Afro-Latinx Music Celebration

One of my favorite ways to explore the Spanish language is through music. In the language classroom, this could mean singing practical songs which practice numbers and days of the week, but it could also mean diving into more complex songs through a cultural lens. The latter is better explored with older groups of students. It is an approach we are taking in Grade 5 and 6 Spanish lessons by starting Term 2 with a mini-unit on la música afrolatina. 

Every week we ‘visit’ a different Spanish-speaking country. We first watch a music video that highlights emblematic cultural components or geographic highlights of that area. We then discuss what we observed in the video and move into a reading in English that describes the music group in detail and their cultural background and history. Students then record the information and write a reflection on their learning. At the end of the unit, they will consider which songs and videos they liked most and what were their biggest takeaways. 

There are seven songs and music groups, meaning our mini unit will span the better part of Term 2. What each of these music groups has in common is that their members represent the Afro-Latino (Afro-Latinx) community. Someone who identifies as Afro-Latinx has both Latin American and African roots. All of our music groups are based in Spanish-speaking countries, including Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. 

We recognize that the prevalence of African music styles and instruments in these aforementioned Spanish-speaking countries can be attributed to slavery in colonial Spanish America. It is an essential topic that must be discussed as it directly relates to the cultural makeup of our neighboring Caribbean countries and Latin America as a whole. The music groups we study in Grades 5 and 6 are proud of their roots and use music as a means of identity expression, on an individual and community level. Because of this, we use this unit as a means to increase awareness and understanding of Afro-Latinx history, but also to celebrate their resilience, creativity, and beautiful music. 

*Afro-Latinx is the term used to avoid gender bias 

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