|...And the Earth Did Not Devour Him
Theme: Poverty and Discrimination
Grades: Grades 10-11
Considered a classic of Chicano literature, this 1971 novel offers impressions
of a community of South Texas migrant workers who go north to pick crops
after World War II. The book is not a straight narrative, but a layering
of stories, anecdotes, internal thoughts, and fragments of conversation,
framed by a young boy's struggle to remember his "lost year." Several
incidents are related from the viewpoint of a young boy, hurt at being
expelled from an Anglo school, enraged because his family suffers poverty
and illness, and confused about sin and the devil. Other members of
the community are introduced as well.
- Tapping Prior Knowledge: Migrant Workers.
Have students form small groups to discuss what they know about the
lives of migrant workers. Ask students to take notes on the facts
and impressions they share. Have the different groups compile their
notes in the form of a word web, chart, or other graphic organizer
on the chalkboard and then make a copy of it on paper. They might
add information to the graphic organizer after reading the novel.
- Linking to Today: Living on Low Wages.
Migrant farm workers today still have low annual incomes. Ask students
to plan a weekly budget for a family of four with a yearly income
of about $6,500. Have them assume that they must pay for housing,
food, clothing, medical care, and other expenses. What conclusions
can they draw?
If I Had a Hammer.
Challenge students to work in small groups to design comfortable
but inexpensive temporary housing for migrant workers. Each group
might create a blueprint of their design and include specifications
for materials. Students might consider housing units for families
of four, six, or eight.
- Fruits and Routes.
Have students conduct research on the three main migrant labor routes
of the 1950s—one branching out from Texas, one from California, and
one from Florida. Have students make a map showing these routes. Students
might include symbols and a key showing some of the crops harvested,
and they might note the ethnic groups that made up each stream of
- Say it With Pictures.
Many photographers have documented the lives of migrant farm workers,
including such well-known photographers as Dorothea Lange and Walker
Evans, who worked for the WPA during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In this project, students will prepare a photographic exhibit of migrant
life from the 1930s through the 1980s, showing how the life has changed
and how it remains the same.
- Divide the students into three groups. Have each group select
one of these three time periods: the 1930s-1940s, the 1950s-1960s,
and the 1970s-1980s. Instruct each group to do research to find
documentary photographs of migrant farm workers. Suggest that
students research not only under the subject of migrant farm workers
but also under documentary photography. While some students select
photographs, others might research information to prepare captions
and other text for their exhibits.
- Each group should prepare a visual exhibit that includes a title,
photographs, captions and explanatory report. Students might also
include charts or graphs in their exhibits.
- Lead students in a class discussion on what they can infer about
migrant life through the years from the three exhibits. Possible
discussion questions include: In what ways have the lives of migrant
workers remained the same over time? In what ways have their lives
changed? In more recent years, do the people seem happier? healthier?
- Chemical Overload.
Among the occupational health hazards that migrant farm workers face
is their exposure to dangerous pesticides used on farms to control
insects and weeds. In this project, students will research the use
of pesticides on farms, evaluate the health risks from exposure to
the chemicals, and consider alternatives to pesticide use.
- Divide the class into small groups. Have groups choose one of
the following topics to research: the use of pesticides of U.S.
farms between 1950 and 1990, pesticides in current use on U.S.
farms, the health risks of exposure to pesticides, the exposure
of migrant farm workers to pesticides, alternatives to the use
of pesticides in agriculture.
- Each group should research their topic thoroughly and decide
on a mode of presenting their findings. Possible formats include
a written report, a panel discussion, a multimedia report, or
a graphic display. If students live in or near an agricultural
area, they might include interviews with farmers in their research
- After the groups present their findings, lead the entire class
in a discussion of what they learned from the project.