New classes: Canciones, cantantes y Poetas- revoluciones del mundo hispano

New classes: Canciones, cantantes y Poetas- revoluciones del mundo hispano

Emily Shi and Julia Goldberg

Every year in World Languages Department Chair Maria del Pilar Valencia’s AP Spanish class, there is a period of time after the students take the AP and before the year ends in which the class has no more required AP material to cover, she said. In past years, Valencia’s students often asked if they could spend their classes listening to music, so she would string together songs and center a conversation around them. Valencia and her students enjoyed these classes– so much so that last year, she realized these songs could expand into their own course.
The class “Canciones, cantantes y poetas: revoluciones del mundo hispano,” or “Songs, singers, and poets: revolutions of the hispanic world,” will allow students to deepen their knowledge of Spanish language and culture through the study of Latin American songs produced from the 1960s until the present day. The lyrics and tone of the songs clearly trace major historical events, such as specific dictatorships in Argentina, Valencia said.
“If you check and make references to the actual historical frame[work], in terms of texts, those songs are fantastic documents,” she said. “They’re so cool and the music is so beautiful and the voices are so powerful—it is the perfect material to develop for a class.”
The AP-equivalent class is at a level that expects students to attempt to use Spanish in the same way they use English: to write, research, and converse. Unfortunately, because the standard AP course is geared towards students across the nation, the topics covered are usually quite general. In contrast, Valencia’s new class will be split up into thematic units, including an overview of the function of popular music within a society, as well as the importance of female voices over time, she said.
The songs are artifacts that were critical in shaping the identities of Latin Americans over the years, Valencia said. “If we’re in a fire pit with that guitar, those songs come up, and they keep coming up, because they form a part of our identity,” she said. “It’s not music to be sold; it’s music to say something.”
Valencia has always been interested in poetry and wrote her dissertation on Medieval music as a graduate student, but she also grew up listening to many of the songs integrated into the curriculum. “I am made of these songs,” she said.
Looking towards next year, Valencia is most excited for her students to connect with the music in the same way she has. “When you read the songs and read all the supplementary material about the moment in the history [you’re studying], the songs come alive for you in a very personal way,” she said. “That process of sharing something is just delightful; it’s what’s beautiful about being a teacher.”