Hispania was the old name for the area of Spain, Portugal, Andorra and a little bit of France. Today’s Hispanic cultures are those which were once ruled by the Spanish Empire. This includes Spain, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Each Hispanic country has famous local dishes but there are a few that are recognized around the world. Some of these don’t even require cooking. In ceviche fish is covered in lemon or lime juice and the acid in the juice makes it ready to eat. Gazpacho is a soup originally from Spain and is made from raw tomatoes and other vegetables. Usually gazpacho is eaten in warm weather to help everyone cool down. Cebollita is a dish of pickled onions from Nicaragua served on the side of meals.
Of course there are also foods that must be cooked! Stuffed poblanos are a kind of chili pepper stuffed with black beans and cheese. Tamales, a meal made from masa (a corn-based dough) stuffed with meats, cheeses, vegetables and chili peppers, is cooked in leaves. Flan, a kind of Spanish custard made with caramel and vanilla, is a popular Hispanic dessert.
Traditional Hispanic clothing is brightly colored. It was almost always made of woven fabrics, sometimes with patterns woven right into it. Wealthy people were able to make their clothes from silks and satins, and some men wore capes on their shoulders and sashes like belts. Sometimes wealthy people even used gold and silver thread in their clothes.
Modern Hispanic clothing is like clothing worn all over the West. Men prefer trousers and shorts, while women may wear these as well as skirts and dresses. Hispanic clothing is still considered colorful and decorative. Ruffles, on skirts, sleeves, even socks, are a common in women’s clothing. Hispanics often “dress to impress” and like to wear clean, well made clothing.
Festivals, Holidays, Celebrations
Most people in Hispanic countries are Catholic so the biggest holidays are religious. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus and is spent with family. Christmas Eve is called “nochebuena” (“good night”) and ends with a Misa de Galla, or Midnight Mass. The poinsettia flower is typically associated with Christmas in Hispanic communities. Many countries also celebrate with fireworks and sparklers, as well as Christmas trees and presents.
Easter celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ends Holy Week or Semana Santa. During this week there can daily processions or walks, sometimes with participants carrying wooden crosses, and often a full Passion Play which re-enacts the suffering Jesus went through before his death. In Spain parents give their children little figures carved out of chocolate on Easter Sunday.
Another well known Hispanic celebration is Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. This holiday is celebrated on November 2. Alters are built and the favorite foods, drinks, photographs and other items of dead relatives and friends are displayed. People do this because they hope for visits by the souls of these friends and relatives. Sugar skulls are common on Dia de los Muertos and so are chocolate coffins and skulls.
Famous Stories Or Epics
La Llorona is a folktale which originated in Mexico but spread to many other Hispanic countries. La Llorona means “The Weeping Woman” and tells the story of a woman named Maria who drowned her children in order to be with her true love, but he rejected her and she killed herself. When she got to Heaven Maria was asked where her children were and because she didn’t know, she wasn’t allowed to enter. Parents now tell their children that Maria, the Weeping Woman, is still looking for her children so they must be careful about being out after dark or flaunting expensive items for fear that she will snatch them up! Others believe that if you hear the Weeping Woman crying, it means death will come soon.
Escondidas is a traditional children’s game like Hide And Seek. This game works best with five or more players. One child is chosen to be “it” and this person closes his or her eyes and counts to a set number 10, 30, 60 or even 100. As that child is counting the other players run and hide. When the count is finished the player who is “it” sets out to find the hidden players. The player who is found first becomes “it” for the next round.
Verbal Or Nonverbal Communication
In Spanish you can choose to use more formal words, and most people do this until the person they are speaking to invites them to become informal. Older people are always greeted first, and people are addressed by their last names until they give permission for their first names to be used. Meals are social events with a lot of chatting and more important business or news shared later on. Saying “please” (por favor) and “thank you” (gracias) is very important in Hispanic countries.
When they first meet many Hispanics shake hands but later men may hug each other and women kiss each other on the cheek or even on both cheeks. People stand much closer together in Hispanic countries and might think that someone is being rude if they move further away. There is also a lot more flexibility about time in Hispanic cultures, so being right on time is not necessary. Some people show up about 30 minutes after the time stated on invitations so there is no reason to worry about being a little late!
Hispanic cultures value family, respect, sacrifice and hard work. Hispanic families tend to be very close, and loyalty to the family and placing the good of the family ahead of your own success is important. Working hard and making sacrifices for the good of others is also valued, and some people think it is the only way to make a better future.
Most Hispanics are known as fun loving people, and one party game that developed in Mexico was the piñata. This is a cardboard shape decorated with colored paper and filled with candy, small toys and other treats. The piñata is hoisted into the air and players are blind-folded and allowed to hit the piñata with sticks. When the piñata breaks open everyone gets to enjoy the surprises which spill out.
Many Hispanic girls are thrown a quinceañera on their fifteenth birthdays. This party tells the world that the girl is now a young woman. The birthday girl dresses up in a ball gown, has her hair and make-up done, and often dances for the first time at her party. Some girls also arrive at the party in flat shoes only to change into high heels during the fun.
Hispanic countries are home to some of the most interesting places in the world. The Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain is a fortress that was built in the 14th century. It was made out of red clay and is known for its beautiful tiles. The Panama Canal was made between 1904 and 1914 and joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Patagonia, a region in Argentina and Chile, is known to some as “the ending point of the world” and includes scenery like mountains and glaciers. Machu Pichu, “the lost city of the Incas”, is in Peru and believed to have been an estate for an Incan emperor.
Important Note: This article was written by a person who is familiar with Hispanic culture based on his or her personal anecdotal observations. Additionally, there are quite a few generalizations to make the article easier to understand for the children. Dino Lingo does not accept any responsibility for errors, omissions or subjectivity in the content of this post.
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