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A Treasured Heritage: Mexican Americans in Nebraska

By the Nebraska Folklife Network Inc., Lincoln NE © 2005

Manual (in Notebook)

Teachers Guide (90-100 pages) Contains 12 lesson plans, 4th and 8th grade NE educational standards addressed, handout masters and an appendix of reference materials

Photos and other Images

  • Image Packet (Contains a two-part timeline, and 42 other images, including photographs, drawings, maps, etc. All are 81/2 x 11 and laminated. Details are on a list of images in the packet and on the backs of the images.)


  • Traditional Clothing
    • 2 girl’s embroidered blouses (1 small and 1 larger size) – similar to traditional blouses in many Mexican regions.
    • 1 red “practice skirt”, a double-full long skirt used for many types of Mexican folk dances (ballet folklorico). Similar to those used in the traditional dances of the Mexican state of Jalisco but without the typical rickrack or embroidered decorations.
    • 1 boy’s: long-sleeved shirt with embroidery detail used for the traditional dances from the state of Aguas Calientes. Note embroidery of the eagle and cactus symbol from the Mexican flag. This shirt is traditionally worn with black and grey striped pants, but jeans look just fine with it too.
    • rebozos – long fringed scarves or shawls (1 striped in the traditional pattern of the state of Michocan, 1 red and 1 hot pink) These are a part of the traditional women’s dress in many parts of Mexico and are also traditionally used to carry babies or groceries and other items. Women and girls wear them as part of dance costumes.
    • waist sashes (1 red and one striped in colors of Mexican flag) – usually worn by men and boys with traditional dance costumes
    • bandanas (1 each red, yellow, and black) – usually worn by men around their necks along with western shirts in the northern Mexican states
    • 1 miniature sombrero
  • Other Objects
    • 1 Mexican flag
    • 1 mini piñata
    • 1 box Mexican chocolate. (Used for Mexican style hot chocolate.)
    • molinillo – wooden stirring device for frothing hot chocolate.
    • 1 set of molcajete (mortar) and tejolote (pestle) – made of black lava stone and usually used for grinding spices and chiles. Also traditionally used for making salsas and guacamole. NOTE: Do not use this for actual food preparation unless you seal it first. See sealing instructions in the appendix of the manual.
    • escobeta – natural bristle brush for cleaning the molcajete.
    • tortilla press, used for making homemade tortillas.

Audio Media

1 CD and booklet. – Los Mariachis!: An Introduction to Mexican Mariachi Music by Harpole, Patricia W. and Fogelquist, Mark

1 CD and accompanying information packet – Muscia Traditional de La Gente (Traditional Music of the People) by Mariachi Zapata, Omaha Nebraska, 2005

1 CD The Borderlands: this is Tex Mex or conjunto music from the Texas – Mexican border area. This music is popular with Nebraska’s Mexican Americans too, some of whom immigrated by way of Texas and other border states.

1 CD Fiestas: A Year of Latin American Songs of Celebration by Jose-Luis Orozco, Contains songs from various Latim American countries used for holidays and other special occasions.

1 CD - excerpts from interview with singer and songwriter Rose Cobos of Scottsbluff Nebraska. (Also see transcript handout of excerpts in manual.)

1 CD - excerpts from interview with dance teacher and seamstress Sally Briones Dittmar of Scottsbluff Nebraska. (Also see transcript handout of excerpts in manual.)

1 CD – excerpts from interviews with several members of the Arsiaga family, now of Lincoln but  formerly of Mitchell Nebraska. Their mother, Margarita Arsiaga and several siblings and a grandchild were interviewed about the traditional musicians in their family and about traditional foods and other customs their family observed.

1 CD - excerpts from interview with longtime resident Elena Flores of Alliance Nebraska about history of Mexican Americans in the Alliance community. (Also see transcript handout of excerpts in manual.)

Video Media

Chulas Fronteras (Insolent Borders) (58 minutes, 1976) and Del Mero Corazon (From the Heart) (28 minutes, 1979) by Les Blanc. Chulas Fronteras tells the story of conjunto music along the Texas – Mexico border and has some classic music by well known artists, such as Flaco Jiménez and Lydia Mendoza. Del Mero Corazon continues Blank's exploration of the music of this ethnic group.

Sangre Azteca Dancers – live performances of traditional dances from many parts of Mexico by this Lincoln Nebraska ballet folklorico group. Filmed at the Nebraska State Fair, 2004.


  • Maps
    • 1 road map of modern Mexico
  • Books

Anacona, George, The Pinata Maker / El piñatero Don Ricardo, or Tio Rico as he is called by the children, is the pinata maker of Ejutla de Crespo, a village in southern Mexico. Wonderful photographs. Told in both English and Spanish. Reading level ages 4-8, Harcourt Children's Books, 1994

Akin, S. Beth, Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Workers Tell Their Stories. This book features nine children all of whom are Latino. Each tells a different story about his or her life. All have one thing in common, either they and their families work in the fields or they have a close relative who is a migrant worker. Their stories range from being involved with gangs to the difficulty of moving up in society. As different as these nine children are, they all care very much for their families and believe nothing is more important. Throughout the book there are photographs of the children and their families. Photographs aid the text in describing conditions and emotions of the people. Reading level ages 9-12, Little, Brown Young Readers, 2000

Diaz, Jorge Ancona, Pablo Recuerda: La Fiesta del Dia De Los Muertos /Pablo Remembers: The Fiesta of the Day of the Dead This is the Spanish version of this book. The story revolves around Pablo, a boy of Oaxaca Mexico, his three sisters and their parents as they prepare for and enjoy the activities of the traditional Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead. The family goes shopping in the market and makes home altars honoring dead relatives, visits and eats with relatives living nearby, and decorates the graves and tombs of relatives. Pablo’s grandmother (Abuelita) died two years before. Pablo misses her, but he finds the rituals of the holiday to be a comfort. The family's trip to the Oaxaca market provides the reader with information about the special foods for the Day of the Dead, including pan de muertos (bread of the dead) and Calaversas de dulce (sugar skulls) Reading level ages 9-12, Greenwillow Books, 1993 
(English version published by HarperCollins, 1993)

Garza, Carmen Lomas, In My Family / En mi familia Lomas Garza uses her narrative paintings to relate her memories of growing up in Kingsville, Texas, near the Mexican border, and to reflect her pride in her Mexican American heritage. The artist portrays everyday events as well as special moments of family history in crisply colorful, vibrantly peopled paintings and provides brief, bilingual background stories for each of the 13 paintings. Reading level ages 4-8, Children's Book Press, 1997

Gerson, Mary-Joan and Gonzalez, Maya Christina, Fiesta Femenina: Celebrating Women in Mexican Folktale. A sophisticated and well-told collection of stories about Mexican women, these eight tales include folklore from a variety of the country's rich cultural traditions. Beginning with Maya and Aztec stories, Gerson also relates folktales of Mixtec, Yaqui, and Euro-Mexican origin. The protagonists are all unique and powerful in differing ways, showing bravery, cunning, trustworthiness, empathy, and serene certainty. Reading level ages 9-12, Barefoot Books, 2001

Harris, Zoe and Williams, Suzanne, Piñatas and Smiling Skeletons: Celebrating Mexican Festivals. Examines the historical background, legends, recipes, songs, crafts, and celebrations of a year of special Mexican festivals. The book is colorfully illustrated in a vibrant folkloric style that captures styles from pre-Columbian designs to modern retablos. A brief glossary of Spanish terms is included. Reading level ages 9-12, Pacific View PR, 1998

Herra, Juan Felipe, Calling the Doves / El Canto De Las Palomas This bilingual picture book is the personal narrative of poet Juan Felipe Herrera's early years with his parents who were migrant farmworkers in California. Herrera's love for his poor hardworking parents is evident. The vibrant, vivid pictures combine with the Spanish/English text to make a delightful children's book that readers of all ages will enjoy. Reading level ages 4-8, Children's Book Press (CA), 1995

Meister, Gwen, ed. Nuestros Tesoros / Our Treasures: A Celebration of Nebraska’s Mexican Heritage, Bilingual publication on the Mexican American traditions in Nebraska oral history project with photographs and biographies of persons interviewed for the project. Reading level ages 12 –adult, Nebraska State Historical Society and Nebraska Mexican American Commission, 1998