Category: Latin America and Carribbean


What to wear is definitely the proverbial question that you should ask yourself, especially if you are headed to a destination that is quite different culturally from the community in which you live.

There are no hard and fast rules, which can be frustrating, but, of course you should check with those who have or are in your destination choice.  It’s hard to divvy up parts of the world, but here are a few tips from personal experience, and a few links to help get you thinking about what to wear.

And for most destinations, we concur

1. Western Europe– Have you ever wondered why so many Americans look up to (Western) Europe for the latest trends in Fashion?  Well, a visit to France (of Course!) Italy, Spain, or even the UK might make it plain for you.  Of course there are exceptions, but Western Europeans tend to dress up a bit more than Americans do.  While sneakers are not necessarily a no-no, you will find more women strutting their stuff in heels and full makeup.  What you choose to wear here may have more to do with whether you want to blend in, or stand out from the rest of the population.

http://www.francetravelguide.com/what-to-wear-in-france-in-the-summer.html

http://gofrance.about.com/od/culture/a/dressinfrance_2.htm

http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/shopping/barcelona-clothes.html

http://www.travellerspoint.com/forum.cfm?thread=2203

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187427-c98918/Spain:Dress.Suggestions.For.Spain.html

http://www.journeywoman.com/ccc/ccc-i2.html

http://www.italylogue.com/featured-articles/what-to-wear-in-italy.html

2. The Middle East and North Africa and Majority Muslim countries Like Malaysia or Senegal or Muslim majority areas in non-Muslims majority countries (gee, that was a mouthful)– more is.. well, more.  While you will find people, including locals who break these rules, you should not.   If you are female, there is no need to run and buy a headscarf, abaya or something like that (not unless you are in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), but belly t-shirts, shorts, short-skirts (above the knee and shorter, but in some places, knee-length might be considered risque), sleeveless shirts should probably be left at home.  If you are a man, and love those shirt-less running sessions, then you are out of luck.  It would be best to wear a t-shirt.  Unless you are running (i.e. in the act of exercising) then shorts are probably out of the question altogether.  If you are planning on attending a wedding/engagement party, you may want to pack something very elegant… people tend to really dress up (think prom) for weddings.

http://www.journeywoman.com/gfc/egypt_whattowear.html

http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/forum.php?action=DisplayMessage&StartMessageId=136960&language=ru

http://moroccanmaryam.typepad.com/my_marrakesh/2007/04/morocco_and_wha.html

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/magazine/photography/what-not-to-wear-in-marrakesh-morocco—by-suzanne-porter/having-lived-in-marrakesh-for-several-years-now-ive-noticed-the-number-of-inappropriately-dressed-tourists-in-morocco-has-soared-particularly-since/919

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1662000

China: Western clothing should be appropriate for China, except for short-shorts and halter tops.   Again, people tend to dress up a bit more than they do in the U.S. For more info, see:

http://www.snapshotjourneys.com/china-travel-clothing.html

http://www.journeywoman.com/ccc/ccc-c.html

http://community.travelchinaguide.com/forum2.asp?i=20356

Latin America– Again, this will really depend on the country.  But people and particularly, women tend to be less casual than in the U.S.  You should try to go the mid road, shirts should not be too low cut and shirts/shorts should not be too short.  This should help you  avoid harassment.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1705023

http://olemole.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/what-to-wear-in-mexico/

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1489736

http://www.travelexpertguide.org/forum/Mexico/What-should-I-wear-in-Mexico-310719.htm

Of Course this list is not exhaustive there are plenty or regions/countries left out and  the time of year will also play a role in what you choose to pack, but hopefully this post will help you as you pick your travel wardrobe.

Happy Packing!

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One Saturday morning, on a quiet street in the El Vedado section of Havana, Cuba, my classmates and I, who were attending a Spanish language immersion program at the University of Havana, were mounting our bicycles getting ready for a guided tour of the city. I noticed an attractive Afro-Cuban woman observing us from across the street and went over to introduce myself. Her eyes lit up like a neon sign as I heard virtual cash registers ringing in her head. Just because I’m an American she seemed to have felt that I’m a black relative of Bill Gates or Donald Trump and sought to get what she could.

I saw Luisa as opportunity to practice my Spanish and get immersed in Afro-Cuban culture.

In turn, I saw Luisa as opportunity to practice my Spanish and get immersed in Afro-Cuban culture. I met her two children Miguel (7) and Ingrid (5); her mother Isabel, and her brother Ronaldo, and other members of her family who lived in a rough-looking housing project across the street from where I was staying. However, after visiting Luisa numerous times, I realized that, although the people were poor, there was hardly any crime. The Cuban government is very hard on crime. What might get you a slap on the wrist in the USA can easily get you 10 to 20 years in Cuba.

The first time Luisa and I were alone, her first request was that I take her back to the United States. The last thing I wanted in Cuba was to find a wife; especially one who couldn’t see past my wallet. She started telling her family, that I was going to take her. My response was that I wanted to stay here in Cuba with her, and together we can support the revolution. That shut her up! But later, as we went shopping, she lured me over to the appliance section trying to get me to buy her a refrigerator; way over my vacation budget.

The last thing I wanted to do in Cuba was a wife; especially one who couldn’t see past my wallet.

As I got to know Luisa better, I realized that she was not being devious. She was desperately trying to make ends meet for her and her children. And with this unrelenting trade embargo against Cuba, it was evident that it wasn’t hurting Castro nearly as much as it is hurting people like Luisa and her children. For this reason, I felt good about helping Luisa and her family in ways I could afford. The day before my departure, I gave the children Miguel and Ingrid gifts that they thoroughly appreciated. You can just see the exhilaration in their eyes. I also handed her mother some money.

After returning home to Oakland, Luisa and I stayed in touch by phone and by mail. I just feel bad that it is so difficult to send money or gifts without the Cuban government’s greedy interference.Luisa, her children,and her mother and are friends separated by politics.

My trip to Cuba was a vacation from heaven. There was something about the energy of the Cuban people that made me feel like a long, lost member of the community who finally came home. Words cannot express how uplifted I felt to just walk about town hearing salsa, merengue, and Afro-Cuban music blaring from homes and businesses. One day, there was a group of us walking through Central Havana as we heard this loud salsa song coming from a restaurant. I couldn’t take it anymore. I reached out and grabbed a woman, and we danced right there in public. Of the 12 countries that I’ve visited in my life, Cuba is the only country from which I returned feeling homesick.
I was born in St. Louis, MO, and lived in a closely knit African-American community called “The Ville.”

In fact, many Latin-American people suspect that I might be Cuban. Even Cubans thought I was Cuban until I opened my mouth. I couldn’t even fake a Cuban accent. At a popular Havana night spot, I was so flattered when a lovely woman asked my date if she could cut in to dance with me. I took her into my arms and busted one of my favorite salsa moves. She was NOT impressed, as she blurted out in astonishment, ¡tu bailas como extranjero /you dance like a foreigner!). I guess she thought I was Cuban too.

Even Cuban people thought I was Cuban until I opened my mouth!

The Cubans have a name for people like me. It’s called “Yuma,” a slang word for an American, and rightfully so. I was born in St. Louis, MO and lived in what was then, a closely knit African-American community called “The Ville” before moving to New York City where I was influenced by my Puerto Rican neighbors to learn Spanish and love salsa music. Perhaps, I may have been Cuban in another life? I tend to think that just might be the case.

– Bill Smith, Cuba- Summer 2010

*Bill Smith is a hobbyist who explores black cultures in Latin-American countries through reading and travel.For more information on Bill and his experiences abroad please visit www.ahorasecreto.blogspot.com.

 

 

I love adventure. I don’t love creepy situations. Generally speaking, it pays to be open to new experiences except when you’re freaked out. I learned the hard way that when your inner voice is telling you to beware, it’s best to listen and forget about that great travel experience that you’re passing up.

On my last night in Brazil I stayed in a 400-year-old convent. Yes, it has been converted into a hotel but there’s very little evidence of this. A huge crucifix carved from what looks like petrified wood looms in the lobby. Christ hangs from it with suffering and pain carefully etched into his face. The hallways and rooms are painted a stark, institution ,white. All of the floors creek. The key chain I was handed for my room looked like it was at least 100 years old. It was heavy brass and displayed the Carmelite symbol. No decorations mar the minimalistic and dark atmosphere except an oil painting of the last supper in the lobby. Compared to the rest of the place, that painting qualifies as a cheery little design detail.

A former Carmelite convent, it’s now called Posada do Convento and sits in the center of Cachoeira, a city famous for it’s colonial architecture and huge number of candomble terreiros or temples. Candomble mixes Catholicism with African rituals and the religion plays a significant role in Brazilian culture. I was scheduled to visit the oldest terreiro in the morning and I anticipated this. What I didn’t anticipate was spending the night in a former convent that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to an insane asylum.

“Oh, I would stay here with you but I see spirits every time I stay here and can’t sleep,” said Claudia, my lovely and genial host. That was really what I wanted to hear. “Why can’t I just stay with you?” I asked, trying to sound nonchalant but panicking inside. “We’re staying in a simple guest house, it’s not for visitors,” she explained. “I don’t mind,” I countered. She waved away any other talk of leaving, assuring me that this was the best hotel in Cachoeira. This was where I should have insisted but I didn’t. I climbed the ancient stairs and walked down an endless, unlit hallway to my room. I manically locked the door, checking it twice. Besides a bed covered with a worn white bedspread, a small nightstand and chair, the only thing in the room was a massive wooden bureau, large enough to stash several bodies.

I was exhausted after touring four cities in two days so I checked my door’s lock one more time and went to sleep. Days before, I had been given a candomble necklace by a priestess as a gift. She told me to wear them for protection and prosperity. It’s a great honor for a priestess to give someone her beads so I was extremely careful with them. I took them off and laid them on the chair before I went to sleep.

I slept fairly well, considering the circumstances. I don’t remember seeing or hearing anything. But when I got up, my door was not locked. Maybe I hadn’t locked it correctly but it was eerie to see it slightly open. I turned to put on my necklace and it fell apart in my hands. The coral beads and cowrie shells scattered smoothly on the floor. The sturdy rope that they were strung on, which had been fine when I took the necklace off, was broken. I scooped the beads up, packed my bags and rushed out of that room. When I told Claudia she gave me a guarded look. “What do you feel this means?” she gently asked. It means that I’ll never allow myself to stay in a situation where I don’t feel comfortable. It’s a common lesson but one that I obviously needed to remember.

Farsighted Fly Girl- Brazil, August 2008

originally posted at: http://rosalindcummingsyeates.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-to-avoid-creepy-experiences-during_4525.html

For more information on her travel experiences please visit: http://rosalindcummingsyeates.blogspot.com/

One of the things that excited me most about Cozumel was the chance to explore the Mayan goddess Ixchel’s shrine at San Gervasio. The 2,000 year old structure covers 125 acres in the Cozumel rain forest. Mimi, our authoritative guide above, showed our group the intricacies of ancient Mayan culture.

 

San Gervasio is the biggest archaeological site in Cozumel and is located in the center of the island. Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of the moon and fertility and women made the pilgrimage to the shrine from as far away as what is now Belize and Guatemala to ensure that they birthed the average 18 kids expected of a Mayan woman.

The structures were created from a mixture of stucco, honey, gum and crushed shells. Temples typically boasted a sauna and a steam bath with hot rocks so that followers could purify themselves by sweating, praying and meditating.

The steps to the shrines are very small, forcing worshipers to walk sideways so as not to look the priest in the face, which is a sign of respect.

This is the the entrance to the 9 mile road called Sac Bey or white road,that they Maya took to reach the shrines. They would walk by moonlight when it was cooler, leaving their canoes back at the end of the road. The arch is about 5 feet tall and dates from 1200-1650 A.D.

The Maya cut the limestone rocks using onyx knifes. The innovation and details of these shrines and altars still remain, thousands of years later.
An aura of the sacred hovers around the site and Mexican women still make pilgrimages to Ixcehl’s shrine. In a little box in front of the shrine below, we saw flowers, coins and incense left as offerings to Ixchel. They say that Cozumel retains something in the water and that couples routinely return home pregnant. I don’t know about that but I was happy to pay my respects to Ixchel.

Farsighted Fly Girl- Guatemala, August 2009

Originally posted at:  http://rosalindcummingsyeates.blogspot.com/2009/08/journey-to-ixchel-and-san-gervasio.html

*For more info on Farsighted Fly Girl and her travels please visit http://rosalindcummingsyeates.blogspot.com/

There is no one, definitive black experience abroad.  People of African descent hail from places varied and far away from small town USA to Kingston Jamaica from Accra, Ghana to Panama City from Tanzania to Canada.  This blog seeks to be holding house and testament to this variety of perspectives and experiences.

It is the hope of the blog’s creator that the articles and links on this space will pique your interests, assuage your fears, give you much needed tips, or all of the above.   Please enjoy this space, engage this space and contribute to this space as you embark on your black experiences abroad.

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