National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in the United States. It's a time to recognize the influence and contributions of Hispanic Americans to the culture of the United States. Today, we can also recognize that the Hispanic population in the United States has grown tremendously in the last few years.
Crippling economies, soaring inflation and political instability account for hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world fleeing their home countries and immigrating to others. The majority of Latin American and Caribbean migrants are looking to find a home here in the United States.
Whether you have heard about this on social media, the news, through conversations with others in your life, or have seen it with your own eyes on the streets where you live, the influx of new families and communities in the United States is evident.
In honor of the brave ones who have left behind everything they know, for an uncertain search of a chance to survive and, ultimately, thrive, I invite you to think of this: In times of crisis and desperation, how can one find joy?
Today we’ll celebrate all of those who bravely took that uncertain journey, whether recently or decades ago. In this activity*, we will create a community poem using a word map.
*This activity can be structured to be done in one period or over the course of various. We encourage you to do what’s best for your learners.
Share the following quote by Elizabeth Acevedo. Elizabeth Acevedo is an Afro-Dominican National Poetry Slam champion, poet and novelist. This is from a 2021 interview with the National Endowment for The Arts.
“Yes, I am talking about difficult things that are happening in this country, but I also want to talk about the everyday resilience and joy and celebration.” — Elizabeth Acevedo
- Ask learners: What feelings, thoughts or questions come up for you after hearing/reading this quote? Either as a whole group, small groups, or pairs, have learners share their answers.
- Today we will explore everyday resilience and joy, through celebration, through co-creating a community poem.
Creating the word map:
Use a map of Latin America, electronic or print it out. Whether it is electronically shared or individual printouts, have a place to take notes or the ability to write on the map.
Generating the map:
Invite learners to share words that relate to each Hispanic country* in the Americas, on the map. (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela) remind learners to be mindful of what they share as the focus of this activity is to celebrate culture and there will be no tolerance for any negative depictions of culture.
*Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States
What do you know about each country? Foods, slang/vocabulary, flag colors, music, dances, names of artists/writers, flora & fauna, etc.
- If learners are working on a printed out map, ask them to take notes of all the answers being shared. If working electronically, you or a learner can take notes for everyone to see.
- If certain countries are not represented and time allows, there can be a research component added to the activity to learn about those countries' culture. You may also focus on the countries that have a stronger representation of people in the United States, particularly in your community.
Now that you have a word map to work from, let's write a poem. For some inspiration, we will take a look at Elizabeth Acevedo’s work, “Afro-Latina”.
- Watch: Elizabeth Acevedo performing Afro-Latina
- In a go-round, invite each learner to read one line from the poem, until all voices have been heard and the poem has been read completely at least once. Link to poem text .
- Invite learners to share what words stood out to them.
- Take a look at your word map. What words stand out to you?
Have learners take some time to create lines with the words from the map. These lines will then be put together to create a collaborative poem. Encourage them to use multiple words from the map in each line. You can have learners choses a country they would like to write about or focus on a theme/pattern they see in the map
- Example words: arepas, plátanos, rice & beans, tortillas, passionfruit
- Example theme: food
- Example line: My taste for arepas and plátanos, vary from place to place - where rice & beans rule, tortillas take on a blue hue and passionfruit juice has many names.
Once learners have completed their lines, go around sharing the lines. You can scaffold the sharing by starting in small groups and having each group provide support in narrowing down lines to be shared with the whole group.
In a go-round, invite everyone to share their line(s). These lines should be written out as they are shared on sentence strips or large paper cut into strips.
As a class, you can now move the lines around and put them in order to create your poem. Read your poem together.
Full class go-round: What have you learned about Hispanic heritage, resilience and joy?