, can delay the onset of certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and allows one to communicate and understand the world from a different perspective. These are only some of the benefits of speaking more than one language. Interestingly, recent research suggests that bilingual and multilingual speakers behave differently depending on which language they speak.

3 Latin Foklore Tales That Will Give You the Chills

To properly say farewell to both Halloween and Día de los Muertos, I’m dedicating this entry to some spooky cuentos and leyendas I grew up with. Since Latin culture doesn’t view death as a final step, rather a transitory stage to the eternal world, we tend to have an odd relationship with the spiritual realm. Paranormal and supernatural happenings are commonly accepted as everyday life. So, stories of ghost appearances, spirits, duendes, Santeria and Voodoo rituals, and scary ass tales are common for most Latinos and also believed to some extent. Whether we choose to dive deep into the rabbit hole or not, Latin culture instills in us an intrinsic understanding and appreciation for the spiritual world. Here are three of the most popular tales or leyendas throughout Latin America: 

How Are Latinos Redefining the American Dream?

Have you ever heard of the “American Dream”? It’s the notion that any one person can make it in America regardless of origins or social class. That if one works hard enough, one has a fair shot at achieving prosperity and success or upward social mobility. I’ll be honest, I lean more towards the skeptic and some may say cynic view of the “American Dream”. Yes, we hear of the incredible and moving stories in which people with little to no resources move to the States and achieve greatness through hard work and dedication. But I would venture to say that for every one of these stories, we don’t hear of the thousands that didn’t “make it”. The people that work tirelessly but such efforts don’t yield results worthy of calling it the American Dream. What I’m saying is that I don’t solely believe in meritocracy, I believe chance, luck, circumstances and connections also play a significant role in our lives. However, I must admit that I am a walking example of the American Dream...

Day of the Dead: Do You Know What It Really Signifies?

Throughout time, civilizations ranging from ancient Egypt, to China, to Mexico, have created ways of coming to terms with death. Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is an essential part of the Mexican identity, with its origins fusing pre-Columbian indigenous rituals and European Catholic beliefs. This holiday is neither morbid nor macabre, rather it is a celebration of remembrance that acknowledges death as a natural part of the human experience. Día de los Muertos originated in Mexican folklore tradition and aims to honor the life + memory of loved ones that have passed away. During November 12, family members gather to pray and pay tribute to departed family members. Day of the Dead is also meant to bring hope by providing a way to cope with our own impending mortality. Read on to find out the true meaning behind Day of the Dead (it has nothing to do with Halloween).

America, The Melting Pot... Or is it?

I am inherently interested in race, ethnicity, cultural differences and social issues related to the Hispanic community due to my Mexican background. During my undergraduate years, I studied what it means to be a Latino in the U.S. and how identities of Latino-Americans are formed. I was fascinated! I gained an academic understanding of why people of Latino descent feel and think the way they do, myself included. I remember sitting in my LALS 103 (Introduction to Latino Urban Studies) class, absorbing and identifying with the complexities of being a Latino or “minority” in the U.S. I felt that my own feelings, doubts and frustrations were voiced. And there was plenty of credible research behind it! I felt empowered. One of the major reasons why is started this blog is to explore the curiosity and passion I feel for such topics. In this post, I turn the spotlight around – What does it mean to be Caucasian or White in the U.S.?