The many contributions of people native to Latin America aren't often taught in school. Luckily, there are fun ways to teach your children all about Mesoamerican history right at home.

By Wanda Medina
January 11, 2021
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From Aztecs to Taínos, the contributions of people native to Latin America are many, including astronomy, mathematics, textiles, and towering pyramids. Yet most schools never teach any of this. Luckily, there's a lot you can do at home to spark kids' interest in Mesoamerican history. Best part: the pride children will feel knowing that they come from a long line of people still thriving today.

Credit: Cheyenne Ellis

Watch And Learn

Entertain the whole family with these animated shows.

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Pachamama

Follow the adventures of Tepulpai as he sets out to retrieve a seized sacred statue and bring his Andean village good fortune. Ages 5+; stream on Netflix.

Coming Soon In 2021!
| Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Maya and the Three

Set in ancient Mesoamerica, this much-anticipated series centers on a half-god, half-human warrior princess. Ages 8+; stream on Netflix.

Credit: Courtesy of Kids Discover

Travel Back To Incan Times

Using interactive 3-D models, the Incas by Kids Discover app transports kids to ancient Peru, where they can explore Incan traditions, daily life, and government, and take a 360-degree tour of Machu Picchu. Ages 4+, $4; available on iPad.

Tales That Teach

Encourage curiosity about native folklore and culture with these reads.

Credit: Courtesy of Lil' Libros

Cuauhtémoc: Shapes

by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein

This colorful, bilingual board book gets kids learning about shapes with a little help from the Aztecs’ legendary last emperor. Ages 0 to 4.

Feathered Serpent and the Five Suns: A Mesoamerican Creation Myth

by Duncan Tonatiuh

When the gods of Mesoamerica give up their many attempts to create human beings, the deity Quetzalcóatl vows to get the job done. Ages 5 to 9.

Zonia’s Rain Forest

by Juana Martinez-Neal

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon, an Asháninka girl is called to protect the rain forest she calls home. Ages 4 to 8.

Coming Soon: March 30!

Kusikiy: A Child From Taquile, Peru

by Mercedes Cecilia

After a constellation disappears from the sky, a Quechua boy living on an island in the center of Lake Titicaca embarks on a journey to bring it back. Ages 5 to 9.

Taíno Tales: The Secret of the Hummingbird

by Vicky Weber

Big kids will get wrapped up in this story, based on the Taíno legend of how hummingbirds came to be, about a girl and a boy from rival tribes who fall in love. Ages 7 to 11.

Credit: José M. De Los Santos

Feel The Beats

“Music is a great way to introduce native cultures, since many Latin songs fuse indigenous, African, and Spanish musical elements that came together during colonization,” says Sonia De Los Santos, a Mexican-Latin Grammy-nominated children’s recording artist. Take a listen.

“Caminito del Indio”

by Suni Paz

“Kids can follow the magical sound of the Quechua quena Indian flute, as it guides them through the path taken by native people along the stars, mountains, and rivers.”

“La Golondrina”

by Sonia De Los Santos

"This song in the son jarocho style is about the afternoons I'd spend on my grandma's porch, watching little migrant birds make their nests."

“Carnavalito (Humahuaqueño)”

by Sukay

"Just try not to dance to this festival song! Its Quechua instruments are still played at carnivals across Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile."

“La Hormiga ‘Tras Tras’ ”

by Totó La Momposina

“It’s about a crazy, biting ant and features gaita flutes: indigenous Colombian instruments made of cactus wood, beeswax, charcoal powder, and duck quills.”

Comida: the ultimate history teacher!
| Credit: David Tsay

Go On A Food Tour

Turn mealtime into a fun history lesson by pointing out the indigenous backgrounds of these common ingredients.

Avocado: Believe it or not, guac is not a wonder of the modern-day world. In 500 b.c., the Aztecs ground up āhuacatl (that’s “avocado” in Nahuatl) into āhuacamolli, which literally translates to “avocado sauce.”

Chia: The superfood can be traced back to the Aztecs and is still relied on today by the Tarahumara people in Chihuahua, Mexico, as a source of energy for arduous foot journeys.

Cocoa: You can thank the Olmecs for everyone’s favorite cold-weather treat! Historians believe they cultivated, roasted, and ground cocoa beans for drinking xocolātl around 1500 B.C.

Corn: Maize—or a derivative of it—can be found in hundreds of items, from tortilla chips and mayo to toothpaste! But it was farmed by Mayans around 6,500 years ago.

Quinoa: The Incas of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile were the first farmers to gather this protein-rich “mother grain,” which they offered to gods during religious ceremonies.

Credit: Courtesy of Crayola

Get Crafty

Explore the importance of the sun to the ancient Aztecs with this colorful Crayola paper-plate craft. Click here for instructions.

Take A Museum Field Trip

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has tons of virtual exhibits and online resources. Search by indigenous nation, region, and grade level to learn about Incan engineering, Mayan astronomy, the Taíno language, and more. americanindian.si.edu/nk360/resources.

This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's February/March 2021 issue as “From Aztecs to Taínos.”

Parents Latina

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