La Cadena Que No Se Corta: The Unbroken Chain

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Grade Level: 7-12

AZ State Standards Grades 9-12:

1AV-P3. Reflect on and articulate reasons for artistic decisions

PO 1. State reasons for making artistic decisions

PO 2. Evaluate the success or areas for improvement seen in the artwork

PO 3. Justify the evaluation of the artwork

2AV-P1. Analyze and interpret how elements of time and place influence the visual characteristics, content, purpose and message of works of art

PO 1. Determine the factors responsible for influencing works of art

PO 2. Analyze the ways in which a work of art expresses a point of view of the time and place in which it was created

2AV-P2. Describe the function and meaning of specific art objects within varied cultures, times and places

PO 1. Research a specific art object for its function and meaning within the culture chosen

PO 2. Compare and contrast the function or meaning of similar art images/objects of various cultures and times

PO 3. Compare images used today, from various times and cultures, for purposes and meanings other than originally intended

Honors Level

2AV-D1. Analyze the origins of specific images in the visual arts and explain their importance and influence

Website Summary: This website covers the presence of popular art in various aspects of the daily lives of Mexican American families: the home, the workshop, and the community. In a variety of exercises, students will reflect on such art, contextualize it in historical and artistic knowledge, and apply new concepts to their own lives.

Teachers will find much of the same curriculum useful from this website's companion website, Southern Arizona Folk Arts.


Read introduction

  1. Questions for starters
    1. What is popular art? An art history lesson on popular art would be appropriate here.
    2. What kinds of things are typically put in museums? Who makes it and who goes to see it?
    3. When does something become museum worthy? Think about pottery; a dinner plate vs. ceramic art vs. pre-Colombian pottery.
    4. What does it mean to place everyday Mexican American crafts/art, that are usually not seen as art, or their images into a museum?
    5. How does it validate the art and the artists?
    6. Are there dangers in placing popular art in a museum, as there might be in putting graffiti in a museum? Think about what it does to the original intent of the art.
    7. What happens when art begins to be valued outside its original context, like being sold in the mall?
  2. After the students look over the website, have a discussion about tradition
    1. Have students propose definitions and examples of tradition. Write good ones up on the board and bring out conflicting ideas.
    2. Change and continuity: Talk about how traditions change over time, but are still traditions. Flush out some of the examples. How have these traditions changed over time, where did they originate, and how did knowledge on making them get passed on?
    3. Have them think about improvisation and adaptation. Think about examples given on the website: low-rider bicycles, peanut butter and jelly burritos, Bart Simpson piƱatas, etc.
  3. As a project, students may bring in examples of tradition as modern, versus things considered old-fashioned. As an art project, students could create new uses of the traditional. It might help to have them make a list of family traditions, then pick a tradition to "remake."
  4. Create a new exhibit and make an event out of it. Buy disposable cameras and send groups of students around with them. Try to capture the same kind of images found in the exhibit. Try to get enlargements donated by a photo studio. Bring in objects from home that people made for use and display them.
  5. Have students document how objects are produced in one place in Tucson and either consumed in another place or the same place. How do perceptions of the objects change/differ?

El Hogar, the Home

Summary: Students will learn about aspects of Tucson homes that may go unacknowledged but is here shown as art. Activities focus on taking new understandings and applying them to their own homes and lives.

  1. Shrines and nichos activity: have students bring in examples or take pictures of shrines in their or another community, both inside and outside of homes. Make sure they ask permission of the owner before taking pictures.
  2. Students might also create a non-religious shrine in the classroom, either based on the picture they brought of other alters -- this is the most neutral way -- or by bringing personal pictures and objects to create an alter.
  3. Journal entry: Talk about your home and why things are how they are. Where can you identify tradition as well as adaptation?
  4. As a larger project, students can carry out interviews with their parents on their homes. The class should come up with example questions to ask, such as: How did they come to be decorated as they are? How were their homes decorated while growing up? How do they feel they are carrying out tradition in their homes?

El Taller, the Workshop

Summary: This section discusses goods that are produced by the Mexican American community. Students reflect on the goods in the context of their own lives and broader social issues.

  1. Talk about what students' families do and what they produce (i.e., goods, services, etc.). Have students volunteer the information so as not to embarrass anyone. Select students who will bring in examples for discussion. If there are enough, the class can make their own exhibit out of the examples. Examples might include photos of parents' workplaces.
  2. Is the home really women's domain and the workshop "men's country?" Discuss how this is and isn't true.
  3. Journal entry: Discuss what your parents do for a living and how that affects your family.
  4. Do a lesson about globalization, how goods are coming from further away and local artisans are facing tough competition. Include The North American Free Trade Agreement, known usually as NAFTA, and how Mexico is affected. Do a Google search to find useful websites. Check out National Geographic's Globalization website. Check out their links too. How might this affect production of the crafts we see here? Is that a bad thing (you can buy it cheaper at Wal-Mart!)? What affect does it have on the community, societies, and countries? Keep in mind the issue/process is repeated all over the world.

La Comunidad, the Community

Summary: Students will read about different artwork that forms everyday parts of the Mexican American community. They will consider items included, excluded, and that may no longer exist.

  1. What else would students add to the exhibit? How do things like graffiti and tattoos fit in? Why aren't they included? Talk about stigmatization.
  2. Look through the murals in the exhibit. Which ones are still around? Are there more or less than before? Do changes tell us anything about Tucson and its community?
  3. Journal entry: Choose one of the photos or subjects of the exhibit and write a reflection about it. Pick something either with a personal connection to you or that reminds you of something.

This module was developed by Roberto de Roock, Summer 2006.