Mexican Migrant Workers and Their Influence In CA
An Internet WebQuest on Mexican Migrants

created by Matthew Beaton
Sonoma State University

Introduction | The Task | The Process & Resources | Conclusion | HyperText Dictionary


California is heavily influenced by Mexicans - the culture that was present at statehood and the rich culture that comes with every migrant from the different areas of Mexico. Often, we take for granted the Mexican influence in California, but it's there - from the place names of our cities and towns to the infrastructure of our roads to the architectural styles of the buildings we frequent to the restaurants we eat in to the crops we plant and the way we harvest them to our politics in Sacramento (see? - Spanish name for the capital!). It's everywhere. It's who we are. The links below offer a good start for the research into that influence and we will use it to learn more about the state's cultural beginnings and how the Mexican migrant is important.
You will be working in groups with this project and each will distill a certain area, and together make a whole, broad Big Picture. Just as the old story goes about the blind men trying to evaluate and describe an elephant, your collaborative effort will take the elements of each thoroughly researched area and synthesize your findings into a better understanding of the whole experience and the influence it has on California.

The Quest

The class will be divided into groups of 4. Each will explore the four categories - Economics and Demographics, History, Politics, Unions and the Hispanic Perspective, and Food - and relate how they influence the cultural landscape of California. You should synthesize your findings and prepare a report for the class demonstrating your understanding of the Mexican influence. But before we get started, write down all you khow about the Mexican influence in California and see how that compares to your finished research. Take about 5 minutes.

The Process and Resources

Assign 1 person for each category (by the way, much will be required of the foodie in your group!) Read thru your website(s) and report what you have learned. Be ready to discuss it with your group. Keep in mind the two main elements of your quest - the historical aspect of Mexican migrants and their current influence in California's culture, politics and economics. A group synthesis will be presented at the end of class. GOOD LUCK!

Phase 1 - Background: Something for Everyone

Use the Internet information linked below to answer the basic question of who? what? where? when? why? and how? One person from each group will research the food site below. Be creative in exploring the information so that you answer these questions as fully and insightfully as you can. Prepare to discuss the strong, pervasive influence -historically (WAY historically!) and the present - of Mexican cuisine in both personal and commercial aspects. AND share with class a recipe from the site (left hand column - 'Recipe' link) you think will be tasty. Compare the ingredients to what is available at most markets here in California.

Phase 2 - Looking Deeper from Different Perspectives


1. One (or more) student(s) from each group will research one of the categories below.

2. Read through the files. If you print out the files, underline the passages that you feel are the most important. If you look at the files on the computer, copy sections you feel are important by dragging the mouse across the passage and copying/pasting it into a word processor or other writing software.

3. Note: Remember to write down or copy/paste the URL of the file you take the passage from so you can quickly go back to it if you need to to prove your point.

4. Be prepared to focus what you've learned into one main opinion that answers the Big Quest(ion) or Task based on what you have learned from the following links.

You have 30 minutes.

Economics and Demographics

Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to economics and demographics:

1. Discuss the economic and population related influence Mexican migrants have on California.

2. Include statistics from your reading to demonstrate how Mexican migrant workers affect our agricultural, construction and restaurant industries; what effect they have on our economic infrastructure (positive? negative?); and how their numbers increase population pressure in the state.


Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to the Mexican history of California, the Mexican migrant experience, and how they are influencing California today:

1. What is the historical significance of the Treaty of Guadalupe on the attitude of many Mexican-Americans today?

2. After listening to the two interviews of Mexican migrants on The Migrant Experience website, what is your impression of what they went thru as a group? Does it continue today? Support your findings.

  • The Farmworkers' Website - Very good site for the history of the union activity, both events and movements, and the plight of the Mexican farmworker. Good links, lots of information and a choice of English or Spanish version.
  • The Migrant Experience - This website is rich with the experience from many ethnic perspectives - from Okies to Campesinos. There are photos of Mexican migrant worker as well as two interviews of migrant workers Jose Flores and Augustus Martinez
  • Hispanic Heritage Plaza - Good site that offers a different slant to history - told from the Hispanic perspective. Good site for some critical analysis of the same fact from a different take. Provides back ground on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Politics, Unions and the Hispanic Perspective

Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to the Mexican migrant's struggle for fair treatment in the work environment:

1. Describe the history of working conditions for Mexican migrant workers.

2. Discuss the effects of unionization of farm workers had on the lives of the workers, where the movement is today, and how the union's efforts will affect the farm workers' condition in the future.

  • - Very good site for links to many, many migrant worker issues.
  • The Cesar Estrada Chavez Story - Good site for the history and legend of Cesar Chavez.
  • United Farm Workers - Very good site for very current information on the UFW and its effort to improve the plight of migrant farm workers. Lots of links to archival history, articles and first-hand interviews.

Phase 3 - Debating, Discussing, and Reaching Consensus

You have all learned about a different part of Mexican Migrants and the culture they bring with them. Now group members come back to the larger WebQuest team with expertise gained by searching from one perspective. You must all now answer the Task/Quest(ion) as a group. Each of you will bring a certain viewpoint to the answer: some of you will agree and others disagree. Use information, pictures, movies, facts, opinions, etc. from the Webpages you explored to convince your teammates that your viewpoint is important and should be part of your team's answer to the Task/Quest(ion). Your WebQuest team should write out an answer that everyone on the team can live with.

Phase 4 - Real World Feedback

You and your teammates have learned a lot by dividing up into different roles. Now's the time to put your learning into a report that will educate the other members of the class.

1. Synthesize what you have learned, answering the 'Big Pcture' from above. Your group will have 5 minutes to relate what you have learned, so try to be concise in the answering of your questions.

2. Prepare to answer any questions or defend any statements/assessments you make.

3. Include as much who? what? when? where? and why? as you can.

You will have 25 minutes to collaborate.

Your Contact is: Matt Beaton


After collaboration, allow for 25 minutes discussion 95 minutes for each group).

So is an elephant smooth, rough, soft, or hard? Well, when you're blindfolded and only *looking* at one part, it's easy to come up with an answer that may not be completely right. It's the same for understanding a topic as broad or complex as Mexican Migrants: when you only know part of the picture, you only know part of the picture. Now you all know a lot more. Nice work. You should be proud of yourselves! How can you use what you've learned to see beyond the black and white of a topic and into the grayer areas? What other parts of Mexican Migrants could still be explored? Look back at the quickwrite we did at the beginning of class - how has your knowledge and understanding increased? Did you learn what you thought you would or wanted to? How will the issue of Mexican migrant workers affect the cultural landscape of California? What can we get from history to prepare for the future; about how we should relate to each other? Investigate further by outside reading or personal research - the websites above all have very good links, so use them to your edification. Remember, learning never stops.

 created by Filamentality Content by Matthew Beaton,
Last revised Mon Nov 10 15:33:27 US/Pacific 2003