Archives For Mexican American

Today I asked my third graders if they could name anyone of Hispanic descent. They could list a someone they knew personally, a person from history, or a figure from pop culture.

Their lists weren’t long. In fact. Most were blank.

I wasn’t surprised given the community in which I teach. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for first hand encounters. And so my work begins. Unless I or other adults explicitly have conversations about the rich Hispanic heritage, history, and accomplishment, their lists will remain short.

It was time to lead the children to find stories. My third graders are fairly good at knowing how to solve information problems. So they eagerly rose to the challenge of using the library catalog to find biographies.

I recommend keywords – in this case, search terms like Latino/Latina, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, Dominican, Mexican-American, Chilean, etc. I remind students of the definitions of Hispanic and Latino/Latina. I also provide them with a few examples. This helps the class brainstorm more names to use in their searches.

One of the biographies that provided my readers with a window

The children know how to identify the call number of a book in their computer search. Then they use that to locate the book on the shelf. So they fly to the next step. Reading the book which offers them a window into new experiences, and a peek into an unfamiliar culture. I remind them that this is just one person’s particular story of being Hispanic and that like any group of people there are similarities and differences within that group as well as in comparison to another group.

Next week they will craft jeopardy type questions to post around the school to educate others within our community one story at a time.

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Just a few weeks ago, you may have taken a moment to reflect on the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the legacy of his “I have a dream speech.” But have you stopped to honor the work of a Mexican American civil rights leader, who almost 50 years ago this week, also changed the face of history?

On September 16th 1965, Cesar Chavez’s union joined with Filipino workers in the Delano Grape Strike and put in to motion the first agricultural strike to be successful in U.S. history. Chavez went on to be an iconic champion for Latino rights. He lead a peaceful 340-mile march, fasted for 25 days, organized boycotts, and served jail time, all of which eventually helped improve the life of thousands of migrant workers -a group with the longest working hours, lowest pay, and shortest life spans.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez,  written by Kathleen Krulll  and  Yuyi Morales.

is a gorgeous picture book, both in its narration and its illustrations. This account of his life is worthy of multiple readings since it rich with themes of courage, perseverance, social justice, family, power dynamics and the hope that we all can create change.

For more wonderful ideas how to use this book click here, Yuyi Morales and

have created a fabulous guide.

May you enjoy it as much as I do.

ImagePhoto from http://plusmood.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/museum-of-tolerance-renovation-07.jpg

If you’re in Los Angeles, don’t leave without visiting the Museum of Tolerance. The 1993 museum was designed to examine racism and prejudice. My exploration was too brief, but it got me thinking.

What would I include in my museum of tolerance? What would you?

What stories /histories of injustice, hate, intolerance, civil right abuses, human right abuses would you highlight? Why? What would you say?

What legacies should children not forget? Are there stories not told in your region that should be included? For example have you heard of the 1946 Ca civil rights segregation case Mendez vs Westminister ?  I hadn’t.

How would you bring these stories to life? What medium? How would you engage the visitor?

How would you spark dialogue or broaden horizons to be inclusive of many multiple perspectives? 

Below are some exhibits that the educational arm of the Human Rights Simon Wiesenthal center includes. Use them to get you thinking.

Glossaries : What words are important to share? How would you define them? Does everyone agree with that definition?

Timelines:  What would you include? How far back? How detailed? Would you want to highlight big themes? Or focus on one topic and go into great detail?

Multimedia exhibit about a time of injustice:  One exhibit is the Holocaust. What would yours be?

Tolerance center: How would you encourage genuine celebration of differences?

Point of view diner: What controversial topics would you include to help viewers tackle their personal responsibility for an issue?

Globalhate.com: What sites do you think promote fear, hate, injustice, prejudice?

Making your mark: How would you encourage others to make their mark?

Finding our families ourselves: What stories do we need to preserve? Why? What do families have in common in the U.S?

Special exhibits: I saw Para Todos Los Niños – how Mexican families fought for equal education in Ca. Other special exhibits included toys from trash, Black is a Color, and Albanian Muslims saving Jews during the Holocaust. What special exhibits would you create?

I’d love to hear plans for your museum of tolerance. And maybe before we know it, they will pop up everywhere and we can all learn from each other’s stories of the pain that we want to avoid recreating in the future.

I ‘m excited to hear your brainstorms.