People ask me all the time how it is that I speak Spanish so well.
Dedicated instruction at the hands of Mrs. Rivera, my elementary school Spanish teacher whom I’ve mentioned a time or two, certainly had a lot to do with it. But, one of the silliest TV shows of all time played a big role as well…
The show is called El Chavo del Ocho, and in my early days growing up in St. Croix it was well-beyond Must-See TV. Not because it was a great show, well-written with sterling acting performances, or anything like that. No, this show was essential TV viewing because THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE ON!
It was the 1970’s. The greatness of cable-TV had yet to be unleashed on entertainment-starved Crucian youths. We basically had five channels: ABC, CBS, PBS, WAPA and Telemundo.
Sounds like a pretty good variety for the time, right? Surely us kids could find something decent to watch with all those options, right?
Well, no. At least not during those prized after school hours. At that time of day, only WAPA and Telemundo played anything that even remotely resembed kids programming. Cartoons like Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, the Flintsones and more were all available for our consumption.
Only problem was, they were all solely available in Spanish.
WAPA and Telemundo programming were transmitted from Puerto Rico, so naturally it was all in Spanish. This presented a dilemma for us kids: either learn Spanish, or find something else (Chores?! Homework?!) to do.
It was an easy choice, and one that I really think helped me to learn Spanish as well as I did. Endless hours of watching Spanish-language kids programs helped to reinforce Mrs. Rivera’s daily teachings. It wasn’t long before I could understand exactly what Fred was yelling at Wilma about.
More fun than that, though, was understanding all the mayhem and nonsense that El Chavo and his friends would get mixed up in every day. Just check out the video above for a prime example…
El Chavo del Ocho, which originated in Mexico, still airs in select markets across the globe. When I was in Aruba last year, I caught a few episodes on a rainy afternoon. The show was even converted into an innovative animated series in 2006, ensuring that El Chavo and his pals would never grow up.
Fewer still are the things that continue to have as lasting an impact on my life today…