Friday, December 31, 2010

Colombian New Year Traditions

Colombians have many different traditions (some of which are closer to superstitions) that are performed customarily at midnight on New Year's Eve. Each tradition has its own purpose and you cannot do them all; so, you'll have to choose your favorites.
Here is a list of a few traditions you can try in your home:

1. Twelve grapes
As the clock strikes 12 you need to start eating the grapes. Each grape represents one month of the upcoming year, and you are allowed to make a wish with each grape. But you have to finish eating all twelve grapes before 12:01 in order for your wishes to come true. So, have your wish list ready and eat quickly :).

2. Yellow Underwear
If you want to win the lottery next year or at least guarantee yourself riches, try wearing yellow underwear as the clock strikes 12. If you want to double your chances, wear the underwear backwards.

3. Shafts of Wheat
Make sure to place 12 shafts of wheat on your dining room table. This will ensure a year with plenty to eat.

4. The Suitcase
At precisely 12 o'clock, grab your suitcase and run around the entire block with it as fast as you can. When you have completed your journey, you increase your chances of taking a big trip in the upcoming year. So, for you people with itchy feet, forget the grapes and grab the suitcase.

5. Starting Out on the Right Foot
As the clock strikes midnight, make sure your first step is made with your right foot. This will start out the year on the "right foot."

6. Money in Hand or in Pocket
Make sure to have at least $1 in your pocket or in your hand as the clock strikes 12. It foretells a year of financial security. Remember, cash only -- for everything else there is Mastercard.

7. Sweep the Dirt Out the Door
Your house should be cleaned on the 31st and you sweep the last bit of dirt out the front door at midnight. This cleanses your home and brings good energy to your home.

8. Eat Lentils (Check link to recipe from two days ago)
At any time on the 31st of December, eat lentils. It portents a year of plenty.

9. Burn your Año Viejo
This helps you get rid of all your bad luck and mistakes from the previous year.

Make sure that you hug and kiss everyone in your house and wish them Feliz Año.

Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo!

The Colombian Mommy

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Music for the New Year

Here is a fresh look at a post I made 2 years ago on New Year's Music. Much like Christmas Eve. New Year's Eve parties will last ALL NIGHT LONG. There is also not a party that will not include music of all sorts. But no matter where the party, the music will include the following song at 5 minutes to midnight.

Cinco Pa' Las 12 by Nestor Zavarce. You can here it here.

The other song that will be played is El Año Viejo by Tony Camargo

You need to see this video as it shows the burning of the Año Viejo .

I highly recommend that you purchase these 2 songs from Itunes or similar service. NO COLOMBIAN NEW YEAR CELEBRATION IS COMPLETE WITHOUT THEM.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

El Año Viejo

Okay, so I LOVE this next tradition. After Christmas, most Colombian families make an Año Viejo. The Año Viejo is a life size doll made of old clothes and stuffed with straw and newspaper. Just before midnight, people set fire to the Año Viejo. It is burning the old and bad of the past year in preparation for the new.

In our family, we make an Año Viejo and since it would be illegalto burn it here, we just ceremoniously throw it away.

Learn more here:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Santos Inocentes

Just a reminder that tomorrow, December 28, is a fun holiday in Colombia -- Dia de los Santos Inocentes. It is based on a Catholic holiday that commemorates the children, younger than 2 years of age, that were ordered killed by King Herod after the Three Wise Men did not return to tell Herod where the child king could be found.

This holiday is celebrated much in the way we here in the US celebrate April Fool's Day. It is a day for playing tricks on people, fake news reports, and jokes. On this day the Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, publishes a sepcial insert called El Trompo which is filled with funny and fictious stories about current events.
When you play a joke or prank on someone, instead of yelling out "April Fools," you say, " Santos Inocentes!"

If you'd like to prepare your family a special Santos Inocentes dinner in honor of this holiday, Check out the recipes that Family Fun magazine has for April Fool's Day. There is a section called Fun Food Pranks. It is a fun way to introduce kids to this Colombian holiday. You can also look at the crafts and pranks section. Full of fun ideas to make the day memorable.

See there ideas here:

Friday, December 24, 2010

More on Colombian Christmas from Colombian Daddy

When people in Colombia think about Christmas, they think about today, December 24th. December 25th is just a nice day off, a day most people will spend sleeping. Let me explain.

Known as Noche Buena, Navidad, or simply El 24, December 24th is the time when the essential traditions of Colombian Christmas celebrations take place. But before diving into what will happen tonight, a little background is in order.

For most kids, the school year ends around the middle of November. This is true for University students as well. With tests and grades behind and even remedial tests and courses postponed until January, the arrival of December is akin to the arrival of a long awaited weekend after a hard work week. Maybe is more like the arrival of summer in places away from the Equator.

Usually December also brings the end of the November rains and ushers in the beginning of bright, sunny days. Thus, everything is set for a month long celebration, and the build up to the 24th begins.

All of this helps explain why as adults we Colombians have such a hard time feeling like working at all around this time of the year. In fact, the worst time is when El 24 falls on a weekend because then we can't take off the 2 days prior or the 2 after in what we call "un puente." (Puente = In Colombia, (1) the ability to take Monday or Friday off work or school if a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday thereby creating a long weekend. (2)secondary meaning: could be a bridge over a river or road.) Anyway, to this day, when I write the date on a paper at work during this week, and realize what day it is, I feel that something is wrong. I should be at home or playing somewhere.

Back to the 24th. The morning is spent preparing food, clothing, and music. Some people will begin their Christmas shopping. Mothers will insist that kids shower and put on their brand new clothes since "estrenar" is part of Christmas. (Estrenar= to wear a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes for the first time. If you are aware that someone is 'estrenando', appropriate complementary expressions include "u-tu-tuy!", "que elegancia la de Francia!", or "May I step on your new shoes?")

While in every home music will be blaring from loud speakers all day and people will gather to laugh and talk, the official start of the party will be when the first couple steps onto the dance floor (most likely the living room or garage floor with seats arranged against the walls). Typically this starts around 8 pm. The great thing about music in Colombia is that it unites all generations. Little kids, teens, adults and grandparents will all dance to the same music and even with each other -- although most teens will give priority to dancing the slow vallenatos where they can amacizar la novia (ie. get close to their girlfriends -- ok, I'll write about amacizar later.) Dancing will be interrupted for dinner right before or right after midnight.

NOTE: Midnight is the important hour! Even little kids stay up waiting for midnight, because that's when they will receive their presents -- from El Niño Dios, not Santa. Nothing compares to the countdown of the last few seconds before midnight, as Cinco, Cuarto, Tres, Dos, Uno is blurted out in unison by everyone -- all standing with some crying.

As 12 o'clock is announced, there will be an explosion of hugs, kisses, and best wishes. If this is your first time, just allow people to hug you and leave some tears on your shoulder. It will be over when everyone has hugged everybody at least once! Then the dancing will be on full blast.

Colombians learn to crawl, walk, and dance quickly and sometimes in that order. So expect to see some great moves. Haven't danced salsa before? No problem! It is about attempting it. They will appreciate your efforts. Danced ballroom before? Forget all about it, this is NOT the time to show off your stiff back Cha-cha skills. (What's the Cha-cha? They might ask you) Just relax and move to the music. Survival of the fittest follows. Merengue, salsa, vallenato, cumbia, champeta, calipso, etc, etc, have many things in common with aerobics classes (hence Zumba). But it is so much fun that you'll forget you've been moving for hours. Colombians have been described as some of the happiest people on earth, and at no time can their happiness be better appreciated than during the month of December.

On el 24, there might be a pause in the dancing, someone might pull out a guitar, and all will sing songs from Decembers past -- karaoke style. Everyone will seem to know the lyrics. Join in if you happen to understand or speak some Spanish. Or they might even let you sing one in English.

Understandably so, the morning of Christmas day is a little quieter. Most will be resting. Quite possibly, there will be a picnic during the afternoon. The best part? December isn't over yet. In one week there will be another huge reason to celebrate. El 31 is coming! More on that next week!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Colombian Daddy's Take on Colombian Christmas

If this is your first Christmas in Colombia, here are some things you can expect and some instructions on how to weather the Holiday season there.

1. For 98 % of the people it IS Christmas. Not much mention of Kwanzaa or Hanukkah or any other non-Christian tradition. Furthermore, while there are many Christian and evangelical denominations in the country, most Colombians call themselves Catholics. In fact, it is around this time, whether on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, that a lot of them actually make it to Mass.

2. Thus, you can expect decorations with religious motifs and people gathering to do the Rosary around Nativity Scenes. However, more recently, Santa, Reindeer, and snow-covered pine tree decorations have become more common. Hey, if Americans and Europeans do it, it's got to be cool, never mind the sunny -- and in some places sweltering -- weather outside.

3. Yes, there are Christmas trees too. They are everywhere. We hang Christmas ornaments from them too. However, we use the generic term "el arbolito" to denote the plastic pine tree, the dry leafless bush painted grey and decorated with cotton balls, the other freshly cut thorny bush, and even the cactus tree (I helped my mother decorate one years ago, so it's true). Also, a great variety of items may cameo as ornaments: bottle caps, Brazilian soccer player bobble heads, mini soccer balls, the kids first pair of tiny little shoes, the socks that went with the little shoes, their first tooth, key chains, the list goes on... Oh and some "bolas de navidad" too.

4. The Nativity Scene may include not only the traditional figures, but also soldiers, cowboys, Indians, cars, motorcycles, Barbie and/or Ken, rabbit feet, rubber ducky, Lego pieces, a mailman, a milk man, etc. In short, any small figure available at the home or that the kids gathered over the last year.

The manger (the PESEBRE) might be the central point, but it can be in the form of a two story home, a fort, a trailer, a palace....And it is not the only building. Usually a whole city (with traffic and traffic lights) is built around it.

5. This is not the quiet season when you wear your snuggie, sip hot cocoa, cozy up by the fire and watch snow fall. In Colombia, this is the loudest time of the year. Even the weather seems to scream "let's get ready to "parteeeee". Afrocaribbean based rhythms will be blaring out any speaker in town. The festive mood resembles more a summer holiday fest for those of you living in places with 4 seasons.

6. Traditional foods return every year around this time. If invited to a home, accepting the invitation and eating the food are the polite things to do. Don't worry about showing up on time, though. Parties usually start late, 8-10 pm and end, well, whenever. But one of these might signify it's time for you to go: the sun comes up, food runs out, drinks run out, the lady of the home hasn't been seen for a couple of hours and turns out she's sleeping, or the man of the house stumbles into his pick up truck and beckons everyone to follow him because it's time to go on the traditional "Paseo de Olla" (picnic).

7. Unfortunately alcohol consumption does skyrocket around this 2 week period. Feel free to say no and beware of drunk drivers. Yeah, even your cabby could be intoxicated and not just from the festive spirit.

8. Your ticket to escape could be sitting next to you: your kids. It is OK to claim that they need to go to bed. But, people will offer their beds for you to lay them on. Why? So that, first, you can continue to party, and second, all of you can be safe from El Sereno (See my entry on this terrible outdoor enemy here:

The best counterattack is to say that you just want to get the kids in bed, BEFORE the Sereno gets worse.

9. Common games called "Aguinaldos" are part of the season. Some people in Colombia may be shocked to find out that you don't know what they are or haven't played them before. (What planet do you come from?) It is ok to pass especially on "Tres Pies" and "El Beso Robado".

See more here:

10. It is counter - etiquette to show up at someone's home empty handed. Appropriate gifts include the usual "Tarros de Galletas" (tin boxes of cookies), boxes of chocolates, or an ancheta (basket of goodies). All may be picked up at any grocery store during this time.

Tune in tomorrow for tips on handling Colombian Christmas eve!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Minute Gift Idea: Book for ages 8-12

Yesterday, I introduced you to the Nobel Peace Prize nominated Children's Peace Movement. Today, I have another book suggestion on this subject. While Cameron's Out of War is an outstanding book for teenagers interested in learning more about the civil conflict and peace movement in Colombia, there is another book for a younger audience. It is much less comprehensive, but it introduces the concept of the Children's Peace Movement to a younger audience.

Michelle Mulder has written a Kids' Power Book entitled "Yeny and the Children for Peace."
You can get it here:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last Minute Gift Idea: Book for Teenagers

The Colombian Civil War has lasted for decades. The armed groups -- guerrilla and paramilitary and military -- have been responsible for many abuses that have often violated the human rights of ordinary Colombians. According to the United Nations, around 5,000 people lose their lives every year as a direct result of the armed conflict, and since 1985 over 3 million people have been forced to leave their homes. In 2009, this meant that Colombia had the largest number of internally displaced persons in the world -- an unfortunate and sad statistic.

In 1996, the Movimiento de los Niños por la Paz -- Children's Peace Movement -- began. It started in small towns and cities as children met in round tables where they learned about and discussed their rights. This lead to a Nation Wide vote, by Colombian children, which determined the top 12 main rights that children should have. They included the right to life, the right to peace, and the right to a family that loves them.

One year later, Colombian adults voted to ratify the Rights defined by the children, and the movement continued to grow in Colombia.

In 1998, the movement was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Author Sara Cameron has written a book, OUT OF WAR: True Stories from the Front Lines of the Children's Movement for Peace in Colombia, that focuses on the movement and its child leaders.

The target audience is children and adults 12 years and older. It is available in SPANISH, FRENCH, and ENGLISH. You can buy the English version from Amazon:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Colombian TRON Link

In 1982, I was 12 years old (should I really admit that?!?). I went to see TRON at the Villa theater with a group of friends. My father took us, though he was not too impressed with the show. I remember thinking that it was pretty cool, though I can't remember anything about it now.

This past weekend my husband took my oldest boy to see the movie. They liked it and decided it was defintiely not MOM material.

There is, however, a little material for the blog that is related to this movie. Here goes:

Colombian Juan Sebastián Gómez, from Medellin, used to dream about making movies. Now, he has made his dream a reality. Gomez works for Digital Domain, the company that was in charge of making many of the visual effects for the TRON LEGACY movie.

The thirty year old Paisa coordinated a group of 20 people as lead look development artist, working on the cars, backgrounds, and characters seen in the movie. During the post production phase, he worked as the lead lighter.

You can read the whole article about him in El Tiempo, here:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

La Novena

Since Colombia is primarily a Catholic country. Tonight marks the start of the NOVENA, a Catholic tradition. The NOVENA lasts 9 nights -- until Christmas Eve. Not being Catholic myself, I am a bit foggy on all the details and maybe one of my readers could fill in some information in the COMMENTS section. I did, however, find this interesting link on that seems to indicate which prayers are to be said on each of the nine nights (In Spanish).

Included in many family Novenas will be the singing of Christmas Carols or Villancicos. So, in addition to the ones mentioned yesterday, you can learn this one.

Anton Tiruliru liru

Here are the lyrics to Anton Tiruliru liru:

Anton tiruliru liru
Antón tiruliru ra
Jesús al pesebre
vamos a adorar

Duérmete niño chiquito
Que la noche viene ya
Cierra pronto tus ojitos
Que el viento te arrullara


Duérmete niño chiquito
Que tu madre velará
Cierra pronto tus ojitos
Por que la entristecerás

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Last Minute Gifts: P.A.R.C.E.

Amigo, Compadre, Compañero, Compinche, Colega, and Amigote are just a few words that can be used to say FRIEND in Spanish. However in Colombia, and more specifically in Antioquia and its capital Medellín, the word of choice is PARCE (PAHR say). A PARCE is a good or close friend and the word is consistently used by most PAISAS (people from Antioquia and the surrounding coffee growing region) when referring to their friends.
This is why is should come as no shock that JUANES ( a.k.a. Juan Esteban Aristizabal), the world famous Colombian rocker and PAISA, might name his latest album P.A.R.C.E. A great stocking stuffer idea and a must for any Colombia lover's collection.
The album hit stores last week, and now that I have had a chance to hear it, I'd like to offer my opinion. First, it is a bit of a departure from his more upbeat rockero music of the past, and to me seems a little U2ish. Though this is not a negative, just unexpected.
You can tell JUANES is maturing and dealing with his own real life issues in the songs -- after all 40 is just around the corner for him and trust me on this one it can make anyone take pause and think. To illustrate, I point to the songs "La Soledad," "La Razón," "El Amor lo Cura Todo," "Todos los Días," "Y No Regresas" (the one that seems the most U2ish to me), "Lo Nuestro," and "Esta Noche."
The aforementioned songs are more ballady than hits of the past like "Camisa Negra", "A Dios Te Pido", and others. The only real rockero type song is YERBATERO, which you will remember from my post on the World Cup Kick Off Concert back in June.
I was happy to see that there is still an element of his "music can change the world" mentality. As evidence of this I point to the song "Segovia" which is about a massacre that occurred in Segovia, Antioquia on November 11, 1988.
Here is a little history lesson, so that you can better appreciate the song.
In 1985, as part of a peace initiative, the FARC (anti-government guerrillas -- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and government of the then President Bellisario Betancourt {total side note, but I once flew on the same plane as this guy from Bogotá to Panama} formed a political party known as the Unión Patriotica. This political party won elections in several cities including Segovia.
Meanwhile, as the FARC expanded in Antioquia, they did not do so peacefully. Rather, they were threatening and extorting many of the large landowners. In reaction to this, the landowners formed PARAMILITARY (Paramilitares) groups (today affectionately known as Los Paras ;)) in order to protect their land and income. These "auto defense groups" were led by some really bad dudes that were associated with the Medellín Drug Cartel -- their names Fidel and Carlos Castaño and later Gonzálo Rodriguez Gacha a.k.a. el Méxicano. Gacha even went so far as to hire and ex-Israeli commando/mercenary, Yair Klein, to train the paramilitary forces, which under his tutelage became death squads. Alas, Yair deserves his own post, so you can look forward to one in the future.
Continuing on with Segovia....In the early evening of November 11, 1988, paramilitary forces occupied the city's main plaza. First, they launched an attack on the Mayor's office, killing the Mayor and everyone that was in her office. Then they went around the city looking for everyone that appeared on a list that they had. They did not stop until everyone on the list had been executed. In addition to the hit list, various 'innocents' that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, lost their lives. All told, 43 people were killed and 45 seriously injured.
The truly sad part is that no one has ever been brought to justice for the crimes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Popular Colombian Names for the Season

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I spent several days in rural Boyaca researching his family history -- among the many choice names was one little girl born the day after Christmas named Melchora Gaspara Baltazara.

She was very literally named after all Three Kings.

Not sure how I missed this one, but last year there was a report about how Christmas names are very popular in Colombia. In fact, the two most popular names are the Spanish version of Joseph (Jose) and Mary (Maria).

Just in time for the season, I thought I'd share this with you.

In 2009, there were

1,641,274 men with the name José
2,611,793 people (men and women) with the name María
849, 511 with the name of Jesús

619 with the name Melchor
1,643 with the name Gaspar
2,351 with the name Baltazar

Read the full report here:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Five for Friday: Awesome Colombian Salsa

On my personal blog I like to close out each Friday by sharing five things I love. Today as a parting gift I'd love to leave you all with five of my favorite Colombian salsa songs! Colombia is turning out phenomenal dancers and singers and we're giving Cuba and PR a run for their money. :)

I made a mixtape for my little Colombino so that when he's old enough to go dancing he'll already know the songs by heart. Here's five songs to start you off if you wish to do the same! -Emily

1. Rebelión (No le pega la negra) – Joe Arroyo: In my opinion this is the BEST salsa song, not the best Colombian salsa song. The best song hands down. When people hear that iconic piano downbeat they grab a partner and hit the floor in hordes. The lyrics tell the story of a Slave Rebellion and the song starts off with these famous lines "I want to tell you my brother a little piece of black history, of our history, gentleman. And it goes like this..."

Oh my goodness, I get excited just typing out the lyrics!

2) Una Aventura- Grupo Niche: This is romantic style salsa which is not really my favorite but my husband and many others love it dearly. He's always talking about how this song or that song was popular when he was in high school. He also talks a lot about the Rocky soundtrack. I'm just sayin! Even though I don't like romantic style salsa I love this song by Cali superband Grupo Niche, it's classic. "A stolen kiss is our goodbye...."

3) Pantera Mambo - La 33: This Bogota-based band makes amazing modern music. This particular song samples the Pink Panther which is absolute music genius. I promise you will love it!

4) Ven a Medellin-Grupo Gale: Grupo Gale and it's sister group Sonora Carruseles are both from Medellin and in my opinion that best dance bands out right now. This song is a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to their hometown of Medellin, but really all of their songs are amazing. In some versions of the song, they improv and throw in a few bars of "America" from West Side Story. I love it when music is humorous and references other influences.

Another Grupo Gale favorite of mine is "No la descuides" The video has people dancing salsa and is good example of the "Cumbia-style" Salsa that is danced in Colombia, although they are dressed in traditional Cumbia costumes which is not what you would normally wear out dancing. Take your tight pants, not your long skirts ;)

5) Micaela - Sonora Carruseles: Like I said above Sonora Carruseles and Grupo Gale are two of the best dance bands out there. They tour a lot outside of Colombia and I really encourage you to go see them if you can. I saw them in San Francisco and they are just phenomenally tight, the timabaleros hands are flying so fast you can't even see them. I picked Micaela because it is Elian (my son the dance dictator's) favorite song but they have so many it's impossible to choose. Dancers love all their songs including: Ave Maria Lola, Arranca en Fa, Al son de los Cueros and Boogaloo.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Salsa - Basic Steps

Okay like I said yesterday, I had big plans to make videos and teach you salsa myself but there was a little two foot Colombian with other ideas.

Thank goodness for the internet!

Below I picked out a video that teaches the basic step and a basic turn. This is all you need to know to get out there and have fun! This couple also has a fun iphone app you can download if you are into that sort of thing. You can find more info here.

A side note before you start your lesson. In the US most of the Salsa taught is with a basic step that goes front to back. In Colombia the basic step is almost always danced Cumbia style which is side to side in a circular motion. This difference can be confusing for Colombians when they are outside of Colombia and difficult for foreigners who are bewildered when they go out dancing in Cali. The two styles though are almost exactly the same. The best way to explain this difference is American English vs. British English, they are essentially the same but the slight difference is noticeable and can lead to confusion.

In the future I hope I can get my little dictator to agree to let me make you all a "How to dance Cumbia style Colombian salsa" video. Until then just know any basic step you learn will make it easier to learn other styles because the hard part about salsa is the syncopated rythmn. Once you wrap your head around any style it's extremely easy to learn the others. I can dance On 1, On 2, Colombian style, Cuban style etc etc etc :)

Tomorrow I'll be back with Five awesome Colombian salsa songs. Until then, have fun dancing!-Emily

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Merengue - Basic Steps

I have to start off with a confession. I had big plans to make you guys customized, personalized dance lessons. "It'll be great!" I told Colombian Mommy. "I'll make the videos, upload them to youtube and embed them in the blog. Easy-peasy"

I forgot though, there there is a small Colombian in my house that often has different ideas about things. Elian is at that stubborn toddler stage where he is intent on controlling the whole world. He personally loves to dance but does not approve of anbody else dancing. The little king must be the only dancer! When we try to dance he screams "No, Mama. No, Mama!" The other day I emerged from the bathroom to hear my husband saying "Papa is allowed to dance if he wants to! You don't tell Papa he can't dance!"

I'm still not sure who won that battle.

I figured you wouldn't want your dance lessons accompanied by the shouts of my little one so I opted to find you some on the internet instead.

Today's lesson is for dancing merengue. Merengue has to be the absolute easiest dance on the planet. The easiest way to describe Merengue is to think about how you end up switching your weight from one hip to the other while waiting for the bus. Do that quickly in time to the music and your halfway there.

Here's a video to get you the rest of the way there. :) -Emily

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hitting the Dance Floor 101-Know your genres

When you go out dancing in Colombia or at “Salsa/Tropical” dance nights in other countries you’ll be encountering several different types of music. Here's a short overview of the most common. Each title links to a youtube video with an example!

Salsa –Duh!

Merengue-From the Dominican Republic and the easiest dance in the world.

Bachata –Also from the Dominican Republic and usually slower/romantic. It’s very popular in the US right now and I’ve noticed that gentleman like to use it as an excuse to snuggle up.

Cha-Cha-Older people tend to cha-cha more than younger but it’s always nice to have this in your arsenal.

Rumba-Not as common, but so very beautiful. The rumbas are slow songs and it is especially sweet to see older couples swaying with the ease that only comes with years together.

Reggaton-The easiest way to describe it is to say it’s a mash-up of hip-hop and latin beats.

Cumbia-Traditional Cumbia is very different than the kind of Cumbias you hear in the clubs and danced very differently as well. A great example of a cumbia you would hear in a club is "La vida es un carinval" by Celia Cruz. A good example of traditional Cumbia is La Pollera Colorada.

Vallenato-This genre features the accordion and is crazy popular on the Caribbean coast.

That was a lot of videos for today! Come back tomorrow for our first dance lesson!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Semana de la Fiesta Salsera

Hi everybody. This is Emily from Notorious MLE. I’ll be guest-posting for the week and before I start I’d like to wish a very Happy Birthday to the lovely author of this blog, the very kind and generous “Colombian Mommy”.

Many of you might not know that in addition to authoring this amazing resource she also has helped many families along the journey to bring their children home. She was my anchor in the storm during our adoption process and so this week I am throwing a SALSA party in her honor. Won’t you all join me?

Salsa is a really important part of Colombian culture. If you go to a family party, you salsa. If you go to a high school dance, you salsa. All Colombians know how to salsa at least a little bit and some are truly amazing dancers.

I used to be a Salsa Dance Instructor and this week I’m going to teach you all you need to know to have a dance party with your Colombianitos at home or a fun night out!

I’ll be back tomorrow with an overview of the different types of dances you might encounter at a salsa club but until then feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might want me to answer.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Gift Guide -- Frente Cumbiero

Cumbia comes from the Caribbean coast of Colombia (and what is today called Panama). It has been a part of the cultural tradition since the 1800s. It is a mix of African and Indian traditions.

Read more about Folkloric Cumbia here:

However, beginning in the 1950's and 1960's, changes in the Folkloric Cumbia sound began to began. Soon, Cumbia became a popular commercial genre in Colombia. Eventually Colombian artists started touring, taking cumbia to places like Mexico, Argentina, Central America and Perú. In those areas, Cumbia was adapted by local performers and each developed their own style.

By the turn of the century, Cumbia was one of the biggest genres in commercial music in Latin America. Many Colombians have long felt that the development of other kinds of Cumbia have degenerated the original sound, and really the sound is not very popular in Colombia today. A few new bands, like Bomba Stereo, are trying to bring the sound back, albeit, not in its traditional form.

One new group is FRENTE CUMBIERO. This past weekend they launched their first album,in English titled "Meets Mad Professor," in Spanish " Gaita del profesor loco."

Here is a sample from the album.

Read more here:

You can add a few of their songs to your collection through MP3 download here:

For Aguanegra click here:

For Gaita del Professor Loco Album click here:

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Gift Guide -- Galguerias

GALGUERIA is a unique Colombian word for JUNK FOOD! It comes from the word GALGO which means 'strong craving or hunger'. Outside of Colombia, few people will know what you are talking about if you use the word, but every Colombian child will immediately know exactly what you are referring to.

That said, what holiday season would be complete without a house full of GALGUERIAS. Unfortunately, getting some good galguerias outside of Colombia can be difficult. So, if your local Latino market doesn't have some, you can try La Tienda del Pueblo online store. They have a nice selection of Colombian galguerias that can arrive in time for the holidays. You can use Paypal, so your transaction is secure.

If you have adopted older Colombianitos, this might be a really great find for a special holiday surprise treat. Personally, our kiddos will be getting Chocolatinas Jet this year. Shhhhhh!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gift Guide -- Children's Book for Colombian/American Families

My kids don't just have a grandma and grandpa, they also have an abuelito and abuelita. Neither set of grandparents live nearby, but because it is easier and cheaper to visit the grandparents, we do it more often. They also visit us. Whereas some nincompoop at the US Embassy twice denied abuelitas visa to come and visit us. (Do not get me started on Immigration!!!) She decided not to "waste more money on that" and allowed her passport to expire. The likelihood is that we will never see her here on American soil.

Anyway, if you find yourself in a similar situation, you might enjoy reading the following book to your little one.

In the book, we discover that Liliana's Grandmothers are very different. One lives in New England, the other lives in a South American country. (Just a reminder here that the author, Leyla Torres, is from Colombia. "Hmmm... I wonder which country she could be referring to?")

Though a trip to either grandparent's house is different (food, lanaguage, etc), both provide the girl with enjoyment and love.

I have read the book to both of my children. Each time it was prior to our trip to visit the Abuelitos in Colombia, when the boys were both about five years old. Both times the boys didn't like the fact that the main character was a girl (no room for princesses in their man cave). However, it did serve as a great way to talk about the concept of our family being here and there. I would recommend it to any Colombian/American family like ours.