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Meet Maritere Bellas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maritere Bellas.

Maritere, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My story began 62 years ago in the island of Puerto Rico. By the time I graduated from high school at 17, I was bilingual and bicultural. I spent my first two years of college in Switzerland where I learned French and Italian. Being surrounded by other cultures and in the midst of children that spoke several languages effortlessly solidified my love for languages and cultures at an early age. It was then, at age 18 that I knew I would raise my own children multilingual and multicultural.

Moving to California at age 21 introduced me to other Latino cultures and traditions that became part of my life moving forward. To this day, the group of friends I met from Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Mexican-Americans from California and Puerto Rico after I married my Greek-American husband, became the family we adopted. Or maybe it was them who adopted us.

When we all became a mothers five years later, there were no resources and no tools to help us raise bilingual and multicultural children. It was the early nineties. That is how I became a columnist for La Opinión newspaper in Los Angeles and for twelve years my weekly parenting column for immigrant or expat parents raising children in the U.S was published. In 2013 Simon and Schuster asked me to write a book about raising bilingual children and in 2014, the e-book, Raising Bilingual Children was published in English and in Spanish.

Raising Bilingual Children is an easy, user-friendly, how-to guidebook for the new and technologically savvy immigrant parent. This is the book that busy parents will go to when searching for advice and direction about the everyday joys and challenges of raising a multilingual child.

In 2016, Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie: Raising Bicultural Children was published in English and in Spanish in all formats, offering immigrant parents a comprehensive guide for understanding their emotions, solving their problems and finding joy in their multicultural reality. Last fall, my first bilingual children’s book, Luisito’s Island/La Isla de Luisito was published.

I am now working on a bilingual children’s books series entitled, Yunito’s Adventures/Las Aventuras de Yunito with the first book, Español No, mami/Mommy, no Spanish! coming out soon.

Has it been a smooth road?
Is there such a thing as a smooth road? Life is a mix of rewarding and testing experiences – the good, the bad and lessons learned, which is how I like to call the path or road we walk on. Early in my career, I never really had a career mentor I could turn to. I did have people who believed in me and supported my work, especially as I started writing.

Once I started my column for the newspaper, other writings followed. When I realized I wanted to write a book, I had a wonderful mentor friend that encouraged me and put me on a writing schedule. If I am an award-winning author today, he had a lot to do with that and I am forever grateful. I remember him asking me to write three chapters for my first manuscript and come back to him to let him read them. I did. His first comment? “Where is your story in here?” “But, it is not my memoir”, I answered. “Ah, but the reader wants to know why you are passionate about the subject!”

It as a great suggestion. My publisher loved that my story was included in every chapter. When I wrote my second book, my bicultural experiences became paramount to the story.

Life as an author is hard work, but if one believes, one doesn’t let anything get in the way!

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am an award-winning author, bilingual and multicultural parenting expert, speaker and features writer. I have a master’s degree in communications from Pepperdine University in California. Realizing I could combine my two life passions, writing and motherhood, I became the voice for Latino parents long before the existence of online parenting resources. For twelve years, I wrote a highly regarded and influential parenting column for La Opinión, the largest Spanish language newspaper in the country. During that time, I also wrote for the national magazine Ser Padres and Healthy Kids en Español and for Exito Chicago! For four years, my articles appeared in Vista magazine, distributed nationally and online via the ImpreMedia group, in the top 15 U.S. Hispanic markets. Since 2014, my work has been published in many online publications including Huffington Post, HipLatina, Dual Language Schools Organization, ConnectHerMedia and Multilingual Kids Blog. I have been featured in People en Español, CNN en Español, Alegria Bilingual Magazine, Latina Styletodobebé.commamásporelmundo.com, El Nuevo Día, El Post Antillano, Nenani and Spiritú, among others. I have also been a guest in many popular podcasts: Bilingual Avenue, Latina Money, Café Con Pam, Hispana Realizada, Supper Mamás and La Llave. Last fall, I collaborated with the Dual Language Schools Organization on a video series in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, and I collaborate with MomsRising.org/MamásconPoder as a bilingual resource for parents.

I became a Simon and Schuster book author in 2014 with Raising Bilingual Children – published as an e-book in English and in Spanish. In 2016, my second book, Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie: Raising Bicultural Children, was published in all formats in English and in Spanish. These books established me as an expert in multilingual and multicultural parenting and have allowed me the opportunity to speak at many language conferences and book festivals in California and New Mexico. Since I also maintain an active presence online and on social media, I received a Puerto Rico Blog Award in the education category in 2018, and was nominated for a Hispnicize Tecla Award in the parenting category last Spring. I have been writing about the subject for over 20 years and I have raised two children with three cultures and two languages, so I have a wealth of information for today’s parents raising global citizens.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love how culturally diverse we are here in LA and that parents are able to expose children to all the richness that all these cultures have to offer. After being here for over 35 years, I must say, traffic is the one thing I dislike the most. But, isn’t that the case in any big city?

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Image Credit:

Images  by MARITERE R. BELLAS

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