Cult or Culture

Primero De Septiembre – Ode to Venezuela



Caracas 2015

Friend of the blog, Maria V Agelvis, Mari as I affectionately call her, shares her poignant and yet hopeful poem…amazing how one can leave home but it never leaves you.


Entre nervios hoy escribo,

aquello que pienso y no digo


A donde fuimos? presentes y distantes

Venezuela Hermosa y Unida, te quiero así ahora, como eras antes


Malandros, burgueses, opositores y chavistas

Basta ya de divisiones y de discursos populistas

Cuando veremos que el “rolo e’ vivo” no es más que un oportunista


Mientras tanto aprendo que el cambio viene de adentro



Que cosas valoramos? Que nos pone contentos?

Joropos, aguinaldos, tradiciones y gaitas

Tripones en el colegio en actos con alpargatas

Chamos viendo el amanecer entre panas y pepitos

Es que extrañar a Venezuela es mango bajito


Los Roques, el Salto Ángel y el ruminate Orinoco

Los llanos, Mérida Y Margarita son apenas unos pocos

De los paisajes naturales que Venezuela comprende

Es que hablando de mi país, uno se pica y se extiende


Y al describir una tierra, cómo no hablar de su gente

Con panas, compinches y costillas: Quien no la pasa excelente?

En la casa o en la calle de nada se forma una rumba,

Con aguardiente, Polar o Zulia, Hasta el arrocero se encurda


Mari’s Sister in El Hatillo 2012

Aquellos que han degustado una reina pepiada

Los tequeños, las cachapas  o de gallina la ensalada

Sabe que mis recuerdos no son ningunas bobadas

Mucho menos si incluimos pabellones y empanadas


Es un baúl lleno de cuentos, comidas y música divina

pero es que quien no mueve los pies oyendo Caballo Viejo o Madera Fina?


Choroni 2009


Barquisimeto 2016

Asi es la Venezuela que admiro y añoro

No me importa sonar cursi pues, es la tierra que adoro

Y aunque mi cuerpo hoy día está en otro lugar

El guayabo por mi país no se los puedo ocultar


Sueño con un futuro con medicinas, seguridad y alimentos

Con paz, libertad y casa de nuevos talentos

Construyendo nuevas memorias para aquellos que están adentro

Y para todos los que llevamos el tricolor en nuestro pensamiento.


Seamos Maracuchos, Caraqueños, Barquisimetanos

Margariteños, Andinos, Llaneros o Amazonianos

Juntos debemos pensar:

Naguará mi Venezuela, como te recuperamos?

– Maria V Agelvis




Parque Nacional Mochima 2016


What to listen to in the car! TED Talk Recs for Improving your Communication

So it seems I am getting older for pop radio. I really never thought this would happen. I am one of those people who never, ever gets tired of a song I love. I can listen on repeat and fashion myself on American Idol as I belt out whatever tune is in vogue. At times I feel bad for my daughter, as she is my prisoner/ captive audience for my impromptu performances. However, these days I have caught myself thinking it is always the same three songs on the radio. Then, I put on Pandora or watch out, pop in a CD and take myself back to 90’s hip hop, Marc Anthony (past and present), Foo Fighters or my Mariah Carey station. Don’t knock it; I have liked and unliked my way to the optimal Pandora song list for her station.

With not enough hours in the day, however, when I feel intellectual and want to optimize my time in the car, I listen to TED Talks or other podcasts. Hello Serial Season 1!

***Below are D & D’s TED Talk Recommendations for improving your communication.


1.Economist Tyler Cowen discusses the innate human need to tell and to organize one’s life around stories. As a person who loves the act of storytelling in almost any genre, I was compelled to rethink how we organize our lives through the comforting yet limiting standard plot lines. He maps out the pitfalls of narrating one’s life versus the scary yet more honest messiness that is living.

2. Robert Waldinger is the fourth Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development which is a 75-year-old study, following about 600 men throughout their adult life. Along with archiving personal, medical and professional statistics, they have focused on how to measure happiness and fulfillment. One major take away is that happiness is directly linked to the quality of the relationships one nurtures. In an age where we want more likes and hearts, a high quantity of casual connections, this talk refocuses priorities to the qualitative aspect of our relationships.


3. A talk everyone needs to listen to. Celeste Headlee on 10 Ways to improve your conversations.




Grown Restaurant Review

Photographer April Belle

Photographer April Belle

Grown Restaurant                                                                                                                                             8211 South Dixie Highway, South Miami, FL 33143

Did Ray Allen really waive off the guy with the championship trophy as he stepped onto the three point line and help us clinch a seventh game which would ultimately win us the (2013) championship? Yes, he did. My husband still can’t forgive the Comcast guy who came to change our box and thus erased said game. You know Miamians- we are big talkers, usually loud, throw in a “bro” or two and you have a people, yes fickle at times with our sports teams but feeling oh too deeply when we win big or lose. But let’s not talk about the latter.

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Five kind of Cuban practices I will continue with my daughter.

Five kind of Cuban practices I will continue with my daughter.

  1. Every NYE we will go outside with suitcases and walk around in circles so that we guarantee to travel that upcoming year. Works every time.
  2. I will dip her chupete (pacifier) in Cuban coffee to build up caffeine tolerance. Actually, my husband does not approve, so I won’t confirm or deny this one.
  3. An azabache is a must. She is the only Gymboree kid I see with the azabache on or on her baby bag…gotta fend off that evil eye; it’s a 24-7 gig!
  4. Versailles – Before Lebron James and every politician who makes a stop in Miami made this a must tourist destination, this has been the go to spot. After a concert or my ballet recitals, we would end up there. My aunt says it feels like the open air restaurants in Havana and my fave Gustavo Pérez Firmat has an amazing analysis of all the mirrors inside; how Cubans see themselves in those mirrors.
  5. The loteria game – It’s like BINGO with no letters and you bet money. The bets range from a few cents to $1 if you’re feeling lucky. I learned the game when I was four or five, but despite your age you better bring a few cents to join the pot. It was our version of family game night, and I don’t remember any phones on the table!!!

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Hip-Hop as Literature or Literary Hip-Hop: The BreakBeat Poets

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doubts & desires

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

doubts & desires

The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. Let’s be real…even if you love to read and love literature it is increasingly difficult to dedicate time to the solitary exercise.

Two memories come to mind as I engage with this new anthology published by Haymarket:

  • As an educator I constantly struggle with getting my students to be interested, to connect with and to see themselves in the literature we read.
  • Also, I remember a couple years ago chatting with my cousin who is now in college about Lil Wayne and how he has self-proclaimed ‘the greatest poet alive.’ My cousin could not reconcile how a rapper, artist, celebrity could also be a poet.

Why is this book different, worth your time?

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Farewell “American Idol” – What I will remember

With the American Idol series finale Thursday, I think back to what I will remember most.

We have old school memories – how Paula Abdul clapped and painfully honest remarks from Simon Cowell; however, as a Latina I will remember most the performance that syncretized Yoruban, Afro-Caribbean religion with the American popular stage.

youtube via MartinOldiesTapes, FOX

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When in NOLA: A Few D & D Recs and Pics

Recently, I visited New Orleans for a quick two day trip. The last time I had been was for my 21st birthday so more grenades than actual restaurants. This time we wanted to learn about the impressive culinary tradition matched only by the city’s rich music scene. Translation – we ate a lot, and I think there was some music!

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“Writing’s on the Wall”: Brooklyn Graffiti and Street Art


doubts & desires

Several weekends ago I woke up with an addiction to novelty. I was feeling cooped up, uninspired. And the ‘start a scrapbook’ advice to beat cabin fever, only makes me feel more on edge. Therefore, I went with a little more spontaneity. Well, as spontaneous as a mom can be with a toddler in tow. We headed out to Williamsburg, which is a hip, young, career-oriented, part of Brooklyn. We were the only ones pushing a stroller that day.

A close friend of mine is a street artist. I remember asking him, why did he think it appropriate to use public space this way? “It’s how we communicate, it’s a symbol of unity,” he said.

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OMG que voy hacer: Teaching My Daughter Our Culture in a Spanglish Spanish

video via titinatuty on Youtube, CBS

My parents and parents-in-law say, “Tienes que enseñarle español. Aprenderá inglés eventualmente.” (You have to teach her Spanish. She will learn English eventually.) Every time I hear this I think of Gustavo Pérez Firmat’s line, “The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you. My subject: how to explain to you that I don’t belong to English though I belong nowhere else.” While in a more optimistic moment, he references the hyphen, how we can belong to multiple historical, cultural and linguistic moments, in this quote he contemplates how we can truly belong to none. Also, Julia Alvarez discusses that in between of language and culture, what Edwidge Danticat calls “the tools I have at my disposal” and “the choice that rises out of the circumstances of our lives.” I love reading these writers because through them I can understand my own identity as inheriting a constant tension second generations negotiate to maintain culture, language, self.

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And you calling me colored?


photo via Steven Depolo (


We’re several days late on this post, but this means so much to us we’re going with it! Therefore, in honor of Black History Month we share this poem with you. Because of its underlying depth. Because of it’s innocence and unvarnished honesty. Because of it’s controversy, as some people find this to be “racism in reverse”, we hear the poet speaker grappling with how to transform observation into knowledge.

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Celebramos la independencia de la Republica Dominicana

Celebramos la independencia de mi patria, la República Dominicana. Y decimos lo siguiente con el orgullo que conocen los Dominicanos, ¡Que víva Quisqueya!

La celebración de una independencia es la celebración de toda nuestra gente Latina.

Today we celebrate the independence of my country, the Dominican Republic. And we say the following with the pride that the Dominican people have for their country, “Long live Quisqueya!”

Celebrating one independence is celebrating all our people.

*video via YouTube*


Doubts and Desires 2016 Oscar Predictions


Photo via

Our Oscar ritual begins with the red carpet commentary, then the main event, and the following day the play by play of the evening. It is basically our Super Bowl. To honor the Oscars we have compiled a brief predictions list.

Best Picture: Spotlight!!!

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

Best Supporting Actor: Hands down Mark Ruffalo (Linjen) / Tom Hardy (Josie)

Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet

Directing: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Martian

Best Original Screenplay: Straight Outta Compton (*with all the lack of diversity chatter which is so true I wonder if this nom or even win would feel hollow)

Best Animated Picture: “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”…oh wait, it’s not nominated. It’s just all I watch. (curve ball to see if readers are paying attention)

Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul

*For a complete list of nominations, please visit


PS: What are your predictions? We would love to know…