“It makes a big difference when students can hold authentic material in their hands and see the creative and intricate work that goes with every piece in the Suitcase” –Current Lender of the Traveling Suitcases.
The Traveling Suitcase program offers teachers the opportunity to introduce students to an assemblage of artifacts from around Latin America, including books, toys, music, clothing, product packaging, currency, bus schedules, and many more items. The Traveling Suitcases are divided into thematic areas that span across the diverse cultures, traditions, and economies of Latin America.
Traveling Suitcases allow students to handle items and explore the differences and similarities among the various cultures represented within the suitcase and their own lives in the United States. Many teachers use the suitcases to create learning centers in their classrooms and each suitcase comes with lesson plans and ideas for teachers.
For more information and ideas, see Linda Hahn Miller’s article about the traveling Suitcase: Bringing Latin America to the Classroom
Traveling Suitcases at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida are thematic rather than country specific in order to encourage students to think broadly without erasing difference.
Click on a suitcase below to see a description, the inventory of items included, and sample lesson plans.
The Afro-Latin American Traveling Suitcase is one of the newest traveling suitcases offered and it offers a collection of items that explore race, the history of slavery, and the commodification of Afro-Latin American identity within tourist souvenirs. The suitcase also includes items that pick up various elements of the diverse cultures of the African diaspora in the Americas.
The Andean Music and Dance Traveling Suitcase is one of our most popular traveling suitcases. This suitcase encourages students to explore the role of music and dance within the various cultures of the Andes. The suitcase includes musical instruments, clothing, music samples, and dolls that demonstrate traditional dress. Explore the rich textures of the textiles, hear the sounds of the music, and feel the vibration of musical instruments as they play.
The Day of the Dead Traveling Suitcase is always popular around October and November! Explore the cultural differences between Halloween and Day of the Dead with your students. Inside, the suitcase has all of the items needed to make an altar for Día de los Muertos in your classroom. The suitcase includes many traditional items for the table including figurines, offering dishes, plastic food and flowers, and candles. We also include a teacher’s guide and some of the other essentials such as table clothes and extra tissue paper so students can make their own papel picado.
The Latin American Art Traveling Suitcase showcases jewelry, dolls, handmade ornaments and other examples of craftsmanship from around the region. Students can handle an indigenous talisman from Brazil and admire straw baskets from Colombia. The collection also includes dozens of postcards, posters, and books on Latin American art. Exploring the commodification of art for tourism or the differences between folk art and “high art,” this suitcase is sure to inspire discussion in your classroom.
Check out our collection of toys, coloring books and musical instruments from around Latin America. Dive into some fables and fairy tales from Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Play with dolls from Nicaragua and Ecuador. Whether students are comparing their own childhood to the variety of childhood experiences captured in these artifacts or whether they are learning to talk about their own childhoods in Spanish, this suitcase is sure to liven up your classroom.
Liven up your classroom with this collection that contains brands of coffee from countries throughout Latin America. Food products – like sugar, beans, spices – that are key drivers of local economies come in this suitcase. Plus, students can review money (bills and coins) from almost every country in the region.
Learn what’s taught in classrooms across the region. Dig into stories on the Incan Empire or the Mayan Calendar. See what a school uniform looks like in Costa Rica. Or simply read the couple dozen books included in this suitcase.
Explore the variety of foods, drinks, and food cultures that span Latin America. This suitcase includes various food items such as beans, coffee, nuts, and even Palmitos, but it also includes a variety of food related items such as table cloths, yerba mate cups, mortar and pestles, and even a coffee maker. Explore similar items from different countries to examine the many similarities and differences or read up on recipes from St. Vincent!
In Box 1, touch the wool of the Colombian highlands, see embroidery stitched by recent Mayan people in Guatemala, and read a children’s tale in English, Spanish, and Quechua. In Box 2, compare the variety of clothing from Mexico including traditional Mayan pants and a child’s Huipil. Most of the items in the suitcases come from modern day living indigenous peoples. Use these suitcases to engage in conversations around indigeneity that encourage students to recognize that indigenous people are not a thing of the past.
The diverse sounds of Latin America will fill your classroom with this Suitcase. Music is an important aspect of the cultural diversity of Latin America and this suitcase allows you to explore the instruments and rhythms that fill the streets of Mexico, Cuba, Honduras and many others. Hear the rattle of the Chajchas, an instrument made from hooves that is attached to the ankle in Andean countries, create the clave that forms the basis of traditional music in Cuba, listen to a variety of CDs with samples, or explore dance with the video, Dancing Across Disciplines. The Latin American Music Traveling Suitcase is sure to liven up your classroom and engage your students!
For science-lovers this suitcase has what you need: Brain coral, a preserved blue morpho butterfly, a bird's nest from a tropical forest and guides to national parks. These objects provide a glimpse into key natural resources and diverse wildlife found in the region. And if you like learning about health, there's also examples of popular medicines used in Latin America like Costa Rica’s cofal fuerte.
Traditional dresses, woven bags and colorful belts known as chumpis can be viewed in this assortment of clothing from around Latin America. View the indigenous styles of Guatemala or the complex handicrafts made in Venezuela. This suitcase also integrates dolls from Mexico and Panama in traditional costumes. Engage in the wide variety of styles and accessories that make up these diverse lands.
Explore the important symbols and figures associated with various Latin American countries. The collection includes flags, currency and stamps. Students also can check out lottery tickets, tourist brochures, political flyers and a pair of soccer (football) jerseys.
Take a journey through Latin America with this touristic guide to the region. The suitcase contains postcards, maps and even transportation tickets. Countries featured in this kit range from Cuba to Costa Rica to Brazil to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The items offer a taste at some of the iconic features found in these countries, including Machu Picchu in Peru and the Galapagos in Ecuador.