1. To learn Spain’s history from 711 to 1492.
2. To use the knowledge of Spanish history from 711-1492 as a means of understanding the Spanish conquest of the New World.
3. To learn about Columbus’ Las Casas’, and Cabeza de Vaca’s voyages, discoveries, and adventures in the New World through their own words or those of a biographer.
4. To use the information learned from the reading of the autobiographical or first person accounts to make distinctions between Spanish crops and products, customs, holidays, food, costumes, etc. and those of the natives.
5. To make guesses about the next phase of the Spanish conquest settlements. Using the knowledge they have gained while working through the four previous objectives, the students will be encouraged to make some educated guesses about how the Spanish culture and that of the natives will blend and evolve into an American way of life.
6. To begin to formulate the definition of who is a Latin American.
7. To utilize Pre-Columbian art to help explain what life was like before the Spanish arrived.
In order to attain the first two objectives, the students should know, in general, Spain’s history from 711-1492. In 711 the Moors crossed the north of Africa and the Strait of Gibraltar, and proceeded to conquer much of the Iberian Peninsula. They even crossed the Pyrenees and entered France. Charlemagne and his army repulsed the Moorish invaders and pushed them back into Spain. (The students might like to hear about the
Song of Roland
Spain was made up of many individual kingdoms (its provinces today) that were continually at war with one another. It was very easy for the Moors to conquer as much territory as they did because of the lack of a united front among the Spanish kingdoms
In 718, a Christian king, Pelayo, fought back against the Moors. He began the
or Reconquest. From this point on, more and more Christians battled the Moors. El Cid and his battles with the Moors made him the first national hero of Spain.
The war between the Moors and the Spanish Christians lasted until 1492. The battles were not continuous, however. In an area where there was a victor, the people living there were ruled by the victor, Christian or Moor. These periods of peace alternated with periods of war. During this time the Christians continued fighting each other as well as the Moors.
It wasn’t until Fernando of Aragon married Isabel of Castilla that the Christians had a means of uniting against their common enemy. Fernando and Isabel encouraged all the Christian kingdoms to join together in a common religion, Catholicism, a common language, Castillian, the Spanish language of Castilla, with a common king and queen, Fernando and Isabel, and against the Moors.
The newly unified nation was now able to expend a concerted effort against the Moors, which ended in 1492 when the last Moorish stronghold, Granada, fell to the armies of Fernando and Isabel.
To make this story even more interesting for the students, the teacher can show the movie of
. The history of Spain that concerns this unit can be presented in one day, with two days for showing the film.
An important aspect of the history of Moorish Spain is the contributions of the Moors to Spanish culture, which were then brought to the New World. These contributions included “Spanish architecture,” fountains, and patios.
Students can look at pictures of Spain and Latin America to compare and contrast the architecture. They can also compare and contrast the way Spanish and Latin American towns are organized. These activities can be done in small groups and then reported back to the entire class for any further discussion.
In order to attain objective number three above, the students will read about the voyages of Columbus, Las Casas, and Cabeza de Vaca (using excerpts from the books listed in the Teacher Bibliography below. My choices of excerpts are in xerox copies on file at the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute 53 Wall St. New Haven, Ct. 06520). The students can make a large map of the world and plot the explorers’ voyages. In this manner they will be able to visualize the explorers’ experiences.
The students can perform a skit about an event that particularly interests them based on the stories they are reading. The skit may be on video tape or performed live. It may take the form of a radio or television show, or a “You Are There” or news report. For my students these kinds of activities are in English sprinkled with Spanish words they know such as “Buenos d’as,” “Cómo está usted?” etc. The students should be encouraged to dress in costume and to use props.
Some students may prefer to write an eyewitness account of an event. This account can be written as a newspaper story or an entry in a diary. They are to make the story as interesting as possible and with as many colorful details they can find. These stories can be reproduced and bound together in a booklet for each student.
Other students may choose to represent an event in a diorama or another three-dimensional form. These projects may be presented to the class along with a short oral report on the significance of the event.
Yet another possibility is for a student or several students to make either a montage (just pictures) or a collage (pictures, objects, material, etc.) of products of the New World that they have read about. They may also represent the natives and their customs, the animals, or plant life described by the explorers. In addition, they can make a booklet of pictures that they have drawn or taken from magazines, to represent what they think are the most important points of an explorer’s adventures.
For objective four, the students will compare and contrast the Spanish way of life with that of the natives. This activity can be done in small groups. They can then individually illustrate their comparisons with oral reports, written accounts, pictures, skits, etc.
To achieve objectives five and six, the students can brainstorm ideas about how the Spanish and native cultures evolved into a Latin American culture. They may work in small groups or as a whole class. They may select the best ideas for a research project. In this way, the students will begin to form opinions about who a Latin American is.
Attaining objective seven may be a collaborative team effort between the foreign language teacher and the art teacher. They can team teach one or two lessons about pre-Columbian art. The students and teachers may go to the Peabody Museum in New Haven or the Museum of Natural History in New York. The students can make their own version of statues, jewelry, utensils, games, etc. out of clay or other materials. They can try to weave cloth too, if they choose.
As a review of all the material learned in this unit, the students can make up a game like
or a board game or a card game. They may want to challenge a United States History class to a match using the game.
Another way of concluding this unit is to have a mini fair to which other students are invited. Student work can be displayed with explanations by a guide. Samples of Latin American food can be offered as well. There can be a fashion show of Spanish and native costumes as well as games to be played. There’s no reason why learning can’t be fun!