Springdale kindergarten class gets a taste of Cuba

Photo of Evan Simko-Bednarski

STAMFORD — Springdale Elementary School teacher Laura Cruz’s kindergarten class is a worldly bunch.

Once every few weeks, Cruz presents a culture to her class, and gives them a crash course in the far reaches of the world.

They even have passports, in which Cruz affixes a little stamp for each country they learn about. On Friday, it was Cuba.

Violet Mohr went around to her classmates, handing each one a pastelito — a small Cuban pastry filled with Guava. Mohr’s grandmother, Zuly Diaz Garcia, stood smiling in the back of the room.

Garcia, a Cuban immigrant, was the afternoon’s guest of honor. She read to the class from a picture book called “Goodbye Havana, Hola, New York.” It told the tale of a young girl leaving the country in the wake of Cuba’s revolution.

It was a story close to her own, she said.

“My parents had their business taken away by Fidel Castro,” she said. “I emigrated in 1961. My father was a political prisoner. He came over two years after.”

Garcia baked the small pastelitos to share with her young audience.

“Of course, theses don’t look like the real pastelitos,” she said, explaining it was too hard to get the right flour. “But they taste like them.”

Violet’s classmates weren’t limited to just the tastes of Cuba. They danced to salsa music, learned to find the country on a map, made craft hummingbirds in honor of the Cuban fauna and had their pictures taken in front of a vista of Old Havana.

“This is my passion project,” Cruz said. “I’ve been working on it for five years. I teach math, reading, social studies — this is my favorite by far.”

A Stamford native, Cruz said she’s inspired by the city’s diversity — the cultures she teaches are those of the students in her class.

This year alone, she said, “we have done Peru, Guatemala, Russia, Italy, Jamaica and Brazil.”

Ethiopia is next.

Her goal, she said, is to “foster a love of all different kinds of people.”