As a Latina mom, it upsets me that history books rarely discuss Latinos who have had an impact on our society. In fact, when I set out to research this for my own children, I was surprised at how many I knew nothing about. I have talked a number of times on Mi Cielito Lindo about the crisis that young Latinos and Latinas are experiencing in this country. They are in desperate need of inspiration and guidance. They are bombarded daily by media images that insist that Latinas must be sexy and wanton, which conflicts with their family’s more conservative values. One of the major factors identified in the success of young Latinas is their relationship with their mother: Latinitas with mamís that listen – even if they don’t agree – are far more likely to succeed and grow up to be healthy and happy adults.
A recent study by researchers at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill has shown that "Latino adolescents in the U.S. who maintain ties to their culture of origin are more likely to develop healthy behaviors than their peers who do not. Latino adolescents with strong awareness of their family’s culture reported higher self esteem, fewer social problems and less hopelessness, aggression and substance abuse."
So the question is: How do we engender in our children a respect and pride for our culture? Wow. This could take a LONG time to discuss. I think that it is never too early to show our children the beauty of our Latino culture. Exposing them to the elements of our heritage includes the language, food, dance, music, and HISTORY. Which brings me to the point of this particular post: It is so important to give our children role models with whom they can relate. There are so many inspirational Latinos out there that I could start an entire blog simply featuring them. (Hmmmm….) But for now, I thought I would share with you some of the stories and on-line resources for learning more about significant figures in our cultures. Here are a few that I thought would be great to get you started on the track of exposing your children to positive Latino role models. Some are well known, while others are not. But either way, their stories are moving and inspiring.
Gabriela Mistral - The Chilean born poet who began teaching at the young age of 15 and subsequently traveled all over the world in an effort to improve schools. She was inspired by her travels and wrote many stories during this time. Gabriela Mistral is her nom de plume. She was actually born Lucila de María del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayaga – Whew! Mistral is a wonderful role model for young children because she was so passionate about learning and writing. She is noted for the many contributions she made to the education system of Latin America. Mistral finally received the recognition she so richly deserved in 1945 when she became the first Latin American writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. A prolific writer, she published more than 30 collections of poetry during her lifetime.
My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Mistral/la vida de Gabriela Mistral by Monica Brown
Nobel Prize Biographies
Poet Seers: Gabriela Mistral
Ninth Grade Language Arts Lesson Plan
César Chávez –Mexican American farm worker and founder of the United Farm Workers. This civil rights activist fought for the rights of migrant workers, including better pay and safer working conditions. He is noted for his nonviolent outlook and protests including strikes, pickets, fasting and a 300+ mile march. Though he never earned more than 5,000 a year in his life, he is remembered by millions for his determination to bring recognition and dignity to farm workers.
For more information about César Chávez, check out these books & websites:
Cesar: Si, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull
The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval
The Cesar E Chavez Foundation
Las Culturas: The Story of Cesar Chavez
Celebrate Cesar Chavez Day Lesson Plans on Reach Every Child
Cesar Chavez Lesson Plan and Worksheet on Scholastic
Celia Cruz – Cuban "Queen of Salsa." Originally studied to become a literature teacher, only to interrupt her studies to pursue singing opportunities that eventually led to stardom. She has become beloved by generations all over the world for her operatic voice, flamboyant costumes and intimate relation to the music of Salsa.
For more information about Celia Cruz, check out these books & websites:
Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers
My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/la vida de Celia Cruz by Monica Brown
Celia: Mi Vida (Spanish Edition) by Celia Cruz and Ana Cristina Reymundo
Biggest Stars: Celia Cruz
Lots of resources (lesson plans and more) related to Celia on Monica Brown's website.
Roberto Clemente – Puerto Rican baseball legend who transcended his reputation as a professional athlete to humanitarian and philanthropist. He is remembered for his efforts towards the recognition of his fellow Latino baseball players and for helping people in need across the United States and Central America. Clemente also held free baseball clinics for children in his homeland and created programs to help disadvantaged youth develop athletic skills and prevent illegal drug use. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
For more information about Roberto Clemente, check out these books & websites:
Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente
American Experience: Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates by Jonah Winter
Lesson Plans from the Smithsonian
Teacher's Guide from Parade Classroom
Con mucho cariño...
(Portions of this post originally ran on Mi Cielito Lindo)