Tag Archives: Mexico

Los Trabajadores/The Workers

Bibliographic information: PBS: Los Trabajadores/The Workers: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/theworkers/film.html

Brief description: This video focuses on two men who are day laborers in Austin, Texas. Their stories highlight the dependency of the region on workers who are discriminated against. The men are willing to do almost any job as the cities grows and needs workers, but they wonder why they are not able to share in the wealth they help build. The site features a bio of the filmmaker, as well as a Q&A section with her. There is a section with background information on what day labor is, who does it and why. Another section has links to multiple resources on the topic, including links to websites, articles and books. There are also teaching resources with a discussion guide and quiz about the film.

Qualitative Analysis: Background information on the issue would provide more depth, but is not necessary for understanding. The website has a section with background information for those wanting to know more before they see the film. The story will be of interest because it is a contemporary issue dealing with immigration and the treatment of those who come to the US. In my students’ community there are still many day laborers, so it is particularly relevant. Vocabulary is…Some levels of meaning are stated and others are left to the reader to identify. Organization adheres to most conventions, but digresses on occasion to temporarily provide the viewer with a shift in focus to another view point and place before returning to the main subject. For example, there is a shift to the families left behind in Mexico, so that viewers can see how their lives are affected by the departure of the men to find work in the US.

Subject area: Social Studies, Economics

Personal thoughts: This documentary shows the human side of day labor. Many businesses rely on day laborers and would not be able to run their business without them. However, laborers are frequently disrespected and looked down upon in the communities they helped build.

Subjects/themes: immigration, day labor, Texas

Awards: Audience Award at SXSW and International Documentary Association Award

Series information: Independent Lens

Character names/descriptions: Ramon and Juan are two Mexican day laborers in Austin, Texas, working to make money for their families back home.

High interest annotation: Ramon and Juan are day laborers who take on any job, but are continually marginalized and discriminated against as they do the best they can to build a better life.

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U.S.-Mexico Border: Fences and Deaths

Bibliographic information: National Geographic Education: U.S.-Mexico Border: Fences and Deaths. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/media/tijuana-border-fence/?ar_a=1

Brief description: National Geographic Education has several great lesson ideas for an immigration unit. There is one about the border between Mexico and the United States that discusses what the border is like in different areas and what reinforcements are used to keep illegal immigrants out, such as the triple fenced section at the crossing near Tijuana. The article would be especially good for English Language Learners or students with lower vocabularies because it has definitions linked to vocabulary words.  There are also links to other National Geographic resources (articles, images, worksheets, etc) on related topics. Another related article and assignment on the site has student’s interview migrants in their community to gather their own first hand accounts. I would love to have my current students do a project like this, since many have friends and family who are immigrants (or are themselves from another country). National Geographic is a well respected nonprofit scientific and educational institution.

Qualitative Analysis: A vocabulary list is provided, which lists terms, parts of speech, definitions and links to encyclopedia entries for some terms. This list should help clarify any vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to students. There is also a Spanish phrase that is used in the text, but its meaning is also provided. An image is at the focal point of this webpage. It is a photograph of the fence that separates the US and Mexico at the border near Tijuana. The image is essential for evoking sentiment in the reader. It shows hundreds of white crosses hanging from the fence, which many students will recognize as evoking images of crosses on graves. The caption of the picture explains that the crosses represent those Mexicans who died trying to cross the border, so students who are not familiar with the Christian symbols of gravesite crosses still have access to the meaning of the image.

Subject area: English, Geography, Social Studies

Personal thoughts: I especially like the piece about interviewing immigrants to find out about their personal experiences. This would be especially relevant in my school community where there are many immigrants and diverse cultures.

Subjects/themes: immigration, history, migrants, border crossing, United States, Mexico

Series information: National Geographic Education: U.S.-Mexico Border

Character names/descriptions: The main character of this segment is the border and its different characteristics, such as fences, deserts and rivers, as it makes its way from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. In one activity the characters will be the immigrants interviewed by students.

High interest annotation: Find out about what the border is like at different points along the frontier between Mexico and the United States. Do your own interviews to discover what migrating was like for family, friends or community members.

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PBS: The Border

Bibliographic information: PBS: The Border. http://www.pbs.org/kpbs/theborder/about/index.html

Brief description: The Border is a PBS Documentary focusing on six stories of the Mexican/American border. The documentary focuses on everyday life, traditions and opportunities in border towns on both sides of the border, contrasting life within the border towns. There is also a timeline telling what the border area was like in the past, up to the present day. Links to other related sites are also included. There was also a follow up documentary called Beyond the Border, which tells the stories of four Mexican brothers and their transition to life in the United States. The website also contains information about a writing contest for students, which includes both creative writing and poetry categories on themes related to the border. PBS is public broadcasting, a nonprofit organization recognized for making quality programming.

Qualitative Analysis: I think the stories will be of interest to students because they remind them that all of their families were at one time immigrants to this land, whether it was recently or before this place was called the United States. The vocabulary and sentence structure varies throughout each vignette and even more widely between vignettes. The documentary is broken up into six separate sections that each have their own focus related to the U.S. Mexican border. The narration is all done in conventional English, with a more formal tone. The parts of the story that are interviews and first hand accounts from people living along the border are more conversational and familiar. Some of the people speak English as a second language, so their vocabulary and sentence structure can vary from traditional American usage at times. The documentary is filmed on video so the moving images and actions of the people are integral story telling elements.

Subject area: Social Studies, English

Personal thoughts: This is an appealing piece because it offers a more intimate look at life in border towns. It focuses on day to day life of people in border towns, rather than border crossing. We get to know more personal stories about immigrants, as seen through the documentary.

Subjects/themes: immigration, traditions, border towns, history, Mexico, United States

Series information: 1st in the PBS Border Documentary Series

Character names/descriptions: families and communities living in border towns in the US and Mexico. For example, one segment follows Richard Montoya, Herbert Siguenza and Ric Salinas who are part of Culture Clash, a Latino theater group, as they work on a piece commissioned by San Diego Repertory Theatre.

High interest annotation: See what life is like on both sides of the border in this documentary featuring the people and lives of those in border towns.

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Esperanza Rising

Bibliographic Information:

Ryan, Pam Muñoz (2000). Esperanza rising. New York: Scholastic Press.

Plot Description: Esperanza is a wealthy young girl whose family owns El Rancho de las Rosas in Mexico. All her life she has been waited on by servants and given everything she could desire. Then one day her life changes forever. Her beloved Papa is killed and his evil brothers threaten Esperanza and Mama if they do not do as they are told. So they flee to America under the cover of darkness with their former servants. In America their lives are vastly different. Mama and Esperanza live in a farm labor camp and must learn to work for a living, and work hard. At first Esperanza is left to take care of the babies while the others work, something which is very difficult for her, since she has never had to take care of herself before, let alone others. Then when Mama is taken ill, Esperanza must find the strength to work and be El Patron of her family. Set against the backdrop of Great Depression Era California and workers strikes, this is a story of family, community and hope.

Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: 750L, ATOS Book Level: 5.3, Interest Level: Middle Grades (4-8), AR Points: 6

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The organization of the text is clear and chronological. The conventionality of the text is fairly complex in that it employs many examples of figurative language such as similes, metaphors, and personification throughout the story to paint a vivid picture of the scenery and Esperanza’s experiences. The vocabulary is mostly familiar and conversational, including dialogue. It also has Spanish words mixed into the English narrative, but they are always in italic font, so they are easy to recognize and the English equivalent always follows. Sentences are simple, complex and compound phrases. Themes are clear, but conveyed with some subtlety. The experiences are not common to most readers, though some students will have immigrated from other countries, so be able to relate to some experiences of being new to a country and a few may know what it is like to completely start over. There are some references to historical and cultural events, such as the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression, but everything that is essential for understanding the story is explained.

Content Area: English, Literature, History

Content Area Standard: History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools

California: A Changing State-4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cul­tural development since the 1850s.

  1. Describe rapid American immigration, internal migration, settlement, and the growth of towns and cities (e.g., Los Angeles).
  2. Discuss the effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II on California.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature

Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

English Language Arts Standards: Writing

Text Types and Purposes: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.7 Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students research the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression (in particular finding out about the farm workers in California and forced repatriation). Have students write a letter to Abuelita explaining what life is like in America. Analyze how Esperanza changes over the course of the novel and what brings about those changes. Have students record examples of figurative language throughout the story. Chart the ‘mountains and valleys’ of Esperanza as the story unfolds.

Supporting Digital Content: 





Awards: YALSA Top Ten, Americas Award for Children’s Literature, Smithsonian’s Notable Book, NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, Jane Addams Book Award/Honor Books, Pura Belpré Award/Honor Book, Jefferson Cup Award/Honor, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Judy Lopez Memorial Award: Children’s Literature

Character names/descriptions: Esperanza is a young girl who loses her life of comfort in Mexico and must begin again in America. Mama is her mother who tries to be strong in her new role as head of the family, but finds it increasingly difficult. Miguel, their former servant whose family helps Esperanza and Mama escape to the US. Abuelita, Esperanza’s grandmother who stays behind in Mexico. Marta, an outspoken field worker who wants better wages for workers and helps organizes a strike.

High interest annotation: After terrible tragedy takes her father and her home, Esperanza must listen to her Grandmother’s words and rise like a phoenix from the ashes of her privileged former life to start again.

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