Lesson One: Protest And Persuasion


Students look for visual signs of protest and persuasion in the world around them. They then develop inquiry questions to guide their investigation of Chicana/o and earlier artworks that protest or attempt to persuade. After reporting their discoveries to their classmates, students begin to identify ideas for their own art making focused on protest or persuasion.


  1. Students learn that protest is a method of working to improve situations such as injustice, inequities, or the quality of life.

  2. Students learn that to persuade means to try to convince others to agree with one's own beliefs.

  3. Students learn how to identify visual evidence of protest and persuasion in the world around them.

  4. Students learn that artworks can have obvious, as well as not-so-obvious functions.

  5. Students learn that some Chicana/o and earlier artists have used art to protest injustice, to promote and glorify revolution, to persuade others to their views, and to define their own reality.

  6. Students learn how to identify evidence of protest and persuasion in the subject matter of artworks.

  7. Students learn how to identify evidence of protest and persuasion in contextual information about artworks.

  8. Students learn how to pose questions to guide their inquiry into the meaning of specific artworks.


Explain that some artworks, such as buildings, (for example, tombs and palaces,) or containers, (for example, pots and boxes) have obvious functions. The Huipil Tehuantepec has an obvious function. It is a type of traditional blouse. Explain further that other artworks, such as some sculptures and paintings (for example, non-objective sculpture and still life paintings) have less obvious functions. Many artworks serve more than one function.

Use artworks from Chicana and Chicano Space or other artworks as examples that serve many different functions. Click on the name of any artwork for additional information.

  • EXPRESSING REGIONAL PRIDE. In addition to its function as a piece of clothing, the Huipil Tehuantepec also identifies its wearer with a certain geographical area within the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

  • RECORDING THE APPEARANCE OF A PERSON. The 18th century Portrait of a Lady and the portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz present images of two ladies of New Spain.

  • DOCUMENTING AN EVENT. Diego Rivera's Revolt and The New Religion documents the rise of Emiliano Zapata, the mestizo peasant revolutionary in Southern, Mexico and the conversion of indigenous people to Catholicism.

  • INSPIRING RELIGIOUS DEVOTION. The New Mexico retablo of Our Lady of Guadalupe was used to inspire religious devotion in a church or in a private home.

  • COMMUNICATING IDEAS. The Codex Borbonicus used a picture language to communicate.

  • MAKING COMPARISONS. Frida Kahlo's painting of herself on the border compares aspects of Mexico and the United States.

  • Protest Lesson

    Display the Protest Icon. Explain that artists in many cultures have used art for revolutionary functions, such as protesting injustice, promoting ideas, communicating to the illiterate, or as a method of persuasion. Explain further that many people today make visual statements to protest, or persuade. You may want to read or post the brief introduction to Art for Protest and Persuasion


    Lead a discussion in which you ask students to identify visual evidence of protest or persuasion in their everyday lives. Examples might include T-shirts; advertisements, CD-album covers; vandalism in the form of graffiti; unconventional clothing, jewelry, and hair styles; or the more permanent visual evidence of tattoos.

    Explain that there is a strong tradition of protest and persuasion in Chicana/o and Mexican art. Divide the class into five groups, each group addressing the art of one of the following artists: Judith Baca, Carlos Cortez, Luis Guerra, Diego Rivera, and José Guadalupe Posada. If the class is large, two separate groups can work with each artist.

    Provide each small group with a reproduction of the work of Judith Baca, Carlos Cortez, Luis Guerra, Diego Rivera or José Guadalupe Posada. (See Computer Reproductions.) Identify each artwork by artist, title, date, medium, and size. Ask each group to:

  • List as many subject matter details as you can.
  • Specify which of these subject matter details tends to support some kind of protest statement or to support an effort to persuade others to the artist's beliefs, and explain how. Identify any symbols and what they stand for.
  • Formulate at least three questions you would like to pursue in order to more fully understand the artwork.
  • Read "more information" about your artwork (by clicking on the computer, or by reading downloaded printouts provided by the teacher).
  • Look at the reproduction again, checking to see how the additional information affects your understanding of the work.
  • Pose at least one new, or revised inquiry question, based on the new information.
  • Suggest how you might be able to find additional information, for example you might:
  • directly observe and analyze artworks;
  • study reproductions of artworks;
  • draw your own version of an artwork;
  • challenge yourself to think about the meanings of artworks;
  • share your responses to an artwork with friends and ask for their responses;
  • experiment with art tools, materials, and processes;
  • communicate with witnesses, that is, people who lived at the time and place when the artworks were made and first seen or used (only possible with artworks made relatively recently);
  • study primary sources, such as photographs, films, or other documents, or artifacts from the time when the artworks were made;
  • talk with experts in person, by letter, over the phone, or through email;
  • read what experts have written in books, papers, journals, or published electronically;
  • or in other ways.
  • Prepare an oral presentation to the class in which you:
  • Explain the revolutionary or persuasive meaning of the artwork. Explain why the artist made it and for whom.
  • Point to subject matter in the work that supports a protest or persuasion interpretation of the work.
  • Share other information you have discovered that supports a protest or persuasion interpretation of the work.
  • Conclude the lesson by asking students to list concerns that are relevant to them in some way. Group together similar concerns and note differences or conflicts among concerns. Ask students to indicate which concerns they think are most important and why.

    Finally, ask each student to identify two or three situations or events that he or she might choose to protest or persuade others about. Students might be interested in such causes as Students Against Drunk Driving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, D.A.R.E., labor strikes, anti-pollution or environmental issues, or ribbons (such as red ribbons for AIDS) that show an individual's concern for some cause.


    During presentations note whether students are able to point to subject matter, as well as external information, supporting their interpretations of artworks. Note whether they are able to generate questions prior to seeking further information and to revise or ask new questions after reading information.

    Items for Protest and Persuasion Portfolio might include:

  • lists of initial and revised or new questions
  • list of concerns of interest to students
  • sample flyers or magazines and newspaper clippings that address student concerns


    Reproductions of artworks by Judith Baca, Carlos Cortez, Luis Guerra, Diego Rivera, and José Guadalupe Posada. (See
    Computer Reproductions

    sample T-shirts, advertisements, rock concert posters or CD covers

    Protest Icon

    Art for Protest and Persuasion Statement

    © 2001 Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State University. All Rights Reserved.