Lupita Manana

By Patricia Beatty

Lesson by Gail Desler

Lupita Torres and her brother Salvador are fictional characters. Their story, however, is based on real events. The United States is a nation of immigrants, yet certain groups have faced difficult challenges in achieving the American dream. Mexican and Mexican-American farm workers, for example, continue to fight for better working conditions and job opportunities, despite decades of contributing to the U.S. workforce. The activities contained in this lesson are in recognition of all who have struggled to make a new and better life for themselves - and for future generations.


Lupita is an undocumented worker, which means she does not have the legal documents that would allow her to work legally in the United States. Before reading the novel, you will need some background information on the problems undocumented workers are likely to experience. Team up with 2-3 other students and read Chuck Brodsky's song La Migra Viene. Since Chuck actually worked with undocumented migrant workers and wrote the words to this song at that time, La Migra Viene is a primary source document. Read through the song once or twice silently, then as a team, read it aloud. As you read, record your thoughts and questions on the How to Read a Primary Document Handout.

Activity One: Story Map

Lupita's journey from Mexico to California is a centuries-old route. There was a time when the border between Mexico and California was not fenced. Lupita and Salvador could have been following trails their ancestors traveled even before the Spanish conquest on the New World.

Your task is to show Lupita's journey as a story map. Your map should be done on a large poster board. It should include each of the places listed below. Include a caption for each place Lupita passed through to explain what she was thinking or experiencing while there. Your story map should be visually attractive, accurately and neatly labeled, and reflect personal effort. Begin the task by locating a map of California, either in print or online. Use the Story Map Scoring Guide as a guideline.

  • Ensenada
  • Tijuana
  • Colton
  • San Gorgonio Pass
  • Riverside, along Highway 60
  • Mojave Desert
  • Palm Springs
  • Indio

Activity Two: Found Poem

Despite the progress made by Cesar Chavez and the continuing efforts of the United Farm Workers Union in improving working conditions for migrant workers, they still face many challenges in achieving a higher standard of living for themselves and their children. Undocumented workers like Lupita and Sal often find themselves in difficult situations with nowhere to turn to for help. Yet both documented and undocumented workers continue to do the often backbreaking labor that brings fresh produce to our tables. Examine the following photographs of actual farm workers in the Sacramento and central valley areas of California*:

Read the Record Details that accompany each photograph. Reread your favorite chapter from Lupita Manana along with the Afterword section of the novel, which contains a look at migrant workers by writer Lucas Guttentag.

Your task is to create a found poem that captures both the realities of migrant labor and the hopes and dreams Lupita held for a better life.

Follow the directions below for creating your found poem:

How to Create a Found Poem

  • Choose 10-15 lines or parts of lines (words/phrases) from your favorite chapter of Lupita Manana and/or the Record Details for any of the photos that you feel are important. Choose whatever is meaningful to you in any way. Consider the way words look or sound. Is there figurative language? "Showing" writing? Strong verbs and nouns? Remember: you may choose any words, phrases, or lines you want.
  • Make sure you use actual words, phrases, or lines from the Record Details and/or Lupita Manana.
  • Do not try to make your lines rhyme.
  • Reread your draft and highlight a key word, phrase, or line that captures the spirit or main idea of your found poem. This will be your unifying theme.
  • Start and end your poem with the unifying theme.
  • Edit your found poem.
  • Your final poem should be 8-12 lines

When you have finished composing your found poem, illustrate it, and mount it on construction paper or poster board. Check to see that your poem meets all the criteria listed on the Scoring Guide for a Found Poem. You are now ready to present your poem to your classmates!

(*Note: All photographs and accompanying record details were copied with permission from the People of Sacramento CD-ROM.)

Activity Three: Investigating Our Own Immigration/Migration Stories

  • Why do people come to California from other countries or other places in the United States?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What are they leaving behind?

Your task is to research your own family tree and find a relative who made the decision to immigrate/migrate to California. In three to five paragraphs, you will introduce this family member and answer some of the following questions:

  • When did this family member come to California?
  • Where did he/she come from?
  • What kind of work did this person do when he/she first arrived in California?
  • Did he/she have to learn to speak English? What was that like?
  • Does this family member still speak his/her native language?
  • Does this family member still observe any customs from his/her country of origin?
  • Did this family member experience any prejudice or hostility as a new immigrant?
  • How did living in California change his/her life?
  • Was the move worth it?
  • What would this person like others to know about California living?

Before you hand in your story, use the Scoring Guide for Immigration/Migration Stories as your check list.

Learning Advice

In order to meet the deadlines for each activity and to be well prepared, you will need to work together cooperatively and make every minute of classroom and at-home research time count. You will be completing a Group Participation Evaluation for Activity One and Activity Two.


Lupita and Sal are very life-like characters. Economic problems in Mexico prompted them to migrate to California. They arrived seeking jobs and following dreams. Are any of the problems and challenges these two undocumented workers faced still important issues in California today?

Note: The photograph of the migrant child was copied with permission from the online collection of Wayne State University.