Should We Raise a Macho Man at Home?

The concept of the “macho man” has strong roots in the Spanish and Portuguese cultures. In fact, the word machismo stems from the Latin word “macho” which means male. However, its definition has changed over the years.

The word macho now means strong masculine pride, which is the concept the Latin culture has iconized over the past five decades.

The question is: should Hispanic families continue supporting this culture in their households?

Understanding the Concept of Machismo in Hispanic History

Will they grow up to be macho men?

Will they grow up to be macho men?

Despite the negativity surrounding the concept of machismo, it’s not really as abusive as it sounds. For centuries, men were the default leaders of a household since they brought food to the table.

Today you may be offended by the outdated concept of men being the leaders of the household, but male leadership may be part of what continues to keep Hispanic families together. Proving this is a statistic from the 2012 U.S. Census America’s Families and Living Arrangements, which states that 72% of Hispanic kids in the U.S. live with their fathers whereas only 49% of African American children have their fathers in their lives.

Going further back in time, manliness in Spanish-speaking countries was associated with honor, responsibility, courage and chivalry.

In Matthew Gutmann’s 1996 book “The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City,” Latin American males believed machismo to mean taking care of children’s responsibilities, acting polite, respecting their women, and possessing non-violent behaviors.

Because of the dominance of their gender, younger males are spared from chores like cleaning or cooking. They’re also given more freedom, allowed later curfews, and provided with larger allowances.

What Being a Macho Man Means Today

The last few lines you just read are just a little of what being a macho man today means.

Open any dictionary and you’ll see that hyper-masculinity is associated with aggressive behaviors, being oversexed, chauvinistic and committed to gender normative roles. While some mothers encourage these characteristic to a degree, others frown upon them.

However, you need to understand that machismo has a positive and negative side. It’s up to you to cultivate the positive characteristics while avoiding the negative ones, especially those which your children watch on TV.

The notion of male superiority can drive a macho man towards exercising control over their female partners’ life, leading to domestic violence or abusive relationships.

Another newly uncovered flaw of modern machismo is death for gay Latinos. According to, homophobia and label-fear has driven many to lead double lives due to cultural obligations rather than sacrifice their egos by coming out. This, in turn, causes the spread of STDs and HIV/AIDS among all three sides. Due to the lack of awareness, Latino macho men have died and claimed others’ lives as well.

So, before your son embraces the negative aspects of machismo, make sure he understands exactly what this Hispanic tradition meant rather than what it currently means.

Teach your son to be more considerate, helpful and gentle, especially when treating other women aside from you. Only then can you really have a real macho man who’ll always make you proud.

Are you raising your son as a macho man? Tell us in the comments!

Using Papel Picado Banner for Your Day of the Dead

Mexican folk art is filled with vibrant colors, and one of the best examples is papel picado (cut paper). The idea is to hung papel picado banners to wave in the breeze and you can use this handmade art form to celebrate important personal events such as weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms, as well as holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

Outside of Mexico, it is perhaps most associated with the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) where it plays a prominent role in decorations.

History of the Papel Picado Banner

Papel picado banners add a festive Latin touch to your celebration.

Papel picado banners add a festive Latin touch to your celebration.

The papel picado history goes back to both the Aztecs and ancient China. Before the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico, the Aztecs traditionally created a paper called amatl, which they then cut with stone knives. These images were generally religious, featuring Aztec deities.

With the arrival of the Spanish came the inclusion of Mexico in international trade routes. One good which arrived was tissue paper, called papel china (Chinese paper) due to its origins. This new, fine paper was soon incorporated into the Mexican folk art tradition as papel picado.

Papel Picado Technique

Creating traditional papel picado is a technical, time-consuming process that requires special tools, lots of experience, and a steady hand, not to mention a great deal of patience. The entire process can take 30 or more hours for one set of 40 pieces of papel picado.

The first step is to draw a pattern, focusing not only on design but also on physics: it has to be able to support itself once the paper has been cut away. Next, the pattern is placed on a stack of tissue paper, which sits on top of a thick lead platform.

The next step is to cut away the pattern using a series of specially made, sharpened chisels, each of a different size and shape. Once the negative space has been removed completely, the papel picado is complete.

Make Your Own Papel Picado Banner

Papel picado is a great addition to any Day of the Dead party, and it’s also a lot of fun for kids to try as a craft.

Since most of us don’t have specialized chisels at home, scissors will have to do. There are a number of different ways to create a home version of papel picado, but this is my favorite because it creates a series of squares, much like papel picado artisans create. Thanks to for the video and instructions.

Printed pattern templates
Colored tissue or crepe paper in several colors, cut to letter size
Masking tape

1. Fold template in half, with drawing on the outside.
2. Take 4-5 pieces of paper and fold them in half.
3. Assemble them like a book, with template on the outside. Tape the top so it won’t move.
4. Cut through the outside of the template.
5. Cut out the rest of the template. Continue to fold the “book” to access the inside shapes.
6. Unfold, remove tape, and flatten out the sheets.
7. Make your banner: Lay tape sticky-side up. Place sheets on half of the tape. Fold over to seal.

And lastly: Hang your papel picado banner over your Day of the Dead altar!

Want to know more? Hispanic Culture Online is one of the Web’s best resources on the Day of the Dead. Check out our archives here.

How do you plan to celebrate Day of the Dead? Tell us in the comments!

Hispanic Heritage Month Themes

Hispanic Heritage Month is coming up, and for teachers, that means a great opportunity to teach their students about the many cultures that Hispanic people represent.

But first maybe you are wondering: When did Hispanic Heritage Month begin? It actually dates back to 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the first Hispanic Heritage Week. 20 years later, Congress expanded it to a whole month. And that means a month of lessons.

Are you a teacher looking for Hispanic Heritage Month themes? Here are a few ideas:

Hispanic Heritage Month Theme #1: Day of the Dead

Face painting is a great way to celebrate Day of the Dead in the classroom.

Face painting is a great way to celebrate Day of the Dead in the classroom.

This Hispanic Heritage Month theme is very timely. With the creation of the animated movie The Book of Life, this is a great chance to teach your students about el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.

  • Elementary: Students color drawings of Day of the Dead skulls.
  • Junior High: Students research, make, and decorate sugar skulls in class. At the end of the month, they have a Day of the Dead party where they paint their faces similar to a sugar skull.
  • High School: Students research the tradition of the Day of the Dead altar. Then they create an altar, with different groups bringing different offerings (ofrendas).As appropriate, those represented can be famous people who have died, or students can choose to honor loved ones who have died, such as grandparents.

Hispanic Heritage Month Theme #2: Music

Latin America is famous for its music. Your students will love learning more about it.

  • Elementary: Make maracas. All they need is beans and a juice can.
  • Junior High: Each week, pick a different style of Latin music (salsa, cumbia, mambo, merengue, mariachi, trova, Andean panpipes, etc.).Play several songs, then have them talk about the music: how does it make them feel, is it similar to something they know, etc. At the end of the month, the class votes on its favorite, which is then the featured music at a Hispanic celebration.
  • High School: In groups, students pick a Latin ritmo (rhythm): salsa, merengue, cumbia, etc. Using the Internet, they learn how to do the accompanying dance.The groups then do a presentation where they teach the others the steps. At an end-of-month party, all the ritmos are played and the students practice – and have fun!

Hispanic Heritage Month Theme #3: Legends and Stories

Latin America is rich in myths, ghost stories, and legendary figures. This Hispanic Heritage Month theme is very versatile because each country has its own myths and legends.

  • Elementary: Have students color drawings of Latin American myths or dress up as them.
  • Junior High: Students read several ghost stories or legends. In groups, they write and then perform their own mini-plays based on the stories.
  • High School: Students pick a country and research one of its legends. They then do presentations for the class.

Want more ideas? Hispanic Culture Online is one of the Web’s best resources on Hispanic Month. Check out our archives here.

Are you a teacher looking for Hispanic Heritage Month themes? Share your ideas in the comments!

5 Ways Dads Can Help Spanish Learning

Raising your kids bilingual is more difficult than it sounds. For Hispanics in the United States, it can sometimes be hard when your child won’t speak Spanish to mom and dad, and Spanish learning can quickly become a struggle if we don’t have support. Much more than simply speaking in your native language, there are formal techniques that you can use to help this process along.

One thing is for sure both parents can contribute to this process. It doesn’t matter which of you is the one speaking the non-dominant or minority language – dads can, and need, to be involved in their child’s bilingual Spanish education.

Dads Can Help Spanish Learning in 5 Ways

Dads can help Spanish learning by watching television and movies with their kids.

Dads can help Spanish learning by watching television and movies with their kids in Spanish.

  • Be consistent
    One Person, One Language, or the OPOL method, is one of the most common ways to help your children become bilingual.

    Basically, each parent speaks only one language to the child. This conditions them to think of Spanish as the language that you need them to speak in order to be able to communicate – in this way, dads can help Spanish learning be natural for the family.

  • Be patient
    It’s been shown that bilingual children sometimes take longer to start speaking properly, as their brains are working hard to try to figure out the two languages. So – don’t give up. And don’t push your kids in either language.

    If you are consistent, their language skills will smooth out soon enough.

  • Share your culture
    Particularly if you are far from your native country, your child may feel like it’s not a relevant part of his or her life. Make a point to share photos and stories of your family, country, and culture – in Spanish, of course! Kids will love that special storytelling time with their dads.

But language learning isn’t all serious. Here are some fun things you can do to support your child as he or she learns Spanish.

  • Give them media in Spanish
    One of the best ways to teach kids Spanish is to make sure they have plenty of ways to include Spanish in their daily lives – and that includes entertainment.

    By buying them books and music, dads can help Spanish learning by giving them ways to practice, but you are also showing them that Spanish is fun and relevant to their day-to-day lives. Watching movies and television shows in Spanish together lets them share your culture with you while they practice their listening skills.

  • Play games with them – in Spanish
    Lots of card and board games have Spanish versions. For example, Monopoly, Life, or Scrabble. Other games are easy to use in Spanish: Connect 4, Pictionary, Go Fish, or Uno. Make game night Spanish-only. Not only will they need to use Spanish to play the game, but have them use it in any conversation that night, as well.

With dedication and creativity, dads can help make the Spanish learning process fun and effective.

Do you have a specific tip about how dads can help Spanish learning?  Let me know in the comments.

Spanish Immersion in Costa Rica for Your Little Ones

I have written before about how an immersion experience can be a great way to get your kids to learn – and actually speak – Spanish. It makes the language relevant, helps kids get real world practice, and also helps improve cultural understanding.

Most importantly for your children, it’s fun. That gives you a great tool when trying to convince them that this summer, they’ll be learning Spanish. One terrific option is Spanish immersion in Costa Rica.

Why Spanish Immersion in Costa Rica?

As a parent, the first question you are likely to ask yourself about when choosing the best Spanish immersion destination for your child is: is it safe?

As the most established democracy in Latin America, Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries in the region. It has no army and, unlike its Central American neighbors, it has not yet been plagued by gangs and organized crime.

It’s also very welcoming of tourists. Whether you want to accompany your child, or whether you plan to send your teenager to a camp or Spanish school, be assured that there will be English-speaking guides to help you and your teen.

That said, one of the best parts of an immersion is being able to use Spanish in real-life situations, and Costa Ricans are famous for their hospitality and their willingness help you practice.

Costa Ricans speak a very clear, neutral Spanish, which is easy for beginner language learners to understand.

Spanish immersion in Costa Rica comes with fantastic ecotourism opportunities.

Spanish immersion in Costa Rica comes with fantastic ecotourism opportunities.

How to Choose an Immersion Program

Costa Rica offers a number of Spanish language camps, as well as dozens if not hundreds of language schools. How should you choose?

  • First of all, consider the age of your child. If you have a young child, consider whether you want to accompany him.
  • Define activities besides Spanish for your child to enjoy.  Camps for teenagers often combine other activities.  There are camps for teens interested in learning to surf, or would he prefer to volunteer on an environmental project?

Finding out what your child is interested in can help you both decide what kind of program to look for. In Costa Rica, Spanish for teens is a growing market, so there is a lot to choose from.

  • Define your budget and based on that the time he is going to spend in Costa rica.
  • Make a list of the best options and read the ratings, social proof and comments of the children if possible.
  • Contact each option you think is a possibility and talk to them via Skype or Facetime.  If there is not a contact name or a person you can reach out to I would not feel comfortable.

Where Should You Go?

In this article learn Spanish in Costa Rica I describe very well the areas of the country and how they can play an important role in your Spanish learning adventure.

Now you know “what,” so next up is “where.” Costa Rica is a small country, but it has a variety of different climates. If your child wants to surf, look for schools and camps on the beach. More interested in ziplining? That’s generally in the central part of the country.

You also want to consider whether the location is urban or rural. If your child is not used to big cities, it may be best to look for a school in smaller cities such as Heredia or Alajuela, as opposed to the capital San José.

If you are planning to accompany your child – or take advantage of their Spanish immersion in Costa Rica to make a trip yourself – your tourist options are close to endless. Rainforests? Check. Beaches? Check. Volcanoes? Check.

As with most locations, when traveling to Costa Rica, it’s best to think ahead of time about where you want to go and how long you have.

Tourist sites can be long distances between each other, and roads are not always the best. With forethought, you can plan out a trip that makes sure you don’t miss your must-sees.

Spanish immersion in Costa Rica is a great way for your kids to improve their language skills. And it doesn’t hurt that you could get the chance to tag along on a tropical vacation.

Have you taken your kids on a Spanish immersion trip? Tell us how it went in the comments!

My Child Won’t Speak Spanish

Even if you have the complain: my child won’t speak Spanish, don’t give up! Speaking a second language can be a huge asset to your child.  Through my experience I can share that It will not only help broaden their understanding of and appreciation for Hispanic culture, but also help them in their future careers.

Kids at a young age don’t really understand this. So they need different motivation and encouragement for speaking Spanish. With some patience and consistent practice you can overcome this challenge. Consider these 10 reasons why you might be saying “my child won’t speak Spanish” and ideas for how to overcome them.

Your Child Won’t Speak Spanish – How to Fix the Problem

1. Your Child Doesn’t See a Reason to Speak Spanish.

Often, parents successfully teach their kids to speak Spanish at a young age, but as the child matures they abandon their Spanish because they don’t see any reason to keep it up.

In other words, there is nothing special about speaking Spanish that they can’t get by speaking English. To keep your child interested and engaged, set up Spanish-only activities like Spanish immersion trips or visits to Spanish-speaking family members that will make them excited to use their Spanish.

2. Your Child Won’t Speak Spanish Because Your Spanish Use is Inconsistent.

child won't speak Spanish

Learning to ride horses in Colombia
All in Spanish

I am guilty of this one. I used to be more consistent when my son was younger. I now know that if you don’t use Spanish consistently, your child won’t either!

For sure you don’t want to switch between Spanish and English randomly, or else your child will do the same thing, answering you in English when you speak Spanish or vice versa.

Try to set up a consistent pattern for practicing Spanish. You might make your entire home a Spanish-only zone, or you might set up a special daily bonding time to speak only Spanish like during story time or family game time.

3. Your Child Doesn’t Hear Enough Spanish.

We dealt with this one also as my husband is American and speaks a very crude Spanish. Passive listening plays a huge role in language acquisition and is a key part of how to teach your child Spanish at home.

One way to fix the problem is to expose your child to a lot of different Spanish voices and vocabulary by keeping the radio tuned to Spanish music or encouraging your child to watch Spanish TV and movies.

Right on this website I have a great section of Spanish Learning Songs that are a rich source of vocabulary for small children and even kids who are just starting to learn the language.

4. You Treat Spanish Like Homework.

If you’re teaching your child Spanish from a textbook, STOP! You don’ want your child to associate Spanish with boring stuff. Instead, build a love of the language with stories, games, and songs first. Then, as the child matures, you can teach more advanced grammatical concepts. Try to find language teaching moments in your daily life rather than always heading to a textbook.

5. Your Correct Your Child’s Spanish Too Much.

I know, I know, it is difficult to live with the horrible Spanish they may speak however, if you immediately make a picky grammar or pronunciation correction every time your child opens their mouth to speak Spanish, they will quickly stop trying!

Don’t be overly critical. Instead, encourage and reward your child when they try to speak Spanish even if they can’t express themselves perfectly yet.

6. Your Child Wants to Fit In at School.

Your child won’t speak Spanish as an effort to try be like all the other kids at school. Make sure your child feels comfortable talking to you about school problems, and be sensitive to how they are feeling. Maybe you will need to stop speaking Spanish in front of their friends for a while to help them feel comfortable and I say so as an alternative even though I never stopped.

7. Your Child Feels Embarrassed.

Your child won’t speak Spanish because he doesn’t feel confident in his Spanish.  If this happens he won’t want to speak it—especially not with strangers. Make sure your child gets plenty of opportunities to speak Spanish with other people besides you.

Start small to build their confidence. For example, you might prep them by going over a few key phrases and then take them to a Hispanic shop or restaurant where they can practice those phrases.

8. Your Child Feels Pressure from Another Source.

If the child’s other parent, grandparent, friend, teacher, etc. doesn’t approve of Spanish, you child may not want to learn. You can approach this problem from both sides—talk with your child about being an individual and talk to the other person about supporting your child’s learning when appropriate.

9. Your Child Is Bored.

If the majority of your child’s books, video games, toys, and other entertainments are in English, they will naturally prefer English. Be sure to provide a fresh supply of Spanish-only entertainment to engage and excite your child.

I make sure every time we travel to Colombia I buy many books his level to guarantee he has excellent reading material. Also, thanks to the internet you can find tons of options from books for every reading level to songs, games, and DVDs.

10. Your Child Simply Isn’t Ready.

Your child won’t speak Spanish maybe because every child learns differently, making it important not to compare your child’s progress to their cousins or siblings. Don’t stop speaking in Spanish to your child, even if they won’t speak back right now.

You can still get them to have a fluent understanding of Spanish which will add a great benefit and enrichment to their life.  To know more about how their brain changes by learning another language read my article Children Learn Spanish.

Now it is your turn, keep on teaching that beautiful language of ours!  If you want to learn more how to encourage your little one to speak Spanish check out these articles Raising Bilingual in Spanish Children and 5 Benefits of an Spanish Immersion for Your Chid.

Twinkle Twinkle in Spanish

Twinkle Twinkle in Spanish? Yes, this is one of the most beloved songs for children in English but…Why not do it in Spanish while teaching our little ones a second language.

I find videos by Muñequita Lala very easy to follow and well made. It is interesting because I just learnt about her through my Facebook page Hispanic Culture Online.

What I enjoy the most about videos of canciones infantiles is that when you play them for your children early on, they are fascinated by the melodies, rhythms and the new language.

The key is to do it when they are babies to make Spanish an everyday activity without pressure. Who knows, it may also help shorten the phase I am going through with my son where he says to me “I don’t need to speak in Spanish mom, I already know how.”

Speaking with some friends about introducing Spanish in households with bilingual parents, many of them agreed that singing simple songs like this one at home make learning Spanish fun.

The Simplicity of This Song Helps…

  • Children learn basic Spanish without pressure.
  • Remember words easily because we are very familiar with the melody.
  • Parents introduce new vocabulary in a strategic way. Just sing and have fun.
  • Children get accustomed to talking in Spanish because the lyrics are very short, simple to learn and easy to repeat.


Estrellita donde estás
quiero verte titilar
en el cielo sobre el mar
un diamante de verdad.

Estrellita donde estás
quiero verte titilar
en el cielo sobre el mar
un diamante de verdad.

Estrellita donde estás
quiero verte titilar.

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Teach Kids Spanish

I receive many emails asking how to teach kids Spanish. Many are from parents, grandparents, and even care givers who are not teachers and want to introduce Spanish to the little loved ones.

A couple of days ago Janet McDonald a grandma of 2 asked me “I am trying to teach my grand children Spanish, what is the best and easy way to teach them? Our goal is for them to learn it in 9 months, they are ages 9 and 4.

I said to myself I really have to post an article about how to teach kids Spanish. My goal here? Simple:

  • Give you a start guide.
  • Guide you to reinforce Spanish language with fun activities.

Start Guide to Teach Kids Spanish

Analyze Environment and Set Goals

  • Analyze how much time, effort, money you want to invest in the process.
  • Set realistic goals without pushing the envelope. How do you do it? By looking at the ages of the children, their ability with languages or by seeing their previous experience with Spanish through a nanny, school, etc.
  • Consider family background in terms of languages and culture. Are parents, grandparents or persons in contact with the child willing to interact with him in Spanish? Also, learning a language with culture goes way faster than just by learning it through plain lessons. Is there a chance to expose the child to Hispanic culture?

Materials and Resources

Many people think that with just one hour a week a child is going to become a great Spanish speaker. Unfortunately that is not the case. Like anything in life you want to achieve time, dedication and resources have to be committed to the goal set before.

Through experience as a Spanish teacher, a mother of a Spanish speaking son, and by tutoring children in the past, I found the best combination for success. A triad of software, music and cultural experience…here it is:

Use Music as Much as You Can
I have Spanish songs that my son loves and we have been listening to them since he was a baby. Repetition does wonders when it is natural and through songs.

Here are 2 CDs and 1 book I chose because they have the lysics to some of the most beloved children’s songs in Spanish like a la rueda rueda, la muñeca vestida de azul, antón pirulera and many more.

You can find the songs in YouTube but rarely with the lyrics. Also here i have a section for Spanish learning songs, use it regularly.

Take Advantage of Hispanic or Spanish Cultural Events
Make it a habit to check for cultural events and venues. For example holidays like Cinco de Mayo, Day of the Dead, and Hispanic Christmas are a perfect opportunity to practice language and share culture.

Celebrate Hispanic Month with songs, foods, and music at your kids’s school.

Join a Spanish Club
While learning, practicing is very important. Many moms gather to teach kids Spanish through videos, typical foods, and games like loteria which reinforce language very well. Make it a habit to once a month attend the Spanish club.

Look also for Spanish speaking friends your children can have. Make play dates and try to dedicate some time to playing a game in Spanish, play music in Spanish or simple try to speak some words. It will help the Spanish learning process become natural.

Other Articles in These Series

Bilingual In Spanish? My Own Experience and What You Can Expect
Raising Bilingual in Spanish Children. My Findings and Tips
When Children Learn Spanish They Gain…
Advantages of Bilingual Education