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Why Are Hispanic Folktales so Important?

Hispanic Folktales Increase Awareness of Cultural Traditions

With Hispanic Heritage Month beginning September 15th, it is more important than ever to educate kids about the rich aspects and history of Hispanic culture. Although Hispanic and Latino stories have been a critical part of American literature, in some schools much of this rich heritage is rarely featured and is often neglected in favor of stories from the dominate culture.

Hispanic Heritage Month provides an ideal time to begin introducing kids to many diverse and fascinating customs. While there are many ways to experience Hispanic cultural traditions through music, art, and food, perhaps one of the best ways to begin to appreciate and understand these cultural traditions is to explore their folktales.


Hispanic folktales have historically served several functions: to pass along core values, reinforce cultural traditions, celebrate historic events, and even to entertain. This is still true today and these timeless stories are as relevant as ever.

Fortunately, stories from the Hispanic oral tradition are highly engaging for children featuring tales of magic, charming tricksters, humorous, talking animals, and a range of compassionate characters. From an educational perspective, these stories also promote greater cultural understanding, and highlight many common characteristics between cultures. Equally important, these stories also illustrate the unique aspects that differentiate Hispanic culture from mainstream Anglo culture.

Authentic Hispanic Stories

August House is proud of our long tradition of publishing Hispanic stories. For example, Sherry Shahan has collaborated with artist Paula Barragan for a unique trilogy of LittleFolk picture books including Fiesta! that celebrates traditional festivals and holidays in Latino culture with rich whimsical illustrations. This unique picture book features text in both English and Spanish for young readers. This trilogy began with the award-winning creative team who brought Spicy Hot Colors to life and includes Cool Cats Counting. In fact, an animated version of Spicy Hot Colors was featured in the PBS Kids series Between the Lions.

Another example is Margaret Read MacDonald who collaborated with illustrator Geraldo Valerio to create the whimsical award-winning LittleFolk picture book Conejito. This folktale from Central America features a clever, young rabbit, Conejito, who must find a way to outsmart his tormenters and find his way home.

Years ago, in Costa Rica, a truckload of laborers drove by and excitedly shouted Conejito, Conejito. I had no idea what they were shouting to me about, until I realized I was wearing my Conejito T-shirt with the stylized rabbit on the front of my T-shirt. So, this colorful character is still alive and well, at least in Central American countries.

Story Cove includes a number of authentic Hispanic folktales that are not only highly engaging but celebrate a range of Hispanic traditions. Juan Bobo Sends the Pig to Mass, , a folktale from Puerto Rico (and the Caribbean) by Ari Acevedo, shares the classic tale about a mother and her foolish, young son who lacks common sense. It also tells the origin story underlying the popular phrase “putting lipstick on a pig”!

Celebrated, award-winning authors Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss retell Rooster’s Night Out a whimsical folktale from Cuba that showcases a story of friendship and teamwork to resolve the challenges of getting ready for a party. They also share a whimsical Peruvian folktale,The Stolen Smell that tells the story of a stingy baker who wants to charge people for smelling his baked goods.

Pleasant DeSpain’s LittleFolk picture book Dancing Turtle based on a Brazilian folktale, features a wise, trickster turtle who charms her young captors and escapes to the Amazon rain forest. Like many Latin Americans, the clever Turtle meets life’s challenges head on with courage, wit, and perseverance. Pleasant DeSpain has also written several story collections (including Eleven Nature Tales, Eleven Turtle Tales, and the Emerald Lizard,) that share a wide range of Hispanic folktales.

As you determine how to increase awareness of Hispanic cultural traditions, please consider adding some authentic folktales to your plans. If you would like some ideas on resources, please visit our Hispanic/Latino Reading List.


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