"Pachamama" and More Captivating Shows and Books Inspired by Latinx Legends
From a goat-sucking demon known as el chupacabras to the Incan goddess Pachamama, the legends of North, South, and central America provide fertile ground for movie adventures, TV fables, and even young adult novels. These stories offer wonderful opportunities for Latinx families to celebrate their culture and pass down their traditions and give families from all backgrounds the chance to share new cultures, discover different perspectives, and strengthen their language skills.
So, whether you want to keep your family's cultural background alive, get your kids to practice some Spanish, learn about pre-Columbian civilization, or simply teach your kids about some Latin American mythical creatures, you'll find excellent options below. Not only will they understand where some of the most famous legends come from but they'll learn about values like respect for the environment, curiosity, determination, integrity, the importance of family, how to recognize stereotypes, and much more.
Explore these great movies, TV shows, and books based on Latino legends:
El Chupacabras (book) 4+
Based on the legend of el chupacabras, a demon-like creature that sucks the blood of goats.
New York Times best-selling author Adam Rubin uses the legend of the famous goat-sucker as inspiration for this Spanish-English bilingual book, which -- though it sounds disturbing -- is highly entertaining. The story focuses on Hector, a farmer who finds his goat deflated though alive. He knows that the culprit is el chupacabras, the goat-sucker of legend. A woman with a flower cart offers him magic dust to protect his herd, but instead of sprinkling it sparingly, he empties the bag, and the goats grow into giants who start to chomp on the buildings in the town.
Brimming with positive messages and strong role models, El Chupacabras is a great choice if your kids are learning Spanish and English, because it uses expressions in both languages and easy-to-understand translations.
The Book of Life (movie) 7+
Based on the Day of the Dead tradition of honoring friends and family who have died.
One of the first popular mainstream movies inspired by Mexican traditions, The Book of Life focuses on a love triangle between Manolo, Joaquín, and Maria and the bet placed between La Muerte (the death) and Xibalba, an evil underworld ruler, about who Maria will marry. The Book of Life exposes kids to the environment, traditions, colors, and sounds of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead celebration. Kids will learn the cultural traditions of the Day of the Dead and what it was like to live in an old Mexican town without technology. The Book of Life is a great launchpad for conversations about strong female role models as well as for character strengths like perseverance and bravery.
Pachamama (movie) 7+
Based on the mythological Incan fertility goddess, who represents Mother Earth.
It took 14 years for director Juan Antin to bring Pachamama to fruition -- and it's now been dubbed in 20 languages. Set in 15th-century South America, when Incan civilization was at its most advanced, the movie tells the story of a kid who wants to become a shaman and goes on adventures with his friends. The animation is whimsical, depicting the Andes mountains and starry skies as magical places ruled by gods of nature.
Respect for the earth is a major theme, as are teamwork and the importance of belonging to a community. Kids will also learn some characteristics of ancient civilizations and the value of acquiring wisdom by facing challenges.
Victor and Valentino (TV show) 7+
Based on Mesoamerican mythical creatures and folklore.
Latin American cultural touchstones run through Victor and Valentino, which tells the story of two brothers who visit their grandmother in a town full of supernatural events. Topics from folklore provide the basis for every episode, in which the characters face a new adventure populated by mythical creatures, including ghosts and vampires, and dripping with magic and fantasy. Kids will get a sense of Latin culture and the traditions of Latin American life, as they view samples of music, architecture, language, and special celebrations.
Summer of the Mariposas (book) 10 +
Based on the legends of La Llorona (the Weeping Woman) and el chupacabras.
Inspired by Homer's Odyssey, Mexican author Guadalupe Garcia McCall's story weaves two legends, La Llorona and el chupacabras, into an epic quest featuring five Mexican American sisters. The girls face danger several times, just like Odysseus, and must vanquish each potential threat to return home to their mother in Texas.
This is a great story for second-generation Latinx kids, since it accurately portrays situations that Mexican American immigrants face. But it's great for all families to understand Chicano culture. Summer of the Mariposas can prompt conversations about diversity, bilingualism, and the different elements of both American and Mexican cultures.
For more bilingual activities and celebrations of Latinx culture, visit the Hispanic Heritage Month resource library on Wide Open School.