While America is made up of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, the expansion of Latinos in the United States has definitely had a profound and tangible impact on the nation. From television and print media to restaurants and schools, things are constantly being done to accommodate Latinos in America. While Spanish students learn about the increasing population of Latinos in America, they would definitely benefit from a more focused study of how this growing number is affecting their own cultures, communities and everyday lives.
In the New Haven World Languages Curriculum (See appendix A) existing theme on shopping, students are presented with vocabulary and grammar that enable them to ask about and describe consumer goods in the target language. Students are then required to display their language skills through the creation of a Spanish-language advertisement for a product of their choice. Since the shopping theme is so popular among my students, I have created this unit for them to explore the significant impact that Latinos have actually had, and continue to have, on American culture; specifically on American consumer culture. This unit is intended to be presented after students learn vocabulary and grammar associated with shopping but before they create their advertisements. Expanding the shopping unit to include discussions on topics such as identity and marketing is not necessarily designed to further Spanish language acquisition, but rather to allow for student advertisements to be more authentic. Getting a more detailed view of Latinos as consumers will not only encourage them to market their products in a manner closer to the way it is done in real life, but it will also allow them to make cultural comparisons and connections with Latinos. Finally, it will encourage them ask important questions such as: Who is my audience? What types of products do they like? What mediums should I use to reach my target audience? What language/images should I use to reach my audience?
Through analysis of the US census questionnaire, advertisements and various forms of media, students will experience first-hand the impact of Latinos as consumers in America and the influence that their growing presence has had on American culture as a whole. Students will examine an assortment of television commercials, internet sites and market research data to see how and why advertisers market to the Latino population and will notice that the cultural variations within the group are often ignored. Focusing on such differences will force students to refine their stereotypical views of Latinidad.
Once students have seen how many aspects of Latino culture have entered the American way of life they will not be able to deny how interconnected we all are. Students will see how the language, celebrations and foods of other people connect to their own lives and how they can, and already do, participate in these cultures through their own consumerism. Exposing students to diverse traditions and celebrating our differences as well as similarities will get students to begin thinking and interacting as citizens of a global and interdependent community, which is ultimately the goal.