by Brian Cockman
I recently sat down with Ana Lucia Divins of Criss Cross Mangosauce – a bilingual children’s program in Charlotte, NC that bridges cultures through the arts – to learn more about the fantastic work she is doing with fellow co-founder Irania Macias Patterson. As Irma Sanchez so eloquently put it in A Texas battle for the arts, “self-expression through the arts allows creative outlets that some kids may not otherwise receive.”
Why do you call it Criss Cross Mangosauce?
Ana: In pre-school here in the U.S., nearly all children are familiar with a teacher’s direction of “sit crisscross applesauce” during story time or music class. We decided to give this expression some Latin flavor and use ‘mango,’ but it also speaks to how the program crisscrosses cultures. So there’s really a double-double meaning.
Why did you start the group?
Ana: I believe that art is the universal language and that through music, performance, visual art and a host of other platforms, you can learn more about people from different backgrounds. The unifier is that we’re all sharing the same experience at the same time. I am also the mother of two bicultural children (my husband is a Gringo) and it was very important to me to have an outlet to pass along stories and music about my culture to my children. Preserving my Latin heritage, while also appreciating American culture, was crucial. I wanted to take the best of both cultures and combine them for something dynamic.
How do you introduce Latin culture to the children?
Ana: We share stories and music from different Latin American countries. We created a music CD with traditional American nursery songs like ‘5 little Monkeys’ and then translated it into Spanish and made it a salsa song. This is a great way to engage Latino and non-Latino children that make up the group. It also gives a sense of ‘orgullo’ to the Hispanic children because they see their friends using Spanish and appreciating the culture.
What is the greatest success of the program?
Ana: Latino parents who have immigrated to the U.S. and are trying to learn English or assimilate to American culture sometimes feel they don’t have anything to contribute their children. This program reminds them, however, that they come from a vibrant culture and often they rediscover something from their own childhood. They soon realize that they have so much to give their children and can make a positive contribution to their child’s development. It gives parents and children, regardless of country origin, a sense of empowerment.
How does Criss Cross Mangosauce promote biculturalism?
Ana: We first connect with children using their American roots and then show them how their Latin background is equally important. It’s never forced and always authentic because kids can see insincerity from a mile away.
How do you define being bicultural?
Ana: Bicultural is having the gift and understanding of two languages and two cultures. It’s being comfortable with both and being able to move between the two with ease. Above all else, it’s about respecting the contributions of both.
How does Criss Cross Mangosauce create problem solvers and independent thinkers?
Ana: When a child has the opportunity to explore and develop creativity through the arts (and that’s what we do) they will hone this skill and be able to use it in other areas. There is a ton of research that correlates participation in the arts with increased performance in academics.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.