I wrote this blog post for Hispanic Heritage month but then I realized that it would make more sense if we actually share it with our students throughout the school year, so they are really prepared to understand and value the real meaning of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States of America. Enjoy.
CELEBRATE THE REAL HISPANIC COMMUNITY
It was my first year teaching Spanish in the United States when just a few weeks after I started the school year and while trying to get used to a different space and culture, one of my colleagues approached me and asked me about my plans to celebrate Hispanic heritage month. I confess that I was a bit perplexed because I had never heard about this celebration. For a moment I thought she was referring to Dia de la Raza, a celebration of Latin American countries where we honor our roots and our identity. But I soon realized that we were in September and that Día de la Raza is celebrated on October 12th, the same date of the federal holiday that celebrates the life of the man who left so much poverty and sadness after the discovery of America.
Seeing my confusion, my colleague immediately put in my hands posters with the faces of César Chávez, Antonia Novello, Dolores Huerta, Gloria Estefan and others. Although they were quite striking posters, I felt a little embarrassed when I realized that of all those faces and names I could only recognize Gloria Estefan’s.
Today 20 years later I recognize and know very well the history of each one of these Hispanic icons. However after having lived so long in the United States of America, I have had many experiences that as a teacher made me think about the most appropriate way to celebrate Hispanic heritage month. While it is true that there are hundreds of Hispanics who because of their outstanding work in different fields, are the pride of our community, it is also true that in addition to that small group there is another group of more than sixty million Hispanics who live in this country and for some reason aren’t as celebrated during Hispanic heritage month as that small group of human rights defenders, scientists, celebrities or athletes.
In 20 years of living in this country I have never felt celebrated during Hispanic heritage month. I have always seen this celebration as something that is done in schools, in shopping center windows, bars and on TV. It is ironic that while in our classes we play happy Hispanic music and decorate with lively colors, with confetti, piñatas and more, we forget the silent, cold, dark and sad reality of millions of immigrant families that are separated by inhuman initiatives in the vain name of power.
While music, dancing, food and visiting Hispanic countries somehow celebrates our culture, I think we should help our students see beyond the tacos and fiestas. Let’s help them to open their eyes so they can see all those Hispanics who with their work provide us with food, shelter, comfort and more commodities that make our life better. In my opinion, the work carried out by the majority of Hispanic immigrants in this country deserves the recognition of a smile, a shaking of hands, and a thank you.
Let’s offer a little happiness to the worker, to the custodian, to the employee of the school cafeteria who, while being Hispanic, doesn’t feel celebrated when the whole school is celebrating Hispanic heritage month.
Some activities to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month:
1- Ask your students to research about Hispanics who work by collecting and planting crops of food products we consume every day. They should make a graph of the places where this workforce is concentrated, the products and the salary earned for this work.
2 – Ask the students to research about the most common Central American towns and cities where immigrants who cross the Mexican-American border come from in order to find a better future. They must present photos, the economy and some important festivities or traditions.
3- Ask your students to research about Hispanics working in the house construction sector. They should make a graph of the places where this workforce is concentrated, the products and the salary earned for this work.
4- Ask students to research how much money immigrants send to their home countries from the United States. Students should investigate the dollar exchange rate in these places and then compare the cost of living. What food can you buy with a dollar in the United States and what can you buy with a dollar in the Central American country researched?
5- Ask your students to research about Hispanics working in various services such as restaurants. They should make a graph of the places where this workforce is concentrated, the products and the salary earned for this work.
@Copyright Diego Ojeda, this material is intended for educational purposes and it’s free. It is prohibited to profit from it in any way. For questions contact Diego Ojeda @ firstname.lastname@example.org