Teaching culture to our students is not easy. Culture is complex. It is messy. But it is beautiful, and it is important. We cannot hope that our students will be able to successfully communicate with speakers of the target language without awareness of the target culture. We can’t teach them every subtlety that they will encounter, that will influence their communication, but we can teach them about that culture is complex. We can teach them that differences are just different; not bad or good. We can teach them how to ask questions. We can teach them how to learn and grow. We can teach them how to apologize when they’ve made an offense.
Black History Month is a great time to explore the complexity of culture. ‘Afro-latino’ is a term that is used more in academia than it is in real life, and it is a blanket term that represents a range of identities. Some argue that it is a race; others that it is an ethnicity. The beautiful thing that it shows us is that we are more than the color of our skin, and we are more than the language that we speak.
There are many online resources about the term ‘afrolatino’, and I suggest using this post by Laura Sexton as a starting point to find resources to create a CI unit on the subject. It is not necessary to explore the history and all of the possible understandings and implications of the term Afro-Latino in order to study it in your class! This reading contains a simplified definition and is easily understood by first year language students. Begin by projecting the definition and reading through it with your students. Go slowly and provide translations of new terms to your students. Circle the new terms and check for comprehension. Ask questions to help your students apply the content to their own lives and situations: ¿De dónde son tus antepasados? ¿De dónde es tu familia? ¿Eres latino?…¿por qué sí o por qué no? ¿Cuál es tu raza? Describe tu identidad. ¿Con qué grupo(s) te identificas? ¿Qué factores son más importantes al definir la identidad (la raza/la etnicidad) de una persona? As you can see, even a simple definition like the one provided will help your students to understand the ‘deep understanding’ of the topic of afrolatinos: identity in all of its glorious complexity. As a bonus activity, I made a Wordoku out of the reading so that your students can get further exposure to the structures and will continue to think about the concepts that you’ve discussed in class (two versions are included; one contains some English, the other only contains images). Click here to download the reading and puzzle. Enjoy!