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Educational book review: Learning about the life and culture of the children of the Andes

It’s not often that many authors and songwriters get a chance to introduce a different culture. But Daria’s music provide a wonderful book that tells about how children live in the harsh conditions of the Andes Mountains. But the story doesn’t stop there. It’s filled with activities, coloring pages, and a companion music CD. The songs in the album provide a unique way to listen to traditional Quechua dialect.

The following interview with Daria tells about her inspiration and dedication to the Latin music and culture. And she’s giving away two books and CDs to lucky readers, rules below.

1. Music of various ethnic backgrounds can be an interesting way to learn about other cultures. Andean children and adults use many of the surroundings to power their homes or even make some these wonderful quenas, chapchas, rainsticks, or charangos. How can children learn more about taking care of the environment and using what nature offers them to live or make beautiful music?

Almost every traditional culture has a history of loving and caring for the planet. They live simply and, as a result, are very grateful for everything they’ve been given. And they are resourceful, they use their creativity to make something wonderful, often out of things that others would discard or consider worthless.

These are all great values for any child to learn and practice. And parents can help children learn these traits of gratitude and resourcefulness. Parents can help children be grateful for things in their life such as their family, food, a safe and happy home, and friendships. Parents can also help children understand and appreciate the natural world such as the sun that gives light, the earth that nurtures and provides food, a gentle breeze on a warm day or a clear, cool stream – perfect for wading on a hot day!  You might surprise how an ‘attitude of gratitude’ can help a child connect with not only his/her natural world, but also with every aspect of the world around them in a meaningful way.

Cancioncitas Booklet cover

2.  Llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas are powerful animals that can provide more than its warm fleece. As you mention in your book, they are also used for transportation. Do the children in the Andes have other means of transportation?

Children in the Andes walk a lot!  If you live in the countryside – you walk to school, you walk to the market, and you herd your sheep or llamas by walking. If you live in a city, there are buses that can take you around town to the market and back. And if you live by a roadside, you can often wait for a bus and it will take you to the next city and back.

But most of the time, you get to enjoy long walks, usually with family members or friends and it provides a great way to catch up or spend time with those you love.

3.  Living in the Andes can present harsh conditions. Food is not easily accessible and there is less variety. Do the Andean people preserve all their foods using the Chuñu technique? What types of foods can be preserved?

If food is scarce, people become very clever and come up with great ways to preserve it.  That’s exactly what happened with chuñu, or also known as freeze dried potatoes. But that isn’t the only way that people in the Andes saved or preserved food. They created jerky (or ch’arkiy) to dry and save meat for lean times.  They dried and ground corn, often storing it in large storehouses built by community labor.  Corn, barley and strawberries are fermented for drinks used at festival known as ‘acha’ and ‘frutillada’.

Cancioncitas CD Cover

But one of the most important ways that people survive lean times is that they lean upon each other. Where I lived, people would always have work parties. One family would need help plowing their land and everyone would come and work. In return, the host family made a big meal and sometimes would have musicians or dancing so it would be fun as well. Then the next family would do the same thing so that everyone got the help they needed to provide enough food for their family.

And then, if a disaster comes such as hail that might ruin a crop in one area, people would step up and help that family. The idea of working together as a community meant that no one faced these difficult times alone and that everyone could help a little so that all could survive.

I often think that these values are so important and missing in modern life. Although few people would want to go back to simple ways of life like those in the Andes, this culture demonstrates some important values that all of us can learn a great deal from.

Giveaway rules:

To enter the giveaway to win a free copy of the book and CD, you must:

  1. Visit Daria’s Music and comment or share a post
  2. Visit Spanish4Kiddos Facebook page and like or share a post
  3. Tweet: I enjoyed reading about the life of children in the Andes via @spanish4kiddos
Courtesy of Daria World Music

Called “ambassador of song”, by US newspapers, Daria has traveled around the world to create music that uplifts and empowers. A 2008 and 2007 “Parent’s Choice” winner, all of Daria’s CD’s are currently being played around the globe from Australia, to South Africa, to Europe and South America as well as across the US in homes, preschools, schools and on several Native American Reservations. To learn more about Daria, please visit her official web page: Daria. Also, check out: Making Multicultural Music blog, and her Vimeo videos.

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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