Mexicans in Denver send a ton of money south, so Mexico returned the favor Wednesday by sending 30,000 Spanish-language textbooks for use in Denver Public Schools.

‘The taxpayers of Mexico recognize this effort because for us, Mexicans living in the United States are important,’ Leticia Calzada Lopez, the Mexican consul in Denver, said after a DPS truck unloaded the largest shipment, at Munroe Elementary School. ‘We never forget our conationals in the United States.’

DPS has received books from Mexico for four years, but never so many, district officials said. The increase stems from Mexican President Vicente Fox’s efforts to provide services to Mexicans living abroad, Lopez said. Books are going to other school districts in Colorado and nationwide as well, she said. Students welcomed Lopez to a press conference by holding up a sign reading, ‘Los ninos de Munroe decimos Gracias!’

Lopez reminded her listeners that Mexico, too, is a melting pot, with at least 62 languages spoken. ‘Our challenge is to come to grips with this multicultural reality,’ she said.

DPS inventoried the books before accepting them to be sure they would be useful, said Jose Perea, executive director of English Language Acquisition. They’re intended to be supplemental, not to take the place of curricular materials approved by the school district, he said.

There are math, Spanish and science texts for first through sixth grades, library materials such as atlases, and books to take home and read with parents, like ‘El Amor en la Familia.’

The books were published by the Mexican government for use throughout Mexico. Lupe Martinez de Leece, who helps administer reading programs at three Denver schools, called the books ‘very reputable’ and said she was excited about getting Spanish literature into kids’ hands.

‘What we find in the United States is mostly translated stories, which takes away the richness of the culture in the story,’ she said.

Superintendent Jerry Wartgow welcomed the gift, saying it would help boost the entire district’s academic performance.

Even Denver’s most vocal critic of bilingual education said the books would help.

‘I don’t care if they’re reading English books or Spanish books, as long as they’re reading,’ said Rita Montero, who heads the Colorado branch of English for the Children, a California-based group trying to ban the use of languages other than English in classrooms.

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