Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: N is for Nina

parents awaiting baptism, photo by @gardient for


Today’s letter can be confusing. It’s an N which is short for a P word.

N is for Nina, which is the slang word for Godmother in Spanish; Nino is Godfather.

This is not to be confused with the word “niña,” where the tilde (~) over the ‘n’ means “little girl.”

The correct word for Godparents is Padrinos. (I know this further complicates the letter N).

It may be that a child can’t say the entire word “Padrin/a,” so he/she shortened it to “Nina” or “Nino.”

To be a godmother/godfather is to be chosen.

Parents of an infant, in the Catholic faith, chose a man and woman (who must also be Catholic by baptism) to preside over the upbringing of their infant if they die.

The main responsibility is to bring the child up as a Catholic. In effect, the padrinos are the spiritual parents. But, the ninas and ninos also partake in the baptismal ceremony and host the baptismal celebration.

If you’re Latina you aren’t necessarily Catholic, especially in the last thirty years, so this custom is no longer as popular as before.

So now, if you hear someone, under thirty years of age called Nina, it’s probably her birth name.




Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: M is for Madre (Mother)

Our Lady of Guadalupe and Tonantzin

Today we come to the letter M.

M is for Madre or Mother; specifically the Mexican Mom.*


In Pre-Columbian times, there were many goddesses worshiped, notably the Aztec goddess Tonanztin, which in the Aztec language of Nahuatl means “Our Sacred Mother.”

In some Pre-Columbian societies, a woman who died in childbirth was deemed a warrior. (Many mothers will tell you they are indeed warriors).

In Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe is Mexico’s spiritual mother, loved and revered in Latin America and the U.S. (There’s a picture/statue/candle of OLG in every Mexican Catholic household whether you live in Mexico or the US).

Mexican mothers, madres, along with other Latino cultures, are said to be placed on a pedestal and given great respect. (Which my mother reminded us of many times).

This high cultural value of la madre may be a result of this history and other cultural norms.

Whichever is the case, a Mexican mother comes imbued with a lot of power in the household. (And don’t you forget it, because you’ll be reminded).

Since we are no longer in Pre-Columbian times, some of the reverence has rubbed off.

Which brings me to these memes to help you understand the Mexican Madre.



A normal mom has arguments…
A Mexican mom doesn’t need them because she’s your mother… ¡Y te callas!

Read this article for 14 more differences between a non-Mexican and Mexican Mom.

Okay, that’s enough for today’s letter. See you next week!

*All said in jest; my madre’s a saint!


Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: L is for Loco

Is she loca, the scene loca or are you loca? photo by Ahmed Carter for

L is for Loca or Loco.

Four letters that mean so much, again depending on tone and body language.

A basic definition of Loca is crazy (the feminine) Loco (masculine).

But it’s also:


out of one’s mind








she’s gone around the bend

The word can also describe a scene: 


Or the word can mean a situation: 
Crowded, busy scene. photo by Hanson Lu,



If you add the word Que in front of it, Que loco, the phrase becomes “That’s crazy,” as in “Unbelievable.”
Got it? 🙂
Latino culture, Travel

A to Z Challenge: Few K words in Spanish

How far is it? Photo by Daniel Levis Pelusi for

K is for Kilogramo and Kilómetro.

Not acquainted with the metric system nor thinking it had much importance proved that ignorance is not bliss.

I was in my twenties when I traveled to Mexico and had no idea that it was important to know what a kilómetro (km) or kilogramo (kg) meant.

Okay, I’d heard the word ‘kilos’ a lot but I really didn’t know what that meant physically or distance wise. On a trip to Mexico City, I found out.

“How far is Teotihuacan?”

“Cinco kilómetros.” (five kilometers).

My mind interpreted this as five miles but we arrived quickly at our destination. I later found a kilometer is .6 miles.

So I figured if a kilometer was about half a mile, a kilogram was half a pound.

At an outdoor market the next day I wanted some strawberries. My husband reminded me that Mexico used kilograms for weight and left to a store nearby.

So I asked the vendor:

“Un kilogramo de fresas, por favor.” One kilogram of strawberries, please.

See, I thought I was getting a half pound of strawberries.

A kilo is not a pound. Kelly Neil photo



Petrified with embarrassment, this pocha walked away with over two pounds of strawberries!

To complicate matters, the shortened version of kilogramo is kilo, which doesn’t mean 2.2 pounds but “loads of” as in:

“Me comé un helado con kilos de chocolate.”

“I ate ice cream with loads of chocolate.”

But, it’s okay to make that mistake.

Loads or un kilo of chocolate. Photo by Flavio Shibata for
Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: J is for Jesús

Today, I’m at a lost for a Spanish word beginning with the letter J that I frequently use so I’m going back to my childhood experiences in elementary school.

Most of the J words I heard used are men’s names: Juan, Jose, Javier, and Jesús.

Jesús means Jesus, as in Jesus Christ-Jesús Cristo.

Photo by Robert Nyman on

When I was growing up, the neighborhood was predominately Catholic, and photos of Jesús were in most homes; with John F. Kennedy or the Pope alongside the picture.

Jesús is also a common name for Mexican boys. Most of the kids who are named Jesús shortened their name to Jess or Jessie or Chuy. I don’t think they wanted to be mistaken for Christ, as they couldn’t live up to the name.

I don’t know why Chuy is a popular nickname for Jesús, but if you had three boys named Jesús in class, it was easy to distinguish who was whom by calling one Jess, the other Jessie, and the last one Chuy.

Photo by Toia Montes de Oca on

If four boys you knew had the name Jesús, someone would specify short Jess, tall Jess, el flaco (skinny) Jess, or Jess gordo (fat Jess).

So there you have it, Jesús.