“The riddle Abuela gave me…” by Irania Patterson

I’m back this year as a proud supporter of Latina’s 4 Latino Lit’s Día Blog Hop. I participated last year with an interview with Rene Saldaña, Jr. and it was a great experience. This year, the number of blogueras and authors increased to 24 due to its popularity! That is two dozen Latino authors who keep tradition alive in words!

A big reason for my involvement in this special blog hop are my kids. I didn’t read much about la cultura, or stories written by Latinos until I was in high school and had to read them as part of my foreign language courses. As a mamí, I have my six year old enrolled at a dual-immersion school where I know that he’ll grow up with Latino authors introduced to him at an early age. With programs such as this one, I’m sure he’ll have bigger exposure to them as well.

Today, we have the opportunity to hear from Irania Patterson. To see other authors featured in this year’s L4LL’s Día Blog Hop, please visit the L4LL website.

Irania Patterson - L4LL Día Blog Hop // #L4LL #bilingualism

The riddle Abuela gave me…

I invite you to travel with your imagination to a very special moment of your past. Now you are walking on a dirt road surrounded by tropical trees and flowers of infinite colors. Listen to the chirping sound of parrots and macaws, and feel the dirt and dust carried by the hot breeze.

You are happy to know that down the road you’ll find the little house of your grandmother. From a distance, you see smoke coming out of her rustic kitchen stove.

Hurry up! Grandma is waiting.

Enter her humble, clean house and approach the kitchen. The smell of fried garlic, onion, peppers, and secret ingredients mixed with coal and wood make your mouth water. Open the kitchen door and see Grandma back wearing her flowered apron, the only one she has. Your eyes water when she turns and looks kindly at you. She opens your hands and without saying a word, she gives you a gift wrapped in a napkin …

That gift is my own childhood greatly influenced by “Abuela,” a childhood that I constantly share in my own writing and in my daily encounter to children.

As a child I spent many summers on my grandmother´s farm. From that experience I learned the wisdom of oral traditions including riddles, proverbs, songs and unforgettable stories.

When listening to my parents reading the Venezuelan writer Andrés Eloy Blanco, the Colombian poet Rafael Pombo, and the Argentinian music composer Elena Walsh, I always sensed a mysterious energy running through my blood. At the age of 4 or 5 sometimes I had no idea of what those words could mean, I only knew that listening to them made me feel joyful and happy. Without knowing it, that was my first connection to poetry.

When I became a mother I knew I had to pass this wealth on to my own children and to the children I serve through my work. However, not many parents share this rich past.

“Remembering could be a very nostalgic process,” a friend told me once. As an immigrant sometimes you have to stop thinking about the past to feel that you belong somewhere. You have to numb yourself when you cannot see anymore the family you left.

There is certainly a fear in remembering. For many of us, it is painful. However, healing comes from the reconciliation of our past with the now.

We know that the involvement of parents in their children´s education and literacy development is a strong predictor of student´s success in school. (American Federation of Teachers and Reading Rockets, 2005) However, parental involvement is often difficult when parents wrongly perceive that the new culture in which their children are immersed is superior to their own.

Many parents that do not speak English lose social power when they have to depend on their children to translate, to communicate, and to socialize.

On the other hand, parents can be empowered by remembering and sharing their cultural heritage. In fact, one thing they have to offer is the treasure of traditions and memories. We have something very valuable to offer them: a wealth of wisdom and beauty.

Part of the wealth I have passed on to my children is the power of riddles. I find that riddles are full of symbols, imagery, and opportunities for critical thinking…

Para muestra un botón, here some examples…

Riddle answer the Riddle…Adivina adivinador…


Oh, what is brighter than the light?
What is darker than the night?
What is keener than an axe?
What is softer than melting wax

Truth is brighter than the light,
Falsehood darker than the night.
Revenge is keener than an axe,
And love is softer than melting wax.


I do not sing
But my parents might.
I have a yellow heart
And a cape of white


I wonder why children love riddles. Here are some answers…

A riddle is a question, an enigma, a secret, and who does not like secrets?

It is also a poem that prolongs hesitation between sound and meaning
It holds the reader in suspense, creates a delay, a necessary delay.
It request the reader to reflect.
The riddle emphasizes the danger of coming to an end.
They are works of art only in the moment when the process of unfolding is incomplete.
It is an invitation to an internal journey where the answer is inside.

Children must challenge themselves to find the solution. In a way,
it is a tool for children to pay attention to their own ways of thinking.

By using riddles we are letting children become little philosophers.

One thing I see over and over when asking riddles to children is that they don´t give up. They can give you the most bizarre answers, but yet answers. Honestly, I found a great lesson from this, as adults we stop trying to find the riddles of our own lives, and life is a riddle.

Jorge Luis Borges, who was a prolific Argentine writer said once…

“Although a man’s life is compounded of thousands and thousands of moments and days, those many instants and those many days may be reduced to a single one: the moment when a man knows who he is, when he sees himself face to face …”

Rediscovering my own roots, bringing the essence of Latin American children poetry and learning about the literary devices and functions of riddles and proverbs have been a personal clue to meet my own self.

Facing “abuela” again has empowered me to be a better human being, her riddles are a gift that I treasure with great love …

The L4LL Día Blog Hop

Living Mi Vida Loca is only one of 24 blogueras that is hosting L4LL’s Día Blog Hop. The complete Día Blog Hop schedule is available now. And make a note to check the L4LL’s website on April 30th for a special announcement!

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