Friday, December 28, 2007

Approaching the Finish Line

I’m a runner and so forgive me for using a running metaphor to describe what is surely a tender and joyous event: my wedding. For those that know me, I don’t have to say that I’ve been a dynamo of nervous energy these past few days (weeks?). I’ve been crackling with anxiety and vibrating with excitement. The friction created by my speedy footfalls super-heating any chances of cold feet. I’m sure FPL could light 500 homes with the rapid beating of my heart… But that was yesterday; right now I’m as calm and focused as a laser. As I zero in on this finish line called marriage, I’ve entered, what runners call, the zone. It’s as if I’ve broken the anxiety barrier and left all worry and anticipation a few miles back.

All I see now is the prize ahead and she's enough to push me to run a little faster.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Taino Speak

The other day some friends and I were sitting around talking about how language changes and evolves, not only over time, but over different countries. Eventually we got to discussing the Cuban version of Spanish. They were saying that they didn’t understand some of the words I used and they didn’t know how these words came about…. The answer is simple. These words are not Spanish at all, but Taino. It’s fascinating just how much the Taino influenced Cuba linguistically. Just for fun I’m going to compile a small dictionary of Taino words that are commonly sprinkled with Cuban Spanish (especially by my Dad):

Taino- Spanish- English

jicotea – tortuga- turtle

sanaco- idiota-idiot

caguama- tortuga marina- sea turtle

jutia - no translation- Caribbean rodent

maja- serpiente- snake

jimagua-jemelos- twins

mata- planta/arbol- plant/tree

guagua- bus-bus

guanajo- pavo- turkey

tiburon- no translation- shark

guajiro- campesino- farmer

jibaro- man of the forest

And of course, my personal favorite,

cocuyo- lucilirnaga- lightning bug

I’m not even including the Taino words that have been incorporated into the English language such as tabaco (tobacco) , iguana, manati (manatee), jurakan (hurricane). jamaca (hammock), canoa (canoe), barbacoa (barbecue) , maraca (rattle) sabana (savanna).

Friday, December 21, 2007

My DNA Revisited

I’ve got additional information concerning my own personal blue print. It seems my grandfather on my mom’s side was Haplogroup E3b, mostly associated with the Berbers (Moors) of North Africa and Spain. Even though I can’t really be tested for it, since I get my Y chromosome from my dad’s side of the family, my uncle got tested through the National Geographic Genographic Project. Ultimately, I am 25% Berber/Moor, which explains why I don’t look particularly Scandinavian as both my Y and Mitochondrial DNA suggests.

On a rather cool note, genetic testing of the mummy of Ramses II shows that he was also of Haplogroup E3b. It is also known that he had 110 children! If you increase that exponentially over time, chances are my grandfather (and myself) could very well be distant descendants of Ramses the Great.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Learing to Grow Up... The Not-So-Easy Way

To be perfectly honest I still consider myself a kid, albeit a big kid. I still eat my Lucky Charms while watching Saturday morning cartoons, but this year I’m going through two of those life altering rites-of-passage. 1) My fiancé and I bought our first home. 2) We’re getting married. After 29 cushy years of life I’ve finally entered the strange world of wives, mortgages, and responsibilities. So the most important thing I’ve learned this year is how to be an adult and so far it’s not as scary as I thought.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


This is a picture of Hialeah in 1923. The name means “Pretty prairie” in the Muskogee language. Over the years the Seminole with his arm up eventually became the city’s emblem.

A quick look at some stats will tell you that Hialeah is about 90% Hispanic (primarily Cuban, although that demographic is shifting to include people from all over the Caribbean and Latin America) and that it is the only place in the United States where Spanish is the first language of 80% of the population.

I was born and raised in Hialeah and I’m obviously a product of this unique American community. I speak Spanish and English fluently, but am most comfortable when I can seamlessly switch between the two mid-sentence. (My excuse is that there are some things that can’t be properly translated into English or they lose their effect.) I drink an insane amount of Cuban coffee, but prefer hamburgers and pizza over lechon y congris. I can’t really say I’m “Cuban” because most native-born Cubans tell me I’m American (or too Americanized) and most Americans consider me Cuban. So I specifically identify myself as Hialeahan (or Miamian if I’m speaking to someone who’s never heard of Hialeah) to avoid confusion.

There’s something about this low-income, blue collar city that I love and even though I no longer live here I still consider it my home and am 100% invested in it. Hell, I come here every single day because both my jobs are in Hialeah!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Under an Asian Moon

Right now there are two robotic probes working on the moon. The first one is Japan’s SELENE, which is already beaming back the first hi-def videos of the moon. I suggest you take a look at their Earthrise... it's pretty cool. SELENE is also carrying thousands of names and messages from regular people out into space (mine included). The second probe is China’s Chang-e 1, and it's recently sent back its first images of the moon. It doesn’t stop there as India is scheduled to launch their own probe, Chandrayaan-1, to the moon in April.

As a space enthusiast and someone that has over the years lost a lot of confidence in NASA, I’m just glad someone is up there paving the way back to the moon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Savage Dragon

When I was in middle school my best friend Frank introduced me to the Savage Dragon and the Image Universe in general and I fell in love with this fin-headed hero. The character combined the best of The Hulk, Spider-man, and Wolverine. There were hundreds of characters running around and just as many plotlines. The book was violent and graphic but still fun. It didn’t take itself too seriously. Eventually, the story took a turn for the worse with the whole “Savage World” storyline and I stopped reading the book.

Now, in my late 20s, I got a hankering to reread the series, but was afraid hindsight was going to destroy all my fond memories of the book. I recently gave in and bought the first and second Archives reprinting the whole series in these massive phonebook-like collections. I’m happy to report that dreaded hindsight did not ruin my memories of the book. On the contrary, I was surprised over how well it all holds up. Yes, it's very early Image in that there's plenty of splash pages and mindless fight scenes, but they're always fun and they work with the plots. The story moves at break-neck speed with lots of subplots moving in and out of the main Vicious Circle story. The more ridiculous villains, like Brainiape and Powerhouse, are the best! I miss the bright superheroy colors but, Erik Larsen’s art looks fantastic in B&W.

Hell, I’m even looking forward to the third Archive… Bring on the lame Savage World story!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


This year I participated in the National Geographic's Genographic Project and I found out that the DNA gotten from my dad’s side of the family is Haplogroup I1a. To quote the great Wikipedia, “I1a is a Y-chromosome haplogroup occurring at greatest frequency in Scandinavia. It displays a very clear frequency gradient, with a peak frequency of approximately 35% among the populations of southern Norway, southwestern Sweden, and Denmark, and rapidly decreasing frequencies toward the edges of the historically Germanic-influenced world.” Needless to say I found this to be rather odd. If you know me, you know that I don’t look particularly Nordic. So I figured I took after my mother’s side of the family... until I got my mitochondrial DNA results, which turned out to be Haplogroup U4 and to quote Oxford Ancestors, “U4 is found today mainly in the east and north of Europe with particularly high concentrations in Scandinavia and the Baltic states." What the -? It's the same thing!

Some background information: The Hernandez family (my branch of it anyway) went from Spain to the Canary Islands to Cuba and then to Miami. Looking at Spanish history it’s not so strange to find out we’re part of Haplogroups I1a and U4 when you think that Spain was occupied, and in some cases permanently settled, by Germanic Tribes such as the Vandals, the Suebi, and the Visigoths, all of which originated in the Baltic area. Spain was also frequently raided by Vikings, which were known for their enthusiastic raping as well as pillaging.

Friday, November 9, 2007

La Gigantona

I promised a coworker that my next blog post would be about La Gigantona. This is a Nicaraguan tradition where a giant lady is paraded down the street and dances with a bigheaded dwarf called El Cabezon. The kids usually take to the streets to get treats (some of the younger ones I’m told are afraid of this odd couple.

Curiosity got the best of me and I did a quick online search to find out more about the origin of this custom. It seems this was a way for the native Nicaraguans to make fun of their Spanish conquistadors. La Gigantona is supposed to be a tall Spanish lady, with all her ridiculous pomp and pageantry and El Cabezon represents the native Nicaraguan, shorter, but much more clever (hence the massive cranium).

I love these guys.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

As a movie buff, I naturally gravitated toward Rene Rodriguez’ blog Reeling. Rene is a film critic for the Miami Herald and over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that we have very similar tastes at least when it comes to movies. I often find myself looking for his reviews on Friday mornings (or before I head out to the theater) just to spare myself a horrible movie-going experience. Lord knows I never want to have another excruciating incident like Joe Dirt!

But I digress; Rene’s blog is an extension of his print work. It’s basically a collection of posts about films he’s seen and not that I know of it’s existence I’ll most likely give it a once over before I make it a blockbuster night.