Minturn students write songs of immigration
MINTURN Like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan before him, Lorenzo Toneatto hasbecome a balladeer for the common man.His first song is about immigration about how decades ago, a civil war inMexico made life in the United States look mighty appealing for a workingfamily across the border.His chorus goes like this: When Diaz was in command, the rich got moreland, the poor got poorer and poorer, so they decided to cross the border.Charlie Richards took a more satirical route. While his verses describe acountry overrun with corruption under the rule of Porfirio Diaz, his chorustakes the mocking, biting tone of Bruce Springsteens Born in the USA:Mexico is a great land, many great leaders came from Mexico, many greatthings came from Mexico.Through creating songs, these students at Minturn Middle School are learningsome history and, at the same time, finding a new way to approach one of themost sensitive topics you could study in Eagle County Mexican immigration.Why did it start? Why is it a problem now? Why are people so angry about it?Is there a solution?Hopefully, by the end of the year, the students will have some answers.
Too often, debates about immigration dissolve into anger, hostility andmisinformation, teacher Stephanie Gallegos said. She especially sees this oncomments on the Vail Dailys Web site and letters to the editor, she said.While the students are respectful of one another in class, the subject isstill uncomfortable. They know some students are here illegally. They knowmany students have fathers who are day laborers, never knowing what theirnext job will be.At the same time, some students might come from families with hostilefeelings toward immigrants, who might be instilling racism and the deportem all attitude in their children.Those two sides meet every day in the valley, and its sometimes hard tofind intelligent conversation on the topic, Gallegos said.So thats why theyre taking a slow, historical, academic approach toimmigration. By the end of the year, the students can have an intelligentdebate on immigration, Gallegos said.
Before they even talked about Mexican immigration, they spent weeks studyingwhy, in the 19th century, the Irish came by the millions to America. Today,talking about the potato famine is not at all controversial, but it carriesthe same themes people leaving their homes for a better life in the UnitesStates. Some people didnt mind them coming here, while many others hatedit.With Mexican immigration, theyre starting from the beginning, followinghistory through the Mexican civil war and the industrial revolution; throughWorld War II, when Mexicans came to fill in the shortage of agriculturalworkers; to the situation here in Eagle County, where illegal immigrationobviously has affected our schools and job market.At the beginning of every class, students read from a book called LupitaManana, which is about a 13-year-old girl and her 15-year-old brother wholose their father in a fishing accident and need to cross the border to getjobs and send money back to their families.By looking at the history of immigration, our hope is sort of to take awayour fear of the unknown so we can understand other cultures and why theycome here, teacher Noel Falk said.While the students learn why people leave their homes to come to the UnitedStates, theyll also learn about some of the negative impacts immigrationhas had on the U.S. in the past and the impacts being seen today.Its so personal, and a lot of people come here for jobs, but we are anation of laws, and we have to show that to the kids, Gallegos said.It will be perfectly fine for students to believe, after all this study,that the U.S. needs to become exponentially tougher on illegal immigration.Falk just hopes that students would come to those conclusions with someunderstanding of and respect for a different culture.We will present both sides, and theyll make their own decisions, Falksaid. But theyll at least have compassion. Theyll agree to disagreeinstead of being angry.Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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