This lesson has been adapted from Latino Art & Culture, a bilingual study guide produced by the education department of the Smithsonian American Art Museum .
These standards are achieved through guided work with the teacher.
Visual Art (from the National Art Education Association)
- VA.5.2 - Students analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry.
- VA.5.3 - Students describe and compare a variety of individual responses to their own artworks, and to artworks from various eras and cultures.
Language Arts (from the National Council of Teachers of English)
- N.6 Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions, and genre to create, critique and discuss print and nonprint texts (NCTE).
- To interpret artworks that tell a story about the experiences of Latinos
- To use descriptive writing to convey a personal viewpoint about artworks
Make copies of the following images for students or display them on a computer screen:
- Carmen Lomas Garza, Camas para Sueños (Beds for Dreams) , 1985, gouache on paper, 58.4 x 44.5 cm (23 x 17 ½ in.). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Museum purchase in part through the Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program
- Jesse Treviño, Mis Hermanos (My Brothers) , 1976, acrylic on canvas, 121.2 x 175.6 cm (481/2 x 70 ½ in.). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Lionel Sosa, Ernest Bromley, Adolfo Aguilar of Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar and Associates, San Antonio
SET UP AND PREPARE
Background Information for the Teacher
Also refer to the handout Artist Statements
Making a New Life in the United States
According to the most recent U.S. Census, more than 37 million Americans are Latino. Although Latinos or their forebears come from almost every country in Central and South America, the largest groups of people of Latin American heritage living in the United States today can trace their ancestral roots back to Mexico, Puerto Rico or Cuba. Latinos from the Dominican Republic and Central and South America began arriving in the United States in significant numbers in the late 1970s and 1980s. Political unrest and economic crises drove Dominicans and Colombians to the United States, while civil wars precipitated the emigration of Nicaraguans and Salvadorans. The stream of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Central and South America continues to this day, with most of these Latinos settling in communities established by Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cuban Americans.
Mexican Americans make up the largest Latino group in the United States today (more than 67 percent of Latinos are Mexican American, according to the U.S. Census). Mexicans became American citizens in large numbers with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 sent Mexicans fleeing to the United States. Many of these immigrants worked as agricultural laborers in the rural Southwest and California and as miners, loggers, cowboys and construction workers on railroads. During and after World War II, some Mexican Americans moved northward, primarily to urban areas of the Midwest, Maryland and Pennsylvania, where they found jobs in steel factories, meat-packing and automobile manufacturing plants, utility companies, construction and other industries. They also labored on farms or worked on railroads and in the mines of the Midwest. Mexicans were also lured to California by the promise of good jobs in manufacturing, agriculture and on the railroads.
Throughout history, the immigration policy of the United States has been one of fluctuation, from halting Mexican immigration during the Great Depression to recruiting Mexican workers for American employers faced with shortages of labor during World II. In 1942, Mexico and the U.S. established the Bracero Program, which allowed employers to recruit temporary Mexican workers, known as braceros, until the program was dissolved in 1964. After World War II, undocumented workers began crossing illegally into the U.S. Between 1947 and 1955, more than 4.3 million of these workers were detained and sent back to Mexico. In 1968, a ceiling was placed on immigration in the Hemisphere, limiting the number of Mexicans who have been allowed to immigrate to the United States. Most Mexican immigrants settle in the large Mexican American communities in California, Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, Arizona and Colorado.
Tell students that they will be studying the work of two very different Mexican American artists whose stated intention is to express something about Latino experience in their artworks. Students will be interpreting the paintings to reveal the stories they tell.
Divide the class into groups that will work on the handout Answer These Questions about the Painting. Assign one of the paintings to each group.
Reassemble the class to review their answers. Reveal the actual titles of the paintings, comparing the titles the students created. Then have students read the Artist Statements handout. (You can also watch short video clips of Carmen Lomas Garza discussing her artworks at http://americanart.si.edu/education/corazon/artistas_01.cfm ).
Have a discussion that addresses the following:
- Does the information from the artists change the students' interpretations of the paintings?
- Does anything in the paintings or the artists' statements relate to the students' own experiences?
- Do the students think that family is especially important in the Latino community, or is family a universal value?
On the Internet, find more than three hundred images of families of various cultures and historical periods at the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, http://photography.si.edu. This rich collection includes photos ranging from snapshots of everyday people to portraits of presidential families. Preselect images that connect to your curriculum or have students select images they like.
Have students write a paragraph or short essay about families, comparing and contrasting the photographs, or comparing and contrasting the photos with the paintings in this lesson.
For additional teaching resources visit www.SmithsonianEducation.org