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Aguilar shares culture with St. Mary's

Mary Aguilar leads students in the Dec. 6 Spanish Festival at St. Mary's Catholic School in Morris. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times1 / 2
Students sing Spanish Christmas and winter songs in the Spanish Festival on Dec. 6 at St. Mary's Catholic School in Morris. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times2 / 2

The Feliz Navidad song is almost as traditional at Christmas in the U.S. as it is in Mexico. The Spanish title means "Merry Christmas."

Students at St. Mary's Catholic School in Morris performed their version of the song on Dec. 6. They sang the verses and the chorus in Spanish.

"Some of the songs, we didn't exactly know all the words," Allie Staples, a fourth-grader, said.

Although Staples and two other fourth-graders said they didn't have complete mastery of the Spanish words but it was still fun to sing the songs.

Staples, Kate Velde and Lincoln Schneider, along with other students at St. Mary's, have been spending Mondays learning Spanish from Maria Aguilar. Aguilar was born in Mexico and her family lives in Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico.

She and her husband Christian Cabrera moved to Morris three years ago. The couple has three children, Luisa, Maria and Angie. Aguilar said she thinks of Morris as home, but, she wanted to share some of her heritage and traditions with St. Mary's students.

"I thought maybe we can do it in a fun way," Aguilar said.

About two months ago, she decided that a festival incorporating Mexican Christmas songs and poetry would be the way.

A song such as "Feliz Navidad" may be more familiar to students but Aguilar also taught them a less familiar song she has sung since childhood. The song, "Andale Luanal," is "very, very Mexican," Aguilar said.

The song asks for winter to hurry and arrive because it is the time of the pinata. The breaking of pinatas is a Christmas season tradition in Mexico, Aguilar said.

Students learned about Aguilar's traditions as they practiced the songs.

"She said it was special to her because it was part of her culture," Staples said of the songs the students learned.

"We could learn about her culture," Velde said of one reason why the students learned the songs for the Spanish Festival.

It's good to learn about other cultures, the students said.

People of Mexican heritage live in Morris and the county, the students said.

"There are some who ride our (school) bus and go to our school," Staples said.

"It's good to learn about Spanish and to know how to sing in Spanish," Schneider said.

"I just think it's cool to learn about everything they do...," Velde said.

Although the students said they don't have a fully know Spanish, having some knowledge can make it easier to talk to someone who speaks Spanish, Staples said.

"I agree with Allie," Velde said.

"It helps you to know some stuff...," Schneider said.

The students haven't been the only people to learn. Aguilar said she's been learning about American culture since she moved to the U.S.

"I really like to live here," Aguilar said of the U.S.

Aguilar plans to have another event to share her culture nearer to spring at the school.

She's proud of how well the students performed given the limited time to practice.

The students said the Spanish Festival was a good way to learn Spanish and to learn more about the culture.