The lyrics to the song “Latinoamérica” by the Puerto Rican musical duo Calle 13 are replete with cultural and historical references, so much so that this song could inspire a semester´s worth of classroom discussion! Furthermore, the music video [see below] is a sequence of stunningly beautiful clips depicting the people and land of Latin America. This blog post describes how I use this song as the base of a task-based cultural enrichment activity with my students and provides you with the materials to do so as well. This activity would go over best with intermediate-advanced, advanced, and heritage learners.
This pdf document: PDF “Latinoamérica” Lyrics contains a handout with the lyrics to the song. There are 7 verses which are underlined, in bold, and color-coded. First watch the video as a class and ask the students their thoughts. I begin discussion by asking for students’ interpretations of the chorus. Now the task-based part. The selected color-coded verses are seven different references to Latin American culture and/or history, as follows:
- “el amor en los tiempos del cólera” – The novel by Gabriel García Márquez. You may have students research just this novel, or a more broader presentation on the autor and his works.
- “soy la fotografía de un desaparecido” – Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo who began their protest during the Guerra Sucia (1976 – 1983) in Argentina in hopes of finding their children, who the Argentine government claimed had “disappeared.” These brave women continue their protest to this day. Their white shawls have become a symbol for the fight for human rights, the denunciation of the barbarities committed during the many dictatorships of Latin America, and the remembrance of all those who suffered during such times of political injustice.
- “soy Maradona contra Inglaterra anotándote dos goles” – The 1986 World Cup. Follow link for more information: Info about 1986 World Cup
- “la espina dorsal del planeta es mi cordillera” – The Andes Mountains – Students can research not only the mountains themselves, but also the ways of life of the people who inhabit this región.
- “Los versos escritos bajo la noche estrellada” – “Poema XX” de Pablo Neruda
- Haciendo rituales de agua bendita.
El viento que peina mi cabello.
Soy todos los santos que cuelgan de mi cuello. – Religions practiced in Latin America. Not only Catholicism, but also syncretic religions such as Santería.
- “La operación cóndor invadiendo mi nido” – Operación Condor
Divide the class into 7 groups and have each group pick a selected verse to research and present to the class. I give my students one class period to work on this in class in the computer lab as well as additional days outside of class to prepare the presentation. The students use Powerpoint or Prezi to create a visual.
This is my first blog post of this nature, so I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions. For now, enjoy this breath-taking music video!
[UPDATE]: I would like to give a huge thank you to all of you who have commented! I really appreciate your feedback, and your suggestions have helped me to greatly improve this activity! The activity sheet is now in its third version.