*The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous.
I’m tired of glorifying a “productive” lifestyle and have decided to bring back siesta culture into the conversation by honoring my Mamí’s stories.
The morning cup of café con leche with my Mamí was something I wouldn’t miss for the world. During this time in the early morning, she would tell me stories. How God was always watching over her, her adventures, the good and the bad, when times felt magical and when they didn’t. Especially when María, my grandmother, spontaneously took her out of high school after a month of starting her freshman year to go to Colombia – which would become a two-year-long sabbatical.
“That was the best thing Mamí ever did for me,” my mother would say. She spent her time living in between the different homes of Abuelíta Sofia, Tio Martín, y con la familia de Tía Paula. “From them, I learned how to live,” Mamí added.
Amongst the stories of her many adventures, she shared how she spent her days with midday siestas. They featured a three-course meal, laying in the sun while listening to the radio, taking a nap, and after an hour or two, when shops began to open up again, a trip to the bakery for the day’s bread. I don’t know about you, but there is something about this slow-living lifestyle that feels innate, ancestral, and just like home. So, I can’t help but wonder, can we bring it back?
Slow & Steady, Never in a Race
Let’s start with some basics about siestas. Siesta is derived from Spanish, meaning rest or nap. It’s most common in warm climates where the sun peaks in the afternoon and the need to retreat into your home to rest and cool off is undeniable. Siesta has therefore been adopted across Central and South America and the Mediterranean.
“Moving away from our homelands can make us forget the values, traditions, and lifestyles we grew up accustomed to. However, while incorporating our traditions can be difficult in a place that is so far away from the source, it’s essential to take the time to plan a siesta and extend the culture associated with it to planning an hour break for breakfast, merienda, and dinner.”
Countries that have adopted siesta are known to be more relaxed regarding time. Long breaks throughout the day have been extended to breakfast and merienda— before and during dinner. As a result, the focus on well-being becomes a priority.
If you don’t believe me, a survey by the National Safety Council for the workplace stated that most workers feel exhausted at work. At the same time, 44 percent of employees have trouble focusing, and 53 percent feel unproductive. Taking a siesta has been shown to improve immunity, cognition, and memory.
Pausing to Take In Our Cultura y Familia
“Families would always come together for every meal of the day,” Mamí said about her time in the motherland.
Every morning was slow. In Tía Paula’s house, they would make a traditional Colombian aromatíca, a warm herbal or fruity drink, before having un café. Someone always took daily morning trips to the neighbor’s house to buy eggs for breakfast, and Tia Paula’s husband, Sebastian, would walk every morning to get his periodico and surprise my Mamí with a delicious, warm, and cheesy box of buñuelos.
Tía Paula would wash her clothes on a natural stone lavadero. She would hang everyone’s clothes on a high clothing rack with a metal rod. Mamí would watch the clothes dry against the sun and flow like colored flags in the wind.
Moving away from our homelands can make us forget the values, traditions, and lifestyles we grew up accustomed to. However, while incorporating our traditions can be difficult in a place that is so far away from the source, it’s essential to take the time to plan a siesta and extend the culture associated with it to planning an hour break for breakfast, merienda, and dinner. Before you know it, you will be reaping the benefits, preserving a tradition, and achieving a more balanced and mindful lifestyle. Doing this helps us get a couple of steps closer to a fundamental part of our cultural heritage where family and friends gather and look after one another, where stories of our past and dreams for the future are shared, and our overall health is maintained.
Finding My Own Rhythm of Stillness & Pause
After living in Italy, a country where the siesta is a sacred practice of self-care, I feel relieved from the constant guilt of not being “productive enough” pushed on by the American idea of hustle culture.
I would always convince myself not to take that nap, and now I do. It feels good to allow myself to live, especially when working to live can have an almost numbing effect. So I take time to appreciate simple day-to-day pleasures, like a morning cafecito, like the midday sun on my face, like the laughter of my Mamí.
Life is challenging, yet there are ways to redirect our focus to the small joys found in each day.