The international community is looking towards Cuba, trying to puzzle out the direction the country will take now that Raúl Castro has assumed the position of power his brother Fidel had held since January 1958.
Since its discovery in 1492, Cuba has always been a coveted prize due to its location and agricultural wealth. The history of Cuba has always been that of a country seeking its independence and freedom.
This unit is the result of a seminar on
Representations of Democracy in Literature, History and Film
led by Professor Annabel Patterson. The focal point of the seminar was to recognize how there are few successful artistic representations of democracy in literature and art, mainly in the United States, and how to decode these representations. I have chosen Cuba because it is one of the Latin American countries that has almost always been connected to the United States and is the one that has not known what a real democracy is.
My goal for writing a unit on Cuba is to help my students to learn about democracy (and the lack thereof) and other forms of government using film, literature, art and music. In order to do so, I will be using various materials and resources that will include numerous cultural representations of the two political alternatives: those who support the revolution and those who were and still are against Fidel Castro (
, in Spanish) and the communist state: expatriates dispersed around the world. This unit will allow me to introduce different representations, primarily film and literature, but also examples of visual art and music, as instruments to teach Cuban history and develop something many of our high school students lack and is vital to their intellectual growth: critical thinking skills.
The cultural approach when studying a foreign language is crucial. Students need to learn how to communicate in the language of study, but they should also gather a deep understanding of the literature, history and art of the countries where that language is spoken. My teaching philosophy is based on my core belief that the assimilation of both culture and tradition will lead my students to a global consciousness and therefore deepen their understanding and appreciation of all world cultures.
Finding innovative ways to integrate cultural elements of the Hispanic world is always a challenge I try to overcome by developing meaningful interdisciplinary units that will provide my students with the tools to make connections, comparisons between cultures and communities, as well as communicate in the target language through culture.
The unit is to be used in my Spanish II courses at Hill Regional Career High School. Career is a magnet school of 708 students in New Haven, for students interested in health sciences, business, and technology. The population is 53% African American, 27% Hispanic, 17% White, 3% Asian. About 67% of the students receive subsidized lunch. Even though the unit is to be taught to students at what the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) calls the "novice level", it could be easily modified to be used on upper level courses. Students at the novice level demonstrate some accuracy in oral and written presentations when reproducing memorized words, phrases and sentences in the target language; formulate oral and written presentations using a limited range of simple phrases and expressions based on very familiar topics; show inaccuracies and/or interference from the native language when attempting to communicate information which goes beyond the memorized or pre-fabricated. (1)
Due to the basic level my students have, Spanish will be used as much as possible, but it will be necessary to operate and read some of the works in either bilingual editions and/or English. As for the movies, documentaries and audio resources, all or most of them will be viewed in Spanish with English subtitles, when possible. I consider it crucial for my students to be exposed to the language as much as possible.
The unit will be taught over a period of about 15 to 18 sessions, each of which is eighty two minutes in length. These long block schedule periods will allow me to implement a wide variety of teaching methods and student centered activities.