Thanks to Alice’s review of Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl, we’re inspired this week to feature another woman from Latin America who’s used music as a tool for social justice. In the case of Drum Dream Girl, we learn about the Chinese-African-Cuban drummer, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who broke gender divisions in Cuba during the mid-20th century when drumming was believed to be a man’s purview. For this post, we want to draw your attention to another real-life woman, Suni Paz, an Argentinean singer and songwriter who has similarly used music as a tool for social change.
Much like Millo, Paz seems to have been born a musician, and one with a natural talent for teaching and sharing her music with others. Earlier in her life, during the 1960s and ‘70s, she used her music as a tool for engaging in social protest, singing in support, as Smithsonian Folkways describes it, “of United Farm Workers movement, dignity and freedom for Latina women, amnesty for Latin American political prisoners, and education for Latino children in the United States.” Later in life, she adapted her social consciousness-raising music to better suit children and classrooms, spreading her joy of Latin American culture and language among audiences spread throughout the Americas. A unique collaboration with two authors, Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy (whom we deeply admire), introduced her moving music to many more young people.
Saludos, todos! This week we are featuring Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López. As some of you may remember, we recently featured Margarita Engle in our Author’s Corner, where we gave you some biographical information, as well as some resources for exploring and teaching some of her works in young adult and children’s literature. In Drum Dream Girl, Engle does not cease to amaze us yet again. With Drum Dream Girl (ages 3-8) we continue our March celebration of Women’s History Month and our theme of women’s rights and experiences in children’s literature, by focusing on the story of a lesser-known historical figure. Through her beautiful poetic prose, Engle tells the biographical tale of a young, Cuban girl who counters gender norms in order to become one of Cuba’s most iconic female drummers.
López’s stunning illustrations complement Engle’s lyrical prose in a culmination of female empowerment and pride. As illustrator López dedicates the book to his “architect mother, Pilo, whose courage opened the ceiling above her dreams,” readers are reminded of the strength and brilliance of older generations of women, paving the way towards freedom and rights for younger generations. This book strongly resonates with the legacy of women’s rights and empowerment throughout history, in the Americas and beyond.
Drum Dream Girl is based on the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl living in the 1930s who successfully struggled against the social stigma for female drummers, becoming one of Cuba’s great, historic musicians. Engle narrates the tale through concise, lyrical writing, consistent with her style of fusing poetry and prose: “But everyone/ on the island of music/ in the city of drumbeats/ believed that only boys/ should play drums/ so the drum dream girl/ had to keep dreaming/ quiet/ secret/ drumbeat/ dreams.” This style is both easy for younger readers to follow and digest, and lyrically pleasing for older readers or adults.
Here we are, already in December! This semester just flew right by. Before delving into winter celebrations in Latin America, I just want to quickly extend gratitude to everyone reading, whether you are here for the first time or have been following my posts this entire semester. Thank you for your readership, especially during the busy holiday season that is now upon us (Ahh!).
In the past, we have focused our December posts mostly on Las Posadas (you can find a number of our past Las Posadas posts here). This year, I am including a musical playlist to offer both a complement to our presentations of Las Posadas and also a broader view of winter celebrations in Latin America. I have a couple links to feature here that can be used in the classroom or for your own personal knowledge to aid in creating a culturally informed holiday discussion and celebration in your classroom.
The first feature is a very diverse musical playlist, which includes music from Spain, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Feliz Navidad from Smithsonian Folkways adds rhythm to the celebration of the holidays throughout the Spanish-speaking countries of the world! Incorporating villancicos, aguinaldos, bulerias, zambas, and arrullos, this is truly a musical voyage through Christmas celebrations in Latin America. To take it a step further, I am featuring another link to a musical map, which is a great way to illustrate where each different rhythm originates. This world map is overlaid with the contents of the music from the first playlist, and in addition, playlists that collect music from holiday celebrations in other parts of the world (mainly, Africa and Eastern Europe, with various other locations, as well). Continue reading →
As we move into the third week of Latin American Heritage month, we have already seen how conquest and colonization was a process that brought cultures from all over the world together, and the mixing of those cultures is what created the culture of Latin America today. From politics, to dress, to forms of art, cultural expression in Latin America draws on elements from African, Native American and European traditions, among others. In this week’s World Wide Web section, I’d like to take a look at music, a universal art form that tends to highlight and make visible the roots of these various world traditions. Continue reading →
I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I certainly remember learning the songs “De Colores” and “Buenos Dias” set to the French Nursery Rhyme of Frere Jacques. I have very fond memories of singing these songs in my elementary school chorus classes (and I’m sure my mom has some embarrassing video to go along with it) and learning the Spanish word meanings and even the hand motions!