Blog: Latino Ed Beat

What does La Llorona have to do with Latino education?

As an avowed horror and zombie movie fan, I always look forward to this month, with its wealth of Halloween-themed flicks, TV shows and store displays. So, it’s no surprise that this story in the Los Angeles Times caught my attention.

The piece by Hugo Martin is about the increasing number of Latino-themed Halloween costumes and haunted house displays. The character of La Llorona or the wailing woman, the chupacabra, and Day of the Dead skeletons seem to be joining the ranks of traditional Halloween favorites — a nod, Martin says, to the country’s growing number of Latinos.

So, you might be asking yourself right about now, what does this have to do with Latino education issues?

Well, for me, it’s an example of how reporters can take an offbeat angle and use it as an exploration of a larger trend. In this case, Martin picked up on a changing consumer practice — new costumes on store shelves — and used it to look at the growth and influence of the rising Latino middle class.

As Martin notes:

“The trend in Southern California and other heavily Latino regions seems fueled by a growing Latino middle class that visits theme parks in greater numbers and the rising popularity of Halloween, now the second-biggest holiday for spending in the country, behind only Christmas. Officials say studies have suggested Latinos may visit theme parks twice as often as other groups.

Vendors of Halloween fun are targeting a Latino population that has increased by nearly 28% in California to 14 million in the last 10 years.”

It’s a creative way of examining societal changes without resorting to a dry statistic or Census based piece. In addition, the piece also offers a glimpse into cultural nuances that non-Latinos might not be familiar with. In this case, the story of La Llorona, a mythological mother who killed herself after drowning her children and who now weeps for them into eternity.

Education reporters can build similar stories by looking for unusual trends or developments in their schools or districts and exploring the larger story behind those trends. Are your schools holding Day of the Dead or Hispanic Heritage events? Have PTA or open houses taken on a multicultural flair that was not present in previous years? Are there changes in book fairs, school plays, and other extracurricular activities? And if so, does those changes reveal a shift in the school culture or demographics?