Category Archives: Fox News pieces

Piñata Craze Born Thanks To Growing Popularity Of ‘Gender Reveal’ Parties

13th August 2013

Jessica Jimenez was thrilled when she learned her first child was going to be a baby girl.

As she mulled over the options of how to reveal the news to her family and friends, simply showing off her sonogram seemed so passé.

“I wanted to do something kind of special,” the Miami mom told Fox News Latino.

While blue and pink cakes have been a popular way to reveal a baby’s gender to friends and family, Jimenez “wanted to do something different.”

Then suddenly a light bulb went off: what about a gender reveal piñata?

Jimenez said not only were her loved ones intrigued by the piñata, a must in most Latin American children’s parties; they thought the idea was “fantastic.”

“It was a great way to show everyone at the same time this is it.”

Recently, there has been a growing number of requests among piñata makers to make these special occasion decorations.

“In the last year it’s really gotten out there to have a piñata to reveal the baby’s gender,” Monica Uribe, of Piñatas by Design in Miami, told Fox News Latino.

“Last year we got two to three requests a month and this year it’s up to 15.”

Thanks to the advent of sites like Pinterest and Etsy, the bombardment of creative ideas for these full-fledged “gender reveal” parties have increased their popularity.

The appeal of piñatas, as opposed to the traditional cake route, is that everyone can be more involved in the fun.

“Everyone opened it together,” Jimenez said, adding that the piñata offered a way for them “to stand back and see everyone’s reaction” while her husband videotaped the entire moment.

Filled with candy, confetti, or little notes in the appropriate gender color, these papier-mâché creations are popular with more than just Latino moms to be.

“One would assume it be Latino families,” Uribe said. “But we get a mix from all over the country from all places.”

While most of the time the couples know the gender of the baby before they have the piñata made, some wait to find out the big news with their party guests.

“My husband gave the envelope with the ultrasound results to the candy shop preparing the piñata, so the shop owner really was the only person – aside from the ultrasound technician – who knew the sex of the baby,” Patrice Poltzer told Today Moms.

With this element of surprise, Poltzer said her “gender reveal party was everything and more than what I expected it to be.”

(This post originally appeared on Fox News Latino

Home Run Derby Bilingual Controversy Showcases Baseball’s Evolving Culture

30th July 2013

cespedes translatorsBaseball is slowly having to come to terms with the fact that “America’s favorite pastime” is evolving into an international sport.

With a mounting influx of foreign-born players growing in prominence in the majors, one of the issues being raised by fans and members of the league alike is how to accommodate players who do not speak English.

On opening day of the 2013 MLB season, over 24 percent players were born in Latin America and 4 percent were born in Canada, Europe or Asia. This marked the fourth highest percentage of foreign-born players in the league’s history.

Some foreign players always seem to have a translator, while others do not. That’s because of a number of factors, including team and league policies.

For Latinos, sports experts said, there are both benefits and disadvantages to being the “majority” minority in this sport.

While players can easily find other members on their team who speak Spanish, they are rarely guaranteed translators the way Asian players are.

Major League Baseball officials told Fox News Latino that it’s because Japanese players make sure translators are worked into their contract.

“It has been more common for Japanese players, some of whom have long played professional baseball before playing in MLB, to negotiate interpreters into their contracts,” Michael Teevan, senior director of public relations for Major League Baseball, said in an email.

That leaves many Spanish-speaking players to rely on teammates and coaches to interpret things for them when they don’t fully grasp the English language.

And while this seems to be working for players on the field, it can be a whole other story when it comes to press and high-profile events.

The issue came to light during the 2013 All-Star Game Home Run Derby, when ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, a Cuban-American, interviewed a variety of players in their native tongue.

Though it was not the first time that ESPN had interviewed players in Spanish, some viewers blasted the bilingual broadcast.

Even though the majority of the criticism seemed to have a racist undertone, there were also many Latino fans asking why ESPN decided to not make a translator available to these players rather than have the reporter interpreting the responses himself.

“I’m still surprised because I try to see what is really the harm in doing that type of interview,” Gomez told Fox News Latino recently.

Having built a relationship with many of the players he interviews, Gomez said that with millions of viewers watching events like this, he thinks “[the players are not] comfortable trying to put together English phrases that they’re not sure exactly what they’re saying.”

While many players, he said, are attempting to learn English, they become uncomfortable speaking a foreign language when the world is watching them.

“If I was dropped into Germany tomorrow, I don’t think two years from now I’d be comfortable giving a national interview in German,” he said.

With this being the second consecutive year ESPN has received flack for having Gomez conduct the interviews this way, ESPN is aware this issue is a “hot topic.”

ESPN said they strongly stand by Gomez’s bilingual reports.

“Pedro’s report in Spanish during the Home Run Derby was an effective way to serve all sports fans – both English and Spanish-speaking fans – and we’re proud that we’re able to do this,” said Gabby Nunez, the manager of communications for ESPN Deportes and ESPN International.

Nunez said the network tries to deliver the news the best way it can.

“The Hispanic market continues to grow with the bilingual fans and we want to be able to deliver news and report in the best way possible,” he said.

Ultimately, the decision regarding translators has nothing to do with the broadcaster or the league. It has to do with the players themselves.

“In the case of the All-Star Game and its events, we work with players individually to gauge their comfort level and to meet their preferences,” Teevan said. “We also talk to teams about the needs of individual players. Many players bring their own interpreters, in either a formal or an informal capacity.”

(This post originally appeared on Fox News Latino

Barbie’s Spark Debate Over Cultural Stereotypes

11th April 2013

This post, which originally appeared on Fox News Latino, was my first piece to go viral. I think you know you have started something when they are talking about it on CNN….

One is wearing a Chilean huaso, a knee-length black skirt with a ruffled blouse and red vest. Another is decked out in full Argentinean tango attire, with a ruffled blue dress and black lace shawl. A third has long black hair and wears a long pink dress filled with lace. And she’s holding a Chihuahua.

The dolls are part of the legendary Barbie line and they are being relaunched as part of an effort by Mattel, the makers of Barbie, to appeal to a new, more diverse generation of doll enthusiasts.

barbies of the world

The “Dolls of the World Collection” – initially launched 30 years ago but now making a comeback – is trying to represent a variety of countries to the Barbie consumer, including many from Latin America.

“Girls enjoy exploring the world and learning about different cultures through play,” Sara Rosales, a Mattel spokeswoman, told Fox News Latino. “The Barbie brand understands the significance of introducing new cultures to girls in a relatable way.”

According to Rosales, the company conducted research to create dolls “that celebrates both the country’s heritage and culture.”

“The Dolls of the World collection features the native fashions, while celebrating the cultures and diversity represented within each country in a way that will appeal to Barbie fans of all ages.”

But the campaign has provoked backlash among some advocates for promoting tired stereotypes.

“It would be nice to see some contemporary images from these countries,” Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, told Fox News Latino. “These images seem very dated and seem to have been created for a different time.”

With the new collection showcasing Barbies from countries – including Spain, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil – the Mexico doll, in particular, has caused a bit of a stir.

On the Barbie collector website, the doll is described as having the facial sculpt of a “new Hispanic” and a skin tone that is “LA tan.”

Dressed in a pink ruffled dress for a “fabulous” fiesta, the Mexico Barbie is accompanied by her “Chihuahua friend” and a bright-pink passport.

Journalist Laura Martínez told Fox News Latino she didn’t see the inherent stereotypes in the doll as offensives, necessarily.

Girls can “play with your Barbie Mexicana,” Martinez wrote out on her website, but “don’t even think of calling her indocumentada.”

Exploring Italy’s Lost City: Pompeii

20th July 2012

IMG_1193As semi-well traveled history buff, I’m always a little skeptical about visiting ancient sites of great significance for fear of disappointment.  To me, Pompeii was one of those places.  Could a site like this live up to the tales we were taught in grade school about how an ancient people were frozen in time after a deadly volcano descended upon them?

After traveling throughout southern Italy I had heard mixed reviews about the famous city buried under volcanic ash. While some locals said the ruins were a must-see, others thought they were over rated.

I decided to go into my Pompeii experience with an open mind and with the knowledge that while I may not be able to see everything, I could stumble upon some of the city’s greatest authentic treasures.

The minute you step through Pompeii’s crumbling city gates you feel as if you have been transported to another century.

Pompeii is a city steeped in history and frozen in time. Around every corner is another mystery surrounding the city that has become more famous now for it’s destruction than its existence.

Once a thriving port community in ancient Rome, the fate of Pompeii was forever changed thousands of years ago. In 79 A.D., perched just above Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius spewed volcanic ash burying the city and all of its inhabitants.

Now a story of mythical proportions, archaeologists have learned much about daily Roman life since discovering the city’s existence in the 1600s. After the city began to be unearthed in 1748 tourists began flocking here from around the world and continue to do so today.

Because it continues to be one of Italy’s top tourist attractions, the country has recently undertaken an extensive restoration of Pompeii’s ruins.  Announced in April, the European Commission and Italian government are jointly pledging 105 million euros, or about $130 million, to a four-year restoration plan. One fourth of Pompeii has yet to be excavated, and the funding will also go to increasing the number of archaeologists on site.

But for tourists looking to visit Pompeii before the restoration is complete the ongoing construction will not take away from the experience.

With easy access from Naples by bus or train an expedition to Pompeii is well worth it’s 11 euro ($14) entry fee.

While parts of Pompeii are currently closed off to visitors, there is still plenty to see in the miles-upon-miles of ancient ruins.

The key to enjoying your experience is to embrace the fact that you will indeed get lost.

Because of the remodel many of the signs and maps throughout the city have been removed or are hard to find. And even with the help of a print out map from the ticket office I was still wandering in circles.

Walking along Pompeii’s cobblestone streets was so breathtaking I became bored, and a bit frustrated, trying to follow my not-so-useful map.

Luckily for me, getting “lost” is one of my specialties. And like other seasoned travelers will attest, getting lost often means stumbling upon hidden gems that become the most memorable parts of your journey.

As it happened, an unintentional detour lead me to one of Pompeii’s most interesting places.

Inside the remains of an ancient fish and produce market, alongside centuries old fresco paintings, are the body casts of some of Vesuvius’ victims.

During a part of the excavation process, archeologists found hollow spaces that had been created when some of the victims’ bodies decomposed. By filling these spaces with plaster, archaeologists were actually able to recreate the suffering in facial details and body reactions of two Pompeiians in their last few moments alive.

Looking into the facial details of the body casts, the emotion on their faces tells an entirely different story than the ones in the history books.

This eerie experience made the story of Pompeii seem come alive.

Just a five-minute walk from the former fish market is the incredible Greek Theater. Able to seat up to 5,000 people during its heyday, the Greek theater was the epicenter of entertainment in ancient life. Today, the theater looks different, and has been modified to include seats and row numbers. While this may surprise some to hear, performances are still held at the theater to this day, although they are few and far between.

Right outside the Greek theater are the cobblestone streets that run throughout the city. As I was wondering around, I began to see a recurring set of three large stepping-stones on almost every street. While at first I thought they were seemingly insignificant, much like everything else in Pompeii, these stones tell a story.

Each morning ancient Pompeii was flooded to clean the roads. In order to cross the street while the water dissipated, three large stones were put in place throughout the city’s streets so that pedestrians could cross as the water washed through.

By learning small details like this I began to construct my own image of Pompeii in its prime, with people bustling around the city living their daily lives.

Pompeii is the one experience I never fail to describe in detail to family and friends. It’s a place were the past comes alive, whether you’re a skeptical history buff or not.

(This article originally appeared on foxnews.com)

24 Hours on the Amalfi Coast

17th July 2012

IMG_1020One of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world is Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Nestled south of the bustling seaport of Naples, the tiny towns composing this scenic coastline offer some of Italy’s most breathtaking views.

The Amalfi coast stretches from the Sorrento Peninsular almost as far as the port of Salerno. The town of Amalfi is in the middle and at the northern end is the scenic town of Positano, with its hundreds of houses, restaurants and hotels built into and on the mountainside.

Compared to other tourist sites, the Amalfi Coast gives visitors a real taste of what life is like in Italy’s sun soaked south. While the coast is beautiful enough for a long weekend, it’s easy enough to see the best the Amalfi has to offer in one day.

One of the reasons is because of its many public transportation options that make it easy for even the most budget conscious tourist to enjoy the magnificent beauty.

The key to making a trip in the Amalfi successful is knowing a few details ahead of time.

From Naples a quick train ride to the quiet city of Sorrento is the perfect starting point for a trip along the coast.  This transportation hub is known as a launching off point for the Amalfi Coast, but the city has it’s own gems not to be missed.

One of the few major cities in the Amalfi, Sorrento, and the entire region, are world renowned for their lemon products. Sample some limoncello, a lemon liqueur, or some of Sorrento’s famous gelato while browsing the local shops. Tucked away behind lemon grove trees are Italian cafes and artisan shops specializing in wooden marquetry. The region is known for its ceramic work and offers some of the country’s best deals on hand made pottery.

From Sorrento, the best way to see the other cities along the coast is by local bus. For less than $10 visitors can purchase a round trip bus ticket that takes you from Sorrento all the way to the city of Amalfi, stopping at Positano along the way.

Even though it may be tempting to make the drive yourself, the small cliffside roads are difficult for even the most experienced Italian driver to maneuver.

Be sure to sit on the right hand side of the bus on the hour-and-a-half journey from Sorrento to Amalfi for the best views of the coastline.

Unlike Sorrento, which sits high above the water, all the shops and restaurants in Amalfi are within walking distance of the beach.  With more great shopping, Amalfi is also the perfect place to take a stroll along the water.

For those looking to get a different view of the coast a great way to get from Amalfi to Positano, or all the way back to Sorrento, is by ferry.

For around $8 tourists can take the 30-minute boat ride from Amalfi to Positano while enjoying the refreshing sea breeze and some magnificent views of these incredible cities built into the coast.

Unlike its larger neighbors, the beauty of Positano’s rainbow colored façade homes and shops have made it the most famous town along the Amalfi coast.

With similar stores and restaurants in both Sorrento and Amalfi, what sets Positano apart from its neighborhoods is fashion.

From the classic Italian linen shirt, to crisp white frocks Positano is one of the lesser-known places for exquisite handmade clothing.  While not cheap, all of Positano’s goods are locally made, some even before your eyes.

Each town offers its own distinct flavor and it is easy to see why this region of Italy has become such a tourist draw.

(This post originally appeared on foxnews.com)

A Taste of the Olympics

12th June 2012

IMG_0425

With all the world focusing its attention on London this summer, it has finally come time for the city’s food to take center stage. Slowly emerging from its former lackluster culinary reputation, visitors to the 2012 London Olympics will be pleasantly surprised by the dishes local pubs are serving up.

Just recently, the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) released the menu of food and beverages items that will be sold inside the Olympic venues. And with visitors expecting to pour in from around the globe, the LOCOG is hoping to please everyone with both British and international cuisine.

And it is not just the LOCOG who is getting into the Olympic spirit but pubs across the city as well.

One local pub in West London is making sure the food they serve during the games is as British as it comes.

With an estimated 50,000 viewers expected daily for the Olympic indoor volleyball competition at nearby Earl Court, the Blackbird pub is preparing for the masses.

“We’re lucky, not many pubs are so close to a venue,” says pub manager Dave Hay.

Part of the Fuller independent brewery and pub family, the Blackbird is a pub known among locals first and foremost for its food.

“We try to make the food the best with what we’ve got,” says Hay. And while the menu will be reduced for the Olympics, Hay is “trying to keep it similar to what we do day to day.”

With this emphasis on traditional English food it is only natural that such items as meat pies and fish and chips are expected to be the menu’s most popular. The country’s famous English ale is also expected to be a top seller at the Blackbird, specifically the Fuller label’s  “London Pride.”

While many pubs in London will be taking an approach similar to the Blackbird, some gastro pubs are looking to elevate the typical pub experience.

Located across from the Eurostar platform at the St. Pancras International train station in central London, the Betjeman Arms gastro pub won’t be getting much foot traffic from any nearby Olympic venues.

However, what they’ll be getting is an enormous amount of domestic and international travelers in need of a bite to eat and place to catch the latest Olympic events.

With this in mind, the Betjeman Arms has rearranged its menu and interior to provide for the ultimate Olympic viewing experience.

The pub’s entire menu, including the North Yorkshire free range herb chicken and British cheese board, focus on using the best local ingredients available.

“I think almost every dish has some British ingredient.,” says Yvette Blackwood, one of the events coordinators at the Betjeman Arms.“We are always trying to keep the traditional pub classics but with a modern twist.”

Like everything they do, the Betjeman Arms is giving the Olympics an air of sophistication with reasonably priced canapé boards as well as a two and three course price fixie menu.

With the direct train from London to the Olympic park in Stratford just outside the pub’s door, the Betjeman Arms is also taking full advantage of it’s location.

Just steps away from the train platform the gastro pub is setting up a grab and go buffet that, like the LOCOG food inside the Olympic venues, will feature international flavors.

And while both the Betjeman Arms and Blackbird pubs have very different approaches to food, when it comes to the Olympics they can both agree that for them it is all about showcasing the culinary world of London.

With such an array of options and price points available at this year’s London Olympics, both locals and tourists are sure to find something to please their palette.

(This article originally appeared on foxnews.com

Inside the MLB Fan Cave

20th April 2012

385604_10150795087296970_1587741750_nImagine if your job was to watch every single Major League Baseball game of the season, over 2,000 games in total.

At an old record store in Lower Manhattan, nine lucky fans, picked from thousands of applicants from around the country, are getting to do just that.

Being touted as the “first-of-its-kind immersive fan experience” the MLB Fan Cave lets fans experience America’s pastime in a whole new way.

It has live concerts, cave tours and celebrity and player appearances. Its main goal is interaction with a whole new fan base.

Unlike the average baseball fan, who is 45, those that engage and take part in the Fan Cave are a much younger demographic, with the average age around 30.

After opening last year, this year’s Fan Cave and it’s “cave dwellers” are starkly different then its pioneers.

The fan cave has undergone a major overhaul, with a remodel of the space itself as well as two new twists.

This year, instead of just two dwellers, there are nine in the cave watching every MLB game on TV. Fans on social media, like Facebook and Twitter, vote to eliminate them.

Even though the current nine cave dwellers are in competition with one another, they don’t see it that why. Instead of fighting, there is a sense of camaraderie and friendship. While there are no set plans on when or how many cave dwellers will be eliminated, cuts will eventually have to be made.

The applicants for this year’s cave increased by over 50 percent, going from 10,000 in the first year to 22,000.

When looking for the cave dwellers, the emphasis was on picking the best people with diverse backgrounds.

Chief Marketing Officer for MLB, Jacqueline Parkes, described what made these cave dwellers stand out.

“Each one of these people, and if you look at them, they have unique personalities, they have unique traits, they have interesting perspectives that they’re bringing to the table- they’re different,” Parkes said. “They represent our fan base. “

One of the two females representing the ladies, who made up just 20% of this year’s applicants, is Ashley Chavez, a second-generation Mexican and avid San Francisco Giants fan. Another contestant is Ricardo Marqúez, a 26-year-old Angels fan and self-professed “failed comedian,” making this year’s cave dwellers anything but boring.

Chavez, a former clothing store manager, has already had the opportunity to meet some of her favorite players, as well as interview musical guests such as the Fray, since being in the cave.

For Marqúez, “switching couches”, from his parents in California to the Fan Cave’s in New York City, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

At its core, the MLB Fan Cave is all about what makes baseball America’s pastime— its fans.

“We look for people who are going to…represent the voice of the fan,” said Parkes.

By bringing in elements of art, music, culture, and entertainment, baseball fans get to experience a whole new world to the sport they love.

(This post originally appeared on Fox News Latino)

NYFW: Exclusive Look at Raul Peñaranda’s New Collection

18th February 2012

419006_330402500329393_1481438117_nA dream came true for Colombian-Venezuelan designer Raul Peñaranda.

Wednesday night, he debuted his Fall/Winter 2012 ready to wear collection at New York Fashion Week.

Born in Colombia and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and Miami, Peñaranda came to New York City to pursue his love of fashion.

While attending the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parson’s New School for Design, Peñaranda was offered his first job as a freelance designer for Liz Claiborne.

While Peñaranda worked under some of the most elite names in fashion, his dream of designing his own line never left his mind.

After working for Oscar De La Renta, Tommy Hilfiger, and DKNY, Peñaranda debuted his first ready to wear collection in the fall of 2010.

His newest collection for Fall/Winter 2012, entitled “Midnight Opulence”, is inspired by the subtle beauty Peñaranda sees around him.

Living by the mantra “dream, vision, realty”, Peñaranda designs clothes that feel luxurious but have an understated beauty.

Peñaranda is not concerned about what is considered fashionable, “To me the trend, you have to feel it, you don’t have to follow it.”

His ready to wear line has become an extension of Peñaranda’s vibrant Latino personality which is what his brand is all about.

While being a Latino in the fashion industry has been a challenge, he hopes to bring the “cha,cha,cha” passion of Latino designers back to fashionistas everywhere, he said.

(This post originally appeared on Fox News Latino