Teaching American History Project Lesson
  Shyle Irigoin

Author: Shyle Irigoin

Unit Title: Interwar Years; 1920-1941

Lesson Title: Assimilation of Hispanics to American Culture

Subject: United States History

Level: 10-11 Grades

Length of Lesson: One 70-minute block class period

Immigration of Latinos during the first part of the Twentieth Century exploded in growth. For twenty years starting in 1910 over 700,000 immigrated to the United States. The Mexican Revolution, increased job opportunities in agriculture, and jobs resulting from World War One were all factors in immigration. The prosperity of the post-war period made opportunities for both legal and illegal immigrants, specifically in industrial fields and farming.

By the 1920s the population of Hispanics in the United States caused enough concern in the government to result in immigration restriction laws. The Great Depression added to the problems of Hispanics as deportations increased and local governments paid for voluntary repatriation to Central and South America. Tragically, many who were moved were native-born Americans who were motivated to leave due to their race rather than their place of origin. Those that chose to stay faced few job opportunities, discrimination, and many diseased that ravaged children and the weak.

Non-native born Hispanics were expected to quickly adapt and fit into American mainstream culture. During the 1930s immigrant groups including Hispanics and Europeans were often criticized for “taking too long to assimilate.” Books were published in an effort to speed up the time needed for Hispanic children to be changed by schools to fit society. An example is the 1929 Americanization Through Homemaking, printed by the Department for Americanization and Homemaking for Covina City Elementary Schools, where stereotypes of Mexicans were written as immutable facts as well as ways to properly develop the children to make them proper citizens. The devaluation of Hispanic people and their culture, the legal policies in place, and the economic depression led to an exodus of Hispanics from the US throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s.


Students will be able to describe what role education was intended to be as a socializing influence on immigrants to the United States
Students will be able to identify the different areas in education that would assimilate Hispanic to mainstream American culture


Nevada History Content Standards and Benchmarks

Standard 8.0: The Twentieth Century, a Changing World: 1920 to 1945: Students understand the importance and effect of political, economic, technological, and social changes in the world from 1920 to 1945.
Benchmark 8.12.3 Describe social tensions in the postwar era, including immigration restrictions and racism


In Class Student Activities:
20 Minutes
The teacher will begin class by asking the class which students in the class have ancestors who have immigrated to North America. As this should cover most students in the class, expect a variety of respondents. The following discussion questions should be asked:

    1. What nations/cultures did your ancestors come from?

    2. Why did they move to the United States?

    3. What are some of the customs/traditions that their ancestors have brought over with them (holidays, religious beliefs, clothing, food)

    4. Do you know how your ancestors adjusted to the mainstream culture of the United States? How?

The discussion should now turn to the concepts of Assimilation versus Acculturation. Students should be asked if they can explain the difference between the two policies, and if no appropriate answers are given should be instructed the concepts are:

Assimilation: The process by which individuals or groups are absorbed into and adopt the dominant culture and society of another group

Acculturation The process by which continuous contact between two or more distinct societies causes cultural change.

Students will need to discuss which process was the historical model (assimilation), and if society has changed its position. If time allows, students can engage in a cost-benefit analysis of each option.

Now put up on an overhead two documents, the title to the book Americanization Through Homemaking and the Preface to the Book. Ask the following questions in relation to the title page:

    1. What is the object of this book?

    2. Who is it designed for and where is it to be implemented? Why do you think this group is the targeted population?

Ask the following questions in relation to the preface of the book:

    1. What is the targeted ethnicity of the book? Why?

    2. What gender is the target of the book? Again, why?

    3. What is the attitude in regards to Hispanic immigrants and the nations they come from? What is the role of Hispanics in the United States?

    4. What audience do you think the author is writing to? What is the expectation of the reader to fulfill?

    5. Does this sound like assimilation or acculturation?

Take at least 5 minutes to discuss the reaction students have to what they have read so far. In addition, have the students summarize the status of Hispanics based on what they have read/seen so far, as well as the role of education in changing it.

30 Minutes
Students will be broken into small groups and will be given section of the book to read. There are 6 sections that will be given as primary source documents for the groups to read and analyze. The sections are (links to the sections can be found in the materials section)

    1. Sewing
    2. Foods
    3. Hunger and Crime
    4. Budgeting
    5. The Mexican Home
    6. Motherhood

Each group will be tasked with reading the documents given and make two lists: The first list will include the stereotypes that are given in the book, both positive and negative. The second list will explain how educating the girl can improve the lives of Hispanic families. Mention that EACH STUDENT must also keep notes on these lists, as it will be needed for the out-of-class assignment.

20 Minutes
The teacher will have the students report back on their findings, writing what was discovered for both stereotypes and actions to improve on the front board. A class discussion should then be conducted to wrap up the activity, having the kids answer the question of appropriateness of the views in the book and if such views/policies exist today. If so, examples need to be given. In addition, students need to also explore what impact the views and expectation of assimilation would contribute to the stereotypes and policies regarding “Mexicans” in America.


Students will use the information they have gathered to create a colorful brochure detailing the steps in their sections (using the notes they gathered in the group activities) as a public service. Students will need to approach this activity from the mindset of a 1920s social worker such as the author of Americanization Through Homemaking.

The brochure will include:

    1. A blank sheet of printer-size paper folded into three sections
    2. The information presented in the primary source document the student reviewed
    3. Paragraph sections (5-7 sentences each) with complete sentences that will address the steps that were expressed in the primary source documents reviewed
    4. Diagrams/images to accompany the paragraphs
    5. An explanation of why assimilating to American culture is necessary

This brochure should be collected 3-4 days after the class has been assigned the project. There are 30 points for this project, 6 points each per requirement above.


Enrichment Activities:
Option #1
Students will research their ethnic background (in the case of adoption/foster care, the student will research the ethnic background of a caretaker/guardian) to find how their group was expected to acculturate/assimilate to mainstream culture. Their findings will be expressed in the form of a two-page, double-spaced paper explaining the process and the impact on the family.

Option #2
Students will write a journal entry regarding the stereotypes and actions recommended in the book Americanization Through Homemaking.


Materials List:
1. All primary source documents were retrieved from the Library of Congress’ American Memory Web collections: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/cool:@field(NUMBER+@band(lg35))::bibLink=r?ammem/coolbib%3A@field

Overheard examples to be displayed:
2.Title Page of Book: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350002.gif
3.Preface to the Book: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350005.gif   

Documents to be analyzed:

Page 1: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350010.gif  
Page 2: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350011.gif   

Page 1: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350017.gif   
Page 2: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350027.gif  

Hunger and Crime
Page 1: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350032.gif  
Page 2: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350033.gif  

Page 1: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350041.gif  
Page 2: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350044.gif  

Mexican Home
Page 1: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350059.gif  
Page 2: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350060.gif  

Page 1: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350065.gif  
Page 2: http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350066.gif  


Michael Barone, Does America have an Assimilation Problem? American Enterprise (December 2000) http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2185/is_8_11/ai_68660165 downloaded on 23 July 2004   

Alan Kraut, History of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Mexican Immigration from1906-1930 University Publications of America (1994) http://www.lexis-nexis.com/academic/guides/immigration/ins/insa2.asp downloaded on 23 July 2004  

Edwin Garcia, Tracking Latino Progress http://www.hacer.org/current/US002.php downloaded on 23 July 2004

Pearl Idelia Ellis, Americanization Through Homemaking, (Los Angeles, CA) Wetzel Publishing (1929) http://memory.loc.gov/gc/amrlg/lg35/lg350002.gif downloaded on July 18, 2004