Since 1988, the U.S. Government has set aside the period from September 15 to October 15, to honor the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made and continue to make to our nation by observing National Hispanic Heritage Month. The term Hispanic, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, refers to Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race. On the 2010 Census form, people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino." More than 50.5 million people identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino on the 2010 census, making Hispanics a significant cultural presence in the United States.
Through EDSITEment and NEH-funded resources, students can explore the history of Hispanic culture in America. The Picturing America project (also available in Spanish) celebrates Hispanic heritage with a handsome visual reminder of the Spanish influence on American history, religion and culture. Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (Spanish version: Misión de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, San Antonio, Texas, 1755) is one of the oldest surviving stone churches in America. In the EDSITEment lesson plan, Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción and the Spanish Mission in the New World, students are invited to use the image of the mission to explore the way Spanish missionaries and native American tribes worked together to build a community of faith in the Southwest in the mid-17th century. The NEH Summer Landmark for School teachers, The Fourteenth Colony: A California Missions Resource for Teachers produced a collection of K-12 instructional resources with multimedia spanning Native Californians, Missions, Presidios, and Pueblos of the Spanish, Mexican, and early American traditions and eras. Key resources for the study of this cultural heritage include primary sources, maps and images to document the cultural and historical geography of the California missions.
Another valuable resource is the NEH-funded PBS series Latino Americans, which chronicles the rich and varied histories of Latinos from the first European settlements to the present day. The website contains trailers from all episodes, a timeline, and an opportunity to upload your own video history. It contains a new education initiative which invites teachers and learners to explore the many ways that Latinos are woven into the fabric of the United States' story.
Accounts of ventures into uncharted territories by Hispanic explorers and missionaries of the Southeast and Southwest form a vital part of U.S. literary and historical heritage. A prime example, the journey of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, can be found by visiting the EDSITEment-reviewed resource New Perspectives on the West. Students can then embark on The Road to Santa Fe: A Virtual Excursion to journey to one of America's oldest and most historic cities along the ancient Camino Real to discover the multilayered heritage of the peoples who call New Mexico their homeland. For another perspective on Spanish exploration and settlement, visit Web de Anza, an EDSITEment-recommended website, packed with primary source documents and multimedia resources covering Juan Bautista de Anza's two overland expeditions that led to the colonization of San Francisco in 1776.
A large selection of reviewed websites that explore the cultural legacy of Mexico, Central America, parts of the Caribbean, as well as other Latin American nations is also featured on EDSITEment. NPR’s Afropop Worldwide introduces the great variety of music with African roots today in countries like Colombia. A Collector's Vision of Puerto Rico features an interactive map of Puerto Rico and a rich timeline. The EDSITEment lesson plan, Common Visions, Common Voices, examines the effects of intercultural contact, an issue vital to both contemporary and historical Hispanic culture, through an examination of the artistic and literary themes and motifs found in Mayan artifacts and trickster stories. Other EDSITEment resources focus on the history and culture of other countries. The EDSITEment lesson plan, Mexican Culture and History through Its National Holidays, encourages students to learn more about the United States’ closest southern neighbor by highlighting Mexico’s Independence Day and other important Mexican holidays.
Additional EDSITEment-created resources help students attain a deeper understanding of the history and cultural wealth of that large and diverse country. EDSITEment marked the Mexican Revolution’s centennial (1910-2010) with a special EDSITEment-created bilingual spotlight that explores the revolution’s historical background, including the muralist movement, and the musical legacy of the corrido tradition. EDSITEment also notes Mexico’s vital role in world literature by saluting one of the most important poets in the Spanish language and the first great Latin American poet, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in a fully bilingual academic unit. Here, teachers and students will find two lesson plans, accompanying bilingual glossaries, an interactive timeline, numerous worksheets, listening-comprehension exercises, and two interactive activities, one of which entails a detailed analysis of her portrait.
Contemporary authors writing about Hispanic heritage in the United States include Pam Muñoz Ryan, whose award-winning work of juvenile fiction is featured in the EDSITEment lesson plan, Esperanza Rising: Learning Not to Be Afraid to Start Over (the lesson plan is also available in Spanish). Set in the early 1930s, twenty years after the Mexican Revolution and during the Great Depression, Esperanza Rising tells the story of a young Mexican girl's courage and resourcefulness when, at the tender age of thirteen, she finds herself living in a strange new world. Pam Muñoz Ryan also enriches her story with extensive historical background. Students are given an opportunity to engage in interesting classroom activities that encourage them to imagine the difficult choices facing those who decide to leave home and immigrate to the United States.
On the literature front, both Latin America and Spain have a rich heritage. Set in the Dominican Republic during the rule of Rafael Trujillo, In the Time of the Butterflies fictionalizes historical figures in order to dramatize heroic efforts of the Mirabal sisters to overthrow this dictator’s brutal regime. EDSITEment lesson plan, Courage In the Time of the Butterflies, has students undertake a careful analysis of the sisters to see how each demonstrates courage. Students additionally analyze a speech delivered in 2006 by a daughter of one of the sisters to understand the historical legacy of these extraordinary women.
A new EDSITEment curriculum unit of three lessons, Magical Realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude for the Common Core, has students uncover how Gabriel García Márquez meshes magical elements with a reality which is, in his view, fantastical in its own right. García Márquez actually recapitulates episodes in the history of Latin America through the novel's story of real and fantastical events experienced over the course of one century by the Buendía family.
Students can learn more about some of the most important poets from the Spanish Golden Age and from the twentieth century through the feature Six Hispanic Literary Giants (this feature is also available in Spanish). Students can choose to work with an EDSITEment-created interactive launchpad to study more closely Pablo Neruda's "Oda al mar" ("Ode to the Sea").
More resources are featured on EDSITEment’s new section Best-of the-Web Spanish Language Websites, which offers teachers, parents, and students dozens of websites evaluated by panels of educators and approved by EDSITEment for use in the classroom for their quality, educational potential, and presentation. The websites can be found on EDSITEment’s Teachers Toolbox (Reference Shelf) and are grouped by Spanish proficiency level. They represent a rich, multifaceted array of Spanish language content from various fields within the humanities. Sample excellent audio resources, like BBC Mundo.com, which contains news of the world in Spanish, or the official website of El Museo Nacional del Prado, which explores the art collections of Spain’s premier museum.
The Spanish-language newspapers in Chronicling America, along with those published in English, allow us to look beyond one representation of the communities and cultures pulled into the United States by wars and treaties of the 19th century. Spanish-language newspapers reveal how these communities reported on their own culture, politics, and struggles to form an identity in a brand new context.
Mission La Concepción at Sunset. Photo by Lee Wilder, Courtesy National Park Service.