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Abie L. Quiñones-Benítez
Altogether, this curriculum and the appropriate resources needed to implement it will be available to teachers and easily located for those who would like to explore the possibility of including the Puerto Rican presence in the materials they use in their classrooms. Middle school teachers and possibly other level teachers will have the option of exploring their student's awareness about Puerto Ricans. Furthermore, students with their teachers can explore their ethnicity while they learn about other ethnic groups. The gap of quality multicultural materials in the curriculum, especially those pertinent to Puerto Ricans may be decreased. In promoting this type of instructional content and approach teachers may be able to explore new ways of reaching their students of different ethnic backgrounds and may become aware of their own culture and how it impacts their teaching. As this curriculum entices others to become interested in Puerto Rican art, literature, and culture it will address the neglect of Puerto Rican identity development in the current curriculum. Thus, positively impacting the self-esteem of many of our public schools children.
Christopher Columbus and his European crew were the first Spanish sponsored expedition to Puerto Rico. They arrived to the island, called Boriken by its indigenous people, in Nov. 19, 1493. They found an island populated by the Tainos, peace loving and brave people, who are said to be indigenous of the North America. As opposed to the previous inhabitants the Arawaks who came from South America. The Spanish called the island San Juan Bautista and the capital Puerto Rico. Later, the names were switched and to this day the island remains Puerto Rico; rich port.
In 1509 Puerto Rico was appointed its first Spanish head of government, Don Juan Ponce de Leon. Concerned about threats from European enemies, forts were build since 1521 to protect the island from invasion and the gold stored from being stolen. Brutally used for mining the Tainos started to flee, disappear, or simply die. Although the accounts of the Taino civilization were not documented by the "conquistadores" in depth, enough archeological evidence and writings from the church revealed a thriving community that was in existence prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
In 1809 Puerto Rico was recognized as an overseas province and in 1898 had been granted autonomy. In July of 1898 the United States invaded Puerto Rico. The Spaniards had granted ownership of the island as part of the Spanish American war. Although the "criollos" knew about the Paris Treaty, they refuse surrendering and fought to prevent invasion to no avail.
In 1917 the U. S. Congress granted Puerto Ricans citizenship and two decades later a bill was passed to allow Puerto Rico to establish its own government. In addition, businesses were granted tax exemption if they establish in Puerto Rico, which promoted the industrialization of the island. The 1970 census showed that Puerto Rico was mostly urban.
During the last quarter of the 20th Century Puerto Rico's economy has diversified into commerce and services yet the island status continues to dominate its politics. Three major views are represented in the electoral parties: pro-commonwealth, statehood, and independence. Both, the pro-commonwealth and the statehood are at rough parity. The independence movement, holding a 5% share of the electoral support, remains a visible force in the island.
The Spaniards first arrived to Puerto Rico in 1493 that was during Christopher Columbus second trip to the Americas. During the same time the inquisition was rampant in Spain. Many people who came to the Americas saw it as a way to escape religious persecution others were in search of economic prosperity. Either way they came to an unknown environment where they would have to endure the harsh conditions of colonizing a land. In addition to Spanish immigrants other Europeans in smaller numbers came to Puerto Rico. Obviously the clash between cultures was difficult but as humans often do many adjusted and some married or concubine with the other ethnic group. Yet, a clearly Spanish literary and artistic legacy continues to permeate Puerto Rican culture.
As numbers of the Tainos diminished African slaves were brought to work as laborers. Marked as property these people were used to build, mine, grow crops, and many other chores. Again interethnic marriages and other circumstances infused the African ancestry into the Puerto Rican ethnicity. It is often said to those who denied their African ancestry: "and your grandma where is she?" Educated Puerto Ricans are proud of their Native American, Spanish, and African ancestry, yet, there is a small group of people who attempt to deny their non European ancestry. Other groups of Puerto Ricans whether in the mainland or the island may not be aware of their ancestry.
Momentarily, Puerto Ricans express their love for who they are by embracing nationalistic emblems such as the flag and the official seal of the island. Moreover, it is usual to find artifacts that represent typical foods, instruments, and holidays. Finally, when away from the island Puerto Ricans often dream of returning to it or about the beautiful bounty of colors in the flora and the fauna of their "homeland". Thus, I have border in my mind can help capture some of the oral history present among Puerto Rican students in the mainland.
Holidays and celebrations are influenced by the Catholic Church celebrations. For instance every town continues to celebrate a festival for the patron saint of the town. These festivals involved a week of celebrations that are sponsored by the town, including live music and entertainment, typical food, athletic competitions and church activities. This celebrations take place at the town's plaza or center where the town hall and the catholic church are located.
In Puerto Rico festivals are commonly used to celebrate seasons, flora, fauna, and accomplishments of distinguished Puerto Ricans. One such celebrations is the so called discovery of Puerto Rico (Boriken, the Taino name of the island) by Cristobal Colon on November 19. Recently the discovery concept has been replaced by a more appropriate concept, which is that on November 19 an encounter of cultures took place. Since 1993 (Celebration of 500 years of Columbus' arrival) the discovery celebration has changed to the "Encuentro de Culturas".
The Christmas season starts after Thanksgiving (now widely celebrated in Puerto Rico) and extends to approximately January 14. During that period of time friends and family visit each other frequently. A tradition of Christmas Caroling is still prevalent in the island. Although very similar to other types of caroling, the tradition is to go to friends houses in the middle of the night unannounced and sing for them and the homeowner must provide nourishment and refreshments for the arriving guests. Such caroling usually involved twenty or more people so people must be well stock throughout the holiday season. It is common to celebrate Christmas with family gatherings that involved succulent concoctions of typical foods, desserts, and refreshments. This celebration takes place on December 24, which is commonly known as "Noche Buena" (good night). All family members must be part of this celebration and gifts are exchange in some families. Christmas Day (December 25) is usually a day of rest for adults and enjoyment for the children. Depending on the family traditions the children may get toys and gifts both, December 25 and on January 6th . The Three Kings Day celebrated on January 6th commemorates the visit of wise men who visited and brought gifts for the infant Jesus. In that manner a tradition is to gather grass and place it in a box near the child's bed so the camels can get nourishment while the "wise-men" are leaving the presents for the child.
Family gatherings are common throughout the year as often as possible. Adult children usually visit the parents home at least once a week if not more often. A good offspring is described as a hard working child who visits and takes care of their folks. At family gatherings stories are told that commemorate major events for the family or that reminds everyone of embarrassing funny instances for family members. Every family has an oral tradition and there is always a family story-teller that passes on the stories to others. It is common to find twenty or more people laughing until tears come to their eyes about a story they have heard many times.
Respect to the elders is expected of younger members of the society. It is expected that children and younger people respect and honor elders in the society. This permeates in the tone used to address elders and even in the body language use while conversing with them. For example, a different form of the second person pronoun is used, instead of using tu (you) usted (similar to thee) is used. The young person addresses the elder in this manner unless the elder clarifies otherwise. This is so common still to this day that an elder may correct a younger person who is addressing them using the informal form of the pronoun. Titles of Sir or Madame may be substituted by the title Don or Doña.
Education is a high priority among Puerto Ricans in the island. Puerto Rico has a high concentration of colleges, private schools, a system of public and vocational education. It is expected that children attend school and respect their teachers. In return teachers are expected to love and nurtured children as well as to teach academic subjects. Although Puerto Ricans are well known for their involvement in baseball, boxing, and other sports, basketball is a highly favored sport throughout the island and every school has a court.
Fashion is extremely important, Puerto Ricans like to dress well and follow the fashion trends. In the island fashion is so important that in some sectors of the population Fridays are like a fashion show. Most women in the island wear high heels even when shopping and it is appropriate to dress-up for the movies, the mall, the doctor, etc.
Finally, an important feature of the Puerto Ricans is the "Ay Bendito" which means sorry but it involves the person feelings to help others. It is common to find neighbors or friends taking care of each other in dire times. When you encounter a Puerto Rican and they ask you how are you they really mean it. They want to know how you are doing and if you share a difficulty they will try to help out. So if you ask how they are they will share their circumstances at the moment. The same way they will share their home, their food, their clothing, and their efforts with not only their kin but also anyone in need.
- I. Brief History of Puerto Rico
- II. On becoming bilingual and bicultural
- III. La guagua aerea
- IV. The African connection
- V. Grasping to maintain an identity
To read the poem we'll tae turns at reading each line and explaining what it means. The reader of each line will explain its meaning out of context. The explanation must contain a statement and a question. For example: If a line says "the ocean shines with truth"; the reader may say that the ocean must be clear and he/she may ask: Does the writer think that oceans can talk or express emotions? On a chart paper we will write statements and questions.
B: A brief history of Puerto Rico can be introduced.
To help students understand in depth the history of Puerto Rico. They should be assigned to a small group and given the task of rotating to instructional settings placed within the classroom or the school library. Each group will have the task to gather information to write a summary that will contain the following information:
Population - In Puerto Rico there are several groups who have integrated.
Location - In relation to the U.S. and other parts of the world.
Ancestry - What ethnic groups are presented?
Where did they come from?
Climate - How is the weather, terrain, etc.
Migration - Where and How?
C. A Class Presentation of the history summary.
Each group will present what they have found out about Puerto Rico and Puertorican. Students can use any props to improve their presentation such as clothing, artifacts, photos and/or drawings. In addition, each student will write a one page composition explaining their understanding of Puerto Rico - its history and its people.
D. A class discussion that will involved going back to the charts with statements and questions and revisiting the poem.
The discussion will follow the reading of the poem by the teacher and then shared reading by class members. We will revisit the charts and try to answer the question and may either student be able to expand on the answer.
E. The class members can create a collage with the questions and answers to be displayed in the hallway. In addition, this can be part of the final exhibit.
B. Students will be assigned the reading of the epilogue in "When I was Puerto
Rican" by Esmeralda Santiago. A discussion on the Puerto Rican experience in New York will be explored by having students compare their own experiences in the U. S.
C. Students will compose expository essays that will describe their own family experience with culture and language. Students could describe the adjustments to new culture and language. Students should be encouraged to interview family members who know about this period of adjustment in their family.
Once the definition is constructed by each small group the following session should included a 10 - 20 minutes lecture on self image and the importance for the development of one's identity. The lecture should also include some information about society and how it shapes its members and specifically about American society and the array of ethnic groups. In discussing this manner I will consult the words of Ogbu, a sociologist who has posed a description on how people become minorities in American society and how this impacts their performance in school and as members of the society.
It is important to expose students to this concepts to give them a sense on how sociologists define the concept of minority and the impact one's reputation in society may have in our self concept. Finally, it is important for students to discuss how all of this may impact their development of identity. An essay on "Who am I?" will be composed. Included in the essays they answer the following questions: "Am I an American and if so how I describe myself as such?, Am I a minority and if so how I describe myself as such?, Do I have to be part of any group of people to be me? Why yes, or Why not?
A. Black and Latino (Essay by Roberto Santiago. Available in: Boricuas: Influential Puerto Rican writings - An anthology).
Students and teacher can share in reading this essay. It is important to discuss the issue of color creating an atmosphere of trust and respect among all class members. The teacher (I do this) must be aware of all exchanges and must be sensitive to students' discomforts as they arise. As follow up an essay on the students' reaction to the essay may bring the opportunity to the teacher to identify any discomforts or difficulties.
B. "Goyita" (A painting by Rafael Tufiño, Puerto Rican artist. Available in: Hermandad de artistas graficos de Puerto Rico (1998). Puerto Rico: Arte e identidad p. 136. San Juan, P. R.: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico). A good activity would be to allow students to compose a composition describing the woman portrayed by Tufiño. Let them share their perceptions with the rest of the class. Find similarities and differences I will write them on the board and allow for them to see how different individuals perceive people in different ways. This same exercise can be done withany other portray.
C. "Hay que soñar azul" - you have to dream in blue - (A painting by Arnaldo Roche, Puerto Rican artist. Available in: Hermandad de artistas graficos de Puerto Rico (1998). Puerto Rico: Arte e identidad p. 136. San Juan, P. R.: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico). Allow students to explain the name of the painting after viewing it. I will create teams of two or three students to come up with a reason for the author's choice of title for this art- work. After discussing all points of view the group can try to come up with a collective reason for the name. As a follow up students will have to find out more about the painter.
To enhance their writing they will be encourage to create "heritage boxes". A shoe box can be painted and adorned in the outside and inside to portray the family's history recorded by the students. This may include photos, artifacts, etc. that will help the student illustrate the information in their oral history gathering. In collaboration with the administration, the art department, and the students an exhibit of the final works will be open to the rest of the school. This exhibit should be housed at the school library. A ceremony of presentation of the work will take place to open the exhibit.
Altogether, this curriculum and the appropriate resources needed to implement it will be available to teachers and easily located for those who would like to explore the possibility of including the Puerto Rican presence in the materials they use in their classrooms. Middle school teachers and possibly other level teachers will have the option of exploring their student's awareness about Puerto Ricans. Furthermore, students with their teachers can explore their ethnicity while they learn about other ethnic groups. The gap of quality multicultural materials in the curriculum, especially those pertinent to Puerto Ricans may be decreased. In promoting this type of instructional content and approach teachers may become aware of their own culture and how it impacts their teaching. As this curriculum entices others to become interested in Puerto Rican identity development in the current curriculum. Thus, this curriculum impacts the self-esteem of many of our public schools children.
Glasser, R. (1995). My music is my flag: Puerto Rican musicians and the New York communities 1917-1940. Berkley, CA: University of California Press. This is a historical work on Puerto Rican music. The author recalls a golden age of Puerto Rican music in New York.
Glasser, R. (1998). Aqui me quedo: Puerto Ricans in Connecticut, Los Puertorriqueños en Connecticut. New Haven, CT: Connecticut Humanities Council. This is a historical qualitative study conducted by the author in Connecticut. The author includes interviews as well as excellent analysis of the information gathered. It is written in both English and Spanish simultaneously.
Negron-Muntaner, F., & Grosfoguel, R. (Eds.). (1998). Puerto Rican jam: Essays on culture and politics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. This is an anthology of essays that discuss Puerto Rican identity in terms of nationalism, colonialism, and beyond.
Santiago, E. (1993). When I was Puerto Rican. New York: Vintage Books. This is a work of fiction that evokes the Puerto Rican experience of migration and leaving the island, the culture, and the people behind.
Hermandad de artistas graficos de Puerto Rico (1998). Puerto Rico: Arte e identidad. San Juan, P. R.: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. This book contains a historical account of the plastic arts in Puerto Rico. It includes many images that portray the work of artist of different periods.
Bernier-Grand, C. (1995). Poet and Politician of Puerto Rico: Don Luis Muñoz Marín. New York: Orchard Books. This is a historical review of the life and work of Luis Muñoz Marin.
Bernier-Grand, C. (1999). In the shade of the níspero tree. New York: Orchard Books. This is a work of fiction that narrates the life of a third grader growing up in Puerto Rico. It deals with issues of economic class and race.
Delano, J., & Delano, I. (1994). En busca del maestro Rafael Cordero: In search of maestro Rafael Cordero. Rio Piedras, P. R.: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. This book is a historical account of the first school accessible to children with African ancestry in Puerto Rico.
Morh, N. (1986). Going home. New York: Puffin Books. This fiction work is about a young Puerto Rican girl who lives in New York and her experiences in Puerto Rico during a summer vacation. It explores cultural shock and growing up with two cultures.
Laguerre, E. A. (1935). La llamarada. San Juan, P. R.: Editorial Cultural. It is a fictional work that portrays the conditions of work and life in Puerto Rico in the middle of the 20th Century.
Mohr, N. (1980). Para una mejor vida: Una historia de El Barrio. Cooper City, FL: Span Press. This fictional work provides an account of the life of young child moving from Puerto Rico to New York.
Banco Popular. (1999). Con la musica por dentro: Cien años de historia. San Juan, P. R.: Author. This CD is a work of musical history that contains popular and folk music from Puerto Rico.
Brown, R. (1992). Poetas Puertorriqueños: En conmemoración del encuentro entre dos mundos. San Juan, P. R.: Comisión Puertorriqueña para la Celebración del Quinto Centenario del Descubrimiento de América y Puerto Rico. A CD that contains music and poetry that describe the encounter of cultures that promoted who the Puerto Ricans are today.
Jimenez, A. (1991). Cien años con Albizu. Toa Baja, P. R.: Nuevo Arte Inc. This CD is sample of folk music that intends to celebrate a nationalistic view of life in Puerto Rico.
Zaiter, S. (1992). Cantando historia de Puerto Rico … en el Quinto Centenario. San Juan, P. R.: Comisión Puertorriqueña para la Celebración del Quinto Centenario del Descubrimiento de América y Puerto Rico. This CD is a historical account of Puerto Rico made into music to promote the knowledge among young audiences.
Banco Popular. (2000). Guitarra mía: Un tributo a José Feliciano. San Juan, P. R.: Author. This a professionally develop video with musicians, dancers, scenery, and choreography that celebrate the life and work of Jose Feliciano, a Puerto Rican singer.
Connecticut Public Television. (1995). Puerto Rican Passages. Connecticut: Author. This video is a historical account of the Puerto Ricans in Connecticut.
WLIW21. (1999). The Puerto Ricans: Our American story. New York: Author. This video is a historical account of the Puerto Ricans in the United States.
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