Criss Cross Mangosauce, the musical-storytelling duo of self-described “Latina moms,” usually works with children. But this year, founders Ana Lucia Divins and Irania Macias Patterson worked together with the educators at the preschool La Escuelita Bilingue to involve whole families.
Throughout the school year, Criss Cross Mangosauce and the school worked with both the children and their parents to create an original show, “Pueblos,” celebrating the unique heritages of each family. La Escuelita Bilingüe (“The Little Bilingual School” in Spanish) serves mainly low-income Hispanic families. The children are often second-generation American citizens, but many of their parents are immigrants. Because the show used both English and Spanish, it helped bridge the gap between the parents’ homeland and their children’s.
“[The show] helps the families to keep the culture alive,” Divins said.
Criss Cross Mangosauce has been working with the school for two years, but they had never created a show to engage the parents before. The students’ parents attended workshops with the school and the group to explore cultural stories that many of them carried from the countries of their birth. They shared stories that their parents, grandparents, and friends told to them as children, and, through the experience, were able to pass the stories along to their children. Divins, Patterson, and Brenda Hiraldo collected the stories and created a script. Because several of the parents worked and could not always make rehearsals, the team produced a demo CD featuring the songs from the show so that the families could listen to it at home and learn the songs. The students listened to the CD at school and practiced twice a month with the Criss Cross Mangosauce team.
When it was time to create the set, the parents helped to put everything together alongside the teachers and children. The school presented “Pueblo” at ImaginOn on April 28 as part of Children’s Day/Book Day.
For Divins, the goal of Criss Cross Mangosauce has always been to make sure that there is “no disconnect” between the cultures that they explore. The show, she explains, made it “OK” for parents to tell their children their stories and share their culture. The group’s intention is to present both cultures and languages as important and “equally valid.” By presenting a show about stories that are little-known in America, they worked to do just that.
“[The children’s] parents are proud of being able to teach them the songs,” Divins said, referring to the workshops where the students’ parents introduced them to their favorite folktales and songs from childhood. The level of engagement from the adults involved grew until their focus and desire to help the children was, in Divins’s eyes, “amazing.”