WWW: NPR – Borderland Dispatches

Santa Muerte - Image from NPR Borderland: Dispatches

Santa Muerte – Image from NPR Borderland: Dispatches

Journalist Steve Inskeep of NPR’s Morning Edition recently traveled 2,500 miles along the US/Mexico border, photographing and documenting what he saw:

We were seeking stories of people, goods and culture that cross the border. Heavily fortified though it is, the border remains the place where two nations meet, trade, clash and influence one another. It’s a place to see history — how the United States spread across the West, into lands that once belonged to Mexico — and a place to glimpse both nations’ emerging futures. We meant to explore big issues like immigration, crime and business through the personal stories of people who cross.

The resulting stories document various aspects of life along the border, including the tales of immigrants, asylum seekers, musicians, vendors, students, border patrol agents, cartel hitmen, and ordinary folks on both sides of the line. Continue reading


WWW: Gathering Books

Gathering Books is currently in the midst of a multicultural-based theme, "“Rainbow Colors of Diversity: Voices of the Silenced.”

Gathering Books is currently in the midst of a multicultural-based reading theme, “Rainbow Colors of Diversity: Voices of the Silenced.”

Are you looking for something to read? Check out the phenomenal blog: Gathering Books. I’ve always been aware of this incredible resource, but I’ve never had much of a chance to explore its voluminous content. Until now. My one word summary is: “Wow!” I’m struck by the amount and quality of work the team at Gathering Books must devote to the blog. It’s mind-blowing.

The bloggers responsible are Myra Garces-Bacsal, an Assistant Professor and clinical psychologist who does extensive work with the gifted; Fats Suela, a B.A. in Psychology, “nomad at heart,” and fabulous book reviewer; and Iphigene Daradar, a managing consultant, pyschometrician (I had to look this up), and counselor-in-training. These three have reviewed and commented in depth on hundreds of books. Many kudos for that!

The blog is organized into sections consisting of book reviews of all types (with new reads on Mondays and Saturdays), Filipino Lit, Nonfiction for Adults, Picture Books, Young Adult Lit, and more… Visitors interested in finding a good read can navigate these sections, read the reviews, view scans of illustrations, and comment on the books after reading.  Continue reading

WWW: Ocean in a Saucer

Laura Resau's Office - image from the Ocean in a Saucer blog.

Laura Resau’s Office – image from the Ocean in a Saucer blog.

For my next few blog posts, I decided to feature other, unique blogs dedicated to Latin American young adult literature. Laura Resau’s blog is called Ocean in a Saucer because writing novels, to Resau, feels like “trying to fit a raging, deep, sparkling, infinite thing like the ocean” into a saucer.

In case it wasn’t obvious from this imaginative quote, Resau is an extremely thoughtful, interesting person. Her background is in cultural anthropology and ESL-teaching. She has lived and traveled in Latin America and Europe, which has inspired her books. She has taught English in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca, and she donates royalties to indigenous rights organizations in Latin America.

This blog is just cool. I visited looking for lesson plans and was quickly sidetracked by the apparently awesome life of a writer. Resau has been typing out her masterpieces in a whimsical trailer/writer’s pad (complete with butterflies, bells, trapeze outfits, and an altar with the Virgin of Juquila), visiting amazing places like Portugal, and meeting (and no doubt, inspiring) the students that read her books. Continue reading

WWW: Mexican Revolution – The Storm that Swept Mexico

ZapataOur outreach team recently partnered with Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque, the Mexican Consulate of Albuquerque, the Spanish Resource Center of Albuquerque, and the National Hispanic Cultural Center to put together a workshop for teachers, discussing how to incorporate the Mexican Revolution into middle and high school classrooms.

Frankly, I had no idea how difficult it is to learn about this cataclysmic event in Mexican history.

Plainly, the Revolution meant—and continues to mean—different things to different people. Diverse groups with contradictory goals were involved in the fight against Porfirio Díaz. Those who took up arms were farmers, miners, professionals, artisans, businessmen, and career soldiers. Some clung tightly to abstract principles such as “liberty,” while others demanded labor protections or the immediate restoration of indigenous lands. Some sought only to rid the community of the local hacendado, while others reacted in principle against three decades of Díaz’s ironclad rule. Folks routinely traversed armies or switched sides altogether. Alliances formed and fragmented. With few exceptions, the leaders of the Revolution were assassinated or exiled by political opponents.  Continue reading

WWW: “Maestra” – The Cuban Literacy Campaign

Maestra - Ivonne - Adria - Santana

Ivonne and Adria Santana, 1961 – from the film “Maestra”

Today, Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. This hasn’t always been the case. Prior to the revolution, census data identified nearly a quarter of Cuba’s population, mostly rural, as illiterate. Within a decade, that number dropped to less than 4 percent despite a substantial defection of school teachers to the United States. How?

In 1961, the revolutionary government initiated a program of mass participation, dispatching volunteer, young, literate Cubans to teaching assignments across the country. Rural families hosted this new generation of teachers (over a quarter million total) in their homes, and in exchange, the people of the countryside were taught to read and write. A culture of literacy was born on the island.

“Maestra” is a documentary (33 minutes) by Catherine Murphy, focusing particularly on the young girls who participated as teachers. The focus on young girls is interesting, as Cuba of the 1950s was dominated by a staunchly patriarchal family structure. Girls who wanted to participate had to enter an intense process of negotiation with their families—a process the filmmakers call a “teenage girl uprising.”  Continue reading

WWW: Fascinating & Educational Artwork – “Mesoamérica Resiste”

Mesoamérica ResisteThe Beehive Design Collective is a group of artists that voluntarily creates artwork dedicated to “cross-pollinating the grassroots” for use as educational and organizing tools. The graphics are created anonymously and can be used by anyone.

Beehive has released an epic trilogy of artwork exploring globalization and colonialism in the Americas. The third and final installment, released this fall, is truly magnificent. For nine years, Beehive artists worked on this intricately detailed, double-sided folding poster, illustrating stories of resistance. Titled “Mesoamérica Resiste,” the massive map drawn in old colonial style opens to reveal “the view from below, where communities are organizing locally and across borders to defend land and traditions, protect cultural and ecological diversity, and build alternative economies.”  Continue reading

WWW: Latin@s in Kid Lit

Latinos in kid litLatin@s in Kid Lit is a unique new blog created by kid lit authors and dedicated to Latino/a children’s literature. The site was created to identify and promote books where youths can “see themselves in terms of race, culture, and lived experiences in the literature they read.”

The concept behind the site speaks to me personally, because I, like many other Latin@ kids, had a hard time engaging with books that revolved around characters who I could never relate to.  Ignoring cultural relevance when designing a reading list for the classroom is a well-documented barrier to literacy.

As the creators of Latin@s in Kid Lit explain, kids “connect with stories for varied reasons, including the simple one that something in the narrative is familiar.”

Continue reading

WWW: Resources for Teaching about the Border


Photo from Flickr CC user: Wonderlane

UNM’s Latin American and Iberian Institute previously hosted a K-12 professional development workshop on teaching about the US-Mexico border. Keira and Katrina created an accompanying online resource for educators that I have personally found to be extremely helpful for understanding the complexity of the region.

Resources for Teaching about the Border is a gateway to dozens of carefully crafted K-12 lesson plans that were created by the Kellogg Institute, the Bracero History Archive, New Mexico State University’s Center for Latin American & Border Studies, Teaching Tolerance, and dozens of other reputable organizations.

Lesson plans cover diverse border issues in the areas of history, economics, immigration, media, and physical landscapes. Some examples include: Continue reading

WWW: Plimoth Plantation – Thanksgiving Interactive

Holidays in schools often present a culturally and historically skewed version of the past. While Thanksgiving is embraced as an opportunity to cut out construction paper headdresses and host a classroom potluck, it could be a legitimate opportunity for learning about culture, competing viewpoints, and the process of constructing history.

To this end, the Plimoth Plantation offers “Thanksgiving Interactive: You are the Historian,” an excellent interactive online resource and accompanying teacher’s guide. The online resource frames Thanksgiving as the historical offshoot of the 1621 harvest festival that was attended by English colonists and the Wampanoag People. The resource and guide were created through the collaboration of teachers, historians, and members of the Wampanoag community. Continue reading

WWW: PBS Documentary – “The Graduates / Los Graduados”

The GraduatesChastity lives with her mother and three brothers in a homeless shelter in the Bronx. She’s trying to graduate high school. Her mother, who dropped out of school, explains: “She sees exactly what happens if you don’t have an education. She sees that. She loves school; thank god she loves school. . .”

Chastity’s story is featured in Part I of the Bernardo Ruiz documentary, “The Graduates,” which aired on PBS on Tuesday. The 55 minute video is now available to stream online in English and Spanish. Part I, titled “The Girls,” gives first-hand accounts of challenges facing Chastity and other Latinas who fight through discouragement, discrimination, poverty, pregnancy, and violence to receive their diplomas.

The film intersperses the girls’ stories with commentary from family members, school officials, social workers, activists, and San Antonio’s Mayor Julián Castro. The end result is an illuminating and genuine tearjerker that made this blogger grateful for his relatively cushy high school experience.  Continue reading