Organic Melinda

healthy living with a Latin twist

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Day 23 – Lluvia

To My Sleeping Child,

In honor of today, I will write you a poem.

Hush child, sleep

Sleep upon my skin

Hush child, sleep

Lose yourself in sounds so sweet

Hush and be calm

Let’s rejoice in the hum of silence

Hush and be calm

Place your hand upon my cheek

Dream child, dream

Dream of days gone past

Dream child, dream

Dream of the future you will come to know

Dream and have hope

Manifest internal growth and peace

Dream and have hope

Trust in the natural cycle of things

Smile child, smile



Be calm

And dream, for all there’s is hope

On this rainy day, I feel a quietude in my spirit. You lay on my lap, caressing my cheek, trying to reach my hair, and I listen to the suckling sounds of your mouth on your thumb.

I am trying to build a future for us.

May it manifest, my sweet.

In Eternal Bond,

Mami Loves You


About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: and fill out the form.

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Day 22 – Capoeira Cuddles

To My Little Girl,

Today was a wonderful day.

Mami and Daddy took you to a Kids’ Festival on Ferry Street, because Grupo Senzala de Capoeira was doing a capoeira presentation for children.

Daddy will be teaching capoeira soon, so it was an opportunity to inform people about our group and advertise the classes.

I think you were over-stimulated by all of the music, people, and events going on at the same time, because you were holding on to Daddy and I for dear life.

Daddy held you for a long time and lifted you up, so you could watch the folkloric dances.  He was cuddling with you and bouncing you on his shoulder to help you relax.

You looked so happy with him.  I love that you get to have your Daddy in your life.

Then, I held you for a while before we did the performance.

After the events were over, we had dinner and you kept taking food from my plate.  Daddy had a slice of cake and you took it from him. It was pretty funny.

You’re, also, learning so many words.  You say “boobie,” “mine,” and “dayyyuum.” Thank Daddy for teaching you that last one.

You have also started saying a few sentences, like “where you go?”

I love watching you and Daddy interact.

Every day, you look more and more like him.

Now, you are sleeping after an afternoon of fun.

Thank you for all that you are, and for your hugs, smiles, and kisses.


Mami Loves You

About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: and fill out the form.


Day 2 – Fear and Hope

To my Beautiful Brown Princess,

I write with a heavy heart, today.

Last night, the Miss America pageant selected Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American woman, as the winner for the 2014 season.

While the Indian community rejoiced along with Brown women, others revealed the painful, colonial, and racist history that still plagues the United States.

Davuluri’s Americanness became an issue for discussion. Her heritage was a point to be ridiculed and feared. Her success was labelled a failure for the American people.

I felt rage, my dear.

Rage on behalf of the women who continue to face shaming for their bodies, thoughts, appearances, and ethnicities.

But, mostly, I felt rage and fear of the world that you might inherit.

When I look at you, all I see is my joy – my love.

But, how will people see you?

How will your Afro-Latina heritage impact the life you live?

I remember all too clearly comments that soon followed your birth where people hoped that you’re skin would not be “too dark” and that your hair would not be “bad.”

I, immediately, quieted those comments – forbade them out right – explained over and over again that there was no such thing as skin too dark or bad hair.

And, I wonder, will you, some day, have to have those same conversations, fight the same battles that brown people have been for so many decades, or will you live to experience a better, more humane world?

I pray that I raise you to have the strength to educate others when the moments come.

No matter what a soul ever says – know that you are beautiful. You are chosen by the Most High to exist. You are the essence of life.

You are my love, always, and eternal.

Together, we will work to make this world a better place if only by expressing the purity of love that is shared between a mother and her daughter.

Remember always,
Mami Loves You

p.s. I will work every day of my life to ensure that the world you inherit is better than the one we have, today.

About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: and fill out the form.

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Capoeira é Meu Amor (Capoeira is my love)

Sem capoeira eu não posso viver
Sou peixe fora do mar
Passarinho sem voar
Dia sem escurecer

Without capoeira, I cannot live
I am a fish outside of the ocean
A bird without flight
Day without night

Capoeira is, in so many ways, my life force.  Without capoeira, so much of my life would not be what it is, today. I would have never met the most important people in my life. My daughter would not have been born.  Capoeira has changed my life in the most beautiful of ways.

Capoeira is the secret to the pep in my step. It is what grounds me in the hardest of days.  Capoeira is life, love, and FREEDOM.

It is, also, of course, exercise, but so much more than that.

People have asked me how I managed to stay in shape throughout my difficult pregnancy, and how I was able to bounce back (within a year) post-partum.  Eating healthy, real food was an important part of that; however, without exercise, you’re only half way there.  Capoeira is, also, an essential part of my overall health and wellness.

In this post, I would like to share my capoeira journey with all of my awesome readers!

I began doing capoeira in August of 2009, which apparently makes it FOUR years, now.  How INSANE!

However, my knowledge of capoeira predates my actual start by over 10 years.  I began learning about capoeira when I was a child because I was born and raised in the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey.

I used to live right across the street from a capoeira studio all throughout elementary, middle, and high school.  I would often hear the strumming of the berimbau and the clapping hands from my backyard. I yearned to learn it, to be a part of it, to experience it; however, it just was not financially feasible for my mom to pay for the classes for me.

In 2009, I had the wonderful privilege of working as an assistant for the artist, Vikki Michalios (, and her daughters were participating in capoeira in her neighborhood.  Vikki informed me that there was a capoeira club at Rutgers’ University- New Brunswick, where I was headed to in the Fall of 2009 for graduate school.

Once at Rutgers, I met Ria Das Gupta, one of the leading founders and dancers for Kalamandir Dance Co (, who has also been doing capoeira for many years. Ria insisted I come check out the group, Capoeira Maranhao under, then, Professor Maranhao.

After my first class, I was completely and utterly in love!

I continued to train with Professor Maranhao for the duration of my time at Rutgers, and I had two batizados with him.

my first cordao w/ Mestre Lobao

My first capoeira padrino was Mestre Lobao, who is one of the kindest souls I have met. He has so much patience with beginner capoeira students, and I was honored for him to give me my first cordao!

In the first picture, you can see that I was quite a bit heavier than in my second capoeira batizado, below.  Professor Maranhao’s intense capoeira classes surely whipped me into shape!

my 2nd Batizado with Mestre Lobao

It was through capoeira that I met my daughter’s father, a 7 year student of capoeira, Kris “Lobo Mau” Hunte.  Capoeira was a primary reason why we fell in love. With his capoeira knowledge, I was able to learn so much more of the art. We would train 6 times a week together, and it was through him that I discovered ANGOLA!

Lobo Mau and I would travel all over the place to capoeira events – Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Florida were just some of the states we hit up along with going to local events in New Jersey almost every single weekend.  And, it was also through him that I met my second capoeira family, Capoeira Guerreiros where I trained with Formado Negao for some time.

Capoeira Guerreiros

When I get pregnant, the capoeira community was incredibly supportive.  Teachers would modify their movements for me, and encourage me to play in the roda.  It was a great experience, as we were all determined that my daughter love capoeira even before birth.

Lobo Mau and I playing capoeira when I was about 35 weeks pregnant.

The capoeira community was so accepting of me as a new mother and a pregnant woman that Lobo Mau and I decided to have a capoeira themed baby shower where we began the event by playing in the roda together.  So, ladies, do please note that you CAN exercise while pregnant. Just be careful.

After the Newark chapter of Capoeira Guerreiros was closed for a few months, Lobo Mau joined Grupo Senzala de Capoeira, our current capoeira family, who have been just as loving, kind and accepting as every capoeira group that I have had a pleasure of visiting. The entirety of the capoeira community is constant love and acceptance with a little butt-kicking to keep you in check.

At Lobo Mau’s batizado last fall, Mestre Zumbi surprised me with a cordao to welcome me into his capoeira family, which was an incredible honor for me.  At the time, I was not sure where I would train and was very humbled by Mestre Zumbi’s immediate acceptance of my little family into his wonderful group.  Lobo Mau trains with Mestre Zumbi of Grupo Senzala, and I train with Contra Mestre Loba of Grupo Senzala.

While the number of women capoeira mestres and high-chords is still small, we are taking the capoeira world by storm! Women are definitely becoming the fastest growing group of capoeiristas and we are establishing ourselves as formidable opponents in the roda.

Evidence of this is the annual Women’s Encounter hosted by Madame from Ginga Brasil under Mestre Pinga Fogo. I had the privilege of attending this past year, and I learned so much about how women’s bodies work in the roda and how to use our bodies to help us in challenging movements, especially ones requiring the upper body.

me at the Capoeira Women’s Encounter hosted by Madame from Ginga Brasil

Capoeira is martial arts, maculele, samba, Portuguese, Brasil, music, art, freedom and so much more.  Without it, I would not be who I am today.

I am grateful to Capoeira Maranhao, Capoeira Guerreiros and Grupo Senzala for allowing me to be part of their families as I grow and become a better capoerista every day of my life.

Lobo Mau and I in samba de roda

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Farm to People: Buying Locally Grown Food – Review of Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market

Many of the supermarkets in Newark do not have a large supply of fresh fruits and veggies. Instead, most of the supermarkets are full of processed and packaged foods. Access to healthy and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables is one of my main concerns when it comes to food justice, and programs like Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market exist to address this concern.


Figure 1

While walking to Question Mart a few weeks ago, I noticed what appeared to be a festival in Washington Park (across the street from the Main Public Library in Washington Street, Newark, NJ). It was not a festival at all; it was the Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market. I felt like I hit a gold mine. I really, really love fresh foods, and it does not get much fresher than a Farmers’ Market when you don’t own your own garden.

photo     image

  Figure 2                                                                        Figure  3


Figure 4

I walked into the park seduced by the live Jazz music, and immediately noticed the large crates of romaine lettuce, garlic, potatoes, watermelon, corn, peppers, herbs, tomatoes, zucchinis, and various greens (See Figures 1-4). The farmers’ market had all of the fresh veggies that Question Mart was lacking on my visit there. I, immediately, noticed a white sign that read “No GMOs” (See Figure 5) on the Matarazzo Farms stand. Before purchasing food, I walked around and spoke to the various stand employees, but most of the employees did not have opinions on GM foods. When I asked an employee of one stand where he sourced his seeds, he said, “I don’t know. The regular way?” Unconvinced by this response, I went back to the Matarazzo Farms stand.

nongmo sign

Figure 5

The employees at the Matarazzo Farms stand had a lot to say about GMO foods, the politics of USDA Organic labeling, and the need for people to buy locally grown food. I was told that Matarazzo Farms has been run by the same family for almost 100 years. The current head farmer is Jim Matarazzo, who I met on a subsequent trip to the Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market. Jim is very knowledgeable on the food industry and the infiltration of GM foods into supermarkets. He was very patient with my many questions and provided me with a list of organizations that I should research in order to have a deeper understanding of USDA Organic labeling, which I was informed is very expensive in New Jersey. Many New Jersey farmers grow foods in a way that would be considered organic, but they cannot afford the certification of USDA Organic labeling. In other words, many farms in New Jersey are GMO-free and pesticide-free even though their foods are NOT labeled USDA Organic.

Not only were the employees of Matarazzo Farms well informed on the issues that interest Organic Melinda and my readers, their prices were significantly cheaper than what I have been paying at Whole Foods Market, Pathmark, and Trader Joe’s. It appears that one of the main reasons organic food is more expensive than non-labeled food is to cover the costs associated with Organic Certification. On a Wednesday trip to the Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market, I spent only $10.00 on a nice amount of produce (See Figure 6). On a Thursday trip, I bought some fresh fruits and vegetables for only $18.50 (See Figure 7). I have paid upwards of $50.00 for the same amount of produce. I am, now, exclusively, buying produce in the Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market until it ends for the season. The market is inspiring quite a few of the recipes for my upcoming cookbook.

10$      image_1

Figure 6                                                                             Figure 7

The Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market is available in Newark three times a week. I attend on Wednesdays or Thursdays before 3:00 p.m EST. The Wednesday market is located at Washington Park across the street from the Newark Main Public Library. On Thursdays, the market is located on the corner of Raymond Blvd and Broad Street in the PSEG Plaza.

On my visits, I find that the Wednesday market is smaller than the Thursday market. On Wednesday, I only saw 2 farm stands, a smoothie stand, a honey stand, and a snack stand. On Thursday there were three farm stands and various stands of cooked food and desserts. Both days feature live music.

I am very happy to report that Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market is available to Newark residents. They accept SNAP/Food Stamp benefits, WIC benefits, and, of course, cash, debit and credit. The Farmers’ Market most definitely received the Organic Melinda stamp of approval!

For more information and to locate a Farmers’ Market near you, visit:

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Where Can I buy Organic in Newark, NJ? – Review of Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart

Living in an inner city with a limited income can create many barriers to accessing affordable organic food options. If you don’t own a vehicle, it becomes extra difficult.  In Newark, NJ, which is where I was born, raised and currently live, Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart has opened to fulfill the need for local access to organic products.

I discovered Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart after launching a complaint on my personal Facebook page about the lack of organic foods in the city.  Stop & Shop was two bus rides away from me, and the local Pathmark only carries very limited organic produce, which is very over-priced.  I, often, had to call in a favor to get a ride to the nearest supermarket with ample organic produce, which is a 25-30 minute drive from my house.  I was super excited when a friend mentioned Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, and I decided to talk a walk from my house in the Ironbound section of Newark to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart.  It was a nice, warm day and a great opportunity to take my daughter for a walk in her stroller, get some light exercise, and see what Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart had to offer my taste buds.

Located at 392 Broad Street near the heart of Newark’s business district, Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart is easily accessible by walking. You can also take the Newark Light Rail to the location from Newark Penn Station and get off near the Newark Main Library.  The market is located near the entrance/exit for route 280 on Broad Street by the Newark Bears’ Stadium. It is also easily accessible by bus since many lines run on Broad Street.  The hours of operation are 8:00 am to 7:00 pm Eastern Time on Monday thru Friday, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm on Saturday, and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday.

When I first walked in to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, the first thing I noticed was a single step to get into the supermarket, which I required that I lift up my daughter’s stroller.  It was easy enough for me to do so, but I imagine this could pose a problem for someone in a wheelchair or with a disability.  I would recommend that the owners put a ramp where the step is to make it wheelchair accessible.

Personally, I judge a market by its availability of produce.  I prefer to eat fresh produce in every one of my meals.  I do eat some grains, but I avoid boxed, packaged, and canned food.  I do consume them on occasion, but I try to eat food as close to its natural state as possible.    Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart’s produce section was very small for my preferences (see Figure 1), but it did carry some staple items.  There were broccoli, carrots, corn, nectarines, apples, pears, watermelon, and a few other items. Not all items, however, were organic, which is not necessarily a problem on its own.  I will talk more about the politics of organic labeling in a future post.  There were quite a few locally sourced produce items, but all in all, the produce section was quite small for my taste.  It lacked ample greens, which are my favorite thing in a market.  However, with a farmers’ market located a short walk away during the summer months, this is not a real problem for me.


Figure 1

I was very excited to see environmentally friendly household and personal products (see Figure 2) at Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, which are things I usually have to travel 20+ minutes away to get, as well.  I will definitely consider going to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart when I need to restock on household products.

Figure 2

There is no shortage of packaged organic goods, which I know many people are a fan of for reasons of convenience.  I purchased a package of flour to bake vegetable bread for my daughter.  I noticed that Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart carries a mix of both organic and conventional products.  You will see Eden Organics side by side with Goya products (see Figure 3).

Figure 3

The freezer section (see Figure 4) also has a mixture of organic and conventional products.  As a vegan, it was great to see that the store carried vegan items as there tends to be a shortage of vegan options in Newark.    There were also quite a few drinks in the refrigerator, including one of my favorite coconut waters by Harmless Harvest (see Figure 5).


Figure 4


Figure 5

While I wish that Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart had a much larger produce section for the winter months and for days when the farmers’ markets are not in Newark, it is definitely a step forward in this wonderful Renaissance City.  Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart gets the Organic Melinda stamp of approval for being one of the first markets to actively promote organic produce in Newark, NJ and for carrying affordable options that are easily accessible to the Newark population as well as the wonderful and friendly customer service that I received.  Thank you Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart for doing your part to end food insecurity in our great city.

All photos taken by Organic Melinda (Melinda Gonzalez).

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What do you mean by Organic?

Recently, a friend asked me what I meant by living an organic lifestyle, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog explaining my answer to this question.

The word organic derives from the Greek word organikos, which is related to organs.  In chemistry, the word organic is used to describe all items that contain the element carbon.  Following the development of a raise in consciousness about food, the word organic has become synonymous with food that is grown in a natural and chemical-free way.  In other words, it is food as nature “intended” it to be.

When I speak of organic food, I am not just discussing food that has the label USDA ORGANIC.  Actually, I have learned that there are major politics involved in USDA labeling that favor the wealthy as the process, especially in the state of New Jersey, is really expensive.  In an interview with one farmer, he explained to me that all of his products are organically grown, but in order to pay for the labeling, he would wind up going bankrupt.

For me, being Organic Melinda is about living life as naturally as possible.  That is, I aim to avoid synthetic chemicals in my food, the products I put on my body and clean my apartment and clothes with, and I aim to live a lot closer to nature than my urban existence allows at the moment.

I see human beings as being part of the animal kingdom and I do not exactly subscribe to complete distinctions between man and nature.  I actually believe that our material separation from nature is the cause of many of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual illnesses.  I know that when I hike, go to the beach, or spend a long time surrounded by trees, waterfalls, and sand, my spirit feels renewed.  Any anxiety or bad feelings that I feel, immediately, go away when I surround myself with nature.  That is a testament to me that we need to live closer to the earth as we once did pre-concrete.

I am a poet and a writer at heart, and I have always felt a deep connection to the world around me.  So, being organic also takes the connotation of being my true and authentic self.  What does that really mean?

Well, personally, I love to hug trees. It makes me happy, so I do it. I like to twirl like a ballerina at random moments, so I do it. I try to live in the moment as much as possible.  My teachings have taught me that much of the anxiety of our times is related to worrying too much about the future or thinking too much about the past. So, in true Buddhist fashion, I try to stay in the now as much as possible.

I avoid modern medicine, most of the time. I try to move away from medical interventions and rarely take any prescription medications.  I strive to do the same for my daughter.

So, for me, being organic also meant experiencing the pains of child birth, stalling medical intervention as long as possible, performing vaginal birth, and breast feeding my daughter.

But, what is most important for my readers is to understand is that I do what feels RIGHT for ME and I research to ensure the best possible decision making processes for myself and my family.

I am a vegan, because I do not separate myself from animals. I believe they have a right to life, to love, to feel, and have experiences.

You have to do what feels right for you, and as a blogger and woman on my own journey, I can only provide an example of what it might mean to be organic.