I call myself a Latina because I am of Mexican descent, but Mexican history and traditions are the extent of my Hispanic knowledge. Of course there are the commonly known events in Latino culture which may make into textbooks or common knowledge among Americans such as Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, the fact that the Portuguese in the official language in Brazil, and Puerto Rico’s music. If you’re not taking a Latin American course or something of the like, the confines of your national heritage will most likely be all you that know. There are so many Latin American countries out there with so much rich history, making it difficult to fully know every detail. Our Latino culture is what connects many of us and that is why knowledge of more than one country can benefit and help us move forward as a minority. Valerie Portillo is the author of A Kid’s Guide to Latino History, which is a text book for children that incorporates mostly every aspect of Latino history, culture, and its impact on the United States and the world. There are ten chapters and each of them contains a brief history, important events, traditions, celebrations, fun facts, translations, and do it yourself crafts for kids!
A Kid’s Guide to Latino History helped me realize how different Latin American cultures and traditions are while still having many similarities. The book highlights many recipes, crafts, holiday traditions and cultural celebrations that reflect the diverse Latino community. In the book, we learn how to make arroz con leche (rice with milk, pudding) described as a Dominican dessert. I grew up eating arroz con leche in a Mexican household. I also remember making bread figurines that are described as Ecuadorian. The cultural mesh the book introduces can be applied to all aspects of a Latin American lifestyle where we can all learn and take from each other. Although there are so many traditions, crafts and recipes to be shared and learned, each country still has their own distinct culture and their own way of doing things. For example, we learn how Hondurans created their own game with seeds, Mexicans have their own form of bingo, and Nicaraguans have their own type of dance.
My favorite parts of the book are the well explained history lessons that were easy to follow. We learn about the people of the native lands, the Spanish invasions of practically every Latin country and the country’s attempt to take back their land. The reader also learns more about the relationship between the US and Latin America. For example, it was interesting to find out how communism impacted many Latin American countries. Although the idea of communism is said to have come from Europe and was made to be seemingly harmless, there was a political misuse of the concepts in some countries.
The US began using force to keep communism out of its neighboring lands, helped put down many revolutions, and fought a guerrilla warfare. After many of these Latin American countries were left in economic despair, people began migrating north to the US in search of a safer and more comfortable life. We then learn how each country assimilated into the US and how many different boroughs and neighborhoods created a cultural niche. Much like the diverse Chinatowns existing around the US, I learned that places such as Washington Heights and Calle Ocho began blossoming as a safe haven for many Latin American Immigrants.The book displays the progression of Latin American Countries and their association to the US in a hands-on and entertaining way. I would recommend A Kid’s Guide to Latino History to any elementary teacher or family member who is interested in learning about history, and the history of Latin America; it was definitely a great and educational read.