Latino Americans

What are the stories of U.S. Latinos and how do they inform the broader American narrative? From southern Florida to the San Juan Islands of Washington state, from the pre-history of the nation through today's most contentious issues, Latino experiences illuminate our country’s history and its struggle to live up to its ideals. This collection of lesson plans, videos and classroom resources invites teachers and students to explore the history, people and issues chronicled in the PBS series, Latino Americans. Along the way, it engages students in dramatic real-life stories and offers primary texts that serve the goals of the Common Core.

  • Cuban Exodus

    In 1959 Fidel Castro and a group of rebels overthrew the Batista regime in Cuba. In the following years the establishment of a comunist government led successive waves of Cubans to leave the island. A burgeoning Cuban exile community grew in south Florida. The Capó family, Gustavo Pérez Firmat and Nena Torres share firsthand accounts of their departures, including a clandestine crossing by sea and a childhood plane trip as part of Operation Peter Pan. 

    Grades: 4-12
  • GI Forum Mobilizes

    With chapters all over the country, the G.I. Forum is growing. Out of it rise the "Viva Kennedy" Clubs that help seal the tight 1960 election. Later LBJ follows through on promises made to the Forum's Dr. Hector Garcia. 

    Grades: 4-12
  • Rita Moreno & West Side Story

    In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the smash hit West Side Story sets the story of Romeo & Juliet in the contemporary context of street gang turf wars. It's a double-edged sword that reinforces stereotypes about Puerto Rican youth but also catapults a young Rita Moreno toward the highest honors in Hollywood. 

    Grades: 4-12
  • Apolinaria Lorenzana & the California Missions

    Apolinaria Lorenzana was sent to Mexico's northernmost outposts as a young orphan. She grew up in the California missions and later received a land grant when the missions were secularized. She lived to see California become part of the United States and struggled to hold on to her property near San Diego.

    Grades: 4-12
  • New Mexico & Las Gorras Blancas

    In this clip from Latino Americans, students will learn about New Mexico, which was transferred to the United States in 1848. The experience is unique from that of Texas or California. Las Gorras Blancas organize resistance, but Mexican Americans are able to occupy positions of power and influence.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Puerto Rico to New York

    Puerto Rico is hit hard by the Depression and the U.S. implements Operation Bootstrap. The island experiences new industrialization but many look to use their U.S. citizenship to seek opportunity on the East Coast. Great numbers of Puerto Ricans move to New York, including Juanita Ortiz Sanabria. As they strengthen this growing community, they also confront challenges in their new home. Stereotypes about Puerto Ricans in general and Puerto Rican youth in particular shape many of the challenges of the 1940s and 1950s.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Gustavo Pérez Firmat

    Through the eyes of a 10 year-old boy, follow the experiences of Cubans who left the island in the late 1950s and early 1960s and settled in Miami. Writer Gustavo Perez Firmat details his family's story.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo

    This clip from Latino Americans focuses on Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Vallejo was an elite californio who experienced the transformation of California from the northern outpost of Mexico to the burgeoning western frontier of the United States. Though he was made a prisoner during the Bear Flag revolt, he would embrace his new nation. Land grabs and even lynchings were common in the Gold Rush era. In order to protect his property and rights, Vallejo would eventually take his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Juan Seguín

    This video clip from Latino Americans focuses on Juan Seguin, who illustrates the complicated story of Texan independence and the racial tension that was part of the westward expansion of Anglo American society. Juan Seguín is a third generation tejano and shares in the vision of a Texas independent of Mexico. He fights at the Alamo alongside Bowie, Crockett and Travis. He survives to be a leader of the new Texas, only to be exiled in the racially motivated violence that would follow.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Eligio Peña

    With the fallout of a brutal dictatorship, many Dominicans seek out a safe haven. Eligio Peña arrives in New York as the Dominican community of the Northeast begins to establish itself. Working multiple jobs, he creates a path to prosperity.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Bernardo Vega

    After the Spanish-American War, Puerto Ricans are in political limbo for over ten years - not fully American but not independent either. U.S. citizenship is granted to all people of the island in 1917 though without the rights of full political representation. Many Puerto Ricans take advantage of the new ability to move about the U.S., including a young Bernardo Vega. Their aspirations for coming to New York differ from the outcomes and a burgeoning community continues to grow in the Big Apple. 

    Grades: 4-12
  • The Farm Worker Movement

    Farm workers play a crucial role in feeding the nation and ensuring the viability of commodities, yet they have suffered extremely poor working conditions for many years.  Explore the early days of the United Farmworkers under the guidance of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. See the conditions that led to the organization of a farm labor union and the initial challenges to its work.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Herman Badillo

    An orphan from Puerto Rico, Herman Badillo arrives to New York where he defies educational tracking and later becomes a prominent politician who helps mobilize the Puerto Rican electorate and becomes a congressman who champions civil and voting rights among other reforms. 

    Grades: 4-12
  • Voter Mobilization in Texas

    San Antonio's Henry B. Gonzalez set new precedents as a state legislator and later a member of Congress. He fought off a segregaton backlash and held big dreams for his community. But for a new generation of Chicano activists, like José Luis Gutierrez, this approach was too slow. South Texas becomes home to the newly formed La Raza Unida party. By focusing on voter registration and correcting gerrymandering, Willie Velasquez finds a third way between the gradualism of Gonzalez and the radicalism of Gutierrez.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Demonstrations of 2006

    In 2005 anti-immigration rhetoric turned into legislation. In response, massive numbers of Latino Americans rallied for comprehensive rather than punitive reform. Huge demonstrations across the nation opened a new chapter in Latino political mobilization. But, stringent anti-immigration efforts moved to state legislatures shortly after. 

    Grades: 4-12
  • Carlos Vaquerano

    Political instability and violence grow in Central America in the 1970s as Cold War factions battle there. Carlos Vaquerano, the 15 year-old Salvadoran, is part of a large migration seeking stability and safety in the United States.

    Grades: 9-13+

Contributor: WETA