“Mama quiero tres leches.” Upon hearing these words, I was startled. He had never asked for tres leches cake before, and had never taken an interest in it despite the fact that his abuela makes a delicious one. I replied “Where did you hear about tres leches?” and he said “Elena of Avalor.”
I couldn’t help but smile.
To be honest, being the mom of a boy, I didn’t have a lot of expectations about Elena of Avalor. I didn’t know if the show would engage him (It has) and I wasn’t sure if he’d be interested in a show about a 16 year old princess (he is).
I love that the show’s messages are positive ones. One day he said to me “Elena is a leader and she can fight.” I was so happy by his thoughts. Yes, my son, girls CAN be leaders!
Being a third generation Latino kid, my son’s experience will be different than my own growing up. First, since we are a multicultural family (his dad is French) and our home is not permeated with television in Spanish 24/7 (as it was when I was growing up); it’s much harder to keep language and culture alive, though we do speak Spanish every day. It’s also different because growing up for me, I very much felt Ecuadorian, and I knew the customs and traditions. For my son, I think he will grow up to be more aware of the many other different nationalities that fall under the “Latino/Hispanic” umbrella and will learn to appreciate them from early on. I can’t remember being surrounded by elements of other nationalities when I was 5 years old, I think that awareness came much later (perhaps in my teens).
Elena has introduced my son to different elements of Latino culture– different types of food and different cultural holidays and customs for example. My son talks about “El Día de los Muertos” simply because he saw it on Elena of Avalor. He asked about eating tamales, when we have never eaten tamales at home. He also got super excited one day when he saw the Elena of Avalor song on the Disney Channel in Spanish!
There are other ways Elena has taught and reinforced elements of Latino culture for my son. Elena has a strong bond with her abuelos, her grandparents, which my son can identify with since we live in the same home and they are very much a part of his life. There are Spanish words mixed in with the English, and while we speak Spanish at home, my son does do quite a bit of Spanglish.
Disney has done something extraordinary: it has put Latino culture front and center. It has made little girls of all ages want to be Elena. It has put Spanish and Latino culture on television. For me as a Latina woman, Elena warms my heart… I never saw any cartoon speaking in Spanish while I was growing up… I never heard merengue songs or mariachi bands on television when I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong… I love other Disney princesses but I had never seen part of me on the screen and that is exactly what Elena has done. This warms the hearts of so many Latinas and Latina moms who are working hard to keep their culture alive.
Elena of Avalor has made Latino culture be part of the homes of millions of children all over our country. It is introducing Latino culture to those who aren’t familiar with it. It is also teaching children that girls can be great leaders and about the importance of family.
I can’t wait to see what else is in store of Elena of Avalor!
Check out the Elena of Avalor Leadership Guide, a collaboration between the Disney Channel and The Girl Scouts!