1. The sketchiest places always have the best food.

Sure that hole-in-the-wall Puerto Rican restaurant in Newark hasn’t been renovated since the 80s, but have you HAD their pernil?! If you’re from Jersey you know the best Latino food isn’t in a 5-star restaurant… It’s on the corner of that kind of shady street with a rickety sign over the door, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

2. Latinos and Italians have a special bond.

Our ancestors might be from different continents, but we’re really not that different. New Jersey has plenty of Italian-Americans, and our cultures have a lot in common. Whether it’s our love for good food, spending time with our familia, or being direct about what we want, it’s no wonder we get along so well. We might not be fluent in each other’s language, but we can have a conversation in our own languages and still understand each other. Now that’s deep.

3. Winters in Jersey are a serious struggle.

Remember that crazy storm that dropped 3 feet of snow on us in January? Some people in our state were stranded at home for nearly a week. Besides being completely traumatized, we were forced to stay inside and look at Facebook pictures of our extended family living in warm places like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, while silently seething with envy. Thankfully a good cup of chocolate caliente pairs perfectly with FB stalking.

4. Even though the cold sucks, good food makes it all better—especially during Christmas.

A fine coquito is guaranteed to make it an extra feliz Navidad. And if you don’t have a bottle of it on hand already, there’s always a cousin, titi, or friend (or any combination of the three) who’s selling some for 15 bucks a pop. Sure it’s kind of expensive, but it’s so, so worth it. Plus that same titi’s cousin’s friend also knows how to make some banging flan and pasteles, so you always mentally prepare yourself (and your waistline) for Christmas time.

5. Summer cookouts are perfect for family bonding.

Your abuela brings arroz con gandules, your tio brings chicken for the grill, and your cousins bring the speakers. Family cookouts are a summer staple for Latino families all over Jersey. Whether you’re grilling in your backyard, sharing a potluck at the park, or lugging a heavy cooler to Lake Hopatcong or the shore, there’s nothing more exciting than having all or most of your extended family in one place for the whole day. And of course, no cookout is complete without a tiny, foldable table for the family to play dominoes on.

6. Jersey Latinas party in style.

Sure, our outfits can be a little flashy, but we like to keep it classy, too. No one can work a nude-colored crop top and pencil skirt combo like we can. And when it comes to the dance floor, there’s a reason our outfits have spandex in them. We’re not afraid to break a sweat when our favorite salsa or bachata jam is on. Bring it on, Romeo Santos.

7. NJ Latinos are extremely diverse—and it’s awesome.

Just because we’re Latino doesn’t mean we’re all the same. Some of us are Mexican, some of us are Cuban, and some of us are Ecuadorian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Colombian, mixed… The list goes on and on. Latinos from NJ represent so many different backgrounds and experiences, and it’s cool to see the various traditions our fellow Latinos have.

8. All that diversity means there’s always a good Latino pride parade just around the corner.

I’m talking about the Puerto Rican pride parades in Newark and Perth Amboy, the Cuban parade in Jersey City, and the Colombian and Dominican parades in Elizabeth—along with all the other Latino-centered celebrations across the state. And they’re a lot more than just confetti and a marching band!

9. Unless you live close to NYC or Philly, you spend a lot of time explaining your culture to your non-Latino friends.

It can be super tiring explaining that just because you’re Latino doesn’t mean you eat tacos and burritos all the time. Yes, that food is great, but being Latino doesn’t automatically mean we’re all Mexican! You love your friends, but being the token hispanic in your group can be frustrating sometimes.

10. We stick up for each other.

Unfortunately racism DOES exist in New Jersey, and when we see a fellow Latino being stereotyped or treated unfairly for speaking Spanish, we make sure we have each other’s backs! We understand the struggle our families have gone through to get us where we are today, and we believe everyone deserves fair treatment. The Latino community is stronger juntos!

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