Life Lessons We Learned From Our Latino Dads

Relationships with dads can be complicated regardless of ethnic background, class, or gender

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Photo: Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

Relationships with dads can be complicated regardless of ethnic background, class, or gender. Sometimes it feels like this is especially so for daughters in Latino families in which machismo reigns and traditional gender norms continue to dictate how women should behave. But all that said, despite the sometimes difficult relationships with our over-bearing and over-protective dads, there’s so much love too. No matter how tough their exterior is, they’re usually big softies on the inside, particularly when it comes to their girls. For the most part, they really do have our best interests at heart and are truly trying to keep us safe. And you know what? We’ve also actually learned a lot from our Latino dads!

From cooking on the cheap and DIY home repairs to what to expect when dating someone new, our dads are full of important life lessons. Half the time they don’t even seem to know how useful the wisdom they’re  imparting is. As we get older and continue to hold their teachings dear and  pass them onto our own kids, there’s no denying why we’re so thankful for our papis and all the things they’ve taught us. So, in honor of Father’s Day, we’re sharing 10 of the most important things we’ve learned from our Latino dads.wp_*posts

Cooking Fundamentals

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Mami may have done most of the cooking at home and she did a damn good job of it, but dad knew the basics and when it was his turn in the kitchen he took the opportunity to teach them to us. I still make arroz blanco exactly the way my dad taught me when I was a little girl. Even as an adult, dad still teaches me how to make dishes he remembers from his own childhood. Oh, and let’s not forget that dad was also the one who taught us how to pull a fantastic meal together out of seemingly random ingredients when money’s tight.wp_*posts

How to Check the Car’s Oil

There are a few things Latino dads will not let their kids leave the house without knowing how to do. How to check the car’s oil and either change it yourself or where the best place to take it is definitely one. Oh, and along with that, papi likely taught you how to change a tire too. Car maintenance is a safety issue after all, and he’s definitely going to make sure his little girl is always protected.wp_*posts

DIYing Home Repairs

Perhaps out of financial necessity, most Latino dads seem to know their way around a DIY home repair. Why call in help when you can figure it out yourself? Our dads usually teach us to check something out and see if we can fix the problem ourselves before paying someone else to do it. From painting to plumbing, most of us have learned at least a few basic home repair skills from our papis.wp_*posts


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Many of us learned how to dance to salsa and cumbia right on our daddy’s feet when we were just little girls. A Latino dad is almost always his daughter’s first dance partner. Learning an appreciation for our traditional music is so important, and dads are definitely good for that.wp_*posts

To Be Capable

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When papi taught us how to check the oil in our cars or fix that leaky faucet, he wasn’t just teaching practical skills, he was also building our confidence in ourselves. He undoubtedly knew that one day we would need to rely on ourselves to solve some of life’s problems, and he equipped us with the mindset to do it.wp_*posts

To Expect Respect

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You know what papi wasn’t about to do? He wasn’t about to let his daughter leave the house with a boy without knowing her worth. Latino dads make sure their daughters know that they should expect to be treated exactly like the queens we are by any potential suitor. There will be no disrespect tolerated.wp_*posts

Ignore That Car Horn

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Girl, you know your dad was not about to let you walk out that door to the sound of a car horn, especially if it was a boy, but not for your girlfriends either. If someone wanted to see you or take you somewhere they better had come to the door and with manners too. It all goes back to the respect thing, and papi was serious about instilling that expectation.wp_*posts

How to Grow Things

Give an old school Latino dad a square of soil and he’ll grow food for the whole summer. No soil testing or fancy fertilizers necessary. Papi taught us that if you plant it, it will grow. But his veggie gardening prowess, also taught us not to overthink things too much. Our ancestors grew their own food for generations, and we can too.wp_*posts

It’s Never too Late to Start Over

A lot of our Latino dads didn’t grow up in the best of circumstances. Many of them lived in poverty or came from broken homes. They may even have broken our homes when we were children, but Latino dads are resilient and they love hard. Whether they started over at 22 when they had their own kids or 52 when they became abuelos, they often show us that the past doesn’t have to dictate the future and it’s never too late to do better.wp_*posts

To Lend a Helping Hand

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Latino dads are often quite generous if not with their money, then with their time and skills. Our dads always showed us the importance of being there with a helping hand when it was needed. Whether shoveling an elderly neighbor’s sidewalk, giving a friend a ride to work or helping a family member move, Latino dads show up, and in doing so, they teach their children to have a kind and giving spirit too.

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