UNDERSTANDING POETRY
Teach the students the difference between prose and poetry. Explain the writing processes utilized by a poet. What style did the poet use? Is there rhyme, sonnet, free verse, repetition, etc. There is vocabulary in the "Links to Poetry" that can be useful.

In exploring poetry, students will learn to extract meaning not just from words of the poem but also through its use of poetic devices. Students should learn the format of a poem. The white space, line, length, shape, and absence of grammar can all impact the meaning of the poem for the individual reader. Also, for Latino writers, we oftentimes incorporate a word in Spanish for dramatic effect. Why is this important? 

Poems can be about love, injustice, friendship, and many other themes. Sometimes more than one of them is included in the poem.  For poets, each word matters. Poems are deeply personal forms of expression. Readers can interpret poems in a variety of ways that were not nuanced to the poet. That is the beauty of figurative language. Read many poems by different poets to gain a better appreciation of this art form. 



APPLICABLE ELA STANDARDS

Grades 6-12:
Analyze how a drama's or poem's form or structure contributes to its meaning. 

Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot.

By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in the work.
 
POEM #1 "FELIPE"
 

QUESTIONS AND CRITICAL THINKING:

1.  Why did the author start his book with the poem Felipe?
2.  How does the author use modern technology in his introduction?
3.  Why does the author thank Felipe for coming to America?
4.  The author did not meet Felipe so what does he use to describe him?
5.  Does the author believe that Felipe would be proud of his ancestors?
6.  How has modern technology changed how geneology is determined?
7.  The state of Durango in Mexico is part of northern Mexico.  What Europeans settled this area?

ACTIVITY:   BRING A PICTURE OF A RELATIVE TWO GENERATIONS REMOVED AND WRITE A POEM BASED ON THE PICTURE
https://www.history.com/topics/mexico/durango

CLICK ON THE LINK TO FIND OUT MORE REGARDING DURANGO. 


POEM #2:  HERMANOS

1.  What line is repeated several times? Why?
2.  What is their moment of sorrow? How do you think this event affected them?
3.  How can you tell that these brothers were successful?

In Mexican culture and tradition, the eldest brother holds high esteem in the family. He is viewed as the protector of his siblings and mother. How can you tell that Ramon was the eldest brother?  

Throughout these poems "La Mina" the "Mine" looms large. San Francisco del Oro, Chihuahua, Mexico has been a mining town for centuries. Every aspect of the town is influenced by the mine.  Ramon did not have any intention of working in the mine. He hated it. His goal was to come to America and seek his fortune.  His little brother Hector did work in the mine in his late teens and early twenties. You can see pics of him in the "Album" link. 

To gain a better understanding of the influence of the mine, it is important to understand how an industry can play such a huge role in the daily life of its citizens. 

What cities in the United States have had similar influences?


POEM #3:  DESFILE

1.  Who was Lazaro Cardenas?

2.  Why was it prideful for Mexico to nationalize its industries?
3.  What was going on in the United States during the 1930's?

Social, political, and historical context is always important in providing clues to literature. Would you consider this poem to be political? Why or why not?


  
Hector, Mariana, and Josefa
Hector, Mariana, and Josefa


POEM #4: LAS QUINTAS

In Mexican neighborhoods, unlike the U.S., families tend to live there for many years.? It is not unusual for children to live with their parents well into their twenties. They typically move out only if they get married or get a job at another city. Therefore, the neighbors grow up with each other and are more like family than just neighbors.?

The neighborhoods have their own unique names too. This is still a very common practice in Mexico's towns and ciities. In San Francisco del Oro, my grandparents lived in "Las Quintas." This neighborhood was a bit more upper class than most.? My grandmother had a beautiful small orchard in her front yard and the fruit was legendary. It was an honor if she shared any of the fruit with her neighbors. She always did too.?

I remember her making incredible "empanadas," (Mexican pastry turnovers) with the fruit from the orchard.?

Mexican households eat dinner late too.? Typically around 10:00 pm. After dinner, everyone would go outside and sit on the steps of their homes or walk up and down the street to talk and catch up on the latest news.?

1.? What is the value of being close to your neighbors?
2.? What role would Jose Campos have had in the neighborhood? Why?
3.? Do you know your neighbors??
4.? If you were to give your neighborhood a name, what would it be?
5.? How has technology changed the way we communicate with our neighbors and friends?


ACTIVITY: STUDY PICTURES OF THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION AND IMAGINE JOSE CAMPOS AS A 14 YEAR OLD BOY FIGHTING WITH THE MEN. WRITE A STORY OR POEM BASED ON OF THESE PICTURES.? CLICK ON THE LINK TO SEE PICTURES OF THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION.

https://www.thoughtco.com/photos-of-the-mexican-revolution-4123071


POEM #5:   MARIANA

Social norms during this time, the 40's and 50's, were strict.  Mariana was actually a niece of Jose Campos. She was given to Jose and Josefa as a child and was raised as their daughter. Ramon and Hector saw her as their eldest sister. Unfortunately, she began to see an older man and he promptly got her pregnant. She was only 15 or 16 years old. Once Josefa found out she was pregnant, she was immediately banished to the city of Juarez, where there were other relatives. 

Once she bore the child, Aida, Josefa went and took the baby from her arms to raise as her own.  Mariana was not welcomed in the Campos household again. The rest of her life she spent working as a domestic housekeeper in Juarez, Mexico.

Ramon tried to stay in touch with Mariana and would visit her and give her money when possible.  Her life was a constant struggle, up until her death.

1.  How have social norms changed in the last 75 years?
2.  Do you think that Mariana would have been banished from the town of San Francisco del Oro now if she got pregnant at 16?
3.  Josefa was deeply religious, what clues are there in the earlier poems that verify this statement.
4.  Why did Josefa banish Mariana from San Francisco del Oro?
5.  What do you think the brothers were thinking when their sister suddenly their home?
6.  What mood does the author want to convey in the last line of the poem?

 


 



POEM #6:  ESCAPE

Ramon was always curious. He did not see his future being a miner like everyone else in the village. His goal was to come to the United States. He actually did cross at the age of 13, with one of his friends. They were so hungry that they stole some food from a supermarket, were promptly caught, and deported back to Mexico. Needless to say, he got quite a whipping upon his return to San Francisco del Oro. 

He also had a passion for horses and would borrow them from whomever happened to own one in town.  His parents would not buy a horse for him, because their back yard was too small. 


1.  What was he "escaping" from? Can you think deeper than the obvious?
2.  General Pershing was sent to find Pancho Villa.  Why?
3.  Was General Pershing successful in capturing Villa?
4.  Who was Joaquin Murrieta of California?  What did he have in common with Pancho Villa?
5.  How were these two men similar to Robin Hood of English lore?
6.  Who was Gregorio Cortez?
7.  In the 30's movie serials were very popular in the United States. They were shown in theatres in Mexico too, with subtitles.  How did they typically end?  Why?
8.  The author uses the names of three famous horses in literature and history to describe the horse he is riding in the woods.  Who were these famous horses?
9.  Why do you think Ramon escaped into the woods?  Why would he want to escape?  Was he successful?


CLICK ON THE LINKS FOR MORE RESOURCES RELATED TO THIS POEM:

Pershing's Punitive Expedition

https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/wwi/108653.htm

MOVIE SERIALS OF THE 1930'S:
https://www.imdb.com/list/ls056855917/


ROCINANTE
https://rmc.library.cornell.edu/AnimalLegends/exhibition/companions/rocinante.html

SIETE LEGUAS

Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth



POEM #7:   DANCERS

Mexico has always culturally adopted traditions from the country just north of it--U.S.A.  Movies, dance, music, etc. all were incorporated by the young teenagers in Mexico during the late 40's and early 50's.  This continues to occur, although now on a much more global manner due to forms of communication--the internet!

Ramon, Hector, and their buddies worked hard Monday through Friday, so Saturday nights were their chance to relax, hang out, meet girls, and dance.  

Mexico, at this time, was very class oriented.  Hector and Ramon belonged to the upper class.  Their father was a manager of a department in the mine, so that propelled them to living in that particular strata.  You can tell by how they dressed.  When they went out on Saturday nights, they were always wearing a suit. 

1.  This poem has a unique rhythm.  What is the author trying to convey?
2.  Who was Rita Hayworth? Why would teenage girls at that time use her as a role model?
3.  Do teenagers in today's age copycat their favorite movie stars? Who are some examples of this phenomena?
4.  Did these young men see themselves as being special? Why? 
5.  Who were the famous musicians during the late 40's ad 50's?

CLICK ON THE LINKS FOR MORE DEPTH OF UNDERSTANDING:

https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/swing-swing-swing-the-best-jazz-bandleaders-of-all-time/

EXAMPLE OF SWING DANCING (LATE 40'S):



HOW TO JITTERBUG: (PERHAPS THE STUDENTS WANT TO TRY AND LEARN HOW TO DANCE LIKE THE YOUNG MEN IN THE POEM):


 



POEM #8:  PELOTEROS

Baseball was the boys' passion.  They played for as many teams as possible sponsored by their jobs.  Ramon was known for hitting legendary home runs. Hector was a quick infielder.

They loved American ball players. Ramon's idol was Jackie Robinson. 

In 1964, the Los Angeles Dodgers, payed tribute to the great Arnulfo Arras. 

1.  What role does sports play in a community?
2.  Who are the most famous Mexican born ball players who play or played in the Major Leagues.
3.  Arnulfo Arras was denied the opportunity to play pro baseball in America. Why?

CLICK ON THE LINK FOR MORE DEPTH OF UNDERSTANDING:

ON MEXICAN BASEBALL:

http://www.baseballhistorian.com/mexico_baseball.cfm

 



POEM #9:  INSPIRADO

Ramon never wanted to work in the mines.  He always wanted to live in the United States. 

1.  Why would anyone want to come to the United States during this time period?
2.  What did it take to come to the U.S. from Mexico?
3.  What happened to Ramon in Silver City, N.M.?
4.  Did Ramon have success in the United States?
CREATIVE TASK:  Write a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Dept. stating why you are willing to sponsor an immigrant to live and work in the United States.


CLICK ON THE LINK TO UNDERSTAND THE "BRACERO PROGRAM."

http://braceroarchive.org/about


 
Image



POEM # 10: SOLO POR UN PENNY

This particular poem comes from a true story that my father Ramon, told me about when he was on an early date with my mom Juanita.? They only knew each other for two weeks before getting married in Old Mesilla, New Mexico.? He was still trying to impress her when he took her to see the popular movie of the time:? "The Adventure of Don Juan," starring Errol Flynn. It was 1949.? Unfortunately, he lacked just one penny to be admitted to the drive in theatre. The cashier would not budge. Ultimately, he was denied entry.?

1.? Why did the cashier deny entry to the movie?
2.? Who is compared to the leading lady in the movie? Why?
3.? Why is Ramon seething with anger? How would you feel in the same situation?
4.? Where is the irony in the ending lines of the poem?
5.? What is "pocho" Spanish?
6.? What other poem in the book talks about Ramon and Juanita?

CLICK ON THE LINK TO SEE A SCENE FROM THE MOVIE OF DON JUAN

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiouhPyDMkM


?



POEM #11:  ALIEN CARD

1.  WHAT WORD TRIGGERS THE FEELING TONE OF THIS POEM?
2.  HOW DOES THE AUTHOR FEEL ABOUT THIS CARD?
3.  WHAT DOES AN IMMIGRANT HAVE TO DO TO RECEIVE THIS CARD?
4.  HOW DO IMMIGRANTS FROM MEXICO CONTRIBUTE TO THE U.S. ECONOMY?
5.  SHOULD THIS CARD HAVE A DIFFERENT NAME?
6.  HOW MANY OF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS A CARD LIKE THIS?
7.  WHAT IS HAPPENING TO LATINOS ENTERING THIS COUNTRY SEEKING ASYLUM?
8. WHAT ARE THE REFERENCES TO POPULAR CULTURE IN THIS POEM? WHY?



CLICK ON THE LINK TO FIND OUT MORE REGARDING THE "GREEN CARD."

https://citizenpath.com/history-green-card/



POEM #12:  RUNNING THROUGH THE                                             TREES

Ramon's birth mother was named Carlota Moreno. She had two children out of wedlock, Ramon and his brother Hector. The father was Sixto Retana.  Josefa Campos, Sixto's sister found out about the boys.  She was unable to bear children.  She discovered that they were living in squalor. Ramon was three and Hector was 1.  Josefa made a proposition to young Carlota:  Let me adopt the boys, take this money, and leave our town. Never to see the boys again.  Carlota, who was desperate, decided to take the money and leave.

Ramon was a teenager when he discovered the truth about his family.  His natural curiousity caused him to want to find out about his birth mother.  This poem is about that reunion.  Once Ramon found Carlota, he bought a piece of land in Delicias, Chihuahua, Mexico for her and her family. He also built a house on the property that still exists today.  

1.  Why do you think Carlota took the deal from Josefa?
2.  How did the other workers feel when they saw the reunion?
3.  What line does the author use to describe the poverty of the field  workers?

CLICK ON THE LINK TO SEE THE CITY OF DELICIAS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dSq0X7_DDU

 



POEM #13:  TIO BENICIO

Benicio Munoz was just 2 years old when he was left to live with his grandmother in Casas Grandes, Mexico.  Juanita, Ramon's wife, was his sister. 
She found him in the mid 60's and went to visit him. It was a very emotional reunion.

1.  The author is describing this reunion from a perspective from what age?
2.  What did Benicio have to offer his long lost family?
3.  How did Benicio feel about seeing his siblings and their children?
4.  Why does the author feel sad for Benicio?


Ramon's famous horse, Traviezo.
Ramon's famous horse, Traviezo.




POEM #14:  DOS CABALLOS


Throughout Mexico, match horse racing is super popular. Ramon, when he retired, was able to purchase a horse ranch in Camargo, Mexico.? He quickly established himself as one of the best race horse owners in Chihuahua state. His horses were so popular that two "corridos" were written and sung in his honor.?

1.? What poetic device is used to describe the horses?


CREATIVE ASSIGNMENT:? Write the lyrics of a Mexican corrido?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuAXW8w2ya8

?
THESE SIGNS WERE COMMON IN THE UNITED STATES.
THESE SIGNS WERE COMMON IN THE UNITED STATES.




POEM #15:  RAUL

Raul Marquez died in an industrial accident in the early 1960's.  He survived being a paratrooper in WW2 during the Normandy Invasion. 

1.  Why did Raul throw the chair through the window?
2.  How were restaurants in 1945 able to have policies like that? Do they exist now?
3.  What did the judge say to the owner of the restaurant?
4.  How did the French citizens feel about American soldiers?
5.  What did Raul say about prejudice?
6.  What was he thinking when he left the courthouse?


CLICK ON THE LINKS FOR MORE IN DEPTH INFORMATION:

HISTORY OF RACISM AGAINST LATINOS

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/history-racism-against-mexican-americans-clouds-texas-immigration-law-n766956

HISTORY OF RACISM AGAINST LATINO WW2 SOLDIERS

https://www.nps.gov/articles/latinoww2.htm

HISTORY OF THE BRAVERY OF MEXICAN AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN WW2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1_3VPSf3Ns


 
Ciudad Juarez remains a busy border town. El Paso, Texas is directly north.
Ciudad Juarez remains a busy border town. El Paso, Texas is directly north.



POEM #16:  CAB DRIVER

1.  Why was the author aloof toward him?
2.  Did the cab driver feel shame?
3.  How can you tell the cab driver had money?
4.  Who does the author consider his "real" grandfather? Why?


 
COAT OF ARMS FOR THE MINE IN SAN FRANCISCO DEL ORO
COAT OF ARMS FOR THE MINE IN SAN FRANCISCO DEL ORO



POEM #17:  La Mina

San Francisco del Oro, Chihuahua, Mexico is a mining town. 
1.  What are the dangers working in a mine?
2.  The poem uses what device to describe the mine?
3.  What did young boys know? Why?
4.  What job can you compare to mine work that kills thousands of American workers annually?

CLICK ON THE LINK FOR MORE INFORMATION
MINES OF CHIHUAHUA
https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=DAC18641017.2.20&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1








 
Hector Rubio, Gustavo Sierra, Ramon Retana
Hector Rubio, Gustavo Sierra, Ramon Retana




POEM #18:  COMPAS

In the Catholic faith, the notion of "Compadrazco" is very strong. When someone asks you to baptize their child, they are trusting you to look after the welfare of the child in the event you are no longer able to.  In essence, you become the parent too.

1.  The truce is more powerful than marriage. Why?
2.  Who would you ask to be your compadre? Why?
3.  How can you imagine the relationship was between Gustavo and Ramon?
4.  What is the most precious gift of all?

CLICK ON THE LINK FOR A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF COMPADRASCO.

https://family.jrank.org/pages/723/Godparents-Latin-America-Background.html

What movie in the 1970's used a famous baptism scene to underscore the nature of retaliation?  


 
Villistas entering a town.
Villistas entering a town.



POEM #19:  VILLISTA

This poem is epic-like.  My grandfather Jose Campos de la Rosa was a Villista. He was a soldier who fought with Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. 

1.  What did Jose's sister Maria think of her brother?
2.  How old was Jose when he returned to his village?
3.  In the picture that accompanies this poem in the book, Jose is seated. What does this picture portray?
4.  What did Josefa's brothers think of Jose when they met him outside their door?
5.  When he Isaac suggests to Jose to come to their house, what sign was this to Jose?
6.  Was Josefa excited that Jose was courting her? What evidence is there of that?

CREATIVE EXERCISE:  Imagine you are 20 years old and have been fighting in the Mexican Revolution since the age of 14. Write a letter to your sister Maria describing your life at war for six years. 


CLICK ON THE LINK FOR A DOCUMENTARY ON PANCHO VILLA. "THE STORM THAT SWEPT MEXICO"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVWcgOcvgV0
 
Nicolas Retana
Nicolas Retana



POEM #20:  Tio Nicolas

My great Uncle Nicolas Retana is very special to me.  I am his only namesake in my large extended family.  He was my father Ramon and Uncle Hector's favorite Uncle. He was a "man's man." He was great with his fists and a hard worker.  He came back and forth to the United States and Mexico several times as a teenager.  He finally got an opportunity and worked at Stahmann Farms until his death.  He loved Ramon as his own and when he sponsored him over to the U.S. permanently, he told the Immigration Office that he was his son. 

1.  How did Nicolas feel about the United States?
2.  Why did he love his nephew Ramon so much?
3.  What is the legacy of Nicolas?

 
Basque couple in Mexico.
Basque couple in Mexico.


POEM #21:  TIO LUCAS

My first memory of visiting San Francisco del Oro, Chihuahua was when I was five years old. My parents would take me, and my siblings, the week after school for the summer. They would then come back for us the week before school started. Those summers in Mexico were the absolute best. Naturally, the village was populated by friends and family that had been there for centuries. My great Uncle Lucas Retana, Josefa's brother, owned a small store in Charcas, the poor neighborhood. I would go there daily to get candy and listen to his stories. He spent a large part of his young adulthood traveling throughout the western part of the United States. 

1.  How does the author describe Lucas?
2.  What did Lucas do in the American West?
3.  Research why the Basques were in Idaho?
4.  What role did Lucas hold in the family?
5.  Who has that role now?
6   Why do families today not show the same interest in family history?


CREATIVE ASSIGNMENT:  INTERVIEW YOUR OLDEST RELATIVE. SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH YOUR CLASS.

CLICK ON THE LINK TO SEE HOW BASQUES INFLUENCED THE AMERICAS

https://www.euskalkazeta.com/basques-in-the-americas-1792-1893/
 
Al Gomez and the author. Summer of 1969.
Al Gomez and the author. Summer of 1969.




POEM #22:  PADRINOS

In the Catholic faith, when you are baptized, your parents choose your Godfather. In Spanish, that is your "Padrino or Nino."  My Godfather was Al Gomez.  He was a wonderful man, who as a child, was in the foster care system and later in the juvenile justice system.  He was originally from El Paso, Texas.  He was able to get his GED and worked as a heavy equipment operator.  He was also a professional wrestler in the Los Angeles wrestling scene of the 1950's.  This poem centers around a great memory I had with him and my Aunt Marrietta the Summer of 1969.  They took me to Dodgers stadium to see the Dodgers. It was a great day. 


1.  What brought the men together?
2.  Who was Don Sutton?
3.  Why does the author not want his Nino to see him cry?



POEM #23:  JEFES

This very cool picture depicts the managers of the mine at San Francisco del Oro, Chihuahua.  My grandfather, Sixto Retana, is seated 2nd to the left, next to the General Manager.  At this time, the United States, had many interests in Mexican mines and would appoint a General Manager to oversee the operation. 

I was struck by the look on their faces. It is as if they are annoyed at having to pose for this picture. 

1.  Why does the author think these men are full of ego?
2.  Who made the money from the rich ore of the mine?
3.  Contrast this picture with the others on this website of the miners. What are the differences?