Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

A Kid's Guide to Latino History: More than 50 Activities

A Kid's Guide to Latino History: More than 50 Activities

by Valerie Petrillo

See All Formats & Editions

A Kid’s Guide to Latino History features more than 50 hands-on activities, games, and crafts that explore the diversity of Latino culture and teach children about the people, experiences, and events that have shaped Hispanic American history.

Kids can:

*     Fill Mexican cascarones for Easter

*   &


A Kid’s Guide to Latino History features more than 50 hands-on activities, games, and crafts that explore the diversity of Latino culture and teach children about the people, experiences, and events that have shaped Hispanic American history.

Kids can:

*     Fill Mexican cascarones for Easter

*     Learn to dance the merengue from the Dominican Republic

*     Write a short story using “magical realism” from Columbia

*     Build Afro-Cuban Bongos

*     Create a vejigante mask from Puerto Rico

*     Make Guatemalan worry dolls

*     Play Loteria, or Mexican bingo, and learn a little Spanish

*     And much more

Did you know that the first immigrants to live in America were not the English settlers in Jamestown or the Pilgrims in Plymouth, but the Spanish? They built the first permanent American settlement in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. The long and colorful history of Latinos in America comes alive through learning about the missions and early settlements in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and California; exploring the Santa Fe Trail; discovering how the Mexican-American War resulted in the Southwest becoming part of the United States; and seeing how recent immigrants from Central and South America bring their heritage to cities like New York and Chicago.

            Latinos have transformed American culture and kids will be inspired by Latino authors, artists, athletes, activists, and others who have made significant contributions to American history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Big, lively overview . . . chatty, informative text, presented in readable, spacious layouts."  —Booklist

"Full of creative projects to capture your child's interest and pride in their own heritage."  —mommymaestra.com


Big, lively overview . . . chatty . . . informative text . . . presented in readable, spacious layouts.

Children's Literature - Mandy Cruz
An invaluable reference, this book takes you through the history of Latinos and gives readers something to think about for the future. Give your children a history lesson while making capirotada, or Mexican bread pudding. Prepare for a celebration with cascarones, confetti-filled eggshells, and when your guests arrive, a game of loteria, Mexican Bingo, will help pass the time while reinforcing Spanish. When the "board" games are done, learn to dance the meringue and finish the evening off with a slice of tres leches cake and a batido, shake. This book is not about throwing a Latino inspired party; though it gives you tips; but learning about different cultures through crafts, cooking and quality time. Whether you are learning Spanish and the various cultures of the Hispanic world or are a Latino-American this book should be a cornerstone of your collection. The book gives enough insight into the Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Salvadorenos, Cubans, Guatemalans and countless other Hispanic cultures to make it a must addition to your children's library. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by trying a new recipe and reading poems by celebrated Latinos. Reviewer: Mandy Cruz
School Library Journal
Gr 3–7—History and hands-on activities introduce children to the Latino cultures that are shaping our society. The book addresses a broad historical scope, from pre-Columbian culture in the Americas to present-day debates about undocumented immigration to the United States. Petrillo does not shy away from the thorny aspects of this debate, and she gives both sides their due. Her simple, direct prose clearly explains events and issues in language elementary-school students can understand. Interesting informational sidebars are included; for example, "Sea to Shining Sea" explains how Spanish words such as barbacoa (barbecue) and rodeo entered American English. The more than 50 activities, games, and crafts help to bring Latin American cultures to life. Children can learn how to dance the merengue, celebrate Christmas Mexican-style by making farolitos (lanterns), and more. The book focuses on the most dominant Latino groups in the United States; Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, Cuban Americans, and Dominican Americans all get their own chapters. But Petrillo does an outstanding job of illustrating the rich variety within Latino cultures by describing how Central and South Americans contribute to United States culture and economy. An excellent resource for enriching children's understanding of these cultures.—Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
Kirkus Reviews
This well-documented resource, designed to support the social-science curricula in elementary- and middle-school classrooms, offers clear instructions on how to make 54 hands-on activities that celebrate the beauty and diversity of the Latino culture in the United States. Each chapter includes historical background, illustrations, maps and critical-thinking questions. Information is presented in chronological order, beginning with the Pre-Columbian civilizations and the Spanish conquest followed by the Spanish colonies in North America, Mexican independence and life in the Mexican Southwest. Individual chapters highlight the major Latino immigrant waves: Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, Central Americans, Dominican Americans and South Americans. The last chapter, "Latinos: Past, Present and Future," discusses immigration issues. This guide will not only assist teachers and students but youth services librarians committed to presenting programs that reflect the history and achievements of the ethnic groups that make up the 15 percent of the U.S. population. (timeline, introduction, bibliographies, Latino museums, suggested reading list for kids, Latino movies and videos, websites, teacher's guide, history standards and learning objectives) (Nonfiction. 7 & up)

Product Details

Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
A Kid's Guide Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
7 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt

A Kid's Guide to Latino History

More than 50 Activities

By Valerie Petrillo

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2009 Valerie Petrillo
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61374-220-4


Discovery of the New World

Christopher Columbus and the Spanish Explorers

In 1492 the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus was commissioned (hired) by the country of Spain to travel across the ocean in search of a western sea route from Europe to China. Hoisting the Spanish flag, Columbus set sail with a small fleet of three ships — the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María — and 90 men. He hoped to bring gold and spices from China back to the king and queen of Spain. Instead, on October 12, 1492, Columbus stumbled onto an island in what are now known as the Bahamas — and [ accidentally discovered a New World. At that time, no one could have predicted that one of the world's greatest civilizations, the United States of America, would be created on the shores of this strange "new" land.

The land may have been new to Columbus, but the island had been home to natives called the Taino (TAY-noh) for thousands of years. Columbus, who mistakenly believed he had landed in the spice islands of the Far East known as the Indies, named the native people Indians, and he named the island San Salvador, which means Holy Savior.

Eager to find gold, silver, and any other riches that he could bring back to Spain, Columbus explored the other islands in the area as well. On Christmas Day, the boat he was on — the Santa María — became shipwrecked on an island. Columbus named that island La Isla Española (it would later be renamed Hispaniola). He decided to use the wood from the wrecked ship to build a fort there, and he named the fort La Navidad (NAH-vee-dahd), which means Christmas. When Columbus left the island to return to Spain, he ordered some of his men to stay behind in order to build colonies and set up farms. Columbus would travel back and forth between the New World and Spain three more times in his lifetime.

At first the relationship between the Spanish who had "discovered" the new land and the natives who had lived there for centuries was friendly, but it soon turned hostile. The Spanish explorers enslaved the Indians and forced them to dig for gold and silver. The natives suffered from overwork, as well as from diseases they had never before encountered. The Spanish had unintentionally brought these diseases with them from Europe to the New World, and many natives died from them. Those who survived eventually turned against the Spanish explorers. All of the men who had been left behind by Columbus were killed, and the fort La Navidad was burned to the ground.

In 1494 Columbus returned to the islands and established the first permanent colony in the New World on what is now called Hispaniola. The colony, which was built near the place that La Navidad had been, was named Isabella in honor of Queen Isabella of Spain.

The Spanish were not the only people who sought gold, spices, and other riches in places far from their homeland. Explorers and adventurers from countries all over Europe, including Portugal, France, England, and others, soon followed Columbus's trail to try their luck in the New World. But it was the Spanish who led the way in exploring and conquering the land. In fact, the early Spanish explorers were called conquistadors (kon-KEE-sta-dohrs), which means conquerors. By 1513 the Spanish had established New World settlements in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Hispaniola, and by the end of the 1500s Spain had claimed what is now Mexico, most of Central America, part of South America, and the Caribbean islands as its own.

The Catholic Missionaries

The natives of the New World had their own, deeply held religious beliefs and customs, and they worshipped many gods — most of which were rooted in nature. The Spanish, however, believed that it was their duty to spread their own religion of Catholicism to the Indians.

Spanish missionaries who accompanied the explorers and settlers set about persuading — and sometimes forcing — the natives to give up their own religious beliefs and become Christians. Although they usually continued to worship their own native gods, many Indians also embraced Christianity to some extent. The Spanish destroyed many of the native temples of worship, and the missionaries used the Indians as laborers to build Catholic churches near the places that the temples had been.

Hernán Cortés and the Conquest of the Aztecs

In 1521 the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés led a group of 500 men from Cuba (an island in the Caribbean) into what is now central Mexico. The area was ruled by a highly civilized society of natives known as the Aztecs, and their kingdom stretched out over 80,000 square miles (129,000 km) of land. The capital of their kingdom was a city called Tenochtitlán (teh-NOCK-tea-t'lan), and thousands of Aztecs lived there. In Tenochtitlán there were magnificent temples, pyramids, gardens, and — most important to the Spanish — gold and silver. Cortés and his men decided to take over the city. With the help of powerful firearms — the likes of which had never before been seen by the natives — the Spaniards defeated the Aztecs and set about ransacking and destroying Tenochtitlán. Three years later Cortés rebuilt the city and named it Mexico City. Mexico City is now the capital of the country of Mexico.

The defeat of the Aztecs by Cortés gave Spain control over the vast amount of land that had comprised the native kingdom, and the building of a Spanish city in the ruins of Tenochtitlan paved the way for other Spanish colonies to be established in the Americas.

In 1535, the King of Spain organized these colonies into territories called viceroyalties. One of the viceroyalties was called New Spain, and it included what is now the country of Mexico, most of present-day Central America, most of the present-day southwestern United States, California, Florida, and the Caribbean Islands.

Make Champurrado: A Hearty Spanish Beverage

The early Spanish colonists adapted an ancient Aztec beverage of water and masa harina (MAH-sah hah-REE-nah), or corn flour, by adding sugar, milk, and chocolate to the mixture to create what they called champurrado (chahmpoor-RAH-thoh). The Spanish settlers enjoyed champurrado both as a beverage and as breakfast because it is warm and filling, like hot cereal. The U.S. descendents of Spanish people still enjoy champurrado, especially during the celebration of Christmas.

4 servings

What You Need

Adult Supervision Required

¼ cup masa harina (corn flour, found in the baking section of grocery stores)

4 cups milk, divided


1 disk Mexican chocolate (found in the ethnic section of grocery stores or in Latino grocery stores)

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cinnamon stick

Medium saucepan


4 mugs

What You Do

1. Place masa harina and 1 cup milk in the blender. Put the lid on the blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.

2. Place remaining milk, chocolate disk, brown sugar, and cinnamon stick in the saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the milk, chocolate, and brown sugar have melted together.

3. Add the mixture from the blender and stir constantly for several minutes, until the champurrado comes to a full boil.

4. Remove from heat, discard cinnamon stick, and pour into 4 mugs.

African Slaves in the Americas

The Spanish quickly set about colonizing New Spain, the vast expanse of land that had been seized when the Aztecs were defeated. But the conquistadors needed an enormous workforce to build and operate mines and plantations on their newly claimed land in the Americas. They first turned to the Indians who were living there, but they soon depleted the Indian population through overwork and disease. With insufficient numbers of Indians left to enslave, they then began to import slaves from Africa (just as the Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English would later do in their colonies as well).

Slaves that came to the Spanish colonies, especially to the Caribbean, were able to retain more of their language, religion, and cultural traditions than those that were sent to other European colonies. This was because there was a greater proportion of slaves (Africans) than Spaniards in the Spanish colonies. In addition, most of the Spaniards who came to the Americas to colonize New Spain were men who were either unmarried or had left their families behind in Spain, so marriages and children between the Spaniards and the African and Indian slaves were very common. Children of these unions were generally set free. In Cuba, slaves had the right to buy their own freedom. As a result Spanish slaves were able to pass down language, religions, and cultural traditions from all three origins: Africa, native America, and Spain.

In the English colonies, settlers came as families and in greater numbers than the Spanish. The English population outnumbered the African slaves, so marriage and children between them (and the Indians) was less common. In these colonies, English traditions were more apt to survive than African or Native American.

The Columbian Exchange

When Christopher Columbus and the other European explorers traveled to the New World, they brought to the Americas many of the foods, plants, animals, goods — and, unintentionally, diseases — of their homelands, as well as those of other places, such as Asia and Africa, that they had visited. When the explorers returned home, they carried back to Europe the new foods, animals, plants, goods, and diseases they'd encountered during their travels around the world. This exchange of items between the Old World and the New World would come to be known as the Columbian Exchange in honor of Christopher Columbus, the explorer who had started it all.

Did you know that when Columbus set foot in the New World there were no horses in the Americas? Horses had existed on the lands many thousands of years earlier, but they'd become extinct by the time the Spanish explorers arrived. Most people think of Native Americans on horseback greeting Columbus and the other explorers, when in fact it was those explorers who introduced the Native Americans to the horse! The European horse soon became an important part of Native American life.

Before the Spanish arrived, the only domesticated animals in the New World were guinea pigs, llamas, alpacas, and turkeys and a few other types of fowl. Pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, and chickens were all introduced to the Americas by the explorers. They also introduced many new plants, including sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee — three crops that would play a very important role in the economic success of the future colonies.

Thanks to the Columbian Exchange, Europe was introduced to a whole new world of things as well. The tomato, which is used in pizza, spaghetti sauce, and many other Italian dishes, did not exist in Europe until the Spanish explorers brought it back with them from the New World. Even potatoes, Ireland's favorite food crop, came from the Americas. Chocolate, one of the world's favorite treats, comes from the American cacao plant. And, if it weren't for the American chicle plant, there would never be chewing gum. The Spanish explorers had never seen corn, which was called maize, before they landed in the New World. They took that back to Europe, too. But the diseases that were exchanged between the Old World and the New World caused many people to become ill or even die. The Native Americans were the hardest hit. They had lived in isolation for thousands of years with exposure to very few diseases, and their bodies did not have the immunities needed to help protect them against the smallpox, malaria, yellow fever, and other germs and viruses that the explorers exposed them to. As a result, the Old World diseases caused the deaths of thousands of Native American peoples.

Put Together a Columbian Buffet

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a product of the Columbian Exchange. Peanuts come from the Americas, while jelly (made from grapes) and bread (made from wheat) come from the Old World. If you have potato chips on your plate you can thank the Native American potato, but if you finish your lunch with a banana and a glass of milk you're eating Old World foods.

Have some fun putting together a buffet of Old and New World foods.

What You Need

5 or 6 plates of food (choose from lists at right)


What You Do

1. Choose foods from the lists of New World and Old World Foods and serve a buffet of 5 or 6 plates to choose from. Invite friends or family members to guess which "world" is responsible for each food.

Old World Foods
New World Foods

chicken corn
bacon peppers
milk tomatoes
eggs pumpkins
bananas chocolate
oranges potatoes
cheese peanuts
bread made from wheat strawberries
onions squash
peas turkey
hamburgers pineapple


The Spanish North American Frontier

Until recently, many history books taught us that the English colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth were the first settlements in North America. In reality, the Spanish had established colonies in North America many years earlier. The first permanent North American settlement, St. Augustine, was established by Spanish explorers 42 years before the English began to build the colony of Jamestown in Virginia, and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock!

These first settlers were Spanish and mestizo people who traveled overland from what is now Mexico to what is now the United States. The first Spanish colonies were in the Southeast, primarily in what is now Florida, an area historians call the eastern borderlands. The most developed of the Spanish land, however, was on the other side of the country, in present-day New Mexico, California, Arizona, and Texas, as well as in parts of what are now Utah and Nevada. From the 16th to the 19th century, this vast area was known as the western borderlands, the Spanish West, and — as it is still called today — the Southwest. The last section of North America that the Spanish claimed was a large expanse of land in the middle of what is now the United States. This land was called the Louisiana Territory.

Spanish Explorers in the North American Frontier

The explorers of the North American frontier were hoping to find rich reserves of silver and gold as had been found in Mexico. What they found was a vast wilderness populated by small groups of Native Americans.

Juan Ponce de León

The first Spanish conquistador to claim land (or even to set foot) on the North American frontier was Juan Ponce de León in 1513. He came upon what he thought was an island on Easter Day and named it Pascua Florida (PAHS-kwah floor-EEH-dah), which means "Feast of Flowers." Legend has it that Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth, a mythical water source that would make anyone who drank from it forever young. (There is no proof that the explorer really believed such a place existed, however.) In 1521 Ponce de León returned to Florida with 200 men to begin a settlement, but he was killed in a Native American attack before he could build his colony.

Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca

The story of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca is as amazing as that of Robinson Crusoe. Instead of being stranded on a desert island like Crusoe was, de Vaca was lost in the wilderness of the Americas. He was originally part of an expedition of 300 soldiers and sailors who planned to search for treasure and start a new colony on the northwest coast of Florida.

The journey began from Spain in June of 1527 under Pánfilo de Narvaéz. On the way to Florida, they were forced to stop in Cuba because of a hurricane. The expedition left Cuba the following spring and successfully reached what is now Florida's Tampa Bay in 1528. De Vaca and the other soldiers went ahead on foot into the wilderness, while the sailors set off along the coast to look for a suitable harbor. The two groups were never reunited. After searching in vain for a harbor, and then for the soldiers, the sailors gave up and returned to Cuba, leaving the rest of the men behind.


Excerpted from A Kid's Guide to Latino History by Valerie Petrillo. Copyright © 2009 Valerie Petrillo. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Valerie Petrillo is the author of A Kid's Guide to Asian American History and Sailors, Whalers, Fantastic Sea Voyages: An Activity Guide to North American Sailing Life.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews