Latino Heritage: A Discussion Activity

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Teaching Tolerance offers the following essays and activities to help students gain a deeper understanding of past and present struggles for Latino civil rights.

Discussion Activity

Don't Call Me Puerto Rican
All Latinos are not the same! This teen writer from New York discusses the power of identity, and how it feels when adults think that Latino cultures are interchangeable (from Youth Community).

Discussion Questions:
1. To what ethnic group does Janill belong? Which ethnic group or culture do you belong to? How important to you is your racial, ethnic or cultural identity? Why?

2. What are some of the similarities the author says are shared among Latino people? What about the differences -- Janill states very clearly that Latino cultures are distinct and not identical. Why do you think this distinction is so important to her?

3. According to the author, why do people from Hispanic countries choose to emigrate?

4. Which Latino groups (and other ethnic groups) exist in your community (like El Salvadorans, Venezuelans, Guatemalans, etc.)? In what ways are these cultures celebrated or acknowledged in your community?

5. Janill decides not to participate in the parade. Sometimes, the biggest statement you can make is by not doing something. How is that possible? What are other examples of this in history? In your own community or school?

6. At the end of the essay, Janill describes some of the benefits of being in the minority – she calls herself a "rare species." What can be some of the challenges when someone is in the minority? How does this relate to the happiness Janill felt when she heard her brother's story of what happened in his class?

Immigrant Dreams
A Los Angeles teenager joins the fight for immigrant rights – and realizes her connection to history – after hearing her parents' immigration stories (from LA Youth).

Discussion Questions:
1. After hearing her father's story, Ana was able to reflect on growing up in the U.S. and was able to understand how her dad felt, taking a risk and leaving life as he knew it. Have you ever had to leave a familiar place? What does it feel like -- or what do you think it might feel like? If you had to leave the U.S., what would you miss most? How well do you think you'd adjust to learning a new language? New friends? New foods and customs?

2. Ana mentions that her parents crossed into the United States "illegally." Think about the way this word is used. Is there a difference between calling an action "illegal" and using this word to describe a person? If so, what is it?

3. Once Ana realizes her family's immigration story, she decides to participate in the national boycott in support of immigrant rights. Some people would use this as an example to support the statement, "The personal is political." What do you think this statement means? How could you apply this statement to your own life?