top of page
  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

What Does “familia” mean?

Written by: Emely Gonzalez 🇸🇻

 Samantha Linares, Anthony Umanzor-Rojas, and Jasmine Cerritos sitting in front of Mckeldin Mall at the University of Maryland on Nov.16, 2023. (Emely Gonzalez)

The word family, or as most of us recognize it as ‘familia’ means many different things to different people and even students on our campus. 

As the thanksgiving holiday is coming, students reflect on the meaning of thanksgiving and the origins of the holiday.

The origin of Thanksgiving was a feast to celebrate the first harvest that the pilgrims had in their refuge of the “new world” in 1621. It was not till 1863, during the Civil War that Thanksgiving Day was declared as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. 

 As there is no documentation on the exact play-by-play of the first Thanksgiving,much of the information derives from ‘’Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow who wrote: Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods.” also states that “because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.”

Although this holiday is not recognized in Central America, many Central American families living in the United States take this custom and blend it with their own traditional foods and customs. 

During the holidays, students think about their family traditions coming from their Central American households.

“My family is from Guatemala and I have family who live both in Guatemala and El Salvador. I describe family as loving, loud, and energetic. My favorite thanksgiving tradition is everyone helping cook when we wake up in the morning. I love when we make remolacha! Which is just beets with cabbage, and cucumber,“ says Samantha Linares, a philosophy, politics, and economics major at UMD.

One aspect of the culture that many students can relate to is cooking with their families. 

 “My family is from El Salvador and I would describe family as unique and loving. Cooking with my mom and family and enjoying the feast all together once we finish cooking would be one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions that we do as a family,” says Anthony Umanzor-Rojas, a computer science major at UMD.

While some students cook with their families, others engage in music, another important aspect of latino culture. 

 “My family is from Guatemala, to me family is loud, loving, and funny. I definitely think karaoke is one of my favorite traditions we do. Just sitting around and listening to my family members dedicate cheesy songs to each other is really funny,” says Jasmine Cerritos, a letters and sciences student at UMD.

Although every family celebrates Thanksgiving for different reasons, family is the one thing that unites them all. According to a survey conducted in 2022 by GCS Special Holiday Season & New Year, 64 percent of Americans say that Thanksgiving meant spending time with family. 

Many Central American families come to the United States with the dream of providing more for their families and creating a better future; this means living in a new country without knowing the language, customs, political system, or even transportation system, all for la familia. 

Congressional Research Services states that the root causes for Central American Migration includes socioeconomic and security conditions exacerbated by natural disasters and poor governance which appear to be the most important factors of the flow of migrants. Studies indicate that these patterns lead families to aim for reunification and individuals who depart from their communities to become role models and share their experiences and resources with those who stay.

This Thanksgiving, take a break from the books, look up, and enjoy the family feast and traditions in front of you, no matter how crazy those traditions might be just take a break and remember what familia means to you.


bottom of page