Title: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Author: ERIKA L. SÁNCHEZ
Do you ever feel like you are not mexican or american enough? Have you ever felt like your parents (or society) had certain expectations for you to meet that weren’t necessarily priorities in your life? If so, I highly recommend you read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter written by Erika L. Sanchez.
Julia, the protagonist in this novel constantly struggles to meet her mom’s expectations of what it takes to be a perfect Mexican daughter. She is constantly compared to her older sister Olga, who everyone deems a perfect Mexican daughter. However, after Olga dies in a tragic accident, Julia begins to discover that her sister was living a double life and wasn’t as perfect as everyone thought. As a way to cope with her loss, Julia’s mom constantly compares Julia to her dead sister, which truly hurts Julia because no matter what she does, she never feels like a god enough hija.
Despite their recent loss, Julia aspires to be someone in life and has a desire to move out of her house and attend college out of state. Her parents do not support this decision, therefore, she has to figure out a way to try to make this happen for herself. Here, the reader gets to experience the struggles a first generation college students has to overcome in order to “make it”.
This novel was an easy, fun and authentic read of what it means to grow up Latina in the U.S. It’s one of the few novels that actually discusses issues that our youth quotidianly struggle and live with. Aside from that, the author, Erika L. Sanchez, is a Chicago native who grew up in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood near Chicago. She’s a perfect example that success is attainable for our Latino youth in Chicago.
If you are a Spanish educator, this book is now also available in Spanish for your students to enjoy:
No soy tu perfecta hija mexicana
As I wrapped up my semester as a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), I couldn't help but to reflect on my school year and how this program is changing my teaching philosophy. As heritage Spanish teachers we aspire to have our students read in Spanish. Sometimes, we have to follow a mandated curriculum, other times, we have the freedom to chose which books our students can read. For the latter group of teachers, I would highly encourage you to start exploring and including Chicano literature in your curriculum. Give students options on what they can read and provide them with the opportunity to learn more about their own history and to read about issues that directly affect them and/or their community. Personally, I didn't have the opportunity to learn my history in elementary or high school. I took some Latin American courses in undergrad, but our reading selection there was mostly focusing on Latin America and not the lives of Latinos in the U.S.
Now, as a PhD student, I have intrinsic motivation to learn more about my history and become familiar with Chicano Literature. For the past 6 weeks, I have been reading Chicano literature and my goal is to read many more books this summer. Why?
1. I need to know more about my own history, 2. I want to use this knowledge to encourage other Latinos my age and/or my students to learn about their own history, and 3. I love to read :)
If you want to follow me on this journey, you can follow my blog and/or my Instragram hashtag #unbookalaweek. Here, I will share a brief summary of the book, important topics discussed and how they can be implemented in your heritage Spanish classroom.
Do you teach a heritage language in the U.S.? Do you ever struggle to find free resources, keep up with them and/or know what organizations you should join?
This is a constant issue I have and I am sure many of you do too. As I was doing research for a course I took this semester, I stumbled upon a treasure! An article titled Preparing Heritage Teachers to Work With Heritage Language Learners written by Dr. Ana Maria Schwartz Caballero (I really recommend that you read it!). In this article, she compiles all of the heritage language resources she is aware of, which is awesome! This came at the perfect time for me because I had just learned about Padlet (if you haven't used this free online program, you should look into it, super user-friendly and fun!). This motivated me to create a Padlet where I visually compiled all the resources Dr. Ana Maria Schwartz Caballero mentioned in her article and added others I was aware of relevant to heritage language pedagogy. I hope this is helpful for some of you! If you know of any other resources, conferences, books or bloggers I should add, please let me know! I will be updating it frequently.
Feliz Navidad :)
Are you a Heritage Spanish teacher? Are you looking for a community of heritage Spanish teachers to share ideas with ? Read below!
Last week I had the privilege to attend a heritage Spanish workshop in Austin, Texas hosted by the University of Texas at Austin. I attended this conference for FREE (yes!). How did this happen? Well this amazing university has a center called COERLL (Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning) that has diverse research projects going on and one of them is dedicated to Heritage Spanish. Below is a brief description of this organization.
This is an amazing resource for heritage Spanish teachers who need help building curriculum, answers to questions and/or simply advice from other colleagues in the discipline. They have created a Heritage Spanish Cafe heritagespanish.coerll.utexas.edu/groups/heritage-spanish-cafe/ which you can join for FREE! Here you can post, share and have access to numerous resources. The idea behind this Cafe is to create a community in which heritage Spanish educators share materials with each other in order to make our lives easier :) You will not get monetary compensation for all the materials you share, BUT you do get credit as the author and owner or the materials. They do however have an amazing opportunity where you can create a lesson/ materials for the heritage classroom and potentially get payed for it. Here is a description of this opportunity per COERLL:
The Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) invites you to apply to become a COERLL Collaborator for the Heritage Spanish Teaching project. As Collaborators, you will continue to build on the activities you create in the 2017 workshop with the aim of sharing the final versions on COERLL’s Heritage Spanish website. In support of your continued pedagogical work, COERLL will offer an honorarium to each COERLL Collaborator ($300 to $500) upon completion of your project.
You can access this information here : coerll-collaborator-application-heritage-spanish.docx
Once you join the Cafe, you will have access to all the documents, power-points and videos of topics discussed in the workshop I attended. Below are some of the themes discussed:
:) Nancy Fret
I grew up in el corazón of Little Village in Chicago and attended all public schools throughout my educational journey. I remember being in a "bilingual classroom" where I was encouraged to read and write in English and to forget about my Spanish. I remember learning about how Christopher Columbus "discovered" America and events like World War and World War II. Honestly, I always thought history was BORING. I never felt a connection to the material being covered in class. I always asked myself : how does this affect me or my culture ?
Today as I reflect on these memories, I am almost sure my experience is that of many students of color. In our schools, we never really learn about our cultura or about other cultures and their stuggle trying to assimilate or simply survive in the United States. In my experience, it wasn't until college that I started learning about mi cultura. But why wait until college for our students to learn about their roots? Why not include it in our language curriculum ? We already teach about culture, so why not draw historical parallels ?
As I was researching about the Bracero Program to help a friend out, I started asking my husband ( Puerto Rican background) about his grandparents and their experience migrating to the US in the 50s. This curiosity sparked because this was around the same time that the Bracero Program took place. He shared that many of his family members flew from Puerto Rico to the US via airplane on beach chairs with ropes being their only sestbealts. They left their island because they were promised a better life in Los Estados Unidos. He also shared how a lot of individuals in this Great Migration to New York City turned to drugs as a way of coping with the change of lifestyle. As he was sharing this, I began to understand that oppression was affecting many different races and cultural groups at the same time.
If we try to draw additional historical parallels, we can also include what was going on with the African American community at this time which was the Civil Rights Movement. When we think about the bigger picture and analyze the parallels, we can see how all of these cultural groups were oppressed around the same time. The Braceros were getting horrible treatment, low pay ( if they got payed) and suffered racism. Puerto Rican's were promised a better life and instead faced racism, inequality and because of failure to have an identity a future generation of stars were dimmed. African Americans were also suffering racism, exclusion and even denied a proper education. All of these groups were trying (and are still trying) to live the famous American Dream. The point I am trying to make is that as language educators, we need to ask ourselves how the content we are teaching is relevant to our students. We need to draw parallels of what was going on with other cultures during the same time period. We need to make these connections in order for our students to be engaged and understand that oppression in this country isn't new and it has affected all of us. If you really want your students to be engaged, you need to draw a connection and explain for the Bracero program was occurring when African Americans were still fighting for their Civil Rights.
Below are some resources that you can utilize in your classroom as a reference point if you are interested in drawing connections in your classroom. Some of them are in English but I think they would lead to a great discussion in Spanish. I am aware that other struggles occurred during the same time period in other cultures not mentioned in this post. I tried to focus on the cultures of students in my classroom andenvironment that I grew up in. So try to remember next time you teach about the Bracero Program to also include the struggles of other minorities during the same time period. In my case I would focus on The Great Migration to New York City and the Civil Rights Movement. Remember that students learn more when the content includes them and affects them 😀
Please feel free to comment and/or email me with other topics and/or resources to add to this post.
The Bracero Program
Cobran su sueldo 60 años después news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/mundo_usa/newsid_7675000/7675078.stm
La desconocida historia de los braceros mexicanos que murieron por esperar un empleo en Estados Unidos www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-37528106
A song about the reality of being a Bracero by Phil Ochs www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrmNDZNmxIk
A racist video promoting the Bracero Program: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRddG9zcMLg
An archive with resources about the Bracero Program: braceroarchive.org/
Los braceros, la pesadilla del sueño americano :culturacolectiva.com/los-braceros-la-pesadilla-del-sueno-americano/The Great Migration from Puerto Rico to NY
LA EMIGRACIÓN PUERTORRIQUEÑA A LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS
Pictures of the journey from Puerto Rico to NY freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~prraices/photo_memories.htm
Trailer de la película "La guagua aérea" https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=72B-_VGctWM
La vida en Nueva York en los 50 y 60 https://www.ifla.org/past-wlic/2011/107-casillas-es.pdf
The Civil Rights Movement
The Negro Travelers Green Book http://www.teachingushistory.org/ttrove/documents/GreenBook.pdf
Articulo sobre la lucha por los derechos civiles http://www.unitedexplanations.org/2016/01/13/pasado-y-presente-cincuenta-anos-del-movimiento-por-los-derechos-civiles-de-los-afroamericanos-en-estados-unidos/
Discusión del discurso por MLK :Tengo un sueño https://www.google.com/amp/www.vix.com/es/btg/inspiracion/67491/tengo-un-sueno-el-poderoso-discurso-de-martin-luther-king-de-1963-que-seguimos-recordando-hasta-hoy%3Famp
Video : La lucha por los derechos civiles de la comunidad afroamericana https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pf68OIeZgig
When I began teaching Latinos Spanish I realized that my job consisted of more than just teaching. I began to realize that my high school students needed more than to maintain their Spanish;they needed to be pushed and motivated to think about life after high school. In order to do this I created a unit that focused just on Latinos and education. The following were our unit "metas":
(1) Investigar sobre personas latinas que han sobresalido en los Estados Unidos
(2) Investigar opciones laborales y académicas después de la preparatoria
(3) Hacer una aplicación para la universidad
(4) Entender lo que es FAFSA
(6) Escribir un personal statement
(7)Crear un resumé y carta de presentación
(7) Practicar una entrevista laboral
I began by providing my students with statistics on Latinos in higher education. I wanted my students to realize that Latinos are underrepresented in the professional world. After analyzing statistics, students were asked to write about their plans after high school. Some said they weren't going to write because they didn't want to go to college. My response to this was that it was fine if they didn't want to go to college but they still had to have a plan. Their future couldn't consist of working at McDonald's or Burger King ; I wanted something concrete.
The next step was to write a personal statement, a resume and a cover letter. We also practiced and prepared for mock interviews. All of this was done in our Spanish r classroom. Sure, students probably would never have to apply to a Latin American university or have a job interview in Spanish, but they got the experience and could easily transfer their acquired skills to English. I think one of the most empowering assessments of this unit were the mock interviews. For this component of the unit, professionals from the community came and interviewed our students in Spanish. Near the end of the unit we took a field trip to the University of Illinois at Chicago where students got a tour of the campus, went into dorms and got to learn about LARES a Latino organization that focuses on Latino student retention. Overall, this is one of my favorite units to teach! If we don't empower them to become their best versions of themselves, who will?
Below I will share some of the resources I utilized in this empowering unit. Feel free to comment or message me for more resources.
Materials I utilized in my classroom:
FAFSA form in Spanish: studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/2017-18-fafsa-spanish.pdf
FAFSA information in Spanish: https://ifap.ed.gov/fafsa/attachments/0607FAFSAInsert(sp)100605.pdf
University cost research database: collegescorecard.ed.gov/
Tuition Net Price Calculator: financialaid.uic.edu/npcalc.shtml
The Common Application: www.commonapp.org/
Video: Personal Statement :www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWxFVtSUAsQ
Graduate: Una ayuda financiera para el exito: sites.ed.gov/hispanic-initiative/files/2014/04/Spanish.pdf
Después de la escuela secundaria… ¿Y ahora qué?: www.palmbeachschools.org/spanish/wp-content/uploads/sites/113/2016/04/after_high_school_booklet_12-2011_SPANISH.pdf
“ Pero mamá, ¡no cabo en el carro!” “ ¿No cabo? ¡Así no se dice! ¡No puedo creer que no sepas hablar español bien con ese nopal en la frente!!”
Students in our Heritage Spanish classroom have lived a similar experience to the one above at least once in their life. They constantly get corrected and are expected to speak proper Spanish. If they don’t, then they aren’t Latinos. How can you BE Latino and not speak Spanish? What a shame! The worst part is that it’s parents and family members that make these comments not knowing the consequences they can have on the formation of the student's’ identity. As teachers, we have to find a way to better communicate with parents in order for them to understand WHY their student doesn’t speak ‘proper’ Spanish. See, in most cases, heritage speakers only have exposure to the heritage language at home. Heritage learners are ,for the most part, educated in a monolingual setting which limits the formal contexts in which they can use their heritage language. So then, why do we expect them to speak the same as a native speaker of Spanish?
When creating our curriculum, we need to keep this idea in mind. More than likely, our students aren’t going to leave our heritage Spanish program writing and speaking like Cervantes or Octavio Paz. The reality is that many of our students are going to be hesitant to speak Spanish. We need to help them fall in love with their heritage language and culture. The linguistic goals for our program should be centered around our students’ needs. Why do they need or want to speak the language? But, how can we do this? How can we help our students reach their full potential in their heritage language? Here are some suggestions which include strategies I have used in my classroom and/or that I have seen or read about:
What other advice would you give or add on to this list to help other educators in heritage Spanish field? Do you agree or disagree with the idea that one has to speak Spanish to be Latino (this is a hot topic you can discuss with your students)?
The questions in the title of this blog always run through my head as the beginning of each school year approaches. Many of us try to guess what topics, readings and or activities would attract our students. But why don’t we stop guessing and start asking? What has worked for me in the past is creating a survey and giving it to my students at the beginning and at the end of each school year. Like this, I find out what their interests are and I try to incorporate them into their curriculum.
The first year I gave my students a survey it was by projecting 4-5 questions on a power point slide, but now with google sheets, everything is much easier! You can give your students the survey and within seconds you will have your results! This is a powerful tool to use in your classroom if you want to really incorporate your students’ interests when creating materials for the classroom. Here is a link to a survey I created to use for these purposes:
Heritage Spanish Survey
Feel free to use it :) Also, here are some of the topics my students suggested should be included in a heritage Spanish curriculum:
Hasta la vista,
As a child, I remember most of my teachers pronouncing my first name correctly. Nancy. It's not a difficult name to pronounce. But, when it came to my last name it was like opening a Kinder Surprise egg; you didn't know what was going to come out of the teacher's mouth. My last name is Dominguez. Some pronounced it like Domingo, Dominique, you name it. When I was younger I just ignored it. However, when I got to high school it started bothering me. How hard can it be to pronounce Do-mín-guez. And why was it okay for my name to be mispronounced but Michael Roberts got all his syllables pronounced correctly? My name is who I am. My name defines my identity. My name is Nancy Domínguez.
Have you ever lived a similar experience ? I'm sure your students have. As a Heritage Spanish teacher I discussed this topic frequently with my students. Through these conversations I found that they too have lived similar experiences. They dislike when people mispronounce their names but sometimes they are to shy to speak up. The way I approached this was by exposing them to literature, videos and different activities that made them research the roots of their names and the importance it has on the formation of their identity.
Here are some of the activities I used. I hope they are of help in your classroom if this topic ever comes up ( I hope it does):
I hope this is helpful! Please feel free to comment and add any other activities and or resources you have utilized for this topic.