Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Kej Manik'

It’s been quite a long time since I last wrote, but I have an excuse…I’ve been working on a project, which my aunt Myriam and I have been talking about doing for quite some time, and we decided to stop talking about it and simply get it started! It’s still an excuse for not writing, but in my opinion, it’s quite a valid one.

The project is a shop called Kej Manik', which specializes in hand made goods combining modern and traditional materials, as well as styles inspired by the Guatemalan culture. Kej, or Manik' in Kiche Maya, is one of the most powerful signs in the Mayan calendar (Tzolk'in) and it's the sign (Nahual) of the Deer. Check out our logo below, courtesy of my partner and very talented Graphic Designer, Ricky Gonzalez.

As I mentioned earlier, my aunt and I have finally put Kej Manik’ into action. We share the same Mayan symbol or Nahual, which is the deer. So when we had to name our shop, we knew immediately what we wanted to call it (well, not as immediate as I’m making it out to be.) With Kej Manik', we seek to highlight Guatemala's unique and colorful culture by combining traditional materials with the work of Guatemalan artisans and my own art. 

At times, I experience an odd sense of fear when I think about exposing Kej Manik’ to friends, family, everyone really, as I think to myself “there are a bunch of competitors out there…what will make us stand out?” Well, my aunt Myriam helped me put my worries to rest by telling me “competition is always healthy.” I do have to say that Kej Manik’ has been a great avenue for me to explore other mediums in which to be creative in a unique and exciting way. This is the first time I dabble in jewelry design and home décor. Plus, it will allow us the opportunity to partner with and support amazing artisans from Guatemala. Many of Guatemala's indigenous artists have to leave their towns to sell their work for an inequitable amount, which doesn't cover the cost of materials, nor their time or dedication. At times, they earn just enough to cover their transportation back to their homes. The goal of Kej Manik' is to make sure that these incredible artisans get compensated fairly, allowing them to earn a fair wage so they can focus on their families and homes without having to leave them behind. The partnership will promote empowerment, creativity, stability, and an emphasis on familial bonding. We are very excited about this and can't wait to see it flourish!

On December 18th and 19th of this year, it will be the first time Kej Manik’ will have exposure as we will be taking part in Fountain Studios’ Holiday Market in New York! I’m excited, anxious and eager to see what the response will be like. All I can do is remain confident and trust that what we have put together is strong and unique. Definitely be in the look out as Kej Manik’ will be hosting a Pop-up Shop in Chicago this coming spring! I’ll keep you posted and hopefully you can join us in celebrating this eagerly awaited venture.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

When You Do Good, People Notice

I can't believe my last blog entry was back in December of 2014! Time definitely flies by! Though I rather have long breaks in between, than no entries at all.

So, not to use it as an excuse, but these past few months have been quite hectic outside of my has been extremely busy in my non-art related job. I thought that being busy in my job was keeping me from my artwork and from creating. It was keeping me from dedicating necessary time to something I love so much. All these ideas were coming to me while at work in the middle of projects and I had to quickly sketch them on sticky notes, pads of paper, on whatever I had in front of me in order to capture that creative idea and to later explore it further. I was feeling frustrated, as painting truly helps me heal and disconnect. I wasn't able to dedicate time to my art. I was experiencing a feeling of discontent and of not accomplishing or fulfilling my creativity. I was actually being quite hard on myself. I would try to paint or draw after work, but I would find myself feeling so exhausted that I couldn't even focus. This genuinely angered me because I thought I wasn't being true to what I enjoy most. 

This imbalance actually reminded me of a very important and very true statement that I learned from Oprah a few years back. It's actually a lesson we all know, but for me, it took someone like Oprah to verbalize it to make me realize how simple, yet so true, the statement is - which is: When you do good, people notice. So simple, right? Well, I realized that although my non-art job isn't a passion of mine, I still take pride in the work I do, as it greatly contributes to my reputation...and our reputation is one of the most valuable qualities we have as human beings. I realize that the work I do on a daily basis is with the purpose to help and to teach. This may not be my calling, but I do have a responsibility to those I assist and those I teach. All the hard work and good work I dedicated these past few months, was certainly noticed...and it was noticed directly by those I assist and teach. That to me, was so powerful and so rewarding, that it actually empowered me, it energized and inspired me to embrace my artwork and create within a state of gratitude and satisfaction.

You know how they say that God or a higher power has a bigger and better dream that what we can dream for ourselves? Well, this was certainly confirmed for me. Why? Because, while I was feeling frustrated and under the impression that I was not being fair to myself for not dedicating time to my art, there was this energy being set in motion without me knowing it. 

Once this extremely busy period ended at work and it was received in such a positive manner, I now have the time to dedicate to my art. While looking through my personal email, I revisited an email I had received a month ago, which I had labeled as "too good to be true" and dismissed it. This email was an invitation to participate in an Art Fair (Parallax Art Fair) in London this coming July. For some reason, I immediately thought it was some sort of scam...I have no idea why. I ignored it, but then this curiosity started peeking through. I started wondering how and why I had received such an invitation. I decided to reply to the email, thanking them for their consideration and for inviting me, but politely asking how they even came across my work and my contact information. Turns out they saw my website through my presence in Artfinder. Artfinder is a website, an authentic art marketplace, connecting independent artists with buyers who value craft, quality and originality. 

So, what's the point of me sharing this? Well, to me, it simply confirmed that regardless of what we do...if it's good, if it contributes in a positive way and it doesn't cause any harm, it will be noticed and recognized. Our intention is set forth and the universe conspires to set things in motion and make things happen. Things that we never really thought could happen to us. Becoming aware of my every intention, means doing only those things that come from the truth of who I am...and only doing what truly pleases me to do. With every experience, we alone are creating our own work of art, thought by thought, choice by choice. And beneath each of those thoughts and choices lies our deepest intention.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Holidays

Growing up, I used to love the Holidays. The season would always start with La Quema del Diablo (Burning of the Devil...nothing as scary as it sounds) an event always held at 6:00PM on December 7th. On this date, we would gather trash and things to purge from our home. We would create a nice size pile in front of our house and we would burn firecrackers and small fireworks as we set fire to the pile of unwanted house items such as old school papers, newspapers, magazines, etc. We would enjoy a nice cup of hot punch and/or hot chocolate. This event symbolizes a spiritual cleanse by purging unecessary and unwanted items and energies that simply weigh us down. These items represent all the impurities as the year comes to and end and we prepare to welcome the New Year with a fresh new start.

According to some historians, the Burning of the Devil originated in the sixteenth century as a preamble to the festivities of the Nativity. Since in colonial times there was no electric lighting, many Guatemalans attending the procession of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and to light their way, they created these fires that lit the passage of the procession. Therefore it was held on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated on December 7, starting with this tradition to the festivities of Christmas.

Piñatas of a little red devil have become popular and are placed on top of the pile to be burned. This tradition is slowly becoming less and less practiced in Guatemala due to environmental and safety concerns. Of course, there are people who lack common sense and burn inappropriate items such as rubber, plastic or combustibles, reason why it's no longer what it used to be.

This event was then followed by Las Posadas. Posadas are festivities celebrated during the nine days before Christmas from December 16th - 24th. These celebrations are to remind us of the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem while searching for a place to stay (posada) and wait for the birth of Jesus.

This consisted of a small procession with a throne depicting the Virgin Mary and Joseph. In small neighborhoods, neighbors would go from home to home carrying the small throne asking for Posada (for a place to stay) different neighbors volunteer to house the small procession and offer Mary and Joseph a place to stay for the night. When the procession is being carried, people follow the procession singing songs to the beat of a tortoiseshell and praying.  

Arriving at the house in which La Posada will be received, people knock on the door and sing a song requesting a place to stay for the night. This request is then replied by another song granting them posada. When posada has been given, people celebrate with hot chocolate, hot punch, chuchitos (small tamales) and singing.

After the Posadas, we prepare to celebrate Christmas Eve. On December 24th, we visit family members and friends throughout the day wishing them a Merry Christmas and exchanging gifts. We call this Los Abrazos (the hugs). We make sure to head home before midnight, because precisely at 12:00AM, we all step out to light fireworks and firecrackers. The majority of the country is doing this, so for approximately 15-20 minutes, all you see and hear are fireworks. It's such a special and fun component of the Christmas celebration, especially for young children; because while this is happening, Santa Claus is delivering presents. Once the fireworks are done, we go inside and pray by El Nacimiento (the Nativity). After praying, we go ahead and open presents and then have dinner. It's definitely a very late dinner, but everyone you visit during Los Abrazos, greets you with food and drinks. Reason why having dinner after midnight is not a problem! Dinner consists of Turkey or ham, traditional Guatemalan Tamales, which are Tamales Rojos (red tamales, which are savory) and Tamales Negros (black tamales, which are sweet.) 

They 4th of July brings back so many memories of Christmas for my family and I. Even the smell of the fireworks takes us back...I always tend to get a bit emotional because of it.

My favorite part gearing up for the Holidays, was to set up El Nacimiento (the Nativity Scene.) El Nacimiento was always so special to me, because I grew up seeing my great grandparents (my mother's father's parents) build very intricate and detailed nativity scenes. I remember going to the Christmas market, not only to get the Christmas tree, but also all the components of the nativity scene, which consists of: Aserrín (colored sawdust), Manzanilla (chamomile), Musgo (moss), Chichitas (nipple fruit...the actual scientific name is Solanum mammosum), clay figurines, and so much more! Shopping for these and then setting up the nativity was definitely one of my favorite Christmas traditions. Even though I don't have access to these traditional items, I still set up a nativity scene in my home. I make it work :)

On the 25th, Christmas Day, we light firecrackers at 12:00PM and at 6:00PM and pray. Our family never attended Church for the Holidays, but we certainly carried out our fare share of praying at home!

New Year's Eve is celebrated very similar to how it's celebrated here, but we also light fireworks and firecrackers during and after the countdown. The charm an uniqueness depends on what part of the country you are in. One of the best New Year's Eve celebrations I've had was a few years ago when visiting my family in Guatemala. We decided to welcome the New Year in Antigua, which is the colonial city. It was such a lively and charming celebration. There was marimba being played, fireworks, Toritos (little bulls) which is a man carrying a sort of shell in the shape of a bull, covered in fireworks. When the fireworks are lit, he dances around to spread the fireworks. It's a bit scary, since fireworks are so unpredictable, but so beautiful to look at! 

Once we moved to the United States, we could no longer carry out these cultural traditions. We were able to incorporate a few aspects of some of them, but it's not the same. I have made it a point never to forget these wonderful traditions, but not being able to practice them like we once used to, has definitely changed the way I feel about the Holidays. Of course, our family dynamics have also changed, so we have developed a few new ways to celebrate the Holidays...although they are quite inconsistent, which adds to the Holidays not feeling whole and as meaningful as they used to be. Not to say they are not meaningful, it just feels as though the Holidays are not complete...there's just a missing feeling to them. Regardless, I like to make them as joyful and enjoyable as possible.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Rocked the Vote!

Today, I voted for the first time in my life! It was such a privilege and an amazing feeling, a feeling of doing my part as a new US citizen. I totally rocked the vote ☺

While I lived in Guatemala, I was too young to vote and I just recently became a US citizen in May of 2012. So, today was a very special day for me. I wanted to vote so badly in 2008’s presidential election, but I feel as though this year’s election was my chance to vote for the candidate I so eagerly wanted to vote for back in 2008. I still had a chance to contribute and do as much as I can to support this nation in reaching its full ideals and potential.

I’m quite baffled by those who choose not to vote. Especially by those who truly believe their vote doesn’t count. Nonsense! Every single vote counts. It’s such a wonderful right and privilege to me, why waste it? Do your part and contribute. Have your say and be as supportive as you can.

Be a responsible citizen and speak your mind. It’s your life, your world and your choice. You should definitely have a say in it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Being Kind to Ourselves and Giving Ourselves Credit

At times, out of fear, we often hesitate to follow our intuition. Usually, we are afraid of the changes our actions will bring in our life…but intuitive guidance is ALL about change. It is basically active data with a great deal of potential to influence. Fearing change but craving intuitive clarity, is like fearing the cold and darkness, while pouring water on the fire that lights and warms our shelter. A sort of counterproductive approach to daily life I suppose. We fear our intuitions because we fear the transformational power within our revelations. We are afraid of our own potential and success simply because we don’t know how it will unfold and what it has in store for us. It causes change and change, no matter how big or small, is always very uncertain. Fear of the unknown has always controlled us.

Recently, I have been realizing the potential within me and the only obstacle in my way is and has always been myself. I have come across many amazing individuals who all have to say wonderful things about me…but I have never really taken the time to fully see, believe or appreciate why I am given such compliments. Since I can remember, receiving compliments has always been a cause of embarrassment for me. They have always made me feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable. Now, although still a bit tough at times, it has become easier to accept a compliment. Now thinking about it, I have never believed or given myself credit for the good things other people see in me. I thought that by doing so, it would be self-important of me. A feeling within me and a trait in others I have always disliked very much.

Just last week, I met someone who I now can call a friend, who within a very short period of time of meeting each other, told me what his thoughts about me were…and they all consisted of me being kindhearted, generous, full of life, creativity and potential. At first, my old way of thinking took over and I didn’t really accept his kind and thoughtful words; but then I realized that I had the same impression and opinion about him. When I shared my thoughts of him with him, he seemed to gracefully acknowledge such traits and accepted them as being quite accurate. At that moment, that genuinely didn’t make him self-important or cocky. He was simply being true and honest. It was in that instant, that all this self-doubt unfolded right before my eyes and I realized that accepting his impression of me only makes me genuinely grateful and appreciative to know I have such qualities to offer. It’s not about being egotistic at all…but about being true to ourselves. Once we tap into that, we can certainly tap into our full potential and be the complete opposite of egotism and self-importance.

I guess all this time, I have had the feeling, the intuition of being the person I am with the qualities I have…but thought it would be presumptuous of me to fully accept it. Instead, I should be proud and consider myself fortunate to be able to contribute in a positive manner - no matter how small or large my contributions may be. I guess that’s the Catholic martyr in me which was instilled in me while growing up…better said, the FORMER Catholic martyr in me. I am DEFINITELY a recovering Catholic. Thank God for that!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

22 Years in the Making

After 22 years of living in the United States, I decided it was time to make my residence in this country official. Last month, I submitted the N-400 Application for Naturalization to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Although this brought a true sense of relief and accomplishment, as though a weight had been lifted off my chest, it also brought quite a lot of mixed emotions. The fact that I will have to renounce my Guatemalan citizenship, the country where my essential values and where my culture and traditions were instilled; where Spanish, my native language, was introduced to me, and where my sense of belonging and connection lays. Now, I have to prepare to take the full oath of allegiance to the United States. This made me feel quite sad, but I have to realize that I will always be Guatemalan at heart and soul. Nothing can take that away from's part of my being. It's what has shaped me and what has given me the motivation to be who I am today.

I also realized that these past 22 years, I have already been taking the oath of allegiance to this country. The U.S. has been my home and I respect it and appreciate it as such. I have grown and gained so much during the years I've been living here. I have now spent more of my life here in the U.S. than in Guatemala; and I have also gained a new set of values and beliefs that I identify with, which have definitely shaped me as well. I am thankful for all the opportunities I have received and for the accomplishments I have carried out in this country. I will soon call the United States my official home. Just like when we move houses throughout life, Guatemala is the childhood home where I grew up. 

For the longest time, I felt displaced…a feeling of not belonging here nor in Guatemala. I would feel it even more when visiting my family in Guatemala. While out and about, I would notice how people would treat me and see me, just like they would a tourist. That feeling has slowly been fading away…I have made peace with it and I don’t let it get to me. Each time I’m in Guatemala, I make sure to soak it all in and always bring something back with me to incorporate in my home here in the U.S.. This makes me feel connected and present.

I try to visit Guatemala once a year and each visit energizes me and makes me see how fortunate I am to be able to call two places, two countries, home. In addition to being bilingual, I am now truly bicultural. It's amazing, but till this day, each time my flight is preparing to land in Guatemala, I get overemotional and tears come down my face; it never fails. That feeling is what makes me rest assure, that becoming a U.S. citizen will not negate my deep connection with Guatemala...or as the character Agador Spartacus from the movie The Bird Cage would say, my Guatemalaness ;)