October 5, 2011

TO HONOR MY PARENTS

  
by Cindy L. Rodriguez


The Latina Book Club welcomes a new guest blogger, Cindy L. Rodriguez, YA author and reviewer.



When National Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted into law in August 1988, I was packing to start my undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut. I wasn’t even aware that a month dedicated to recognizing the achievements of Hispanics existed. Of course, this was likely because I was a self-absorbed teenager headed for college. Yahoo!

As a result, I never formally celebrated the month until recently, although I’ve always been proud of my heritage. My father was born in Puerto Rico and lived most of his life in Chicago. My mother is Brazilian. The only class she failed in high school was English. She brushed it off thinking, “Oh well, when will I really need it?”

Juan meet Neuza.

My dad was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Brazil—a cushy assignment if you ask me, but it was obviously meant to be. They married in Brazil, and my mother left her country and family to start a new life. They were a young couple in a big city with little money and a growing family. My mother didn’t speak English, and my dad juggled work and college to make ends meet and build a better future for us.

I am intensely proud of my parents. They, like many others, struggled and persevered, and all the while, they celebrated their cultures. My siblings and I grew up in a house rich with the smells and sounds of Puerto Rico and Brazil. My mother’s pasteis (pasteles) and brigadeiros are so quickly devoured at parties that you have to move fast or risk not tasting either. My dad can impressively switch between English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and his friendly, laid-back island way has earned him the nickname “The Mayor.”

I celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month to honor my parents and the countless other Latinos like them who work hard and make a difference on small and grand scales. I also celebrate because I am proud to be Latina.

A couple of years ago, I helped to celebrate the month at my school by coordinating morning announcements. Some of our students read short biographies of noteworthy Hispanics, including Sonia Sotomayor, Roberto Clemente, Oscar Hijuelos, Rita Moreno, Dr. Antonia C. Novello, and Ellen Ochoa.

This year, I set up a book display in my classroom and invited my colleagues to read a novel by an Hispanic author. Because of the email I sent to everyone in the building, my school librarian promised buy more books by Hispanic authors and our “Action Club,” which works to promote diversity and reduce bullying, is designing a bulletin board to celebrate Latinos.

SPOTLIGHT ON LATINO YA AUTHORS

I am also highlighting Hispanic authors of young adult literature each week on my blog http://www.cindylrodriguez.com/. My first post is about Victor Martinez’s A PARROT IN THE OVEN, which won the National Book Award. After this month, I will continue to read and spotlight YA novels by Hispanic authors because—well, why not? Authors will include Caridad Ferrer, Gary Soto, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Matt de la Peña, Alisa Valdes, Julia Alvarez, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Nico Medina, Bettina Restrepo, and Ashley Hope Perez. I have a long list that I will post at some point for anyone interested in reading YA novels by Hispanic authors.

And now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I can convince my mom to make pasteis and brigadeiros before the month is over. Of course, I’ll share the food with my work colleagues…if there are leftovers.

Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month!♥


Cindy L. Rodriguez is a Young Adult pre-published author and YA reviewer. Visit her blog at http://www.cindylrodriguez.com/, where she continues to shine the spotlight on YA authors.