The Professor of this seminar, Patricia R. Pessar, commented that what is different about the recent immigrants is the “ethnic and racial origins of the . . . populations.” That is, these newcomers are mostly “people of color.” This fact lends itself to a teaching opportunity to examine prejudice and stereotyping since new immigrants often fall victim to these negative forces. In learning about Hispanics as an immigrant/migrant group that has experienced discrimination in this country, it is hoped that the students will reflect upon their own feelings of prejudice and stereotyping and share their experiences with their classmates. This unit was a result of classroom discussions in my Spanish 3/4 classes, entitled
Hispanics: Myths and Reality
. I found that my students were open and forthcoming in their comments. They also were very interested in the contributions that Hispanics have made to this country, but were at times limited in their knowledge of Hispanics in the United States and in their knowledge of their countries of origin. As a result, I decided to include a research component and a section entitled
Challenging the stereotypes: acquiring knowledge about the three Hispanic groups in the United States.
This unit focuses on three recent Hispanic immigrants/migrants: Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans. It is designed for an advanced Spanish course: level 4 or higher. Using music, poetry, books, and films, the students will examine what these three groups have in common in their migration experiences and will examine the differences as well. For example, the Cubans immigrated in several waves, which corresponded to their socioeconomic status in the island. The Puerto Ricans migrated with a different legal status, conferred upon them by the Foraker Act and the Jones Act. The Dominicans developed a different pattern than these two groups in that they were mostly from urban areas in the island and were mostly women. What they have in common is their migration or immigration from a Hispanic Caribbean island to the United States in such a manner as to command a real Hispanic presence in the United States: a voice.
Two excellent films about the immigration/migration experience are
Puerto Rican Passages,
about Puerto Ricans migrating to the United States with an emphasis on Connecticut, and
A Dream Ensnared,
about Dominican women immigrants. Further background readings on immigrants from Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico may be found in the bibliography. Highly recommended for those teachers lacking familiarity with these immigrant groups is
Origins and Destinies: Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in America,
by Silvia Pedraza and Ruben Rumbaut. The students will read about the immigration and migration experiences and will examine the literature and music of selected immigrants and migrants. For example, Gloria Estefan sings about her homeland, Cuba, and about the bonds that Cubans have with other Spanish-speaking people in her album
Willie Colon sings about the bonds Puerto Ricans have with other Latin Americans in
Tato Laviera writes about being assimilated and about being an American in the United States in
La carreta made a U turn;
Julia Alvarez and Esmeralda Santiago write about their personal migration experiences in
How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents
When I was Puerto Rican.
All these student materials are in Spanish and appropriate for a Spanish class, level 4 or higher. The books by Esmeralda Santiago and Julia Alvarez are available in Spanish and English. Gloria Estefan’s album is in Spanish with English translation provided.
The textbooks currently used in the New Haven high schools at the advanced levels are
as well as other textbooks being piloted in Hillhouse. (
for Spanish 4) All these textbooks offer information about Hispanics in the United States, to varying degrees. Teachers diligently supplement these textbooks with authentic literature and cultural activities. Spanish 4 and 5 depart from the traditional textbooks in that teachers have flexibility as to materials covered and in that some teachers are presently piloting new textbooks in Spanish 4 at Hillhouse. (
This unit will be used to supplement a Spanish 4 or 5 or as a separate semester course or (expanded) into an alternative Spanish 4 or Spanish 5 course. Rather than using a textbook, the teacher will provide an introduction to each immigrant/migrant group, organized as to geographical data, socioeconomic and legal status, stereotypes, and contributions of each group to the United States. After the overview the class will study each migrant group from selected pieces of literature (poems, short stories, legends) and songs. Perusal of the materials seems to suggest the following themes: the immigrant/migrant experience, the homeland, language, identity, and brotherhood. The Hispanic groups chosen will be: Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans.
This unit involves reading and researching, listening to music and poetry, and critical viewing of films and videos. The students will develop their writing skills by pre-writing strategies, comparing and contrasting, studying the styles of different authors, and original writing assignments or
The students will present their original writings to the class and the classmates will critique each other. The recommended times for introducing this unit are: Hispanic Heritage Month, or September 15-October 15; Brotherhood Month; (February) and National Women’s Month. (March) Of all the textbooks currently being used in New Haven, the one most helpful as a reference book for the teacher or for supplementary materials is
presently being piloted at James Hillhouse High School.
The three primary goals are to research facts so as to dispel stereotypes and myths, to appreciate literature and music of recent Hispanic migrants, and to develop writing skills in Spanish. The approach will be to foster proficiency and communication, rather than to employ the traditional grammar approach. Rather than studying and writing sentences in the
the student will use the appropriate tenses in their oral presentations and in their writing assignments as well as in the group discussions. The assessments will be based on the portfolios of each student: the geographical and biographical information gathered, the reaction papers, the analysis of poetry and songs, the original poems/narratives/articles on selected themes. Each week the students will do
or spontaneous oral presentations on a given topic taught that week. If time permits, the student writings could be compiled into a class magazine and the favorite poems/original poems/original writings could be presented to other students during multicultural week or Hispanic Heritage Month.