Black in Latin America: Theme Study for Spanish Class

A story from Day Four of Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools

By Sonija Parson (Spanish teacher)


This week, in my middle school and high school Spanish classes we have engaged in discussion about the Black Lives Matter Movement and also Black people of Latin America in many different ways.  These have been meaningful discussions, and my Spanish 1 class is working on a project that will turn into a Socratic Seminar next week (here's the lesson) and a video news report on their research.  

My Spanish 2 class watched the first part of the Black in Latin America PBS Series with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and reflected on their own understanding of what it means to be Black in Latin America, history, culture, and the correlation with the current we believe statement of the Black lives matter movement. Here is a reflection from one of my Sophomores, Zoë W:


Discussion Question: What have you learned?  

Zoë: I have learned about black culture in Latin America. Before watching this series, I was almost completely uneducated on this subject and had little to no idea of the black history in Latin America. I did not realize that Latin America had just as many enslaved people as North America and I was surprised to discover that Latin America was more progressive than the United States in black rights, as they abolished slavery before the US and had their first black president, generals, and black individuals in other positions of authority before the US.

Discussion Question: Why does it matter?

Zoë: This is important because a significant portion of the population of the Americas is black, has black people in their family, or has relations with black people. This means that black history relates to a large number of people and is important.

Discussion Question: How does learning about Black people in Latin America help you learn Spanish?

Zoë: Many people in Latin America have black ancestors and this impacts the language spoken in these areas. Understanding the cultural roots of the language can allow us to better understand the language itself. Learning Spanish is far more than simply about comprehension of a language, however. To truly learn Spanish, you must learn about the various cultures associated with the people who speak the language. A language is an important aspect of a culture but is far from the only aspect, or even arguably the most important.

Discussion Question: How does learning Spanish help you learn about Black people?

Zoë: Learning Spanish can help me to learn about black people because many black people not only speak Spanish, but have ancestral ties to the language. The Spanish aspect of black history is an aspect I have never before explored in school and I am now learning that numerous significant events in black history have occurred in places that primarily speak Spanish.

Extra: What questions do you have?

Zoë: I am curious as to why I have never before learned about black people in Latin America, as the documentary as well as our class discussions have taught me that black people played a crucial role in Latin American history.

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ThursdayMykella Palmer