Being raised in two or more cultures is a reality for many Americans, but it’s not always easy.
For many Latinos who don’t speak fluent Spanish, it’s not uncommon for them to be looked down upon because of it; so much so, that they’re sometimes labeled as “no sabo” kids.
“’No Sabo Kids’ are basically kids — and a lot there’s a lot of ‘No Sabo’ adults as well nowadays — that don’t speak Spanish,” said Mike Alfaro, the co-creator of a new bilingual book series called Sí Sabo Kids. “It’s basically a label, too, that was placed upon people — kind of a little derogatory to it.”
The label “No Sabo” is a knock on Latinos who try to say the phrase “I don’t know” in Spanish. Instead of correctly saying “No sé…” they incorrectly say “No sabo.”
“I think for us was a way of updating that term, poking a little fun of it,” Alfaro said, “But at the same time, destigmatizing a little bit of the idea that you have to be a perfect Spanish speaker right away.”
That’s what led Alfaro and illustrator Gerardo Guillen to create Sí Sabo Kids — a series of children’s books specially designed to teach kids English and Spanish — though the books begin with a focus on English.
“Then when you get halfway through the book, when you start to getting into colors and fruits, the book’s dominant language turns to Spanish,” Alfaro said. “So you’re almost, you know, subconsciously… it’s just like switching languages and code-switching like a lot of us who speak English and Spanish do on a daily basis. This book encourages that.”
The books teach basic words such as colors and shapes through the lens of modern-day Latinos in America. Among the main characters of the stories are street vendors, flower vendors and ice cream vendors.
“Las frutas, las flores, las paletas — that’s what we wanted the books to feel like and look like,” said Guillen, who designed the books with a classic children’s book feel, but with a modern color scheme. “Flowers and fruits make it really easy for it to be fun. So this actually came really naturally because we would go up to a paletero and he helped my son. He would be like, like Dad, that’s a square, and it was just like, this is perfect.”
Guillen and Alfaro previously paired up on Alfaro’s first venture — Millennial Loteria, a modern-day twist on the classic Mexican bingo game Loteria. The initial game was released a few years ago and has become a best-seller in stores and online while gaining a big following on social media.
“Millennial Loteria was created out of anger. To be honest with you, I think it was created out of anger for how Latinos, especially immigrants, were portrayed in the media, portrayed on the political landscape,” Alfaro said. “Sí Sabo Kids is different because this is created out of the love. This is the part that was created out of love for our children, our community, our language.”
Since NBC4 last spoke with Alfaro, he has become a U.S. citizen and a father.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why we decided to start these children’s books, because we want to make sure that whether you speak English or Spanish, just learning a second language can open the door for so many opportunities,” Alfaro said. “I think if you don’t feel yourself represented, don’t wait for other people to do it. … That’s how we get to representation. And it’s all up to us, to our community, to push ourselves forward.”
Sí Sabo Kids books are expected to be released in March on Amazon and Target, among other locations.
“It’s exciting already and I can’t wait for everybody else to pick it up and enjoy it,” Guillen said.
Source: NBC Los Angeles