At a House Subdivided 1950 - 1990

Teachers Level Two

Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 6 - 8

Voices and Choices--Efren Carrizales
Note: It is a good idea to print Level Two for easy reference.

Voices and Choices

Efren Carrizales has moved to Chicago from Mexico in order to find work. He has left his wife and three girls in Mexico. Efren misses his family terribly and wants to be with them. He can't afford to return to Mexico where there are no jobs. Should he move his family to Chicago while he looks for better work?


These themes can be explored with either a social studies or language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other cultures, students' own lives.


What do you think?

These questions, which come at the end of each story (minus "the answer"), can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as homework.

Where is Efren from, and why does he move to Chicago?

Efren is originally from central Mexico. He moves to Chicago in order to find work.

What kind of work does he find? In what way is he overeducated for this work? What drives him to remain in Chicago?

When Efren first arrives in Chicago, he finds work as a dishwasher. Later he will find work as a welder. Both jobs are blue-collar jobs that require a lot of manual labor. Efren has a college degree and in Mexico worked in a textile factory. He remains in Chicago because there is work. At this time, Mexico was in a severe economic depression.

What kind of life did Efren have in Mexico? Why doesn't his wife Concepcion want to move to Chicago with their children?

Efren and Concepcion had established a nice lifestyle until the textile plant shut down. They have three children and had begun to build a house. They were near Efren's family and friends. Concepcion had work as a nurse. Concepcion prefers their lifestyle in Mexico to the urban environment of Chicago. She is used to being surrounded by family and friends in a familiar environment.

Do you think Efren takes the role of husband and father seriously?

Efren takes his role very seriously. He states in the story that a man's pride is his family. He travels all the way to Chicago and takes menial jobs in order to provide for his family.

What are the dilemmas facing the Carrizales? How do they compromise? Why must they compromise?

They must decide wether to wait for Efren to make enough money to return to Mexico or for the family to join him in Chicago. To join him in Chicago, Concepcion must sacrifice living near her mother and having steady work as a midwife. If the family remains in Mexico, then Efren will be alone for an indefinite amount of time.

Have you ever been separated for a long time from your family or loved ones? What was that like for you? In what way was the separation both positive and negative for the relationship?

Sometimes separation from loved ones can be a positive experience, allowing space for the child or adult to grow. At the same time, separation from loved ones can cause great mental stress and anguish. Ask students to share aloud their experiences of separation.

The story doesn't tell us, but do you think Concepcion continued to work after she moved to Chicago? Do both of your parents work?

As a nurse Concepcion might have been able to continue to work, depending on her ability to communicate in English. Today it is much more likely that both parents will work.

Do you expect to have a family one day? Do you expect that both you and your spouse will work?

This could lead to a good discussion about family planning, gender roles in a family--including who works, and how families compromise in order to survive--economically and psychologically.



These are suggested classroom activities and student projects that you may want to use with your students or as models to create your own.

1. Oral interviews

The theme of this interview is to find out from recent immigrants their impression of the United States. What do they like and dislike about the United States? What do they miss about their native country?

If you do not know any classmates, neighbors, friends, or family who have recently moved to the U.S. from another country, then try to find someone who has moved to your area from another part of the U.S.

Ask the person you are interviewing the following kinds of questions:

Make sure you take notes during your interview. You may even want to record the interview using a tape recorder. Notes or a tape recording will give you a "record" of your subject's memories and thoughts. Your subject is the person you have interviewed.

2. Mapping Your Community

The goal of this activity is to create a demographic map of your community. As a class, you will need to gather data about recent immigrants to your community. You may also want to find out if people from other states in the United States are moving to your area.

Where might you look for this information? Create a visual diagram of your information using push-pins and colored thread on a map of the world.
  1. Stick push-pins into your local area.
  2. For foreign-born immigrants: locate each country of origin and mark it with a push-pin. Tie a piece of green thread onto the push-pin. Stretch the thread to a push-pin marking your area and tie it. You now have a visible line showing a connection between that country and your area. Do this for all countries of origin.
  3. For people moving within the United States: locate the different places people have moved from and mark them with push-pins. Attach red thread to these push-pins and tie them off to push-pins marking your area.

Compare your visual diagram--illustrating recent trends in immigration to the United States and migration within the United States--to Side by Side 1890 - 1920Maps which gives data on immigration and migration trends at the beginning of the twentieth century.

3. Researching Cultural Diffusion

Using your map of your community,find out what kind of cultural contributions new immigrants are making to your community by researching their countries of origin. You might research:

Try and include this information on your map.


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