What Quinceañeras Can Teach Adults—as Well as Young Girls—About Values

The Latin American 15th-Birthday Ritual Symbolizes a Generational Transfer of Power

I became interested in the quinceañera a few years ago when a publisher commissioned me to write a book for a series focusing on cultural phenomenon within different ethnic and racial communities. For Latinos, the editors had selected the quinceañera.

With all the hefty issues affecting us (immigration reform, education equity, the fate of DREAMers, the increasing incarceration of Latino youth), I couldn’t believe they’d choose such a Latino-lite topic as the made-in-the-USA quinceañera! Struggling immigrant families were “throwing the house out the window” with expenditures way beyond their …

More In: culture

How Moving to England Cured My ‘American Verbal Inferiority Complex’

The Beauty of Rule-Based American English Is That It's More Democratic Than the Brits' Version

I had lived in England for three years when Eats, Shoots and Leaves struck in 2003. English writer Lynne Truss’ “zero tolerance approach to pronunciation” became a British publishing phenomenon—helped …

How National Boundaries Distort Our Understanding of the World

Today's Most Pressing Global Issues Can't Be Addressed Through the Prism of Borders

Every four years, in summer and in winter, the Olympics open with a choreographed ceremony dominated by national delegations wearing national uniforms parading behind their respective national flags. Each event …

How Nashville ‘Killed’ Traditional Country Music—and Then Reinvented It

The Genre Created by 'Hillbillies' and Folkies Now Speaks to Pickup-Driving Suburbanites

25 years ago, American Heritage writer Tony Scherman declared traditional country music dead and done with, asking, “How far from its social origins can an art form grow before it …

Chimpanzee Behavior Isn’t Just Monkey Business. It’s Culture.

Grooming, Using Tools, and Fishing for Termites Show the Humanity of Our Primate Cousins

In 1961, famed primatologist Jane Goodall discovered that wild chimpanzees were fashioning tools from sticks and using them to fish termites out of their nests—revolutionizing our understanding of culture and …

How Movies and TV Are Helping Venezuelans Negotiate Their Country’s Collapse

Amid Food Shortages and Rising Crime, My Students Turn to The Hunger Games and Walking Dead

Last March, I was teaching twice a week at the Universidad Bicentenaria de Aragua, 75 miles west of Caracas, Venezuela. While protests were breaking out in the streets around the …