When my daughter was born 7 years ago I was convinced that she was 100% Dominican, since both my husband and I were born on the island. I’ve come a long way from that initial thought and I know that her identity is going to be much more complex with huge influence from the American culture she was born in. That’s why I love teaching her and my two boys about Dominican culture and what it means to be Caribbean, especially since we are a minority within a minority group in the US.
I know that this is a real challenge for parents raising children in the United States, finding a balance between the dominant culture of their children and the one they left behind. In the case of Dominican culture, it is even more imperative for me to take advantage of every opportunity to pass along our heritage.
As American Latinos, my kids are not only exposed to the dominant American culture, but also to the multicultural fabric of the Latino community, which I believe is a great advantage when you are raising global citizens, but at the same time makes it even more important for me to teach them about Dominican culture as a way to develop their identity as American Latinos of Dominican Heritage.
To achieve this, language is more than one element of the culture, is a needed tool for them to be able to fully appreciate it. The ability to speak both English and Spanish for those who are second generation I believe is key to be able to relate at a deeper level with Dominican Culture.
Today being the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, I’m so happy to join the Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop hosted by Inspired by Familia, along with a group of amazing bloggers listed below, to share my ideas on how to teach children about Dominican culture. For Dominicans in the diaspora like myself, been away from the island breeze, the slow-paced mentality and friendliness of Dominicans is a burden we bear only by being in constant touch with our music, food, books, and staying in touch with the loved ones we have there.
More than 15 years ago, in a paper published by the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology called ‘The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans’, Associate Professor & Undergraduate Program Director from the University of Massachusetts Benjamin Bailey, talked about the ‘negotiations’ Dominican Americans must make to deal with the issues of identity they face:
“As a group whose members are Hispanic, American, and are largely of African descent, Dominican Americans must negotiate distinctive issues of identity in the United States. Language is central to these negotiations, both as a symbol of identity and as a medium through which to construct and display local social meanings. Dominican Americans use linguistic forms from multiple varieties of two codes, Spanish and English, to activate various facets of their multiple identities.”
I think that abstract from his article is still relevant today. And for those of us who are raising our children in an area in which there aren’t many Dominicans, I believe that teaching our kids Spanish will further our efforts in nurturing a sense of identity and pride for their roots.
Furthermore, I’m a firm believer in multiculturalism as a vehicle for creating understanding among people; and I think that Hispanic Heritage Month provides all Latinos the opportunity to teach their kids not only about their own cultural heritage and background, but to show them the cultural composition of other Latinos who’s ancestry is a bit different than their own. As with everything else in parenting, leading by example and learning from the rich history, traditions and culture of other Latinos will encourage our children to explore and be more curious, it will shape them as global citizens.
During this month, I’ll be sharing some ways in which I’m raising my children to fully take advantage of the multicultural society we live in, and how they are immerse in American Latino culture as a whole, with all the colors, flavors and sounds that make it beautifully multicultural.
My hope is that you are also curious to learn about Dominican culture to teach your children the beauty there is in diversity, and the broad diversity of our Hispanic Heritage. Whether you are of Dominican heritage or not, I encourage you to explore the richness, colorful and musical nature of Dominicans and have fun with your kids with the vibrant Caribbean culture of the island of Hispaniola.
5 Things To Teach Kids About Dominican Culture During Hispanic Heritage Month
Music. If there is one thing that Dominicans love the most is music. From Merengue to Bachata, to the sounds of palos no Dominican can resist the urge to dance to the sound of music. Through music is the easiest way in which Dominicans in the United States stay connected to their roots. Playing old tunes to bring about memories of their lives over there, and following new Dominican American artists like Romeo Santos who has made Bachata something cool among second and third generation Dominicans, and other Latinos alike. If you have older kids, you can easily go on YouTube to find videos from Juan Luis Guerra, Sergio Vargas, Milly Quezada, Fernando Villalona, among others. Their music and original videos showcase traditional Dominican culture, with love songs and songs to dance and have fun, while showing part of the natural beauty of the island. Depending on where you live, you can look for a Merengue or Bachata class for your kids as a way to connect better with the rhythms. At home, there is always Merengue, Bachata and Salsa playing on the radio to nurture my soul while teaching my children some moves.
Food. I read somewhere that ‘the way to someone’s heart is through the stomach,’ and I think there is some truth to that. I think that one of the first things people tend to embrace from a different culture is food. Although Dominican cuisine is not as well known [https://embracingdiversity.us/good-memories-smell-like-coconut/] as that of other Latin American countries, it is indeed an exciting adventure for those who haven’t tried it. During this month, you can research Dominican recipes and plan to cook with your children while you teach them about the ingredients and their origin, and how the blend the African and Spanish influence that is present within the Dominican culture.
Geography. A great teaching topic about the Dominican Republic is its geography, and if you are thinking how does that ties to the culture, I’m here to tell you it is intrinsically connected to the way of life, the culinary, the music and even the history. I often talk to my kids about the Caribbean islands and their location; kids usually enjoy knowing about the sea, the beaches and the tropical animals that inhabit the Island of Hispaniola. If your heritage is from a continental country, it will be valuable for your children to learn about the different natural treasures we have: like the highest peak in the West Indies and the largest lake and lowest elevation in the Caribbean, and how it all influences the personality and cultural expression of Dominicans.
History. As the first European settlement in America, the Dominican Republic’s 500+ history is the starting point of the history for the rest of the continent, especially the Latin American countries that the settlers inhabited later. You can create activities and print coloring pages that illustrate this history and connected to the history of your own country of origin of that of your parents or grandparents. Making those connections will be valuable for them to understanding more the history of Latinos.
Baseball. Even though baseball was not created in the Dominican Republic, Dominicans have definitely adopted it as our own. The cool thing about teaching about this part of our culture is how it blends seamlessly with American culture. Having American Latinos in my house, there is nothing I enjoy more than to teach them about baseball and the accomplishments Dominican baseball prayers have achieved within American professional baseball. Many Hispanic kids probably already follow the sport and know some of the players, and it will be a fun way to connect with them while catching a game and talking about its history as it relates to Dominicans.
I hope you can engage your children in one of these activities and teach them a bit about Dominican culture. I will sure be teaching my kids about all of the Latin American countries, the ones that are celebrating the Independence during September and how we all contribute to the American Latino experience in the United States.
Make sure you follow the blog hop and visit Inspired by Familia to get the schedule and visit all the participating bloggers. These are the fellow bloggers sharing content to celebrate Hispanic Heritage:
Let's embrace diversity and create social change! © Dania Santana ~ Embracing Diversity
Multiculturalism, Diversity & Inclusion Expert | Author | Speaker