Carrascolendas

Propulsando niños de las minorías a través Carrascolendas: Propelling minority children through Carrascolendas

 

For Americans living post WWII, much of daily life began to seem familiar to what we see today. Long gone were the days of the depression and those of rationing goods. In the spotlight were the arguments of the kitchen debate and the ideas. It was during this time, Americans where continuing to face another form of disillusion, a form which through the work of Aida Barrera began to see its demise, further more displaying the American idea of equality of which we live today.

Long before the first scenes of Carrascolendas were shot, Aida Barrera found herself part of a traditional Mexican American family. As is the case for most Mexican Americans even today, much of her immediate family found themselves north of the Mexico border via migration for work and prosperity. Typical within most American families, her parents worked hard during her youth so that she as a young adult could focus her attention on getting a higher education, better than that which her parents were able to obtain. It is with flexibility that Aida began her journey in her hometown of Brownsville Texas, eventually finding herself at the University of Austin, where she would become known for her contribution to Mexican Americans, contributing even today.[1]

This production came in the form of her television show Carrascolendas. Through this show Aida sought to reform within the society of south Texas the issue of Mexican American children lacking the same quality education based programming that non-spanish speaking children had. At the time, Aida saw there was a need to this type of programming so that the Mexican American children would have a place to turn to in order to establish the same fundamental skills as all children, she wanted a universal symbol, something that would be attractive to all children and not necessarily be so culturally specific.[2] In order for her to accomplish this, it became apparent to her that this universal symbol needed to be something, which could relate to the American Culture so as to be socially accepted, while simultaneously infiltrating Mexican culture and emotions, winning he hearts of migrant parents. For Aida this became a major hurdle as she created her programming, in seeing the success of animals through programming such as Sesame Street and Disney, she understood this same adaptation to animals is what would ensure the success of her idea. She understood, children are especially responsive to theriomorphic symbols and can share a psychic identity with animals or animal symbols which sometimes baffles adults.[3] From this, was born the first and later most popular of many characters she would go on to create, Agapito the lion. Upon completion of Agapito, it became apparent to Aida that she had created the perfect symbol for what it was she intended to accomplish. Agapito had the bombastic bluster of his Anglo Saxon and American forebears, but with the ingenuity of the Mexican folk hero Juan Oso.[4] Upon seeing the success of Agapito, Aida would go on to add characters to her cast, creating other well-known characters such as doll sisters Berta and Dyana, tricksters Caracoles and Campamocho, and the malevolent Benito Vendetodo. For Aida each character had its individual role, as each one displayed a form of example for minority children.

While Carrascolendas would go on to acclaimed success, Aida and her band of example setting characters would face minimal yet intense resistance. Outside of the general resistance against a minority themed children’s show, most of the backlash Carrascolendas received was in direct relation to the characters Aida created. For each of her creations Aida saw a wide spectrum of criticism. The characters of the dolls were created innocently enough…. as the years progressed and gender issues became prominent in the greater society, one of the younger Anglo women in our production team felt the dolls had an unduly stereotypical feminine look.[5] Receiving equal prejudice, Caracoles and Campamocha became to be judged for their resemblance of American comics such as Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. Further attempting to criticize the show, the character of Benito, played by a Cuban actor, began to be criticized for implying that all Cubans were as mischievous as him. Aside from this criticism, Aida Barrera and her work with Carrascolendas would live on in completing its goal of providing minority children an alternative to English speaking television. Success of the work of Aida while not seen right away was easily seen in a matter of three years. From the beginning, in what I am sure was an attempt to prove her theory wrong, field studies were done to show the effects on children these bilingual programs would have, though year after year for the first three years of programing Carrascolendas showed the academic progression of children both English speaking as well as Spanish speaking, with the only decrease being in those children speaking English who did not view the program, accounting for only a 4.01 differential in academic success over the first three years.[6]

Looking back at early broadcasting, it is evident that little was done to account for the minorities of this country, aside from the popular broadcasting of time in the form of Sesame Street and Disney. This inadequacy was more then made up for though through the work of Aida Barrera and her award winning production of Carrascolendas. Through this broadcasting, she along with her lovable characters were able to bring children of Mexican American decent, the ease and understanding needed so that they to could grow and contribute to our American society.

Bibliography

Barrera, Aida. Looking for Carrascolendas: From a Child’s World to Award-Winning Television. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2001.

McLeRoy, Sherrie. Texas Women First: Leading Ladies of Lone Star History. Charleston: The History Press, 2015.

Williams, Frederick and Diana Natalicio. Evaluating Carrascolendas: A Television Series for Mexican-American Children. Philadelphia: The Association for Professional Broadcasting, 1972.

Williams, Frederick and Geraldine Van Wart. Carrascolendas: Bilingual Education Through Television. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974.

[1] Sherrie McLeRoy, Texas Women First: Leading Ladies of Lone Star History (Charleston: The History Press, 2015), 36.

[2] Aida Barrera, Looking for Carrascolendas: From a Child’s World to Award-Winning Television (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2001) 163.

[3] Aida Barrera, Looking for Carrascolendas: From a Child’s World to Award-Winning Television (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2001) 166.

[4] Aida Barrera, Looking for Carrascolendas: From a Child’s World to Award-Winning Television (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2001) 165.

[5] Aida Barrera, Looking for Carrascolendas: From a Child’s World to Award-Winning Television (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2001) 172.

[6] Frederick Williams and Geraldine Van Wart, Carrascolendas: Bilingual Education Through Television. (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974).

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