April 27, 2006

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome!

Bienvenidos a mi blog sobre la literatura hispana y como podemos incorporarla en nuestras clases de inglés y literatura. La literatura hispana ocupa un lugar importante aunque es olvidado en la mayoría de las clases. Lee las ideas siguientes y me responde con sus comentos y consejos, por faovr.

Welcome to my blog about Hispanic literature and how we can incorporate it into our classrooms. Hispanic literature has an important place even though it is largely forgotten in our classes. Please read my thoughts on this issue and feel free to respond with your comments and advice on the topic.

Why should we teach Hispanic Literature: An Introduction

Why should we teach Hispanic Literature?

Beyond the growing numbers of Hispanics in the United States, Hispanic literature should have a place in the classroom because the culture possesses a wealth of talented writers and gripping stories. In any classroom, multicultural literature and multiple perspectives should be addressed. To ignore the contributions of Hispanics to the world of literature is to turn our backs on a colorful and intriguing culture and their writers. The following entries can be read in order or as separate entries. They all center around the idea of Hispanic literature and its purpose in the middle school and high school classrooms. Additionally, entries focus on the issue of identity in Hispanic writing and how it can relate to our students in an effective way. To begin, it is important to understand the Hispanic population in order to understand how to best use their literature in our classrooms.

The Hispanic Population

Who is considered Hispanic?

The Hispanic population in the United States is the fastest growing minority group in the United States. As a country we tend to group all Spanish speakers under the title of Hispanic. In actuality, "Hispanics" each have their country of origin or ancestry that has its own unique history and traditions.

In the United States, the largest Hispanic group is Mexican Americans. According to the latest US Census in 2000, Mexican Americans make up over half of the Hispanic population in the United States. There exists a large amount of prejudice against Mexican immigrants to the US. Their experiences in the US are the basis for many powerful stories. The second largest Hispanic minority is the Puerto Rican ethnic group. Puerto Ricans in the US find themselves in a far different position than any other Hispanic group. Puerto Ricans enjoy a distinct relation to the US that allows them to travel freely between Puerto Rico and the US. Also, Puerto Ricans are considered US citizens even though Puerto Rico is not a state. The third largest Hispanic group is the Cuban Americans. Unlike the Mexican Americans or the Puerto Ricans, immigrants and second generation Cuban Americans have mainly settled in Florida. The immigrants from Cuba came to America for far different reasons than those from Mexico or Puerto Rico. Because of Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba, many Cubans fled to the US for freedom. These are three of the many groups of Hispanic people in the United States. Each group possesses its own unique flavor and all of the groups are united under the language of Spanish. (James A Banks "Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies").

Teaching Hispanic Literature in Middle School

Implications for teaching in the middle school:

In middle school, students are open to learning about other adolescents. Part of this could be in relation to Erikson’s stages of development. In middle school, most students are at the fifth stage: Identity vs Role Confusion. In this stage they become aware of who they are, and they accept it or challenge it. Introducing students to adolescents from all cultures is important. Since there will be a diverse student population, bringing in literature from all cultures is important, so students can identify with someone who shares the same experiences as them. Obviously, Hispanic literature fits into this type of classroom. Tackling the issues of adolescence can be done through the writings of Hispanic authors as well as American writers. For example, using vignettes from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros could address both tolerance and the issues of adolescence. Even though there are a few vignettes in Cisneros’ novel that I may be advanced for middle school, the majority of the vignettes from the novel are applicable to the middle school audience.

Example: “Those who don’t? from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

"Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake.

But we aren’t afraid. We know the guy with the crooked eye is Davey the Baby’s brother, and the tall one next to him in the straw brim, that’s Rosa’s Eddie V., and the big one that looks like a dumb grown man, he’s Fat Boy, though he’s not fat anymore nor a boy.

All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. Yeah. That is how it goes and goes." (33-34)

A vignette, like the one above, can open up a conversation on any topic. The above vignette would be an excellent introduction into the topic of prejudice and racism. While reading the exert, it is nearly impossible to distinguish that it is “Hispanic? literature which makes it all the more powerful. The feelings and ideas expressed are universal.

Using this specific section of The House on Mango Street, a teacher could work on cross curriculum teaching. In the English classroom, reflective journaling and in-class discussion would benefit students. Since the topics Cisneros raises are universal, the discussion could branch out into a broader view of racism. In the social studies classroom, it would be a great time to begin talking about civil rights issues, or discuss current events involving racism and prejudice in the United States. Additionally, in a foreign language classroom, the issues of tolerance could be taught through mini-lessons on the histories and struggles of different countries (specifically Latin America and the Caribbean).

As I mentioned earlier, this is the developmental time period where students question who they are. Their identities are in constant flux and nothing is permanent. Hispanic literature refers to issues of identity in many instances and would be a good connection for students (see Identity entry).

Teaching Hispanic Literature in High School

Implications for teaching in the high school:

At the high school level it is typical to have a diverse student population both physically and cognitively. At this level students are expected to read and learn the “classics? that are published in the anthologies or British and American literature. One reason that Hispanic literature is not being taught in the high school core curriculum is because it is almost completely excluded from our anthologies. Many teachers and administrators operate their classrooms based on what is found in the anthologies and unknowingly deprive their students of another perspective on America and another valid contribution to American literature. Patricia Ann Romero argues that excluding works that are not found in anthologies harms students in her article “Expanding the Circle: Hispanic Voices in American Literature? found in The English Journal: “A curriculum comprised only of standard anthology works fails to provide students the opportunity to see the intimate connections between literature and culture that naturally occur when a poet [...] who comes from outside the dominant culture and, hence, outside the anthology, is brought into class? (26). Teaching Hispanic literature gives it value. Its exclusion from anthologies does not mean that it should be barred from our classrooms as well.

There are many examples of classic Hispanic literature that could be incorporated at the high school level. To begin, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, probably the most widely taught Hispanic novel, should be taught in the high school classroom if it has not been included in the middle school curriculum. This novel correctly targets the growth of adolescents and deals with universal issues that affect all students. Also, When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago is an autobiography of a young girls’ struggle with identity in two different worlds (Puerto Rico and New York City). This novel accurately depicts the conditions and situations for many Puerto Ricans who move to the United States. Santiago’s novel honestly looks at politics, adolescence, and family. For high school students who have never traveled outside of the United States, this novel is a great first hand relation of the hardships and prejudice one can encounter.

You may be thinking, what about world literature classes, don’t they teach hispanic literature along with other cultures? This is true in some instances; however, at some schools a world literature class is not required and students can graduate from high school without ever experiencing literature from diverse cultures. Also, if a student is taking a multicultural literature class, the books are chosen without a clear cultural connection many times, and if this happens they lose their power. Unfortunately, a typical trait of multicultural/world literature classes is that they try to cover every ethnicity with one sweep. For example, they will pick one novel, play, or set of poetry from one culture and then another novel from a different culture. Many times these curriculums lack any coherence except for the fact they are all pieces of multicultural literature. Instead of choosing one Hispanic novel to include and one African American novel, etc. we should try to tie our literature together under one overarching theme. For example, the theme of identity could work and be applicable across the different culture. Another good topic could be immigration. A class could look at different immigrant experiences through out different cultures. It would also be effective to link this topic to what students are studying in their social studies classes and foreign language classes. Making connections helps students comprehend and see that the world is really a complex network of cultures and people.

A few recommendations I would give to high school teachers looking to incorporate Hispanic literature into their classrooms are to think outside of the anthology. There are many great Hispanic-American and Hispanic poets and novelists that can enrich a curriculum. Authors like Julia ?lvarez and Sandra Cisneros are excellent examples of authors that are “outside? of the traditional anthologies. Additionally, reading works by Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, and Pablo Neruda (all Hispanic writers) should be considered when looking at great works of fiction or poetry (although be careful when reviewing some of these works for appropriateness in the high school classroom!).

Asking Why

Implication for teaching!
Asking why in the classroom

One of the pitfalls of teaching another culture is that it can increase the separation between “us? and “them.? Many times as teachers we have students look for the obvious, surface level differences between cultures. It is easy to identify that Hispanic Americans come from countries where the foods are different. Identifying food as a difference is not as effective as understanding why it is different. Many times we stop short of asking and finding out why things are different. Things like clothing and foods are basic, surface level differences. We need to refocus our content to the deep cultural differences instead of the surface level differences. By deep culture I am referring to traditions and language. Of course, it is vital for students to ask why instead of accepting differences as they see them.


Major Theme within Hispanic writing:

In many of the novels I selected to read for this project the idea of identity was constantly changing. In the novels How the García Girls Lost Their Accent by Julia ?lvarez and When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago, the identity of the protagonists evolves and fluctuates between languages and cultures. For example, the use of English vs Spanish in the home, at school, and in public is an important choice that the protagonists are faced with. It is important to remember that many of our students are also facing similar choices in their own lives.

Identity in the novels takes on many different forms. Most important are the conflicts caused by environment. These are the center points for identity issues in the novels. Both of the protagonists are native Spanish speakers who move to the United States in those two novels. With their move to the United States is the additional pressure to assimilate and adopt the English language. In Santiago’s novel, Negi is forced to become a translator for her mother and her mother’s many friends because she is the one who knows English (even though her level of English is relatively low). Additionally, in Santiago’s novel, Negi is pressured to stay behind a grade because she is not a native English speaker. Speaking Spanish in the home and English in schools and the community is one issue of identity many hispanic youth face daily. Language is more than just sounds and words, it is an ideology. To accept the use of English can be viewed as accepting the American philosophy and way of life; however it is a choice that many immigrant’s children are forced to make. Relating this back to our middle school section on identity and Erikson, Negi is forced into a role that she will identify with. With the acceptance of language comes a new identity. Basically, she has to reject her old identity (to a certain extent) in order to function in her new environment, but she is never accepted in her new environment. Thus, she does not know exactly where she belongs and with whom she can identify.

In James A Bank’s book Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies, he alludes to this issue in Hispanic groups. My interview with Eileen Zeitz, a Spanish professor at UMD, also yielded similar findings about identity. In most Hispanic groups, the second generation of in the United States usually adopts the American way without much hesitation. Cuban Americans are an excellent example of this assimilation. However, the Puerto Rican Americans have not assimilated to the same extent as their hispanic counterparts. Puerto Ricans usually maintain their Hispanic identity through language and traditions even if they were born in the United States. This is possible because they are allowed to travel between Puerto Rico and the United States freely. Even though they usually continue to identify themselves as Puerto Rican, they feel the pressure to assimilate to the American mass culture. Living in a country that has different traditions and practices forces one to reevaluate beliefs. It is easy to empathize with characters like Negi when we put ourselves in their position: a foreigner in a new land without much knowledge of the language or traditions. The feeling of being a fish out of water can relate well to both high school and middle school students because they experience this feeling in their daily life as well.

April 18, 2006

Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography

Banks, James A. Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies. USA: Allyn and Bacon, 2003.

This is a great resource for any teacher who wants to teach any multicultural literature/topics in their classroom. Not only details Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, and Cuban Americans, but also describes multiple other ethnicities in detail. A quick way to brush up on the history and reasons for immigration/emmigration for ethnic groups.

Romero, Patricia Ann and Don Zancanella. “Expanding the Circle: Hispanic Voices in American Literature.? The English Journal. 79 (1990): 24-29.

Patricia Romero’s article questions our current view of traditional American Literature. She believes that Hispanic voices, along with other ethnicities, should be heard in our anthologies of literature. She also gives an example of texts to include while teaching outside of the traditional cannon.

Zeitz, Eileen. Personal Interview. 6 April, 2006.

Eileen Zeitz is a professor of Spanish in the Foreign Languages and Literature Department at UMD. She teaches classes on Hispanic Poetry, Drama, and Prose. Also, she offers classes on specific regions of Latin America like the southern cone of South America. Pr. Zeitz offered an informed view on hispanic literature and its place in our schools currently and where it should rightfully be.

Adolescent Literature

Alvarez, Julia. How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. USA: Plume Inc, 1992.

Carlson, Lori M. Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States. New York: Fawcett Juniper, 1994.

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. USA: Alfred A Knopf, Inc., 1994.

García Márquez, Gabriel. Chronicle of a Death Foretold. USA: Alfred A Knopf, Inc., 1983.

Santiago, Esmeralda. When I Was Puerto Rican. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.