Growing up in Colombia we didn’t have a “Columbus Day.” This “holiday” was called “El Día de la Raza”  to celebrate the different races born after the mix of a not a very pleasant encounter. Even though it wasn’t known as Columbus Day, it was still meant to focus on the “great” things Columbus did for us (we celebrated Cristobal Colón, as he is known in Spanish). I have a vivid story of when I  was in 3rd grade and Profe Raquel told us that if it weren’t for Cristopher Columbus we would not have been sitting in that classroom listening to the stories of how brave he was to travel across the Atlantic to new lands. Although teachers made an attempt to recognize the diversity in Colombia, it continued supporting the main narrative that Columbus was great and brave. I never remember hearing of all the bad he did to the people who were in the territories where he landed until later when I was in bachillerato (high school).

In the last decades, countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua have opted to change the name of this holiday to “El día de la Resistencia Indígena” to honor the struggles the Indigenous people went through during the colonization period and to acknowledge that these struggles are not over. Other countries have joined this movement too!

As language educators, we can’t continue supporting the sugar-coated stories about Cristobal Colón. This is an invitation to make space and time in our curriculums to have these conversations and show the true story. It doesn’t matter if it takes some class time to have these conversations in our students’ first language. Children might also be having these conversations within their homerooms, so this can be reinforced in Spanish class.

A teacher friend that I admire and has been working hard on bringing this work to the classroom is Fran, also know as The Woke Spanish Teacher. Her curriculum is deep in Anti-Bias and Anti-Racist (ABAR) education and she works on this all year round. When doing this type of work in the classroom, it is important to know your students and also their developmental stage so that the material can be tailored to their age group. This is something that I am currently working hard on and something Fran knows how to do really well.

Here is an example of what Fran does with her students:


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But before bringing these topics to the classroom we have to do the work. We really need to educate ourselves. There are several trustworthy sources on the internet. Here are some that I recommend:

The Zinn Education Project

Teaching Tolerance

Rethinking Schools

Cultural Survival 

The Instagram post below gives great ideas to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. Some of them are:

  1. Land Acknowledgment (Here is a website that can be used for that).
  2. Educate others about the true story of Colombus.
  3. Support Indigenous businesses.
  4. Amplify the voices of Indigenous people on social media.

One more to add: learn about the influences of Indigenous languages in other languages and read books written by Indigenous authors.


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Just like this post on Instagram, as a language educator, I need to be intentional and not just acknowledge other cultures at designated times on the calendar.


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Are you ready to make a year-long commitment to celebrating other cultures and voices in your classroom? I know I am!




It’s important as language teachers to make space in our curriculum for other important and relevant topics. In the past, I have shared resources to incorporate teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. in Spanish class:

Honor Martin Luther King Jr. in Spanish class (Reading)

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. 

You can add these posters to your classroom and leave them on your wall during the rest of the school year!

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”


“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”


“We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”

*Images from Pixabay

¡Paz y justicia para todos!




In the search of books to read to my own children at home, I came across the book “What Was Your Dream, Dr. King?“*** It was written for children, yet I find it very informative and descriptive about that moment in the history of the United States and still at the level of a second grader. While reading the book, the idea occurred to me to write something that I know my 4th and 5th grade students can read and understand.

I feel fortunate that all the schools I’ve taught in here in the U.S. make a special point to mention Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. around this time of year to commemorate his birthday and legacy. Sadly, I don’t understand why some of us (yes, including me!) have to wait for a special month to talk or incorporate important events like this one in our curriculums. We have to be intentional about including this in our curriculums. And yes, it’s possible to teach them in the target language. It’s possible to make it comprehensible. ¡Sí se puede! You can always reserve that 10% for the L1 if necessary (note this is actually recommended by ACTFL).

It’s certainly possible that you might feel that this topic is not directly related to your curriculum, but I believe it is! I feel that as a language teacher I have to honor the diverse cultures and backgrounds of my students as well as to help them understand the wider world, teaching about the cultures of Spanish speaking countries. And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s messages for equity, equality, and inclusion was and is universal, leading to rich discussions in any language that can help deepen connections with your students. The fact that his message of peace and social change spread all over the world makes him relevant for students and cultures worldwide, and his words (e.g. “Free at last”) and actions (e.g. the March on Washington or the Montgomery Bus Boycott) inspire me and fuel me as a teacher, too. After all, students who apply their knowledge to do what’s right are the kind of young people I want to help bring up in the ever-changing world.

Click here to download this resource to use with your students. It’s recommended for grades 4 and up! 

Con cariño,

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