Dear Future Teachers,
I'm back with another post celebrating Latinx Heritage Month! This week I want to talk about the importance of representation in the classroom. When I was in K-12, I never had a Latinx teacher. While I still made good grades and had great experiences in school, I never saw my culture as part of the educational sphere. I never had a teacher who could relate to me culturally, and that's a connection I believe all students should be able to make with at least one educator in their life.
I did not have a Latinx teacher until my sophomore year in college, and let me tell you, the difference was incredible. I have now had three Latinx educators in my college career, and I have cherished those classes. Hearing Spanish used in the classroom, listening to the stories of my teachers that I could relate to, having my culture referenced in class as more than just a curricular talking point, all of these things made me feel more visible in the classroom space. I know not every classroom can have Latinx teachers, and that's okay! Representation can be accomplished in other ways, for example, you can teach students about influential individuals in their culture. Today I present to you 5 Latinx individuals that you should discuss in your classroom!
Sylvia Mendez was denied access to an all-white school in California due to being Mexican-American. In the third-grade, she became the child in the center of the Mendez v. Westminster case in 1947. This case ruled that Mexican-Americans could not be segregated into separate schools from white students on the grounds that the schools for Mexican-American students had less resources, lower-quality teachers, and inadequate facilities. This case took place several years before the Brown v. Board of Education case and started the groundwork in ending segregation in California public schools. Today she is a Civil Rights Activist and has a school named in her honor.
(Image sourced from https://www.nprillinois.org/post/sylvia-mendez-pioneer-school-desegregation-movement#stream/0)
Pablo Alvarado is an immigrant worker from El Salvador who got into activism around Worker's Rights for immigrant laborers. Similar to the early works of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, Alvarado utilizes his advocacy and activism to help laborers organize and mobilize for sustainable working conditions. Today he is a director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
(Image sourced from http://stproject.org/lio_directory/pablo-alvarado/)
Berta Cáceres was an internationally recognized indigenous Honduran environmental activist. Raised by a social activist, Cáceres quickly learned the importance of standing up for the rights of humans. Much of her activism was spent fighting against the Honduran government and corporations for their illegal logging activity that negatively impacted the indigenous Lenca peoples. Her final moments of activism were spent opposing an illegal dam set to be built on the Gualcarque River. It was dangerous to live in Honduras as an environmental activist, and sadly, Cáceres was murdered in 2016 for her protests against the dam. Her death sparked outrage across the world, and today her work is being continued by other environmental activists.
(Image sourced from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/29/berta-caceres-seven-men-convicted-conspiracy-murder-honduras).
Roberto Clemente was a well-known Afro-Puerto Rican baseball player. He had a stellar career as a baseball star, becoming the first Latin American to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. On top of his athletic career, Clemente was a human rights activist focused in Latin American countries. After Nicaragua experienced an earthquake, Clemente learned that supplies was not being delivered appropriately due to corrupt officials. Clemente boarded a plane to aid in delivering the much-needed supplies, but unfortunately never made it to Nicaragua as his plane crashed into the ocean. To this day, he is remembered for his outstanding baseball career and his charitable efforts for those in need.
(Image sourced from https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1149087-21-facts-you-may-not-know-about-roberto-clemente-on-the-anniversary-of-his-debut)
Sandra Cisneros is the Mexican-American author of The House on Mango Street, a bestselling story that piloted Cisneros to literary prominence. Cisneros has created two non-profits (Macondo Foundation and the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation) to help aspiring writers. Cisneros tells the stories of working-class families and has paved the way for upcoming Mexican-American authors. She's received numerous awards and recognitions, and The House on Mango Street has sold over 6 million copies since it was written.
(Image sourced from http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/an-interview-with-sandra-cisneros/)
There are many other Latinxs in the U.S. who have had been influential in our history. I encourage you to explore more Latinx figures in U.S. History and share with your classes! Latinx history IS U.S. history, so your students should see these figures represented in your lessons. It is inspiring and creates a cultural connection that they might not get from other classes. If you know of any other Latinx people in U.S. history that you feel should be highlighted, feel free to send me a message through the Contact Form on my Home Page or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.