New Mexico International School Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with Balloons, Bops, and Biographies

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Mariachis in front of an air balloon.

This month, we celebrate Hispanic culture and the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos to education. Educator Alisa Cooper de Uribe, New Mexico’s 2021 Teacher of the Year who teaches at New Mexico International School, invited us to join lessons and activities as students dive into rich history to learn about Hispanic leaders, ancient empires, geography, and culture.  

A Musical Balloon Launch   

On September 30, the day before the start of the 2022 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, students at New Mexico International School were treated to a special balloon launch at the school while listening to Mariachis play classic songs. The community joined in on the festivities, creating a beautiful fall morning filled with culture and scientific wonder.  

Later that day, Ms. Cooper du Uribe’s elementary math class read together the book Los Mariachis, weaving subtraction into the conversation about mariachi instruments.  

Teacher readings to students.

That’s a Bop 

At New Mexico International School’s middle school, Educator Amanda Kraft is working with students to creating a 10-line rap about Hispanic Leaders. Students will enter their raps into contest by Flocabulary, which facilitates learning that is not just academically rigorous, but also joyful and reflective of student interests.  

Student raps typed on paper

The Myth, The Legend, The Lesson  

Sixth graders are diving into myths and legends this month by asking, ¿Qué papel juegan las historias, las leyendas y los mitos en las culturas?  (What role do stories, myths and legends play in culture?) Students are reading about legends and myths from around Latin America in the book, Los pájaros no tienen fronteras: Leyendas y mitos de América Latina (Edna Iturralde). Students are also learning about the geography of Central and South America, as all the stories are from different countries in Latin America. They continue to practice reading, writing, and learning in Spanish to learn history and the language simultaneously.  

Students reading a book.

An Overlooked Perspective on History  

Moving up a grade, New Mexico International School 7th graders are exploring the rise and fall of the Aztec Empire. The books Historia de la Malinche: La princesa que ayudó a conquistar un imperio (Luís Barbeytia) and Huesos de lagartija (Federico Navarrete) provide a foundational history of the people and events that made up the Aztec Empire and offer an indigenous perspective of the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in Mexico. Lessons center on the indigenous perspective of the Spanish Conquista, rather than the Spanish record of the same events. In this way, students can relate directly to the question of, ¿De qué manera puede influir en lo que entendemos un cambio de perspectiva? (How does a change of perspective influence what we understand?) 

Finding Your Voice  

Eighth graders consider the concept of audience imperatives and author intentions as they study their first novel in Spanish, El color de mis palabras (Lynn Joseph). A winner of the Américas Award, the novel is about a young writer trying to find her own voice amidst turmoil in her home country of the Dominican Republic. Students are also working on a collaborative research project about the country.  

From modern to historic cultural events, music to storytelling, students at New Mexico International School are learning about the Hispanic and Indigenous culture and history that surround them every day in Albuquerque.  

Cooper de Uribe shares her thoughts on the intersection of culture and education. “Incorporating Hispanic/Latino and Indigenous culture, voices, and perspectives into our lessons throughout the year, including during Hispanic Heritage Month, roots our learning experience in relevance and shared history. Our school is located on the ancestral and unceded land of the Tiwa people, in a city with Hispanic presence for nearly five centuries. A strong sense of place and a broader understanding of the legacies of people from the diversity of Indigenous and Latino cultures—many of whose last names, traditions, languages, and types of experiences are shared by our students—is tantamount to providing our young learners with the mirrors, windows, and doors they need to become confident and conscientious carriers of language and culture. These lessons and experiences draw historically peripheral knowledge and contributions to the forefront of our students’ minds.” 


Jennifer Diaz is the vice president of communications at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.