Multicultural Vida

The Highlight of my First Year as a Dual Language Parent

gente de zona had something to do with it all

There were many moments that were pretty amazing during my son’s first year in a dual language program in NYC:

  • when I heard him read in Spanish

  • when I heard him sing La Cucaracha (and when he taught me that there was a second verse to the song I thought I knew)
  • when I saw the Ecuadorian flag displayed in the hallway of my son’s school 

… but the moment I’m going to tell you about now was definitely the highlight of my year as a dual language parent in NYC because it had to do with so much more than just learning the Spanish language. 

The Highlight of my First Year as a Dual Language Parent

It was the end of year dual language families’ picnic. All the dual language students were assembled in the middle of the gym.

When the music started, kids started singing. It didn’t matter that my son was standing still in the middle of the multitude of kids barely swaying to the music (the stage fright was real but it’s not the most important part of this story). 

The most important part of this story is that he along with all the kids of the school’s dual language program were singing about the jubilant nature of Latin American countries and their people.
The music system was playing Gente de Zona’s “La Gozadera.” About 100 kids of all colors were bopping their heads and dancing to the choreography that the first grade teacher had helped them learn.
I’m not going to lie, that was a sight that made me emotional. My heart swelled with pride (my son was singing along after all, even if he wasn’t really dancing) but it was more than that.
I was so happy and proud that this was happening at a public school, that on a daily basis my son had the opportunity to learn about Hispanic culture in a way that I didn’t have when I was in school. Aside from the international food night, we didn’t get the chance to learn about other cultures when I was growing up, despite the very diverse nature of my Catholic school in Queens.

Why it matters

My pride in being Ecuadorian came from my parents, and if I’m being honest, it wasn’t obvious or immediate. I remember replying in English when my mom spoke to me in Spanish.
When I was little I just thought everyone came from somewhere else. After all, my best friends in elementary school were from Brazil and Ireland. There was a boy name Sharif in my class, one from Korea and a couple of Filipino kids. I remember them vividly. Being from somewhere else wasn’t really an issue, but complex identities wasn’t something that was discussed explicitly. 
As a second-generation immigrant, (which means my parents were the ones the migrated), I knew that it would be harder for me to pass along my culture and heritage to my children. Statistics show that the more generations pass, the harder it is to keep language alive.
In our family’s particular case, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. It’s hard enough being bicultural (me) but my kids will have an even more complex identity: they are, after all, half-French. 
So I’m thrilled that the dual language program staff at his school dual are dedicated to teaching the children about Hispanic culture. I believe that will benefit not only the children in the dual language classes, but the school community as a whole.  Children who are exposed to different language and cultures grow up to be more tolerant and open-minded. They get to learn that while kids may speak a different language and look different, there are many things that bind them together– they may like the same things, they attend the same school, they live in the same neighborhood, they love the same cartoons. 

In my son’s school, they embrace and celebrate diversity, and in today’s climate, it is a wonderful thing to see.

This year, every DL class selected a Spanish-speaking country and conducted a country study for the year. My son’s class studied Mexico.
My son learned about Frida Kahlo, about the Mayans and the pyramids in Mexico. He learned about Catrina and the Day of the Dead. And thanks to a parent in his class, he also got to taste an authentic Mexican breakfast.

Celebrando La Gozadera  

Back to “La Gozadera” — there they were singing along to Gente de Zona and Marc Anthony, talking about tambora merengueras and arroz con habichuelas — but the moment that did it for me was when they sang–

Si tú eres latino, saca tu bandera

and every child, including mine, took out and waved a different Latin American flag- and in the middle, one child held an American flag.
And that was the moment that made me shed all the tears. 
I thought “It’s working, it’s working!” My son is being infused with pride in being Latino, in knowing his roots… and while it’s hard work, it’s so worth it. 


What was that one moment when you saw that your efforts to raise kids who are proud of their heritage were actually working? Share in the comments! 

Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.

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