Hispanic families bring Latino culture to Mississippi

For Hispanic families living near Brookhaven, Christmas can be difficult to celebrate when separated from loved ones who still reside in their home countries, but the Martinez-Delcid family knows how to make the best of Christmas time.

Maria Belvina Delcid and her daughters do not celebrate the traditional Southern “cornbread dressing and turkey” holiday the majority of folks in the area do, but rather a rich, heritage-filled season with Hispanic pride.

Delcid and her four daughters Daisey Martinez, 20, Jennifer Martinez, 16, Paola Martinez, 14, and Maria Sue Martinez, 6, enjoy a variety of Hispanic Christmas music and food.

“We stay up after we attend midnight mass to eat, sing carols and open presents,” Daisey Martinez said.

The Martinez-Delcid family is from Wesson but attends Saint Martin’s Catholic Church in Hazlehurst where there larger community of Hispanic families is located.

The family participates in las posadas and las pastorelas at their Catholic church – these two Hispanic traditions especially popular in Mexico. Posadas are re-enactments of the time when Mary and Joseph were looking for a place to sleep while Mary is pregnant with Jesus. Las pastorelas are plays that retell the story of Christmas. The church, as a group, walks through parts of the Hazlehurst communities beginning nine days before Christmas.

“It represents Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay,” Martinez translated for her mother.

The family continues their celebrations and attends La Misa de Gallo, the Hispanic Midnight mass, which commences directly at the stroke of midnight to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

“A lot of the focus is on Jesus Christ: that is one thing my mom has always instilled in us,” Martinez said.

Afterwards, the Martinez-Delcid’s return and participate in La Cena de Nochebuena, a Christmas Eve feast featuring classic Christmas dishes from Mexico.

Some of the dishes include atole, a hot cornmeal based beverage, or arroz con leche, a Mexican rice pudding drink that is made from rice, cinnamon and milk, and a Mexican sub-style sandwich called a bolillo that is served with chicken, cucumbers and other toppings.

The family sings their traditional versions of popular Latino Christmas carols as well. Martinez said her uncles will play guitar and her aunts, mother and younger sisters will all sing and dance to carols such as “Campana Sobre Campana,” “El Nino del Tambor,” “Noche de paz” and, of course, “Feliz Navidad” as well as others.

Delcid, originally from the Republic of El Salvador, a small country located in Central America, has been living in the United States for over 21 years but still has immediate family back home. Most of Delcid’s family is not located in America and her daughters have multiple grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in El Salvador and Mexico.

“Because it is really difficult to get visas, we rarely get to see them during Christmas or at all,” Martinez said.

Delcid said she misses her family and friends in El Salvador, but because of their church’s wifi, she can still talk to them and see them on occasion.

“Christmas is a time when you gather with your family, and it is sad sometimes, but I try to do what is best for my girls,” Delcid said.