I was born and raised in Mexico City. It is a beautiful, inspiring place in which tradition is an important part of daily life. Being able to celebrate and share my culture around the world makes me proud!
I'd hoped that my career as an entertainer would allow me to meet amazing people, learn to master my craft, express myself, and develop a strong work ethic, but I never anticipated the impact I could have on others.
Telenovelas gave me the pleasure of bringing Mexican culture and heritage into homes. When I worked on soap operas such as Marimar, we shot in beautiful outdoor settings and on gorgeous Mexican beaches. Everyone who watched the telenovela enjoyed the beauty of Mexico through their TVs.
Similarly, when I shoot music videos, I do my best to incorporate interesting details about my culture because I know people all around the world are watching. In the video for "Amor a la Mexicana," we tried to emulate some of the most characteristic images from Mexican movies by adding a good dose of traditional, colorful costumes, charro hats, and, of course, tequila!
Through my music and acting career, my fans in Greece, Italy, Brazil, Hungary, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, among others, have learned to speak and write in Spanish. My fans have fallen in love with Mexican culture and its traditions — I love that!
In Mexico, people commemorate their deceased family members with Día de los Muertos celebrations. It's not a somber occasion but a festive one, during which we celebrate the lives of those who've passed. Many fans will celebrate Día de los Muertos with me, sending homemade art and social media messages related to the holiday because they see me celebrate.
They have also adopted traditions related to the Epiphany, or Three Kings' Day, celebration. In Mexico, we celebrate this holiday on Jan. 6 with rosca de reyes, or Mexican sweet bread. It's a cake that has a plastic figure of baby Jesus hidden inside, and whoever finds it is urged to host a party to celebrate Candlemas Day on Feb. 2. I absolutely love seeing all the photos shared by fans around the world who bake the rosca de reyes and eat it with family and friends to celebrate the Epiphany like me.
I remember when I visited Manila, Philippines, in 1996, and the city was literally paralyzed. They called me "La Reina Azteca" (the Aztec Queen), and somebody said that it was the first time since Elvis Presley traveled to the country that the crowds were so dense and excited about an entertainer's visit. I was truly humbled to have received such a monumental nickname.
Today, I live in the United States with my husband and young children, but I make it a priority to celebrate Mexican holidays and teach them about our traditions.
It is important that my children understand their roots and will pass on the culture to their children when they grow older. By teaching them about Mexican music — boleros, mariachis, and banda — I am instilling the culture of my country in their hearts.
I am also making sure that they enjoy and appreciate Mexican cuisine as much as I do! My children already know how to make guacamole, and they like to add chile to some of their foods. There is no doubt that by exposing my children early on to different cultures, food, music, and beliefs, they will develop a better understanding and tolerance for other human beings.
Image Source: Thalia
I wonder what a chief of the Taino tribe would say if he could see his people now. Would he recognize me as one of his own? Would his tribal tongue make sense of my broken Spanish? What if he could follow me around for an entire day? I imagine him standing behind me in class while I place a check next to a box that reads “Other”. I picture us walking home from school and the look on his face when he sees that my village is made up of concrete and brick. I like to pretend that at the end of that day he would break the language barrier; that he would put one hand on his chest, one hand on mine, and say, “Boricua”.
I am a Latino who was born and raised on the mainland United States. As a Latino in America there is a certain pride and spirituality that you carry with you. This same pride is what keeps tradition alive. It’s the reason my Abuela’s house smells like spices from Goya. It’s the reason there are festivals in the streets and flags hanging from windows. It lives in the mind of a child who doesn’t know what it tastes like to speak Spanish but is hungry to know.
We might live in a new land but there’s a reason flags from the old one wave here. It’s not political or rebellious, but what I like to call a cultural understanding. I can see it when I pass another Latino in the street and he gives me a quick nod. He doesn’t say a word but he doesn’t have to. It’s our way of telling each other, “I understand”. America is a land of struggle, victory, and the journey in between. For a young Latino, that journey means knowing where you come from and taking control of where you are going. It means living in a melting pot of cultures and still holding on to the traditions that were passed on by yours. That’s what it means to be a Latino in America.
Juan Caminero of Cleveland graduated from the city's Mc2 Stem High School last year and now attends Cuyahoga Community College, where he is exploring a major in the recording arts. He is of Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage. This essay won first place in a recent essay contest sponsored by the Hispanic Roundtable.