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ESOL Students Observe Hispanic Heritage Month

Five students and two teachers pose for photo in front of class.

FSDB ESOL students in the Blind and Deaf High Schools celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), an annual national observance. Students had been studying Spain since the beginning of the year, learning about history and geography, bullfighting, Don Quixote, and a few Spanish artists. They were surprised to learn of the Moorish influence that dominated Spain for over seven centuries. These were the Arabs of yesteryear who made significant contributions to Spanish culture, academics, and architecture.

From the 700s till the 1400s, the Moors were the intellectual elite in southern Spain. They were the professors, the astronomers, and the like. They coexisted peacefully with the Christians, who were the craftsmen, and the Jews who were the money lenders and diplomats. They lived in harmony for seven centuries until the Spanish Inquisition took hold in the 1400s. The Spanish took away lands owned by Muslims and Jews and accused them of being heretics, which led to forced conversions, emigrations, and even death. During that time, Spain discovered the "New World" and extended its reach.

The Moorish part of Spain was not erased; however, it remains in cities like Cordoba, Spain, with a well-known mosque that served part of its life as a cathedral. In Granada, Spain, you can find many tea houses along cobblestone streets no wider than a sidewalk. Moroccan mint tea is still served traditionally by raising the teapot high up in the air while pouring into the teacup. Granada is also home to the Alhambra, a Moorish palace with thick stone walls, elaborate arches, quiet pools, and extensive gardens.

Student presents on Salvator Dali as teacher holds one of his drawings.

Students studied two unique Spanish artists, Salvator Dalí and Antoni Gaudí. Dalí was a surrealist painter, and Gaudí was a modernist architect—they both broke with custom in their respective fields. Deaf High School students did a project inspired by Dalí—they explained the dreams that influenced their Dalí-like drawings. Blind High School students did a project inspired by Gaudí—they made a replica of part of the Alhambra palace to honor one of their students from Iraq, and they covered the palace in mosaics to add a Gaudí touch. Both groups presented their projects on September 30 at the Hispanic Heritage ESOL event.

During the celebration, the students took in a video on Spain, which included bullfighting and the Running of the Bulls. Hordes of people clad in white with short red scarves tied around their necks fled through the streets of Pamplona with angry bulls at their heels. Ernest Hemingway's book, "The Sun Also Rises," contains a section on the Running of the Bulls. People from all over the world visit Pamplona to participate in the spectacle, despite potential injuries and sometimes even death. This annual event is like a rite of passage for young Spanish men.

Two students sitting on couch discussing different topics.

Students also learned about bullfighting, which prompted a discussion on the importance of tradition vs. animal cruelty. Although this tradition found its origin in the Roman arenas where gladiators fought with dangerous animals, bullfighting is still prevalent in parts of Spain and Latin America, and some of the ESOL students have had the opportunity to see a live bullfight.

All had a wonderful time during the celebration, with an informative and lively discussion, followed by a lunch of traditional Spanish tortillas and flan. The Spanish tortilla is more like a quiche than the tortillas we know, full of potatoes, onions, and eggs and without a crust. Students enjoyed learning about Spain during the past quarter and were somewhat sad to leave Spain behind and move on to the British Isles for the second quarter, but who knows what new surprises await them!

By Kathleen McManus, Instructional Services


About FSDB

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, or deafblind. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. For a campus tour or to inquire about eligibility for enrollment, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information, visit


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