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Mexican-American Heritage: Texas Experiences (Gr 7)
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About the Lesson
Prior Knowledge
Hook A
Hook B
Independent Practice
Extended Learning

Mexican-American Heritage: Texas Experiences
Social Studies, Grade 7

Through the use of primary and secondary source audiovisual materials, students will examine and trace the history and experiences of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest and Texas from the sixteenth to twentieth century. Students will understand how the Mexican-American experience ties to indigenous and Spanish culture by examining the impact of European colonization and settlement on native people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Other key moments include nineteenth century clashes on the open range with Anglo settlers, Southwest farming and ranching practices, and twentieth century migrant labor. Mexican- American activism, also referred to as “Chicanoism,” in the 1960s and 1970s is highlighted and the lesson includes commentary by famed civil rights activist Cesar Chavez from 1971.

Students should have prior knowledge of the following areas to successfully take part in this activity:

  • Students should be aware of the geography of the American Southwest and its indigenous people.
  • Students should be aware of sixteenth century European exploration, particularly that of Texas, which began with the Spanish conquistadores and missionaries' arrival in 1519.  Students should be familiar with the period of Spanish rule, Mexican Independence, and Texas Republic eras.
  • Students should have a working knowledge of nineteenth century frontier experiences, the Mexican-American War, and the clashes that occurred on the open range before its closure.
  • Students should have some background knowledge of the basic farming and ranching practices of the Southwest.
  • Students should be aware of twentieth century historic movements such as the civil rights and Chicano/Tejano movements of the 1960s – 1970s. 

Defining Chicano(ism)

Ask students to “pair share” (pair–up and discuss) their interpretations of the meaning of the term(s): The Chicano Movement, Chicano Pride, or Chicanoism

Have students volunteer their answers for the class, then read or post this definition for the students to compare their answers:

  • Chicano is a term used for Mexican-Americans that reflects their ethnic pride and heritage; it also defines the literary and political movements of the 1960s and 1970s among Mexican-Americans. Inspired by the courage of the California farm worker strikes led by Cesar Chavez, the African American civil rights movement, and the Anglo-American youth revolt of the period, many Mexican-American university students came to participate in a nationwide crusade (focused mainly in the Southwest) for social betterment known as the Chicano Movement. They used Chicano to denote their rediscovered heritage, their youthful assertiveness, and their more militant agenda for social justice.

Ask students why the Chicano movement occurred during the 1960s – 1970s. Ask them what factors or groups influenced the movement. Also ask them why it is important for people to have pride in their culture.

Texas History Timeline

Have students work in pairs to put key events in chronological order.

Give groups a piece of paper, have them draw a line down the middle of it for a timeline, and post the key events (below) on the board, excluding the dates. Students should work together and put the key events in order on their timelines.

Draw a line on the board and have students volunteer their answers for the class timeline. Put the events in the correct order including dates. Students will see how many they correctly listed and add key dates to their timelines.

Key Events:

Write on Board: Reveal Later:
U.S. annexes Texas (1845)
Spanish build the mission of Corpus Christi de la Ysleta (El Paso) (1682)
The Civil Rights Act is signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson (1960)
Columbus makes first voyage to the Americas (1492)
The first people arrive in Texas (11,000 BC)
The open range in Texas closes (1880s)
Cabeza de Vaca explores the Gulf Coast of Texas (1528)
Mexican-American War ends with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)
Coronado seeks treasure in Texas (1541)
Stephen F. Austin brings first colonists to Texas (1822)
Brown v. Board & Sweatt v. Painter cases ban school segregation (1950s)
Mexico gains independence from Spain (1821)
Approximately 100,000 Anglo immigrants arrive in Texas (1873)
Texas passes laws enforcing segregation (1890s)
La Raza Unida Party is organized by Mexican-Americans in Texas (1970s)
Texas wins Independence from Mexico (1836)


Have students watch the 1971 educational film:

North From Mexico – Exploration and Heritage

Have students answer the questions on the provided worksheet (see Worksheets). Pause occasionally to clarify and provide time for students’ reflective writing.


Assign students (individual or group) a Texas civil rights film (see Videos) to analyze and highlight its main ideas, then present to the class. Have students first describe the genre of film (consult’s TAMI’s Guide to Moving Image Genres,, the main issues presented in the video, and important historical events occurring during that time.

When presenting, have student select and play 3-5 short scenes from the video that they feel best highlight the main ideas. Apart from summarizing the main ideas and playing short primary source footage, have the group or individual prepare 5 quality questions to ask the class after the presentation. Also, tell the presenter(s) to be prepared to answer questions about the film from the class or you after their presentation. Give students ample time to research, select appropriate scenes, and rehearse together (with everyone speaking) in or outside of class. Remind students to utilize the educational tabs under the video player on the TAMI website’s video pages. Also, encourage the use of their book and reliable sources like the TSHA’s Handbook of Texas,

A possible writing assignment on the Mexican and Mexican-American racial stereotyping found in early twentieth century Texas history. Unfortunately, much of Texas history was once clouded with bigotry and prejudicial stereotypes of Mexican and Mexican-American peoples. 

Using the 1915 silent film Martyrs of the Alamo to analyze this problem, have students give a synopsis of the film and write a report on the problems with racial or other biased stereotyping and history. 

Martyrs of the Alamo (1915)

Have students watch and analyze the film outside of class. Have them write a 3-5 page report with an introductory paragraph that has a clear thesis statement and body paragraphs that relate and support the thesis, addressing how history can be biased or overly-romanticized by hegemonic groups through propaganda film.  Ask students to discuss the biases in this film, define propaganda, and consider the many historical problems it causes. 

Ask students to consider if history, which is complex and multi-sided, is presented to the public in oversimplified or biased ways.  Ask students to analyze why this occurs. Does it continue to occur? Finally, ask students if popular films are reliable sources for historical understanding.  If many lack historical integrity, then what do these film reveal? Make this a loosely structured editorial assignment or refine it to focus on a few direct questions. 


1A         Identify the major eras in Texas history, describe their defining characteristics, and explain why historians divide the past into eras, including Natural Texas and its People; Age of Contact; Spanish Colonial; Mexican National; Revolution and Republic; Early Statehood; Texas in the Civil War and Reconstruction; Cotton, Cattle, and Railroads; Age of Oil; Texas in the Great Depression and World War II; Civil Rights and Conservatism; and Contemporary Texas

IB        Apply absolute and relative chronology through the sequencing of significant individuals, events, and time periods

1C       Explain the significance of the following dates: 1519, mapping of the Texas coast and first mainland Spanish settlement; 1718, founding of San Antonio; 1821, independence from Spain; 1836, Texas independence; 1845, annexation; 1861, Civil War begins; 1876, adoption of current state constitution; and 1901, discovery of oil at Spindletop

2A       Compare the cultures of American Indians in Texas prior to European colonization such as Gulf, Plains, Puebloan, and Southeastern

2B       Identify important individuals, events, and issues related to European exploration of Texas such as Alonso Álvarez de Pineda, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his writings, the search for gold, and the conflicting territorial claims between France and Spain

2C       Identify important events and issues related to European colonization of Texas, including the establishment of Catholic missions, towns, and ranches, and individuals such as Fray Damián Massanet, José de Escandón, Antonio Margil de Jesús, and Francisco Hidalgo

2F       Contrast Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo purposes for and methods of settlement in Texas

4C       Identify individuals, events, and issues during early Texas statehood, including the U.S.-Mexican War, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, population growth, and the Compromise of 1850

6D       Explain the political, economic, and social impact of the agricultural industry and the development of West Texas resulting from the close of the frontier

7D       Describe and compare the civil rights and equal rights movements of various groups in Texas in the 20th century and identify key leaders in these movements, including James L. Farmer Jr., Hector P. Garcia, Oveta Culp Hobby, Lyndon B. Johnson, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Jane McCallum, and Lulu Belle Madison White


8B       Analyze and interpret geographic distributions and patterns in Texas during the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries

8C       Analyze the effects of physical and human factors such as climate, weather, landforms, irrigation, transportation, and communication on major events in Texas

10A     Identify ways in which Texans have adapted to and modified the environment and analyze the positive and negative consequences of the modifications

10B     Explain ways in which geographic factors such as the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the Dust Bowl, limited water resources, and alternative energy sources have affected the political, economic, and social development of Texas

11A     Analyze why immigrant groups came to Texas and where they settled

11B     Analyze how immigration and migration to Texas in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries have influenced Texas


17A     Identify different points of view of political parties and interest groups on important Texas issues, past and present

17B     Describe the importance of free speech and press in a democratic society

17C     Express and defend a point of view on an issue of historical or contemporary interest in Texas


19B     Describe how people from various racial, ethnic, and religious groups attempt to maintain their cultural heritage while adapting to the larger Texas culture

19C     Identify examples of Spanish influence and the influence of other cultures on Texas such as place names, vocabulary, religion, architecture, food, and the arts

Science, Technology, and Society

20A     Compare types and uses of technology, past and present

Social Studies Skills

21A     Differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as computer software, databases, media and news services, biographies, interviews, and artifacts to acquire information about Texas

21E     Support a point of view on a social studies issue or event

21F     identify bias in written, oral, and visual material

22A     Use social studies terminology correctly

22B     Use standard grammar, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, and proper citation of sources

22C     Transfer information from one medium to another, including written to visual and statistical to written or visual, using computer software as appropriate

22D     Create written, oral, and visual presentations of social studies information

Introspective Cage