2/24 Tribute to Kobe and Gianna

I have been personally touched by Kobe and Gianna’s loss and wanted to honor their memory by writing a special post in my personal blog.

I am not a big fan of basketball, but if I had to choose a sport to watch, basketball would be it without hesitation.

I was debating about writing this post.  I wanted my blog to just focus on my personal experiences growing up in Mexico and how I adjusted living in the U.S. after I moved here.  When I heard the news of Kobe and Gianna’s helicopter crash that Sunday morning, I was shocked and, as the days and weeks went by, I thought I was just going to put this news aside like other celebrities’ news that pass away unexpectedly.  However, I soon realized this was going to be different and would be something I could share as part of my blog.

I was never a sports player, but I do remember that as a freshman in high school I tried for the basketball team.  At first it was fun doing all those new warm-up exercises with a team of other girls.  However, just learning how to play basketball for the first time as a fifteen-year old freshman in high school was difficult for me.  I knew then basketball wasn’t for me and didn’t continue playing after that first semester.

The great lesson I learned from this experience is that you have to try new things, you have to push yourself to new challenges and at least be able to say that you tried and did your best.

The news of Kobe and Gianna’s loss brought back these highs school memories and struck a chord within me.  Perhaps the reason why it has impacted me so much, even though I didn’t know him personally, is because I am also a parent.  I’m a mother of a beautiful nine-year old who reminds me of Gianna.  Thinking about that makes me ponder about my own daughter –her dreams, her aspirations, how she seems me, and how I see her, as well.

Perhaps one reason why Kobe and Gianna’s story has touched many people is because it reminds those of us who are parents of our own kids.  Kobe was, when all is set and done, just a father who wanted to help his daughter live her dream.

Every time I hear about Gigi and her dream of becoming a basketball player one day, I am brought to tears.  The notion of the dreams that never came to be gets me every time.  Gigi had her eyes and hopes set high; she was ready to go and be a star like her Dad.

Today, I tuned into the Los Angeles Lakers YouTube channel to watch Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s Celebration of Life and it was really emotional.  The one speech that really touched me was Vanessa Bryant’s tribute to her daughter and husband.  When I hear all the wonderful things that her daughter did for her, her personality, and the little things she did to make her mom smile, it makes me cry.  Vanessa said her daughter was kind, thoughtful, and loving; three qualities that my own daughter also exemplifies.  She said of her daughter that her motto was, “there is no act of kindness that is too small to make a difference in someone’s life.”

I think about Gianna and my own daughter and it makes me think of how important it is to develop a deeper relationship with my own daughter; by spending quality time with her and sharing a passion with her.  Like Kobe did with Gigi.

Kobe and Gianna have inspired me to better my relationship with my own daughter.  I want to be more patient, kinder and more compassionate with her.  But most importantly, I want to spend more quality time with my daughter and I thought of the perfect way to do that starting right now: running.

My daughter and I both enjoy running.  We started running last year, but stopped once school ended before summer.

I believe sharing a common passion with my daughter will help us bond and running is something that we both enjoy and have fun doing.

If Kobe could share a word of wisdom with all of us right now, what would he say to us parents about our relationship with our daughters? I think he would say that we need to be grateful for each moment we have with our children, to spend time with them, and be an involved parent.  I think he would say we need to be interested in the things that our children are passionate about and share that passion with them.

I look at my own daughter and I feel grateful and blessed to be able to hug her right now and show her how much I love her.  I know I was inspired by Kobe’s relationship with his daughter to get out there and do more with my own daughters.  There are many things that I am passionate about that I want to share with them.

Kobe and Gianna, your memory will live with us forever.  You have truly inspired us! May all of you, including the other parents and daughters who were in that fateful helicopter ride, rest in peace.

Kobe and Gianna Bryant – I imagine them looking down at us like this from Heaven.


A Very Special Christmas in San Luis Potosí

This last Christmas I went to Mexico to spend the holidays with distant relatives.  Last time I saw my relatives was five years ago, and the last time I spent a Christmas in Mexico was twenty-one years ago.  I am originally from San Luis Potosi, a city located in central Mexico, where I spend this last Christmas.  I wanted my family to experience Christmas in Mexico for the first time.

Christmas in Mexico is very different than in the United States.  In Mexico, las Posadas is an integral part of the Christmas celebrations.  The tradition of Las Posadas comes from Spain and it was brought to Mexico and other Latin American countries by the Catholic Church.  For 400 years, starting in 1586, Mexicans have celebrated las Posadas in December.  Other countries in Latin America and in the U.S., in communities where Spanish cultural influence remains strong, las Posadas is also part of their cultural Christmas tradition.  Most of these celebrations take place in the Southwest; in states like New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California.

Las Posadas celebrations in Mexico vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and city to city.  Cities, which tend to be more populated and where people are more influenced by American culture, tend to have their own variations of las Posadas.  Their celebrations may include prayers and a piñata, followed by dinner.  The Mexican state of San Luis Potosi is divided into Municipios or municipalities.  Some of the municipios, specifically those located in more rural areas, celebrate las Posadas in a more traditional way.  Their prayers are longer and more involved.  A traditional Posada includes a reenactment of the Nativity story, followed by a dinner, and breaking a piñata.

During our visit this year, my relatives and I organized a simple celebration for the children on Christmas Day.  The day before Christmas, my aunt and I went to Mercado República, a very famous food market close to the Historic Downtown of San Luis Potosi, to buy food and other things for the celebration.  Most people go there to purchase food and gifts for las Posadas, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Mercado República is a famous food market in San Luis Potosi.

It was really nice to be back to this market as it reminded me of my childhood days, back when I lived in Mexico.  I took my daughter with me and we walked around the many long isles of decorative, festive piñatas, hand-made art crafts, fresh fruit and vegetables, food stands selling freshly made tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, pozole, menudo, and other popular Mexican dishes.

This food market is so big that it would take a whole day to see every isle.  It is usually visited with friends or family members who plan to go shopping and eat at the food stands available there.  The food is delicious and there are usually more than two food stands selling the same dish, but each with their own flavor twist.

This mercado or food market has been around for decades.  Despite the fast growth of commercial businesses opening in this city, including many American franchises such as Walmart, Mercado República continues being part of San Luis Potosi’s cultural tradition.  Although the majority of people who visit and shop at Mercado República are working class, many people from different social status come here to purchase the items such as hand-made art crafts and hard to find ingredients that cannot be found anywhere else such as certain spices or fresh herbs needed for some Mexican dishes.

Tejocote is one of the many ingredients found at Mercado República

We walked around the mercado and I spotted a ceiling full of colorful piñatas –some with five, seven and even nine points.  I chose a seven-pointed star piñata for our night’s festivities.  My aunt tries to find pinguica or pointleaf manzanita, a type of shrub needed for her nacimiento or nativity scene.  Many households set up nativity scenes on Christmas in addition to the popular Christmas tree.  Homes decorate their nativity scene in different ways; some like to set up a small nativity scene right next to their Christmas tree, while others like to set up a large one in their living room or a part of the house where it can be seen.

a ceiling full of colorful piñatas
Breaking a seven-pointed star piñata at las Posadas is a cultural tradition in Mexico.
A Christmas tree decorated with colorful piñatas at Plaza de Armas in San Luis Potosi.
Nativity scenes are set up during Christmas season in Mexico

We also bought velitas or small candles for the children as part of las Posada celebrations.  The candles are used to pray during the novenas, a series of prayers and songs performed at las Posadas.

After praying the novenas and singing villancicos or traditional Christmas songs we were ready to break the piñata.  According to Catholic tradition, the seven-pointed star represents the seven capital sins in Catholic religion while the nine-pointed star piñata represents the nine months the Virgin Mary was pregnant.  Spanish priests used the breaking of the piñata as a method to teach indigenous people in Mexico biblical concepts, such as the seven deadly sins during their evangelization.

Children take turns hitting the piñata at the end of a traditional song, which includes this lyrics, “dale, dale, dale no pierdas el tino porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino” – “go, go, go don’t lose sight of it, if you do you will lose the path!”

Each child has a turn until someone breaks the piñata and all the candy and fruit falls to the ground!  Many years ago, piñatas were made of decorated clay jars.  Today, they have evolved: the inside or the main body of the piñata is made of cardboard and newspaper.  I do miss the old piñatas made of clay jars because they were harder to break and allowed more people to take a turn.  However, the new ones are lighter and therefore less likely to hurt the children when the pieces fall to the ground.

After breaking the piñata, a delicious dinner follows with tamales, ponche, atole, and other favorite Christmas dishes.

All the children present enjoyed la Posada, and I enjoyed it along with them.  It reminded me of las Posadas from my childhood.  It’s been twenty-one years since I spent a Christmas in Mexico.  I had forgotten what it was like to look forward to Christmas as little kids do.  I feel grateful to be able to relieve this part of my childhood with my own children.  This Christmas was very special and I will treasure it for years to come.

A Very Special Christmas in San Luis Potosí.