A Puerto Rican Wedding: Special Travel Photo Essay

Hey all! I am back to Tampa, FL safe and sound from the Puerto Rican wedding ! The trip to Puerto Rico, HOME, was ah-mazing and I can’t wait to share all the details with you ūüôā step by step though, right?! Today I decided to post a cute photo essay of my little sister’s Puerto Rican wedding – the main reason why I went back home for a week. I was Maid of Honor, even though mom barely let me do anything lol =P and we’ll get to that just now! I will try to highlight all the important moments of this small, familiar Puerto Rican wedding and what “traditions” were “left out” either because “the times are changing” and so are Puerto Rican wedding traditions or simple whim (mainly mom’s lol). Enjoy! ūüôā

Wedding location

Private salon in El Tenedor Restaurant – Juncos, Puerto Rico

Cool fact: Juncos is the town where our grandmother was mayor for 12 years back in the day =)

a Puerto Rican wedding

The newlyweds’ table (back wall had not been decorated yet)

a Puerto Rican wedding

a Puerto Rican wedding

The guests’ tables. Kinda mad decorator didn’t use the roses to fill the centerpieces more! Oh well…

Wedding colors

The chosen colors of this Puerto Rican wedding were light yellow and verde nilo (aka Pistachio green); the chosen flowers were yellow and pistachio-green roses + white calla lilies. SO beautiful!

a Puerto Rican wedding

Me, the Maid of Honor, walking down the aisle! (note the little ring-carrying purse)

The Bridal Party and other touches

Now, the bridal party of this Puerto Rican wedding! =D I was the Maid of Honor and¬†the little purse you see in the photo above is where I was carrying the rings. Apparently, the famous ring pillow tradition is disappearing and there are new ways of carrying the rings – this little purse being one of them. Also, in some Puerto Rican weddings, kids are not used to carry the rings. In fact, sometimes the wedding planners prefer to have the Maid of Honor do, well, the honors *wink* And so I did! ūüôā

a Puerto Rican wedding

My baby sister Karla Michelle – the BRIDE! She is 20 years old btw

Some key Puerto Rican wedding traditions were observed, such as “something new, something borrowed, something blue.” New were the bride’s dress and jewelry; borrowed were the veil and tiara (from her now sister-in-law); blue was her underwear (lol!)

The Bride, my baby sister Karla Michelle, might be considered way too young to take such an important step in life (plus she also looks like she is a Quincea√Īera haha). However, in Puerto Rico, marrying in your early twenties is THE norm. Consequently, all people would ask me throughout my entire Puerto Rican vaca was A) Whether I had a boyfriend & B) When I was planning to get married. After answering “single and loving it” and “I have other plans at the moment, such as traveling and working on my career,” worried gasps were followed by “you should start to seriously consider dating & find a suitable partner now…you are 24…you know…”¬† I must admit, it was quite aggravating. Why? Because I respect the fact that most Puerto Ricans marry quite young and don’t ask such inappropriate questions. So, naturally, I expect the same kind of respect and understanding. I can think of a million questions I could ask:¬†“Isn’t marrying in the twenties too young? Do you realize that people change THE most during their twenties? Most of them will be divorced by age 30 anyway, so why marry now?” You know what I mean!? Thus, I restrain from asking! I understand that people are different, thus I try to be sensitive. Most Puerto Ricans, though, are unaware of how¬†insensitive¬†they are by asking such questions. But oh well, it is part of the culture indeed! By the way, I will always show you both the good and the bad of my travels and even my own culture, just so you know ūüėČ

a Puerto Rican wedding

when tears began to fall =’)

a Puerto Rican wedding

exchanging rings!!! I cried here…even before the bride did lol =’)

a Puerto Rican wedding

The Maid of Honor and Best Man signing as witnesses of the beautiful union

So, moving on with this Puerto Rican wedding! The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and quite intimate (only 48 guests, including the bridal party). I, of course, started to cry even before the bride or our own mom did. Haha! =P Then, the bride finally cried when she was saying her vows. And by the time the ring exchange came, most f the room was in tears (either showing them or trying to hide them!). I could sense the heavy happiness in the room. I used to work at catering as a banquet server and in hundreds of events let me tell you, that “happiness” cloud wasn’t always felt. I know you might say I may be biased now, but in fact, I was skeptical of this union at first (don’t judge! I had not been around them long enough since they started dating 2 years ago). That day, though, I was assured that my baby sister will be ok, well taken care of, and most importantly: That she and her baby will be loved forever. Ok ok I’ll stop, I think I’m crying again!!

a Puerto Rican wedding

And they are husband and wife! The bridal party and newlyweds

a Puerto Rican wedding

My parents and me with the newlyweds. Took me off guard here!

After the photo shoot post-ceremony, it was time for the reception! Lucky for us, the other room was just a few steps away

a Puerto Rican wedding

Their first dance – a classic waltz by Puerto Rican singer Chayanne

a Puerto Rican wedding

Father (my daddy) and the bride (my baby sister) – same Chayanne waltz

Aaand here is where everyone BAWLED their eyes out. My dad has muscular distrophy, so he has difficulty walking and cannot really dance anymore. However, he kept insisting he wanted to have the Father and Bride dance…and he kept insisting that we bring the bride, his baby, to his table so he could dance by it in case he fell. And so they danced – no injuries, but many many tears of joy

a Puerto Rican wedding

We all cried when this was taken. Dad (crying too) and my little sister! =’)

Now it is time for the FOOD! Steak rolls stuffed with mashed, salty plantains in a savory Puerto Rican stew sauce; chicken breasts stuffed with bacon; seafood salad with spices; onion rice AND greens. YUM!

Puerto Rican wedding food

Plate with the yummy Puerto Rican food. Sorry, too hungry to decorate it!

And theeeeeeeen even moooore pictures were taken…

a Puerto Rican wedding

My little sister and me! =’)

a Puerto Rican wedding

my mom and her side of the family, my handsome cousins included

Some iconic moments were not captured by this guest’s camera (i.e. the garter toss), so they shall be added once the professional photos come in. For now, please enjoy the¬†humorous bouquet toss photos below. Please note: I really, really did not want that bouquet. It is all an act for the photos. I wanted to make the shots interesting. I’m a goofball! =P

Puerto Rican wedding bouquet toss

Time for the bouquet toss!

Puerto Rican wedding bouquet toss

It got a little crazy…and no one even ended up grabbing it (well, the floor!)! XD

The reception was very laid back, not very common when it comes to a Puerto Rican wedding. Usually, a live Latin band is present, loud as heck, people dancing everywhere, cheering and up until dawn the next day. For my baby sister’s wedding, it was all a reflection of her new personality: Quiet, but beautiful. The DJ played the typical salsa, merengue, bachata and reggaeton songs, but only a handful of guests hit the dance floor. His hyper sister (ahem moi) decided she wanted to spice it up anyway, so she took one of the groom’s friends, hit up the DJ, requested karaoke session please and we hit it off. This was the loudest part of the reception: Benji and I singing badly (on purpose) and the guests laughing their butts off =D According to a Pew survey, yours truly still got a “B” grade, while Benji got an embarrassing “F” (lol)

Puerto Rican wedding karaoke

Benji and me killin’ it

This shall be it for the special travel photo essay “A Puerto Rican Wedding”! I hope you lived through these images and accounts, just as much as I re-lived those moments while making this post for you! =)

Puerto Rican wedding family photo

Me with my beautiful family! =’)

Have you been to a Puerto Rican wedding?

What are some wedding traditions in your country?

Why the (New) American Dream Is Crap (to me)

“So live that your memories will be part of your happiness” – Anonymous

American Dream crap

This crappy American Dream got me frustrated… (Photo: Kamila Figler)

This American Dream? Please spare me.

I was going to write about something else today, but after having a rather-frustrating conversation with a colleague, I couldn’t help myself but yell within, repeatedly: “The American Dream is such¬†CRAP nowadays!! It’s a¬†TRAP!!” In my eyes, it is such a dangerous disease, even a¬†mind-game trapping so many talented, ambitious, dream-filled young people that it seriously makes me want to cry. And before you yell at me how many opportunities and blah blah blah are found in the USA, please hear me out.

I was telling “him” (that’s how I’ll nickname my colleague) about my travel sites and how much I miss traveling. He complained how he wishes to travel so much, but that he doesn’t have the money to do so.

I then went on my passionate speech about how we can travel extensively with little money.

I even took the liberty to quantify, dividing costs of traveling for a year vs cost of living in the U.S. for a year and how the former can be much more economical. “He,” however, kept interrupting me, repeatedly, with the same old “but you really need money, which I don’t have” complaint over, and over, and over again…to the point that, after I quantified how travel can be so affordable (Couchsurfing, $5 hostels, 50-cent meals, working online¬†or even abroad, etc.), he even got a little defensive about it! And of course, he repeated the little complaint¬†one more time

I’ve had it. I went on a quasi-ranty harangue myself, expressing how sad it is that America has jaded young people like him. It’s like the old “everything is possible” American Dream mantra has been substituted by an “everything is possible, but with money” motto. It seems like the only “lesson” the American Dream is currently teaching the youth (or everyone else for that matter) is that you simply must get, you must have. That it is all about making the money, the “stability” in order to turn your dreams into reality. That a stable job is the only way to go about it, and if you complain and try to fight the system or simply have a different way to go about things, well,

You have failed.

I know, you might argue that’s not everyone and/or even America’s fault. I must also note that I do understand that the “stable life,” the¬†cubicle, the little picket fence and house are the actual dreams of many and they are happy going about it the “standard” way. But what I wish to point out is how some of those people, how America nowadays, is pointing fingers and calling losers/failures those who do not want it that way.

I came to this land for “the American Dream” and all it is doing now is telling me that I’m doing it wrong, that I can’t do this or that because of this thing or the other. That because I don’t have this amount of money, because I don’t own this other thing, I am wrong. Sadly, this is an epidemic that has spread so wildly throughout generations. And you know what?

I’m freakin’ tired of it.

I’m tired of people telling me (us!) I can’t be a digital nomad, that I’ll be a living a “sub-par life” because I’m not “stable” enough (or at all). Well guess what? I look around me here in America and I see thousands of professionals with 20+ years of solid, “stable” experience recently laid off without notice, without a reason. I see families that earned six figures last year, making less than half of that this year. I see their “stability” imploding without a timer, without a warning, in front of them.¬†Is this the American Dream?!

What am I trying to say with this? Nothing is “stable” in this life! It is all about choices, chances we take and those taken away from us. It is all about risks. Mostly, though, it is what we make of it. And by that I mean it is what you do outside your comfort zone. It is what you try despite what “the system” told you, what would make you “look like a loser” or “a failure.”

And so I told my colleague: “You know what? It is sad that corporate America has trapped you and make you think that way. As for me? I’m grabbing the world, and life, by the cojones. And I’ll be winning

“I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine” ~Caskie Stinnet

Ok, end of rant ūüėÄ What do you think about the new American Dream?

Long-term travel & college: My digital scrapbook

Hey guys! Last night (and errm, today) I spent several hours working on a digital scrapbook, as a Shutterfly promo I got through Tripadvisor to get $30 off a photobook was about to expire. So! Since I’m very proud of the product (and can’t spend any more energy in front of a computer typing), here it is! It basically summarizes (some of) the most memorable moments of my 5.5-year college stretch. You may ask, how did I manage to travel extensively while pursuing so many degrees? The short answer: Study abroad, low-cost airlines & Couchsurfing! I plan to write an entry about the specific steps I took in order to be successful both in school & in life later on.

Part 2 (including trips to Israel, Spain & Iceland) coming soon!

Click here to enlarge the digital scrapbook

June 25th in History, King of Pop’s death and why I love budget travel

And what else happened on June 25th in history…?

MY BIRTHDAY!! Indeed, a good day ūüėõ Here’s a little time line:

June 25th in History

1972 Juan Peron is elected president of Argentina
1983 After more than 1,500 shows, the musical “Evita” closes at Broadway Theater, NYC
1987 Maria Alexandra (aka LatinAbroad) is born in Caguas, Puerto Rico
1989 1st USA postmark dedicated to Lesbian and Gay Pride
2009 The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, dies unexpectedly at age 50
June 25th in history, Egypt felucca ride

What I was doing when Michael Jackson died

[click on any picture to enlarge]

The day Michael Jackson died,¬†I was celebrating my 22nd birthday in Aswan, Egypt visiting the Philae Temple during the day & starting a 4-day sailing trip on a felucca on the Nile at sunset. Thus, I did not receive the news until a couple of days later, thanks to a¬†Spanish tourist’s loud sobs “¬°ay t√≠o, mi papa me ha dicho que se ha muerto el Rey del Pop!” on a bus trip through the desert, en-route to Luxor. I couldn’t help but look back & ask “Michael Jackson died?”

June 25th in history, Philae temple

Philae temple

This story reminds me of how disconnected I can really get whenever I travel. At the time, I was on an epic Middle Eastern road trip that took me all over Egypt, Sinai, Israel & Jordan. The best part? I mostly hitchhiked & couchsurfed during my 3 weeks in Israel; while I only took local buses (read: Only speaking Arabic will help you find these); “brokered” direct tours with felucca captains, and asked by local bystanders about the best eats in town all through Aswan & Luxor.

June 25th in history, felucca ride friends

You always meet amazing people

Just got a couple of flashbacks…I remember getting lost for 2 hours in a bananas plantation by the Galilee Sea, just a couple of¬†kilometers¬†away from¬†Tabgha Church of¬†Multiplication where, according to Christians, Jesus fed the five thousand. I remember getting rides with a tourist guide, a kibbutz dweller & a grandpa on different¬†occasions, all who recounted peculiar stories, my favorite being the grandpa’s full historic background of the Israeli-Lebanese conflict on the way back from¬†Rosh Hanikra. These, my friends, are the kinds of experiences that stay with you and you never forget. To me, these are reminders of why I travel the way I travel–on a budget.

Jerusalem, Israel

Budget travel really pushes you to experience a place, delve into the culture, smell scents & taste flavors that are simply impossible to encounter on all-inclusive package tours or glitzy 5-star hotels. *sigh* I miss this. I miss traveling. I wish that I were spending my 24th birthday somewhere remote, getting lost again in someone’s plantation, just enjoying the moment & getting lost in nature. But my time will come again soon enough. For now? Let me hit the beach ūüėÄ

What’s the “Today in History” like on your birthday?

My Travel Blogging begins: An introduction

How did I learn English? When did I get bit by the travel bug? What motivated me to start a travel blogging? Through pictures and mini tales, I give you a little introduction and background of my life today!

I was just about 8 when I had my very first English conversation during a parade at Disney World, which ironically was my very first trip outside of Puerto Rico as well. I was able to do so just with the limited knowledge I had gathered from going into the library and teaching myself English through dictionaries and storybooks. When I came back, I remember asking mom for cable television “para poder aprender ingl√©s.”

travel blogging intro, Disney

Tank jou, Mickey!

Soon enough I was addicted to Discovery Kids, National Geographic and the Travel Channel. Even with the closed caption, I didn’t understand much. However, I knew the shows were related to what I was learning in my history & geography classes.¬†It was about other cultures, long plane rides away from my island. As wildfires, they ignited¬†my passion for languages & traveling

And so my first journey started: Learning how to speak English by myself.

Then, when I was 13, I got my first computer with Internet. I remember how my online habits included blogging on Kiwibox about my life as a teenage nerd, looking at pictures & reading stories in English about all those places from TV, all while excitedly flipping though a Webster Spanish-English dictionary & chatting with my virtual Norwegian boyfriend through the then-chatting-sensation ICQ program, of course.

travel blogging intro, dorky me

And this blogger was born.

A couple of hundreds of entries later, I finally¬†decided to take my bags, leave my family behind, and go after “the American Dream.” I moved to the USA to go to college in Aug 2005.

travel blogging intro, Venice

Venice, Italy – one of the stop of my first Euro trip (6/2005)

And a world traveler was born. Between 2005-2010, I traveled extensively, mainly during my study abroad experiences in Egypt (2008-2009) & Morocco (Fall 2009).

travel blogging intro, Egypt

Abu Simbel, Egypt

travel blogging intro, Morocco

Marrakech, Morrocco

Now here I am, 6 years later, working & living in the United States solo, after graduating with 2 degrees from the University of Tampa last fall. Languages, travel, and blogging made all of this possible. Ironically, they will also help me become a digital nomad.

My name is Maria Alexandra & I’m about to embark on yet another journey: Become a nomadic translator & writer,¬†sprinkling Latin spice all over the world.

So it begins! Are you ready!?

Question of the day: What motivated you to start travel blogging?