WWW: A Visual Tour Through Latin American Music

From musicadelpueblo.org

Taken from the homepage of http://www.musicadelpueblo.org

As we move into the third week of Latin American Heritage month, we have already seen how conquest and colonization was a process that brought cultures from all over the world together, and the mixing of those cultures is what created the culture of Latin America today.  From politics, to dress, to forms of art, cultural expression in Latin America draws on elements from African, Native American and European traditions, among others.  In this week’s World Wide Web section, I’d like to take a look at music, a universal art form that tends to highlight and make visible the roots of these various world traditions.

Music has these basic elements that we all, as humans, become very familiar with at an early age.  These elements include things like rhythm, harmony and lyrics.  Because we can all relate to music so deeply, it also tends to be a form of art that draws people together, not just within communities, but from region to region.  Especially in the formation of Latin American culture, which often brought groups of people together who did not share a common language, music can often serve as a universal language and potent form of communication.

The Smithsonian Institute has developed a beautiful resource for public access called “Musica del Pueblo” , which allows the user to browse through colorful and easy-to-navigate sections that breakdown the various elements of Latin American music into the categories of Rhythm, Harmony, Community, and Improvisation.  Each category has its own menu of audio/video media as well as concise explanations of the importance of each of these musical categories, connecting them to various elements of Latin American Culture.  The site is highly interactive and based around navigating through a Latin American style mural.

**One tip I found for navigating this site is that in the top-right corner of the mural, you can use your mouse to drag your screen from one section to another. Or, in the bottom right corner, you can click the magnifying glass icon to return to the home screen. **   

En la Clase: Rethinking Conquest and Colonization

bigstock-Discovery-america-Spanish-sold-6982447 [Converted] copyIn just a few weeks, Monday October 13th will be observed as Columbus Day.  Banks will close, stores will have special sales, and many students will learn about how Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas. Yet, this type of observance only tells one part or version of the Columbus narrative, leaving out significant parts of a violent and traumatic period in the history of the Americas.  Christopher Columbus is one of the first historical figures many of our students learn about.  The way he’s presented sets an important precedent for how all historical narratives are taught, analyzed, and interpreted. Consider the following from Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools:

For years, I opened my 11th grade U.S. history classes by asking students, “What’s the name of that guy they say discovered America?”  A few students might object to the word “discover,” but they all knew the fellow I was talking about.  “Christopher Columbus!” several called out in unison.

“Right. So what did he find when he came here?” I asked.  Usually, a few students would say “Indians,” but I asked them to be specific: “Which nationality? What are their names?”


In more than 30 years of teaching U.S. history and guest teaching in others’ classes, I’ve never had a single student say “Tainos.” So I asked them to think about that fact.  “How do we explain that? We all know the name of the man who came here from Europe, but none of us knows the name of the people who were here first–and there were hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of them.  Why haven’t you heard of them?”

This ignorance is a fact of historical silencing–rendering invisible the lives and stories of entire peoples.*

As you teach about exploration, conquest, and colonization this year, we hope you will consider what Bigelow suggests, that we “commit ourselves to use this–and every so called Columbus Day–to tell a fuller story of what Columbus’ voyage meant for the world, and especially for the lives of the people who’d been living here for generations.  And let’s push beyond Columbus to nurture a people’s history curriculum–searching out those stories that help explain how this has become such a profoundly unequal world, but also how people have constantly sought greater justice.”*

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing more resources for how to teach about these topics.  If you’re looking for teaching resources, the Rethinking Columbus  publication by Rethinking Schools is a great place to start.  You can also check out our free guide “Rethinking Columbus” for more lesson plans and activities.  We also have a series of lesson plans on teaching about the Spanish Conquest.  Last, below, I’ve shared our past posts with ideas and resources for how to rethink conquest and colonization in our classrooms.  Feel free to share any thoughts or ideas you have in the comment section!

¡Mira, Look!: Before Columbus
WWW: PBS Conquistadors On-Line Learning Adventure
En la Clase: Textbook Detectives
En la Clase: Rethinking Columbus Through Literature
En la Clase: Using the novel Morning Girl in the classroom
En la Clase: Rethinking Columbus with Mind Maps and Venn Diagrams
En la Clase: Rethinking Columbus Using Pictorial Input Charts
En la Clase: Columbus and Exploration ~ An Introduction
En la Clase: Rethinking Columbus and the Anti-Stereotype Curriculum
En la Clase: Why we should rethink Columbus

Don’t forget to comment on any post by September 26th to be entered in our giveaway for a copy of La Línea by Ann Jaramillo!

* Quotes from Bill Bigelow taken from “Rethinking Columbus: Towards a True People’s History” published on Common Dreams


¡Mira, Look!: In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza

Today marks the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct 15). In honor of this I present you with a book that celebrates Mexican-American culture and traditions. In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza (ages 6 +) is an award-winning bilingual picture book illustrated with the author’s own paintings.

The author, who is one of the most prominent Mexican-American painters living today (Lee & Low Books) writes on the first page:en mi familia

“Every time I paint, it serves a purpose-to bring about pride in our Mexican American Culture. When I was growing up, a lot of us were punished for speaking Spanish. We were punished for being who we were, and we were made to feel ashamed of our culture. That was very wrong. My art is a way of healing these wounds, like the savila plant (aloe vera) heals burns and scrapes when applied by a loving parent or grandparent”.

Lomas Garza’s desire to celebrate her Mexican American identity makes this book a great resource for introducing Hispanic Heritage Month in the classroom.

Created over a span of 11 years, the paintings show scenes of colorful, lively, symbolic images specific to life in a Mexican-American family living near the U.S./Mexico borderlands. The text and pictures complement each other with reoccurring themes such as family, food, rural life, religious and healing traditions, multi-generational gatherings, the natural environment, among others. Lomas Garza honors these traditions which shaped her own childhood by depicting them in beautiful paintings.

Family is a major theme throughout the book, just as it is an important part of Latino and specifically Mexican culture. In the paintings we see various gatherings in which family and community members of all ages come together to partake in an event. The author mentions this multi-generational aspect in her text accompanying the piece Birthday Barbeque.

“My great uncle is comforting my young cousin, who was crying, and encouraging him to hit the piñata. My grandmother is holding a baby. She was always holding the babies, and feeding them, and putting them to sleep”.

Another particularly interesting aspect of the book is the representation of rural life, such as farm settings and the presence of animals. These depictions touch on the importance of growing and sharing food, particularly in a reality of scarcity. Readers are pulled into rural life through vivid imagery images of the natural environment of the near-borderland region of Kingsville, TX, the hometown of the author where the paintings are set.

The book’s layout is well executed; it is consistent, with each painting on the right page, and text on the left, with a short summary in both English and Spanish. The side-by-side text is useful for bilingual students. Even more so than language, though, the book is especially effective at celebrating and preserving heritage. Lomas Garza immortalizes her Mexican-American family heritage by portraying it through her paintings and descriptions. In this way, young readers of any heritage can appreciate the celebration of Hispanic culture and learn about Mexican-American traditions.

Lomas Garza has written four books; this is her second children’s book. If you’re intrigued by her work, you may appreciate these other resources:

•We found a great guide by Linda Kreft that includes a curriculum map, creative classroom activities, and a list of resources on the author, book, and its themes.

•The San Jose Museum of Art created a teacher resource book for a retrospective of Carmen Lomas Garza’s work which includes discussion questions and activities to go along with some of the In My Family. It also includes a summary on Chicano/a culture, as well as recipes and hands-on art activities.

• This book won the  Américas Award in 1996. It also received a Pura Belpré Honor Award for Illustration in 1996 and the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award in 1997.

• The author’s website and the publisher’s website provide more information about this book and other titles from Lomas Garza.


Good for: Gathering Books COYRL Challenge 2014 and Latin@s in Kids Lit Reading Challenge 2014

Image: Illustration “Birthday Barbeque” In My Family/En mi familia

WWW: “The Invisibles,” or a Documentary on Contemporary Immigration

2014-09-12_The-InvisiblesThis weekend is the second annual ¡Cine Magnífico! Albuquerque Latino Film Festival here in New Mexico – which means we at the Latin American & Iberian Institute are focused on Latino films and filmmakers.  With so much discussion happening around the upcoming film screenings, it seemed only natural for us to use this WWW post as an opportunity to highlight some of the ways that movies and documentaries can be used in the classrooms.  Furthermore, given that it’s Hispanic Heritage Month, we thought it prudent to draw your attention to a resource that can be used to complement discussions about historic and contemporary Hispanic experiences.  

With this in mind, we’re pleased to share with you a remarkable documentary project that features individual stories.  In 2011, the well-known actor Gael García Bernal partnered with filmmaker Marc Silva to produce a series of short films (each approximately 10 minutes with English subtitles) that document a piece of the struggle that many undocumented, or “invisible,” migrants endure as they leave Central America to come to the United States.  The project succinctly considers the narratives of the “tens of thousands of women, men and children [who] travel through Mexico without legal permission. As “invisible” migrants they head for the US border in the hope of finding a new life far from poverty they’ve left behind. Their journey is one of the most dangerous in the world.”   In effect, the production helps to make “visible” the undocumented immigrants whose individual lives are so often overlooked by the mainstream media’s coverage of current immigration patterns.

Bernals’ work is short, free, and available entirely online.  I don’t offer it here as a comprehensive framework for a conversation about immigration; rather, it’s a good starting point, or a good supplement to other resources.  Back in 2012 when Katrina highlighted “Resources for using film in the classroom,” she wrote that “films can be an amazing way to add depth to a curriculum unit or thematic study.  Often times, I found I didn’t even have to show the entire film–just a few clips could get my students interested and engaged.”  This is the sentiment behind our highlighting Bernal’s work: a little can go a long way.  These are short but powerful segments, which means they’ll likely impact your students both intellectually and emotionally.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the following resources:

  • “The Invisibles” Channel on YouTube has all of the videos compiled in one area.
  • An NPR segment in 2011 explains more about the project through an interview with Bernal.  
  • Bernal created the film in part as a response to an Amnesty International report that documented human rights abuses against migrants in Mexico.The Amnesty International website explains the report briefly, and provides supplementary resources (including a photo archive and direct action suggestions) for those who use the film.
  • The University of North Carolina’s School of Education has developed a brief but useful guide to support “Teaching Latin America through Film.”

Image: The Invisibles. Reprinted from Otro Mundo es Posible.

Local Event!! Día de los Muertos: Altars and Shrines

For all of our local New Mexico Readers:

The UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) and the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) are pleased to announce this free professional development workshop.

Join us for our second workshop of the series as we discuss and celebrate the rituals of remembrance associated with Día de los 2014-09-20_Dia-de-los-Muertos_Altars-and-ShrinesMuertos. Día de los Muertos is an important holiday for many in Latin American, as well as for many here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The LAII invites educators to learn hands-on strategies for incorporating this holiday into the classroom, as well as to explore the cultural and historical elements of the holiday.  In this comprehensive session, we discuss and celebrate the rituals of remembrance associated with Día de los Muertos. We will explore many facets of Día de los Muertos art-making including ofrendas, alfeñiques, and more! Participants will receive hands-on instruction in different activities, and be provided with certificates of professional development and copies of relevant curriculum materials. Want to get as much information about Día de los Muertos art-making in one place at one time? Then this is the workshop for you!

We are so excited to be collaborating with the National Hispanic Cultural Center to offer this half day workshop on Saturday September 20th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  The workshop will be held at the NHCC at 1701 4th St SW, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102.

The first 10 teachers to arrive will receive two free passes to Globalquerque!! They’ve got a great line-up of musical performances on Saturday evening with 3 different stages!! It’s always a fun time!

If you have any questions or to register, email Keira at kphilipp@unm.edu.  You can also join the event on Facebook.

Click here for a pdf version of our flyer.  Feel free to share this information with anyone else who may be interested.

Hope to see you there!!


En la Clase: #weneeddiversebooks

You all may remember #weneeddiversebooks from last May when we posted about this new initiative.  It’s still going strong and has even more resources to offer those interested in increasing access to diverse children’s and young adult’s literature.  If you’re not familiar with this campaign, the following is their mission statement:

“We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.

In order to accomplish our mission, we reach out to individuals and groups involved in many levels of children’s publishing—including (but not limited to) publishers, authors, distributors, booksellers, librarians, educators, parents, and students.”

You can also watch their campaign video for even more information.

They recently released their new, re-designed #weneeddiversebooks website which includes excellent resources for educators.  One of my favorites is their Summer Reading Series which provides a series of infographics (like the one below) that provide recommendations for diverse books based on popular mainstream books.  What a great resource for both students and teachers when students are looking for new books to read!

If you liked

They’ve also got a great #weneeddiversebooks tumblr page full of great pictures, infographics and other resources.

I hope you’ll check out all the great resources they have to offer, it’s really an invaluable source of information for educators.

Our Next Good Read. . .La Línea

Thank you so much to the wonderful group of teachers who joined us for book group last night! Talking with you all is always one of my favorite parts of the month!

We hope to see you all for our next meeting on October 6th at Bookworks from 5:00-7:00 pm to discuss October’s featured novel (if we’re not at Bookworks, check next door at Flying Star, we often end up there for coffee and snacks).  La Linea by Ann Jaramillo

We are reading La Línea (Age 10 and Up) by Ann Jaramillo.

Here’s a sneak peek into the book: (from Goodreads)

Miguel’s life is just beginning. Or so he thinks. Fifteen-year-old Miguel leaves his rancho deep in Mexico to migrate to California across la linea, the border, in a debut novel of life-changing, cliff-hanging moments.

But Miguel’s carefully laid plans change suddenly when his younger sister Elena stows away and follows him. Together, Miguel and Elena endure hardships and danger on their journey of desperation and desire, loyalty and betrayal. An epilogue, set ten years after the events of the story, shows that you can’t always count on dreams–even the ones that come true.

Be sure to get entered in our drawing for a free copy of the book!! All you have to do is comment on any blog post by September 26th!

When we meet in person to discuss Ann Jaramillo’s book, we’ll also be raffling off a copy of next month’s featured book, The Tequila Worm (Ages 12 and up)Join us that evening to be entered!

We hope to see you on October 6th!