Like many Latina moms, Christina Aguilera is proud of her Latin American roots, but before recently, the singer had never visited her heritage country. And at 34, and a mom to two, she's finally had a chance to visit Ecuador to reconnect with her roots in a different way.
Half-Ecuadorian and half-Irish, Aguilera has often shared in interviews that she's been criticized for not being "Latina enough" because she doesn't look more "stereotypically Latina" and is not fluent in Spanish. Born in New York, she first publicly explored her Latin American roots with her album "Mi Reflejo" in 2000, which won her two Billboard Latin Music Awards and a Latin Grammy.
Aguilera, who has said in the past that she's had a very strained relationship with her estranged dad, Fausto Aguilera, has never even vacationed in Ecuador, let alone visit family there.
"This was a really interesting and raw way to go about it," she said. "It wasn't like I vacationed there in one of the more beautiful spots such as Galapagos Islands or things like that. I went into the fields and got to meet the women and children there who are really trying to survive."
Aguilera has been a volunteer global spokesperson for Yum Brands' World Hunger Relief program since 2009, which has reportedly raised $600 million in cash and food for the United Nations' World Food Programme and other organizations over the last eight years.
As an ambassador with the program, the singer has previously visited Haiti, Rwanda and Guatemala on relief trips. This year, she was presented with a list of countries, and she chose Ecuador, she told reporters. During the trip to Ecuador, her work focused on helping hungry children in rural areas of the country. Among the activities she participated in, Aguilera visited schools to help deliver lunches to children who travel a far distance just to attend school every day.
"This particular trip was sort of extra-special for me because it is my blood and heritage," Aguilera said. During the trip, the singer stayed in Quito, the city of her paternal grandfather's birth. "And we would drive out in the fields which were hours away by car and into the farmland and sort of refugee areas where people are struggling."
Aguilera has one son, 7-year-old Max Liron, with ex-husband Jordan Bratman and a daughter, Summer Rain, with fiancé Matt Rutler. Summer Rain turned 1 on August 16.
"I think it's good to know where you come from and sort of get to know your roots," Aguilera told the Edmonton Journal. "It's really hard for these kids and I couldn't wait to come back and tell my own kids these stories to ... better appreciate what they have."
Hopefully, someday she'll take her kids to Ecuador to explore their heritage too.