Through an investigation of one of the most controversial figures in Mexican history, "La Malinche," explore across Mexico themes of colonialism, feminism and indigenous history to engage students of different backgrounds and support their academic achievement.
My fellowship through Fund for Teachers allowed me to learn first hand about a topic that had facinated me for some time. Through our explorations, museum visits, interviews, and conversations, we were able to better understand the legacy of the conquest of Mexico, and local perspectives on La Malinche's controversial role in helping the conquistadores. Learning about these perspectives first hand has challenged me to think more deeply about the way history is often taught at home.
As we interviewed locals about their opinions on La Malinche and her role in helping the Spanish during the conquest, we quickly realized how divisive this topic could be. The interviewees often had to take time to really think through the question, and had strong and complicated feelings about the subject. Seeing people grapple with this question proved to me how important picking a challenging central question is to push students to think deeply and to care deeply about learning history.
My greatest personal accomplishment of this fellowship was taking the time to learn in depth about a topic fascinating to me. It is unfortunately rare in my life these days that I can spend an extended period of time dedicated solely to learning. The experience helped me remember the excitement that comes from learning something of genuine interest, and the importance of being a life long learner.
During our fellowship we gathered a variety of sources including videos, interviews, photos, books, magazines, and artifacts. We think that these sources will bring this curriculum to life for students. We also hope that the fact that we gathered the resources ourselves will make the learning feel more relevant and enjoyable to students.
We hope to find opportunities to make interdisciplinary connections between subjects. We also plan on sharing our new curriculum publicly. We feel passionately about challenging the Eurocentric manor in which history, especially the history of the conquest and colonization of the Americas, is frequently taught. We plan on publishing our lessons and curriculum online and to challenge others to look at new and underrepresented perspectives when teaching history.
Our entire study will culminate in a "Project Based Assessment Test" (PBAT) essay arguing whether La Malinche should be seen as a hero, traitor, or victim. Coupled with this will be a mock trial where students will act out and debate La Malinche's legacy. We also hope to showcase some of the aspects of Mesoamerican cultures including indigenous foods in a celebration at the end of the unit.
With this unit, we intend to highlight the importance of exploring voices and perspectives often overlooked in history. We hope to show students that many indigenous communities still face oppression today. The Standing Rock Protests, and the Zapatistas in Chiapas are just two examples of this. We want to teach students about indigenous history so that they can realize there is much to be done in the present.
Immersing ourselves in the history, the culture, the food, and the people of Mexico will allow us to teach about this part of history with a passion and expertise that we otherwise would not have had. We think our passion and excitement for the material will allow our students to connect to history in a way they haven't before, challenge them to think about history more critically, help them to see that history is relevant to their lives, and most of all help them to enjoy learning.