Spanish Learning Scenario:
Mi Buenos Aires querido: The Immigrant Experience

Author: Lynn Basdeo & Renée Wooten
Level: Advanced

In groups of three or four, students explore the life of early immigrants to Buenos Aires, Argentina. To learn about historical Buenos Aires, they complete several activities leading to the final product, a presentation of a typical day in the life of one such immigrant. Students gain insight into the cultural practices and norms of the people of the time. They also make comparisons between the Buenos Aires of today and that of the turn of the century.

ACTIVITY SET 1: ¿Conoces Buenos Aires?
In this activity, students tap their prior knowledge of the city and learn about its location and what may be found there. To begin, groups create a KWL chart, listing what they already know and what they want to know regarding the city. After completing the first two columns in their small groups and determining what they want to know, each group uses a different Internet site to take a virtual tour of Buenos Aires. Groups draw a map, chart, or other visual representation of interesting sights discovered during the tour. Afterwards, groups complete the final (“L”) column of the KWL chart and pool their findings with classmates.

ACTIVITY SET 2: Los inmigrantes
To enable students to gain understanding of the immigrant experience in Buenos Aires, each group becomes “experts” on a piece of historical information. Some possible assigned topics include: Who came to Buenos Aires? How many came? Why did they come? When did they come? What happened when they came? Since there were several immigrant groups from a variety of countries (Italians, Spaniards, French, and many others) arriving in Buenos Aires in different waves, groups may be formed using the nationalities of the immigrant groups. After areas of research are selected, group members use history books from the classroom or school library, the Internet, videos, or any easily obtainable resource to do the research and become “experts.” At the advanced level, some of the initial research may be done in English, but once students are familiar with the material, they should have access to sources in Spanish to augment their learning. After the information is gathered, information is shared among groups using any variation of a jigsaw activity.

ACTIVITY SET 3: Las ventajas y desventajas
This activity helps students understand the motivations for immigrating to Argentina. Assuming the role of immigrant, students brainstorm reasons for leaving their “native” country to relocate in Buenos Aires. Understanding the advantages (economic independence, etc.) and disadvantages (unfamiliarity with the language, etc.) of making the move may lead to additional research into the economic, historical, and religious reasons for immigrating. After listing advantages and disadvantages in their small groups, students discuss their thoughts with the entire class. A large butcher paper display can be created summarizing the findings.

ACTIVITY SET 4: La política
In this activity, students learn something about the politics of Buenos Aires during the last century. (Use someone other than Evita Perón if you intend to use Activity 5.) Key political figures and associated events are studied; they may be assigned by the teacher, chosen by students, or selected lottery-style. The same or similar resources as those used in Activity 2 can once again be employed to manage this one. After completing its investigation, each group prepares a collage to use in describing the person and his or her politics and views. For the collage, groups use pictures, words or phrases from Spanish magazines and newspapers, computer graphics from Spanish Web sites, or original illustrations that reflect the person they have studied. Groups present their collage and an oral summary to the class, or the collages can be hung throughout the room allowing the students to examine them as they take a “gallery walk.” In this case, one or two members from each group remain by the poster to provide an overview and answer any questions their classmates may have.

ACTIVITY SET 5: Por favor, Evita
Eva Perón is a famous and popular figure in Argentina’s history. As an alternate to Activity 3 or as an additional activity, students study her and the effect that she had on the people of Buenos Aires. (The musical, Evita, may be used to help students visualize the era, although it is only available in English.) Students learn of some of her public service/humanitarian efforts; therefore, each group fashions a letter of petition asking her to provide assistance for a needy group in the community (perhaps tied to one of the immigrant groups studied in Activities 1-3). The letters can be shared with the class at the completion of the activity. This is a good opportunity to practice the writing process by using peer editing to aid in the completion of the letter. Since only one group can receive “assistance” at this time, the class votes for the letter that best represents its group’s needs.

Since the Tango is both music (product) and dance (practice) born from the suffering of the impoverished immigrants in the neighborhoods of La Boca and San Telmo in Buenos Aires in the mid-19th century, it is interesting and important to study the art form. Using one of the Web sites listed in the resource list or another printed resource such as “el Tango” from the textbook, De viaje, students gain an understanding of the history of the tango and the role it played in the lives of the immigrants (perspectives). In addition, they observe the dance on video; if a teacher is available in the community, he or she may be invited to give the class a mini-lesson. Afterwards, the students select a tango and prepare a choral reading to be performed in front of the class. Additionally, each student group creates a poster or playbill announcing the performance.

ACTIVITY SET 7: Buenos Aires, ayer y hoy
Students develop an e-pal relationship with students from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Arrangements can be made with a class of students learning English in Argentina through such resources as Epals,, Webspañol, and IECC: Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections. (Teachers might want to consider beginning this exchange at the beginning of the unit. See Resources for Web sites.) Students learn about living in the city today by asking questions of their Buenos Aires counterparts and communicating in Spanish. However, since students in Buenos Aires will want to practice English, the teachers can agree to allow exchanges to happen in both languages to facilitate learning by both groups of students.

ACTIVITY SET 8: El diario descubierto
As the culminating activity of this scenario, students imagine they are immigrants to Buenos Aires and write a series of diary entries which include information about what was done, seen, and heard during their first days in the new country (including details gathered during their research on Buenos Aires and political figures). Diary entries of all students can be published in a booklet or, as an oral activity, the diaries can be collected and distributed to a different group. Having “found” the diary, the new student group chooses a few entries to read aloud to the class.

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Targeted Standards

  • Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretative, & Presentational Modes
  • Cultures: Practices & Perspectives, Products & Perspectives
  • Connections: Access to Information, Other Subject Areas
  • Comparisons: Influence of Language & Culture
  • Communities: Within & Beyond the School Setting

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  • Computer with Internet access
  • Encyclopedias
  • History books
  • Spanish Web sites
  • Magazines and newspapers (Spanish and English)
  • CDs and videos
  • Creative art supplies

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Reflections on How the Standards Are Met

Communication: The interpersonal mode is used in group work and the Internet exchange between the two cultures. The interpretive mode is used in the reading/viewing of authentic texts and in Internet research. The presentational mode may be used in most of the activities where students/groups share their products.

: Students learn about the practices, products, and perspectives of this culture as they do research on Buenos Aires, its history, its famous figures, and the tango.

: Students use a variety of resources including Internet technology to access information for their research. They connect to other disciplines including history, the fine arts, and economics.

: Students understand the influence of one (or many) culture(s) on another as they learn about the impact of immigrants on the culture of Buenos Aires.

: Students use Spanish beyond the school setting when they use the Internet to contact students in Buenos Aires.

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Expansion Ideas

  • Short texts in Spanish on the tango and on immigrants are incorporated throughout the unit. After reading one of these works, students compose a short “newspaper” article using the information gathered in the reading.
  • Novice-level students create migration timelines.
  • In addition to the activity listed for the tango, students dramatize a tango, write words to a tango without lyrics, research famous “tangistas” such as Carlos Gardel, or invite a performer of the tango to visit the class.
  • After viewing a video about tango, students write a reflection of the feelings they associate with the dance. Click to go up



Bernhardson, W. (1999). Lonely Planet: Buenos Aires. Melbourne, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications.

High, J. (1993). Second language learning through cooperative learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Cooperative Learning.

Schmitt. (2000). Nosotros y nuestro mundo Level 1: Spanish for Spanish speakers. New York: Glencoe/MacMillan, McGraw-Hill.

Woodford-Schmitt. (1997). De viaje. New York: Glencoe/MacMillan McGraw Hill.

Spanish Newspapers and Magazines from Argentina

  • El Amante Cine
  • Los Andes – National news
  • Colg@do – cybernews from Argentina
  • Gaucho Mundial: La Revista Cultural
  • Interlink – News
  • La Maga – Cultural news
  • La Nación – National news


NOTE: These Internet resources may have changed since publication or no longer be available. Active links should be carefully screened before recommending to students.


Pen Pal Sites


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