NEA Big Read
Sun, Stone, and Shadows

Sun, Stone, and Shadows

by Jorge F. Hernández

The temples and gods of pre-Columbian Mexico are a pile of ruins, but the spirit that breathed life into that world has not disappeared… Being a Mexican writer means listening to the voice of that present, that presence.

Temple of El Castillo in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico (Copyright Mark Segal/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Teachers may consider the ways in which these activities may be linked to other Big Read community events. Most of these projects could be shared at a local library, a student assembly, or a bookstore.

  1. Photo Gallery: Divide students into five groups. Assign each group one of the following topics:

    1. Ancient Mexico
    2. The Mexican countryside, including crops grown today
    3. Modern Mexican cities
    4. Twentieth-century political leaders
    5. Cathedrals and churches

    Ask each group to find and print photographs relating to its assigned topic and write captions for each. Assemble the photographs into an exhibit that can be shown at a school assembly or in conjunction with a Big Read event in your community.

  2. Performance: Work with your school’s drama instructor to produce a reader’s theater or stage version of one or more of the short stories in the anthology. Students who do not feel comfortable acting can work on lighting, set creation, or costume design.
  3. Artist’s Gallery: Ask students to draw or paint a scene from one of the short stories in the anthology. Display the artwork in your school’s hallway or at a local Big Read event, or create an exhibit on Surrealist Mexican art. Ask students to research the artists and their creations, including biographical, cultural, and historical facts that add to a complete understanding of the work. Display the exhibit in a school library, auditorium, or at a popular venue in your community.
  4. Read-a-thon: Read several stories from the anthology aloud at a local coffee shop or local hangout. Team with a culinary arts program at a local high school or college to provide typical Mexican sweets for patrons to enjoy with their coffee.
  5. Adaptation: Divide the class into groups. Ask students to adapt their favorite stories from Sun, Stone, and Shadows using your town or city as a setting. They should write all the dialogue and take the parts of all the characters. Ask each group to perform for the entire class or at a student assembly. Afterward, discuss the shift in setting. How did it change the story? What are some of the social issues Mexico and the United States share?
  6. Cultural Appreciation: Teaming with a world history, current affairs, or social studies class, plan a day to explore Mexican culture. Play Mexican music, show a Mexican film, enjoy Mexican food, and talk about recent news events that have special relevance to the people of Mexico.
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