Bilingual show inspires Latino children across the U.S.
'Santiago of the Seas' is on Nickelodeon, and hopes to bring children closer to the Spanish language.
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Santiago ‘Santi’ Montes is Caribbean, eight years old and a pirate. But not just any pirate. Guided by his instinct, good heart and passion for his Latin culture, Santiago is in charge of ensuring the safety of the sea in the Caribbean.
To fulfill his mission, he and his friends travel on a ship, discover hidden treasures and build the stories of the new animated kids show, Santiago of the Seas.
Premiering on Nickelodeon in 2020, the children’s program was developed in English and Spanish. The characters speak mainly in English, but when Spanish appears, the story is presented in such a way that the context is clear and understandable to the audience.
This presents a learning opportunity for younger viewers, who come in droves to watch the cartoon.
In addition to including Spanish words and phrases, Santiago of the Seas incorporates other elements of Caribbean and Latin American culture, such as music, dance, folklore, customs and colonial architecture.
Santiago and Tomás, inseparable cousins
To achieve its goal, the adventure show features a cast of child actors close to the Latino community, who are part of the entertainment industry at a very young age.
One of them is Dean Vazquez, who voices ‘Santi’ Montes. Of Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian descent, Dean has played roles in the major blockbuster Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and in the independent production, Nine Bullets.
His ability to learn a script and act in front of the camera is natural, but being cast as the new lead in the show has been a special experience for this young Nickelodeon viewer, who is now in eighth grade.
“When I found out I had been cast, I was so happy and my dad was like, ‘Oh my Goodness, daddy, I got the part of Santiago.’ That night, we had a dinner with the family to celebrate and it was great,” he said in conversation with AL DÍA.
Dean is not the only new voice on this popular production. Mason Vazquez is a fourth-grade student whose acting career has seen work on the film In The Heights and the TV miniseries Cupids.
“I was jumping up and down. I got so happy and cried. I really couldn’t believe it. I already watched Nickelodeon before being part of the cast of Santiago of the Seas, and it was incredible to know that now I would be part of a show on this channel,” said the actor, who voices the energetic Tomás Gaviota, Santiago’s cousin.
In the show, Tomás has a magic guitar that can be used to conjure the wind.
In the story, Santi and Tomás are accompanied by the mermaid Lorelai, who is able to communicate with all the creatures that live in the sea and can be transform into human.
Santiago of the Seas was created by Puerto Rican filmmaker Niki Lopez, actor and screenwriter Leslie Valdes and Valerie Walsh Valdes, who is known for co-creating and producing the popular children’s show Dora the Explorer. Valdés and Walsh Valdés also act as executive producers, while López is also co-executive producer.
The animated show airs every Friday on Nickelodeon and is also available on Paramount+.