Richard Cross posing with soldiers

Volume One – The life and work of Richard Cross: The relevance of studying Central America, past and present


Photojournalist Richard Cross was killed by the explosion of a land mine at the border of Honduras and Nicaragua in 1983. He was on assignment photographing the conflict in Central America.

To understand the circumstances of his passing, and the photographs he took over the course of several years, teachers and students must pose essential questions and do research to answer them.

  • What political and military conflicts were happening between Honduras and Nicaragua at the time?

  • What was happening in the neighboring countries of Guatemala and El Salvador, which Richard Cross had also photographed?

  • The United States was involved diplomatically and militarily in all the conflicts of the region – why would the U.S. care about the internal affairs of small, poverty-stricken countries?

  • What do the conflicts in Central America almost 40 years ago have to do with Central American migration to the U.S. border with Mexico in 2021?

California Curriculum Framework and Standards

The lessons of this curriculum address numerous standards found throughout Grades 9-12, including 9th grade electives, 10th grade World History, 11th grade U.S. History, and 12th grade Government courses.

  • The focus countries for this curriculum are:  Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
  • Honduras is not one of the focus countries, but it plays a part in the history of the region, and Richard Cross was killed at its border with Nicaragua.
10th Grade California Curriculum Framework and Standards

World History and Geography: Medieval and Early Modern Times

Students in grade seven study the social, cultural, and technological changes that occurred in Europe, Africa, and Asia in the years A.D. 500–1789. After reviewing the ancient world and the ways in which archaeologists and historians uncover the past, students study the history and geography of great civilizations that were developing concurrently throughout the world during medieval and early modern times. They examine the growing economic interaction among civilizations as well as the exchange of ideas, beliefs, technologies, and commodities. They learn about the resulting growth of Enlightenment philosophy and the new examination of the concepts of reason and authority, the natural rights of human beings and the divine right of kings, experimentalism in science, and the dogma of belief. Finally, students assess the political forces let loose by the Enlightenment, particularly the rise of democratic ideas, and they learn about the continuing influence of these ideas in the world today.


7.1 Students analyze the causes and effects of the vast expansion and ultimate disintegration of the Roman Empire.

1. Study the early strengths and lasting contributions of Rome (e.g., significance of Roman citizenship; rights under Roman
law; Roman art, architecture, engineering, and philosophy; preservation and transmission of Christianity) and its ultimate
internal weaknesses (e.g., rise of autonomous military powers within the empire, undermining of citizenship by the growth of
corruption and slavery, lack of education, and distribution of news).
2. Discuss the geographic borders of the empire at its height and the factors that threatened its territorial cohesion.
3. Describe the establishment by Constantine of the new capital in Constantinople and the development of the Byzantine
Empire, with an emphasis on the consequences of the development of two distinct European civilizations, Eastern Orthodox
and Roman Catholic, and their two distinct views on church-state relations.

9th Grade Elective Course in History-Social Science

Curriculum Framework (2016)

Ethnic Studies course, pp. 310-314

Students examine the relationship between global events and one ethnic group’s experience in the United States.

Students develop research questions based on their lived experiences to critically study their communities.

Lesson Activities

  • Students use the Internet to do preliminary research on Central America and Central Americans in the news today.

Compelling and Supporting Questions

  • are intellectually rigorous and
  • are relevant and interesting
  • spark inquiry
  • motivate students to want to learn more
Historical Content
Bullet points that

  • cover basic content
  • inform slide presentations
  • teach note-taking
  • lead to resources – websites and published curriculum

Evaluating Sources & Using Evidence

  • Students evaluate and analyze multiple sources and perspectives.
  • Students make conclusions supported by evidence carefully gathered and analyzed.

Photograph Viewing Guide

  • Authentic inquiry vs. exploitation
  • People, land, and physical structures
  • Historical thinking skills
  • Personalizing historical photographs
Assessment Ideas
Formative and summative assessment options

References to support deeper study of conflict in Central America

Richard Cross’ photographs of
• Central America
• San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia