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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sin nombre: A Movie of Interest to Spanish Community Service Learning Students

While our goals for students who do community service learning is for them to learn language and culture, we also want them to be better informed about immigration issues so that they can better critical thinkers about the immigration debate in our country.

When our students form relationships with Latina/o immigrants, they can think about immigration issues with a real person in mind, not some phantasm created from fear and racism. In our program at the University of Illinois, students who work at the Refugee Center in particular hear immigration stories (sometimes horrific ones). And because the Refugee Center works with immigrants, refugees and asylees from around the world, our students who work there also can see that immigration is a global phenomenon--not the "US versus Mexico" image that so many want to project.

Sin nombre is a film about one type of immigration story. It was very successful at Sundance, and I saw this interview with the director on http://www.salon.com/. While the immigrants my students work with are very different than those portrayed in this film, I still think Spanish community servie learning students will be interested in this movie. The more we know about the realities that immigrants come from, the better we can understand their motivations--for me, that is what lies at the heart of immigration reform as well.

One last note about the video clip above: I noticed immediately that the actors use vos. That's one of those verb forms that we tell students in typical Spanish classes that they can ignore, along with vosotros. We teach them "standard Spanish" (as if that actually existed), and then when they work in the community they encounter people from Central America who use vos. Do students need an introduction to vos when they do Spanish community service learning? If you know that many of the immigrants in your community come from regions where vos is used, then yes, students will need to be instructed in its use. At least to be able to recognize it and understand it when others use it.

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