¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Cultural Festival

Today we went to the ¿Qué Pasa? Festival in Richmond, VA. It was a celebration of Hispanic heritage at the city’s Science Museum. The first thing I noticed when we pulled up, besides the incredible number of people, was that the museum looked just like the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. It had the dome at the top and everything. The only difference was the museum was longer and not as brightly painted.

I noted that the festival was both indoors and outdoors. That was a good thing, because I saw some clouds off in the distance that looked like rain clouds. I could also smell the rain coming, as the old folks would say. I could see some dancers performing as we were walking up. They looked like flamenco dancers with the brightly colored dresses and the castanets on their hands. They must have been finishing up, because a band was coming on next. Another thing I noticed was that there were a crazy number of vendors outside. There had to be about a hundred craft, food, and sponsor booths, once we walked inside, there were hundreds more!

¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Cultural Festival - Photo by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Cultural Festival – Photo by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

We walked past the compass swinging across the globe and towards the elevators. Before we could push the button something bright caught my eye. PIÑATASSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! Piñatas lined this long hallway. Apparently, the festival organizers asked the local high schools to participate in a piñata design challenge. So the schools submitted their best piñatas. They were unbelievable!!!! All shapes, all sizes, all colors! They were just astounding.

I started to get a little cold and a little hungry. I saw an arepas vendor outside that I wanted to try out, but on my way out I was distracted by a group of guys and girls dance-fighting. It’s called capoeira. I watched them for a while until my stomach started growling. I searched out the arepas vendor and got one. When I came back, the capoeira people were just finishing up. Some random guy called out for them to come over. He said, “I know how to dance-fight, too,” and started break dancing. It was hilarious!

¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Festival Piñata poster - Photo by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Cultural Festival – Photo by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

I walked a little further down the complex and there was a fashion show going on. I thought it was wedding gear, but it was Quinceañera fashion. I sent a text message to the girls to tell them about it as I walked away. Tess texted back to say they were doing Zumba inside and I was welcome to join them if I liked. I wasn’t interested, so I went to go see the Mariachi band play. That is, until it started to drizzle. That was my cue to head back inside.

I walked around for a little bit and was happy to see so many Hispanic cultures represented at one festival. Everyone looked so proud to take part in such celebrations of diversity. I was happy to be a part of the crowd and support these kinds of festivities. I’d say it was a success, despite the rain. I would definitely come back.

Activities:

  1. What is capoeira?
  2. What does the name “¿Qué pasa?” mean? – Think of an alternative name for the festival.
  3. Is there a similar festival in your hometown? Describe it.
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Florida Oranges

I am an orange freak! Every Saturday morning when I was a kid, when my mom and I would go to the grocery store, we’d walk directly to the produce and seek out the oranges. When we’d find them, we’d look for the label that says Florida. We liked Florida oranges the best because the peels are really thin. Even though they’re harder to peel, there’s more fruit and they are juicier than other oranges. Once we found the Florida oranges, we would promptly grab a bag and fill it until we couldn’t fit any more in there. Then we would shop the rest of the store. That was the beginning of my orange addiction.

You know oranges aren’t native to Florida, right? Juan Ponce de Leon brought them to Florida in the early 1500s. Rumor has it that Ponce de Leon was in search of the fountain of youth, and oranges are a part of staying young. They contain a generous amount of antioxidants, which have been proven to fight aging. I’m sure Ponce de Leon switched the saying from an apple a day to “an orange a day keeps the doctor away.”

Florida Oranges

Florida Oranges

Speaking of health, did you know people used to give oranges as wedding gifts? They were a gift to symbolize good health for the new couple. I’m sure that was a great gift back in the day, but there better be a juicer to go along with all those oranges at my wedding!

As we were driving around in Florida, there were orange trees in people’s yards, there were orange groves in the country fields, and miles and miles of orange farms owned by corporations. The orange growing business is an almost 10-billion-dollar business in Florida. You would think that Florida was the world leader in oranges, but actually, Brazil, specifically São Paulo, is the world leader. Brazil’s oranges are purely for exportation, however, whereas the Florida orange is mostly for domestic consumption.

Don’t laugh at me, but I joined an orange fruit club. Every year from November through May, I get 10-pound crates of oranges each week. From November through January I get navel oranges and February through May I get Valencia oranges. They come directly to my doorstep and I enjoy them all week long. They’re always fresh and perfectly picked. Must I say it again? I’m an orange freak!

Activities:

  1. Where do Florida oranges originally come from?
  2. Who was Ponce de León? How did he impact the history of the United States?
  3. What is your favorite fruit and why?
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Tijuana

Today we found out what all the hype was about in Tijuana, Mexico. As we were on our way to San Diego, CA, someone suggested that we go to Tijuana for a few hours. I’d heard about Tijuana, but I was never allowed to go. There were a lot of rumors and stereotypes about this growing border town, so it was always known as the “Forbidden City.” Thankfully, today we put all of those rumors and stereotypes to rest.

Tijuana border with the U.S.

Tijuana border with the U.S.

We started off by taking a vote. Did we want to walk into Mexico or drive into Mexico? Along with a majority of the group, I voted to walk, so we parked the car off of the last U.S. exit and proceeded to walk to the border. We were almost at the border when I realized I didn’t have my passport, so I had to run back really quickly to get it. . I knew I didn’t need ID on my way into Mexico, but I was going to need it on the way out.

We went through this loud, clanky metal gate, and we walked immediately into the customs area. I looked back to see a sign that said “San Ysidro” with an arrow pointing to the U.S. side and “Tijuana” with an arrow pointing to the Mexico side. I learned something new: San Ysidro, California is the town right before you cross the border into Mexico.

The walk to downtown Tijuana took us about 15 minutes, and that was at a good pace. Our mission was to get to Revolution Avenue or Avenida Revolución, which is the heart of shopping and entertainment in Tijuana. My Tijuana tour book said to follow the arch, and Revolution Avenue would be at the other end of the arch, so that’s what we did. We had to cross a bridge before we could get to the end of the arch. I don’t know why there was a bridge in the first place; the river below was just as dry as could be. We could have walked across the bottom and not gotten wet. There was a HUGE Mexican flag at the end; sort of like “X marks the spot.” Then we were finally at Revolution Avenue, which is the second most visited tourist spot in the western hemisphere (New York City being the first).

I chose to do some shopping. I went in and out of the stores trying to bargain shop. The guide book said that no price was ever final, so I put in some work to negotiate the best prices. I would tell the shop keepers that the cash in my hand was all I wanted to spend, and most of them would take my offer. There was one guy that wouldn’t bite, so I went to walk out of the store and he chased me down to accept my offer. Got ’em!

Avenida de la Revolucion - Photo by Johntex

Avenida de la Revolucion – Photo by Johntex

I was super hungry by the end of shopping, but thankfully I didn’t have to go too far because there were plenty of restaurants on the avenue. Everyone else chose to eat at the fast food chains because it was fast and easy. My thought was, I don’t want it if I can eat it every day at home. I wanted authentic, so I sat down for a real Mexican feast. As I was leaving, I caught up with the group. They were chatting about how the price for fast food in Mexico wasn’t any cheaper than the fast food in the U.S. I paid less money than they did, but I got more food. Hah! Guess that’s what they get for not going for the full Mexican experience!

Activities:

  1. What are the rumors and stereotypes about Tijuana the writer is referring to?
  2. Go to Google Maps and find out where Tijuana is located. Describe its location in relation to the US.
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