#ChingonaFest Fridays: Eleanor Parker Sapia

It's Week THIRTY on #ChingonaFest Fridays! Now that I've got a minute to breathe after losing my mind on revisions and final editing for #BabyFat, I can work on getting the rest of this train back on track. Today, we start with my fellow Booktrope author, Eleanor Parker Sapia

This week's #ChingonaFest Fridays is brought to you by one of my favorite companies: WeMontage. I absolutely love their removable wallpaper photographs and encourage you to click through for a peek at their offerings. Say hi to WeMontage founder James Oliver on twitter and tell him you found him on Aspiring Mama. 

If you’re new to the blog, here’s the link to the my Latina Dimelo column that sparked the conversation that’s still going strong. The premise is this: I want to raise my daughter to be a Chingona — on purposeLas Tias and cultural backlash be damned. If you like the column, I’d love for you to share with your social media circles, leave a comment on the link, or whip up a happy lil’ Letter to the Editor telling them how you feel and send it off to Editor@Latina.com. You may not think that kind of thing makes a difference, but trust me when I tell you it does.

Have you checked out my past #ChingonaFest ladies? Pili Montilla shines in her interview in 2014. Pili was, in fact, my first Featured Chingona and I'll always be grateful for her support of Chingonafest. 

It seems I’ve added Chingona Cheerleader to my soapbox recently (Mostly by accident but I’m running with it anyway). Each week, I’m featuring one fabulous Latina who’s moving mountains and raising hell because their stories are worth telling. Twenty questions will be presented to each and 15 will be answered and presented here to you in a Q&A format, like the fancy features in magazines, only with more typos and less airbrushing.


Puerto Rican-born novelist and painter, Eleanor Parker Sapia was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Her passion for travel and adventure, combined with her careers as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, and a Spanish language social worker and refugee case worker inspire her writing. She loves introducing readers to Latina characters and stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she enjoys facilitating The Artist’s Way creativity groups, and has taught creative writing to children and adults. Eleanor shares her passion for telling stories at her blog, The Writing Life and her website, http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut historical novel, has garnered rave reviews and currently sits on several Amazon best seller lists for Hispanic, Latin American, and Caribbean Literature. She has two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia.

And now! Time for the interview!

Eleanor Parker Sapia

Eleanor Parker Sapia

Pauline M. Campos: Chocolate or vanilla? 

Eleanor Parker Sapia: If it’s Dairy Queen ice cream, then a soft vanilla cone. If we’re talking Ben & Jerry’s, it’s Chocolate Therapy ice cream in a cup. It tastes like chocolate mousse.

PMC: Chocolate...Therapy...ICE CREAM? Why did I NOT know about this already??? Favorite book and why: 

EPS: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is still one of my top ten favorite books because of her incredible descriptions of life in the Congo told through the ‘eyes’ of multiple narrators. That’s tough to pull off, and Kingsolver did a beautiful job.

A current favorite is Gabriela and the Widow by Jack Remick. It’s simply the most beautifully written novel I’ve read to date. Remick’s descriptions are poetic, lyrical magic. I was blown away the first time I read this novel; it’s one of the few books I immediately read a second time.

PMC: What's your favorite quote?

EPS: “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
—J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”

PMC: Describe yourself in third person: 

EPS: Eleanor is a fun-loving, sassy, sensitive, complicated, highly creative, emotional, deep-thinking woman with a great laugh, a great sense of Self, and lots of empathy for others. This mother of two great, young adult children writes and paints in a drafty house built in 1900, in her adopted state of West Virginia, and she is always up for a road trip.

PMC: I do believe you just invited me on a road trip. I call shotgun! We can talk particulars later. Back to the interview...Who inspires you? 

EPS: As a young wife and mother, I was inspired by my maternal grandparents who taught me to be a strong, brave woman, to always see the humor in the ridiculousness of life, and to never forget I was Puerto Rican.

As an older woman with no kids at home, my children inspire me every day with their brilliant minds, adventurous spirits, and kind hearts.

PMC: Who is it you hope to inspire?

EPS: My children tell me they’re inspired by me, which is music to my ears. I hope I inspire women to take healthy risks in life, to look for their passions, and I hope to inspire readers to embrace diversity in literature, through my historical novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico.

PMC: Let's play word association. I say CHINGONA and you say...?


PMC: You are now allowed to be my friend. Tell me, how do you feel about Latinas and how we are represented in the media?

EPS: I’m proud to be Latina and I root for everyone in whatever they try to achieve in life. Of course, I would like to see more Latinas in professional roles in current films and TV shows, but I write historical fiction, so I’m okay with seeing Latinas play stereotypical roles in period pieces—it’s our women’s history, and the past can’t be ignored if we hope to learn and get ahead in life.

PMC: Do you think in English, Spanish, or Spanglish?

EPS: All of the above; I even dream in Spanish.

PMC: Show off. I need to be drunk to think in Spanish and I don't feel like preemptively signing up for a sponsor and a 12-step just to see if I'd earn a few Spanglish dreams. Anyway...favorite dish? Why?

EPS: In Puerto Rico, one dish goes with so many other dishes; it’s nearly impossible to pick only one. Lechón asado, pasteles, arroz con gandules, viandas y guineítos en escabeche. This meal, served during the Christmas season, always reminds me of happier times with my family, many of them passed on now. Oh, and barrigas de vieja for dessert!

PMC: I'm coming over for dinner! Now, be honest...Do you feel "Latina enough"?

EPS: I’m Puerto Rican-born and was raised in the US, Europe, and Puerto Rico. I am a Latina in my heart, mind, and soul. That’s all that matters. I don’t have to prove a thing to anyone.

PMC: You're damned right you don't. Here's another fun question: You have the chance to eat dinner and drink wine with one person, living or dead. Who is it, what do you eat, what kind of wine, AND WHY THAT PARTICULAR PERSON?

EPS: I have a special devotion to Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, Our Lady of Lourdes. The Virgin is my patron saint and as a child I loved the film, The Song of Bernadette, about a poor French girl who claimed the Mother of God appeared to her several times in a grotto, on the outskirts of the town of Lourdes in France. I grew up praying only to Mary because I always thought the Old Testament God was a bit frightening. As a kid, I was a Mama’s girl, through and through. As an adult, I volunteered at the Sanctuary in Lourdes, France as a piscine lady for over ten years. I love that holy place.

Mary and I would eat plain omelets with lots of butter, slices of crusty French baguette, and slightly steamed asparagus on the side with creamy Hollandaise, and a great bottle of Saint Emilion, Grand Cru Bordeaux, 2012. The dinner would take place in Paris—it’s my dream—and for dessert, warm crème brûleé!

PMC: I expect the novel based on this question to be dedicated to me. That cool? *blinks prettily*. Moving ON! One Latina stereotype you despise?

EPS: Good question. My historical novel, A Decent Woman would make an awesome film, so I hope a Latina screenwriter and Latina/o director pick it up, but they must stay true to the story and era. So I would say the stereotypes depend on the era we’re thinking of. As a writer, I immediately think novel or film, and many stereotypes today were the norm through Latina women’s history.

PMC: One Latina stereotype you embrace (or is there one?)

EPS: I’m not sure if this is a stereotype, but I can embrace fierce Latina loyalty toward her family, and being the protector of the family unit and the keeper of oral storytelling traditions.

PMC: Describe your perfect day.

EPS: That’s easy—a day with my beautiful children—doing nothing but hanging out together, listening to them laugh and horse around with each other. Then, they’d begin telling stories about me as an overprotective, young mother, which are hilarious tales. It’s amazing how much I relaxed when my kids reached high school, and how much these cachorros remember today in their late twenties! Thanks for inviting me to Chingonafest, Pauline! Great questions, I enjoyed answering them.

UPDATE: My #Dimelo column will not be updated with new material, but rather, be kept online to feature reader favorite columns from the print magazine. Be sure to get your questions in to dimelo@latina.com! 

Thanks again to this week's #ChingonaFest Friday's sponsor, WeMontage! 

And there ya have it. To nominate a Latina for a future #ChingonaFest Friday feature, email me at aspiringmama@gmail.com or tweet me with the hashtag #ChingonaFest. Interested in SEEING YOUR NAME OR BRAND HERE? Email me for details sponsoring the weekly #ChingonaFest Fridays feature right here on Aspiringmama.com!

Oh! And be sure to send me your questions to dimelo@latina.comFollow me on Twitter, instagram, and here’s the FB fan page!  Before you go, please take a moment to sign up for my newsletter. Sign up by or before my #BabyFat launch date - September 28 - and you're automatically entered for a chance at a signed copy of my book! See you next week!

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