We have gotten in touch with book authors, bloggers, curricula writers, and other important characters that share a passion for raising future generations bilingually. They will bring you a breath of fresh air into the world of Spanish language education through their story, their experience, and their advice.
The BEST Spanish advice comes from families that have spent their efforts figuring out what works for them and their families, adjusting, and continuing to move forward. The best advice is that that comes from real-life experience and involvement with the language for many years in the past.
Last week we interviewed Jenna from Bilingual Balance and this week we are interviewing latina mama, award winning writer and cultura advocate Mrs. Maritere Bellas.
Maritere is an award-winning author, bilingual-bicultural parenting expert/mentor, speaker, writer, podcast & IG Live host, and parenting influencer. A language and cultura advocate, Maritere combined her devotion to motherhood and her passion for writing to create a diverse platform of resources for parents raising bilingual, multilingual, multicultural children long before online resources were available. She is the author of 4 books for parents, published in English and in Spanish, and two bilingual children’s books.
Mari, it truly is an honor and pleasure to chat with you today. I am very glad we’ve crossed paths as I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know the terrific influence and presence you have in the world of bilingual education and multiculturalism.
I would love to hear a little bit about your background. Who is Maritere, and where does she come from?
I have fond memories of my childhood and upbringing in Puerto Rico. Frankly, when I traveled to California for school, it was not my intention to stay. I wanted to grow old close to my family, but life intervened or shall I say fate? I met my husband in Los Angeles and we made Southern California home. We will be celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary this year. Life out west hasn’t always been peaches and cream, is it ever? But I have learned many lessons and when I have failed, I still got back up! Having a supportive family has helped.
Well, guess what? We have this in common. I came to the U.S. to study English and here I am 15 years later, with my american husbands and my three bicultural children. I never intended to stay nor to have a family here as I was coming to work on my second language skills and learn more about the culture! I guess this was the predetermined path we were meant to be in.
Tell us a little bit about your children
My children are my everything! A boy and a girl. Raised with two languages and three cultures: Hispanic, Greek and American. They have traveled extensively since they were very young and now, at 30 and 27, I’m convinced that this upbringing has contributed to the young adults they are today: embracing diversity with a deep appreciation of others.
Why is bilingualism important to you (your family)?
I was bilingual and bi-literate when I graduated from high school. Then I went to study abroad and met families whose kids spoke four-five languages without batting an eye. That was fascinating! I learned firsthand the benefits and advantages of communicating in different languages and learning about other cultures. I was 18 and vowed that my kids would be bilingual and multicultural!
I do think multilingual people are incredibly talented and fortunate. Not only are they able to communicate with so many more cultures and races; but the worldview and fruits of diversity they have is extensive and rich. And, that’s not even touching about the career advantages they will get in life. It is wonderful that you chose a bilingual path for your family!
What are/were your favorite tools when you are/were teaching your kids a second language?
Puerto Rican music was a staple in my house when my children were growing up. As was the food. I enjoyed making my favorite Puerto Rican dishes and sharing anecdotes and stories about my own upbringing while I was cooking “habichuelas, “ (beans “arroz con pollo,” (rice and chicken) “asopao,“ (soup) among other dishes—typical dishes from the island. We also listened to Greek music and ate Greek food.
Awe, how special! Nothing beats the comfort and love shared through food and music. HEre at our house, we have Colombian food every Sunday. Abuelita comes over and we make easy, simple yet delicious traditional meals like Ajiaco (Chicken soup), and Empanadas. The kids look forward to it and have learned to cook a few of those dishes themselves. I love that you were intentional in preserving your Puerto rican roots while raising your kids bilingual!
What were some of the biggest challenges your family faced during the journey of teaching your kids a second language, and how did you overcome them?
Two decades ago, bilingualism was not as popular as it is today. There were little or no resources available. My husband and I used our instincts. We used the OPOL (One parent, one language) method BEFORE it was called OPOL! Now there are many methods parents can choose from and the science behind them! I also had to explain my choice of raising bilinguals everywhere I went! In the park, people would either ask me why I was talking to the kids in Spanish or roll their eyes at us. The mental load was real but no one was talking about it, and we didn’t have much information to back up our choice. Today, we know so much more and can be more intentional, committed, and determined.
Wow. I can only imagine how challenging it was to keep pursuing your family’s language goals and hard it must have been to feel judged and somewhat isolated. We are fortunate in this aspect nowadays. And truthfully, it is because of people like you that we can now count with support, encouragement and resources to continue working in our bilingual goals.
Sounds like you enjoy staying busy. Tell us about your writing journey
I always knew I wanted to write, it wasn’t until I became a mom that I really pursued it. At the time, there was no information for Latino immigrant parents who were raising bilingual and bicultural children in Los Angeles. It was the early 90s and the internet wasn’t that popular yet. Resources were not readily available. I became the voice for Latino parents that were grappling with the challenges and rewards of raising children with the new culture they had adopted while still preserved their native culture. My parenting column ran in La Opinión newspaper for twelve years, and to this day, I visit Spanish language media regularly imparting my parenting knowledge, including television and radio. Today, you can also find my work in many online publications including my own blog. Quite often, you can find me at conferences and/or book festivals. In addition to writing about parenting issues, I enjoy featuring Latinas who are making a difference in their communities, and around the globe.
That is wonderful. Good for you and thank you for supporting other latinas!
Share a little bit about the books you have written
My e-book, Raising Bilingual Kids is an easy, user-friendly, how-to guidebook for the new and technologically savvy immigrant parent. This is the book that busy parents will go to when searching for advice and direction about the everyday joys and challenges of raising a bilingual child. It is published in English and in Spanish.
Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie: Raising Bicultural Children provides a no-nonsense guide to raising bicultural children in modern times. It includes real-world experiences from the writer and others who shared their adventures in multicultural parenting. The book is published in English and Spanish in paperback and e-book formats.
Luisito’s Island/La Isla de Luisito (not for sale) is the story of a six-year-old Puerto Rican boy that leaves the island with his family after Hurricane Maria. In his new school, he meets new friends, and he shares with them all the places he misses from the island.
I have a secret/Tengo un secreto – the first in Yunito Rodriguez Series, tells the story of 6-year-old Yunito confronting the challenges of bullying and cultural assimilation in a fun and engaging story for families, ultimately delivering an inclusive and inspiring message on the love of language and the value of friendship.¡Soy Unica! The Spanish edition of the book I Am Unique was written by Jennifer Vassel. A story about inspiring kids (and adults) to overcome their insecurities so they can share their unique gifts with the world.
I have read tengo un secreto and I really enjoyed it. A very heartwarming title! I love the title of your book about raising bicultural children! I recently just ordered it and I can’t wait to ‘dig in’ so-to-speak. I am in that very same journey currently with young children and I am very curious to find any insight that you can provide through this book.
When did you decide you wanted to write books or create material about bilingual or multilingual education?
Before my first book was published in 2014, when I wrote for the column for La Opinión newspaper in Los Angeles. The column was directed at parents raising bilingual and bicultural children. It ran for 12 years. That led to my writing books. To provide information, suggestions, tools, resources, motivation, and inspiration for parents as they navigate their bilingual and bicultural journey.
It sure takes bravery and dedication to write a book or more. That shows of your character and commitment to the topic!
What encouragement would you give to families with low income or limited access to teaching resources?
There is a lot of free information out there. A huge bilingual parenting community in social media, Instagram, and Facebook that offer daily tips, and strategies. There is also a big community of teachers that are always sharing free material. Talking to other parents and asking for referrals is also helpful.
That is so true! Families now are fortunate. This is why I create educational resources at very low cost and are constantly offering free products. I always think about families having the drive but perhaps not the resources.
If you could give a piece of advice to families that are considering teaching their kids a second language, what would you tell them?
Do it!! Today, so many studies and so much research have proven the benefits and advantages for a child and so much support for parents. There is no excuse not to do it!
There really is no excuse. It sure takes a lot of work, dedication and commitment, but the fruit that it will reap is worth every second!
Thanks for your time, Maritere. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you for reading our interview with Maritere! We hope you were able to catch glimpses of her drive and passion for the Spanish language and preserving her culture.
To win a copy of Maritere’s book:
- In the comments section of this blog post tell us what part of the interview did you enjoy the most and why
- Share this blog post in your social media channels, follow and tag @spanish.atcedarhill and @latinaboomermom
That’s it. ¡Buena suerte!
Maritere’s Website: Maritererodriguezbellas.com
Remember to check next week as we will be talking with Charlotte Mason en Español advocate and resource creator Ana María Kim from Pequeños Lectores!
See you next Monday!