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Celebrating Culture at School with “Juan”

Submitted by on August 23, 2012 – 6:21 pm4 Comments

children's workbook

La Nena started school a week ago, and I nearly had a sirimba (a good one) when I saw her Third Grade writing worksheet featured a boy named Juan and his sister, Rosa, as the example, complete with sketch.

In my day, it was the very polite and no-doubt-related-to-a-Founding-Father Dick and Jane, who stared at me from my school books. I may have been a little jealous of that blonde Jane. If I wanted to see an example in media of someone who looked like me, or was named Juan, it would have to be in a telenovela.

Welcome to the New Millennium, where little kids with a little bit of “something else” in their veins can see themselves reflected.

Maybe this isn’t a big deal to you. Maybe you don’t notice whether the people in books, on TV, in movies look like you a little bit, or reflect that slight “otherness” those of us, despite being born and raised here. still give off.

My 8-year-old daughter doesn’t really notice or care. She told me.

Given the many more images, story books, videos and shows that have Latino characters, this immersion of sorts that our subculture has going on may be enough to convince her she is not “other” but just “another.”

She’s got Selena and Demi and Dora and Diego and Maya and Miguel, and the skinny little red-haired, half-Cuban on the too-snarky kid channel. And, now she’s got that kid named Juan on her worksheet.

But, I care. Can’t help it. I feel like I need to be the big-mouthed flashlight that illuminates the Latins who cross her path. Kind of like Where’s Waldo? Maybe it is my own way of making sure she doesn’t have those moments of not feeling “American enough.” I did. I’m over it. But we live in an area, where she is surely in the minority, so I keep at it, at the celebrating culture.

At school, Maria’s Spanish class is taught by a woman like Maria, someone with roots in Latin America, but raised here in Tennessee. The teacher speaks beautiful Spanish and is a great example of someone who lives easily in two cultures. (Three if you count Southern culture.)

I’m hoping that between “Juan” and the Spanish teacher, this school year will be filled with even more support for honoring la cultura, of adding to what we already do at home.

Not that Maria cares too much.

Me: “How do you feel about being the only kid in your class who speaks fluent Spanish? Who has Cuban relatives?”
Maria: “Nothing really. It’s just a fact.”

My kid never will be jealous of Jane.

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  • Abuela says:

    Yo me sentia super women porque en la escuela podia usar los 2 idiomas mientras que otros no,keep the good job con la nena.

  • [...] the Tiki Tiki blog Carrie writes about her daughter bringing home a school worksheet that features children named Juan and Rosa. She writes, “Welcome to the New Millennium, [...]

  • Tia Mirtha says:

    I remember when we got here, I was the only spanish kid in the class. The book they gave me to learn English. Mary is a girl, Tom is a boy, etc. etc. I am glad that Maria takes it so lightly.

  • Johnny says:

    What a great story. And indeed what a sign that the times have changed, when in Tennessee the examples at school use “Juan”! This touches close to home for me. My birth name was “Juan”, and because I didn’t feel I fit in, since elementary school I always used “Johnny”, until I identified with it to the point I legally changed my name. Que viva la cultura, donde quiera que uno este.

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