Monthly Archives: September 2015

Happy One Year Blogaversary Southern Senora!

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One year ago today I launched Southern Senora – a Hispanic lifestyle blog in Birmingham, Alabama!

Today marks one year since I launched my Hispanic lifestyle blog, Southern Senora!  What a wonderful ride it has been so far!

I remember wondering if blogging was something I should attempt.  So, I began doing some research and working through the ins and outs of blogging.  I attended a blog conference by the incredible Javacia Bowser, founder of See Jane Write, and met some wonderful women bloggers that day.   I’ll share more on that in another post.  Then one day shortly after the conference, I was at an event when I ran into my friend and blogger, Chanda Temple.  She asked if I had launched my blog yet and I said, “not yet,” and she said…”just do it!”  And so I did…and I decided on September 15th, 2014.  That seemed like the perfect date since it’s the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month and this is a Hispanic lifestyle blog, after all!  One thing I know about myself…if I set a goal, I’m going to accomplish it some how, some way!  And so it began…

I’ve met so many terrific people along the way…people who have been encouraging and who tell me they love what I’m writing about.  Some have even suggested things for me to write because they wanted to know more about Hispanic culture.  I love when that happens too!  One exciting invitation occurred recently.  Wade Kwon, long-time Birmingham writer, blogger and communications consultant, contacted me and asked if I would like to participate in his 30-day Wade on Birmingham series called the Future of Birmingham.  He launched this series this month in celebration of the 10th anniversary of his blog – Wade on Birmingham.  A few years ago, I probably would have declined thinking this wasn’t something I could do, but this invitation excited me and gave me a wonderful opportunity to share my voice from a Hispanic perspective.  Thanks much, Wade…or I should probably say, Gracias!

My essay has been included in Wade’s ebook, “The Future of Birmingham.”  You can read it (pages 19-21) by downloading the ebook for free at http://itswa.de/futureofbhamI hope you enjoy it and all the other essays included.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my one year blogaversary than to share this news.  Like I said…it’s been a wonderful ride so far!

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The Footprints We Leave Behind…Remembering My Cousin Chila

With my cousin Chila at the Zuniga Family reunion in Denver, Colorado - July 2013

With my cousin Chila at the Zuniga Family reunion in Denver, Colorado – July 2013

My cousin, Orcilia “Chila” Zuniga Forbes, passed away on Friday, August 28, 2015.  Here are some of my memories of this remarkable woman. 

My cousin Chila passed away two weeks ago.  It came as a shock to our family and we still can’t believe it most days.  She was truly remarkable.  Quite a number of stories have been published about her over the past two weeks, discussing her education, career, non-profit work and accomplishments.  I’m sure more will be shared over time and I look forward to hearing them.  She leaves quite a legacy and quite a few footprints…

Cousin Chila at the 2013 Zuniga Family Reunion - wearing her running shoes...

Cousin Chila at the 2013 Zuniga Family Reunion – wearing her running shoes…

One story I particularly love tells of how Chila was always so “neatly coifed, perfectly made up, stylishly and professionally dressed, stockings, running shoes.  Yes, running shoes.” The story goes on to say that she was always quite literally “on the move.”  Those shoes probably helped in some small way, but I know there was more her success than the shoes.  

I’ve been considering all the footprints Chila left behind with those running shoes.  At 77 years of age – that is just too young.  I remember her as the picture of health…calm, collected, striking in appearance and always having marvelous experiences with her sister – Wiro – and brother-in-law, Chuck.  It was always a joy to spend time with her at family reunions – she was so interesting and I loved the conversations we had together.

Chila - the oldest of 8 children of Lorenzo and Anita Zuniga - here with her brother Lorenzo Jr. (Boy), sisters Boogie and Wiro (Hortencia) and sister-in-law, Maria Varela.

Chila – the oldest of 8 children of Lorenzo and Anita Zuniga – here with her brother Lorenzo Jr. (Boy), sisters Boogie (Ophelia) and Wiro (Hortencia) and sister-in-law, Maria Varela.

One very inspiring conversation we had goes back to 2002 when I went to Portland, Oregon for a conference.  This was the year after my dad died.  A few days before I flew out, my mother reminded me I had a cousin in Portland.  I quickly typed an email to Chila and hoped for a reply.   To my delight, Chila immediately contacted me and outlined times she was available to meet and offered to include me in plans she already had in the works if I was available.  I was thrilled!  Spending time with a Zuniga cousin was so important to me since my dad had died.  I needed that connection to my Mexican family. 

Chila and her husband Richard picked me up at my hotel.  I had never met Richard so this was an added bonus.  I loved watching Chila and Richard together during that trip.  They were like two pieces of a puzzle that fit perfectly together. They seemed so happy together.

Chila said she was taking me to a wine dinner that night and we would be sitting with the winemaker who was a friend of hers.  What a treat!  Richard dropped us off downtown and would return to pick us up afterward.  We were early so we decided to walk around the block and found a bench where we sat and talked.  The conversation quickly turned to my dad.  He has passed away June 1, 2001 and Chila began telling me a story I had never heard before.  She said after my dad – her Tio Chito –  left Carlsbad, New Mexico and got out of the Air Force, he went to Catholic University in Washington DC.  This part I knew, of course.  What she said next has stayed with me all this time.  She told me “your dad was the reason I went to college.”  She added that until the time my dad left Carlsbad, they (she and her siblings) didn’t know they could also leave or get an education.  Chila definitely took this encouragement to heart, first getting a nursing degree followed by two masters degrees and a doctorate.  Landing at both the University of New Mexico and Oregon State University, I can only image the footprints she left in both places.  She didn’t keep this story about my dad to herself either.  She shared it with so many people and even spoke about this encouragement in a video I found called Destination Success (in Spanish). Such a treasure to find this video and hear her words! 

Chila and Boogie sing with the Mariachi at our Zuniga family reunion dinner in 2013.

Chila and Boogie sing with the Mariachi at our Zuniga family reunion dinner in 2013. This is one of my favorite photos from that reunion…

Last year, I was doing some research on Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos and I bookmarked a website that spoke of “footprints” and the passing of a loved one.  The author writes, “the Mexican definition of soul, is the footprint we leave behind for others to connect to, in that we are present, still after death, in how others remember us. Even the person who passed away can change and grow within the stories we hold of them.” 

I know I was lead to rediscover this bookmark last week.  I had already been going through pictures from past Zuniga family reunions when I found one of Chila from 2013.  She was  neatly coifed (as the story goes) from her head down to her running shoes.  That photo made me stop in my tracks and smile.   Chila left 77 years of footprints and they have taught me quite a few things.  They have propelled me closer to my Zuniga family roots beginning with that story about my father.  They have encouraged me to see what changes I can make to do more to help others.  They have inspired me to continue to educate myself and encourage others to seek education….just like my dad encouraged his niece so many years ago.  

Some people come into our lives and quickly go.  Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.  And we are never, ever the same. – Unknown

Chila and her sister Wiro sing with the mariachi at our family reunion - Denver, CO - 2015.

Chila and her sister Wiro sing with the mariachi at our family reunion – Denver, CO – 2015.

With Chila, her brother Nino (Orlando), son-in-law Hal and daughter Eryn - at our family reunion in Albuquerque, NM 2011.

With Chila, her brother Nino (Orlando), son-in-law Hal and daughter Eryn – at our family reunion in Albuquerque, NM 2011.

La Familia Zuniga at our 2003 family reunion in Albuquerque, NM...

La Familia Zuniga at our 2003 family reunion in Albuquerque, NM…

While singing with her sister Wiro with the mariachi, Chila stops to give me a smile... Wiro's husband Chuck stands by to take photos - Zuniga Reunion 2013.

While singing with her sister Wiro with the mariachi, Chila stops to give me a smile… Wiro’s husband Chuck stands by to take photos – Zuniga Reunion 2013.

Me with Chila at our reunion in 2003.

Me with Chila at our reunion in 2003.

Chila chats with my little sister, Kanista at our family reunion in 2003.

Chila chats with my little sister, Kanista at our family reunion in 2003. Cousin Chuck is on the laptop.

Chila with her little brother, Ricardo Zuniga.

Chila with her little brother, Ricardo (Googs) Zuniga. (2003)

My mother, Barbara Zuniga with her niece, Chila. Zuniga family reunion 2013 in Denver, CO.

My mother, Barbara Zuniga with her niece, Chila. Zuniga family reunion 2013 in Denver, CO.

Chila with her brothers and sisters...

Chila with her brothers and sisters…from left to right – Googs (Ricardo), Wiro (Hortencia), Boogie (Ophelia), Chila (Orcelia), Lala (Oralia) and Boy (Lorenzo, Jr.) – missing from this picture – Eddie and Nino (Orlando).- Family Reunion 2003 – Albuquerque, NM

Fiesta Night with Los Barons – Part 2

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

It was a beautiful afternoon…the weather was great, sun shining and a slight breeze found its way through the park every so often.  I thought I was arriving at the park early to help Fiesta’s event manager extraordinaire, Denise Koch, put Fiesta flyers in all the cup holders at Regions Park.  I should have known better.  Denise had been hard at work since early that morning on Fiesta Night with Los Barons and had everything under control.  I “did” manage to wrestle a small stack of the flyers away from her and finish up one section so she could take a break.

These Fiesta flyers were placed in every cup holder at Regions Field.

These Fiesta flyers were placed in every cup holder at Regions Field.

Fiesta and the Birmingham Barons partnered for a second year to bring a Latin flair to the ballpark this past August.  Our thanks go out to the wonderful people at the Birmingham Barons, in particular, John Cook, Director of Sales, and Don Leo, Corporate Sales Manager, with the Corporate Partnerships Department, for all they did to make our time there so enjoyable.

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta's founding board members poses with his son Mikey, and Barons Staff Members John Cook and Don Leo.

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta’s founding board members poses with his son Mikey, and Barons Staff Members John Cook and Don Leo.

Once again, we had students from Samford University’s Latin American Studies participate in the parade of Latin American flags.  We even had a few sponsors get into the act which thrilled us!  Our sponsors from BB&T and Regions Bank both grabbed flags and made their way around the infield with the students and Fiesta board members.  It was such a beautiful sight!

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Next, Don Leo introduced Fiesta and a short video of last year’s event was shown on the big screen.  The video was produced by board member Orlando Rosa with La Jefa Radio Station.  Ever the perfectionist, Orlando mentioned later that he wasn’t completely happy with the video but the rest of us LOVED it!  It definitely got the crowd going and gave them a taste of what to expect on October 3rd!

Fiesta board member, Orlando Rosa helps Don Leo of The Barons open up the game festivities in Spanish!

Fiesta board member, Orlando Rosa helps Don Leo of The Barons open up the game festivities in Spanish!

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta’s founding board members was on hand with his son Mikey, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.  Mike didn’t miss a beat and never lingered on the pitcher’s mound.  He threw out the perfect pitch so fast we almost missed it!  Reminded me of the early days of Fiesta when Mike would just get things done!  It thrilled us to have Mike and his family with us that night to celebrate and reminisce about Fiesta, especially for some of the newer board members and sponsors who had never met him but heard a few of us talk about him with such admiration over the years.

Mike Suco, throws out the ceremonial first pitch as his son watches beside him.

Mike Suco, throws out the ceremonial first pitch as his son watches beside him.

As always, we had the opportunity to talk to interested people attending the Barons game about Fiesta and encourage them to get advance tickets to the event.  Ronald McDonald came by to represent our Title Sponsor, McDonalds, and had pictures made with kids young and old.  I always love it when adults want their picture made with Ronald!  I had mine made with him last year!

One of the many photos Ronald McDonald took with Barons Baseball game attendees.

One of the many photos Ronald McDonald took with Barons Baseball game attendees.

Don’t forget…Fiesta is Saturday, October 3rd from noon to 8 p.m. in downtown Linn Park!  Meanwhile, here are a few more pics from our night with Los Barons!

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Mike Suco and his son pose with the baseball before the ceremonial first pitch is thrown.

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We had to get our photo with Ronald too! Left to right – Ronald, me, Vanesa Vargas and Freddy Rubio.

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Orlando pulled double duty at the game with a live remote, along with his wife and co-worker, Maria – better known on air as La Chikis!

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Parting shot of the Regions Field Birmingham sign as I was walking to my car after the game. This is such a beautiful facility. If you’ve never been, you have to check it out!

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The parade of Latin American flags begins and is lead by the Stars and Stripes of the USA! That’s Fiesta Board member, Vanesa Vargas with the Fiesta sign in front!