Title:  El Norte - Immigration South to North

Grade Level:  9-12

Subject/CA Standards:  Spanish, Social Studies 12.2.6, Border Studies

Overview:  Migration between countries in Central America is widespread, as is immigration to “El Norte”, the United States.  This film looks at the reasons why many Central Americans go North to the United States by following the story of two Guatemalans throughout their journey to Los Angeles.

Purpose:  This lesson aims to introduce students to the reasons and realities behind a journey that many people have made in order to reach the US.



  1. Video: El Norte dir. Gregory Nava.
  2. El Norte Questions sheet.
  3. Related thematic unit entitled “Why Do People Move?: Migration in Latin America” can be found on the Stanford Program for International Cross-cultural Education (SPICE) website at http://spice.stanford.edu/ldml/viewpub_sp.lasso?id=10143.  

Activities and Procedures:

  1. Brainstorm as many reasons as students can think of on the following question: “Why do people move?”.
  2. Watch the film, El Norte, answering the questions and discussing throughout.
  3. Have students interview a person that has come to the United States in the past ten years.  This person may be a friend, relative, or classmate.  Students should generate questions as a class, discussing issues of confidentiality, comfort level of interviewee, and interview protocols, then they may conduct interviews individually or in pairs.

Tying It Together:

  1. Report back to the class on findings and compile interviews.  Discuss common themes, findings and surprises.
  2. Discuss issues that immigrants face as they come to the country.  This lesson can lead into a historical study of immigration in the US or lead to a look at current affairs in California, such as Propositions 187, 228 and others.