Tag 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!

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…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!

What Would YOU Do?…if you met John Quiñones?

Meeting John Quiñones for the 2nd time at UAB 2014

Meeting John Quiñones for the 2nd time at UAB 2014

Well, first things first…you take a picture with him!  Then you listen to his amazing story!

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and my alma mater, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), does things BIG where recognition and celebration are concerned. Each year they bring top Latino powerhouse speaker to students and the community at large.  I’ve had the privilege of hearing and meeting Actress-America Ferrera (2011) and Actress/Activist-Rosario Dawson (2012).  Last year Soledad O’Brien, Broadcast Journalist spoke about her CNN series Latino in America.  All have brought great and inspiring messages to the students.  I love hearing the Q&A portion of the evening and the poignant and heartfelt questions the students ask of the speakers.

With Actress America Ferrera at UAB Lecture Series in 2011

With Actress America Ferrera at UAB Lecture Series in 2011

My daughter, Emily and her friend Maya Madden, with America Ferrera at UAB in 2011

With Actress Rosario Dawson at UAB in 2012 for the UAB Lecture Series.

With Actress Rosario Dawson at UAB in 2012 for the UAB Lecture Series.

This year, John Quiñones was on deck to bring a great message about embracing the changing face of our nation. But the bigger message was one of perseverance to the students in attendance by sharing his personal story.  John is a 7th generation Mexican-American from San Antonio, TX.  I smiled when he spoke a line that my dad used to say to me about his family in New Mexico – “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed US!”  He didn’t learn to speak English until he started school at the age of 6.  It was a time when children in public schools were punished for speaking their native language.  He spoke about his struggle to lose his accent so he could pursue his dream of being a broadcast journalist.  At one point, his family joined a caravan of migrant farm workers and traveling through northern states after his father lost his job in Texas as a janitor.  His father posed the question to him one day as they were working in the fields – “do you want to do this the rest of your life? “ As all parents, he wished for a better life for his son

John Quiñones speaks to the crowd at UAB Lecture Series 2014

John Quiñones speaks to the crowd at UAB Lecture Series 2014

He spoke of his great fortune in joining Upward Bound, a program out of St. Mary’s University, a federal TRIO program that helped prepare him for college. Ultimately, John earned a master’s degree from Colombia University’s School of Journalism.  Soon he was working in Chicago at the local CBS affiliate and posing undercover as a migrant worker to cover a story he suggested to his bosses about why Mexicans cross the border illegally for a better life in the UA.  He won his first Emmy for this story.  The irony in all this?  The kid who was punished for speaking Spanish as a 6-year-old ended up getting an anchor job because he spoke Spanish!  He covered Latin American news for a number of years, in fact, he has covered stories all over the world.

And of course, there was much discussion about his award-winning TV show “What Would You Do?”  Several clips from the show were shown and discussion followed.  It’s such a study in human behavior and our own biases.  The students had a lot to say about that!

Having John Quiñones in Birmingham, Alabama during Hispanic Heritage Month was the best way to kick off the festivities for me. Oh…and this wasn’t the first time I had the great fortune of meeting him.  I had a photo opp with John in San Antonio – his home town – in 2010 at the NCLR (National Council of La Raza) conference.  In the flurry of the NCLR Gala Event, he was very gracious and posed for a picture with me.

Meeting John Quiñones at the NCLR Conference in San Antonio, TX (2010)

Meeting John Quiñones at the NCLR Conference in San Antonio, TX (2010)

So proud of my Alma Mater UAB, for providing such excellent speakers for their students and community. Shout out to the Student Multicultural & Diversity Programs, UAB Lecture Series, and the Office of the Provost for Student & Faculty Success for a great event.  Can’t wait to see what next year will bring!


Southern Fried Mexican-Am​erican by way of Southeast Asia!

Fe * Familia * Amigos

I love this sign! It hangs in my kitchen…

Hola Y’all!

Today marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage month (September 15) and in celebration…

I am launching my blog – Southern Señora!

Latinos have been in the south for a long time – personally, I’ve been in Alabama since 1981, and I’ve seen the landscape change pretty dramatically in that time.  There was a time when I could chit-chat in Spanish with my youngest sister at the local mall and no one would understand what we were saying.  That’s definitely not the case anymore!

As the Hispanic community began expanding in the Birmingham region in the late 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon to hear Spanish being spoken more and more.  And Latinos began exploring small business ownership and other entrepreneurial ventures.  Translation businesses, Hispanic marketing firms, and Spanish-language newspapers and radio stations began popping up, just to name a few.  More Mexican restaurants sprouted too and some restaurants had one standard menu for the general public, but would post a more traditional menu on the door for their Mexican clientele.  I remember how excited my dad was about seeing “menudo” – a spicy traditional Mexican soup made from tripe – posted on the door of our favorite local restaurant bringing back memories of when grew up in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Latinos are making tremendous contributions in Alabama, be it through business, art, culture, or non-profit work.  Sharing their great work and stories is part of what I want this blog to be about.  I’ve made some great friends over the past 15 years as a Hispanic community volunteer.  I love being able to connect people and then watch what happens next!

I will also be sharing stories about my Mexican-American family – hence the title of this post!  More details on this later but just to tease a little – my dad was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico of Mexican-American parents – my blonde-haired-green-eyed mom was born in Oneonta, Alabama – they met and married in Cambodia, and I was born in Bangkok, Thailand.  Whew!!!  See what I mean?

As other Hispanic or Multicultural related subjects and “odds and ends” pop up, I’ll share those too.  And finally, I’ll be sharing a LOT of photographs!  It’s been a hobby of mine for many years and I like to think I’ve been influenced by my father’s amateur photography.  He was such a perfectionist and had quite an eye for composing a photograph.  You’ll see some of his photos here too.

So let’s get this blog started…VAMONOS!