Monthly Cultural Corner - December 2022

December 2, 2022

Cultural Spotlight: Dr. Judith Sandino

I am Dr. Judith Sandino, Chief Programs Officer, or Chief of Hearts. I have been in Penny Lane for 27 years.  I am the proud mother of two amazing young men, age 28 and 25.

I was born on the beautiful Caribbean Island, Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico has a vibrant and unique culture, year around warm weather, many places to visit, and a lot of music and food to try.  Puerto Rico is known for the old San Juan, amazing beaches, Yunque National Forest, and the Bioluminescent bays.

I grew up in Puerto Rico, graduated from the University of PR with a master’s in SW, worked for a few years and then came to California in 1985.  California has been my home for many years and has given me many professional and personal opportunities, many friends, and a wonderful family.  

In 1995 when I applied to work at Penny Lane, I was interviewed by Ive Markovits, and as we introduced ourselves, we learned that we had so many things in common, like the passion for art, music, helping others, and that we were born in PR.

I am very proud of my Puerto Rican cultural heritage and history, from a mix of Taino (indigenous), Spanish, African traditions. Whether it's through music, art, food, traditions, festivals, religion, culture is present in every corner of the Enchanted Island (the nickname of PR). Our music is characterized by many instruments but especially, the use of strings like the guitar and cuatro (small guitar), brass instruments like trumpet, saxophone and drumming that represents our resilient spirit.  Dancing is the way of life in PR, if you hear music playing there will be people of all ages dancing.

Authentic Puerto Rican dishes are the rice with gandules (pigeon beans), mofongo (made of plantains) and lechon (pork).

My favorite Puerto Rican tradition is the Parranda, a music tradition that takes place at Christmas.  These are the Puerto Rican version of Christmas carols. Friends and families show up in front of a house very late at night (after 10:00pm), with different musical instruments and sing traditional Christmas songs. The people in the house wake up, invite you in and prepare traditional food and drinks for everyone. I remembered as a young girl being in the Parrandas, singing and dancing from sunset to sunrise.  I also love salsa music. Salsa is a major type of Puerto Rican music, the rhythm of the island.  Salsa is "sauce” in English, meaning Salsa makes parties happen.

I should add that Puerto Ricans are not only friendly, but they also invite you to the party and they want you to dance. The island embraces diversity, inclusivity, equality, and LOVE.

-Dr. Judith Sandino, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some photos of my family, culture, and more below!