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When the results of the 1990 census were released, Americans realized how much the nation had changed in the last ten years. Of 249 million people, the percentage listed as white had dropped to 71.3%. African Americans were now 12.1% of the population and the people of Latino origin had grown by about a third, to 9 percent. The percentage of people of Asian descent had almost doubled to 2.9%. These figures help to demonstrate the changing nature of American society. Of course, this changing nature is also reflected in the school population throughout the United States.
In the past, the United States had been thought of as a melting pot; the culture of many different groups were supposed to mix to create one American culture. A new image began to emerge in the 1960’s replacing the idea of a melting pot. Latinos pushed to view America more like a multi-cultural rainbow. In a multi-cultural society at its best, people should not just tolerate differences, but should appreciate and share the strengths of their diversity. All groups still contributed to making one united nation, but these groups wish to be seen as individuals, each keeping much of its special culture. This new image of the United States began to have an effect on the population and the economy of the nation.
On September 7, 1968 President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation designating a week in September as Hispanic-American week. In 1995 a bill was passed creating Hispanic-American month (September 15-October 15). This month included not only the independence days of several Latin American countries, including Mexico on September 6, but also on October 12, Dia de la raza, or Columbus Day which commemorates the first voyage of Columbus to the New World. Students will study the heritage of Latinos. Although Latinos come from many different countries and many cultures, they do share many experiences, as well as the Spanish language.
Sample lessons are provided that demonstrate the struggle for freedom and justice shared by Hispanics. Students will be presented with issues that will help them to develop critical thinking and writing skills. Students will realize that the United States holds a unique position in that we are the product of immigration, and thus, reflect a cultural pluralism. America consists of a multitude of diverse ethnic, racial, and religious groups which share a common American citizenship, a democratic way of life and values which stress the dignity and worth of the individual. Yet, there are genuine differences which divide Americans. It is these differences that influence the way students react to one another. By exploring these differences, myths will be destroyed and stereotypes will be broken.
I expect that the student to relate to such concepts as ethnicity, multiculturalism and diversity by studying how others before them dealt with these issues. The past can, in many instances, demonstrate what was successful and what was not. Many of the problems of the 1970’s were directly related to the above mentioned concepts. It is my hope that students will gain an awareness of all the wonderful things that unite all our countries and rejoice in our diversity as well.
Students will learn to appreciate and share the strengths of their diversity. This will be done by sharing food, music,and literature from the various ethnic groups with the entire class. In the past the United States has been thought of as a melting pot; the culture of many different groups were supposed to mix to create one American culture. A new image began to emerge in the l960’s replacing the idea of a melting pot. Latinos pushed to view America more like a multi-cultural rainbow. In a multi-cultural society at its best, people would not just tolerate differences, they would appreciate and share their differences. All groups still contribute to making one united nation, but these groups wished to be seen as individuals, each keeping much of their special culture.
In the l960’s the salsa was becoming popular. Salsa blended the African and Spanish heritage shared by the Latinos of the Caribbean. It is a consequence of the fusion between the Spanish guitar and the African drum. It reverberates around most of the countries of Latin America. The Cuban salsa, however, has a heavier reliance on the acoustic guitar and percussion which distinguished it from the more brassy sound of the other Latin American salsas.
At the height of its musical prowess, midway through the twentieth century, many Cuban musicians were hired to play in the United States where their Afro-Spanish rhythms gelled with the American jazz sound. This gave rise to a music called Cubob which in turn evolved into Layini jazz. Latino beats crept into musical forms born in the United States. Jazz artists such as Chuck Corea studied with Caribbean masters such as Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo. Carlos Santana added African Caribbean drums and rhythm to rock and roll. Singers with Latino backgrounds such as Linda Rondstadt (Mexican) and Gloria Estefan (Cuban) added Spanish lyrics on their albums. By the mid l970’s mainstream popular music in the United States reflected the influence of Latin America on United States culture.
Teachers should ask students to bring in recordings of their favorite Latino artists. See if they can pick out how the musicians have incorporated Latino themes into popular music. Or students might wish to create a display of Latin American musicians which includes a short essay on the life of that musician. Ask the student to present three influences in that person’s life that helped him to succeed in the music business.
African music has provided a foundation for Caribbean music as it developed into its modern form. The bomba is a traditional drum dance which originated among slaves in Puerto Rico during the colonial period. Drums were made from empty grease barrels with a goat skin stretched over the top. The bomba is related to drum dances in other Caribbean cultures reflecting common African roots. Around the beginning of the twentieth century the bomba combined with other musical influences to produce the plena. The plena is also based on drum rhythms. The Puerto Rican plena arose at the beginning of the twentieth century. It came to be recognized as the most authentic and representative music of the Puerto Rican people. As Puerto Rican workers migrated to the United States, the plena took root in the New York Puerto Rican community. The New York newspaper El Nuevo Mondo noted that “ at night in our Latin neighborhoods you can hear the music oozing out of the cracks in the windows and blasting from the music stores.”
It would be extremely beneficial if the students would have the opportunity to hear bomba and plena music in the classroom. Tapes may be obtained at a local record store or by mail from Original Music RD#1 Box 190 Lasher Road, Tivoli, New York, 12583. In addition films are available for rent from the Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos. One suggested film is called “Plena is Work, Plena is Song”. This is a thirty six minute color documentary focusing on the relationship between the Puerto Rican working class experience and the musical experience. It is produced and directed by Pedro Rivera and Susan Zeig. It is in Spanish, but it has English subtitles. After viewing this film divide the class into teams of two students each. Choose an event that happened in your school or community. Ask them to compose a plena about this event and try to get a volunteer to sing it to the class. They should remember to try and make their song humorous.
By the l970’s a large amount of nuyorican literature had emerged. Many writers were bilingual. They wrote in Spanish and in English. The nuyorican writer describes the Puerto Rican migrant experience, identity issues, as well as racial issues. A good selection for students would be the first novel written by Tato Laviero entitled La Carreta Made A U Turn. The main theme in this book is that Puerto Rico can be found in New York. Another issue of concern for the Puerto Rican writer is the issue of identity; what it means to be a Puerto Rican. Students will enjoy reading Down These Mean Streets, by Piri Thomas. Mr. Thomas was born in Spanish Harlem in 1928. He began his writing while serving time in jail for armed robbery. The stories by Thomas describe his involvement with street gangs and drug addiction. They are sometimes raw in their use of language, sexually explicit and somewhat violent; but it reflects real life. A good excerpt to read from Thomas’ book is the chapter entitled “ Puerto Rican Paradise “. Students should consider the following questions: a) How realistic are the memories of Thomas’ mother. Using examples from the reading describe his mother’s life in Puerto Rico and contrast it with the situation she finds herself in Harlem. b) Mr Thomas states “ only poor people can understand poor people.” Does that mean that only by being a member of a group can you understand the experience of someone in that group. This should contribute to a lively class discussion. Students should be able to argue both sides.
Another good choice is “ A Thanksgiving Celebration “ which is part of Nicholasa Mohr’s, Rituals of Survival. “A Thanksgiving Celebration “ explores the way in which one woman relies on her creativity and strength of will to gain a sense of control over her decaying environment. After reading this selection students should be assigned the task of writing an alternate ending to the story. Students are to share their endings with the rest of the class and then compare them with Mohr’s optimistic ending.
When I Was Puerto Rican is always a favorite of high school students. Written by Esmeraldo Santiago, this book reflects upon her life in New York city where the language and rules were so different than in Puerto Rico. She talks about how she overcame adversity, attended New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts and graduated with honors from Harvard University. Puerto Rican works are now part of the mainstream of American literature. Cultural ties between the island and the mainland remain strong.
The oldest Puerto Rican community in the United States is El Barrio, It is located in New York city. Here the people keep alive their language, culture, and traditions. They have appointed specific places to preserve their culture, A good field trip for teachers to arrange would be to the El Museo del Barrio. This is an art museum that displays the work of Puerto Rican artists.The work of Antonio Martorell is displayed at this museum. Mr. Martorell left Puerto Rico for California in 1954. In the 1960’s he became known as one of the island’s leading painters. He has helped promote Puerto Rican culture on the mainland through the shows and workshops he has presented at Hostos Community College.
Another interesting spectacle for students to witness while in New York city is the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. It was one of the organizations formed during the Puerto Rican cultural revival. This theater group performs works by Puerto Rican playwrights. They perform on the streets of New York city.
Unlike Puerto Rico, the Cubans in the United States found their ties with their homeland cut by revolution. In the l960’s many Cuban writers and artists struggled with the idea that they were now exiles. For more than ten years after the Cuban community established itself in the United States, many of the best known Cuban writers wrote of the heartbreaking move to the United States. Herberto Padilla had supported the revolution in Cuba, but he felt betrayed because literary freedom was being curtailed in his country, In 1971, Cuban officials forced Padilla to publicly denounce his own poetry. Writers around the world pressured Cuba to grant exit permits to Padilla and his wife poet Belkis Cuza Male. Today, Padilla teaches and writes in Princeton, New Jersey.
In developing their art and literature in the United States, Cubans had a rich heritage to draw upon, The island produced many literary and artistic masters. Their works blended Spanish and African Caribbean influences. Cuban artists built on this tradition in the United States. The new writers and artists focused on Cuban culture in the United States rather than the fact they were exiles. They described themselves as being Cuban Americans. Celedonio Gonzales wrote about Cubans who realize that Cuba is no longer their country. A poet worth reading is Armando Valladares. In 1960, at age 23 he was arrested in Cuba for questioning the Communist government of Fidel Castro. As a political prisoner he was treated worse than the other inmates. He was tortured and beaten constantly. All he had to do to be released was to swear loyalty to Castro’s government. He would not do this. He used the writing of poetry as a means of expressing his feelings about the Cuban situation. He wrote about his grim life in a Cuban prison. In 1980, Valladares was awarded the Freedom Prize for his prison poetry by the French chapter of the P.E.N., an international writers group. Students might enjoy reading the story of his days in prison, Against All Hope. Finally, in October 1982 Mr. Valladares was released from prison. He lives in the United States and is a U.S. delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission. Teachers might assign students to write a biography of Mr. Valladares and report back to the class. While in prison in Cuba Valladares,in his poems still refers to himself as a free man. He states, “ I still have my smile for my pride in feeling a free man and in my soul a garden of small undying flowers.” Ask students to interpret what he meant by this statement. Then ask students to write a short poem about an important event or feeling in their life.
Teachers may also share with the students the writings of Cedonio Gonzales and Roberto Fernandez. Their first works were in Spanish. In 1961, two years after Castro came to power, Fernandez’s family left Cuba. Today Fernandez belongs to a new generation of Cuban American writers who came of age in the United States. Fernandez writes in Spanish about the Cuban community in exile. In La Vida es un Especial, (Life is a Bargain) Fernandez captures the essence of the exile culture, a culture he feels will soon vanish. Students should be assigned the task of writing a poem entitled “Exile” from the prospective of a Cuban in the 1960’s. Another way to explain political views is to have students design a bulletin board display depicting Cuban writers whose work reflected the times they lived through. Finally you might have students read Latin Jazz, by Virgil Suarez. Mr. Suarez writes about the hopes and dreams of a Cuban family at the time of the Mariel boatlift. Oscar Hijuelos was the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. His book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, described the mambo craze in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
In the l960’s Mexican Americans in the southwest received a pamphlet containing a poem written by Rudolfo “Corky” Gonzales. Mr. Gonzales was a Mexican American activist who was born in a barrio in Denver, Colorado. He grew up working the fields with his parents who were migrant workers. At sixteen he graduated high school and for a time was a professional boxer. At age 27 he returned to Denver and became active in politics. His poem, “I am Joaquin/Yo Soy Joaquin”, became one of the many great pieces of the Chicano Movement. Students should be told that the poetry of a time period can tell you a great deal about the idea, feelings and life styles of a people. Reading poetry as a source of historical data requires searching for hidden clues that help unravel the poem’s deeper meaning. In looking for the poem’s message, keep in mind that most poems have a point of view or an attitude toward the subject under discussion. This point of view will tell you a lot about the message of the poet. Have the students read, “I am Joaquin/Yo Say Joaquin”. Students should be able to identify Joaquin as a symbol of the Mexican people. In the poem Gonzales tells of the historic struggles faced by the Mexican Americans in the United States. He calls on Mexican Americans to recognize and preserve their culture; celebrate it and not surrender to the Anglo way of life. This poem helped to trigger the Chicano Renaissance. Chicano writers drew their inspiration from El Movimiento, the movement to increase pride in the Mexican heritage. Most Chicano authors wrote in Spanish and in English. Their works described the experiences of barrio dwellers, migrant workers, and Latino youths. Teachers should ask students to do independent research on other literary achievers such as the poet Gary Soto, playwright Denise Chavez and novelist Rolando Hinojosa. Reports should be made back to the entire class.
Students will view films that challenge ideas about education and cultural values. The following section is intended as an engaging introduction to Hispanic culture. In addition it offers teachers and students opportunities for critical analysis, imaginative and personal writing as well as oral argument and persuasion.
“The film, “Stand and Deliver”, lends itself to lively discussion. I suggest that teachers share their own professional philosophy of education with their classes and at the same time encourage students to share differing opinions. Argument in the spirit of inquiry is an excellent pre-writing technique as well as an important life skill. Throughout the lesson, students will be asked to create a variety of written responses. I suggest that students keep these responses together in a journal which later can be used to generate ideas for class discussion. “Stand and Deliver” is a film that concerns itself with the inspirational real life story of efforts by a Hispanic math teacher to persuade his students to care enough to learn so that they can escape the cycles of poverty and degradation. He was recognized because all of his students passed the very difficult Advanced Placement Calculus Test that is offered yearly to high school students throughout the United States. Actor Edward James Escalante plays the role of a high school teacher at Garfield High School in the East Los Angeles barrio. This movie is a strong Hispanic film reflecting the increasing political power of that community. After viewing the movie discussion should be generated. The teacher should quickly go around the room asking students to identify good teaching as reflected in the film. Ask students if they would ever consider leaving a high paying job for a low paying job like teaching. What positive and negative images of Hispanic culture did they notice? Do they think that this movie is an active reflection of Hispanic culture?
Another film that offers an excellent representation of cultural values is “The House of Ramon Iglesias”. This film was made in 1972 and is a PBS Playhouse Production. It is an hour long drama about a father who has decided to move his family back to Puerto Rico from mainland U.S. Conflicts arise when the teenagers do not wish to leave. This film depicts the linguistic and cultural differences of parents and the new generation. There are many Puerto Rican students in New Haven that will relate to this film. Students have told me that when they go to Puerto Rico to visit relatives they are looked upon as being different because they live in the U.S. This film should generate a lively discussion with students being able to offer first hand experiences.
Finally, an excellent resource on Puerto Ricans in Connecticut is a video entitled “Puerto Rican Passages” It was broadcast in April, l995 on CPTV. The video is instructional in describing the waves of migration from Puerto Rico and includes history, culture, and politics. After viewing this film ask students to conduct interviews with a family member or friend that has migrated to Connecticut. Tell students to record the experiences that these people incurred and see if any match up or are similar to those viewed in the film. Also students should write an essay entitled “The American Dream” from the point of view of a Puerto Rican in Connecticut.
Students will be given the knowledge about the Latino Rights Movements that took shape in the l960’s and l970’s. By far, the largest group of Hispanics in the United States is Mexican Americans. In the l950’s and 1960’s Mexican American organizations achieved some success in expanding civil rights.
In the summer of 1952 a young man by the name of Cesar Chavez joined a group called the Community Service Organization. The goal of this organization was to register migrant workers to vote. Within two months Chavez had registered more than 4000 voters. Eventually Chavez went to work for the CSO as a full time employee. He had taken the first step to becoming one of the leaders in the Latino struggle for equality. Who was Cesar Chavez? Students should be assigned to research information about this man and report back to the class. Chavez was a Mexican American farm worker. As a child, he saw his family loose their farm in the Great Depression and become poor migrant farm workers. In 1962 Chavez wanted the delegates of the CSO to support a union of farm workers. He strongly felt the need for such an organization. This was the only way migrant workers would ever win fair treatment. Usually, when farm workers asked for better wages, they would be replaced by braceros. Braceros were workers who were brought in from Mexico as hired hands or laborers. The word bracero comes from the word bazo or arm. Each year after the crops were harvested they were expected to return to Mexico. They were paid 30 cents an hour and were supposed to be protected against discrimination. This program caused problems from its inception. U.S. labor unions were upset because they felt it would cause lower wages for U.S. citizens. They also claimed it would prevent farm workers from organizing a union. Mexican Americans opposed the program. They wanted Mexicans to be admitted to the U.S. as regular immigrants, free to work any job they could get. But braceros were eager to work for 30 cents an hour, for this was more than they could earn in Mexico. Before this program ended in 1964, more than 4.5 million braceros had worked in the U.S. Ask the students to comment on this statement; The bracero program was a growers dream of heaven.
In 1962 Cesar Chavez organized the farm workers into a union. This union was called the National Farm Workers Association. The symbol of this union was a red flag with a black Aztec Eagle. This was the beginning of La Causa, “The Cause”, which was the name the farm workers gave to their movement. Why the need for such a union? Students should investigate the effects of discrimination on Mexican Americans. Few Mexicans doubted the need for an organization like the one Chavez was building. Mexican American families earned just two thirds of the average income of white families. The average Mexican American had to leave school after ninth grade. Working conditions were extremely grueling. Farm workers toiled a fourteen to sixteen hour day for as little as five dollars. Then there was the problem of educating the children. Most farm workers traveled as the seasons changed looking for work. As a result, few children went to the same school for any length of time. Cesar Chavez himself had to leave school after grade eight after attending more than thirty schools.
Students should examine the pressures put on Mexican Americans who were brave enough to join a union. Ask students to think about the following; Imagine you have just received a post card from Cesar Chavez. You have been asked to join a union even though you know it could cost you your job. How would you respond? This question should help students think critically. Students might split into groups to discuss the pros and cons of joining a union. You might suggest they make two columns on their paper; one for pro and one for con. After the group has had time for discussion have them report their findings back to the class.
Mexican American farm workers saw the NFWA as the only way to make landowners pay a living wage. They knew they might be fired, but they hoped to hold on to their jobs long enough to launch a huelga or strike. In 1964 protests by the Community Service Organization forced the government to end the bracero system. This eliminated an important strikebreaking tool for farm owners.
Farm workers benefitted from the African American Civil Rights movement going on in the 1960’s. Many civil rights workers were willing to help the striking farm workers. Students should be asked to draw similarities between the movements. Independent research on the African American civil rights movement needs to be done by the students before they can make the comparison.
On September 8,1965 Filipino farm workers went on strike at a vineyard near Delano, California. Chavez was asked to back this strike. On September 16, nearly two thousand Mexican Americans joined the picket line. Chavez relied heavily on the vice-president of the NFWA for advice and guidance. Her name was Dolores Huerta and she was a guiding force in this union for thirty years. Students might be assigned to write a biographical sketch on Huerta. Chavez and Huerta asked for help from the civil rights workers and the clergy. They appealed to newspapers and television. They called on consumers to boycott grapes picked by non-union workers. In March,1966 Chavez led farm workers on a 300 mile march from Delano to Sacramento. They held a rally demanding the vineyard owners be forced to negotiate with the union. The owners still would not negotiate. Strikers were arrested. Chavez received death threats. The strikers would not give up. Chavez called for a national boycott of grapes. People all over the country stopped buying grapes. It was labor’s first successful national boycott in American history. By early 1968 Chavez felt that continuing the strike might lead to violence. Chavez believed in the use of non-violent tactics. On February 14,1968 Chavez began a fast against violence. On March 11, Chavez ended the fast for health reasons. Students should be made aware of other political figures who believed in non-violence. They should be able to draw comparisons between Dr. Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. The five year strike finally ended in victory for the union, now called the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. In 1966 Chavez’s group had joined with a committee of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. The union was now recognized by the growers. Hispanic Americans felt the power they could have when they joined together.
In late 1965 a handful of farm workers performed an acto, a fast moving play. The play made fun of vineyard owners and promised success of the union. Under the direction of Luis Valdez, such actos became the heart of the theater group called El Teatro Campesino. Students should be assigned the creation of their own acto. This provides an opportunity for students to express themselves creatively in the performing arts-writing, directing, and acting. Students might do this as a class project and perform for other classes in the department.
Luis Valdez, a Mexican American playwright used the terms Chicano and Chicana to express pride. These words were shortened forms of the terms Mexicano and Mexicana. By the mid 1960’s these terms referred to recent arrivals from Mexico. Some young activists began using the name for themselves. It was becoming a symbol for unity and pride. Not all Mexicans liked the term. Some felt it did not reflect the fact that they were U.S. citizens.
In 1970 Ruben Salazar, a Mexican American journalist defined the word Chicano. “A Chicano is a Mexican American with a non-Anglo image of himself.” The definition was widely accepted by Chicanos and Chicanas who worked hard for Latino rights. This push became known as El Movimiento or The Movement. The Movement provided medical and legal aid to Mexican Americans. In addition it worked for better housing and jobs as well as protested against police brutality. At first the members of this organization followed a course of non-violence, but later more extreme measures were used.The leader of this movement was Reies Lopez Tijerina; also known as the Tiger. He believed that the problems faced by Mexican Americans were caused by the loss of land that was once held by their ancestors. Tijerina wanted the land returned. In 1962 Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres (Federal Land Grant Alliance) was founded to regain lost lands in New Mexico. Members of Alianza called alian cistas asked the governments of the United States and Mexico to review and study old land grants. Both governments refused to take any action. Tijerina believed that Hispanic Americans should have the lands returned to them that Anglos had taken away many years before. Students may draw comparisons to the request of Tijerina and the request of the Pequot Indians in Connecticut. Students will have to do some independent research on the Pequots to see if they can draw any parallels. In June, 1967 Tijerina held a meeting in Coyote, New Mexico. The meeting was blocked by officials and several organizers were arrested. Angered over the belief that their right to free assembly had been violated, some twenty armed aliancistas attacked the courthouse at Tierra Amarilla and freed aliancistas in the jail there. Tijerina and his men left town with two hostages. He was hunted down and captured by the National Guard and the state police. He was tried and sentenced to a two year prison term. After his release he worked to improve the lives of the poverty-stricken Mexican Americans.
Another Chicano leader that must be mentioned is Jose Angel Gutierrez. He led a protest march in Del Rio Texas calling for loyalty to the United States and cultural independence for Mexican Americans. After this protest he organized a political party called La Raza Unida (The United People) La raza is a Spanish word meaning the race. It refers to all Spanish speaking people in the Western Hemisphere. This political party gave Chicanos pride in themselves. It supported everything from community classes to draft counseling during the Vietnam War. Although the party never gained the power it had hoped to, it did show that Mexican American voters could show their strength as a unit.
In August, 1970 the leaders of a group called the Brown Berets organized the National Chicano Moratorium. They were protesting against the war in Vietnam. About 20,000 people gathered in Laguana Park in Los Angeles to hear speakers such as Cesar Chavez and Corky Gonzales. Before any of the speeches began the police moved in to disperse this gathering. Fighting broke out; tear gas was used by the police. Unfortunately a tear gas canister struck and killed Ruben Salazar, the nation’s leading Chicano journalist. The events of the day showed just how angry Chicanos were about the war in Vietnam. Latinos fighting in the war had a 19% casualty rate compared to a 12% rate for U.S. soldiers as a whole. Students should question these figures. Didn’t the same thing happen to African Americans? How could this happen? These are questions that need to be discussed. While Latinos bore the burden of war, federal programs were being cut that would have helped them when they got home.
Not all Mexican Americans agreed with the tactics of the Chicano movement. Many opposed the angry meetings and the civil disobedience. Senator Joseph Montoya of New Mexico criticized the Chicano occupation of federal lands. He did however, support many of the goals of the movement such as respect for the Latino heritage, an increased Latino voice in politics and equal opportunities for Latinos in business and education. In 1968 Lyndon Johnson signed the Bilingual Education Act. This law directed school districts to offer bilingual education to students not fluent in English. Also, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) was organized. This gave money for legal efforts to advance the cause of civil rights for Mexican Americans. The civil rights movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s encouraged Mexican American voters to use their power as registered voters. They sent four representatives to the U.S. Congress, as well as electing governors on the state level and mayors at the local level. Students should be assigned the task of updating the count of Hispanic Senators, Representatives, Governors and Mayors presently holding office in the United States.
There are over 2.7 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States today. Nearly half of them live in New York State. During the 1950’s and 1960’s wages rose and unemployment dropped in Puerto Rico. Even higher wages and jobs could be found in the United States. Many Puerto Ricans decided to move to the United States in search of better economic opportunities. Students need to be reminded that Puerto Ricans have been United States citizens since the Jones Act was passed in l917.
Before World War II few Puerto Ricans traveled to the United States. A boat trip might cost a worker a year’s wage. After World War II fares dropped to less than fifty dollars. In 1930 about 53,000 Puerto Ricans lived in the United States. Of this number about 45,000 lived in New York. Between 1940 and 1950 more than 200,000 came to America. The Puerto Rican population of New York grew to 187,000. Between 1950 and 1960 more than 50,000 Puerto Ricans arrived each year. (Puerto Ricans in the United States:A Changing Reality) The 1970 census provided a glimpse of the Great Migration. By 1970 1.4 million people of Puerto Rican descent lived in the United States. Of that number 817,712 lived in New York City.
The oldest Puerto Rican community in the United States is El Barrio. It is located in New York City. Here the people keep alive their language, culture, and traditions. They have started important places to preserve their culture such as El Museo del Barrio. This is an art museum that displays the work of Puerto Rican artists.
Puerto Ricans who arrived in New York City in the 1950’s had a great deal to adjust to. The cool climate of New York City contrasted sharply with the warm climate of the island. The new arrivals adjusted to the climate differences, but the difference in language was more difficult to handle. Prejudice against those who could not speak English was widespread. Few programs existed in the 1950’s to help Puerto Ricans to make their way in an English speaking world. Job applications were always in English; all classes in school were in English. Some Puerto Ricans learned English on the job while others returned to their island. Many felt unwelcome. Reaction to life on the mainland was “La gente son fria” the people are cold. Racism was practiced by some Americans. The same prejudices that were directed at African Americans in the 1950’s and 1960’s were directed against Puerto Ricans who did not look white. At this time students should take a look at and analyze the relationship between racism and poverty. Students should be asked to prepare and present a public service announcement to make the public aware of the problem and encourage action to solve them. Teachers should challenge students to write a thirty second announcement for television. Tell students that these announcements would be most effective if they have a striking visual presentation and a strong verbal message.
Many Puerto Ricans who came to the United States in the 1950’s were forced to take the lowest paying jobs-cooks, dishwashers, factory workers, especially in the garment industry. It would not be unusual for someone to work a seventy hour week for fifteen dollars. Education statistics were also grim. The drop out rate was high. Students who dropped out of school faced unemployment or underemployment. How can a poor community help itself? Students should consider this question and come up with at lease five suggestions for a solution. Once this has been done the teacher can then discuss with the class what was done in New York City. In 1948, the Office of the Commonwealth opened. Here, Puerto Ricans could go get help finding employment,translations of documents,and a guide for city services. This office also worked for and won the passage of laws to help seasonal workers who came to America . The laws forced farm owners to provide contracts for seasonal workers stating the terms of employment. This office expanded as migration expanded. By l955 regional offices had opened in other cities, however, it was overwhelmed by the number of Puerto Ricans migrating to the United States. It was time for the Puerto Rican Community to take action. In the 1950’s and 1960’s a number of different groups took shape. The Puerto Rican Merchants Association helped small businesses; the Puerto Rican Family Institute was set up to help families with problems and the Puerto Rican Forum was organized to instill pride among the youth. Two of the biggest problems in the 1960’s were the high dropout rate of the youth and the language barrier. A woman named Antonia Pantoja was one of the founders of the Puerto Rican Forum. In 1961 she helped to set up the organization known as ASPIRA. The word in Spanish means “to strive”. The objective of this organization was to encourage young Puerto Ricans to get a better education. It also provides scholarships to help them to go to college. “Strive to learn” was the slogan for ASPIRA. ASPIRA clubs were organized in New York, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Students took advanced courses at these locations. From 1967-1979 a woman by the name of Pura Belpre helped to set up a program that would instill pride in Puerto Rican children. She was a storyteller and puppeteer. Her shows formed part of what became known as the South Bronx Project. The New York Public Library set up nine branch libraries aimed at developing a sense of pride in Puerto Rican children. They hired bilingual staff and bought bilingual materials- films,books,and newspapers. Libraries in the South Bronx became cultural centers for the Puerto Rican population. Students should visit their local library as well as the main branch library to determine what type of materials are available for the Puerto Rican population in New Haven. Are there any similar services being offered?
The Civil Rights Struggle waged by African Americans and Mexican Americans encouraged Puerto Ricans to organize groups to fight for their rights. Some young Puerto Ricans organized The Young Lords. This group was ready to take direct action to bring about change. In the 1970’s the Young Lords of New York staged a takeover of a rundown housing complex in a Puerto Rican neighborhood. They used the attention they received to push for improved health care for the South Bronx. They also promoted an open admissions policy for New York City’s Public College to any student who graduated in the top half of their class. At this time you might point out to the students that the action taken by the Young Lords was a direct action. Direct actions consist of legal or illegal confrontations. Examples include labor strikes, picketing, boycotting, demonstrations, marches and the like. Indirect action includes legal steps and personal negotiations that might lead to changes in the law. Ask students to consider other examples in history where either direct or indirect action was used.
Why did many Cubans come to the United States? In 1934 the United States decided it would no longer interfere directly in Cuban affairs. From 1930-1959 Cuba was controlled by Fulgencio Batista. For much of that time he ruled as a dictator. In 1959, Batista was overthrown by a revolution led by Fidel Castro. Many Cubans thought Castro would give them more freedom. Instead, he set up a communist government that many Cubans did not approve of. Thousands of Cubans fled their country by boat and plane. Some went to Central and South America; many more came to the United States. Thousands settled in Miami, Florida. Prior to 1959, only 50,000 Cuban Americans were living in the United States. Cuban migration occurred in waves. The first wave was between January 1961 and October 1962 and included more than 150,000 Cubans. The second wave, occurring between November,1962 and November,1965 brought only 75,000 because of restrictions by the Cuban government .The third wave from 1965-1972 brought another 275,000. About 40,000 of these people were students, women and children who were joining relatives. The last and most controversial wave was between April and September, 1980. These Cubans became known as the Mariel Exiles and numbered around 125,000.
The early immigrants were mostly white professionals from the middle and upper class. They became known as the “golden exiles” because of their white skin, education and the strong U.S. economy. They were welcomed into the U.S. community. The Mariel immigrants were characterized as having an over-representation of criminals, prostitutes and other persons forced to exile. This group was met with hostility and suspicion unlike the previous”golden exiles” of the earlier waves. Students should be asked why the earlier immigrants were welcomed, while the Mariel refugees were not?
Today, the spirit of Cuban Americans is alive in the city of Miami. So many Cubans live in this city that some people refer to it as North Cuba. Little Havana is filled with Cuban run businesses and stores. Cuban Americans own banks and major corporations. Cubans have done well in Miami because they were motivated by the problems they had just to get here. Ask students to consider this question. How would they feel if they had to leave their homeland and their possessions? Another reason for the success of this group is the Cuban tradition of helping one another. The earliest refugees were wealthier people. Many of them were college educated and were professionals in their homeland. Once they were established in America they gave jobs and aid to poorer Cubans who came after them.
There are many important Cuban American organizations. Among them are the Latin Builders Association and CAMACOL (Latin Chamber of Commerce) However, none is more influential than the Cuban American National Foundation. Its president Jorge Mas Canosa has made it into a very successful and powerful political group. Radio Marti, whose broadcasts reach Cuba has been one of its most important achievements. Students should imagine that they are living in Cuba in 1959. Given the political situation at the time would they apply for an exit permit? Consider what it would be like to leave your friends and family behind, as well as your personal property and possessions.
Procedure: Students should be divided up into three groups. Each group will be issued a large poster board and colored pencils. Using the information presented on pp.378-379 in The Latino Experience, students are to provide the following information in graph and chart form. Group one: U.S. population l980 and 1990, Latino population 1980 and 1990, Population projection 1980-2020, African-Americans and Latinos; Group Two: Chart the states with the largest Latino populations-include the rank,the percentage in the state, and the percentage of U.S. Latinos. Also draw a circle graph that shows the Latinos by Ethnic group. Group three is to chart the selected characteristics of Latino families, age distribution of Latinos and Latinas and draw a circle graph that includes Latinos and Latinas in the work force. The groups will then present the information they have acquired to the entire class. The poster boards may then be tacked up in the room for further study.
Materials: three 16 X 20 inch poster boards, colored pencils, textbook The Latino Experience, pp. 378-379.
Procedure: Divide the class into three groups. Group one will be assigned to explore Cubans. Group two will be assigned to explore Puerto Ricans, and Group three will be assigned to explore Mexicans. The groups should then begin to brainstorm information they presently know about their ethnic group using the following key questions as guidelines.
1. What qualities do you think are generally true of your ethnic group?
2. What behaviors do you think are common behaviors?
3. Why did this ethnic group want to come to the United States?
4. When did they come to the United States?
5. Where did they settle?
6. What contributions have they made in the United States?
7. Which group makes up the largest Latino population in the United States?
8. What problems have they encountered in the United States?
After the groups have had sufficient time to discuss these questions they should report their findings back to the class. The teacher should then lead a discussion on stereotyping by asking the students to define the word. What are generalizations? Why would it be dangerous to generalize about a whole group of people? The students should be encouraged to challenge any information presented by the groups that is a myth or a stereotype. The students might then be taken to the library to research their ethnic group so that they may acquire the facts. They should establish a profile for their group. Then each group should be assigned the task of creating an exciting bulletin board display about their Latino group. The display should not only contain factual information, but also include items that reflect the culture of each group.
Procedure: This will be done by sharing food and music from the various cultures. Students will be asked to bring in a traditional ethnic dish that reflects their own culture or they may choose any ethnic dish to prepare. Sign ups for various dishes should be done ahead of time to avoid too many repetitions. Also traditional ethnic music may be played while the celebration of food is in progress. Tapes for bomba and plena music may be obtained by mail from Original Music RD#1 Box 190 Lasher Road, Tivoli, New York, 12583. Although this unit is focused on three Latino groups, a celebration of food and music should also include representation of all the students in the class.
Materials: For teachers who want to contribute to the making of Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Mexican dishes the following cookbooks will be extremely helpful.
- 1. Puerto Rican Dishes, by Berta Cabanillas and Carmen Ginora. Editorial De La Universidad De Puerto Rico, 1993.
- 2. Step by Step Mexican Cooking, by Judith Ferguson, Gallery Books, 1990.
- 3. Step by Step Cuban Cooking, by Judith Ferguson, Gallery Books, l990.
Procedure: Before viewing the movie ask students to describe characteristics of bad teaching. Allow them to share personal experiences. Tell them to avoid names other than their own. Ask them why the educational system has failed to meet the needs of some children? Have them argue for or against standardized testing. For homework, ask students to identify the characteristics of good teaching, good education, or good learning. Is education mostly determined by teachers alone? What makes good education? Encourage students to examine these questions with others such as parents, friends and teachers. Students should share their descriptions in class. Once the students have viewed the film there will be a number of topics to discuss. Consider some of the following prompts for discussion.
Materials: Movie, “Stand and Deliver”
- 1. Compare Escalante’s teaching to other teachers.
- 2. What Hispanic elements are portrayed in the film?
- 3. What is the film saying about testing, especially the standardized tests administered by ETS?
- 4. Why were students failing before meeting Mr. Escalante?
- 5. How will passing the AP Calculus Test change their lives in the Hispanic community?
- 6. Write a story or poem dealing with an issue or a theme in the movie.
- 1. Divide the students up into groups to discuss the following situation. Imagine you have just received a postcard from Cesar Chavez. You have been asked to join a union even though you know it could cost you your job. How would you respond?
- 2. Allow students the opportunity to create an acto, a fast moving play. Tell students that such plays were begun by farm workers who were making fun of the vineyard owners.
- 3. Choose two or three students to work together. Have them create a poster that encourages people to join the National Farm Workers Association. They may use the symbol of the black Aztec eagle or they may create another symbol. When they have finished their posters display them around the room.
- 4. Write an on the spot television report describing the end of Cesar Chavez’s anti-violence fast.
- 5. Read the poem “I am Joaquin/Yo Soy Joaquin” by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales. How do you think this poem helped to trigger the Chicano Renaissance?
- 6. Choose an event that happened in school and have students compose a plena about this event. Have them perform it before the class.
- 7. Accompany students on a field trip to New York City to the El Museo del Barrio.
- 8. Choose a partner to work with. Together list five or six important ideas that you think would help a family newly arrived from Puerto Rico to settle in your community.
- 9. Make a two-part bulletin board display. Tell students one part will show pictures of Puerto Rico, while the second part will show pictures of a Puerto Rican neighborhood in the United States. Students should work in groups to collect pictures from newspapers and magazines. They many also draw their own pictures.
- 10. Plan a Latino festival for your school. It may be held in the library or the gym and should include separate stations that the students may visit. Suggested ideas for each station include traditional dress, food, art, literature, games, music and dance. Students should be assigned to each station to make a brief presentations as visitors pass by.
- 11. Have students research what was happening in Cuba in 1959. Then have them write on the following statement. If you were living in Cuba in 1959, would you have applied for an exit visa? Support your answer.
- 12. Imagine you are a 25 year old Cuban American who had come to the United States in 1980 during the Mariel Boatlift. Would you choose to return to Cuba to live if conditions on the island changed?
- 13. Write a poem entitled “Exile” from the perspective of a Cuban in the l960’s.
- 14. Divide the class into three groups. Group one should represent people on the Mariel Boatlift. They should write diary entries from the time they first heard of the possibility of leaving Cuba to the arrival in Miami. Group two should write diary entries of a Cuban who comes to the United States on a homemade raft. Group three should write diary entries of a Cuban who travels to the United States on Flight 8056. Once the diaries have been written students should share them with the class, noting what experiences all have in common and which were more risky.
- 15. Ask the students if they understand the concept of the term melting pot. Ask them to consider what the image of a melting pot implies for the individual cultural groups in the United States.Then have students discuss whether the melting pot is an accurate metaphor for the United States. Ask them to come up with other images that they believe may represent the cultural and ethnic mix of the country more accurately. Ask students to draw pictures of the images that seem suitable.
This is a cookbook offering recipes for traditional Puerto Rican dishes and suggested menus.
Chavez, Leo. Shadowed Lives: Undocumented Immigrants in American Society. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Javamovich, 1992.
This book discusses the lives of Mexican immigrants to the United States.
Ferguson, Judith.Mexican Cooking. New York: Gallery Books, 1989.
This is an easy step by step cookbook for Mexican food.
Ferguson, Judith. Cuban Cooking. New York: Gallery Books, 1989.
This is an easy step by step cookbook for Cuban dishes.
Hauberg, Clifford. Puerto Rico and the Puerto Ricans. Boston: Globe Publishers. 1974.
This book is an excellent account of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States. It provides a history of Puerto Rico and the leaders who worked to affect change in the system after Puerto Rico came under the control of the United States.
Karsen, Ronald. The Puerto Ricans in America. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1973.
A brief history of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican immigration. It provides lists of famous Puerto Ricans in government, business, literature, art, sports and entertainment.
Perez-Firmat, Gustavo. Next Year in Cuba. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.
An account of life in America after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. It is written from the point of view of a successful college professor. It offers insight into the Cuban migration experience and how it differed from other Latino groups.
Rangle, Carlos. The Latin Americans: Their Love Hate Relationship With the United States. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
This book explores the relationship of Puerto Rico and the United States from conquest into the twentieth century.
Rivera-Batiz,Francisco and Santiago, Carlos. Puerto Ricans in the United States: A Changing Reality. Washington, D.C.:The National Puerto Rican Coalition, 1995.
This book offers a political and economic overview of Puerto Ricans living in the United States.
Rogozinski, Jan. A Brief History of the Caribbean. New York: The Penguin Group. 1993.
A condensed history of the Caribbean from 1570-1992.
A collection os stories about Puerto Rican Americans.
De Varona, Frank. Hispanics in the United States. New Jersey: Globe Books, 1989.
A supplement about contributions of Hispanics to American history.
King, Laurie. Hear My Voice. New York: Addison Wesley, 1978.
A collection of multicultural essays, poems and short stories.
The Latino Experience in the United States from Globe Publishers is a Social Studies book at the high school level which discusses the Latino background and experiences from the past to the present day.
Roche, Rico and Mano, Sandra. American Mosaic. New York: Houghton Mifflin,Co., 1991.
This book explores and celebrates the pluralism of American culture by bringing together essays, poems and short stories.
Santiago, Esmeraldo. When I Was Puerto Rican. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
This book reflects upon the life of Santiago in New York City, where the language and rules were so different than in Puerto Rico.
Seeley, Virginia. Latino Caribbean Literature. New Jersey: Globe Fearon, 1997.
A delightful collection of essays, short stories, poems and novel excerpts written by people of three Latino Caribbean cultures; Puerto Rico, Cuba and Dominican. This book provides a special inside look at the special traditions, beliefs and heritages that are part of the Latino Caribbean experience.
Thomas, Piri. Down These Mean Streets. New York: Vintage Books, 1967.
This is the story of Piri Thomas a man of Puerto Rican and African-American heritage who lived in Spanish Harlem. He writes about his descent into drugs and crime while searching for his identity.
“The House of Ramon Iglesias”, a film that was made in 1972 and is a PBS Playhouse Production. It is an hour long drama about a father who has decided to move his family back to Puerto Rico from mainland U.S. It deals with conflict when the teenagers do not wish to leave.
“Puerto Rican Passages”, a film that was broadcast in 1995 on CPTV. The video is instructional in describing the waves of migration from Puerto Rico.
Contents of 1997 Volume IV | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute