For Some Latino Lovers Valentines Day is No Big Deal

Love is in the air. (Photo: Sara Loscos Lopez)

Fi2W is featuring the work of students in the Feet in 2 Worlds course at The New School. Sara Loscos is a master’s student in the Media Studies program at the New School.

Love is in the air. Glossy heart-shaped chocolate boxes, red fluffy teddy bears yelling “Be mine!” and pink packs of candies printed with Cupids. Valentine’s Day paraphernalia fills shop windows in celebration today. But not everyone will join the party.

The festivity means little to some Latino immigrants accustomed to celebrate love on other dates and in different ways. Take the case of Fernanda Abella, an Argentinian actress in her late twenties who lives in Astoria. “I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at all. We do not have such a thing in Argentina, at least not when I left eight years ago. These are Carnival days in Buenos Aires: people dressed up in costumes dancing in the streets, parades, live music… I suppose we focus all our attention on that,” Fernanda says.

Fernanda’s boyfriend is from Spain, another country where Valentine’s Day is not much celebrated. So she is not expecting him to buy her flowers or stuffed animals. “Well, he bought one Valentine’s cookie in our first year in New York. But that was all. Do you think it is sad?,” she asks.

Andrés Hernández doesn’t think it’s sad at all. A 31 year old Colombian programmer, Andres came to New York following his wife, who earned a scholarship to study in the US. This is his first Valentine’s in the city and he is not planning to buy anything, not even a single postcard.

“We do not have Valentine’s Day back in Colombia and my wife is quite categorical about not celebrating it. She says it is all about consumerism.” In Colombia they celebrate “el Día del amor y la amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship), the third week of September, in which it is typical to play “Amigo Invisible” (a sort of Secret Santa) with coworkers.

“I guess we don’t feel it’s such a significant day because in Colombia we have a lot of ‘special days’: Women’s Day, Mother’s Day, Grandfather’s Day, Children Day, Professor Day, Secretary Day… there is almost Pencil Day!,” Andres says with a laugh.

For Clara Martínez, Valentine’s Day is “not different from any other day.” She moved to New York fleeing the Spanish financial crisis. “In Catalonia, the region where I am from, the date we dedicate to celebrate love is April 23, “la Diada de Sant Jordi” (Saint George’s Day). Couples exchange roses and books, the streets are packed with florists and bookstore stands.” April 23 also marks Cervantes’ and Shakespeare’s death anniversay. “It is a beautiful, traditional festivity.”

Clara is single right now, but, since she has never celebrated it, “it is not a big deal to be alone in Valentine’s Day. It’s an advantage of having a different culture,” she says.

While somewhat off-putting for an average American, dating a Valentine’s-free soul may have some benefits.

Clara explains she dated a guy from Chicago who was a little confused by her couldn’t-care-less attitude about Valentine’s.

“In some way I think it was easier for him, and cheaper! There was no pressure about gifts or having romantic dinner. Actually, last year we both went out with a friend of mine who was very depressed over a recent breakup. The restaurant was crowded with lovey-dovey couples, and we were the only table for three. Maybe they thought we were a threesome. It was fun.”

There is no need to feel like a Valentine’s Grinch. You can still enjoy the day.

“I kind of like the corny decoration, it’s aesthetically interesting,” Fernanda says with a chuckle. “And I also love the fact that you can buy chocolates really cheap the day after. I would say my favorite thing about Valentine’s Day is when it’s over.”

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation and the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation.