Review of Mitali Perkins’s Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border (ages 3 – 6)
& Our Book Guide with Supplemental Activities and Resources
In Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019) , María, a young, clever and quick-witted girl from Southern California, narrates her family’s story about celebrating Las Posadas at the annual La Posada Sin Fronteras celebration that occurs at the aptly named Friendship Park, which is along the border between Tijuana, MX and San Diego, CA. Prior to this celebration, María introduces us to her younger brother, Juan, and her Mamá, Sylvia. María explains that sadly she hasn’t seen her Abuela in five years; however, both María and Juan are elated that they will see their Abuela (albeit through the fences along the border) and thus are busy making final touches to their homemade presents for their Abuela.
After a long bus journey and waiting in line for their turn, María, Juan, and Mamá finally get their chance to see and talk with their beloved Abuela who stands on the other side of the border, in Mexico. Their time spent together goes by quickly as they sing Las Posadas, pass hugs and kisses through the fences, and catch up on other family members that live on either side of the border. At the end of their time together, María tries to pass the scarf that she and Mamá have made for Abuela through the fence when she is stopped by Border Patrol Agents that explain that it is forbidden to pass things through the fence. However, this inspires crafty María to find a different way to ensure that Abuela can receive her Christmas gifts without disobeying the Border Patrol’s rules.
Check out our full book review and educator guide on Between Us and Abuelahere.
Have you read this heartwarming story? Share your thoughts below! How do you plan to celebrate Las Posadas this year?
¡Hola a todos! This is my last post of the school semester. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to look at sources I have shared through this blog. I am always pleased to share them with you and hopeful that they may be of use to you.
– You might only think of tortillas when you think of Mexico, but the country’s culinary repertoire goes far beyond that – in part because of the overlapping indigenous, Spanish, and French influences. The next time you’re using food as an introduction to Mexican culture, you might want to read this Illustrated Guide to Mexico’s Delicious Breads. The article discusses how bread was made more palatable with “the addition of indigenous ingredients, like corn, piloncillo, and chocolate. And then when the French began arriving to Mexico, they introduced European baking techniques, which have had long-lasting effects in the Latin American country.”
The Vamos a Leer theme for this month, as written in Keira’s Sobre Deciembre post, is focused on winter celebrations. I was eager to explore children’s and YA literature around this topic in hopes of finding books that are reflective of the diverse familial celebrations, religious and spiritual practices, and cultural traditions throughout Latin America. However, it would be disingenuous to state that this eagerness remained after learning the outcome of the election. Rather, like many others, I began to reflect on the multiple uncertainties that our communities face. More specifically, what will the future hold for those that are from other countries and living in the United States? With everything that I read being filtered through this lens, I decided it was best to reframe the theme a bit.
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday break. Thank you for joining me again. This semester we are kicking off with a focus on activism. You may notice that many of our upcoming posts connect and highlight important activists in Latin America, the organizations they belong to, or the programs they founded. In honor of the focus on activism, I am highlighting some of Ana Teresa Fernández’s recent work on “erasing” the U.S.-Mexico border—using art!
Ana Teresa Fernández is a Mexican-American artist. She and a group of thirty volunteers teamed up to paint the border fence in Nogales, Sonora a light blue color in order to blend it with the sky. In her video about the project, Fernández talked about the fence as a “symbol of hate and pain.” She thought to change that by making it invisible (at least a piece of it). Her work constitutes activism “because it re-contextualizes a possibility. It makes you not see the border — just for a split second — and [makes you see] how two countries can exist, or coexist, peacefully,” said Fernández in an interview with Raquel Reichard from Latina. To her, the problem of the border fence is that it divides two groups of people who could otherwise live in harmony. The idea, while earning support from many people, sparked hate in some who have taken to writing hate mail and nasty correspondence to the artist. Continue reading →
We’re interrupting your regularly scheduled En la Clase to bring you a review of the remarkable book Poli: A Mexican Boy in Early Texas. Written by Jay Neugeborn in 1989, Poli is celebrating a 25th anniversary edition printing from the Texas Tech University Press. It’s a biography of a lesser-known Mexican-American who was deeply involved in the formative years of the southwestern frontier of the United States. As Neugeborn explains in the preface,
“José Policarpo Rodríguez was born in Zaragoas, Mexico, on January 26, 1829, at a time when Texas was part of the Republic of Mexico, and the Rio Grande ran peacefully through the northern province of Coahuila. This book is based on Poli’s memories…”
This fictionalized biography focuses on Poli’s time growing into adulthood on what was then the Mexican-US border. Neugeborn admits that he took “imaginative liberties” by “inventing dialogue and characters here and there, shifting and/or combining some elements for dramatic or narrative ends.” But underneath those creative flourishes lies the factual structure of the events of Poli’s childhood – years in which he increasingly became aware of the economic impoverishment of Mexico; the genocidal policies and practices leveraged against the Comanche nation by the US; the brutal enslavement of African-Americans in the US; and the political, cultural, and historical disagreements (to put it mildly) between the many people who were trying to live in the contested frontier region. This is not to make it sound as though the book is wholly depressing! Interspersed throughout the serious reflections are small, lighter observations about Poli’s life, including his preference for the Mexican fruit chictzapotl or the chocolate drink atole.
In 1994 the United States launched Operation Gatekeeper, effectively militarizing the US-Mexico border. Within three years, agents strapped with M4 rifles and .40 caliber submachine guns patrolled their newly-installed fences 24 hours a day. The INS budget and the size of the Border Patrol doubled during the same period and the easiest routes north were sealed. Policymakers envisioned human action in economic terms, expecting that people would make a “cost-benefit decision” before deciding to journey across more dangerous terrain. They believed that no rational actor would assume the “cost” of crossing Arizona’s Sonora Desert in the summertime.
Policymakers were wrong. Each day this summer, countless migrants will begin 4-5 day treks in 110 degree heat for a chance to live and work in the United States. Many will never make it out of the desert. Continue reading →