Category Archives: Hispanic Heritage Month

Happy 3rd Anniversary to Southern Señora Blog!

Cheers to 3 years!!!

Today is the day, 3 years ago that I decided I wanted to start a blog.  Well, that’s not exactly right…I started the process many months earlier…the research, questions about the mechanics of a blog, and many more.  Today is the day 3 years ago that I “launched” my blog!  I chose September 15th as my launch date because I wanted it to be significant and this is the start of Hispanic Heritage Month!  After all, my blog is a Hispanic lifestyle blog!!!

A few weeks ago I started looking back on my posts since last September.  I’ve written 47 in 12 months and took a little break from December through March this year.  I made many notes during the off months about what I wanted to focus on and the one subject that kept popping up was Fiesta.  I’ve written a lot about this festival that I’ve been a part of for the past 15 years.  We are celebrating our Quince this year so I’ve been reminiscing through photographs and telling some behind the scene stories of the event since 2003.  I’ve called this series – Fiesta Fridays and have two more posts scheduled before our anniversary event on September 30th!  It has definitely put me in a nostalgic mood!

My new YouTube channel! I have one video so far of my mother talking about the first time my dad kissed her! So Sweet!

Another thing I want to focus on more is creating video content.  I got a start several months ago when my sister Kanista was in town.  We decided to start video recording our mother telling stories of when she moved to Cambodia with her sister and parents, how she met our dad and eventually got married there.  That was such a fun night of great stories and laughter!  I need to do some editing and get them on YouTube and write a few stories surrounding the videos.  Again…another nostalgic event this year.

I used this for my profile picture the day I retired on July 7th…

The other major change in my life this year that had me nostalgic (briefly!) was retiring in July from my corporate life.  I worked for the same company for 37 years and while this happened a little sooner than I had originally planned, I honestly haven’t looked back.  I’ve had two months to reflect and think about what comes next and yet, there isn’t any pressure to jump into anything right away.   That’s been my biggest realization in all this…I can do nothing!  I can stay in my pjs all day and drink coffee until it’s time for wine!  The difference in my day-to-day routine (do I have a routine??) is being able to do what I want, do what makes me happy and create projects that are meaningful to me.  Who knows what opportunities are out there waiting?!

Right now, my time has been focused on Fiesta and the success of our anniversary event.  I’ve also been doing some work with my dear friend, Willie Chriesman, on his digital media venture that celebrates the people, places and trends that make Alabama food and drink great.  I’s called “a la carte Alabama”  and we’ve already been invited to a number of events covering new restaurants, Birmingham Restaurant Week and other festivals.  This is giving me the opportunity to use my photography skills and I’m sure there will be some writing involved with Hispanic foods and wines that I can’t wait to share!

Covering Restaurant Week as a contributor to A la Carte Alabama!

So, how do I celebrate year three of Southern Senora?  Well, I figured it was about time to create a Southern Senora Facebook page!  I know…I know what you’re saying – “you’ve waited 3 years to do this???”  Yeah…I don’t know why it has taken me this long in all honestly.  Maybe I was looking for just the right time.  And as it just so happens…today is the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month and this IS a Hispanic Lifestyle blog so…..

Today I launch my Southern Senora Facebook page to celebrate my 3rd year of blogging! Check it out!

Fiesta 2016 – Some of my Favorite Photos

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Drummer for Los Canarios on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day!  The sky was blue and the temperature reached the low 80s and the sun made itself known throughout the day.  After the constant drizzle of the previous year, this was so welcomed to the Fiesta board, volunteers and especially the patrons!

Approximately 14,000 people made their way to Linn Park in downtown Birmingham for the 14th annual Fiesta event on Saturday, September 24.  My favorite things to do every single year is to walk the park, visiting all the booths and meeting and greeting all the nonprofits, businesses and vendors who come to be a part of this incredible event.  I take their photos, welcome the new folks and catch up with old friends along the way.

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A little girl wearing a traditional Mexican dress gets her nails painted in the Family Village.

One of the highlights of this years event was the competition between countries in the Cultural Village – the heart of Fiesta.  A group of judges went through – anonymously – and voted on the best country booth based on presentation and creativity.   This year the Mexico won the competition and took home $500!  Next year, the stakes will be even higher as the best country booth will walk away with $1,000!

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A collage of photos from past Fiestas adorned the Mexico booth in the Cultural Village. The Mexico booth won the first ever competition of Cultural Village country booths!

By the way…next year will be Fiesta’s 15th year anniversary – our quinceanera…and we have big things planned for this milestone!  Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 30, 2017, for Fiesta 2017 and stay tuned for an event packed year leading up to this great event!

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Mark your calendar for Fiesta 2017!!!!!

Meanwhile…please enjoy some of my favorite photos from this year’s Fiesta!

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Happy Anniversary Southern Señora!

img_9931September 15th marks the 2nd anniversary of my blog – Southern Señora!  Two years ago I made the decision to start this blog to share what I call “the Southern Hispanic lifestyle” in Birmingham, Alabama with y’all.

It’s been a great outlet for me and a way to share so many things.  The feedback I’ve received has been terrific with encouragement for me to probe a topic a bit deeper and suggestions for other topics.  The list is long and there is definitely enough material to post daily for quite some time!  Now if I could only carve out more time to do that!

I chose September 15th as my start date because that date also marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month.  I wanted the date to be significant to me and what better way to kickoff a Hispanic lifestyle blog than on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, right?!  The month (Sept 15 through Oct 15) is ripe with stories to tell – both past and present.  So much to write about!

In the past I’ve been involved and produced a number of events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.  It is a time in the US that we recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans and celebrate their heritage and culture.  Celebrations occur in many ways.  For instance, one year I organized a panel of local Hispanic professionals to discuss that years’ theme and address issues facing the community from their profession’s perspective.  Another year, I organized an event complete with salsa dancing lessons and Mexican food.  These events and several others were well attended because I have always found that people are thirsty for information about Hispanic culture.  These events were also a lot of fun so when you are having fun you tend to learn more!  I always love the immediately feedback.  Questions like… “Are you going to do this again next year?”  “Where can I take salsa dancing lessons for real?”  “How can I get more involved with the Hispanic community?”  “How do you make a tamale?”  The list goes on…but I loved every minute of it and the way it got people thinking about not only light-hearted things like food and dancing, but also serious subjects like access to healthcare and helping to teach someone to speak English.  Connecting people to all these things has always been very fulfilling to me.  This blog is a way for me to continue doing that.

Presently, I am participating in a number of events around town to promote Hispanic Heritage month AND my favorite Hispanic cultural event…Fiesta!  This will be Fiesta’s 14th year and when I think back on the history of this event and those of us who were there as it got started, I remain thrilled that it has made it to its teenage years, so to speak.  This October 1st, I will be on hand at Linn Park at 8 a.m. with my traveler of Starbucks (for the board and committee members) and my camera to document my 14th Fiesta.  Each year there is another favorite photograph that I capture from this event.   Each year I am exhausted by the end of the day (around 11 p.m. that night!)  but also exhilarated by the number of people we reach who come out to learn about Hispanic culture.  Each year I am overwhelmed by the Hispanic community support and those who take the time to come out and share their stories and help make Fiesta a better event.  Each year…I hope I can continue being a part of Fiesta and watch it grow and evolve.

Me and Fiesta Board President - Cristina Almanza - after our last board meeting this week holding one of our Fiesta yard signs. I love seeing these all over Birmingham leading up to the event each year!

Me and Fiesta Board President – Cristina Almanza – after our last board meeting this week holding one of our Fiesta yard signs. I love seeing these all over Birmingham leading up to the event each year!

Happy blog anniversary to me…and Happy Hispanic Heritage Month to all.

Fiesta 2015…two thousand pictures later…

Mosaico Flamenco performs on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

Mosaico Flamenco performs on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

Every year, my main focus at Fiesta is capturing all the fun and festivities  with my camera.  From the set up to the village activities to the musical acts…I take a ton of photos!  This year though, I think I topped my all time number of photos.  As I downloaded from my camera on Sunday morning, I couldn’t believe the total number was well over two thousand pics!  Editing is going to be fun…

One of the things that struck me as I flipped through the photos was the fact that the rain and cold weather on Saturday didn’t make a bit of difference in the smiles and enjoyment of the people who attended.  Experiencing Fiesta in the cold and rain was new for ALL of us.  Not that I want inclement weather for Fiesta 2016…but it’s clear that everyone made the most of Fiesta in the cold and rain and enjoyed it as if it were 80 degrees and sunny!  I love our Fiesta family!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures so far…

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Fiesta 2015 Rain or Shine!

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This was the crowd during the last two acts of the night…incredible! Despite the cold!

This was Fiesta’s “lucky” 13th year.  Every year as we (the organizers) approach the event, we always keep our fingers crossed about the weather and every year with the exception of one, the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm.  This year, the outlook started out that way…we kept looking at the forecast and it showed mild temperatures but sunny.  Perfect, you could say!  Then closer to the event, it showed cloudy and a chance of showers.  Then it started raining…

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Two Fiesta patrons in rain gear on their way to the Coca Cola Music Stage.

When you have an outdoor festival, you have to expect the weather will catch up with you at some point.  So for Fiesta’s 13th year, it did.  We thought the rain would stop by noon – that’s when Fiesta “officially” opens, so we were hopeful.  Then the forecast changed to 1 p.m. – and if you were there, you know that didn’t happen.  I think we were just on the wrong side of the road when it came to the rain.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a downpour.  And thankfully, people came out and simply put on hats, rain ponchos or just didn’t care about getting wet.  Incredibly, as the day went on, and the drizzle came and went, people kept coming and enjoying the villages and especially the music.  All in all, I would have to say this was one of our best years!

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Veronica Richey with BB&T Bank threw on a rain poncho and got to work at her booth at Fiesta wearing a Costa Rica hat!

This year’s Fiesta showed us that people love this event and want to be here no matter what.  It also proved to be one of the most diverse crowds I believe we have ever had.  This absolutely thrilled us. This event matters to the Hispanic community and also to the community at large and this was proven with the numbers we saw all day long.  About 10,000 people made it to Fiesta this year!

Personally, I had the best time once I stopped worrying about my soggy hair.  Thank goodness for hair pins!  As I walked through the park and strolled down the Cultural Village with my camera, I grew a little  concerned for the Cultural Village.   Each year these wonderful members of our Hispanic community bring their own personal artifacts and treasures to share with the Fiesta patrons.  The tents helped keep things dry and the rain didn’t seem to affect those who were there.  They just adjusted and pulled the crowds in to share their country stories.

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Los Millos booth at the Food Village – this was early in the day as the food vendors began preparing food for the day. This is where I got the delicious empanadas from Jairo and Lucero Vargas!

So, right after my friends and Latino News owners,  Jairo and Lucero Vargas treated me to empanadas at the Colombian food vendor – Los Millos, I walked through the village and visited my friend Miguel Vilchez who pulled the Peru booth together.  He gave me a red Peruvian hat to wear to take care of my hair later that day – even though he said my hair looked fine – he’s such a gentleman!  Across from Peru was the Mexico booth.  Maria and Luis had pulled together two booths of beautiful Mexican art and pottery.  It was so colorful!  They gave me a Jarrito jug as a gift which is simply beautiful and then poured me a tequila shot and we took selfies.  Next I went to take photos of the Cuba booth where they gave me some Cuban coffee…OMGEEEE!  That was so wonderful and after the tequila, it REALLY warmed me up.  When I tell you how awesome the Cultural Village is, you need to believe me!  Because of the weather, we all huddled closer together under each tent as we made our way through the village and vendors stationed throughout.  It was such a great feeling of friendship and belonging.  It’s the type of feeling I want everyone to experience at Fiesta.

And here I was worried about the rain…

Me and Miguel at the Peru booth.

Me and Miguel at the Peru booth.

Jarrito jars at the Mexico booth.  This is the type of clay jar that Maria and Luis gave to me at Fiesta.  So beautiful!!!

Jarrito jars at the Mexico booth. This is the type of clay jar that Maria and Luis gave to me at Fiesta. So beautiful!!!

Some of the beautiful items displayed at the Mexico booth!

Some of the beautiful items displayed at the Mexico booth!

Cuba booth!  The Cuban coffee was safely tucked away behind the table...

Cuba booth! The Cuban coffee was safely tucked away behind the table…

Believe it or not...this little cup of Cuban coffee did wonders for the chill I was experiencing at Fiesta!  Packed a punch!

Believe it or not…this little cup of Cuban coffee did wonders for the chill I was experiencing at Fiesta! Packed a punch!

With Maria and Luis at the Mexico booth toasting to a wonderful event with a tequila shot!  Salud!

With Maria and Luis at the Mexico booth toasting to a wonderful event with a tequila shot! Salud!

A few items from the Peru booth - Miguel gave me the red hat to wear as he packed up his booth to leave...sure did help hide my soggy hair!

A few items from the Peru booth – Miguel gave me the red hat to wear as he packed up his booth to leave…sure did help hide my soggy hair!

Puerto Rico booth!

Puerto Rico booth!

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!

Fiesta…one thousand pictures later…

Fiesta 2014 is now a great memory for the board and planning committee…it was an incredible day!  Last Saturday, September 27th, we enjoyed great weather, huge attendance, many new vendors and participants, and reconnected with so many long time amigos!  We reconfigured our set-up in Linn Park and it really made a difference in the attendee traffic.  Everywhere I looked, there were people and families enjoying the event, eating delicious food and sitting on the beautiful green grass.

Our title sponsor, McDonalds, brought an incredible exhibit – The Fiesta Tour – a 53-foot long traveling mobile unit that pays tribute to Latin GRAMMY winners – to Birmingham for us to enjoy. Every time I went by the exhibit, there were crowds – such a beautiful sight!  The Santiago brothers, Santiago and Russ, have been wonderful partners to Fiesta this year and we are so grateful for their presence!

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The McDonald’s Fiesta Tour entrance. What an incredible exhibit!

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A dress worn by Gloria Estefan and a guitar owned by Carlos Santata – just a few of the items in the McDonald’s Fiesta Tour on display.

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Sombrero belonging to Mexican artist – Vicente Fernandez – in the McDonald’s Fiesta Tour.

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Ronald McDonald gets anchored in Linn Park, in the Family Village.

I downloaded more than one thousand photos last Sunday afternoon.  It always amazes me how many photos I take at Fiesta each year.  And yet, there are always shots I miss and think about later.  Oh!  And this doesn’t include the photos I take with my iPhone!   One of my favorite elements this year was having the Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama participate with the presentation of colors, pledge of allegiance, Girl Scout promise (in English and Spanish), and finally parade around the park with the flags of the Latin countries while dressed in native costumes!  It was absolutely a BEAUTIFUL sight!  In fact, I do believe (aside from the music acts), that the Girl Scouts were the most photographed group of the day!  The magnificent Marisela Mendez, the Hispanic Initiative Manager for GSNCA, worked for many weeks to pull the girls and their families together for Fiesta.  This Dominican woman is a “powerhouse” and the community is lucky to have her working for Hispanic girls in our region.  Her heart is all about connecting these little girls with Girl Scouts and she will do everything possible to ensure they can have the Girl Scout experience in their lives.

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This precious little one lead the Girl Scouts around the park in the parade of flags, dressed in a beautiful white mariachi outfit.

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The Girl Scouts pose in front of their booth at Fiesta.

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The Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama during the flag ceremony – presentation of colors.

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Talking to one of the Girl Scouts after the parade of flags…this little one was so precious and apparently I wasn’t saying her name the right way – she kept correcting me! (Photo credit: Cristina Almanza)

I’ve pulled a few of my favorite photos from Fiesta to share on the blog.  If you were at Fiesta and took some photos, please post them on the Fiesta facebook page!  We would love to see what you captured!!!

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This little one kept twirling to the music next to the main stage. Such joy!

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This little girl saw me taking photos of the girl in the pink and decided she wanted to twirl and have her picture taken too!

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Sugar Skull faces at Fiesta! These young ladies were popular – everyone wanted to have their pictures taken with them!

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Got to hang out with my daughter, Anna Marie, for part of the day. She is always so helpful when I’m making my photography rounds in the park.

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Dancers on the stage…they certainly drew a crowd!

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Running into Ricardo and Aimee Aparicio was the best!Reconnecting with long time friends is one of the joys of Fiesta for me. Ricardo was there when Fiesta was started.

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On stage with El Dasa! Great energy during his entire performance!

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El Dasa’s surprise meet and greet with a young girl battling cancer – I don’t think there was a dry eye in the trailer when this happened.

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A crowd shot from the stage as El Dasa performs…

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It’s always fun to run into Clark Scott and Larry Gay at Fiesta. They take some amazing photos each year!

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Crowds were massive this year at Fiesta 2014!

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Traditional Mexican dresses for sale at Fiesta.

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Two of the hardest working women at Fiesta this year – board members Vannessa Vargas and Cristina Almanza! They absolutely ROCK!