Silicon Valley’s Otro Lado, Youth Voices Speak About Their Community in Film

byWilliam Cavada


“Is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window through which one might better know the world?”1

- John Elderfield, Former Chief Curator at Museum of Modern Art

The objective of the unit is to show students the power of moving images, and that these images produce powerful feelings and communicate ideas in ways that transcend the written word. Through visual media students can convey their perspectives, share their own experiences, and in the process, move us as human beings. Ultimately, the goal is to not only give students help establishing a voice that is seldom heard, but to connect their own stories and history into the broader social and political landscape of Silicon Valley.

Santa Clara County has emerged as one of the world’s most multicultural and ethnically diverse areas, as Mexican, Central American, South American, Asians, South Asian, Europeans and other nationalities have migrated for economic and political reasons. Ironically, however, this diversity is not represented in the region's technology workplaces. For instance, the offices and cubicles across Silicon Valley reflect the disparity and growing opportunity gap for Latinos and women in the new economy.2

A valley that built itself on innovation must join in the pressing need for a different form of social change in order to ensure a better future for all residents including students from the East Side. If not, another generation may lose out in being able to participate in this new economy.3 In this unit students create personal documentaries that answer the broader question of how they fit into the history of Silicon Valley. In the process, students demystify their understanding of Silicon Valley, and they reexamine and re-frame Silicon Valley in the context of the social memories and cultural productions that shape popular conceptions of the region.

In order to understand the role geography has played in shaping Silicon Valley, students need the tools to decode the visual symbolism of their landscape. Spatial theorist, Michel de Certeau writes how the practice of moving ourselves with the urban build infrastructure turns these created places into memory spaces, a process that repeats

itself everyday, turning our “places into spaces of meaning and history”.4 As students conduct contemporary analyses of the spaces surrounding the early homes of Steve Jobs and César Chávez, which are both historical landmarks, and examine how these physical spaces tie in with the broader social, economic, and environmental issues of today’s Silicon Valley, students gain an understanding of Silicon Valley’s unique complex of myths, symbols and contested histories.

Through film, students will be able to work on self-documentaries that "speak back" to the popular representations of Silicon Valley that circulate in the media in the form of internet postings, television shows such as HBO’s Silicon Valley, and the news. This project will be fertile ground for the students to research and juxtapose alongside their own rich experiences and personal histories. These self-documentaries will call on students to draw upon the rich history of the area, looking at social, economic, and environmental justice issues. Students will identify iconic spaces in San José that for them represent public sites where they see their communities butting up against or challenging the tech juggernaut. These spaces form a counter balance to representational space imposed onto my students by dominant social and cultural institutions. These “counter spaces” are significant because they are where individuals change “representational spaces into spaces of representation”.5 The ways these “counter spaces" disrupt life in Silicon Valley are important for the telling of their histories. And as part of the creative process, students will be able choose to include the social memory and spatial memory in more personal ways. Concurrently, students will be tasked with understanding the language of film and acquiring new academic language, which will give them new ways of thinking about the past and Silicon Valley. The culmination of this learning is that each student will create his or her own purposeful documentary film. Each film that will be created will pose different questions and provide different answers about Silicon Valley—past and present.6

Rationale, My School

Mt. Pleasant High School opened in 1965 and this year celebrated its 50th anniversary. The school is located on the far edge of Silicon Valley in an area known as the East Side. This area of San José includes the largest neighborhoods of working class Mexican and Mexican Americans in San José, the 10th largest city in the U.S. Mexican settlement into this area began in the 1920s with large populations of migration beginning in the 1950s. These neighborhoods lacked basic development and government services; roads remained unpaved, streetlights or public parks were sparse. The neighborhoods surrounding my school have a proud history of struggle and resistance, but this history has been mostly forgotten or neglected as the mythology of Silicon Valley has evolved.

The East Side has at times been on the front line in the struggle for political representation by its Latino population. In 1967 students from Roosevelt Junior High School walked out of school to address issues of racism and discrimination, and by the late 1970s, students and community supporters from W. C. Overfelt High School led a march down Story Road, a major thoroughfare connecting the East Side to central San José, demanding the inclusion of Mexican-American History courses and more instructors of color. The National Association of Farm Workers organized boycotts in front of the White Road Safeway grocery store for selling grapes by non-union farm workers. These actions in the 1960’s & 70’s were public demands for political inclusion, improved living, working, and environmental conditions and for better educational opportunities.7

The statistics still show a community that is predominately Latino, significantly underfunded and in need of city and state resources. For the 2013-2014 school year, the school of more than 1,500 students was 72% Latino, 10% Filipino, 5% Vietnamese, 4% White, other Asian 4%; 3% are African American. Over 60% of the student body is classified as English Language Learners and more than 50% of our students qualify for the free or reduced meal program, even though more would qualify if they declared their income, but these families do not complete the paperwork due to their immigration status.8

Currently Latinos’ educational outcomes are lower than other ethnic groups in Silicon Valley. Latinos are far behind others on math proficiency assessments in particular. The college readiness rate of Latino high school graduates is about half of non-Latinos.

Overall, about half of non-Latinos old enough to be working have a Bachelors degree or higher, but only about fifteen percent of Latinos can say the same.9 A demographic change is coming, a shift that will define Silicon Valley. Today’s Latino population is younger than every other ethnic and racial group and is projected to be the single largest ethnic group in the region.10

My students are more than the statistics mentioned above; they are dedicated, creative and inquisitive, and they are striving to overcome poverty and racism in order to forge better lives for themselves and their families. They come to Mt. Pleasant HS, the only governmental institution within walking distance and see the school as a rock within the community and as a safe place that supports them. Our school parents are by and large immigrants themselves, and they trust our institution to do more than educate their children. In fact, they look to us to teach their children how to navigate and succeed in this new environment. I am proud to say that I am grateful to be teaching at Mt. Pleasant, and my hope is to give my students a voice and a platform to tell their stories and their histories. So far, through partnerships such as Adobe Youth Voices, an organization dedicated to supporting youth, the films my students create have had an international platform. This unit will nurture and empower my students, creating a new vision, one that is inclusive for all in Silicon Valley.


Understandings Media

We live in a post-literate world, where “those who can read choose to meet their primary information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and… information is met through visual and/or auditory formats.”11 When we look at today’s society we can see how film and television have effectively become the primary and authoritative sources for many people’s knowledge of history. In recent years, Silicon Valley has become a popular subject, not only in cinema but also on television dramas. The HBO series Silicon Valley is but one example. Indeed, a great many stories at the moment concern the power and glory and development of the Valley. The show Silicon Valley is at the center of an ongoing debate because of its controversial portrayal and characterization of the Latino community that resides on the East Side of San José. David Auerbach of the online news site, The Slate calls one episode “lame,” while in the blog “The Hollywood Latina” where Alisa Valdes states; the stereotyping of Latinos makes me wish I could suddenly develop a case of reverse feline trichotillomania12. The show’s focus on white male privilege again reinforces the contemporary discourse and dominant narrative of Silicon Valley that pays little or no concern for the social or political history of the Latino community.

The history of Silicon Valley is complex, and fraught with racism, classism and gender discrimination. The current narrative of the Valley is a history of the barons of Silicon Valley, the men who have made millions. The overlooked contributions of Latino, Asian, African-American and women to Silicon Valley and their experiences is a conversation that needs to be started.13

As architectural and urban historian Dolores Hayden notes, the importance of the public history of place opens up new relationships and possibilities for understanding the urban environment. The study of place in terms of women, people of color and capitalism can help redefine the mainstream narrative by making the invisible visible and the forgotten resurface, a method that Dolores Hayden called “the politics of place construction”.14

According to public historian, Michael Frisch, this type of history includes “a shared history” where authorship is between the “experience and expertise" where communities reach new definitions of themselves and their past.15 This approach takes the theoretical and locates it within the urban scale, which is tangible and relatable for students. Students can identify and comment on historical places within Silicon Valley, defining new markers or “counter spaces" that run contiguous and broaden the definition of the urban landscape history of Silicon Valley. Students, as producers in this process, can play a vital role in the telling of place, by locating stories of their communities into the broader social space.

The inclusion of film as a medium to explore history opens up new possibilities. Film, with its sequential sets of images, allows for the narratives to be combined in unprecedented ways. J.R. Raack, media scholar, suggests the written word is too narrow to depict the sensory world in which we live and that film may be an even more appropriate medium for “history than the written word”.16 Film with its ability to juxtapose image, sound and word, with quick cuts to new sequences has the ability to approximate real life.17

As film writer and historian, Robert A. Rosenstone writes, the power of film can be used as a vehicle to investigate the possibilities in representing, interpreting, and thinking about the past. He states, “History does not exist until it is created. And we create it in terms of our underlying values.”18 Thus filmmaking provides students with a powerful and creative medium in which to stir the narratives around adding understandings and interpretations to the complex and lived lives of themselves, their families, their community and Silicon Valley.

Finally, it is important that the filmmakers in the process care for, challenge, and involve the community in the history of place. Thus students must create documentaries that retain their commitment to making their films accountable to the community19. The filmmakers will actively participate in the creation of a local film screening for the community coming from the very place that the films will touch the soil. This unit is a celebration of the community and a way for the filmmakers’ voices to speak directly and in unison with the community. Secondly, the films will be screened via our Public Access Television channel, which broadcasts across all of Silicon Valley.20 Jason Mittell, media critic, states that the Public Access Television Stations, unlike commercial stations, are designed to broadcast content created by the general public without regards to censorship and “allows and serves as an alternative mode of engaging viewers as citizens rather than consumers”.21


I conceptualized this project as an introductory filmmaking unit, with students creating their first film by the end as a goal. This unit’s backbone is to switch the normative conversation of listening and asking questions and instead have students participate as public historians and oral storytellers. First, as public historians, students’ understanding

of people and places and how multiple meanings can be created through the "sense of place" is contingent on the ways they travel through them. Secondly, students will work as oral storytellers, speaking about their own engagement with the space and their relationship to it, struggles within it, and identity formed in relation to it. Finally, as filmmakers, students will continue the storytelling process with a focus and exploration of their neighborhood through the language of film, and the search for an understanding and sense of meaning in their own public history. The focus of Otra Lado, a search for understanding the public history of my students and making meaning of this history is explained in the next section,

Essential Questions of Public History

My school, Mt. Pleasant has played a role in the public history of Silicon Valley in a very public and interesting way. In 2010 Steve Poizner, a CEO of a tech company in the Valley and later a political aspirant, who ran for Governor of California – and lost, wrote a book about his experience teaching at my school and in the East Side community title Mount Pleasant. Poizner, spent a semester guest-lecturing at my school and his book chronicles his experiences and observations of teaching working class immigrants. The tone of the book, and controversy around the book relates to how he, being white and wealthy, voiced a stereotypical view of Latinos and of their community. Poizner sees the community only as full of vice, as he writes abut how he was relive to find his Lexus safe in the parking lot after his first visit. Another example, exposes his low expectation and poor understanding of the students. In the lesson he describes creating and teaching on corporate history. In another anecdote, he describes creating and teaching a lesson on corporate history by focusing on Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and its founder Col.

Sanders rather than of Steve Jobs and Apple because he felt KFC was more relevant to the students of Mt. Pleasant. His biases, which are not uncommon in the valley, see my students as “other” and not related to or having a place in Silicon Valley’s economy. He writes, “The school’s young people, whose w writing and backgrounds were foreign to me”22 points to his unwilling to see any connection between Silicon Vally and my students. Besides his use of the word “wirign”[Poizner’s example of students spelling of the word writing] as a way to highlight the students “otherness,” his lesson excluded his students from the discussion of the corporate history of Silicon Valley, which they are participants. It is paramount that the public history of the East Side be voiced by from the community; Martha Guerrero, Associate Principal, and community residence, is quoted in the Los Angles times saying, “It makes it hard for students who come from here to go out there, because there is a belief that if they come from here, they may not be good enough”.23 In other words the students and the school were the “object” of public history but not authors.

Thus students as examiners of their own history, a public history, grounded in both past and present histories can place the Poizer event within the context of the broader history of Silicon Valley. As public historian, Alan Gordon, states “that public memory is a product of competitions and ideas about the past that are fashioned in a public sphere and speak primarily about structures of power.”24

I have chosen two different types of vernacular architecture, César Chávez’s house and Steve Jobs’ childhood home, to reveal a narrative not only of Silicon Valley, but a more nuanced and inclusive narrative of Latinos in the development of the Santa Clara Valley from the “Valley of Hearts Delight” to “Silicon Valley”. Thus this narrative calls for a broader public history that illustrates and illuminates Silicon Valley’s complexities and is inclusive of all its people and uncovers the facade that resides over the history of Silicon Valley.

This unit aim is to switch the conversation from “others” speaking for my students, to them speaking for themselves. To help guide their shared memories into a coherent film and help them negotiate their place in this broader history, it is important to consider the following questions. First, “How did I arrive?" This question focuses on the stories that emerge from a historical analysis of each neighborhood, East Side and Los Altos. The next question builds upon public spaces, by asking what are the spaces and why are they there? The next question to ask is "What story does the place tell us at this time?” When answering this question students use primary sources, this helps students see the temporal landscape in Silicon Valley. The last question is, “What is my connection?” Students act, not only answering the underlying question but becoming active place-makers, as filmmakers in their community.


But not all immigrants arrive in America equally25 Kim-Mai Cutler, Journalist

This section is crafted as a public history narrative of the East Side of Silicon Valley.

This historical analysis of the Mexican community on the East Side is an attempt at placing this history within the boarder historical context of the Silicon Valley. In Otro Lado my intent to show more than just contrast between neighborhoods, but to give explanations to how these different neighborhoods change due to occupation, education and ethnicity. This public history is intend as a start to the project Otro Lado and it is intend as a starting place for my students in their development of their own public history and documentary films.

Silicon Valley’s Otro Lado

When one makes the journey to César Chávez’s house in San José, you soon learn the neighborhood is bound on two sides by a modern elevated freeway, sending traffic whirling by at 70 miles per hour traveling from the East Bay to destinations west and up to San Francisco. Once you exit the freeway, you find yourself traveling on what were once dusty roads, now paved, past the modest small single-story bungalows, each variegated fence calling attention to the individuality of the homeowners; and if you look, growing in some of the front lawns are nopales, cactus plants often eaten as a vegetable. To see César Chávez’s house in this older neighborhood you need to turn onto Scharff Avenue, which is off San Antonio Road. Then you must walk to 53 Scharff and on the right hand side, you will come to signage that can only be seen from the sidewalk; other than the signage there are no other indications of the importance of this space. This neighborhood, from all outward appearances, has changed little; a narrow street cinches tightly populated small California bungalows in a grip of urban congestion. Yet, this street is the one that Chávez lived on with his family from 1951 to 1953. This neighborhood is where Chávez joined the SCO and began his work as a community organizer. It is the neighborhood where Chávez met Father Donald McDonnell at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and learned the power of nonviolent resistance. Today the neighborhood is still populated with Latino families, but now a new generation attends an elementary school named after César Chávez, and nurtures a community garden where nopales are grown and supports a community center in an area once known as Sal si puedes – “Get out if you can”– now simply called “Mayfair”.

If you get back onto the 280 freeway and head west for 5 miles, towards the heart Silicon Valley, you first pass Adobe’s corporate headquarters, a cathedral of steel and glass rising up among the gleaming buildings of downtown San José, then you pass miles of subdivisions of sameness, until in the middle of this sameness rises construction work on Apple’s new corporate headquarters, dubbed “spaceship”. As you continue west, tucked on the far side of the valley, only 17 miles for my students’ neighborhood, lies the small homogeneous bedroom community of Los Altos . Here on 2066 Crist Drive, in 1960 Steve Jobs moved with his parents to the midcentury modernist suburban track community of low slung ranch style homes designed by an Eric Eichler competitor. The neighborhood, with its wide streets and manicured lawns, was first inhabited by the newly employed engineers and other working-class families in the emerging tech industry. Here, surrounded by orchards and farm country, were the office parks for

Hewlett-Packard where Jobs would get a summer part-time job. Atari, another company for which Jobs would work, in addition to Fairchild Semiconductors, Intel and Stanford University are all located nearby. Jobs would go on to credit Eichler’s architecture with inspiring him to produce minimalist designs for the masses, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography, “Steve Jobs”. Now the homes are no longer affordable to the middle class, with prices over $1-2 million per lot, and today the orchards are gone leaving in their place new orchards made of steel and glass named Apple, Google and Facebook. Is the connection between Los Altos and the Sal si puedes neighborhood only the 17 miles of freeway?

Top Photo is of Steve Jobs’ Childhood House. Bottom Photo is of Cesar Chavez house in San José. Photos Credit: William Cavada, June 12, 2015.

Eric Fischer Map shows the distribution and segregation of racial community in the Bay Area. The East Side of Santa Clara Valley, clearly shows the concentration of the Latino community, while Los Altos remains predominantly white.

Eric Fischer’s “2010: San José Maps of Racial and Ethnic Divisions in US cities” "Race and Ethnicity 2010: San José.” Flickr. Yahoo!, n.d. Web. 25 July 2015.


The longer history of the Santa Clara Valley is complicated and is an intersection between narratives of Latinos and Whites. This contested history has it roots in conquest of what we now call California. The genocide of the indigenous Ohlone peoples, the first civilization in the San Francisco Bay Area, was wrought by early Spanish explorers and settlers whose diseases, weapons and enslavement caused death and starvation.26 Spaniard like José Joaquin Moraga, went on to found cites in what was to them a new frontier. The first of these city was El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe founded in 1777, now called San José. Mexico won dependence from Spain in 1821 and the area around Santa Clara contained numerous ranches, whose names are still memorialized in the streets, neighborhoods and cities of Santa Clara. Starting around1849, large numbers of Anglo-Americans began migrating into California, changing the racial make up and causing racial problems for the Mexican population.27 By the time California obtained statehood in 1850, Santa Clara County was one of the whitest counties in California. This process of racial discrimination was purposefully designed thorough laws and court rulings.28

This prejudicial atmosphere remained the case up until the late 1950’s.29

Santa Clara Valley was dramatically reshaped during the 1910’s and 1920’s and the emerging agricultural economy of fruit orchards created a need for seasonal workers. Santa Clara County quickly became one of the many stops on the seasonal circuit of Mexican labor. Most workers were made to feel unwelcome, permanent residency remained difficult throughout the valley, and the majority of Mexicans were confined to what was considered the backwater of the county, an area abandoned after World War I by white farmers due to the poor soil and water access.30 These inhospitable lands, now defined as “East San José” became the first recorded barrio in the region in 1920, which up until then had not existed in Santa Clara. A Mexican American Migrant worker named César Chávez, one of the co-founders of the United Farm Workers, who in 1939 remembered that his family had “stopped on Jackson Street by an isolated but crowded

barrio where many farm workers lived.” Chávez goes on to explain: “Again we had no place to stay. The Barrio wasn’t large, just two unpaved dead-end streets running into Jackson and bordered on thee sides by fields, and pastures”31. The area César speaks about was know as East San José, a small section of San José located on the East banks of the Guadalupe River and west of today's highway 101.This description stands in contrast to the white orchard growers’ marketing of the valley at that time as the “Valley of Heart’s Delight”. The Valley’s historical white population and its recent European immigrants kept the migrant Mexican population's in labor intensive industries, while they were forced to endure temporary living arrangements due to the hostile racial climate. Politicians, farmers and business owners shared beliefs of Mexicans were commonly printed in the news papers on how Mexicans lived in squalid quarters; such beliefs included the possibility Mexicans workers could cause lower wages for American workman. Politician, Land developers and white homeowners deterred the development of Mexican permanency by drafting real estate deeds that included explicit restrictions to selling or renting property to non-whites, Chinese, or Japanese and Mexicans.32 Restrictive covenants, beginning around 1920, grew in popularity as whites moved into the newly developed middle class neighbors in the burgeoning cities west of San José, such as Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Mountain View, until they were declared illegal in 1948.33 Newly incorporated cities like Los Altos, formed in 1952, specially as a reaction against what they saw as undesirable growth, and as away to control their own zoning laws.34 This practice was and is common in California as legal way to keep development of apartments and other types of low income housing out of cities.35

The East Side is the name for several neighborhoods east of highway 101 annexed by the City of San José in 1911. These neighborhoods each would bear the environmental effects of the valley’s fruit companies such as the Mayfair Packing Company in the 1950s, whose stench and ineffective sump pumps attracted rats. The economic conditions reflected the white farmers’ systemic discrimination, allowing the same owners to take advantage of low-income migrants who toiled under terrible conditions and lived in barrios with names like “Piojo” (Lice), “Posole” (stew) and Sal si puedes (Leave if you can).36

Over the next thirty years large numbers of Mexicans, Central Americans and Mexican Americans continued to migrate into these neighborhoods. They also began to reshape other parts of Santa Clara Count by slowly moving into newly opened neighborhoods of San José, Mountain View, and Santa Clara and other cities of the valley, directly as a result of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The County went from a nearly 97 percent white population in 1960 to one with a 12.1% percent Latino population by 1970. The growth was a direct result of the 1965 Immigration Act, which ended the free movement Mexicans had across the US. Border. As this new undocumented class of Mexican and Central Americans developed, they became more permanent due to the risk of getting caught. Today’s Mexican, Central American and Mexican-American population is 507,754 or 26.1% of the population in the county, the majority still occupying and living in the neighborhoods found on the East Side of San José due to low economic opportunities and high cost of housing and immigration status.37 Today Los Altos, meanwhile, is still figuratively a walled city of whites, with only 3.9 percent of the population Latino.38

The brimming electronic and computer economy of 1960’s brought prosperity to Santa Clara but created a more uncertain economy for Latinos following the decline of the local fruit-processing industry. By the late 70’s, most canneries had closed due to the valley transitioning from an agricultural industry into a post-industrial suburbanized economy.

This dramatic economic dislocation produced higher unemployment for Latinos as local institutions, corporate hiring practices, and unequal educational opportunities continued to prevent Latinos from accessing the new economy. By the late 1980’s Mexicans were laboring in the new microelectronics industry in low paying, operative jobs; Mexicans also typically served in this new economy as janitors, landscapers, construction, food and other service-related industries stemming from demands by the wildly successful white middle and upper classes of the valley. Today, in a dramatic turn of events, local labor organizations have sought to organize immigrant service workers at corporations such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Intel in order to create an inclusive, socially responsible labor movement for all workers.39

The push for political representation and social justice for Mexicans and others living on the East Side of San José occurred through the direct grassroots actions, community involvement, and local organizations. It is important to understand the role early organizations, like Community Service Organization (CSO) played in organizing and developing leaders within the Mexican community. Up until the early 1950’s the Mexican Community had been the target of racial discrimination, hangings, and police harassment. CSO community members actively passed out flyers and organized men and women in bars, living rooms, kitchens and canneries, educating them about voting rights, police brutality and workplace discrimination.40 The CSO has been particularly notable as the training ground for César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Fred Ross, and Gilbert Padilla.

Father McDonnell’s friendship with César Chávez, an unemployed lumberyard worker in the neighborhood of Sal si puedes, led to César’s introduction to CSO. The work César did while a member of CSO laid a foundation and understanding to the plight of the migrant farm worker. He later founded The United Farm Workers and led direct actions against the abuses of farm growers through boycotts, strikes and marches. The most famous march of United Farm Workers was the 300-mile march, or perigrinacion, from Delano to Sacramento in 1966, against the Delano grape growers and their unfair labor practices. 41Locally, a strong Chicano movement developed, lead by students who organized the community and called for changes in education as well as an end to police harassment. Students across the East Side of San José from Roosevelt Junior High School, W. C. Overfelt High School, James Lick High School and San José State University began walkouts, marches and protests demanding changes from City Hall.42 On April 9, 1974 over 200 Mexicans and Chicanos marched from San José State University to Sacramento, reminiscent of the United Farm Workers march of 1966. This pilgrimage as it was called, this counter space organized by students, demanded equal treatment and funds for all Mexican children in education.43 Graduations among Mexican-American immigrants continue to improve today and a number of middle class families exist in the area and are steadily increasing. In response to the Chicano movement’s protests and political calls for a just educational system in the 70’s, governmental programs specifically created for and by Latinos opened new educational opportunities at the local colleges and universities, one example is San José State’s Mexican American Studies.44 The benefit of this newly educated class has been success in elevating some Mexican-Americans into the ranks of professional corporate management structure of the Valley. It would not be until 1998 that San José elected Ron Gonzales, as its first and only Mexican American mayor. Currently, the East Side of San José is represented on the City Council of San José by Magdalena Carrasco, as well as by State Assembly member Nora Campos. This modest representation still calls for greater political action within the Mexican and Latino community. Silicon Valley loves a good immigrant’s tale. Too bad the rates of Latino hiring in the tech industry are still very low; Google, for example it is 2% black, 3% Latino, 30% Asian,30% women, and 60% white but in leadership roles whites total up to 72%.45 The other major tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Apple, and Yahoo are very similar.46

Latino writers’, artists’, dancers’ and arts organizations’ role in nurturing and providing a counter narrative and space for the telling and expression of Mexican culture and spirit throughout the East Side is significant if not complete. Activist playwright, Luis Valdez, graduate of James Lick High School, and his theater group El Teatro Campesino, (Farmwokers Theatre) redefined the Mexican experience through performance and plays; his most famous play Zoot Suits was turned into Hollywood film in 1981.47 Frank Torres’s mural Mural de La Raza painted in 1985, turns a non-space, the empty side of a building on Story Road near Jackson Ave, into a counter space that is no longer a wall but a “corazón” of Chicano celebration, featuring a portrait of Luis Valdez, members of El Teatro Campesino, along proud images of Zoot Suit Culture. Calpulli Tonalequeh, a local Mexica/Aztec dance group, through celebratory public dances, serves as a cultural healer and reminder to the Mexican community of its own historicalness.

The Mexican Heritage Plaza, built in 1999 and located in the Mayfair district, on the former lot of the Safeway grocery store which was the focus of the fist boycotts of grapes grown in Delano, California, now serves as the central space for the communities on the East Side to gather, engage and celebrate in the diverse arts and cultures of Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Latinos.48 Current visual artist Roberto Romo, Dancer Arturo Magaña, and poet Robert Farid Karimi’s works are complex and, unlike the stereotypical “vato” artist depicted in the HBO series “Silicon Valley,” are fused with emotions, and passions.

However, The East Side story of Latinos in Silicon Valley feels very incomplete, just a story of numbers and statistics; missing are the lives of the people. At the heart of this story are people and their everyday struggles. Their story has only begun, but is nowhere near complete. Change has come to the East Side as McMansions have arisen on the streets of Mayfair, Mt. Pleasant, and Alum Rock neighborhoods. Franchises like Chipotle, Starbucks, and new chain businesses like Mi Pueblo are sprouting up on every commercial strip in order to serve the growing immigrant economic market. New stories abound from old and new residents, of both success and struggle. The history of the changing East Side community, with its nuance and complexity needs an inclusive public history narrative that includes the current political, racial and economic change.

I end with Lorna Dee Cervantes’ poem “Freeway 280”. The poem speaks of the contested space and complicated histories and experiences of Chicanos.

Las casitas near the gray cannery,
nestled amid wild abrazos of climbing roses
and man-high red geraniums
are gone now. The freeway conceals it
all beneath a raised scar.

But under the fake windsounds of the open lanes,
in the abandoned lots below, new grasses sprout,
wild mustard remembers, old gardens
come back stronger than they were,
trees have been left standing in their yards.
Albaricoqueros, cerezos, nogales . . .
Viejitas come here with paper bags to gather greens.
Espinaca, verdolagas, yerbabuena . . .

I scramble over the wire fence
that would have kept me out.

Once, I wanted out, wanted the rigid lanes
to take me to a place without sun,
without the smell of tomatoes burning
on swing shift in the greasy summer air.

Maybe it’s here
en los campos extraños de esta ciudad
where I’ll find it, that part of me
mown under
like a corpse
or a loose seed.


This unit is not only a reflection of the Mexican and Latinos community in San José and their history but also explores issues of social justice and equality that can be part of a larger conversations involving how minority communities are often marginalized. I call attention to the process and discovery in examining and redefining the narrative of a minority or disenfranchised community or neighborhood within a broader, more dominant community, city or region. This unit’s use of public history, its methods and genres serve as the modus operandi and is applicable to any locale. Exploring the spatial relationship of a community and its broader historical, political, environmental and social connections opens new avenues of interpretations, understanding and ownership of your youth’s community. Empowering young students as producers of their history, and active participants in the public history of their own community serves as Michael Frisch states to create a dialogic history, one where history is not frozen in a past, but is active.

As public historians our youth can provide new analysis of their community’s history and progression. For Public History provides a process for the telling of history based on research, interpretation and public content. This unit has students using the film genera as the way of communicating this public history. This genre’s approach to histrionics uses the language of film to communicate, producing a specific type of experiences for the public. For a more in-depth discussed in this type of experience around media check out Rothschild’s book.



Key to understanding youth media-making is knowing you are part of a larger community of artists, teachers, educators, and youth leaders collaborating, sharing and exhibiting youth media around the nation. Youth media is not only a product, but also a process that engages young people in critical analysis, social activism, collaboration, and leadership. Youth media as a genre of public media has more than 30 years of pedagogy developed by artistic, social, political, cultural, and educational movements.49 It is informed by progressive educational practice, youth development, and grassroots activism. It centers on engaging youth in exploration of personal and community issues, while simultaneously developing a culture of participation and critical thinking. The work is reflexive, innovative and representative of the diversity of young people who are eager to tell their own stories; your own instructional practices in helping your youth gain skills and a voice in their communities will contribute to the growth of the youth media genre.

Creativity & Innovation

I teach with an approach of opening spaces for young people to be independent creators and producers of their own media message. As youth engages in creativity, they learn both the strengths and limitations of media. As their ideas transform into media work, they transform into literate, active participants in society and owners of meaningful work.

Youth Generate Method

Youth media making is an active process of giving youth the opportunity to build vital media literacy skills, communicate their unique perspectives on the world around them, and real hands on skills. Youth media as a practice is fundamentally project-based leaning with the creative process as an umbrella. Underneath this umbrella young people formulate project ideas, themes, plan and produce their projects, and review their work and the work of other youth makers. Unlike other student work, their original work in film is shared with an audience in hopes of affecting change.


The inquiry-based approach I use was developed by Adobe Youth Voices and engages young people with the principle of create with purpose.50 Youth driven by their own questions, by their own critical analysis, and by their own perspectives, leads youth to make intentional choices about their own media construction and even more so, create a work that is meaningful to both them and an audience. Engaging young people in this way takes advantage of the media-rich environment in which we now live.


Feedback is key to quality, and plays a vital role in the media making process.

Feedback can take place throughout the process, beginning with the initial pitch and continuing through production, post-production, and rough cuts screenings. Giving feedback is a mindful act, done in an environment of respect and support of the artistic process and not one catering to an agenda.


Designing media-making experiences that align to the common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a process that involves thinking through the ways students demonstrate learning. The process begins by thinking about which actions are most authentic to the discipline of the subject and what are the activities specific to the profession. The media making experiences can combine multiple disciplines, for example: writer and filmmaker or scientist and filmmaker. In my unit I ask students to don multiple professions – historian, writer, filmmaker and community activist. In order to achieve the goal of having students both comprehend and make meaning of their neighborhood and its relationship to Silicon Valley, students need a set of well-practiced strategies in reading, writing, thinking and creativity. Remember the goal is to create an experience that drives understanding, where students demonstrate and become active and independent learns.

My reading and writing strategies are informed by the need of students understanding are lined to the most appropriate Common Core State Standards (standards listed in appendix).


Walking Tours

Mayfair District

One of the key actives is a Walking Tour, this form of “making history” is accessible and a fun way to present key questions and issues to students. First chose a theme, for this walking tour my theme is infrastructure and culture. The challenge of linking the narratives of the walking tours with the route is part of the process of designing a tour. Like any form of “making history,” it is essential to do your research. I selected a familiar geographical area – my students’ neighborhood. I am designing the tour as a way to unfold the history as laid out in my research, but unlike an article students read, the tour

will bring to life this history, their history, the history that surrounds them in their daily life. I will provide students with primary sources: photographs – captures the essence of the past to contrast with today lifestyle, and historic maps – suggests how the physical landscape has changed over time. This activity is about connecting two concepts together, one recovering the past, the other recalling students’ own specific memories of the neighborhood. Out of this melee of contested space, forms the public memory, part of what historian Jay Young says Alan Gordon has terms “public pasts.”51

The role of technology in the walking tour

Social media and mobile technology can play a useful part in historical tours. In particular, students will during the tour using mobile devices to create hashtags related to the tour, where they can compare historical images with the current landscape at specific stops.

Los Altos

My students, due to distance and cost, will not physically do a walking tour of Steve Jobs’ neighborhood, and his home, where he developed the first personal computer. My solution is to conduct a “virtual walking” tour. I filmed the neighborhood and turned it into a film to watch. I am using Goole Maps’ Street View’s capability to conduct a “virtual,” where by students discover this neighborhood themselves.

Talk Back - Critically Watching Film & Television

Students watch the HBO series “Silicon Valley” season one, episode 3 “Articles of Incorporation,” MSNBC in Changing American and KQED show “Newsroom” coverage of the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. As a companion students read, M. Swift, Mike. "Blacks, Latinos and Women Lose Ground at Silicon Valley Tech Companies.”

This activity is used to analyze and critically understand Film & Television, the challenge is allowing students the time to look closely view and deconstruct the image they are watching. The strategies consists of the following: analyze the portrayals of different groups of people in the media. Investigate the social values presented in the media. Analyze portrayals of Latinos in the media. Identify stereotypes, presented though the media. Troupes and Conventions of story in media. Investigate television’s influence

on personal and societal values. Lastly have students rate the shows on a scale of realistic, somewhat realistic and unrealistic.

During class, view the clips and model the media observations by stopping the video to discuss the various components as listed above. Discuss the finding from the students’ own voices. Students complete the questions see appendix for handout.

Writing Activity

If you were to develop a new documentary about your neighborhood that speaks back to HBO’s Silicon Valley what would it be like? In your description, include the following components: I call them SAMS. (S) Subject, who are the characters (main/supporting) in the film; (A) Audience, who is it for; (S) Setting, what locations would you film; (M) Message, what is the content of the documentary.

Filmmaking Experience

The power of a good film is storytelling, and how does one create a good story that has the ability to unite and inspire people? Root the storytelling in a good protagonist, a challenge, a point of view and a narrative plot. Provide students with archetypical stories for them to use scaffolding to developing their own story. See appendix.

To model the storytelling process, students watch “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” directed by Joe Talbo52 a great short about a protagonist in an archetypical voyage and return plot. The film has a clear point of view that challenges the viewer to see the protagonist’s neighborhood in a new historical context. This film also introduces students to film writing by its accompany script, detailing for students the structure of a screenplay. Students write their screenplay with a form developed by filmmaker Marlo Custiudo. Students move into Production, creating a shot list and productions schedule before filming. Filming is the creative feature of this lesson. Undertaking the language of film through both camera shots and editing is an ongoing exercise; I use a few web sites to teach this language to my students and this can be found in the appendix. I user the words of Darious Britt, an independent filmmaker, if you wanna make movies, go make a movie. In other words don’t worry to much if your students know a little or a lot about filmmaking, the important aspect is the story.

Next is post-production which includes editing, recording, and color correction. Lastly is the screening. As I wrote before this vital and students will assist with invitations, setup and screening of their films to the community.

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