Learning About Guatemala Through Its Kites: Cultural Values Messages in the Giant Kites of Guatemala

Level: Intermediate (3-5/6) Middle (6-8)
Grade from: 4
Grade to: 9
Length: 1 session (30 – 50 minutes)
Cultural Studies Integration:

Focus: 

This activity introduces students to cultural values messages incorporated into kite designs by Mayan Indians in Guatemala.

Curriculum Integration: 

Social studies: describes ways in which the arts serve as expressions of culture; explains how some forms of cultural communication contribute to societal cohesion and/or division

Language arts: detects and analyzes explicit and implicit messages in media

Cultural studies integration: Central America

Materials: 

Downloaded images of the Giant Kites of Guatemala (see below)

Discussion cues (PDF file)

Discussion:

For both English and Spanish speakers, emphasize the context within which these messages are advanced—that is, on kites at a local cultural/religious festival. How does this context compare with other contexts in which these messages might appear? In a national newspaper? A billboard in Guatemala City? An advertisement on Radio Activa or Trecevisión?

How do explicit and implicit messages differ in these examples? To focus the discussion, consider this statement by Guatemalan sociologist, Celso Lara, who has written about Sumpango’s giant kite tradition:

“The problem is that there is no exchange of cultures, just the imposition of American culture through television and all of the evangelical and fundamentalist religious sects that have invaded Guatemala in recent years. The goal of this cultural imposition is to create a market for gringo products among Guatemalan youth. The result is that young people, Maya, Ladino and Garifuno, do not identify with their own cultures. Since there is not state policy encouraging the promotion and protection of our national cultures, they end up choosing the easiest culture, the one that’s imposed through the mass media. It’s the imposition of rich America on poor America.”

To incorporate this material into the study of Spanish, focus on vocabulary, agreement of nouns and adjectives, and use of the imperative.

Activity:

To extend this lesson, assign students, working in teams of four to six members, to design a message/slogan and a context within which it will be presented. Analyze each team’s design for explicit and implicit messages.

For a shorter exercise, ask each student to compose a fourth saying to complement the three decipherable messages on the last image.

Related Past Projects: 
Guatemala Project 2005
Related Past Projects: 
Kite Curriculum Project