Culture and Community
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 Arts (from the National Art Education Association)
- N-VA.4 Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and culture
- N.6 Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts
Social Studies (from the National Council for the Social Studies)
- NCSS-1 Culture and cultural diversity: guide learners as they predict how data and experiences may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of references.
- To interpret artworks that tell a story about the experiences of Latinos
- To examine how a people creates and adapts to culture
Make copies of the following images for students or display them on a computer screen:
- Carmen Lomas Garza, Loteria-Tabla Llena , 1972, hand-colored etching and aquatint on paper sheet, 16 ¾ x 21 in. (42.5 x 53.3 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Tomas Ybarra-Frausto
- Jesse Treviño, Tienda de Elizondo , 1993, acrylic on canvas, 66 1/8 x 89 5/8 in. (168.0 x 227.6 cm.). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of the Reverend Virgilio Elizondo, San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas
Make copies of the following for individual students or for group work.
SET UP AND PREPARE
Background Information for the Teacher
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 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 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 identifying aspects of culture and considering the paintings as expressions of emotions and attitudes about Latino culture.
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 the groups' answers. Personal interpretations of the images will of course vary. Consider these discussion points:
• Can students connect these images to personal experience? Are there games, foods, decorations, etc., that are also traditions in any student’s family or community?• Are these cultural expressions important? What might happen to them over time?
Have students read the Artist Statements handout. As a class consider: Does the information from the artists enrich our interpretations of the paintings?
Having taken a close look at two artists and their work, students now explore the website "Galería from Latino Voices in American Art" http://americanart.si.edu/education/corazon , which includes the work of Lomas Garza and Treviño.
As a writing assignment, ask students to use the information on the site to address these standards-based questions:
• What is culture and what role does it play in our lives?
• What are some of the common characteristics of Latino culture?• What are some of the differences within that culture?
For additional teaching resources visit www.SmithsonianEducation.org