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Fronteras: things that happen when lines are crossed

March 2022

Illustration: Eduardo Cruz

This month in Lupa we explore fronteras, different kinds of borders and how they affect the lives of Latin Americans.

El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico used to be just one city. It was called Paso del Norte until the Mexican-American War separated them. Una ciudad en dos examines the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso in the context of growing US nationalism focused on a hard political border. In contrast, the reporter of the piece, Victoria, shares her own experience growing up in this liminal space, where movement between the United States and Mexico felt fluid and ordinary.

In Éxodo, we visit two towns bordering Venezuela. Cúcuta is a Colombian city hitched to the Venezuelan economy, pulled up and dragged down with it. And Pacaraima, in Brazil, has become a way station for Venezuelans fleeing their country.

But borders aren't always lines between countries. How does one live in a city where gangs exercise border control between neighborhoods? No es país para jóvenes shows us how in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, las maras decide who enters and leaves.

Language can also be divisive. Escuchadme, terráqueos brings us to Peru, where—despite the presence of dozens of languages—it is the knowledge of a particular Spanish that divides the haves from the have-nots.

Our last stop is at the dinner table. Cuy al ajillo tells two stories about borders related to food. First, the story of a Peruvian immigrant in the United States who is looking for the single, special, ingredient he requires to cook his favorite national dish. The second story is about Lisette and her family, for whom the line between "us" and "them" is made of garlic.

We hope you enjoy these stories on our app.

  1. Una ciudad en dos

    13 mins, Mexico, United States

    Maps show two cities. Up close, it's a little more complicated.

  2. Cuy al ajillo

    9 mins, Ecuador, Peru, United States

    Food can bring us closer or push us apart.

  3. Éxodo

    15 mins, Brazil, Colombia

    When your entire life is a suitcase.

  4. No es país para jóvenes

    19 mins, Honduras

    What does normal even mean in a country as violent as Honduras?

  5. Escuchadme, terráqueos

    20 mins, Peru, United States

    Speaking Spanish properly? Well, it's complicated.

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Teacher resources

Using Lupa in the classroom? No need to reinvent the wheel. Lupa Classroom offers Activity Guides created by pedagogical experts to make teachers' lives easier.

For this month’s release, we have an Activity Guide available for Escuchádme, terráqueos. This is a terrific story that can serve a variety of purposes in the language classroom.

For one, it talks about Daniel Alarcón and his struggle to speak his home language properly while living in the U.S., going to school in English, and only hearing Spanish spoken by his parents. Much like some of our heritage learners, he finds that the language spoken in his home is very different than the language his friends speak. What happens when you realize you sound more like your grandma than your classmates?

This episode also talks about Daniel’s children, Eliseo and León, and the desire to have them speak Spanish at home and what the very beginnings of that adventure sounds like.

It talks about the seemingly more eloquent, almost baroque, register of Spanish that is used in speeches and formal events. And finally, it centers all of this in the context of Peru, a place where Spanish is only one of the many languages spoken and yet is the language of access, or power, of resources, and prestige.

This guide has activities for before, while, and after listening to the story. All these activities are focused on the experience of code-switching and the language hierarchy. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Barbara Sawhill

Barbara Sawhill

Director of Education at Radio Ambulante

Barbara is a language educator with more than 20 years of classroom experience. She holds advanced degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Texas at Austin. She currently teaches Spanish at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine).

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