Alejandro Avalos

Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, Brooklyn NY

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.

Where I've Been

  • Cholula, Mexico
  • Cholula, Mexico
  • Coatzacoalcos, Mexico
  • Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Guanajuanto, Mexico
  • Heroica Veracruz, Mexico
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Tlaxcala, Mexico
  • Villahermosa, Mexico
  • Xalapa, Mexico

My Fellowship in Images

Looking at the mural at Tlaxcala and taking pictures to use in DBQ's for the classroom.
We interview Chucho, a local tour guide who led us la Antigua and gave us his perspective of La Malinche and the conquest.
We spoke to a book vendor and professor in Guanajuato about the legacy of La Malinche and why it's such a controversial topic in Mexican culture.
The spot where we conducted out survey of the legacy of La Malinche at the UNAM
A university student votes in our survey and writes her explanation
We explored Xochimilco, a part of Mexico city where you can still see working chinampas (floating islands) that the Aztec used to build their capital city.

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

I have come to better understand how people across Mexico understand and preserve their history and heritage, especially when it comes to the conquest and cultural identity. Interviewing a number of strangers has also helped me with how to design meaningful questions. Seeing different historical perspectives and understanding that everyone operates with different finds of knowledge and limited perspective has also helped me to question how I approach learning and teaching about history.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

I will use the videos that show different historical perspectives as well as the surveys we took to support our year long learning target centered on "understanding different historical perspectives." I think it's important for students to see that history is made up of artifacts and people who try to make sense of them. I hope this will change the students' mentality and have them focus less on finding the "right" answers, and more on building "strong" answers.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

My greatest personal accomplishment was being able to learn the story of La Malinche from so many different perspectives and thinking about why so many perspectives exist and the context of these perspectives. Taking the survey of students' opinions of La Malinche at the Autonomous University of Mexico was also rewarding because we got to take a large sample of opinions from college students and many of them had conversations with us to explain their thinking. The results were surprising!

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

We hope that by showing the students the interviews we took, the studies, images, artifacts, and videos we brought back, it will make their learning more enjoyable and relatable because they can connect these things to what we experiences and will share, rather than seeing them as abstractions that have nothing to do with them or their classroom. I hope this will make the learning more intimate and authentic and it will validate the idea that history is remembered in many different ways.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

We hope to make our curriculum public when we finish it to encourage more teachers to use our materials and case study as a way of teaching about indigenous history and the conquest from a different perspective than a Eurocentric one. We also made a tumblr bloc ( that is public and we hope can serve as a behind the scenes look at our trip and a collection of the many things we learned on the way.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

We plan on having a PBAT at the end of the unit where they act out a court trial where they have to argue for the legacy of La Malinche. Our hope is that this becomes a big production where kids dress up, role play, play different roles in court, and present it to a large audience after having researched and prepared their cases. We also want to have a showcase of indigenous foods at this event and maybe have students and families help with the cooking of these dishes.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

Part of why we want to focus on indigenous history is because of the issues and oppression many indigenous communities still face. Examples of this include the Standing Rock protests, the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Tarahumara in the north of Mexico, and how many indigenous communities are still silenced and forgotten in favor of colonialist narratives. We want students to not only be aware of indigenous history, but know that it matters, and that much can be done to help.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

Being immersed in the history we are teaching has made all the difference in not only how I understand the history, but how I am able to teach it. We now have a personal connection to the communities we spent time in since we interacted with people there, ate the traditional foods, and looked at the way history and culture is preserved. This is so important in helping to understanding how the legacy of the conquest has shaped Mexican culture. You can't get that from a history book or museum.