¡Feliz mes de la historia de la mujer!

¡Feliz mes de la historia de la mujer!

Women’s History Month is here! Which inspiring women are you teaching your students about this month? Share their names in the comments below!

When it comes to women from Latin America and Latinas from the U.S., there is a long list of mujeres poderosas from which to choose. Here I will spotlight a few Latinas who have paved the way for future generations interested in STEM.

First, we have Mirna Roman; she the tica (costariqueña) who was the first Indigenous doctor in Costa Rica. This trailblazer is from the Ngäbe community and became inspired to practice medicine by watching her mom treat her siblings. We’ve created a STEM guide in Spanish that includes interviews of Roman and a reflective follow-up activity. Click here to access it!

Next up, we have Ellen Ochoa. Did you know that in addition to being the first Hispanic astronaut Ochoa has also made and patented 3 inventions? Our lesson plan on Ochoa is in English and perfect for grades 3-6; it includes two interviews of Ochoa in which she reflects upon her achievements and goals for future generations. Click here to check it out!

Last, but certainty not least, is Nicole Hernandez Hammer. Hernandez Hammer is a climate scientist, who spent her early childhood in rural Guatemala and is currently based in Florida where she works with communities who are most afflicted by climate change. Our STEM guide on Hernandez Hammer is in English and features an interview of this advocate in addition to a news article that addresses the impacts of climate change in Florida. Click here to learn more about this current issue!

Here’s to mujeres poderosas everywhere!
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.

Is there another Latina in STEM that you want to see featured in one of our STEM guides? Drop her name in a comment below!

Recap of This Month’s Book

¡Feliz (casi) primavera, lectores y educadores!

This month, we discussed Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Under the Mesquite (Grades 7-12; Lexile 990L) at our book group. This is a very heartwarming read about Lupita, a high schooler who experiences and overcomes challenges both at home with her family and at school with her peers. Lupita’s experiences and challenges are very relatable to readers of all ages. Click here to view our book guide. For extended notes on Under the Mesquite, check out our previous post about it by clicking here.

McCall begins Under the Mesquite with a definition of the mesquite tree that attests to its strength and resilience to endure harsh climates and its adaptability. It becomes clear from the beginning of the text that this resilient tree symbolizes this key theme that we see as Lupita is put in tough situations and valiantly overcomes these challenges.

Consider creating a memory box as a way to extend Under the Mesquite with your class! As Lupita grows and faces different difficulties in her life, she journals her memories of her mother, family, friends and cities in her blue book. Her interest in saving the memories of loved ones allows her to write stories that will revive the moments. It is from the desire of keeping the memories of her loved ones that the activity of memory box is thought. Students will put a drawing, an object, a photograph, a note and other things in a box that keeps the memories of their loved ones, places or moments of their lives. And finally, they will keep this box in their classroom as a door that will lead them to the memories.

Join us next month! On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)

Why Cascarones?

As Ericka told us in the previous post, the importance and influence of the culture of two different countries in the development and growth of a border child make a great mark in their way of looking at the world.

Some of the most important aspects that the book, They Call me Güero, touches are the family in the day-to-day life of a border child, he food and how it shows the cultural roots that his family has had for years, and finally how the Güero is fortunate to have the opportunity to participate and live in a social environment that allows him to live different traditions of the two countries.

Some of these traditions are the Quinceañera, the preparation of Mexican tamales, the celebration of the Day of the Dead, and Easter, among others. We wanted to highlight the creation of the cascarones as a celebration that is native to Mexico and the United States. This celebration is held during the month of Easter where children decorate the eggshells and fill them with flour, confetti, frost and other things. The idea is that after making the decoration and filling of these eggs, the game beings… who will break more eggs?

¡¡Manos a la obra!! // Let’s do it!!

List of things to use:

Clean eggshells (preferably white)

Food dyes (various colors)

Confetti or flour (whatever you want to fill the eggs with!)

X-Acto knife


Hot water


Step 1

To begin, we make a small hole in the eggs at one end and then we begin to remove the egg from the shell with care to not break the shell. When you have empty eggshells, we will wash them with water and let them air dry.

Step 2

In cups with a cup of hot water, 1 tsp of vinegar and 10-15 drops of food coloring, we submerge the eggshells in the different colors leaving them to soak for about 5 minutes.

Dare to play with the colors!

This is what our cascarones looked like are after painting them.

Step 3

Now it’s time to add the filling! It’s important to think through what you want to put inside. Maybe a little confetti, or you can be riskier and put some flour in them.

After you put the stuffing in them, you cover the hole with a piece of tissue paper and glue, so that what you put inside the shell will have no way out.

Now you just have to enjoy and play with these fun cascarones.

Other sources

Recap of This Month’s Book and Sneak Peak for the Upcoming Titles

¡Feliz febrero, lectores y educadores!

This month’s book was They Call Me Güero, by David Bowles (Grades 5-8; Lexile: 850L). This read was a very contemporary and engaging read about a middle schooler nicknamed Güero, who shares his experiences as a border kid, and how he navigates between being Mexican and American. Some of the key themes that Bowles has incorporated in this great read include migration, diversity and Latinx cultural traditions. Middle school readers will find this text very relevant and relatable thanks to the details, topics and perspectives that Bowles has utilized.

For Güero and his family, transnational migration between Mexico and the U.S. is deeply ingrained into their familial history and identity. Despite their long history as a border family, Güero shares the tensions and stigma that his family encounters as they go between Mexico and the U.S. In addition to Güero’s experiences, Bowles also includes some of the traumatic experiences of migration through Andrés, one of Güero’s classmates, who confides in Güero about his scary journey from Honduras. In our book group discussion, the consensus was that Bowles succeeded in providing a realistic, and current image of migration and the stigma that often accompanies it, which makes this text relatable to readers who share these experiences.
In addition to sharing migration narratives, Bowles also excels in incorporating diversity and cultural traditions in the text to celebrate diverse cultures. For instance, while introducing his friend group to the reader, Güero describes his friends as a group of diverse nerds in that they each have different cultural backgrounds yet share the same interests in reading and their studies. They Call Me Güero celebrates the reality that today’s classrooms across the U.S. are incredibly diverse and alludes to ways in which educators are integrating diversity into school curriculum (through Güero’s “woke” teachers!).
In Güero’s poems, he describes his normal day-to-day experiences that include his strong familial bonds and his admiration for his grandmother who taught him to read and to be strong, his challenges in school (e.g. dealing with bullies and crushes) and outside of school, the traditions and celebrations that are integral to Güero and his family, and more! Güero’s depiction of traditions and childhood memories led book group attendees to reminisce on our memories spending time with grandparents and learning about life from their stories, attending misa as young, antsy children, making (and breaking!) cascarones, and how these experiences have stuck with us. All in all, we highly recommend They Call Me Güero for its lightheartedness and relevance to today’s middle schoolers.
Click here for the book guide!

Mark your calendar for our next meetings!

*Please note that this semester, we are using rotating locations* Join us to discuss the following books; no need to have read the whole book or even a page. All book groups will run from 4-5:30p–latecomers are always welcome!

On March 5th, we will meet at Humble Coffee Downtown (505 Central Ave NW) to discuss Under the Mesquite by: Guadalupe Garcia McCall. (Grades 6-12)

On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)

Vamos a Leer | Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle | Book Review

On May 4th, we will meet at High and Dry Brewing (529 Adams St. NE) to discuss Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle and Edel Rodriguez. (Grades 7-9)

Meet Our New Contributors!

Happy 2020 everyone! We’re excited for another great year of providing resources and a thoughtful space to discuss and promote K-12 teaching about Latin America.

We’re excited to introduce you to our newest contributors, Ericka Arias and Laura Torres, both MA students in the Latin American Studies program at The University of New Mexico.

Meet Ericka

I am Ericka Arias, and I’m from the Chicago Suburbs (Illinois!). In high school, I got involved in an extracurricular group designed for people interested in teaching. Through this group, I had the opportunity to shadow middle school and high school educators, which piqued my interest in teaching. This led me to pursue a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Spanish, Education and Religion and a minor in Latin American Studies. After graduating, I first taught English in Spain for a year before returning to Illinois where I taught Spanish to Heritage Learners and beginning/ intermediate level students for three years.

What brought you to the UNM Latin American Studies program?
My familial connection to Latin America and my undergraduate studies got me interested in Latin American Studies. While working with primarily Latinx youth in two high schools in Illinois, I was able to share my personal experiences and travel experiences with students in addition to advocating for social justice specifically for Latinx youth. These experiences motivated me to continue my education by pursuing a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies to further understand social justice issues in Latin America and also those experienced by Latinxs in the U.S., and to explore potential resolutions. I chose UNM because of its wide array of concentrations and dual degrees available to students in the MALAS program that each offer unique frameworks for understanding and resolving these issues.

What most excites you about working with the LAII K12 program?
I admire the emphasis on diversity and social justice that the LAII’s K-12 program has and how this mission guides its curricula, programs and initiatives. I am grateful for the opportunity to utilize my experiences as a teacher and my interests in promoting diversity, equity and social justice.

Meet Laura

I am from Bogota the capital city of a beautiful country in Latin America named Colombia. I grew up admiring and learning from my mom’s example because when I was a kid my mom used to work as a teacher. While I grew up, I started getting involved in serving the community and teaching. After I finished high school, I decided to get a Bachelor’s in Social Sciences and a focus on teaching. I had the opportunity to work in different social contexts and teaching projects with kids and adults from ages 8 to 27.

What brought you to the UNM Latin American Studies program?
Now I am a M.A Latin American student at the University of New Mexico, in one of the most beautiful states I have had the opportunity to be in. I am looking forward to learn how the Latin American societies are, the diversity, the culture, the history, the main issues and so on. All this interest in Latin America is because I want to be able to share a correct view of what we are as Latinos to the world.

What most excites you about working with the LAII K12 program?
This LAII K12 program is one of those opportunities I have to share about my country, my experiences as a Colombian and my experiences as Latina. As I was saying before, I am interested in Latin America and the K12 program is the perfect opportunity to learn, teach and share knowledge of the amazing Latin American culture.

Some of you may know that Cumbia is from Colombia but some may not. That is why I want to share with you one of the most incredible songs I have ever heard.

We’re looking forward to another great year of blog posts, workshops, discussions, and more as we work together to promote Latin American studies in the K-12 classroom.

Vamos a Leer is back!

¡Hola a tod@s, y bienvenidos al año escolar 2019-20!  

We hope that your school year is off to a great start so far!  I have been working hard to update the blog with the selected books for this year’s book group and to include the option to view and request our book and thematic sets directly from the blog. Please check out the menu tabs at the top of the main page to see what we have available for teachers and submit your requests early and often! I am also working on some resources to promote Latinxs in STEM (spoiler!)

Last Monday, we had our first book group meeting to discuss Margarita Engle’s recent novel, Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots. This great read takes place in Los Ángeles during the ‘40s when the chaos of the Zoot Suit Riots (or, as Engle aptly calls them: “the Sailor Riots”) was ensuing between U.S. servicemen and Mexican-American teens. Our group consensus was that Jazz Owls is a quick read that presents a variety of perspectives—from “zooters” and “patriotic girls”  to police officers and reporters—as the plot unveils! 

We loved all the history that is tied into Jazz Owls in addition to all the key themes that could easily engage students in discussion, such as racism/ prejudice and challenging traditional gender roles. Our educators said they would like to use the text in class to teach varying perspectives and to get students engaged with the text by predicting what characters might do next. For more historical context and ideas of how you can incorporate this great read into the classroom, check out this guide for Jazz Owls. Read Engle’s Jazz Owls and let us know what you think!  

Our next book will be Jenny Torres Sánchez’s Because of the Sun, which discusses the struggles Dani faces when her mother is killed, and she is then forced to move from The Sunshine State (Florida) to The Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) to live with her aunt. Will she be enchanted by her new home?? We look forward to seeing you at Red Door Brewery‘s Downtown location (509 Central Ave SE) next month to discuss this great read!  Register here, it’s free!

¡Hasta pronto, lectores y educadores! 


Vamos a Leer is on Summer Break!

person-2468249_960_720Dear fellow readers,

Summer is most certainly upon us now, with just about every classroom emptied of students and teachers enjoying a much-needed opportunity to rest and relax.

Here at our Vamos a Leer offices at the University of New Mexico, everything is extra quiet after a busy year. As you can probably tell from our minimal posting lately, we’re taking a bit of a break from the blog this summer. Yet even while this feels a bit calmer than the frenetic school year, there’s still much afoot just outside our doors in the world of children’s literature. We’re busy planning and preparing for the upcoming school year!

We’re in the process of selecting the books for our 2019-2020 book group now. There are so many great titles! I can’t wait to be back writing about them next year. I’m currently reading Meg Medina’s Merci Suarez Changes Gears, and, not surprisingly, it’s fabulous! You didn’t actually think we weren’t going to feature one of our favorite author’s Newbery Award Winning novels did you?!? I’m also looking forward to reading this year’s recently announced Américas Award winners. So many great books and so little time. Check back at the beginning of August for this year’s book list for our Vamos a Leer book group.

Even though the blog is on hiatus for a few months, we’re still here! Drop us a line, give us some ideas, ask us some questions, and join us in delving into summer books. Please continue to browse the blog and check out all of the great resources that have been added over the last year.

Happy reading,