Travel to Cuba

¡Vamos Pa’ Cuba! Puente Cultural Integration is planning its first trip to Cuba.  Government policies keep changing and we have been paying close attention to the latest updates. In the last couple of months, the US has opened bids for domestic airline carriers to provide service to Cuba and has eliminated many restrictions for travel. We, like so many others, are anxious to see Cuba before their doors open to all tourism and trade. Interest has been great in the Metro Detroit area. Because this is unknown territory for US businesses, there is value in seeking out a cultural liaison that can help you to bridge the gap between the US and Cuba.

We are working with strategic partners and our initial trip falls under two categories allowed by the US State Dept. for travel to Cuba.

  1. Educational Activities: exploration of cultural centers, museums, music, art, architecture, and cuisine.
  2. People-to-People: our primary goal is to form relationships with various locals in multiple cities that will provide ongoing mutually beneficial relationships. We aim to eat with the locals, find dance instructors, meet musicians and honor their craft, connect with artisans, and stay in “casas particulares” to embrace the daily life of the Cuban people.

As of March 15th, the Department of Treasury has updated its FAQS page which includes the following, “Travel-related transactions are permitted by general license for certain travel related to the following activities, subject to the criteria and conditions in each general license: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.”

 

 

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Motor City Re-Store Round 2 Awards November 28, 2017

Equal Access to Resources in Southwest Detroit

I am really proud to be part of a bilingual collaborative that helps provide resources to the business owners in Southwest Detroit. We decided to join forces last year and have had wonderful results.

Estoy muy orgullosa de ser parte de una colaboración bilingüe que ayuda proporcionar recursos para los dueños de negocio en Southwest Detroit. Decidimos juntarnos hace un año y hemos tenido excelentes resultados.

In November, it was my honor to be the interpreter for Don Rodrigo Padilla, from Taquería el Nacimiento, as he received not only a grant award from the DEGC’s MotorCity Re-Store program, but was also asked to tell his story at the event. (He is also featured on billboards around the city!)

En Noviembre, tuve el honor de ser intérprete para el estimado Don Rodrigo Padilla, de la Taquería el Nacimiento cuando no solo recibió un premio por parte de Motor City Re-Store, sino también le pidieron que contara su historia en el evento.

Motor City Re-Store Round 2 Awards November 28, 2017
Rodrigo Padilla with interpreter Bridget Espinosa, Motor City Re-Store Round 2 Awards November 28, 2017 – as featured in Latino Press 12/7/2017 (Also a MMR Winner!)

Southwest Detroit received more awards than any other neighborhood, in part due to the hard work of our collaboration. Four businesses from the BID – West Vernor – Springwells Business Improvement District, for which I provide outreach, received grants and eight TechTown SWOT City clients in in my Southwest Detroit portfolio received awards, including:

Follow these businesses on Facebook so you can see the progress as they help to beautify Southwest Detroit with new murals and other exterior improvements.

Southwest Detroit recibió más premios que cualquier otro vecindario, nuevo de cuarenta y uno, debido al trabajo colaborativo de nuestras agencias. Cuatro negocios en el BID – el Distrito Comercial de Mejoramiento de West Vernor – Springwells, por la cual apoyo en las comunicaciones, y ocho de mis clientes de TechTown SWOT City recibieron premios.

Sigue los negocios en Facebook para que puedas ver el progreso mientras ayuden embellecer a Southwest Detroit con murales nuevos y otras mejoras exteriores.

MCR_Taqueria El Nacimiento_Don Rodrigo
Don Rodrigo – Taquería el Nacimiento 7400 W. Vernor Detroit, MI 48209

Photos courtesy of Latino Press http://www.latinodetroit.com and MotorCity Re-Store.

Cuba Libre

President Obama is in Cuba! This is an historic event for both the United States and this unique island to our south. Cuba is so close, yet has remained a folkloric unknown to their neighbors to the north. The doors are opening and will provide an opportunity for individuals on both sides to finally connect.

I have been obsessed with Cuba for years. It has been on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to the music of the Buena Vista Social Club in the 1990’s. I was so fortunate to get to see them at the University of Michigan and I used their documentary with musician Ry Coder, to introduce Cuban culture to my Advanced Placement Spanish students.

To so many of us, the island seems to be frozen in time. The classic cars that cruise down the Malecón exemplify the Havana of old. We need to go and witness this complex culture. Governments and politics aside, we also need to respect their history and not impose our American values. Modernization and trade will benefit the Cuban people, but the preservation of their culture must always be part of the conversation. In other countries, we have seen McDonald’s & Starbucks put locally owned shops out of business. We have seen ecosystems harmed by Monsanto, both in the US and abroad. Let’s allow Cuba to remain Cuba, while initiating  opportunity for trade and providing Cultural exchanges. It is about the people! We must make sure that Cubanos have a voice and are not forgotten in the process of creating a Cuba Libre!

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

The cultural and linguistic diversity among the 21 official Spanish-speaking countries is great. Each country has their own unique cultures, accents, and expressions. Learning the different meanings of words and “¿Cómo se dice . . .? / How do you say . . .?” in different regions gives insight into the culture.

Matador Network is a great resource for international cultures and travel and I loved this post on Mexican Expressions. Learning the slang expressions when I lived in Mexico changed my language from textbook to native-like. These types of expressions exist in each country – with huge variations from one region to the next.

There is a also a huge variation in accents throughout the Spanish-speaking world.  It is similar to how different English speakers sound to each other. When someone from Scotland hears the accent from Texas or when someone from Boston speaks to a Jamaican, they might feel like they are listening to a foreign language! The same is true in Spanish. This video made me literally LOL with the examples of how different countries’ accents sound to native Spanish speakers.

If you are interested in a workshop or training series about the diverse cultures of the Spanish-speaking world or if your company needs a consultant with expertise in a specific region of Latin America, contact us here to set-up an appointment.

Of course, I will (maybe?)

It has been my experience that Latin Americans are very generous with their time and energy. They have really good intentions and will almost always say “Yes” or “Claro que sí” to most requests.

Their follow-through, however, is complex. (See my previous blog: “Love the one you’re with ;-)” ) Previous commitments will not trump current activities.

Yes, almost always means “maybe, if nothing else comes along”. So take their “Claro que sí” with a grain of salt (and maybe a shot of tequila?)

Traveling in Latin America

You’ll find dozens of articles and tips about traveling abroad. Some are applicable to our business travel as well as for pleasure. While most tips will focus on Europe, the cultures of Latin America have a deep European influence and can be a source of valuable tips when traveling for work.

nice-shoes-1418878-639x843Here are a few tips from Puente Cultural Integration for business travel in Latin America:

  1. Dress the part
    • Err on the side of formality
    • Even (or especially) for social events – Latin Americans will dress up
    • No tennis shoes unless it’s an athletic event
    • You can always take off the sport coat & tie if you are overdressed
    • If everyone else is in business dress & you show up in khakis / polo – what role do you play?
  2. Eat the local cuisine with your hosts
    • Nothing can kill a deal faster than your desire to eat at McDonald’s or TGI Friday’s
    • Insist that they take you to a local restaurant & let them order for you
    • One person (usually the highest exec) always picks up the check (do not offer to split the bill)
    • If you are buying the meal say “Les invito” (I’m inviting you all) & you must ASK the waiter for the bill “La cuenta, por favor” – they will never just bring it.
    • Enjoy your meal – it is not uncommon for a “business” lunch / dinner to last 2-3 hours.
    • Say “Provecho” (Bon Apetit)  before eating & “¡Salud!”  (Cheers!) before drinking
  3. Business is done after hours
    • Relationships matter – ask about their family
    • Real conversations matter – find out what they love to do
    • Business deals will be sealed the next day, don’t insist on keeping the business talk going out of the office
    • Use the out-of-office “social” time to build the relationship & the business will get handled more effectively
  4. Be really careful with taxis
    • Only use radio taxis or a business/hotel car service
    • Ask the hotel concierge
    • Never hail a cab off the street

      Freeimages.com/MiguelEsquivel
      Freeimages.com/MiguelEsquivel

More useful tips can be found from on msn.com “How to NOT be an Ugly American Abroad”.

Did you find these tips useful? contact us here.

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

Love the one you’re with . . . ;-)

You will see a common theme when doing business in Latin America: Relationships!

To be successful in the Latin American market, you must be present – both physically and emotionally – to maintain your clients’ trust and loyalty.

Do not assume previous positive business dealings will ensure a long-term relationship in business. If something newer, flashier, bigger or better comes across their desk – they may jump at the opportunity if you are not close by to remind them of your value. They will “love the one they’re with” and you will be out the door like yesterday’s news.

DSC_0463_HDR
Steven Wosina Photography

So my best advice, as we bridge the gap with Puente Cultural Integration, is to forge and maintain your business relationships. Get to know your cohorts in Latin America well. Understand their needs. Ask questions about their lives and their families. Be present. Be available. Be there for them and you will be the one they’re with!

Spanish? Hispanic? Latino? Ay, Dios Mío!

When working with people from a Spanish-speaking background it is important to understand that they are a diverse people.

It can be offensive to assume someone’s ethnicity. Asking someone if they are “Spanish” or if they speak “Mexican” is more common than you imagine and extremely insensitive.

  • Spanish = nationality referring only to people who are from Spain, in Europe; it is also the language spoken by millions of people in the US and Latin America.
  • Mexican = nationality referring ONLY to people who were born in the country of Mexico (south of our border). It is not a language, just like American is not a language.
  • Latino / Latina = people who have Latin American roots (includes Brazil, where they speak Portuguese, not Spanish).
  • Hispanic = people who have a Spanish-speaking heritage.
  • Mexican-American = typically 2nd or 3rd generation of Mexican descent (see above); may be racially &/or culturally Mexican, but may or may not speak Spanish fluently. Although the Mexican / Mexican-American populations are larger than other Hispanic populations, it is not okay to assume someone is “Mexican” because they are brown or speak Spanish.

If you are genuinely curious, an appropriate question might be, “What is your ethnic background?” This allows for the person to self-identify and will give you an idea if they are open to talking about their heritage.

Never ask, “What are you?” The best answer for that is, “Human!”

The Spanish vs. Hispanic vs. Latino question is really a personal preference. This four-minute video from Kat Lazo (who self-identifies as Indigenous-Latina) really breaks it down and also shows us that it is truly up to the individual to decide which label they prefer.

There are 21 countries that list Spanish as their official language. Each country has a distinct nationality. Every region has a unique cultural identity and their ethnic make-up is diverse. Some Latinos, especially those from the Caribbean, may be seen as Black or African-American even though they may not identify with that culture. Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and many people from Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and Perú have a mixed racial heritage of Spanish + Indigenous + African roots. Black Latinos will identify with their home culture, but depending on their experiences in the African-American community, may be able to bounce between both groups in the US.

There are also millions of Hispanic-Americans who may be second or third generation from any of those cultures or whose families are originally from the southwest. Do not assume that someone with the last name Rodriguez or Garcia speaks Spanish.

There are huge differences between working in a Latin American country vs. working in the US with people who are of Hispanic heritage. Is your business in need of an expert on all things Hispanic, Spanish or Latino? Contact us here!

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

What’s your passion?

Last October, I sat in my principal’s office feeling that there was something bigger waiting for me. “I love teaching Spanish, but I feel like I have met every goal, every milestone. What can I do to keep this up for another 15 years?” I asked. Her powerful response, “What are you passionate about? Find your passion.”

Girona Spain

I have spent the last six months doing just that. I did the scariest thing any teacher could do.  I walked away after 21 years. I am a teacher. I am a Spanish teacher. I love everything about the culture & Spanish language (yep, especially the irregular verb conjugations!) It is such a part of my identity. I am a teacher of life and I am following my passions. Puente Cultural Integration was created to channel my passions and my energies.

I am connecting my passions and my strengths. Could your organization benefit from my skill set?

My strengths are:

  • organizing people
  • communicating
  • problem-solving
  • teaching cultures & language
  • all things Latin American
  • dynamic cross-cultural training

Banner Puente 4

My passions are:

  • the people & cultures of Latin America
  • helping disadvantaged youth (both in the US & globally)
  • travel
  • education
Barcelona - Sea
Trip to Barcelona, Spain 2014

I will be realistic about my path and I need to do more in this world.  My business cannot be about me.  There is something more out there.  Watch out world!

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

I need to help . . .

I feel a calling.  Again.

Last month, I spent five days helping to run a camp in the Dominican Republic. I need to do more.  Now I know. I need to go back. These kids, this community, they touched me.

DR15_BAAM Panoramic Basket
First Day of Camp – Basketball as a Mission, Dominican Republic 2015

When I was in high school, I knew I needed to go to Mexico – to live, to learn, to meet these people I had studied. It wasn’t a whim. I knew I had to become bilingual – I didn’t want to just learn textbook Spanish – I wanted to understand everything about the culture too.  Street Spanish. Everyday Spanish.

In college, after spending six months living with a family in Morelia, Michoacán and traveling throughout Central Mexico, I dreamed of going into the Peace Corps or becoming a missionary in Latin America. My professors talked of living among the Mayan Indians in Mérida and of studying civilizations across the globe. “I’m going to do that too,” I thought.

But, life happens. The last 21 years happened.

  • Finish college at 21.
  • Get the phone call NHS needs a Spanish teacher
  • Fight it! “I’m not ready to be an adult yet!”
  • I am hired.
  • Grad School in Mexico = Grad School Debt
  • Marry the Mexican man of my dreams
  • Kids (2 beautiful bilingual boys)
  • Decide after 21 yrs to leave teaching
  • Travel to the DR as a volunteer

Now what?

My heart needs to help. I dreamed of teaching in the inner-city.  I dreamed of building schools in rural Latin America. I want to help build lives, give love, provide skills.

DR15_BAAM Group
Last Day of Camp – Basketball as a Mission, Dominican Republic 2015

Can I afford to follow my heart? Can I afford to ignore this ache again? I think I know the answer. Can’t wait to see what powerful things are going to happen!

If you are interested in reaching disadvantaged kids in Latin American or would like to find out more regarding Basketball as a Mission. Contact us here or go to http://www.basketballasamission.org. 

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote.