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Let's try teaching Spanish Culture! - Mexico

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

Teaching Spanish culture should reach beyond the borders of Spain to other countries where Spanish is spoken. Teach students about the traditions and culture in Latin American countries like Mexico. Focus on cultural aspects like holidays, symbols, music and celebrations unique to Mexico.

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    Holidays

    Celebrate Mexican holidays with your class. Integrating holidays is an easy way to teach culture. Consider holidays such as Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Guadalupe Day. This day is regarded as one of the most important holidays in the country, honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Patron Saint of Mexico. Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12. Another important holiday is September 16, the day Mexicans celebrate their independence from Spain. Ask students to research traditions associated with these holidays and prepare short dialogues with classmates. Prepare traditional Mexican dishes to enjoy on these days. With older students, provide simple recipes and ask them to prepare the dish for class.

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    Symbols

    Design a piñata with your class. These are unique to Mexican celebrations and are made from papier-mache. Choose a popular person, fictional character or animal to model the piñata after. Use bright tissue paper or paint to complete the design. Teachers take note, making the piñata will take several class periods as the papier-mache needs to dry. Select a day or celebration to fill the piñata with candy or small toys and hang from the ceiling or a tree. One at a time, students are blindfolded and take turns hitting the piñata until it breaks open. There is usually a mad dash for the candy and small toys after the piñata is broken.

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    Music

    Early inhabitants used drums, flutes, maracas, sea shells and their voices to create music. However, traditional contemporary music includes Mariachi, Banda, Norteño and Corridos. Mariachis perform at festivals, restaurants, weddings and along the street. A Mariachi group includes singers, guitars, trumpets, violin and marimba players. Corridos are folk songs, telling the story of the Mexican Revolution, pride, romance, poverty or politics. Play examples of mariachi music or Corridos for students. Encourage them to listen to the lyrics for familiar vocabulary or themes. Ask them what instruments they hear in the music or bring in traditional instruments for students to examine.

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    Celebrations

    A traditional Mexican celebration is a quinceñera, a young girls 15th birthday party. This is a celebration of a girl becoming a young woman. Ceremonies consist of a blessing or mass and a dance party. Show students pictures from quinceñeras and discuss the traditional symbols such as a cross, rosary and high heels. Teach students some of the dances performed at quinceñeras such as the waltz or merengue.

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    Social Situations

    Practice common social situations with students. Encourage students to exchange proper greetings or introductions. Remember to greet each person individually and greet a person before asking a question. Even if you're unsure about the language or a correct conjugation, trying shows native speakers that you've put forth the effort and is greatly appreciated. Keep in mind that most native speakers are not big on personal space, standing closer to you when having a conversation. Encourage students to do the same so they become accustomed to this social situation. Remember family and religion are central in Mexican culture so avoid critical comments about either. Ask students to practice theses situations through dialogue or role-play.

Teaching Spanish Culture

Incorporating Spanish culture into the study and acquisition of the Spanish language, including an emphasis on several Spanish speaking countries.
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