Encanto Project Offers Cultural Deep Dive

Beza Kifle

"Colombia is really close to my heart, and this way, I can show my students my country!”

The movie Encanto is a favorite for so many people. It has won countless awards, and it has one of the best soundtracks! (Sra.Mitchell’s and my favorite song is Dos Oruguitas by Sebastián Yatra). If you somehow still haven’t watched it, I definitely recommend it! 

“Encanto means the magic of the place,” Sra. Mitchell told me. The movie is about the magical Madrigal family, who live in their magical casita, or house, and what happens when the magic is in danger.  

The casita of the Madrigals is in a town in Colombia, a beautiful country in South America. Sra. Mitchell is from Colombia, and after her students in her Honors Spanish III class watched the movie, they began working on a project based on Encanto. In the movie, you can see many different aspects of Colombian culture, including the close-knit families, the food, the clothing, the music, and the biodiversity. 

Sra. Mitchell told me that Isabella, who is Mirabel’s oldest sister, portrays a perfect character of a girl from Colombia. “She’s my favorite character,” Sra. Mitchell told me.

For Sra. Mitchell, traditions, celebrations, and family are very important to her. “Food and music are also very important, and all of these things, you cannot take them away,” she said. 

In the movie, Julieta, Mirabel’s mom, uses arepas to heal people. On the day of the presentation, Sra. Mitchell actually brought in arepas to share with her classes (they are really good, by the way). 

“Arepas are kind of like pancakes, but they are made with cornmeal,” she explained. For Sra. Mitchell, arepas are a tradition, and instead of eating bread, she and her family eat arepas. “I have the chance to share that part of my culture that gives me a lot of happiness with my students,” she told me. 

According to Sra. Mitchell, Colombians are also very into fashion. “For us, it is so important to look good every single day, like with your hair, your outfit, and just everything,” she said. She also mentioned that the nature and biodiversity of Colombia are very beautiful. I love the mountains, and I love the different trees,” she told me.

Using these 5 different aspects of Colombian culture that were present in Encanto, Sra. Mitchell asked her students to work in groups to choose an aspect of Colombian culture to explore. The objective was to either make a podcast or a brochure for some students that are visiting Colombia for 2 weeks and would be interested in learning about the different parts of Colombian culture.

In each of their groups, students went into a deep-dive into different perspectives of Colombian culture by conducting research and asking Sra. Mitchell about her culture. When I asked her why it’s so important to show her culture, she explained to me that it’s necessary for students to not only learn about the language, but also the culture. “I used to use Coco, and that is fascinating too because it isn’t about my country, but you can see the cultural parts of that country,” she said. 

Sra. Mitchell heard about Disney’s production of Encanto long before it actually was released. “I saw a commercial, and they were talking about how Disney was going to make a movie about Colombia,” she explained. 

Sra. Mitchell also bought the book before the movie came out. When she found out that the movie was going to have a big, close-knit family, she knew that she had to incorporate it into Unit 4, which is about family. 

“I thought that the movie would make this unit easier to understand for the students,” she said. “I used to use Coco, but why not a movie that is especially about my culture. Colombia is really close to my heart, and this way, I can show my students my country!”
The Lovett School is an independent, coeducational day school where children from Kindergarten through Grade 12 find the courage to explore and the drive to discover.

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