Home is the heart of Hispanic life. Celebrations center around extended family and friends and almost always take place at home. No restaurants or catered affairs for birthdays, anniversaries or holidays.
No, mamá does NOT get a break from cooking, even on Mother’s Day! The extended family celebrates together while the matriarchs cook the meal, exchanging stories and sharing traditions with the younger generation.
Traditions like these, where home and family constitute the center of life, are why my cousin, interior designer Marlene Pratt, and I started Casa Latina.
Whether a Latina’s home is an apartment, a modest house or a McMansion, it is a sanctuary from the world. It is common to have three generations under one roof. Extended visits from relatives and friends are routine. “Mi Casa Es Tu Casa” translates to “My Home Is Your Home”. It is a salutation for visitors and a way of life for the family. From Mexico to Ecuador, from Panama to Peru, and including every other Latin American country, one common and enduring thread is that home is paramount and everyone who steps into it is made to feel welcome. This remains a given.
Casa Latina is as much an expression of the passion we have for our culture and as it is about the aspirations we have for our collective futures. It is a melding of the old world and the new to create a unique and dynamic life as Latinas in America. How we still celebrate life, milestones and holidays remains consistent. What has evolved are our style preferences and home decor sensibilities.
Hispanics have acculturated, which simply means we are interweaving American elements into our traditional cultural norms. From language, to food, to fashion, nowhere is this more apparent than in the way in which we style our homes. Yes, many of us still have a preference for strong vibrant colors but we now tend to temper them with light or neutral accents. We may still have a big, heavy piece or two of dark wooden furniture but they are more likely to be used as accent pieces. Latinas are gravitating to cleaner lines and simpler designs.
This is not to say that we don’t incorporate artisanal pieces and decorative elements from our “home country”, such as copper and bronze from Ecuador, icons and strong Spanish influences from Mexico or rustic carved wooden pieces from the Dominican Republic, depending on where our families and cultural tastes originate from. The defining word is integration: integrating traditional pieces into a more contemporary design style, rather than overwhelming a space with them. This often results in a home with a warm and eclectic look and feel. An aesthetic melding of the old world with the new.
No more rooms filled to the brim with super heavy, dark wood furniture like in the 60’s and 70’s. My parents’ old bedroom was a perfect example. After helping our family move from the city to the ‘burbs’ my godfather was convinced my mother purchased her bedroom furniture by the pound. As a modern Latina, my bedroom furniture preferences now tend towards Scandinavian minimalist with a splash of color on the walls to warm it up. Old traditions vs. new style options. More often than not contemporary Hispanic homes integrate elements of both.
Plastic on the furniture? Gone thank goodness! A relic of the past. If it still exists in a Hispanic home it is at an obstinate Abuela, a.k.a grandmother’s, apartment. I remember when I dragged my mother into the contemporary world of 20th century suburban living. She refused to get rid of the plastic on the furniture, so one day when I was in my late teens and tired of the good natured jokes from friends about their legs sticking to the sofa I removed all the plastic and threw it out. My mother was NOT amused and made that very clear but after a short time she had to admit how much better the living room looked and felt.
Though we make our homes here in the United States – some of us immigrants, some of us American born – we hold our home countries dear. Family is never too far away to stay connected to. Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua or anywhere else in Latin America is only a phone call or text away. And for many of us, making sure that the lives and homes of those we love are filled with joy and possibility is essential. That is why Marlene and I appreciate WorldRemit’s commitment to providing a quality service to help us transfer both money and hope across borders to friends and family who are working towards living their own dreams.
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