Why This Matters: Ana Lucia has been able to reconnect with her Latin roots through music. Now, thanks to programs like Culture Blocks, she is able to offer bilingual classes, workshops and performances that celebrate the Latin American culture and heritage, while helping the local immigrant community.
By Giovanna Torres
Back in her native Colombia, Ana Lucia Divins studied electrical engineering and worked in marketing for the financial industry. She would sing in choirs and participate in dance performances every so often, but it was nothing more than “a fun thing to do.”
“I never thought about singing as a career,” she says. “As an individual and as an immigrant, I discovered that music and art was a great way for me to reconnect with my culture.”
She admits that was something she learned until later on.
“When I moved here, my first goal was not to reconnect with my culture or language,” she recalls. “How do I adapt to this new place, and how do I learn this culture as fast as I can?
“How fast can I speak the language and learn how everything works so that I can be successful?”
That was her focus. She describes it as detachment process.
“The less connected you are at that point, the better, because it’s easier for you to transition and adapt,” she explains.
But eventually, there’s a huge need to reconnect. For Divins, it was when her first child was born.
“When I had my son, the fact that I didn’t know what or how to speak to him hit me.” Her husband only spoke English and she was still learning the language.
“Am I going to confuse him if I speak Spanish? Am I going to confuse him even more with my broken English?” she asked herself.
To top it off, all the lullabies and children songs she knew were the ones she learned growing up (in Spanish). She constantly asked herself how to keep her heritage alive, and if she even should. That’s when music came back to the equation. After meeting Irania Macias Patterson, award-winning author of children’s literature, storyteller and educator, the two developed a solution: Criss Cross Mangosauce.
Criss Cross Mangosauce, an “edutainment” company that fosters children’s love for languages, cultures and music, started as “a way for me to reconnect with music through my children,” says Divins. Since 2007, it has expanded, traveling and performing at schools, libraries and most recently, virtually.
Carolina Diaz and her 3-year-old daughter love Criss Cross Mangosauce.
“I used to take my daughter to the library before the pandemic. When everything closed, I started looking for virtual offerings,” she says.
When she stumbled upon Criss Cross Mangosauce’s virtual Bilingual Music and Storytime, sponsored by ASC’s Culture Blocks, she noticed more engagement than usual from her daughter Xochil.
“She could watch the whole video without getting bored or antsy.”
Diaz attributes her daughter’s engagement to the music, in part, but acknowledges that the program has been beneficial in multiple ways.
“Sometimes, we as parents don’t know how to teach our kids’ stuff that stories can. I am not an educator, so I don’t really know how to pick the stories that are going to teach something valuable to my daughter,” says Diaz.
She’s also noticed her daughter has gained a lot of vocabulary in both languages since watching the videos. 3-year-old Xochil now knows how to greet in both languages and sings many songs in English and Spanish. She’s also learning about Latin culture, something critical to Diaz and her family.
“My job as an immigrant is to teach my daughter to be proud about her Latino heritage, and that’s why it’s so important that the stories include Spanish, arepas or frijoles, the things we do at home,” she says.
“Most of her education is going to be in English and about the North American culture. She’s going to know she’s different because she’s bilingual, and I don’t want her to feel embarrassed of that. I want her to feel proud– it’s important for immigrants to teach their children to be proud of their culture.”
A few months and many Criss Cross Mangosauce videos later, Diaz is proud that her daughter is “starting to make the connection between both languages.”
We want to thank one of our followers for sending us this video of her daughter enjoying Virtual Bilingual Story-Time and Music with #CrissCrossMangosauce. Your littleones have fun dancing and singining with us don't miss our next virtual event..📆 Tuesday July 28th – 3pmHere on facebook!!! .See you tomorrow!
Posted by Criss Cross Mangosauce on Monday, July 27, 2020
That kind of feedback fuels Divins’ motivation to continue this work.
“There are many families in Charlotte that are not able to speak English yet, and they think they don’t have anything to give to their children, as it relates to literacy, songs and all the basics that build a child’s first learning stages,” says Divins. “Through Criss Cross Mangosauce, I show and share that they do have a lot to give and the different ways in which they can do so with their children.”
Divins is adding more to her program offerings, always keeping the cultural and Latin American heritage connection at the center of everything she does. She has offered adult programs for a few years now, and her dream is to eventually engage seniors.
“It’s so amazing that [seniors] won’t remember what they ate this morning for breakfast, but when you start singing songs such as ‘Bésame mucho” or ‘Piel canela,” they sing the whole thing,” she says.
That’s why her new Culture Blocks’ program, “Timeless Latin American Music,” focuses on those connections to culture, while exploring feelings, memories and stories connected with the most traditional and timeless Latin American tunes.
“As Latinos, even though we have a wide array of music styles, its fascinating how we have such a shared experience with some types of music, such as boleros. It was the music that was always playing in the background,” she recalls.
Divins hopes to help attendees connect with memories they might have left behind.
“It’s a healing process. It reduces stress, blood pressure levels, and for seniors who might be ‘disconnecting’ themselves and losing memories, those connections with their heritage are a-ha moments.”
Upcoming Culture Blocks-sponsored Programs:
Timeless Latin American Tunes: Virtual Workshop
When: Saturday, October 17 (4:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
Where: Café Amaretto Music Facebook page
Timeless Latin American Tunes: Final Concert
When: Saturday, November 7 (5 p.m.)
Where: Café Amaretto Music Facebook page
Watch Criss Cross Mangosauce’s Bilingual Storytime & Music videos on demand on their Facebook page.