Spanish Songs for Spring

Our family is bilingual, and we speak only Spanish in our home. We constantly remind my daughter to speak to us in Spanish, but since she started going to school in English this has gotten a lot harder. It’s so important to my husband that his children speak with him in the language his own mom speaks to him. The language that was his first one as a baby.

Luckily we live in the Latin part of town, and Spanish is all around us . . . on the bus, on the playground, and in the homes of many friends. I organize a Spanish play group with other neighborhood families, who have a Latin parent and a non-Latin parent and are striving hard to pass their mother tongue on to the next generation.

Many friends of my generation or of our parents’ lost fluency in Spanish and are committed to recovering it. Especially in the 1950s and up until the 1980s families here were strongly discouraged from speaking Spanish at home with their children. In our group, grandmas have told us stories of being separated from friends at school to prevent them from speaking Spanish, and of being told by school authorities that speaking Spanish to their own children was on par with child abuse. Needless to say this scared many families away from Spanish and it was painfully lost. So our little community is supporting each other to help our children recover this part of our families’ culture and heritage.

At our play group we sing songs, both children’s rhymes and classic Latin American songs that every child should know. We play latin percussion instruments and end with a dance party of recorded latin music, ranging from Pitbull and Juanes to Hector Lavoe and Tito Puente.

Here is our new song sheet for spring 2014.   Rimas con Pepa marzo2014

There are children’s songs including old traditional rhymes and new translations of English songs (“El Marinero” you may recognize from the playground hand-slapping song “A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea”). “Que Llueva” because we are still hoping for some more winter rain to ease California’s drought! Also, “La Vibora” is a dance and game played just like “London Bridge”! My top two sources for recordings of these songs are José-Luis Orozco and La Familia Govea-Peña. You can find them at the SF Public Library, too.

The last two songs, which definitely require percussion accompaniment from all of us, are Latin American classics. Here are some videos for your musical education.

Cuban anthem “Guantanamera” performed by Celia Cruz.

“La Burrita” by Pedro Infante, star of classic Mexican Cinema, from the film Los Tres Huastecos.

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