¡Viva Navidad! : Bringing Latino Culture and the Magic of Disney Together for the Holidays

Viva Navidad Disneyland Mexican dancers
Viva Navidad Disneyland Mexican and Samba dancers. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2014 LATISM conference as a Top Bloguera. During  the conference I had the honor of listening to Susana Tubert, creative director at Disney , who talked about her career and her passion for theater and the Latino culture.  Susan is responsible for creating ¡Viva Navidad! at Disney California Adventure Park: this is a holiday celebration filled that brings together authentic elements of the Latino culture and combines them with the magic and whimsy of Disney.

Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland Viva Navidad
Mickey and Minnie at Disney California Adventure Park ¡Viva Navidad! street parade! Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

It really blew me away to see the love and the sensitivity with which she took on this project and as the street party began and the air filled with the sounds, the colors and the smells of Mexico and Brazil I was overcome with happiness and wonderful memories of holidays spent in my home country, Guatemala.

Viva Navidad Disneyland Mexican dancers
Mexican folkloric dancers at ¡Viva Navidad!. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

¡Viva Navidad! is a holiday celebration that takes place at Disney California Adventure Park. It tells the story of the 3 caballeros: Donald Duck from the United States, Panchito from Mexico and Jose Carioca from Brazil and incorporates their points of view  and their cultures.

Viva Navidad Mexican mojiganga doll and Mickey
Mexican mojiganga doll and Mickey. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

The ¡Viva Navidad! street party starts off with music and folkloric dancers from Mexico. The street is filled with bright colors and mariachi music as the dancers twirl in their traditional dresses and papel picado banners fly in the air.  My favorite part where the 15ft tall mojiganga dolls, these giant paper mache dolls from Mexico are truly a sight to see: with their colorful dresses they glide among the dancers as you can hear the clapping and the gasps of the crowd. Jose Carioca doesn’t want to stay behind so he brings out his entourage of samba dancers and percussionists.  The brazilian dancers and musicians take over the street party as the Mexican dancers look on.   There is a sort of dance off between the Mexican and Samba dancers which culminates in both troops of folkloric dancers coming together and as the Mariachi music blends with the Samba drums.

Viva Navidad mojigangas
Traditional Mexican mojiganga and Santa Claus during the ¡Viva Navidad! street party. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

While this is happening Santa Claus and Mrs. Clause mojiganga dolls join the party as well as Mickey and Minnie, both wearing traditional clothing and waving tho the excited crowd.  The street party explodes with merriment as the three cultures come together in this multicultural holiday celebration that is tremendously universal and appeals to families of all backgrounds!

Viva Navidad Disneyland The Three Caballeros
The Three Caballeros on their festive holiday float during the ¡Viva Navidad! street party. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

The centerpiece of the celebration is the street party with a huge float that has a Christmas tree and here the 3 caballeros dance along to the music but there is much more to ¡Viva Navidad!.  Traditional music plays all day on different stages and I truly enjoyed listening to the Grammy Award Winning Mariachi Divas play a variety of traditional Latina American holiday songs along with American holiday music!

There are also meet and greet opportunities with the Disney characters who are dressed in traditional clothes from Mexico and you can buy traditional handmade artesanías!

Mickey Dressed in traditional Mexican clothes at Viva Navidad.
Mickey dressed in traditional Mexican clothes at ¡Viva Navidad! holiday celebration at Disney California Adventure Park. Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

After enjoying the street party, the music and shopping it was time for some food. I was thrilled to find that during ¡Viva Navidad! Paradise Garden Grill offers traditional Mexican dishes.  I had the torta and I have to say that it was one of the best tortas I’ve had, I truly felt like I was eating at a cafeteria in Mexico City!

Viva Navidad Mexican food
Authentic Mexican food at Paradise Garden Grill during ¡Viva Navidad!. Photos: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz, all rights reserved.

I am excited about Disneyland’s ¡Viva Navidad! and hope that something similar will come to Disney World Orlando.  I know that for me personally seeing the Latino culture so well represented and celebrated in a place like Disney means the world to me because it reinforces in my children that their Latino culture, traditions and roots are beautiful and are something they can rejoice in and cherish.

¡Viva Navidad! kicked off on November 13, 2014 and continues in the New Year with a grand finale: Three Kings’ Day, January 2 – 6, 2015.  During the Día de Reyes celebration you will see sculptures of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts. Your niños can color in the Three Kings or customize their own paper crown with sparkling “jewels”  and there will even be Rosca de Reyes available!

You can learn more about ¡Viva Navidad! by visiting the Disneyland website here.

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

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