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Hispanic Identity: From Dreams to Civic ParticipationbyMeredith C. Tilp
Student optimism should not be squandered so I asked last year's class what they wanted to learn. One student responded to my request for ideas by saying "Have students write speeches like they were Obama and coming to New Mexico." Surely, this self-interest is something upon which to build civic understanding and participation.
Hispanic Identity: From Dreams to Civic Participation provides a chance for high school teachers, students and administrators to reflect on who they are, and where they live in order to activate civic knowledge and participation. It is my belief that when students realize their true selves, reflect on their classmates' lives and their social environment, they are more likely to fully participate in classroom discussions about equality, civil rights, and discrimination. A sense of unity and purpose may arise out of the positive energy, or at least honesty and trust may develop.
The US census would classify my students as Hispanic (see Attachment 1). Many consider themselves "brown." They further categorize themselves as Mexican or New Mexican, and Black, white or Asian. These students hunger to know their "standing" in American society and, more often than not, keep their personal and family views to themselves. Occasionally, a quiet classroom remark and body language will reveals the depth of division among my students. Despite this, the leveling factors in my classroom are effort, performance and achievement. This next year will be an opportunity to build a more cohesive classroom environment by addressing cultural and structural issues that lead to the failure of some students to participate.
Defining the unique nature and identity of Santa Fe and New Mexico's population is a major challenge. According to 2006 census, "The â€˜Hispanic ethnicity' category includes Mexicans (7.3 percent of the total U.S. population in 2000), Puerto Ricans (1.2 percent), Cubans (0.4 percent) and a host of other Latin and South American ethnicities."1 The terms "Latino" and "Chicano," widely used in California, are not used in Santa Fe. The Pew Research Institute has excellent data and interactive maps showing the growth of Latino population. (see Attachment 3) In New Mexico, however, students use the term Hispanic, perhaps out of deference to the US census definition, or perhaps because of a desire to be part of the greater United States.
Whatever the reason, students believe that their generation has the potential to shape the future in new and positive ways, just as the 1960's civil rights movement shaped and propelled my generation. Such was President John F. Kennedy's call during his inaugural speech: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." We live in remarkably inspiring times, which reflect our nation's evolution in the area of civil rights and responsibilities.
Phase one of this unit will explore the questions: "Who am I? Where did I come from and what is my cultural background? We will read Dreams from My Father1 by Barack Obama. Using Dreams from My Father, we will decode his father's heritage and mother and grandparents' influence, and study his education and values. I also expect a rich discussion on the topic of family. Obama asks this question in Dreams: "What is a family? Is it a genetic chain, parents and offspring, people like me? Or is it a social construct, an economic unit, optimal for child rearing and divisions of labor? Or is it something else entirely: a store of shared memories, say? An ambit of love? A reach across the void?"2 Students will begin to see that families define who they are, yet the future offers possibilities beyond those constraints.
In phase two of the curriculum, alongside a study of the US and New Mexican governments, representative and lawmaking processes, students will consider discrimination in the United States in its many forms and contexts. Students will get a good foundation concerning slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights era. I expect to go deeper into the lessons of Brown v. Board of Education to understand how changes have come about for African-Americans. Students will write a longer essay on the history of Civil Rights, citing important events culminating in Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech."
Of my last years' 80% Hispanic students, the valedictorian's question stands out: "Why have Hispanics not achieved the degree of success in America as some blacks?" The nomination and confirmation process of Judge Sonia Sotomajor as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice will be ripe for a discussion of the Supreme Court. Students will take a look at Judge Sotomayor's statement that she "would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived her life."
A capstone of the unit is the topic of discrimination. Each student will write about an experience of discrimination. Some examples will be shared with the whole class. These stories will reveal the root causes of discrimination, perceptions about victim and perpetrators and finally what actions or recourse can resolve the issues. Students will explore how change has come about slowly in the Southwest for New Mexico citizens and Mexican immigrants. Students will explore other important cases of discrimination in New Mexico in employment, housing and daily life. We will break down the causes and actions that have been taken to remedy this discrimination by viewing three videos.
In the Public Broadcasting videos "A Class Apart: Hérnandez v. Texas ," "El Senador: The Life and Career of US Senator Dennis Chavez," and "Viva La Causa: The Story of Cesar Chavez," there are good historical examples of Hispanic civil rights. Hérnandez v. Texas explores the Supreme Court case that classified Mexican-Americans as a class apart not as â€˜white' citizens. In Hérnandez v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that exclusion of Mexican-Americans from criminal trial juries violated the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection of the laws. The Court thereby acknowledged that the Fourteenth Amendment protected not only African-Americans but also Mexican-Americans as such against majority-imposed discrimination. Each of the film presentations provides a specific example of important historical cases involving the fight for representative and economic justice for Hispanics.
Phase three explores the resources, rationale and practice of community development and civic participation. It takes students from the "free ride of their education" to an attitude of giving back.
During Obama's Chicago community organizing experience in Dreams he was told by his community development supervisor that in order to initiate valuable community development you must: "Find their self-interest?" Students will find out where â€˜their self interest' is and be able to prioritize and focus attention on their interests. Students will commit to some kind of volunteer activity spending at least once a week for 8 weeks working and learning. Students will keep a journal of this experience. Volunteer possibilities include volunteering with a coach who teaches profoundly disabled children at the school, or working in a community center in the poorest part of town. Students will weigh the efforts of community organizers who address the power base through community mobilization. Santa Fe City's Development Plan, the Triangle District Plan and the state's Film Industry Economic Initiative assist a different segment of the population. Some emphasize "trickle down" and others "bottom up." On the south side of town, little is being done to meet the economic interests of our students. Perhaps my students will design their own community development plans.
My identity, family and social environment
My overarching goal with this curriculum unit is to establish some common understandings of identity, to challenge preconceived notions and stereotypes by building self-awareness, to examine root causes of perceived differences and to lay a foundation of trust, equality and justice for all through civil rights lessons.
Some Hispanic students respond to their world of poverty, gangs and violence by saying "paz pequeña " (a little peace). "Let's learn to respect one another." Others are lost in a maelstrom of society's evils. Most students have lots of ideas about discrimination, race and civil rights. Their questions range from "I would like to learn about why Hispanics do not seem to have the same momentum as African-Americans," to "learn about the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and Martin Luther King's great speech," and "know which states allow gay marriage and why?"
President Obama's life provides a point of departure for many discussions. His multicultural background, absentee father and attentive grandparents and nurturing mother provide a good basis for students to explore their own identities. Students are fascinated with the Obama Presidency and how an African-American has achieved such a distinction.
Using Dreams, we will decode Obama's father's heritage and mother and grandparents' influence, and study his education and values. Each student will write, draw or act out his or her autobiography and design a family tree. Each student will present "Who am I? including family heritage, core values and interests. Since many students live with foster parents or live with grandparents in blended families, I expect a rich discussion on the topic of family. Students will begin to see that families do define who they are, yet the future offers possibilities beyond those constraints.
We will analyze Obama's road to the White House as well as his restructuring of economic and foreign policy, his primary victories and his winning a cross-section of Americans. Students will critique Obama's actions as President and determine his strengths and weaknesses. My hope is that students will be able to distinguish positive role models from negative ones.
New Mexican Cultural and Structural Identity
William Julius Wilson in his book More Than Just Race provides a helpful framework for determining categories that contribute to racial inequality. He goes on to say that categories of structure and culture help define inequalities that also have victimized Latinos.3
What makes an identity? According to William Julius Wilson, both cultural and structural forces define identity. Both of these terms help provide a list for categorizing and distinguishing student beliefs and realities.
Wilson's views on culture are: "(1) national views and beliefs on race and (2) cultural traits -shared outlooks, modes of behavior, traditions, belief systems, worldviews, values, skills, preferences, styles of self-presentation, etiquette, and linguistic patternsthat emerge from patterns of intragroup interaction in settings created by discrimination and segregation and that reflect collective experiences within those settings.""4
In the very first weeks of school after getting to know basic personal data and filling out parental forms, students will not only list this information, but also present that which they feel comfortable sharing with the rest of the class. They will examine the demographic makeup of the school and our community.
Wilson defines structural differences as both social acts and social processes. "Social acts are those things that people do in a society: stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination in hiring, job promotions, housing, and admission to educational institutionsas well as exclusion from unions, employers' associations, and clubswhen any of these are the act of an individual or group exercising power over others."."4
The record of Hispanic identity in New Mexico is unique and different from California, New York and Illinois. It is more similar to Texas due in large part to the border with Mexico. However, New Mexicans distinguish themselves from Texans and are quite stereotypical in their views. Dr. Neil Foley, Professor of American History at the University of Texas says "There is not a one-size-fits-all history for this paradoxical nature of Mexican-American racial identity. We are a group that has many names: we are Tejanos, we are Mexican-Americans, we are Chicanos, we are Raza, we are Latinos, and we are Hispanic." 5
Students are pulled in many social directionsafter-school jobs, gangs, college, the arts and schoolwork. Forty percent of my students are from Mexico and lived with unemployment, poor water, education, and sanitation. Their parents have come to the United States because they see the opportunities in Santa Fe, with its tourism and service industries and free public education system. They want to learn English. When asked why they came to Santa Fe, many reply that it is because of its high minimum wage ($9.50). Some students have personal history of the cross-border journey to the US; others have family baggage from living in the US. It is my hope students will see that they are different yet alike..
I will use census data from the 2005 census to compare and contrast the population groups Hispanic, Native American and white in New Mexico and the US. Students will begin to understand comparative views of New Mexico and Mexico using data from the New Mexico-Mexico hyperborder (an expanse of development along the US Mexico border which stretches from Tijuana to Brownsville).6 This view brings into focus the undocumented workers, the free trade zone NAFTA and its maquilladoras (US factories along border established through the free trade zone). This data will also give students a sense of the social, economic and political reasons that have driven them north. There are also a number of excellent films on the immigration and trade issues: La Misma Luna "Under the Same Moon", Sin Nombre "Without a Name", "Desperado" and "A Day without Mexicans."
Discrimination and Hispanic Civil Rights
As mentioned previously, there are many examples of racial and ethnic inequality in New Mexico. We will move on in class to talk about prejudice and discrimination against individuals. This takes the idea of prejudice to another levelone of people and society acting on one's prejudices to prevent another group's free access. For example, if I produce all red and green chiles in New Mexico and allow Mexicans to eat only red chiles, but New Mexicans can eat both red and green that is harmful discrimination.
The fact that students whose parents are undocumented are sitting in the same classroom with New Mexico residents would seem be an example of legal protections against discrimination. In contrast, in 2007, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the apartments of 23 students and arrested a number of parents.
During the students' study of discrimination in the US and important civil rights cases, I will challenge them to make a brain map about prejudice, discrimination and racism. We will plot out all those things that students think are discriminatory. We will come up with a universal definition and then think about Hispanic civil rights. My objective is to have them understand major forms of discrimination in employment, voting and representation.
The objective of this section is to analyze the evolving self-identification of Hispanics. We will review important Hispanic civil rights cases from 1950-1970. These cases reflect the history of changing demographics and categorization of people in the Southwest. In this time period, "Spanish-American" was the term used by many Americans of Spanish descent because they preferred to identify with their Spanish ancestry rather than with their Mexican ancestors who had won independence from Spain in 1821.
In the 1960's, Senator Dennis Chavez became the first Spanish-American Senator from New Mexico. Senator Chavez became an iconic figure in New Mexico when he fought against job discrimination against returning WWII Hispanic veterans. He won the support of fellow Democrats and John F. Kennedy as he fought for equal rights and representation in the US Senate.
The case of Hérnandez v. Texas (1954) is also illustrative. Pete Hérnandez, a Mexican-American agricultural worker was convicted for the murder of Joe Espinosa, his Mexican-American employer. In the Hérnandez trial, the jury was all white with no Mexican-American jurors. No Mexican-American had been on a jury for more than 25 years in the Texas County in which the case was tried. Hernandez and his lawyers appealed to the Texas Supreme court, and appealed again to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that Hispanic Americans were also protected under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment and had a right to a jury of their peers.
Students will review the Lemon Grove (Tierra Amarilla) incident in 1967 in which a community activist and Pentecostal minister, Reies Lopez Tijerina, developed a new demographic category called "Indo-Hispano." Tijerina "envisioned a role for the brown race in mediating the conflicts between white and black."7 Tijerina is best known for seeking the return of Spanish land grants to their owners.
Under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo 1848, American citizens were given large tracts of land when the New Mexico Territory was taken by the US. Tijerina brought a lawsuit against the government of New Mexico to contest this land distribution. If Tijerina had succeeded in his lawsuit, this would have given ownership of large portions of New Mexico land to the groups he represented, and would have had enormous economic and social impact on the state.
Finally in phase 2, we will review President Obama's nomination and the Senate confirmation hearings of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. We want to know what the Supreme Court is, what do the justices do, and who they are? An objective is to have students have a first hand look at her life, education and judicial rulings. Students will decide whether Judge Sonia Sotomayor's remark is discriminatory against white males. She said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived her life."
Into Action: Volunteering
Last year one of my students began working as an assistant in an English language program in a community center "El Centro," which helps the poorest residents of Santa Fe. It is in the Triangle District Resource Centerquite a distance from our high school. In this program, she learned about those newer immigrantsmany from Mexico, Guatemala and Salvador, who are the most recent arrivals to the city. This low-income housing funded by HUD, now assists those on the margins of economic and social life in Santa Fe. El Centro was opened about one year ago with funds from the Santa Fe City Council and local foundations. It has meeting rooms for development of parenting skills, English classes provided by professors from the Santa Fe Community College and an organic garden.n.
This is but one example of the many opportunities to volunteer and work in Santa Fe. My students will develop their own resumes, letters of recommendation and job searches to volunteer in local organizations.
My students will identify, interview and evaluate volunteer positions around the city. We will need to be flexible in our determination of these opportunities and the time allowed in or out of school to complete their assignments. Some students have after school jobs or take care of siblings. I estimate are that each student can complete at least 20 hours of volunteer service per year. Each student will keep a diary of their experience and present a report at the end of the year.
My school year 2009-2010 begins with a new structuretwo "houses"one the Capital School of the Performing Arts (CASA) and the other Capital School for Sciences and Technology (CAST). I will teach in CASA allowing much closer relationship with students and especially their families. The school periods will move to a block schedule reflecting longer classes for more in depth coverage of material. In CASA, I will teach "across the curriculum" with English, Drama and Science teachers.s.
My 125 students (both juniors and seniors) will also have ninety-minute block classesmore time to implement thorough study, Internet research, discussion and role-play/drama activities. Juniors tend to be focused on developing a school work ethic and doing well on standardized testing, while Seniors are "feeling their oats" and waiting to get into college or the community college and pursue gainful employment.
I teach a wide variety of student capabilities ranging from "gifted and talented" to "English language learner" to "special needs children," all of which must be dealt with in the same classroom by one teacher. It is very important to be able to set high goals for all students and remediate with the reluctant and challenged learner on a one-on-one basis. It is also helpful to be â€˜in sync' with other teachers, parents and the community.
I will employ a number of other strategies to keep students interested and engaged. Our "house" CASA expects to have a packet of agreements in English and Spanish between students and parents regarding attendance, assignments and parent and student participation. Turning the leadership over to the class, establishing small, balanced working groups, a protocol for field trips and volunteerism require standardized agreement and participation. In addition, I hope to use cross-cultural role-plays and simulations that will build on the drama and arts component of CASA.
Because our school is in New Mexico's capital, we are able to visit the Roundhouse (the State capital, Legislative offices and Governor's office). We are also able to meet with our two US Senators Bingaman and Udall who give students a voice in the law-making process. Students will be exposed to a variety of guest speakers such as Attorney John Draper who argues water rights cases before the US Supreme Court.
We have an Internet service in the computer lab with 30 computers that enable us to watch videos and use common documents such as Supreme Court briefs. We can also access various websites and research on line.
With movies, I will use guided questions such as: 1) who are the major characters? 2) where does the action take place? 3) which cultures are depicted in the movie, 4) are there examples of discrimination in this movie, 5) what are the causes of conflict? 6) What is the moral of the story?
The school year is set in advance and pacing of various aspects of curriculum will be important. My plan is to have students read Dreams early in the fall. However, this will depend on the funding request I have submitted to Partners in Education for 60 copies of the book. In the winter, we will cover the three branches of government as well as important cases of discrimination against Hispanics. In the spring, students will begin their volunteer assignments.
|Read Dreams||Presidential speech: review Obama's inauguration and speech on Education for remarks about blacks and hispanics||Volunteerism|
|Do autobiographies and family trees||Comparative on Executive & Legislature
El Senador: Dennis Chavez
|Resume, skills and recommendation letters|
|Interact around their family and cultural identity||Discrimination: What is it?
Prejudice, racism and sexism
|Community Assessment: What is the self-interest?|
|Who am I?||Think Pair Share/ movies with guided questions||Demographics of Santa Fe|
|Biographies, family trees drama||The Supreme Court
Sotomayor: What is Hispanic?
|Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of Santa Fe's communities|
|Read Obama's Book||Hernandez v. Texas; Review the case; facts and events; Supreme Court opinion||Problems in Santa Fe|
|Answer question what is a family?||Tierra Amarilla; Tierina Rejes
"Lemon Grove Incident"
|On the ground volunteerism with CBOs 20 hours of service|
|What kind of job is Obama doing?||Cesar Chavez & Viva La Causa video: economic injustice||Diaries: definitive and precise
Evaluation of this curriculum will include grading of student weekly work, their autobiographies and family trees, presentations on discrimination and Hispanic civil rights, community service plans and reflections on their voluntary service. Students fill out study sheets, perform dramas, and make class presentations. A rubric is used for scoring all essays. Students will have to write thank you letters to community service organizations. Some will submit a written story to the local newspaper.
Phase 1 Identity
- - Reading Dreams: Who am I? project
- - Writing, or acting out autobiographies
- - Making family trees as mobiles
- - Answering questions from Dreams about families
- - Making cultural list: food, clothing, music, languages
- - Defining structural list: employment and educational opportunities
- - Viewing movie Sin Nombre about gangs and economic refugees to the US
- - Learning about Executive Branch of Government
- - Analyzing Obama's Inaugural address and speech on education and making annotations on the references to civil rights they contain
Phase 2 Civil Rights and Discrimination
- - Demographics in the US of the Hispanic Population (Attachment 1)
- - Brain mapping and working definition discrimination (Attachment 2)
- - Identifying Hispanic identity; New Mexico? (Attachment 3)
- - Sonia Sotomayor: how did she become a justice; confirmation process Analyzing comment for discrimination "would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived her life" (Attachment 4)
- - Analyzing Government Text and handout on Supreme Court (Attachment 5)
- - Santa Fe Lawyer talks about his career and presentation of his cases before the Supreme Court; students ask questions
- - Activity on Texas v. Hernandez 1953: read the 14th Amendment highlight, discuss the role of the Supreme Court (Attachment 6 for Chief Justice Warren's draft opinion)
- - Students review the New Mexico Civil Rights Act of 1955 (Attachment 7)
- - Activity on Dennis Chavez: El Senador from New Mexico;
- - Cesar Chavez, La Causa, Union organizing farm workers
- - Students make speeches about their favorite NM hero
- - Planning for careers and college: writing resumes; letter of recommendation
- - Assessing Santa Fe's demographics and community development
- - Identifying & completing a volunteer opportunities 20 hours of service
- - Completing a survey of observations of people, social activities and practices
- - Writing a diary and making a final presentation on volunteerism
- - Evaluating curriculum unit and suggesting for next year
2. Obama, Barack, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Three Rivers Press, New York, 1995 327.
3. William Julius Wilson, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City, 3.
4. Ibid. 14-15.
5. Neil Foley, The History of Hernandez v. Texas, 13.
6. Fernando Romero, Hyperborder: The Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Border and Its Future, 15.
7. James R. Vivian, Howard Lamar, editor, The Encyclopedia of the West,1080.
Bradshaw, Gilbert Who's Black, Who's Brown and Who Cares? The Case of Hérnandez v. Texas, Las Vegas, Nevada, Latino/a Critical Legal Studies XI 2006. A discussion of the language of identity.
Doan, Grace Olivares and Stephan, Cookie White, The functions of ethnic identity: A New Mexico Hispanic example, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico. The New Mexico example of a discussion of the language of identity.
Foley, Neil The History of Hérnandez v. Texas: A 50th Anniversary Celebration. Texas Hispanic Journal of Law and Policy, Volume II:II, 2005. The University of Texas' Law School annual report gives helpful information about the history of the Hérnandez case.
Lamar, Howard, editor, Vivian, James R, Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West, Yale University Press 1998. An encyclopedia of events and people of the American West.
Obama, Barack, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Three Rivers Press, New York, 1995.
President Barack Obama's identity, early life, significant life events and community organizing experiences.
Olivas, Michael A., ed., "Colored men" and "hombres aquí" : Hernandez v. Texas and the emergence of Mexican-American Lawyering," Arte Público Press, Houston Texas, 2006.
Romero, Fernando Hyperborder: The Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Border and Its Future, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2008.
Supreme Court decision, Hérnandez v. Texas 1954
Wilson, William Julius, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City, W.W. Norton, New York, 2009.
This book has an excellent discussion of cultural and structural forms of discrimination.
PBS: A Class Apart, Hérnandez v. Texas 1954.
This film provides an excellent example of discrimination against Mexican-Americans leading up to the Supreme Court decision of 1954.
PBS: El Senador: The Life & Career of US Senator Dennis Chavez,
Viva La Causa: The Story of Cesar Chavez
This videos are accompanied by great lesson plans from Teaching Tolerance. Each of the Videos has a teacher's guide with standards based lesson plans
US population changes by county 1990-2007
"Who's Hispanic? Is Judge Sonia Sotomayor the first Hispanic ever nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, or does that distinction belong to Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who served on the court from 1932-38 and whose family tree apparently had some roots in Portugal?"
State Historical Archives
Office of the State Historian
Archival materials of New Mexico's history.
A rather blunt discussion of the Hernandez case from the point of view of a Mexican.
New Mexico State, Santa Fe Public School's Structure
New Mexico's guiding principle for juniors and seniors in high school is: "1. High school students then undertake increasingly sophisticated study that is engaging, purposeful and useful in understanding ideas and issues that impact their lives as individuals and citizens in a democratic society. Social studies can enhance job opportunities, encourage civil participation, and enrich private life after high school.
The unit specifically address 9-12th grade Benchmark III-D: Understand how to exercise rights and responsibilities as citizens by participating in civic life and using skills that include interacting, monitoring and influencing.
New Mexico benchmarks for teaching US History and Government and Economics include: tracing the history of Civil Rights, the 13, 14 and 15th amendments and Supreme Court cases of Dred Scott v. Sanford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
- Mary Gladys Mendoza (University of Phoenix, Austin, TX)
My Uncle Reies Lopez Tijerina has stated, "I never lost a case".
I just happened on this site.:)
- Nagla Bedir (Perth Amboy High School, Perth Amboy, NJ)
Subject taught: Social Studies, Grade: 10
Resources & Praise
This is a great unit - One that I would really like to implement in my civics class. Are there any more concrete resources for this unit? I could not find the attachments that it mentions. Thank you!
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