Photographer JeanPaul SanPedro captures actors through the lens of their Cuban roots

It’s one of those earth-shifting, life-altering moments that remains forever embedded in our collective memory.

We will all probably remember what we were doing, where we were the night of November 25, 2016, as news broke about the death of infamous Cuba dictator Fidel Castro. That night, generations of Cuban-Americans who had witnessed or heard their loved ones relating stories of fear and oppression finally began to heal.

Shortly before that, however, an actor, director, and photographer based in Los Angeles, JeanPaul SanPedro, set out to create his own revolution– a revolution of using his camera lens to capture the strength, the resilience, and the beauty of his Cuban-American contemporaries. All are actors, directors– artists– like him. Although their personal thoughts and opinions, as well as their experiences, are as different as night and day, all seem to agree that the time has come for the archaic perceptions of Cubans and Cuban-Americans in the media to change.

I got to speak with several of these artists who are breaking ground in their industry, simply by breaking their silence– and striking a fearless pose.


JeanPaul SanPedro, JeanPaul SanPedro Photography

If you see the pictures, there’s a few actors there that you might not recognize, but they’ve done 42 independent films, but they’re not known, and they don’t get noticed by Hollywood, yet they’re very talented people. It doesn’t have to be all Andy Garcias. It’d be cool if he came, but it’s more about the struggle that we go through, which is a similar struggle [to the one] that they’re going through in Cuba.

To me, Raúl has been in power since about 2006, officially since 2008. They’re very much officially under that Castro law. I hope for the best; I hope to go back there one day, and it would be a freer country, and, you know, I would love to shoot a movie there one day, but we’ll see where that goes.

There’s a lot of people in Miami; I remember older people, my friends’ grandfathers, have like this very distinct wine bottle, like a four-foot-tall wine bottle, and it was saved. I was always like, ‘why don’t you guys drink that?’ They were like, ‘this is for the day Fidel dies.’ And a lot of people unfortunately passed before [they opened] that bottle, but a lot of people got to see that. I empathize with them, what a victory for them. To say that I understand exactly– I wasn’t there. I was born here, I was born in Miami. That’s what I know.

I wanted to show that with the pictures. I know Roberto Sanchez came from Cuba, I think in the eighties, and some people have been through it rough, and I think we did a good job with the pictures depicting ourselves as strong, powerful people.

I really wanted to stay away from anything cheesy, or as anything depicting us as what commercial media sees us as. Some people were like ‘oh, let’s put like a party with rum,’ and I was like, ‘no, I don’t want to get into the commonalities that people think of us. I just want us to be there, strong, and dress nice, dress sharp, and with a purpose, and I think we achieved that. The pictures have been really impactful. People have been writing me and writing these actors, and a lot of them I like to read, not so much about the pictures, but, ‘Wow, you look so classy, you look so strong, so elegant.'”

I’ve gotten E-mails and messages from people in Miami, people my age, who aren’t that vocal about the whole Cuba thing. Even people from Puerto Rico who live in New York who wrote me and said, ‘I love this series, it’s so powerful.’ I really think it’s because there’s a hunger on the whole in the Latino community to maybe start uniting. In this case, it’s art with people coming together, voicing their opinions, no matter at what cost.

There’s so many more roles now, why do women need push-up bras and huge accents to do a role? Either that, or it’s the very street Latina from New York, or the maid.

Latinos that make it here, they make it and then they feel so happy that they made it, that they feel afraid to speak their minds because they’re going to lose any position or status that they’ve arrived to, and I get that, because everyone has families and they have to make money, but we’re also suffering. It’s really our own fault, because we don’t unify. I don’t like to be seen as crying about it…it’s more about taking action.


Guillermo Jorge, Guillermo Jorge at IMDb

I was born in Mercy Hospital, in Coconut Grove, ‘Miami,’ Florida.  My father was from Havana, Cuba, and my mom from the eastern part, Holguin. In my 13 years in L.A., I never really cherished where I come from. I feel like I received more help from non-Cubans than I ever did from my fellow countrymen.

Coming to L.A., I’ve always wanted to feel more American.  I dove into this world of entertainment. I received the [stereotypical] responses when they heard I was Cuban. ‘Oh, I love Scarface; oh, you guys must be hot-tempered and passionate.’ I avoided my roots until the last 4 years. Maybe because I don’t ever really play Cuban, at USC, I was told I wasn’t white enough. I’ve played everything except Cuban. I have had resentment towards the Cuban community, the conservativeness about it, especially these past 4 months. I saw this as a way of tuning into my heritage and bonding with what I know.

My parents lost a lot in Cuba, especially my mother’s side of the family. My father came over to the U.S. through the Peter Pan flights- Like my dad said, with a little briefcase and a pair of shoes. He lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana in a basketball gym before heading down to Miami.

We’re a proud people who have endured loss and strife. We’ve shot up the American dream in government and entertainment, etc.

Somos pocos, pero somos fuertes.


Doris Morgado, Doris Morgado at IMDb

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where my family received political asylum after my grandfather was released from a Cuban prison for being against the communist government.

I love JeanPaul’s work and the vision of getting Cuban actors, who are super talented, in a sexy and sophisticated photo shoot. The offer was too great to pass [up]. It’s important to portray our look with that of our talent. As Hispanic actors, we are so diverse, so this shoot helps put us in a new light— a stronger, more brilliant light where we all shine.

My grandfather was a political prisoner in Cuba and we were lucky enough to be able to leave Cuba to ensure a better future for my brother and me. It wasn’t easy for them to leave everything behind, but thanks to that leap of faith and that courage, I’ve been blessed to have been raised in the U.S.

Projects like these are very important because Latinos can sometimes be placed in a small box of what society thinks of us, but we’re so much more then that.

Cubans are strong, beautiful, passionate, loving, and intelligent individuals. We have so much to offer to the community and especially to the world through the arts. We’re great storytellers because of the mixture of cultures and different ethnicities within our island. We are able to portray many different stories simply because our looks are so mixed and our story and our culture is so rich.

I think right now, we’re at a great place in history to allow the world to see us as we see ourselves. We are much more than the box that we are placed in because of our origin of birth. I’m excited that more and more projects are being made that are accepting and embracing our culture.


Carlos Gomez, Carlos Gomez on Twitter

So, I was born in New York city, but raised in Miami. With all the attention that Cuba is getting at the moment, we really don’t have a big acting community that is Cuban.

I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I’m very proud of my heritage and thought it was a nice gesture to put it out there, where I was from. Both my parents are Cuban and even though I wasn’t born there, I grew up with a strong sense of culture that is still a big part of who I am. 

It’s interesting all the dialogue about immigration. In the sixties, when all the Cubans came to the U.S.  because of the political change, this country welcomed them. Very different what’s happening now with immigration and where it’s going. I just think what’s good about this project is that it lets people know that there are Latinos working in Hollywood from many cultures— Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Columbians, etc. I think Cuba is a mystery to a lot of people; many people just think of rum and cigars and overlook the fact that there are eleven million Cubans in Cuba today who are curious about the world. I think slowly, with Internet on the island, people will be able to see outside of Cuba and learn about other countries outside of the island. I had the opportunity to do an episode of “House of Lies,” the first American television show to shoot in Cuba since 1958.  It was one of the most amazing jobs I had ever had.  We worked with Cuban crews and it was beautiful seeing both American and Cuban crews working together. I really think the arts can bring any culture together. I hope for the Cuban people and artists in the country, that we can continue a dialogue to further exchange music, art, theater and dance between both the U.S. and Cuba.


Bertila Damas, Bertila Damas at IMDb

[I was born] on la calle Regla (street) in Luyano, Havana, Cuba, in the Clínica Hijas de Galicias .

Anytime that there’s an opportunity to gather with my Cuban friends, it’s always something I am interested in. It’s always fun and it is a chance to feel that feeling of being Cuban, to hear the sound of Cuban, which brings back the joys and the tribulations. In this case, it was truly a lovely honor to share with such a talented group and to connect with each other in the aftermath of Castro’s death. 

[To me, it’s] as personal as it gets; it is the music that runs through the blood in my veins. My history, my ancestors, my heart.  I don’t know a Cuban that does not have an interesting story to share. 

Like every Cuban exile, I feel the pain of loss and separation as well as the continued hope for a Cuba Libre.

I consider myself fortunate and grateful that I have had a home in the U.S., a country that has offered me sustenance as well as the freedom to live my life as I have seen fit without hindrance.

The photo bears witness. It is an opportunity to document who, what, when, and where; that we were here and that we made a difference. I hope that there will be more work like this that will document those of us who are Cubans in entertainment as well as other industries. Perhaps the photos will serve as a hopeful inspiration for those that may follow us and their future.

I dream in Cuban, I dance in Cuban and I live in Cuban…

Ser Caribeña es ser el mar, las palmeras, y la azucar…es tener en mi sangre la historia de la esclavitud, la sangre del Siboney y las raíces de los conquistadores..mi piel, mi sangre, negra, roja, y blanca… para siempre en mi corazon, Cuba.


Roberto Sanchez, Roberto Sanchez at IMDb

I was born in Havana, Cuba on January 4th, 1965. I came to the U.S. when I was three years old.

Initially, it was an opportunity to shoot with JeanPaul (who is Cuban) again. We had done a photo shoot a few months back, also with a “Cuban theme.” This time, we thought it might be cool to get together with some other Cuban Thespians and do a nice group shot— something that would show who we are and what we represent without being stereotypical. I reached out to about 12 friends of mine, most of whom I had worked with before or had met at industry events. Everyone was immediately on board. With the current event happening in Cuba this past week, our photo shoot became something more than what it was initially intended to be. For me, it was a celebration of a partial end to an era that brought a lot of pain and heartache to my family. My story is not very different than [that of] others who decided to leave in hopes of a brighter future.

My father was a member of the Cuban National Judo team back then. We were able to leave for Spain a couple of weeks before the team arrived in Spain for a competition. Our intention was to never return to Cuba. Authorities in Cuba found out and kept my father behind. It would be 16 years before I saw my father again.

I think projects like these are important because we are able to show a bit of who we really are not what others think we are. We are strong, hard-working, educated, positive, loving, musical, dramatic, and we come in all shades and colors.

I think it’s important to never lose touch [with] who you really are. We have been blessed with wonderful opportunities in this great country, the best country in the world. But I will never forget where I came from or where a part of me still lives. One day, I will return home, but not yet. One down (Fidel) and one to go (Raul)!  ¡Dale!


Maylen Calienes, founder of Latino Filmmakers Network

What I wrote [online] in regards to that picture just came out of me because of the feeling that I felt from the picture. Like, ‘wow, I feel like I look strong. I feel like I look powerful. I feel like I could rule the world in that picture. It just came out of me naturally because of the feeling the picture gave me as a human being and as an artist.

For Latinos it’s very hard, especially– because I know we have Univision, we have the Latino market which is a completely different thing, but Latino-Americans, our generation, our people, are bilingual. When is it that we’ve seen a picture of Latinos dressed up in a Vanity Fair-type of thing? You usually see other colleagues of ours in the entertainment industry.

Latinos haven’t really broken that barrier. Latinos are just seen in that light of ‘el barrio.’ That’s what I feel, and even at Sundance, the first two years, I used ‘A Royal Social Affair’ and the crown to take Latinos out of el barrio and bring them to monarchy because we have to start being seen in a different light in order to start making progress in this industry. We have to seem like everybody else, too.


To view all of JeanPaul SanPedro’s photography work, please visit

La Gran Apertura del Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows / Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows Grand Opening #DisneyFamilia


El 31 de marzo, profesionales de los medios de comunicación fueron invitados a experimentar las nuevas adiciones al Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort en Orlando.

On March 31st, media professionals were invited to experience the new additions to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando.






Los cambios nuevos incluyen 20 bungalows (Bora Bora Bungalows), que flotan sobre el agua, y fueron inspirados por las cabañas en la isla Bora Bora.

The new updates include 20 Bora Bora Bungalows which float on the water, and that were inspired by cabins on the island of Bora Bora.






El vestíbulo del hotel fue completamente renovado. Llamado el “Great Ceremonial House,” los huéspedes son inmediatamente inmersos en un ambiente ajeno y relajado a la vez. Las lámparas que cuelgan desde el tragaluz en el techo le añaden un toque de la magia que ya el público asocia con Disney.

The hotel lobby was completely renovated. Named the Great Ceremonial House, guests are immediately immersed in a foreign but simultaneously relaxing environment. The lamps that hang from the roof skylight add a touch of magic that the public already associates with Disney.






Algunos de los Deluxe Studios tienen vista hacia el lago, y pueden acomodar hasta cinco personas.

Some of the Deluxe Studios face the lake, and can accommodate up to five people.




Los bungalows son una experiencia única. Tranquilos y con una vista pintoresca, están situadas cerquita del Magic Kingdom, pero sin el alboroto.

The bungalows are a unique experience. Tranquil and boasting a picturesque view, they are situated right by the Magic Kingdom, but without the noise.

Más tarde, pude asistir a la ceremonia oficial de inauguración para los nuevos Villas and Bungalows.

Later on, I was able to attend the official inauguration ceremony for the new Villas and Bungalows.


Fue una ceremonia bella con el clima perfecto al atardecer, y con bailarines, fuego y música polinesia. Esto fue un tributo muy especial a todas las islas del Pacífico.

It was a beautiful ceremony with the perfect evening weather, and with dancers, fire, and Polynesian music. This was a very special tribute to all of the Pacific Islands.


Para más información sobre los nuevos Villas and Bungalows, y para ver un tour de uno de los deluxe studios, vean mis videos abajo.

For more information on the new Villas and Bungalows, and to see a tour of one of the deluxe studios, watch my videos below.






¡Gracias, Disney, y aloha!

Thanks, Disney, and aloha!





#MamasParaMazola con Ingrid Hoffmann en Hispanicize / #MomsForMazola with Ingrid Hoffmann at Hispanicize


¡Durante la semana de Hispanicize 2015, tuve la gran oportunidad de cocinar con la celebridad Chef Ingrid Hoffmann! ¡Bueno, casi casi!

During the week of Hispanicize 2015, I had the grand opportunity to cook with celebrity Chef Ingrid Hoffmann! Well, almost!


Gracias a Mazola y a Latina Mom Bloggers, que ahora se llaman DiMe Media, fui invitada a un evento exclusivo en la suite de DiMe Media, donde pudimos ver a la Chef Ingrid en acción.

Thanks to Mazola and Latina Mom Bloggers, now renamed DiMe Media, I was invited to an exclusive event in the DiMe Media suite, where we got to see Chef Ingrid in action.






Ella preparó un plato simple, delicioso y saludable, calabacín relleno (stuffed zucchini).  Mientras cocinaba, nos habló de los ingredientes frescos que utiliza, incluso el aceite de maíz marca Mazola. También habló sobre las tradiciones valiosas que las mujeres Latinas pasamos de generación a generación, muchas veces empezando en la cocina.

She prepared a simple, delicious and healthy dish, stuffed zucchini. While she cooked, she talked to us about the fresh ingredients she uses, including Mazola corn oil. She also spoke to us about the valuable traditions that we Latinas pass down from generation to generation, oftentimes starting in the kitchen.





Por cierto, un estudio realizado recientemente por la universidad de Florida State (FSU) encontró que la mayoría de madres Latinas (más del 80 por ciento) valoran pasar las tradiciones familiares a través de la cocina.

Indeed, a recent study conducted by Florida State University finds that a majority of Latina moms (more than 80 percent) value passing down family history to their children through cooking.


El estudió, realizado en conjunto con Latina Mom Bloggers, y auspiciado por ACH Food Companies, Inc., concluyó que la manera en que se preparan ciertas comidas varía dependiendo de la región, y que esto es una forma de que las familias se mantengan conectadas a sus raíces.

The study, conducted in partnership with Latina Mom Bloggers, and supported by ACH Food Companies, Inc., concluded that the way foods are prepared varies by region and is a way for families to remain connected to their roots.



¡Qué vista increíble disfrutamos desde la suite de DiMe Media!
What an incredible view we enjoyed from the DiMe Media suite!



“Sea para freír tortillas o saltear vegetales, yo agarro el aceite de maíz Mazola, como mi madre y mi abuela me enseñaron,” dice la Chef Ingrid.

“Whether it’s crisping tortillas or sautéing veggies, I reach for Mazola Corn Oil just like my mother and grandmother taught me,” says Chef Ingrid.


¡Después de la demostración, pude saludar y retratarme con Chef Ingrid! Ella fue súper amable y es una persona genuina. Estuvo bien dispuesta a contestar preguntas y ofrecer consejos valiosas a las blogueras presentes.

After the demonstration, I was able to greet and take a photo with Chef Ingrid! She was super friendly and is a genuine person. She was very willing to answer questions and offer valuable tips to the bloggers in attendance.





Para mi, aunque no me considero muy experta en la cocina todavía, a mi siempre me ha interesado observar a Mami mientras cocina, y aprender sobre las recetas típicas que ella, mi Abuela y mis tías preparan. Aunque ahora preparamos otras recetas adicionales que no son muy típicas de Puerto Rico, siempre nos gusta incorporar un poco de sabor tradicional latino.

Y Mazola definitivamente es parte de nuestra herencia.


For me, although I don’t consider myself much of an expert in the kitchen yet, I’ve always been interested in observing Mami while she cooks, and learning about the typical recipes she, my Abuela, and my tías (aunts) prepare. Although we now prepare other additional recipes that aren’t very typical of Puerto Rico, we always like to incorporate a bit of that traditional Latin flavor.

And Mazola is definitely part of our heritage.

El Café Que Pruebas, La Gente Que Conoces / The Coffee You Taste, The People You Meet / Café Jíbaro

Divulgación: Yo recibí una bolsa de Café Jibaro para esta reseña. Yo no seré compensada por publicar esta entrada. Todas las ideas y opiniones son mías. 


Disclosure: I received a bag of Café Jíbaro for review. I will not be compensated for publishing this post. All ideas and opinions are my own.

Hay personas con quien uno forja amistades de repente, sin pensarlo mucho, porque las personalidades se complementan y se llevan bien. Son como almas gemelas aunque sólo se han conocido una o dos veces.

David Belmar es una de esas personas para mi…y ahora entiendo perfectamente por qué.

David es el dueño de la compañía Mosaic Coffees, LLC. El puertorriqueño reside ahora en Miami, y la familia de él son dueños de la Hacienda Burgos Rodríguez en Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.

Estaba súper entusiasmada cuando David me dijo que me iba a enviar una bolsa de su nuevo tueste, Café Jíbaro.

Y gracias a Dios, David no me decepcionó.


There are people who you forge a friendship with suddenly, without thinking it, because your personalities complement each other, and you both get along. You’re like kindred spirits, even though you’ve only met one or two times.

David Belmar is one of those people for me…and now I understand why. 


David is the owner of Mosaic Coffees, LLC. The Puerto Rican now resides in Miami, and his family owns the Hacienda Burgos Rodríguez in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.

I was very excited when David told me he would send me a bag of his new roast, Café Jíbaro.

And thank God, David did not disappoint.



La primera vez que probé Café Jíbaro para desayuno, yo me quedé sin palabras (algo que me parece casi imposible). Es un café muy aromático e intenso en sabor, exactamente como me gusta. Si lo preparas con poca leche para que sepa más intenso, o si lo haces con mucha leche, o sólo con agua (¡¿por qué!?), o sin azúcar, este tueste es ideal para cualquier preferencia.

Aunque el café se supone que lo abras y lo consumas poco tiempo después de conseguirlo, yo recibí mi bolsa poco antes de ir Hispanicize, y quería esperar a abrir la bolsa para que no se dañara. Aun después de más de una semana de que llegara el café a mi casa, molí los granos y me supo fresco y con un aroma bien lujoso.


Con David Belmar, el dueño de Mosaic Coffees, cuando visité a Miami en abril.
With David Belmar, owner of Mosaic Coffees, when I visited Miami in April.

The first time I tasted Café Jíbaro for breakfast, I was rendered speechless (something that is virtually impossible). This coffee is very aromatic and has a bold flavor, which exactly how I like it. If you prepare it with very little milk to keep the flavor intense, or if you make it with a lot of milk or just with water (why!?), or without sugar, this roast is ideal for any preference. 

Even though coffee is meant to be opened and consumed soon after, I received my bag of coffee shortly before leaving for Hispanicize, so I wanted to wait until after my return to open it so the flavor wouldn’t be lost. Even more than a week after the coffee arrived at my house, I ground the beans and it tasted fresh with a luxurious aroma.

Para David, el labor que requiere supervisar el café desde que es semilla hasta que es una bebida rica en tu taza, es un labor de amor.

“Somos tres generaciones de cultivadores de cafés de especialidad de nuestra isla preciosa, Puerto Rico. Es allí donde nosotros creamos el tesoro escondido más valioso que produce nuestra isla,” dice Belmar.

La mezcla Café Jíbaro es la creación más reciente para una compañía que ha evolucionado con el tiempo y con el adviento de innovaciones para hacer café.


David Belmar posa con sus granos de café. (Foto cortesía de David Belmar.)
David Belmar poses with his coffee beans. (Photo courtesy of David Belmar.)

“Estamos entusiasmados de finalmente compartir nuestra obra con el continente americano. Queremos mucho a nuestros Latinos e hispanos, y por lo tanto, queremos proveer para la demográfica de más rápido crecimiento en los Estados Unidos. Estamos mezclando ingeniosamente los cafés para traerte los expresos y capuchinos tradicionales, pero también las coladas Latinas, y los cafés Latinos fuertes, al igual a nuestro amado café con leche. Los invitamos a que prueben nuestras mezclas y experimentes el café de especialidad en su mejor forma, sin amargura o acidez.”


Una vista espectacular en la Hacienda Burgos Rodríguez. 
A spectacular view at the Hacienda Burgos Rodríguez. 

For David, the labor required to supervise coffee from the time it is a seed to when it’s a delicious beverage in your mug, is a labor of love.

“We are third generation specialty coffee growers from our beautiful island of Puerto Rico. It is there where we craft the most precious hidden treasure our island produces,” Belmar says.

The Café Jíbaro blend is the latest creation for a company that has evolved over time with the advent of coffee-making innovations.

“We are excited to finally share  our craft with the American mainland. We love our Latinos and Hispanics, and therefore we want to cater [to] the largest and fastest-growing minority in the United States. We are artfully blending coffees to [bring you] the traditional espresso and cappuccino cafés, but also the traditional Latin coladas, strong Latino coffees and our beloved café con leche. We invite you to try our blends and experience specialty coffee at its best, without bitterness and tartness.”



berriesLas cerezas en la planta de café. 

Coffee cherries on the plant. 
(Foto cortesía de David Belmar. Photo courtesy David Belmar.)



A veces las mejores cosas te llegan de sorpresa. Cuando fui al evento de un amigo mutuo querido hace tiempo, no esperaba conocer a un amigo tan bueno…y que tuviéramos tanto en común.

A veces te toma de sorpresa las personas que conoces…o el café que pruebas.

Sometimes the best things take you by surprise. When I attended an event a long time ago for a dear mutual friend, I never expected to meet such a good friend…and that we would have so much in common.

Sometimes it’ll surprise you– the people you meet…or the coffee you taste.

Para averiguar más sobre Mosaic Coffees, visítalos y haz “like” en Facebook, o contacta a David directamente a 

To find out more about Mosaic Coffees, visit and “like” them on Facebook, or contact David directly at

¿Qué Se Hizo La Magia? / Where Has the Magic Gone?

Aunque es cierto que no recuerdo nada de mis primeros años de vida en Puerto Rico (mi familia se mudo cuando yo tenía tres años), sí recuerdo algo de mis días en pre-escuela y escuela elemental; esos días llenos de asombro y maravilla cuando parecía que toda era posible.

sí tengo recuerdos dolorosos de mi primer choque cultural como una niña bilingüe y bicultural. Creo que estaba en kindergarten o en primer grado, y era el cinco de enero.

Yo iba a donde todos mis compañeros, de uno en uno, exclamando, “¡Mañana es el Día de Reyes! ¡Mañana es el Día de Reyes!” Algunos me imitaron cruelmente, y otros tenían cara de confusión. Pero el mensaje era claro: no tenían idea ninguna de lo que yo estaba hablando.

En mi mente ingenua de seis años, yo me preguntaba, “¿Cómo es posible? Esto es algo grande, de verdad se lo están perdiendo.” 

No me di cuenta en el momento, pero ya iba de camino a perder mi dulce inocencia.

El Día de Reyes no lo celebran en los Estados Unidos. 

Aun ahora, me causa dolor escribir esto. Lo que era una tradición atesorada y sagrada en mi cultura, a penas existía en la cultura americana– simplemente reducido a una representación en figuritas de cerámica en casi todos los nacimientos de decoración que se venden.

Tal parecía que para los americanos, los Tres Reyes Magos fueron tres tipos que de casualidad siguieron a una estrella para traerle regalos al Niñito Jesús.

Para niños hispanos al rededor del mundo, como yo, los Tres Reyes Magos eran la versión latinoamericana de Santa Claus, una de las tradiciones americanas más veneradas.

Todos los años en el cinco de enero, se creía que los Reyes Magos visitaban la casa de cada niño, montados en sus camellos, trayendo regalos para los niños. Anticipando ansiosamente su llegada, niños como yo íbamos al patio a cortar yerba y echarla en una caja de zapatos vacía. Luego, la caja se metía debajo de la cama para los camellos. El día siguiente traía asombro y maravilla cuando se descubría que la yerba había desaparecido casi completamente, presumiblemente devorada por los camellos.

Y a cambio de la yerba que ya no estaba, dejaban un regalito para el niño.

¡Tengo lindos recuerdos de cuando iba afuera con mis padres, y fastidiándolos al preguntarles cuánta yerba era suficiente para alimentar a tres camellos!

Por supuesto, era un tiempo divertido, sabiendo que en algún momento durante la noche, llegarían estos tres hombres con regalos…para mi.

Antes Papi y Mami me dejaban faltar a la escuela el seis de enero, los primeros años que vivimos en Orlando. Para nosotros, este día era tan sagrado y digno de reconocimiento como lo era el día de Navidad. Pero pronto mis padres dejaron la costumbre de ausencia escolar, como se me hacía ya más difícil reponer mis asignaciones. Una vez más, el rechazo áspero de nuestras tradiciones señaló el fin de mi inocencia, como me di cuenta rápido que en el sistema escolar americano, no había lugar para mis tradiciones culturales atesoradas.

Siendo criada mayormente en la Florida, también creía en Santa Claus. Pero por alguna razón, mi creencia en los Reyes Magos ayudó a fortalecer mi identidad, tanto como latino que como cristiana. Este ritual de mi niñez se había convertido en mi introducción a la historia del nacimiento, pero ya no tenía el lujo de pasarlo en casa, junto a mis papás.

Hoy en día, la Epifanía es un día de reflexión para mi familia; un día para ir a la Iglesia y para compartir juntos. Nunca quitamos nuestro árbol de Navidad antes de celebrar el Día de Reyes. Para nosotros, no se acaban las Navidades hasta que los Tres Reyes Magos hayan visitado al Niñito Jesús. Sigue siendo un día que hay que reconocer y valorar.

Pero ya hace tiempo pasaron los días de inocencia y asombro, cuando era fácil imaginarse que todos compartíamos las mismas tradiciones. Lo que era antes un día lleno de anticipación y entusiasmo se ha reducido a un reconocimiento casual en Facebook del significado de esta fecha, y tal vez una foto retrospectiva.

Quizás es una señal de asimilación, de que ya no soy tan latina como antes me creía.

O tal vez, posiblemente es una señal de crecimiento.

Yo lo que sé es que daría lo que fuera por ser de nuevo esa niña, mirando estupefacta a la caja de zapatos vacía, preguntándome cómo entraron los camellos.



Yo gozando en el Día de Reyes en Puerto Rico (como a los dos años) y luego en Orlando (como a los cinco años). 
Me celebrating Three Kings’ Day in Puerto Rico (around age 2) and later in Orlando (around age 5). 


While it’s true I don’t really remember any of my early life in Puerto Rico (my family moved when I was three), I do remember some of my pre-school and elementary school days; those days filled with awe and wonder when anything was possible. 

And I do have painful memories of my first culture shock as a bilingual, bicultural kid. I think I was either in kindergarten or first grade, and it was January 5th. 

I went around to all my classmates exclaiming, “Tomorrow is Three Kings’ Day! Tomorrow is Three Kings’ Day!” Some mimicked me cruelly, others had a big question mark on their faces. But the message was clear: they had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. 

In my naïve, six-year-old mind, I asked myself, “How is this possible? This is a huge deal, and these kids are totally missing out.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was already on my way to losing my sweet innocence.

Three Kings’ Day isn’t celebrated in the United States. 

Even today, I think, it still pains me to write this. What was such a precious, sacred tradition in my culture was all but nonexistent in the American culture– merely reduced to a depiction of the Three Wise Men (as they are also called) as ceramic figurines in most nativity sets sold.

To Americans, it seemed, the Three Wise Men were three random dudes who followed a star to bring gifts to Baby Jesus.

To Hispanic children all over the world, like me, the Three Wise Men (or Kings) were Latin America’s version of Santa Claus, one of the most revered American holiday traditions.

Every year on January 5th, the Three Wise Men were believed to visit each child’s home, arriving astride their camels, bringing gifts for the children. Eagerly anticipating their arrival, kids like me would go to our backyards on Víspera de Reyes (the eve of Epiphany) and pluck grass and collect it in an empty shoebox. The box was then placed under the bed for the camels. The next morning would bring awe and wonder when the grass was almost all gone, presumably devoured by said camels.

And in exchange for the grass that was gone, a gift would be left for the child.

I have such fond memories of going outside with my parents, and nagging them about how much grass was enough for three camels! Indeed, it was a fun time, knowing that sometime during the night, these three men would arrive on their camels bearing gifts…for me.

Mami and Papi used to have me stay home from school on January 6th the first few years we lived in Orlando. For us, this day was as sacred and worthy of observation as Christmas is. But my parents soon abandoned this act of truancy when it became increasingly difficult for me to make up missed schoolwork. Once again, the cavalier dismissal of our traditions heralded the end of my age of innocence, as I quickly realized there was little place in the American school system for my treasured cultural celebrations.

Having been raised almost entirely in Florida, I also believed in Santa Claus. But, for some reason, my belief in the Three Kings also helped me to cement my identity as both a Latina and as a Christian. This childhood ritual had become my early introduction to the Nativity Story, but I could no longer afford to spend that day at home with my parents.

Today, Epiphany serves as a day of reflection for my family, a day to attend Church and spend time together. We never take our Christmas tree down before celebrating Three Kings’ Day. For us, Christmas isn’t over until the Three Kings have visited Baby Jesus. It’s still a day to be recognized and treasured.

But gone are the days of wide-eyed innocence and awe, when it was easy to imagine that everyone celebrated the same traditions. What used to be a day filled with anticipation and excitement has been reduced to a casual acknowledgement of the day’s significance on Facebook, and perhaps a “throwback” photo for good measure.

Maybe it’s a sign of assimilation; evidence that I am no longer as “Latina” as I once believed myself to be.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a sign of growing up.

All I know is I’d give anything to be that little girl again, staring stupefied at an empty shoebox, wondering how the camels got in.