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I was first introduced to Mexican muralist Jet Martinez when I interviewed him nine years ago for the Syracuse New Times paper.

Kelundra Recommends 09.25.2020: Hispanic Heritage Month Edition Pt. 1

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and this week’s recommendations are rooted in the Latin community. This is especially important to me, because just last week, a nurse/whistleblower named Dawn Wooten reported that brown asylum seekers in ICE detention centers were receiving illegal hysterectomies. This news came a couple of months after another whistleblower reported that children in immigration detention were being sexually abused by guards. I don’t know what saddens me more: The fact that these human rights atrocities are happening, or that there are some people in this country who believe that none of this would have happened if they had not sought asylum here.

My heart is bleeding for person-kind, and I especially feel for the Latina/o/x community as they are dealing with abhorrent racism and abuse during what is supposed to be a celebratory month. Every culture in this country contributes something. Every ethnicity adds their seasoning to our society and without it, we’d be bland. This week, I wanted to take some time to celebrate U.S. Latin American culture and to share some of the films, books, experiences, etc. that have shaped my perspective. It is hard to hate people close up, and my hope is that it brings people closer together.

  1. TO WATCH: Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Desus & Mero. These two besties from The Bronx blend high and low culture with humor on their Showtime late-night series. Expect interviews with everyone from adult film stars to kid geniuses in the most hilarious 30 minutes of the week. These guys are far more than what they seem: Desus, who is Jamaican, loves “Sex & the City” and the Bronte Sisters. Mero, who is Dominican, is a graffiti artist and father of four. The show spawned from their podcast, the Bodega Boys and they just released a book, “God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from The Bronx.”
  2. TO EAT: One food that is easy to find across most Latin cultures is the empanada. Everyone has their own version of it, but for me, the Cubans mastered it. This recipe for Cuban beef empanadas is simple and great for an appetizer or full meal.
  3. TO DRINK: I love agua frescas! Typically, I despise anything hibiscus or passion fruit flavored, but agua frescas are my exceptions. My favorite is Jamaica, which is a sweet drink made from hibiscus flowers. I haven’t tried this recipe from Mexican Food Journal, but I’m excited to get to the farmer’s market and make it.
  4. TO PLAY: It’s time to add Latina to Latina to your podcast subscription list. Host Alicia Menendez interviews influential Latinas in politics, business, entertainment and media about their careers. She has interviews with activist Dolores Huerta, actress Gina Torres, screenwriter Linda Yvette Torres and more.
  5. TO READ: You know I love young adult fiction, so for this week’s recommendations, I had to choose three Latina authors whose work means a great deal to me. I read “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros in 10th grade, and it was the first book I saw myself in. I am not Latina nor have any Latin ancestry that I know of, but Cisneros’ protagonist Esperanza deeply moved me and her desire to live a big life spoke to my own. I also have to mention “Haters” by Alisa Valdez Rodriguez– Rodriguez writes good trashy novels. Finally, the play “Real Women Have Curves” by Josefina Lopez changed my life (it’s about women working in a sweatshop in East L.A.). I was cast in it my freshman year of college and I have been committed to the theater ever since.

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