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Jeronimo (2019 documentary film by Joseph Juhn)

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Frederic Vial
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Jeronimo (2019 documentary film by Joseph Juhn)
Jeronimo:  Documentary Film (2019)

As a child, my father often stressed the importance of navigating my adolescence in an "eyes and ears open" fashion.  Visiting the Korean Cultural Center, I heard an interesting presentation on South Korea and saw many interesting artifacts from the Korean culture as I walked through the center.  I had been contemplating which film I would use for my Film Essay assignment.  I wanted something different.  I had contemplated Crazy Rich Asians and Seven Samurai but feared others would be using them for the same assignment.  I looked at the titles of some of the past posts and saw that, indeed, these films had already been reviewed.  Also, I was unsure how I would incorporate such films in my 7th grade World History curricula which primarily focusses on the Middle Ages.  As I was exiting the center, I came across a poster for the film Jeronimo and instantly knew which film I would use.  Thanks, dad.  

Jeronimo is a documentary film that tells the story of Jeronimo Lim, a man born in Cuba in 1926 to Korean parents who had immigrated from Korea, via Mexico, to Cuba where they, essentially worked and struggled as indentured servants.  The film recounts how the director, Joseph Juhn, while traveling to Cuba in 2015, is picked up by a taxi driver who happens to be a 3rd generation Korean-Cuban national named Patricia.  Joseph is surprised by the extensive Korean community that exists in Cuba and upon hearing the story of Patricia's father, Jeronimo Lim, makes the decision to delve further into his background and, with it, the history and struggle of the Korean immigrant in Cuba.

The director discovers that Jeronimo attended the same university as Fidel Castro.  When the communist revolution in Cuba succeeds, Jeronimo is given a government position and ends up crossing paths with Che Guevara and Barbarroja - the infamous head of Cuban intelligence.  Jeronimo clearly believes in communism's promised ideals.  He is passionate about changing the poverty stricken and unjust circumstances of his forefathers.  He visits North Korea in 1967, long-since divided from South Korea and, later, becomes embittered and disillusioned when confronting the false and misguided solutions communism had promised.  In 1995, Jeronimo is able to visit South Korea.  It is there that he makes the decision, upon returning to Cuba, to reconnect to his Korean roots by bringing as much knowledge, practice and experience to the Korean community in Cuba.

The documentary film speaks to the Korean immigrant who iniitally immigrated to Mexico when promises of a better life are offered.  Later, these same immigrants are shuffled to Cuba where they live their lives as, essentially, slaves.  Jeronim Lim is born in such poverty and misery.  The film offers me an opportunity as a teacher, within the context of cultural diffusion and the current discussions relating to immigration in the United States, to discuss the important contributions immigrants have made to the building of this country.  As a first-generation Italian-American, I find such a film to have tremendous value to teaching children the importance of not only knowing their heritage, but being proud of it.  For many of my latino students, this documentary film will also shed light on immigration as a global concept by allowing the to reflect on the Korean immigrant in Cuba, something they undoubtedly are unaware even exists.  The Korean influence in Cuba with respect to various cultural aspects (i.e. food, art etc.) is also an example of cultural diffusion that students can relate to their curricula and study.  Since the concept of cultural diffusion will constitute my 3-part lesson plan, the addition of Jeronimo offers my students a first-hand primary source account that perfectly illustrates the concept they're tasked as part of the California history standards of adopting.