Growing up as a Latina in the United States gave me a different perspective of the world around me. We lived in a small urban community that was predominantly white and not ready for the transition that the Latino population would bring. I didn’t have a special ESL class, I was usually only one of two hispanics in the class, I had a hard time understanding cultural differences. We moved back and forth to Puerto Rico twice. There were no bi-lingual or hispanic teachers in my American school. I felt different, and although I have an outgoing personality, I became very insecure and was afraid to speak at school. This caused people to think that I was shy. I felt that I had only one option- either I assimilate or fail. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I met an amazing author, Esmaralda Santiago, who became a role model and inspiration for me. I have had to re-learn things about my culture, and I return to the island with my Hispanic/Austrian children so that they can appreciate the beauty of our diaspora. Below is an example of some of the art I’ve created from my travels home.
As an art teacher- I try to reach all of my students. Today I am focusing on an underrepresented population of students I’ve meet in my school experiences- the hispanics. They are the ones with the largest numbers that are dropping out and doing poorly on tests. The question is what can I do through art to reach these students? One thing I do is introduce hispanic artists into examples. Art class was the only reason I went to school somedays. I feel that this does not only help my hispanic students find a role model they can more easily connect with and make them feel proud of their heritage, I am able to use positive hispanic role models as examples to break stereotypes in my classroom. I know I am reaching them when they come over to me outside of class to talk about it more. We all know about Picasso, Salvador Dali and Frieda Kahlo – but there are so many more amazing artists. I aim to dig deeper this summer to supplement what my college art history was lacking for me. My aim is to have an arsenal of culturally diverse artists at my use. I’ve started here but was looking for more modern examples, including more women. Here is an amazing video that features a number of Latin American Women artists that we should learn about.