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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Travel in Latin America

The Cultural Differences in Latin American Families
By:Althea Thompson

The term Latin American refers to people with Spanish heritage who have migrated to the United States of America. A 2010 study from Family and Consumer Sciences of Ohio State University states that the diverse population includes immigrants from Central America, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Spanish-speaking countries. Sometimes referred to as Hispanics, this ethnic group accounts for 11 percent of the U.S. population, according to Ohio State University research. Latin American families strive to preserve their culture and values for future generations.

Family Values
Traditional family values are important in Latin American homes. Hispanic families are close-knit emotionally and physically. It is not uncommon to find members of the extended family living with the nuclear family. Grandparents, elderly aunts and uncles and children all learn to live under the same roof. The unity of this large group of family teaches Hispanic children to respect, honor and care for those in authority. The family also values good manners and the importance of hard work. Latin American families try to preserve their Spanish language by practicing it in the home.

Eating Habits
The Spanish culture is rich with flavorful foods and deserts. However, eating habits of Latin American families differs from American homes. Breakfast in a Latin home consists of a light meal. Lunch is the main meal of the day. In some countries, parents come home from work and children return from school to have lunch together. Lunch lasts about two hours, followed by la siesta. This is a time for rest in the middle of the day. La merienda is a light snack in the evening where small sandwich and coffee are served. La cena is a small dinner around 9:00 pm. This meal consists of leftovers from the other meals in the day.

Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication is messages sent without using words. In Latin American families, this type of communication differs from American homes. For example, in America the nonverbal hand gesture for "come here," has a different meaning in Latin American countries. Placing the hand with palms up and moving the index finger in and out is a romantic solicitation in Hispanic countries. Also, parents in Hispanic homes teach children that it is impolite to throw something to another person.

Holidays and Celebrations
Latin American families strive to preserve their rich culture in their homes. Families travel long distances and older children return home to be together for cultural holidays. For example, Carnaval is a holiday before the season of Lent begins. Festivals, parades and large family dinners help commemorate the holiday. A QuinceaƱera is another occasion where family members travel from afar to attend. It is a Latin girl's fifteenth birthday celebration. The extravagant party and ceremony ushers her into womanhood.

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