From Tamales to Turkey: Thanksgiving in Two Cultures

Screen shot 2015-11-24 at 2.26.16 PM

South Kern Sol, Youth Commentary, Yesenia Aguilar

Tamales and Champurrado. That’s the typical Latino Thanksgiving, at least in my household.  That is until three years ago. This was when my family became ‘Americanized,’ and my mom got into a turkey, mashed potatoes, and corn frenzy.

For most of my life, my sister and I would wake up on Thanksgiving and help my mom gather the ingredients for tamales. The day before my mom would’ve gone to buy what we needed. Then the long process begins. The masa is cooked, chicken or pork simmers on the stove, and delicious smells flow through the house. My mom sets up at one station, and my sister and I get ready to take our place in the assembly line. First my mom scoops the chicken into the masa, and I get ready to wrap it. After we make all the tamales, the long, agonizing wait until dinner commences. That’s how my parents have been celebrating this holiday for the past 20 years.

Recently though, the tamales have been replaced with a turkey. My sister and I still help my mom prepare it, then we wait. If you have ever cooked a turkey you know how long it takes. When the turkey is ready, we all gather around the table with our plates overflowing with green beans, pasta salad, corn, mashed potatoes, and of course turkey, and we pray. We thank God for all that he has given us and for having each other. Then we eat.

I would have never expected my family to move from a traditional Latino Thanksgiving to a more Americanized one. I would have never imagined that the delicious tamales and the steaming hotchampurrado (a thick Mexican drink made with hot chocolate and corn masa or flour), both staples during Thanksgiving, would be replaced by a turkey.

I admit that I was more than devastated when my mom told me we weren’t going to be making tamales that first year.  But I am open to new traditions. The change didn’t break my heart entirely because it has helped me appreciate both of my cultures. It helped me see that when you are from two different places, or in my case, three (my dad is from Guatemala) we have to be open to new experiences.

I learned that change can be good and that it all begins with how willing we are to embrace it. It might be only turkey for now, but sooner or later it is going to be bigger things. Moving from eating tamales to eating turkey on this holiday has been eye opening for me because it’s given me the opportunity to reflect on how different cultures come into play in my life. My family is built from several different cultures and what I have to do is accept them. I can’t neglect any of my cultural backgrounds because that is like neglecting myself.

So this year I am thankful. I’m thankful for having my family by my side and thankful for having food on our table. I am thankful for the different cultures in my life and how they have shaped who I am. Most of all I am thankful for being alive. This Thanksgiving, as I eat a plate of turkey and not of tamales, *tear tear* I will bask in the delight of knowing that I’m lucky to have these two special dishes (and cultures) in my life.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and whether you’re having tamales or turkey, remember to be thankful for all that you have.  

Yesenia Aguilar, 16, is a student at Arvin High School, she joined South Kern Sol’s youth reporting team in September. 

Expo Showcases Richmond’s Latino Artists


by Tania Pulido | Photos by Katherine Rife

Nearly 100 people turned out for the Latina Center’s second Eco-Artisan Latin American Expo earlier this month, showcasing ecologically friendly products created by some of the top Latino craft artists in the Richmond area.

Held at the Middle Lovonya Dejean Middle School auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 14, the family-friendly event featured more than 30 tables of art, jewelry, pastries, food, info booths and art activities for children, with many crafts focusing on the upcoming holiday season. Many of the products available were made with recycled and re-used materials.

“The objective of the event is to get to know our community, and share our art, culture and crafts,” said Gloria Alvarez, one of the organizers. “Most people here run a home business, and this is an opportunity for them to show their talent. Alone, [an] artist couldn’t have organized this event, and this is how the Latina Center has helped.”

One of the artists who showcased her crafts was my aunt, Mirella Mora Solis, who collaborated with her daughters to make holiday items.

“The most important part was spending time as a family — I just bought the materials and allowed them to be creative,” she said of the miniature Christmas trees, wreaths and small fabric angels at her booth. “It’s important for girls to learn at an early age entrepreneurial skills, to know that they can make things and sell them.”

12240341_952493304797348_9141883546169166379_oFor other participants, art has become a material reminder of their creative resiliency. Salvador Ochoa, a Richmond resident, was invited to the event by his wife, a Latina Center member. Ochoa’s inspiration came out of a personal struggle — after years of working, he fractured his back, which led to unemployment and financial strains. Ochoa fell in love, but could not afford a wedding ring.

“I saw a spoon with beautiful designs, and decided to make her a ring,” he said. “She loved it, and made me a ring too.” The rings at his table ranged from roses with intricate designs to bulkier circlets with numerous patterns.

Another inspiring story came from Maria Gamboa, a member at the Latina Center since 2011.

“When I started at the Latina Center, I was dealing with chronic depression,” said Gamboa, who hosted a table full of handmade bags fashioned from a wide range of colors, sizes and patterns. “A friend invited me to the center, and I am no longer the woman who would stay home all the time. Now I’m a leader in the community.”

Like many women at the Latina Center, Gamboa reached out to the center during difficult times and found a family. She studied sewing in Mexico, and now teaches a class at the center, featuring sewing techniques traditional to her culture.

Since 2002, The Latina Center has served Richmond’s Latina community, trainings girls as leaders and working to create change by impacting families, neighborhoods and schools. Founder Miriam Wong says events like the expo not only help with the local economy, but with the emotional and spiritual well being of the community.

“Many of these people were artisans in their home countries and when they came to the United States they left everything they knew,” said Wong.

“When people who can’t find a regular job, at least they can make some money with things they know how to do very well.”



Tuesday Night at The Baltic: Where Musicians Go to Jam


Photo Essay, David Meza

Richmond isn’t known for a having a big nightlife or music scene. But there is one place in town where musicians go to jam: Tuesday nights at The Baltic Restaurant and Bar in Point Richmond.

Stepping into the dimly lit, relaxed atmosphere, you’ll find professional artists and novices alike. The jam is open to musicians playing all kinds of music including jazz, funk, rock, R&B, blues and reggae. And there are instruments available for anyone who wants to join in. The result is a natural community, allowing people to come together and create new sounds.

On a recent Tuesday night, drums, bass and guitar held down a ‘70s-style jazz instrumental groove as a flute player took a soothing solo.

That was followed by an impromptu blues jam as a gravely voice singer took the microphone. Everyone in the room was feeling the music and a couple ran out to spin around on the dance floor.

“It’s kind of evolved over the years,” said local bass player and Point Richmond fixture Vincent Stephens, who helps organize the Tuesday night jam sessions. A military veteran and graphic artist, Stephens can be heard playing with various bands at venues like the Point San Pablo Yacht Club, Maple Hall Community Center and The Baltic.

“Now it’s come back around to the original spirit of what it’s all about, which is just people getting together and doing this creative thing musically. No boundaries. Wherever it goes is where it’s gonna go,” Stephens said.

The Baltic is one of a few venues in Richmond where people can hear live music. In addition to the Tuesday night jams, it hosts bands on most weekends, karaoke on Thursday nights, and occasional DJs.

Stephens says he and other local musicians are appreciative for the space that The Baltic management offers.

“How many places can you come where you can actually make something happen? They let us play. Here in Point Richmond of all places.”

He says he wants to see more musicians and music lovers come out and enjoy the experience at what he calls Richmond’s “undiscovered gem.”

“We don’t care where you come from or what kind of thing your doing,” he said. “If you’re bringing something to the table, let’s just take it and run with it.”

If you go: The Funky Friends Freestyle Jam happens Tuesdays from 9pm until at the Baltic Restaurant and Bar located at 135 Park Place in Richmond.

Richmond Celebrates Día de los Muertos



Photo Essay • David Meza

The Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, was brought to life November 1 and 2 at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond.

Individuals enjoyed customary refreshments and foods such as pan de los muertos and spent time celebrating and remembering loved ones who have passed away.

Some people might look at modern celebrations of Día de los Muertos and think the day is about dressing up and painting their faces. But Dolores “Lolis” García, a teacher with the center, said the practice of face painting is a new fad. The heart of the celebration, she said, is sharing offerings and celebrating those who have passed away. It is not a day of mourning, but a time to celebrate them in this world.

Andrea Perez, a student, performed La Polla Pinta, Los Enanitos and other songs on the jarana huasteca, a small guitar-like instrument. During the event one could hear traditional sounds from “Son de La Tierra,” the center’s performing group.

Joaquin Quintana del Carpio is a Son de La Tierra violinist who has been with the center for nearly 11 years. Joaquin, who is of Peruvian descent, doesn’t know of any similar celebration in Peruvian culture. But he believes that Día de los Muertos is something many people can relate to across cultures. He hopes to see the event grow in future years, with more music and more people remembering their loved ones and sharing pictures.

Local Happenings: November


Renovated Swim Center Reopens

Closed for nearly a year and a half, the Richmond Swim Center at 4300 Cutting Blvd., next to Kennedy High School, has reopened. Classes will resume in 2016.

The swim center’s $7.6 million renovation includes the construction of a retractable skylight, a reconfigured Olympic-sized swimming pool, and an outdoor play structure within an enclosed courtyard and picnic areas.

For more information, call (510) 620-6793 or visit


“Paradise Road” Marks Historic Film Series

The Richmond Museum Association and the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park will sponsor its monthly film series at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, aboard the historic SS Red Oak Victory at 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A.

This month’s film is “Paradise Road” starring Glenn Close. Boarding will begin at 6:30 p.m., with popcorn and refreshments available for purchase. A $10 donation is suggested to support the restoration of the ship.

For more information, call (510) 237-2933.


Three Seats Open On Library Commission

The Richmond Public Library Commission is accepting applications to fill three openings on the panel.

Commissioners advise on library and literacy issues and advocate for services, along with help create library policy and participate in future planning. Anyone interested must be a registered Richmond voter, attend bimonthly meetings, be interested in library and literacy services in Richmond and enjoy working both in a group and with the public.

For more information, call (510) 620-6554.


Little League Signups Begin

The Richmond Police Activities League has begun accepting signups for Little League baseball and softball teams for the 2016 season.

The early-bird signup cost is $60 through Dec. 31, increasing to $80 in 2016. T-ball is available for boys and girls ages 4 to 6, baseball for ages 7 to 13 and softball for girls only, ages 7 to 16. Team practices start in January.

For more information or to sign up, call (510) 621-1221 or visit the league’s office at 2200 Macdonald Ave.

Home Front Festival Celebrates Richmond’s WWII History


By Anna Tingley

Flooding into the Craneway Pavilion, Marina Bay Park and the SS Red Oak Victory Ship, locals celebrated the ninth annual Richmond Homefront Festival this past Saturday, Oct. 10, recognizing the special role that the city’s shipyards played in World War II.

At the request of the British government, already at war with Nazi Germany, famed industrialist Henry Kaiser established the first Richmond shipyard in December 1940, at a time when many other captains of industry urged isolation from the war. As Kaiser applied mass assembly line techniques to produce ships in as little as four days, he also opened up job opportunities to unskilled laborers, women and minorities.

Eventually, the shipyards gave rise to the construction of 747 ships, more than any other shipbuilding complex in history. As people traveled from across the United States to work in the area, the Richmond population skyrocketed from 20,000 to 100,000 in just three years. Currently still diverse, cultured and progressive, Richmond commemorates its role in the war through its recently established Rosie The Riveter National Historical Park and reminiscent festivals such as the Homefront.

The festival began on a high note at Marina Bay Park as the Elite Jazz Band played patriotic classics by George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, along with old-time favorites from the era, such as “As Time Goes By.” From the traditional Mexican music of Los Cenzontles to the funky blues of Alvin And His All-Stars, the playlist for the day remained as diverse as the history it celebrated.

While Baby Boomers danced to the familiar tunes at the main stage, children indulged in other festivities, including bounce-houses, a train ride, colossal slides, a bicycle rodeo and a petting zoo. The event even included Zumba demonstrations onstage and a performance by the acrobatic team of the Golden State Warriors, the Flying Dubs.

“My family and I go the festival every year,” said Richmond resident Elsa Winslow. “It’s a perfect place to hang out with neighbors from all over the area, and it’s always incredible to find out more about our ties to the war. My kids love it too.”

Curious locals were also able to explore the Rosie The Riveter National Park Visitor Center at the Craneway Pavilion. Through exhibits, historical sites and specialized collections of artifacts from the war, the park emphasizes Richmond’s role in the World War II home front.

The day’s final destination was at the SS Red Oak Victory Ship. One of the many ships constructed under Kaiser’s watch, the vessel carried cargo and munitions to ships through 1945, and has since become a museum. At the ship, guests enjoyed screenings of cartoons from the war era, transporting viewers back 70 years.


Urban Tilth Celebrates 10 Years of Food Justice


Photo Essay, David Meza and Malcolm Marshall

Marking a decade of community gardening, about 225 people came from across the Bay Area to the Craneway Pavilion on Saturday, Oct. 3 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the non-profit Urban Tilth.

The fundraiser included bus tours of some of Urban Tilth’s community gardens in Richmond, along with a seasonal harvest dinner prepared by the People’s Kitchen of Oakland. The event also featured live music and dancing, including a stirring a cappella performance by singer Jennifer Johns.

Urban Tilth works to put healthy and sustainable foods into the kitchens of Richmond and West Contra Costa County residents. Employing local youth, the group manages community gardens through the area — many in schools, where they grow and sell food and teach community members to cultivate their own gardens.

“What makes Urban Tilth so powerful is their commitment not just to healthy food or healthy land, but above all to healthy people and community power,” said Josh Healey, emcee for the evening.

“They put young people, black and brown people, at the center of the conversation about what food justice looks like in Richmond,” he said. “They have a bold vision. It’s not just about one little garden here or there; they’re on their way to radically transforming the whole food system in Richmond and beyond.”

Inside the Craneway, the event began with a screening of “Gaining Ground,” the new work from Portland, Oregon filmmakers Barbara Bernstein and Elaine Velazquez, which looks at both rural and urban farmers feeding local communities sustainably by changing their farming practices. Urban Tilth and its executive director Doria Robinson feature prominently in the film.

“Urban Tilth brings together youth organizing, environmental justice and urban agriculture in a totally unique, beautiful way,” said Healey. “As this drought continues in California, and climate change [continues] across the globe, they’re teaching all of us the skills we’ll need to thrive and survive as a community — and really, a species. I love Urban Tilth not just because they show me how to grow food and eat right, but because they really show us all how to live.”

Local Happenings October 2015


From the Pulse News Desk

Annual North Richmond Shoreline Festival

The North Richmond Shoreline Festival returns for its 12th year from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline park, featuring food, music, train rides, fire engine exploration, organized nature walks and bird watching led by the National Audubon Society.

Live entertainment includes blues musician Clarence Van Hook, gospel and jazz from Consonance, Latin sounds from Duamuxa and other performers. Those wanting to fish can bring their own equipment.

The event is hosted by the North Richmond Shoreline Open Space Alliance in partnership with the East Bay Regional Parks District and the cities of Richmond and San Pablo.

Parking is available on-site. EasyGo Transportation shuttle buses will also pick people up at locations including the North Richmond Center For Health, the Nevin Community Center, the Walter T. Helms Middle School and Parchester Village. For more information, go to or email


Help Rebuild Kennedy Park

The city of Richmond has invited community members to help rebuild the John F. Kennedy Park from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, at Cutting Boulevard and 41st Street, as part of national Make A Difference Day.

The city hopes to attract more than 350 volunteers to complete the park restoration as part of the event, the largest national day of service involving millions of Americans working to improve their communities and the lives of others. Richmond Trees will also celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees and greening the park.

Built in 1968, the park will be renovated to meet the changing need of the neighborhood. For more information, call 510-620-6511. To volunteer, visit


Picnic In The Point

Grab the family and head to Judge Carroll Park for the sixth annual Picnic In The Point from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17.

The event will include food activities for kids and live music from the Grammy-nominated Trout Fishing In America, along with Dana Louise And The Glorious Birds.

Admission is free, while advance tickets for food and games can be purchased through Oct. 16 for a discounted price of $20 for 25 tickets at the Up & Under Pub And Grill on 2 West Richmond Ave., and at Smith Office Solutions on 210 Washington Ave. Tickets will also be available at the event.

Proceeds from the picnic will benefit the Let’s Grow Richmond food nonprofit; the Point Richmond Business Association; the Washington Elementary School PTA; the Richmond Swims organization; and the local Parent Resources And More group.


Celebrate Food Day

The Richmond Food Policy Council will sponsor Food Day 2015 with a variety of activities Oct. 20 to 24.

The event will kick off with a Food Day proclamation issued by Richmond Mayor Tom Butt during the Oct. 20 Richmond City Council Meeting. Other events include the Richmond Main Street Initiative Downtown Farmers’ Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 13th Street and Nevin Avenue; and the Civic Center Farmers’ Market from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23. Both will feature lunchtime dance fitness, cooking demos and education tables about eating healthy on a budget.

The weeklong events will culminate with Food Day on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Richmond City Hall. The free event will include medical screenings, compost demos, produce giveaways and enrollment in the Calfresh supplemental nutrition program.

For more information, visit

Local Happenings – Sept 2015

S&S 2015--Postcard English PRINT

From the RP News Desk

Spirit & Soul Festival 

The seventh annual Spirit & Soul Festival returns to downtown Richmond on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The outdoor festival is a celebration of Downtown Richmond and will feature live entertainment and a bazaar with artisan and craft vendors, food booths, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages for sale. Proceeds from drink sales and a silent auction will benefit Richmond Main Street Initiative’s mission to support the revitalization of historic downtown Richmond.

Musical headliners for the event include 2015 winners of the SF Carnival Festival, SambaFunk! And the Funkquarians; jazz, soul and R&B drummer Rene Escovedo & Fuze; Nicole Buttah Pearson & the Buttaluv Band; and guitarist Kenya Baker & the Kenya B Trio.

Officials with the Richmond Main Street Initiative will also honor several individuals who have been instrumental in giving of their time, resources, and expertise to support downtown Richmond’s revitalization efforts.

Admission is free and festivities will take place on Macdonald Avenue between Harbour Way and 13th Street. For more information, visit

Electric Cars in Richmond

Join other Richmond residents to celebrate National Drive Electric Week, a nationwide push to raise awareness of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric cars. There will be experts on hand to answer questions and explain the technology of electric vehicles.

Richmond’s event will take place at Richmond City Hall (440 Civic Center Plaza) in the parking lot across from the Richmond Public Library, on Thursday, Sept. 17 and run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. To register or volunteer, visit:

31st annual California Coastal Cleanup Day

Bring the family out and enjoy a day along Richmond’s shoreline, picking up trash and cleaning up the waterways for the 31st annual California Coastal Cleanup Day.

Adults should accompany children under 16 and volunteers are asked to bring a refillable water bottle, sunscreen, a bucket for trash, a hat, gloves and should wear closed toed shoes and layered clothing.

The District will provide snacks, water, disposable gloves and trash bags.

The cleanup is on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Point Isabel and Point Pinole regional shorelines. Registration is required.

To register, visit or call 1-888-327-2757 option 2; mention the reference course number indicated on participating parks below.  Pt. Isabel is reference #10702 and Pt. Pinole is # 10703.

Gender Responsiveness Conference

Reach Fellowship International, a local nonprofit that provides services for women coming from jail or prison, is sponsoring an inaugural conference on gender responsiveness to discuss and identify action steps for how to better serve incarcerated women, and how to best facilitate their re-entry as productive members of the community in Contra Costa County.

Barbara Bloom, a Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies professor at Sonoma State University and co-director of the Center for Gender and Justice, is the keynote speaker at the event.

The conference will take place on at Richmond City Hall Council Chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza, on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 10 a.m.

To register visit:

Those interested in participating in the conference as a speaker or a panelist can email

RYSE Center Ends Summer With a Jam


By Ronvel Sharper

The RYSE Youth Center in Richmond was filled with electric energy last month when over 200 people came out to enjoy free food and entertainment by local rappers, dancers and spoken word artists at its sixth annual Back 2 School Summer Jam.

“This was the most performers we’ve ever had at any summer jam,” said Molly Raynor, the music and performing arts program coordinator at RYSE. “The youth themselves really supported each other during the performances.”

The purpose of the event, which took place in the “RYSE Outside” backyard area of the center, was to create a space for people of all ages to celebrate Richmond’s community and youth expression. It also gave families and new prospective teens a chance to see all that RYSE has to offer. Scattered throughout the yard were representatives from various youth and community organizations, including Girls Inc., an organization that promotes female empowerment, and Stand for Families Free of Violence, which helps victims of domestic abuse. Also at the event was YES Nature to Neighborhoods, a community group that takes youth, adults and families living in the area into nature in the hopes of building self-confidence and leadership skills.

Aside from fun and entertainment, the jam also provided attendees an opportunity to connect with academic institutions like the Academy of Art University, which runs a high school program for aspiring artists called the Pre-College Art Experience and Game Theory Academy, an organization that teaches its students about the economy.

RYSE started in 2000 as a partial response to the number of homicides among youth in Richmond. Galvanized students organized community forums and worked with local officials on youth-identified priorities, ultimately resulting in the RYSE Center opening in 2008. Since it opened hundreds of Richmond youth have passed through its doors, and been changed by the center.

Performer Donte Clark who has worked at RYSE for five years, said his time at the center has significantly impacted his life, allowing him to take his art “more seriously and to expose how we’re hurting, and how to heal.”

And while RYSE staff and youth too often must deal with heavy, emotional topics the Summer Jam was a good respite from all that. It was fun and had everything a good party should — music, drinks, food and plenty of people.

It truly felt like a last fun summer day.