¡Qué Viva México! Culture in the Classroom at Grant Beacon Middle School

At Grant Beacon Middle School, our extended-day Enrichment program is going great!  Our third quarter Enrichments have just come to an end and we’re ready to start up the 4th quarter.  My Enrichment is called Qué Viva México and it is about Mexican culture in the United States.

When I first got to Grant, many students shared with me that they are Mexican and were excited to find out that I am too.  We connected on small cultural commonalities like Spanish, quinceañeras, Chavo del 8, Takis, and more.  I began to realize that the students were desperately searching for ways for their identities, particularly their cultural identities, to be affirmed at school as their cultures and histories are often not acknowledged in any formal curriculum or class.  Also, although many students at Grant come from Mexican households or backgrounds, very few of these students know their own histories or consider their stories to be part of bigger social issues such as immigration, poverty, and racism. Taking all of this into consideration as well as the students’ excitement and pride in their culture, I decided to create an enrichment called “¡Qué Viva Méxcio!”

¡Qué Viva Méxcio! provides a safe space to talk about issues affecting the Mexican and Latino community and gives students the opportunity to learn about their roots and their cultures.  With food, activities, games, and poetry, ¡Qué Viva México! engages students in a fun way to dissect difficult issues.  From spoken word performances about immigration to Theater of the Oppressed improv about racism, students are learning language arts, social studies, and other academic subjects through the perspectives of their own life experiences.  Not only does this learning transfer to their other classes, but it also results in higher self-esteem – students are developing a deep sense of pride in their often stigmatized cultural identities.

I lead the class with the help of community member Bonifacio Sánchez, a college graduate who immigrated to the States at the age of 8 and has worked in the fields picking fruits and vegetables for most of his life.  With many students lacking family members who have graduated from high school, ¡Qué Viva Méxcio! provides the students with role models they can relate to who have navigated and survived the world of higher education.

As one of the most highly requested enrichments at Grant, two new sections of ¡Qué Viva México! are about to begin for Quarter 4 and many students will get the opportunity to become part of the ¡Qué Viva Familia!

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Councilman Paul D. Lopez came to class and encouraged us to stay in school and give back to our community.

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The director of the non-profit Café Cultura, Ara Cruz, came to our class and taught us how to use poetry as a form of cultural expression to tell our stories.

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¡Qué Viva México! students from Quarter 2

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“Migrant Farmworker Activity” – kneeling on the ground and hunching over for 3 minutes straight to experience a glimpse of what it would be like working in the fields.  Many farmworkers spend over 10 hours a day in this position.

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