La Virgen de Guadalupe was a unifying force among the Mexican people from the time of the Aztecs. Legend* states that the mother of Jesus appeared to the Aztec people in the form of an Aztec maiden to let the people of Mexico know that conversion to Christianity was the correct path to take. Since then, she has been the patron saint of Mexico. As a result, La Virgen has served as a unifying symbol for the people of Mexico.
Likewise, La Virgen was a unifying force among the UFW. She was proudly displayed in UFW rallies and speeches. She is a unifying symbol as well as a symbol of the moral justice of the goal migrant workers were trying to attain.
*The use of the word ‘legend’ should be handled with great sensitivity. To some students, what is called ‘legend’ may be a religious fact.
How and why is religion used to rally people?
What does La Virgen de Guadalupe represent to Catholic Mexican Americans?
Expected Learning Outcomes:
Students are to see the unifying force that religion can have among a group of people. As an extended activity, this concept can be equated with movements that rally people because they are struggling/fighting for a “cause higher than oneself.”
Students will create a cause and effect pattern graphic organizer and use it to write an essay that makes real-world connections on the unifying force that religion creates.
A comparison chart will help demonstrate understanding of the discussion. The measurement should include a clear connection between the two historical periods.
The student essay can elaborate on the information found in the comparison chart. The grading rubric should include an assessment of the historical connections.
Culture and Values
La Virgen de Guadalupe
Prayer of the Farm Workers’ Struggle, César E. Chávez.
The Plan of Delano, (Spanish, English) Point # 3 “…At the head of the pilgrimage we carry La Virgen de La Guadalupe because she is ours, all ours, Patroness of the Mexican people. …”
Picture, copyright Oscar R. Castillo, Coachella, 1972 of César speaking with picket of La Virgen. Found under “United Farm Workers Achievements Under César Chávez” on the UFW Web site.
Cartoon “Statue of Huelga.” This can be obtained by searching the San Jose State University Web site.
“Tortilla Priest” marches in support of the cause, 1971.
Picture of Statue of Liberty
Display a picture of Statue of Liberty. What does she represent to Americans and people all over the world? Now display a picture of La Virgen de Guadalupe*, what does she represent? Discuss. The teacher can also choose to use symbols from everyday life to help students see the power that symbols have. Help the students see the connection that symbols have to culture throughout the lesson by making connections to every day symbols that stand for either America or culture in their local communities.
*Teacher Note: To some students, comparing a secular statue to a religious saint may cause some negative feelings if students are not familiar with the legal guidelines surrounding religious study within the classroom. These can be found on the CDE Web site concerning the teaching of religion within the curriculum. Utmost care should be taken to let students know that this comparison is taking place to discuss symbols outside the realm of the religious nature of La Virgen de Guadalupe.
Students should have a strong background in discussing sensitive issues, especially issues of conscience. First Amendment information found on the CDE Web site is a good place to start.
Students also need to be aware of the struggles that the Conquistadors and Priests had when trying to convert the indigenous people of the Americas. Students should be aware that conversion to Christianity did not come easily for people, especially those that truly believed in their indigenous faith. Depending on maturity of students, the teacher may want to discuss the mixing of Catholicism that went on with indigenous faith that makes Latino Catholicism unique from traditional Roman Catholicism.
Students must also understand the reasons that migrant workers had for striking. Knowledge of the Delano Grape Strike and pilgrimage are essential.
Use the motivation activity to help the students understand the importance of symbols and the unifying force that symbols have. Within the discussion, the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe can be further understood.
After motivation activity, the students should read or review the issue of the conversion of the indigenous people of the Americas.
The legend* of the La Virgen de Guadalupe can then be told to the students. Ask students to list why they think La Virgen became the Patron Saint of Mexico. According to legend, how did she unify the people of Mexico? What does she represent for the people of Mexico? Write answers on the board.
Show the picture of Chávez speaking with the picket of La Virgen next to him. Ask students why her image would be used by the UFW; discuss and write on the board. (Some possible answers may be that she stood for virtue, justice, nonviolence, etc).
Ask students to orally make connections between the two time periods. What do they see in common from their discussion or what has been written on the board?
Explain to students that they will be writing a short paragraph that makes the historical connections between the Mexican legend* of La Virgen and the use of her image by the UFW.
Rubric for grading should be explained to students. A rubric should be used to help the students understand what is expected during their writing. It is expected that the students be given credit for defining and using the terms correctly in their writing and for the quality of their connections.
Students should now individually write a paragraph explaining how La Virgen was a unifying force for the Aztec/Mexican people and the members of the UFW.
For those students who may have trouble getting started, the following expository frame may be used. If students in the class can write well without the scaffolding of an expository frame, it may constrict them.
La Virgen de Guadalupe has served as a unifying force among people of Mexican descent. Among them are _______________________, ___________________________, and ________________________________. In the 1500s she stood for ___________________, ________________________, ____________________ among the Aztec/Mexican people. She still stood for these things among the UFW as can be seen in _______________, ________________, ____________________________.
Student paragraphs can then be shared.
An extension of this activity could be to have students discuss revolutions/wars and the need for the participants to believe in a “cause higher than oneself.” The teacher can display major military/social revolutions and have students review the “cause” that the people were fighting for. For example: American Revolution - Freedom; Mexican American War - Manifest Destiny; WWI - Arsenal of Democracy; WWII - Stop Tyranny (freedom of the world); Vietnam - Stop Communism; Migrant Workers - Social Justice.
The discussion can also take on the phenomena of “the cause higher than oneself” being such that it spreads destruction, such as with the Crusades or with the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.
If prompted, the discussion can tie into freedom of religious pluralism movements by asking students, “Why doesn’t the U.S. flag have a religious symbol or icon if so many of the founding colonists came for religious reasons?” The tie-in can be made with the grade eight CDE lesson on Ecumenism and The Great Awakening.
Students can gain more understanding of the Delano movement by reading the CDE middle level biography on César E. Chávez.
The First Amendment Center’s Web site is a wonderful reference for any individual wanting to see application of the First Amendment. The link to the Freedom Forum provides valuable guidelines for teaching about religion within the curriculum.
CDE lesson (César E. Chávez material) on Ecumenism and the Great Awakening.
Pre-reading skills will activate prior knowledge through classroom discussion. Active discussion will be used in the creation of a comparison chart. Post-reading skills will be used during the expository frame.
Speaking and listening skills may also be used if teacher chooses to have students share their paragraphs with the class.
Writing skills will be improved through expository paragraph that makes historical connections. The expository frame can be used with students that are struggling writers.
The spirit of ecumenism is more important now than ever before. Students can do their part in bringing awareness to this need by asking their local ministers and religious leaders about ecumenical movements in their area or suggesting that such a dialogue needs to get started. The students can also research to see if their local school district has a policy for dealing with issues of religious diversity within the school district. The First Amendment Center/Freedom Forum can contribute valuable information towards this goal.