Hispanic Heritage Month

This bilingual playroom in Logan Square helps families maintain Spanish language, embrace heritage

"Luna y Cielo Play came about because I almost lost the Spanish language," owner Vanessa Aguirre-Ávalos said

NBC Universal, Inc.

For Vanessa Puente, speaking Spanish to her two-year-old daughter Isabel, is a priority.

Puente and her husband were both born to Mexican immigrants and raised in Chicago. They've always embraced their culture, but even more so now, with two little girls.

"When my husband and I started having children, I really wanted to make sure they knew Spanish," said Puente. "My girls are already third-generation, and I knew it was high probability of them losing that language."

Puete admits she began to lose the Spanish language skills herself as a second-generation adult, but is now working to reclaim it for her daughters by raising them in a bilingual environment.

"I grew up in a primarily Latino neighborhood and I think that really helped me and the person I’ve grown up to be," Puente said. "It’s really rooted in me."

So when Puente found out about "Luna y Cielo Play Café," a bilingual playroom opening in the Logan Square neighborhood, she immediately checked it out.

"Luna y Cielo Play came about because I almost lost the Spanish language," said Vanessa Aguirre-Ávalos, who opened the playroom in the Spring of 2023. Aguirre-Ávalos said she dreamt about a space like it for years, after hearing from families looking for more resources to raise bilingual children.

Each detail in the playroom, is carefully chosen to represent different regions of Latin America, Aguirre-Ávalos said, from the toys, to the books, to the décor.

"There are different playrooms in the city of Chicago. But that I know of, we are the only one representing Latino culture," Aguirre-Ávalos said. "Our playroom can truly serve as a year-round reminder to our families and the children, to come here to play and be proud of who they are."

Marianna Rivera, a Bilingual Speech Pathologist in Chicago, said she began referring families to the playroom as soon as it opened. She believes the space is exactly what newer generations of Hispanic descent are looking for.

"I’m working with a lot of parents nowadays who are really committed to raising their kids bilingual," Rivera said, adding that its a shift from past generations, who hid their language and their culture for different reasons.

"We know that in past generations, people have been stigmatized towards speaking their heritage languages," Rivera said.

It's something Aguirre-Ávalos, knows all too well.

"When I was growing up in Texas, my parents didn’t want us to speak Spanish because of the racism they had experienced in Dallas," Aguirre-Ávalos said. "I lost the language and so did my brother and we both thought to reclaim the language in differently areas of our life."

It's the main reason why Luna y Cielo Play also now offers Spanish classes for children ranging in ages one to 12. It's also a key factor that motivated Donna Amaya to bring her one-year-old daughter, Loretta, to the playroom.

"She is first generation Mexican," said Amaya, whose husband is of Mexican descent. "We are hoping she not only learns to speak Spanish, but that this is the second language of many more. We were just absolutely thrilled there was a place like this within walking distance in our neighborhood."

Raising a bilingual child, takes lots of work, especially when English is the dominant language in a household.

"We can’t just hope that a child will become bilingual on their own, we have to speak to them in the language on a daily basis, we have to do the work," Rivera said. "It’s OK if sometimes we don’t know a certain word ourselves that can be a learning opportunity for a parent and child as well."

Contact Us