En la Clase: También la lluvia | Colonization & Conquest through Film

Even the Rain | Latin America Through Film: Educator's Guide | Vamos a LeerAs Alice mentioned in Monday’s post, one of our themes this month is the retelling of familiar tales.  Today’s En la Clase connects this theme to the idea of rethinking Columbus, another relevant topic for this time of year, through the film También la lluvia/Even the Rain.  If you’re not familiar with the film, here’s a quick synopsis:

Idealistic filmmaker Sebastián (Gael García Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries) and his cynical producer Costa (Luis Tosar, The Limits of Control) arrive in Bolivia to make a revisionist film about Christopher Columbus’ conquest of the Americas. But as filming commences, the local citizens begin to riot in protest against a multi-national corporation that is taking control of their water supply. With the film shoot in jeopardy, both men find their convictions shaken. Inspired by the real-life Water Wars in Bolivia in the year 2000, Even the Rain explores the lasting effects of Spanish imperialism, still resonating some 500 years later in the continued struggle of indigenous people against oppression and exploitation.

As a story within a story, the film offers a re-telling of Columbus’ conquest and colonization of the Americas through the production of a new film about Columbus.  As events unfold during the filming, the historical content of the film is presented in such a way as to draw strong comparisons between Columbus’ actions and those of the actors, producers, and directors.  Despite the underlying motivation to produce a more critical version of conquest and colonization, we find history repeating itself hundreds of years later through both the production of the film and the Bolivian Water Wars.  The film’s producers describe it in the following way: Continue reading

WWW: The First Female Hip Hop Artist from Oaxaca, Mare Advertencia Lirika

mare5bContinuing along with our theme of the merger between women’s rights and poetry in Latin America, we have an amazing video resource to share today.  Unlike past examples, however, today’s post will focus on a present day, female, indigenous hip hop artist from southern Mexico and an amazing video that comes with English subtitles so the entire class can appreciate the poetic lyricism of her call for human rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights, and a greater social consciousness.  Her name is Mare Advertencia Lirika, and today we will be watching the video for her song entitled “And What Are Your Waiting For?” (Y Tu Que Esperas?).  In this song, Mare combines the metrics of rap lyrics with elements of social resistance that have been present in her community for quite some time.  At 1:45 of the video, Mare says:  “We have been denied our own history/ Our words have been taken by other mouths” (1:45).

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¡Mira, Look!: Encounter

A few weeks ago the U.S. observed Columbus Day, a holiday which many have questioned. Outspoken critics have rejected the notion that Columbus ‘discovered’ America and ushered in an era of civilization, arguing instead that his arrival resulted in the domination and genocide of thousands of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and Native Americans in the US. These critical responses led to protests, which have coalesced into sporadic policy changes throughout the US.   Some cities like Minneapolis and Seattle have replaced Columbus Day with “Indigenous Peoples Day,” and some states, like South Dakota and Hawaii, have reclaimed the holiday to honor their respective indigenous peoples. The protests continue to grow, which means that now is an opportune moment to involve your students in these critical conversations.

It can be challenging for educators who try to “rethink Columbus,” because there is a shortage of classroom material and children’s literature that tackle this issue from the perspective of indigenous peoples. Too few of our textbooks and novels ever address the other side of the narrative – who was it whom Columbus encountered? The voices of the Taino, the people who first greeted Columbus, are never told. I would wager that many have never even heard of the Taino people, which is shocking given the pervasiveness of Columbus’ version of history.

That is why this week I present tencountero you a children’s book that tells a different story of the arrival of Columbus: Encounter (ages 6-12), written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by David Shannon, is told from the fictionalized perspective of a boy who was part of the Taino, the first tribe to have interacted with Columbus. Continue reading

Local Event!! Rethinking Conquest & Colonization

For all of our local New Mexico Readers:

2014-09-03_Rethinking-Conquest-and-ColonizationWe are very excited to announce our first LAII k-12 Teacher workshop of the year– “Rethinking Conquest & Colonization.”  The workshop will be held on Wednesday September 3rd from 5:00-8:00 pm at the Latin American and Iberian Institute, UNM.

Join us for a free, unique professional development opportunity for k-12 educators. With Columbus Day on October 8th, this time of year provides the opportunity both to reconsider not only how and what we teach about Christopher Columbus, but also more generally how conquest, colonization and the continued struggles of indigenous peoples are taught in the classroom. This workshop will provide the opportunity to engage in a discussion of these topics with special presentations by Dr. Glenabah Martinez, Associate Professor, and Dr. Vincent Werito, Assistant Professor, both from the UNM Department of Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies.

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En la Clase: Thanksgiving Reconsidered

pilgrims and indiansWhile Thanksgiving itself may not have a great deal of explicit Latin American content, it’s still an important topic for us here at Vamos a Leer.  Many of the issues surrounding Thanksgiving, like the discourses used to present it in schools, are quite similar to the discussions that arise out of how to teach about conquest and colonization, multicultural education, and cultural representations, which are all topics of importance at Vamos a Leer.  So for the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing resources and ideas for how to offer a different account than the standard Thanksgiving story.

Often when the topic of Rethinking Thanksgiving is broached, many respond with accusations that we’re trying to take the fun out of schools or holidays, we’re thinking about it too much, we’re being too politically correct, or we’re just making students feel guilty about who they are.  Of course, none of these are the intention, and I don’t believe that they are even the necessary outcome of offering a more historically accurate version of Thanksgiving.  As James Loewen wrote, “The antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history, but honest and inclusive history” (Rethinking Columbus, p. 80).   Presenting a mythologized version of history or a ‘feel-good’ history only works until our students find out the truth.  How do they feel once they realize they’ve been lied to? Or what about our students who already know that the stories of Pilgrims and Indians peacefully celebrating a First Thanksgiving are a lie? What about our Native American students who live out the reality of what it’s like to be Native in the United States? How do they feel when forced to dress up in construction paper costumes of Pilgrims and Indians?  A quick Google Search shows that these ‘historical’ re-enactments of the first meal are still quite prevalent.  In classrooms across the United States students still dress up in costumes quite similar to the craft pictured above.  Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Before Columbus

before columbusOne of the staples of our fall curriculum is Christopher Columbus. After all, Columbus was a historical figure whom we were all taught to love because without him, we would not have America–and he had cool wooden ships that we could build and put into bottles! However, by now, we all know that Columbus and his legacy leave much deeper implications than just “discovering America.” I mean, just think of that phrase for a moment. Was America lost prior to 1492? And what did he find? New York? Well, following with some of our previous work on Rethinking Columbus, this week’s post will focus on recent scholarship of Columbus’s voyage, what the Americas were like, and how we can disburse this information more appropriately to our students.  Continue reading

En la Clase: Textbook Detectives

dreamstimemaximum_17856192This week’s En la Clase continues the conversation we began last week about how to reconsider the ways we teach about Christopher Columbus in the classroom.  Today’s post looks at one of my favorite activities: Textbook Detectives.  A number of articles in the teaching guide Rethinking Columbus discuss ways to use Textbook Detectives in the classroom.  You can find these articles on the following pages of Rethinking Columbus: pp 19-21; 38-40; 47-55; 62-8.  (Side note: If you’re a local Albuquerque teacher and don’t have a copy of Rethinking Columbus yet, come to our professional development workshop on September 18th–the first 20 teachers will get a free copy of the book!)  These articles all offer references, ideas, and/or resources helpful for this activity.  One of the reasons I love this activity so much is because it’s easily adapted both for grade level and content.  It can be used with any topic, and certainly isn’t limited just to teaching about Christopher Columbus.  It’s great for any unit where you want to encourage your students to develop critical thinking skills and analyze the way a subject is portrayed in various literature.  Continue reading