WWW: She’s Just a Child…Activist.

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

Thanks again for joining me this week! Last week, I featured Ana Teresa Fernández’s work in my post describing how activism can be practiced in different forms; art being one of them. This week, I will expand on the idea of activism in different forms, focusing more specifically on children as activists. As Keira noted in her Sobre Enero post, January is about focusing not only on how to teach young people about injustices, but also offering ideas for how they can take a stand against them. So, this week, I will provide online resources to introduce some really important young activists who have made a big difference in their country, Colombia, since they spoke up.

Farlis-CalleThere were more than 4,000 child deaths in Colombia in 1996 due to civil war and La Violencia, which had already been underway for more than 30 years. Graça Machel, a well known humanitarian sent to study the impact of civil war and violence on children, visited Colombia that same year. When 15-year-old Farlis Calle Guerero heard the call for children’s testimony at her school, she organized as many of her classmates and friends as she could to present testimony to Graça Machel on how the war had impacted them. Bringing these students together to create this presentation led Farlis to the realization that they (her classmates and the rest of the youth) could be the solution to the violence. After the presentation, Graça reported back to the U.N. while Farlis and about two-dozen of her classmates got to work organizing and participating in peace meetings, which led to the creation of “peace zones” and “peace carnivals.” The movement, which turned out to have the participation of more than three million Colombian children, became known as the Children’s Peace Movement. Farlis and her classmates were able to start a movement, with the help of UNICEF, that created an international voice for children’s rights in all countries. Continue reading

Sobre Enero: Resources on Latin@ Civil Rights, Social Justice, and Youth Activism

Vamos a Leer | Resources on Latin@ Civil Rights, Social Justice, and Youth ActivismFeliz año nuevo a tod@s.

We’re glad to be back after a rejuvenating winter break and excited to engage in new conversations with you! We begin the year by focusing on issues of civil rights and social justice that are meaningful to people everywhere, but particularly relevant to Latin@ and Latin American communities. This month we focus not only on how to teach young people about injustices, but more importantly offer ideas for how they can take a stand against it. In the next few weeks we’ll discuss how children and youth can push back against prejudice and discrimination in their lives and in broader society.

Our dedicated bloggers will tackle the question in a few ways:

  • Alice, our children’s book reviewer, will focus on books that profile child activists who face and combat issues such as poverty and immigration rights
  • Katrina, our En la Clase expert, will look at Latin@ children’s literature and how it can be used to teach about civil rights and to encourage student activism
  • Charla, our WWW researcher, will share resources related to art through activism and children as activists.

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WWW: Mayan Hands, Backstrap Looms and Weaving the Guatemalan Highlands

Backstrap_loomMayan Hands is an organization that promotes the social, economic and historical importance of weaving among Mayan communities in the highlands of Guatemala.  Mostly, it is the women in these communities who take up the art of weaving at a very young age; in fact, weaving is synonymous with a birth-rite for many Mayan girls and is considered an essential part of community life.  Mayan weaving is known for a refined and unique style called back-strap weaving.  Having the students watch the Mayan Hands’ back-strap weaving videos is an amazing opportunity to use media on the web to bring a far-away cultural reality into the classroom.

After watching the videos, students should try and answer the following questions, as well as any others they might formulate or be inspired to ask.  How does weaving act as a tool for organization among women?  In what ways do the videos portray the Mayan art of weaving (ancient or modern; technical or basic)?  How does Mayan back-strap weaving relate to tourism and to ourselves as consumers here in the north?  As the students begin formulating ideas about Mayan women and the art of weaving, here is some important background information.

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WWW: Three Latin American Poets and a Translator

three poets cervantes

I am incredibly excited to share this week’s resource from the Wide World of the Web, because this resource not only contains the translated work of three phenomenal female modernist poets from South America, but it also helps tell the background story of how these three women came to be bound together in the June 1925 Issue of Poetry Magazine.  This historic issue, published in New York during a time when modernists such as Ezra Pound and T.S. Elliot were working out ways to form a new poetic tradition for the 20th century, this June 1925 issue featured an astonishing thirty-one South and Central American poets.  Among them were poets Alfonsina Storni, Juana de Ibarbourou, and Gabriela Mistral (featured in Lorraine’s Mira Look post earlier this week).  In this amazing resource you will find the poets featured in 1925 organized according to country.  You can find Storni’s poem “Running Water” under Argentina, Mistral’s “Ecstasy” under Chile, and Ibarbourou’s “Bond” under Uruguay.  All three of these pieces are excellent examples not only of 20th century modernist poetry, but of the perspective of Western educated Latin American women of that time.

In Ibarbourou’s “Bond”, the poet replaces common articles of feminine adornment to symbolize the suffering endured by societal pressures of beauty.  Ibarbourou (spelled Ibarbouron in the 1925 edition), who was a lifelong advocate and writer on women’s rights in Uruguay and abroad, replaced diadems with a crown of thorns and earnings with “two burning coals vermilion.” Continue reading

WWW: Pelo Malo and Venezuelan Pop Music from the 70s

pelo malo juniorThis week we have an amazing film resource from Venezuela, 2013’s internationally-acclaimed Bad Hair (“Pelo Malo”). Writer/Director Mariana Rondón brings us this incredibly poignant story about a young boy named Junior who is obsessed with straightening his thick, curly hair, an obsession that drives his mother into a panic over her son’s masculinity.

Earlier this week, ¡Mira, Look! featured Laura Lacámara’s phenomenal book, Dalia’s Wondrous Hair (El cabello maravilloso de Dalia), a book that shares so many amazing similarities with today’s film, Bad Hair.  Firstly, and most obvious, they both deal with a child’s mix of struggle and enjoyment in learning to deal with their hair.  Both of the writers are women who come from Latin American countries with Caribbean coastline and strong Afrolatino cultures.  And, in the end, they both deal with love – love of community, love of family and love of self. That being said, let’s dive into some of the most salient points of Bad Hair, a film that will have you laughing and crying, and will surely leave you wanting to know more about life in Caracas, Venezuelan history, but mostly, it will leave you with a particular song stuck in your head.

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¡Mira, Look!: Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Separate is Never EqualIn light of Black History Month, with a film like Selma in theaters and massive protests against racial profiling occurring across the country, we here at Vamos feel it is a good time for educators to have their students reflect upon civil rights achievements of the past in order to take lessons learned from the successes and apply them to ongoing struggles of today.

Many of you, I’m sure, have heard of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case that outlawed segregation of public schools. What you may not know is that seven years before a case involving the segregation of Mexican-American students in California laid the groundwork for that significant decision. The case, Mendez v. Westminster, is brought back to life through the story and illustrations of Duncan Tonatiuh in his children’s book Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. And we cannot recommend it highly enough.

If our applause isn’t loud enough, then we’ll let others convince you. Just recently, the book was recognized as a 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book and as a Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Award for Younger Readers.

Here is an excerpt from Kirkus:Mexican Schhol

Most associate the fight for school integration with the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. However, seven years earlier, Mexican-American students in California saw an end to discrimination there. The little girl at the center of that case, Sylvia Mendez, was the daughter of parents who looked forward to sending her to the school near their newly leased farm. When her aunt attempted to register the family children, they were directed to the “Mexican school,” despite proficiency in English and citizenship. No one could explain to Mr. Mendez why his children were not allowed to attend the better-appointed school nearby. Despite the reluctance of many fellow Mexican-Americans to cause “problems,” he filed a suit, receiving the support of numerous civil rights organizations. Tonatiuh masterfully combines text and folk-inspired art to add an important piece to the mosaic of U.S. civil rights history.

The story takes placeTrial over the period of three years. It begins with Sylvia being bullied on her first day as an integrated student and shoots back in time to tell the story of how hard her family fought to get her to that point. The story invaluably outlines the legal process of civil rights cases, taking us through each step that the Mendez family went through, even including trial scene dialogue taken directly from court transcripts. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

Firefly LettersOver the past several weeks, we have discussed how civil rights impact all people. This week, we would like to turn to a book written by Margarita Engle that puts a different spin on the idea of civil rights. All minority groups have had to fight for their rights, and this includes women. It is also important to note that the fight for civil rights is not specific to the United States. Nearly all countries in Latin America have seen similar movements by minority groups–and these struggles are not necessarily recent. This is evident in Engle’s The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba, a book discussing the women’s rights movement in Cuba in the 19th century.

This book, written in prose, is most suitable for middle grade readers. It tells the story of Fredrika Bremer, a real life suffragette, from Swedish. Engle chronicles Bremer’s real life trip to Cuba in 1851 in this historical fiction. Elena, the daughter of Bremer’s wealthy host family, and Cecelia, a slave, join Bremer in her journey through the Cuban countryside. Engle chronicles the journey of these women and their personal development throughout the book. The Firefly Letters is a 2011 Pura Belpre Honor Book for Narrative.  Continue reading