Posts Tagged ‘Colorado Heritage Camp’

Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

We just returned from six days in Colorado, the main purpose of which was to attend Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families. I love our life, but a part of me wishes we could live in that supportive, insulated world forever. This is our fifth year attending, over the past six years: The first time I flew alone from California with Olivia, when she had just turned five, and from the moment we walked together into the big gathering hall filled with more than 100 adoptive families with kids born in Latin America, we looked at each other with disbelieving eyes. Was this place real? Even at five years old, Olivia, perhaps more than me, sensed we had discovered something special.

I’ll try to put into words why I love Heritage Camp. It’s the feeling of being at home, among friends, among families who also get stared at, everywhere else they go. Of not needing to explain anything to anyone. Of our family being in a large social situation, and in a very deep and rare way, feeling relaxed. It’s watching the teen counselors, most of whom are camp alumni, as they interact with our children–so caring and empathic because the teens are also adopted, with parents and other family members who don’t look like them, and they’ve already endured years of that, and have come out the other side, which gives me hope my children will, too. Of dancing at the Fiesta on Saturday night and realizing every child on the dance floor is adopted, not only mine, and what a relief that must feel like to my kids–for once, being like everybody else. Of listening to a roundtable discussion by a panel of adult adoptees, and learning from their experiences about ways I can try to do better. About ways we can all learn from each other.

I sometimes feel like a broken record, the way I constantly promote Heritage Camp, Heritage Camp, Heritage Camp! But then at dinner our first night, I asked an attendee from Illinois who was sitting at my table how she’d learned about Heritage Camp, and she said, “I read about it on a blog I follow, Mamalita.” Even better, she told me she definitely planned to return next year.

So I’ll say it again. If you haven’t ever attended Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families, think about it.  That’s all. Think about it.

Thank you. ~



Heritage Camp registration opened today

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Hi Friends:

If you’re thinking of attending Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families in Colorado this June, register soon. The deadline is sometime in April, but the camp fills up fast.

We’ve attended four times, and have loved every minute. As I’ve written before, the camp provides a very specific experience—that of being a child of color, from a different country, adopted to parents who often don’t look like you, among other children and families who share that specific experience. It’s not the same as visiting one’s home country—which Mateo and I are doing now—but in its way, is equally valid. Everyone I know who has attended raves about the camp, and plans to go back. That’s why I urge you to sign up today. ~

Here’s the link.




A spectacular spectacle

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Over Veterans’ Day weekend, friends we met through Latin American Heritage Camp came to visit. And because their daughter, like our daughter, studies ballet, I bought tickets for four of us–the two girls, the other mother, and me–to a performance by Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez. For years, I’ve heard about this company, and now that I’ve finally seen them, I can say, without reservation, if they ever come to your town, or anywhere close, run, don’t walk, to the box office  to buy yourself a ticket.

The costumes! The music! The passion! The pageantry! All absolutely fabulous.

The program notes state that Ballet Folklorico was founded by Amalia Hernandez in 1952, and numbers 76 dancers. Hernandez’s goal in starting the company was to preserve the folk dances of Mexico. That she has done, and then some. Every piece was more intricate and involved than the one previous, and just when I thought the choreography and costumes could never top themselves, out would parade a line of mariachis, or a few dozen people decked in quetzal headdresses, or a man lassoing a rope over his head in a breathtakingly display of skill and arm strength.  

The girls loved it!

My only complaint–and it’s not a complaint, really, but an observation–is that the floor of the venue stage–in this case, the Marin County Civic Center–was covered with a thick rubber mat. Alas, this is common in performance spaces, but I know from my years of tap-dancing that a wooden floor is what the intricate footwork of Ballet Folklorico cries out for. Rubber deadens the rat-a-tat-tat of the heel drops, turning them into dull thuds.

But this is a small quibble. Ballet Folklorico is a must-see, especially for families like ours. Go!


Spanish school

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

This summer at Latin American Heritage Camp, a panel of teen and adult adoptees dedicated a large percentage of their discussion to the importance of learning, speaking, and/or retaining the language of one’s birth country. The consensus was that language is critical if one wishes to interface with birth family, foster family, orphanage family, or, indeed, the culture at large, in a meaningful way. That’s true in my own life, as well: Speaking even elementary Spanish has allowed me to communicate with many more people in Guatemala than I would be able to otherwise.

Not that teaching a child a second language is easy. For my husband and me, it has been anything but that. Neither of us is fluent in Spanish, which is our biggest obstacle. And not only do we not employ a nanny who speaks Spanish, we rarely, if ever, hire a babysitter. Our local public school is not bilingual, and though we have a few Spanish-speaking friends, their children prefer to speak English while playing with our kids. This year, in third grade, Olivia will study Spanish. We’re lucky that it’s the second language taught in California schools. What about the kids adopted from Nepal or Russia or Ethiopia? How do they learn to communicate with others from their homeland? (more…)


Language and belonging

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Recently, I was telling another mom at Mateo’s preschool about some of the valuable lessons we learned at Heritage Camp, especially about incorporating elements of our children’s Guatemalan culture into our daily lives. One of the most important ways my husband and I can do this is by helping our children to learn Spanish and to learn Spanish ourselves. When I fostered Olivia in Antigua in 2003, I studied Spanish. This fall I’ve enrolled in a class to refresh what I learned. Olivia herself will begin Spanish in the upcoming school year. We’re lucky because in our California district, children take Spanish from Grade 3.

The mom at Mateo’s preschool, “Ms. G,” agreed that speaking the language is an important way to stay connected to a culture, but, she quickly added, speaking the language doesn’t mean you necessarily “belong” to the culture. She used her own life story to illustrate. (more…)