The Tequila Worm Effectively Shows the Sacrifice of a Student

Canales, Viola. Tequila Worm. New York: Random House, 2005.

The Tequila Worm is an easy read about a young Mexican American, Sofia, on her journey finding what it truly means to be a comadre, while accepting her heritage through her crossing into adulthood. Sofia lives in Texas in a close Mexican community. In elementary school Sofia was called a “Taco Head”; the anger she felt soon turned into determination after a lunch with Coach Clark, the P.E. teacher. Coach Clark talked to Sofia about the best way to get revenge. It was not by kicking the other girl’s butt like Sofia had wanted to, but rather “By kicking her butt at school, by beating her in English, Math, everything — even sports.” (40) Sofia did kick her butt in school, and every other student. Because of this, she got offered a scholarship into one of the most recognized schools in Texas: Saint Luke’s Episcopal School. The story continues with the tale of her struggles to prove to her family that leaving and attending this school was the best thing. Her tight community struggled with the idea, and made her think critically about why it was that she wanted to leave McAllen, and head into a different world. Sofia had been fixated with the big houses, the nice yards, and beautiful possessions that came with money since she was little. She was a dreamer, but her father did not want her to lose touch with the benefits of her Mexican community. Once while trick or treating, Sofia told her father of her wishes to live on the other side of town. Their houses were warm, new, and beautiful. Her father tried to open Sofia’s eyes to the benefits of the world around her, “Yes, but we have our food, our music, our traditions. And the warm hearts of our families…. Don’t worry Mi’ja, You’ll see what I’m talking about when you’re older.”(35) After fighting her way to Saint Luke’s, Sofia started to see what her father had meant. A large part of her journey was learning to not only accept her heritage, but to love it. Part of learning to be happy, comes from “realizing that everyone is special and often quite different from you. And if you really want to connect with them, to love them, you need to first figure out how they feel.”(68) Sofia continued to kick butt, even with a family tragedy and an ever-changing world. The Tequila Worm offers an inside view to the struggles and triumphs of young Mexican Americans.

Recommendations for Teachers
The Tequila Worm is a wonder resource for teachers. This text is used in many schools around the country already and should be used in many more. The text lets readers into a world of rich culture by detailing Mexican culture, cuisine, and tradition. This immersion into the world of Mexican culture could be seen as daunting due to the lack of a glossary and the many uses of Spanish words not common to every reader, but most words' meanings can be gathered by the context or just plain looked up. This text is usable in any high school or middle school classroom.

This text can be a good way for teachers to expose students to other worlds/cultures by using themes they experience everyday. The idea of making it into the college of choice is applicable to most high school students. Students can write their own struggles in gaining acceptance to the schools of their choice and what they must or have already done to get into those institutions.

Equality can be a focus for teaching this text. Teachers can point out that not everyone has equal access to education. Students could look into other texts on the trials of students seeking a better life and better education. The students can then compare and contrast their findings with The Tequila Worm and each other.

Students could conduct interviews with immigrants to gain insight on their stories and struggles and what they had to do in order to attain a better life. The students could reflect how people sacrifice to improve their lives. They could then look to the adults or role models in their lives and see if they have made any sacrifices to get to where they are now.

Students can then apply it to themselves by asking what sacrifices they would be willing to make in order to improve their lives. Students can also look into the differences of immigrants now and those who came through Ellis Island in the early/mid 1900's. Student can then do presentations or papers reflecting the differences.

Teachers could put on a classroom fiesta and partake in many authentic Mexican traditions such as the cuisine or playing traditional games .

About Name of Author
viola_canales.jpg Viola Canales is from McAllen, Texas in which the story takes place. She attended St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Austin, Texas where she suffered severe homesickness because it was located over 300 miles away from her family--in the story, Sofia attends St. Luke's Episcopal School. In order to combat it, she began to write down her experiences while growing up in which she incorporated many of these stories into The Tequila Worm. She then attended Harvard and graduated from Harvard Law School. After graduation, she became a captain in the U.S. army and then worked as a trial lawyer. She was also a regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration in the U.S., Guam, and Hawaii. However, after having this array of jobs, she writes fiction full-time now because she feels empowered by improving young adults.She currently resides in Stanford, California. Although, she does travel to many schools, colleges, libraries, and community centers to talk about her published works. She is able to talk to many students who are from even poorer communities than she originated in and she is able to show them that they can succeed as well.

The Tequila Worm was her first novel in which she won the Pura Belpre Award. Although, she previously published a short story collection called Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales.

Multimedia (Video)

Viola Canales reads a Chapter from The Tequila Worm at Garfield Charter School .

Additional Resources:

--Kevin Shields, Jacquelyn Girardot, Leanne Woodwyk