Villa Alegre

Villa Alegre

Synopsis of Saturday Morning Show

“La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la…VILLA ALEGRE!”

Sometimes called the bilingual Sesame Street, Villa Alegre was the inaugural project of Bilingual Children’s Television in 1970. Like Sesame Street and other programming from the Children’s Television Workshop, Villa Alegre (“Happy Village” in Spanish) was meant as educational television for the grade school set.

Also like its CTW counterparts, Villa Alegre was set in a fictional Mexican town (or village as the case may be) whose inhabitants were a mix of roving parent-less children, adult-aged authority figures and assorted fantastical characters including the town parrot.

Each episode of Villa Alegre revolved around a central theme such as “Energy,” “Food,” or “Family,” exploring that theme through film and video segments in locales around the Happy Village. The village market, run by actress Carmen Zapata, served as a centerpiece to town activities. The children often gathered there to ask Carmen advice and questions, and the viewers at home would learn Spanish words from Zapata. “Go away kids! The store is cerrado!” or “Okay, now you can come back in—the door is abierto!” Lessons in counting to 10 in Spanish were likewise a regular feature of Villa Alegre. The film segments usually illustrated some facet of the episode’s theme. In a show about energy, one segment was devoted to how a Ferris wheel works.

The rest of the lessons in Villa Alegre were delivered through songs. Dr. Moises Rodriguez composed all of the songs for the show, including the very memorable theme, an infectious classic Mexican style melody in a mariachi arrangement of guitar and brass. The all-Spanish vocals were performed by a chorus of children, and for most people who have not seen the show since its original run, it is the only detail that they can remember. That and the visual complement to the theme: a miniature version of the village against a night sky that had, hovering above it, the words “VILLA ALEGRE” as they burst into a frenzy of fireworks. All other songs were performed by various cast members and children.

Villa Alegre was cancelled after a battle over funding in 1980, and for the most part it hasn’t been seen since. Several attempts were made at reviving or redistributing Villa Alegre, but to date all have failed. Gone, but not forgotten by a long shot. Just try humming a few bars of the theme in a crowded room—“La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la…”—and listen for people answering you with a rousing “VILLA ALEGRE!”

Release History

1970 - 1980

TV Sub Categories

live-action
animated
variety
educational

Television Cast

Unknown Carmen Zapata

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