El Museo Del Barrio: A PS 346 Hispanic Heritage Play

By Amanda Moses

On October 25th, Abe Stark Primary School (PS) 346 honored Hispanic Heritage month (September 15 to October 15) with a play highlighting important figures throughout history.  The event took place in the school’s auditorium, where the children decorated the walls with pictures of traditional Hispanic items (such as maracas and sombreros) and drawings of Latin icons, like Celia Cruz, Richie Valens, Selena and others. A large sign hung over the stage, El Museo Del Barrio, setting the scene for the students’ first ever Hispanic Heritage play.

The performance began with a brief historical introduction to the creation of Hispanic Heritage Month, which was first observed in 1968 as a weeklong commemoration under President Lyndon Johnson, and later enacted into law as a month-long celebration by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. 

The play began with students pretending to be guests visiting El Museo Del Barrio, which translates to the Neighborhood Museum. As the students walked onto the stage they observed drawings of famous Hispanic figures.  Three significant individuals were highlighted in this performance: Ellen Ochoa, Sonia Sotomayor, and Roberto Clemente.  The play followed a group of children interacting with these famous figures as they inquired about their past. A little girl took to the stage, dressed as a former astronaut and Director of the Johnson Space Center, Ellen Ochoa.  She told the students that the journey to becoming the first Hispanic woman to fly in space during a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery was difficult. She was initially rejected by the space program, but she kept trying and finally was able to demonstrate her skills as an engineer.

The next figure the children learned about was Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who is the first Hispanic women to be appointed to this position. A student donned a robe and a gavel, displaying
Sotomayor’s ability to adjudicate fairly by listening to each side carefully.  Two of the students disputed over facts about baseball player, Roberto Clemente. The Sotomayor character listened to both parties and made her decision as to whose facts were correct. 

The final Hispanic representation was of the infamous Puerto Rican baseball player, Roberto Clemente.  A little boy dressed in a Pirates jersey and described how the professional right fielder played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In 1973, Clemente was the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

After enriching attendees with the students’ vast knowledge of these important figures, the children then sang and danced to various Latin songs.  Each class took turns explaining how music is a very important part of Hispanic culture. A few Latino musical genres are: Cumbia, Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata. As an example of Salsa music, one class danced to music by Celia Cruz, a Cuban singer who became the staple of popular Latin music. The students also sang “Guantanamera” by Celia Cruz and performed “La Bamba” by Richie Valens (a pioneer to the Chicano rock movement).   

Selena was also a popular figure celebrated in Hispanic culture. One student bravely performed a solo rendition of “Dreaming of You.” This performance invoked cheer among the students and parents as the applauded from their seats as she entranced everyone with her delicate melody.

The final performance invited teachers and students to join in the celebration by dancing to “La Macarena” by Los Del Rio. 

Photos by Amanda Moses