When we talk about surface culture, we refer to the tangible things that are related to and unique to anethnic group. The customs and practices carried out by Hispanics become associated with them and when theyare mentioned, in our minds they automatically trigger the concept "Hispanics. " Associated with surface cultureare the arts and crafts, intellectual achievements, historic events, spirituality, daily living and race. Someelements of the Hispanic surface culture are:
Food: Living in the southwest we are already familiar with many Hispanic foods, such as tortillas, tamales,enchiladas, and tacos. A lot of these foods actually originated in the Indian cultures of Mexico and some ofthe ones we are familiar with have names that come from the Nahuatl language: tomate, chocolate, chile,aguacate, calabaza. Using these words and translating them into English actually validates the students'culture.
Holidays: As in many other cultures, Hispanic holidays fall into three categories: religious, patriotic and personal holidays.
La Noche Buena, the Holy Kings or the Epiphany is celebrated on January sixth. It marks the end of Christmas, the twelfth day. In Hispanic cultures, this holiday is for the children. It is customary to give children their Christmas gifts on that day, instead of December 25th. The three Holy Kings, Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior bring the gifts as does Santa Clause in the Anglo culture. Today most children receive gifts on both days.
El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead or all Souls Day of the Roman Catholic Church, is celebrated on November 2nd by bringing food to the cemetery and putting it on the graves of loved ones. Bakeries sell pan de los muertos (bread for the dead) and death symbols such as skeletons and skulls are used as decorations, somewhat similar to our Halloween.
La Virgen de Guadalupe, is celebrated on December 12th to commemorate the appearance of the Virgin Mary to an Indio boy in 1531. In his vision, the Virgin made an appeal to the people to honor her. Many supplications, rosaries and prayers of Mexican Roman Catholics are made to the Virgin of Guadalupe and many Mexicans wear a medallion bearing her image. Today, many faithful Mexicans come to her cathedral from their villages, often walking for miles on their knees, to pray to her. Since the Virgin of Guadalupe is considered a national symbol of Mexico, a more elaborate discussion will follow later.
Las Posadas begin on December 16th and continue until Christmas. Posada means inn or lodging. Children and adults carry lanterns and candles, and go from door to door singing and begging for shelter for Mary and Joseph. They are denied many times until they are accepted at the "stable. " When they are finally accepted at the last house, they all meet, sing, eat tamales, drink atole, and break the pinata.
La Noche Buena or Holy Night is December 24th and, spiritually, represents the high point of the Christmas season. Traditionally, families do not have a tree, but rather, a very elaborate nativity scene. Supper, very late at night, consists of fish which is symbolic of Christ's life.
Cinco de Mayo is May 5th and celebrates the Baffle of Puebla which marks the end of the French Intervention in Mexico in 1862.
El Dia de Independencia is celebrated on September 16th, commemorating the Mexican Independence from Spain in 1810. On the 15th of September, at midnight, the President of Mexico stands on the balcony of the presidential palace and gives the grito de independencia, the cry of independence: "Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico" This begins the festivities of the 16th of September which last all day.
El Dia de la Raza, the day of the race, celebrates the blending of the indigenous people with the Spaniards, forming a new race of people after America was discovered in 1492. In Mexico it is celebrated on the 2nd of October and in the United States on the 12th, Columbus Day, and commemorates and validates the "Mexican Race" as one proud people.
Birthday celebrations are very similar to those in the United States, except for the use of a pinata.
However, Saints' Days are still observed in the Hispanic culture. Many Hispanics are named after Catholic saints, and the day of that particular saint is their Dia de Santo.
Quinceaneras are a debut, a formal introduction of a girl into society on her 15th birthday. The termcomes from quince (fifteen) and ano (year). It is celebrated very elaborately, as elaborately as a wedding.When someone in class gives as a reason for having been absent, that he/she attended a girl's 15th birthday,the instructor is often baffled, because it is not customary in Anglo culture to stay home from school becauseof a birthday. However, the quinceanera is the highlight for a young girl and is just as important as thebarmitzvah is for a young man in a Jewish family. The quinceanera starts with a religious service, a massof dedication and a festivity with music and dance. In fact, a chambelan (chamberlain), an older brother orrelative, will teach the young girl how to dance before the coming out celebration. The girl is accompaniedto the altar by 14 young girls, each representing a year in her life, and 14 male escorts, the parents,grandparents, godparents, and pajecitos (maids and masters), and younger family members. The 15th male escort is the chambelan (chamberlain) and her personal escort.
Weddings top the quinceaneras only in maturity. Most weddings in the Hispanic community are celebrated in a traditional way. The best man is the padrino and the maid of honor is the padrina. Other attendants are the padrinos de lazo (rosary), padrinos de arras (coins), and padrinos de cojin (pillow) who provide these items for the bride and the groom. Death observances are traditional Hispanic Catholic funerals and services that are observed by the nuclear and the extended family. The velero (wake) is solemnized at home, the rosario (rosary) at the funeral home and the entierro at the cemetery. It is as important for the extended family to participate as for the nuclear family. Dance and Folklore also belong to the surface culture. Ballet Folklorico and the Mariachis are welcome subjects for the Hispanic students to expand on. Among the adult students, the instructor can often find musicians who sing folkloric music and play the guitar. They are called mariachis When the teacher has a birthday, and lets the students know, they often surprise him/her with the birthday song Las mananitas. If the instructor enjoys singing, it is refreshing to change the pace from drills and other exercises to singing an English song. The pedagogic value of learning songs, as well as rhymes in another language is indisputable, especially for retaining foreign language vocabulary. What we most remember from our childhood are nursery rhymes, songs, and prayers if we were brought up with them. Folktales and Legends are stories that come from the collective consciousness of a people and not just from one writer. They are told and retold throughout the centuries through the art of storytelling. Popular imagination has transformed real people into magical beasts, demons, or people with supernatural powers. One of the most told legends is La llorona (the weeping woman) who wails for her lost children and is often interpreted in modern Mexico as a response to the injustices and cruelties suffered by Mexico at the hands of the invaders. To use a Mexican story, well known to the students, but in English, makes it easier for the students to understand, because they are familiar with the content of the story. Students should be encouraged to bring other folktales of their culture to class, or, after the teacher has listened to various suggestions and written the titles on the board, assign some students to go to the library near their homes and check out the tales and legends in an English translation. This could be done on a regular basis.
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