The Importance of Keeping Cultural Traditions Alive

by Melanie Edwards on December 29, 2010 · 11 comments

in guest-posts,Latino Culture,Puerto Rico

Los Tres Reyes Magos

I’m on maternity leave as of December 8: The following is a guest post by Roxana A. Soto.

There’s really no better way to expose our children to our Latino culture than to travel with them to the place where we — or our family members — were born. We try to travel to both Peru, where I was born, and Puerto Rico, where my husband was born, at least once a year. We’ve only had the fortune to go to La Isla del Encanto once during the holidays. And, while that was almost two years ago, the experience was so full of culture that I decided to write the following post.

It’s 2:30 in the madrugada and the rooster won’t stop crowing. I thought this only happened at the break of dawn! What is going on? It was okay the first few days, but after all the late nights celebrating Año Nuevo and the first days of 2009 and just life in general – as they do on this beautiful island on a regular basis – I want to kill the stupid rooster. But then, I remember how Vanessa’s face lit up when she first heard it the morning after our first night in her father’s homeland, Puerto Rico.

Mami, cucha! Ki-ki-ki!” — she instructed me to listen unable to contain her excitement.

For the first time in her short life, she was hearing the sound of a real rooster just outside her bedroom window. Later on, after she got dressed, we went outside to take a look at the culprit, and we were all surprised to see not only one, but two roosters, a bunch of hens, and about ten tiny chickies.

My husband’s family lives in the northwest part of the island and even though we’re staying in a recently constructed community, it’s still el campo. So — to my daughter’s delight —our next-door neighbor is somehow allowed to raise these farm birds. And even though I’m annoyed (to put it lightly) with their crowing at ungodly hours, I have to admit nothing makes my heart sing more than not having to explain to my daughter what it means to grow up en el campo.

A celebration like no other

The night before Reyes Magos — one of the biggest celebrations of Epiphany in any Spanish-speaking country I’ve ever had the fortune to experience — we were awoken in the middle of the night by a parranda at a neighbor’s house. This is basically when a group of friends armed with maracas, guitarras, güiros, palitos — among other instruments — gathers quietly in front of a friend or family member’s house late at night and when everyone’s setup they start singing and playing typical música navideña de Puerto Rico, waking up the household members to the sound of music, loud music. This goes on for a while and then the group and the members of the house move on to another house and so on, until the group is small no more and they reach the last house around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.

The night in question, we were all startled by the festive music. Vanessa woke up and asked: “Qué eso?” To which her father responded: “Una parranda!” And she immediately started dancing! What can I say; she has it in her blood… Anyhow, a few minutes later, and because I had never heard or seen a live parranda — and since you only live this particular life once and we were already awake — we decided to check it out. So, in the middle of the night and in our pajamas, we got in the car and took Vanessa to experience her first parranda. When we got there, my husband explained that it was probably the last house because of the amount of people and the smell of asopao — a kind of typical chicken soup that has to be served by the last house to receive the parranda.

We weren’t there long — and I don’t know how much of it Vanessa will actually remember — but I’m glad we did it. It is so much better to teach our kids about our culture through actual experiences…

What are some of your favorite cultural traditions? What do you do to teach your kids about them? Why do you think it’s important to keep traditions alive?

Roxana A. Soto of SpanglishBabyAn Emmy-award winning bilingual freelance journalist, Roxana A. Soto was born in Lima, Peru, but has lived in the U.S. most of her life. She worked in print and TV for years, but went digital after having her first child and realizing there was little information online about bilingualism. In 2009, she co-founded SpanglishBaby — the go-to site for parents raising bilingual and bi-cultural kids. Roxana is married and has two bilingual and bi-cultural children.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Norma823 December 29, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Feliz Ano Nuevo!

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2 Norma823 December 29, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Feliz Ano Nuevo!

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3 Latinaish December 29, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I always thought the parrandas of Puerto Rico sound like a lot of fun. How lucky Vanessa is that you make sure she gets a taste of all of this.

As for the rooster – the only time I heard a live rooster out my window was in El Salvador, and I was less than amused as well. There was another bird called a “Pichichi” that kept me up half the night, and then the rooster took over before sunrise. I wanted to strangle those birds. LOL.

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4 Latinaish December 29, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I always thought the parrandas of Puerto Rico sound like a lot of fun. How lucky Vanessa is that you make sure she gets a taste of all of this.

As for the rooster – the only time I heard a live rooster out my window was in El Salvador, and I was less than amused as well. There was another bird called a “Pichichi” that kept me up half the night, and then the rooster took over before sunrise. I wanted to strangle those birds. LOL.

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5 modernmami January 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

What is it you and Roxana have against birds? ;) LOL

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6 modernmami January 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

What is it you and Roxana have against birds? ;) LOL

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7 Frankie De Soto December 30, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Great blog post, I think it’s important for us to pass along our culture and traditions to the next generation. I know everybody feels a sense of nostalgia when they were younger and experiencing the culture that their family introduced to them. I also believe teaching the second language to children helps strengthen the cultural bonds as well as it being essential in a closer multicultural world, a great benefit in a career.

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8 Frankie De Soto December 30, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Great blog post, I think it’s important for us to pass along our culture and traditions to the next generation. I know everybody feels a sense of nostalgia when they were younger and experiencing the culture that their family introduced to them. I also believe teaching the second language to children helps strengthen the cultural bonds as well as it being essential in a closer multicultural world, a great benefit in a career.

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9 Adal Gutierrez February 18, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I agree with you, the tradition of Los Tres Reyes Magos (how we call it in Mexico) is unique. Nice post. Que viva la parranda!

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10 modernmami February 23, 2011 at 5:05 am

It’s such a great tradition too!

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