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