American Dreams and Immigrant Realities in a South El Monte Shoe Factory


Sweatshop tip letter and map, 1995.

Lesson plan by Erika Garcia

Content Standards

RL.6-12.1, RI.6-12.1, SL.6-12.1, SL.6-12.3, SL.6-12.4, SL.6-12.6


Students will compare the experience of the Rossi Family to that of Guadalupe González to form their own opinions on the varying opportunities European migrants had available compared to their Mexican and Latinx counterparts.

Students will ask what the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Bracero Program, and the INS tell us about the relationship between citizenship, race, and immigration.

Students will learn about INS, raids and deportation, and early efforts to resist both.

Students will connect these histories to the present, focusing on deportation tactics, racial discrimination towards Asian and Latino communities, etc.

Core Reading

“American Dreams and Immigrant Realities in a South El Monte Shoe Factory” by Adam Goodman in East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte.

Primary Resources

SEMAP Collection:

Additional Resources

Library of Congress – A Latinx Resource Guide: Civil Rights Cases and Events in the United States
1942: Bracero Program
1986: Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

Essential Questions

What are some similarities between the migrant experiences of the Rossi Family and of Guadalupe González? In what ways do they differ?

How do immigrant policies shape the experiences and possibilities for different migrants?

In what ways do we see the lingering effects of racially motivated policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Bracero Program, and the INS?

What were some strategies deployed by Immigration activists? Did they work? If so, how? What were some of the strategies deployed by Sbicca factory owners? By INS?

This is a story about immigration as much as it is about a shoe factory. Compare the images of shoes with the experiences of workers?

Key Terms

American Dream
“Illegal Alien”
Chinese Exclusion Act
New Deal
Bracero Program
Immigration Act of 1965
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
Racial profiling
Intergenerational wealth
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

In-class Activity

Option 1) Activity: Socratic Seminar

Socratic Seminar provides the space for students to examine the readings, respond to essential questions, and communicate with one another to better understand the central themes of the readings.

How to:

  • Provide reading materials and introduce essential questions.
  • Divide the class into groups and encourage discussion of the text first. Once initial thoughts and concerns are laid out, direct students to answer essential questions.
  • Prompt students to document their own responses and the responses of their peers – even those they necessarily don’t agree with.
  • After 15 minutes, recollect the group and direct to form a large circle using their chairs.
  • Each group will select a representative to share what was discussed.
    • Each representative will address the questions and the perspectives of their peers using textual evidence to support their claims.
  • Educators can track participation for points.

Option 2) Art Activity: Art in the Service of Social Justice

Students will create their own shoe designs that accurately reflect the working conditions of these factories and will use language as a tool to advocate for worker and migrant rights.

Materials: paper, magazine cutouts, colorful craft paper, glue, scissors, coloring materials (crayons, markers, color pencils)

How to:

  • Direct students to think about the way these shoe advertisements convey not only luxury, but a certain kind of lifestyle. Ask a prompting question: how do these advertisements contrast with the conditions and lives of the workers who made the Sbicca shoes?
  • Divide students into groups structure art activity into three segments:
    • First, students will brainstorm their concept - encourage students to think about the specific topic at hand, feel free to share posters from other movements
    • Then, they will outline what text, symbols, shoe design will reflect the idea of their concept
    • Finally, they will create the final design using coloring materials
  • Facilitate gallery walk! Prompt students to place their final designs on their tables and allow for a 5-10 minute silent walk around the classroom. Allow students to share on a volunteer basis

Option 3) Activity: A corrido for Sbicca Workers

Corridos are a style of story-telling music. These stories vary from talking about the troubles of life, someone's journey, and even about the complexities of love! Students will have the opportunity to write their own corrido to share the story of the Sbicca Workers.

How to:

  • After reviewing the reading and essential questions, students will utilize the primary and secondary sources to create a corrido. Follow the directions below:
  • Listen:
  • Their corrido should:
    • Ask for permission
    • Introduce the characters
    • Present a warning
    • Describe a challenge
    • Build the confrontation
    • Unfold the tragedy
    • Define the moral of the story
    • Bid farewell
  • Prompt students to write down sentences that reflect the story/timeline of the Sbicca workers.
  • Encourage students to include musical interludes and to create their own beat!
American Dreams and Immigrant Realities