Transgressing Pedagogical Borders of Oppression: A Poblana Mexicana Indígena-Migrante Praxis

Daniela Conde

Education as an Avenue for Social Transformation

During these tumultuous times of critical political and social change in the United States, it is important to adhere to our commitment to equity in education. Educators, students, and scholar-practitioners have the potential to contribute to a more socially just world. Education should not be a site of conformity, violence, or erasure. Instead, education should be a space for the practice of liberation for all individuals and the cultivation of humanity (Freire, 1972). A commitment to a liberatory education and good teaching and learning in our K-20 educational institutions is critical to addressing some of the most pressing issues in our society, especially as we witness shifts in political power that have direct material consequences for nondominant communities of color (Boggs & Kurashige, 2011).Therefore, this narrative engages with questions related to the power of pedagogy and the simultaneous contradictions and experiences that an undocumented Latina Indigenous migrant woman, like Dolores Cruz (a pseudonym), navigates through.

The term ‘Indígena-Migrante,’ or Indigenous migrant, in this chapter refers to Indigenous people of Latinoamérica who have migrated to the United States. More specifically, in this chapter, ‘Poblana Mexicana Indígena-Migrante’ refers to the Indigenous people who have migrated to the United States from the state of Puebla, México. This is an important identity because Indigenous people from México often face erasure of their Indigeneity under terms such as such as Latinos/xs or Mexicanos due to the inherent colonial history of the term ‘Latino/x’ and the nationalistic term ‘Mexicanos’ (Urrieta & Calderón, 2019).

Central to this narrative study are the experiences of Latinx Indigenous migrant students. While there is limited research on this intersecting identity of

Latinx Indigeneity and migration in postsecondary education, there are some studies that shed light on this growing community, as well as migrant students in the United States. For instance, Huizar Murillo and Cerda (2004) articulate that the 2000 census data showed growth in the Native American population nationwide. More specifically, persons who identified as ‘American Indian’ also identified as ‘Hispanic,’ with the California population of American Indians of Hispanic origin showing an increase by 146%. A large body of research also highlights the experiences of Latinxs in United States K-20 schooling, including detailing the discrimination and racism students face in educational practices and policies inside and outside of the classroom (Delgado Bernal, 2002; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Yosso, Smith, Ceja, & Solorzano, 2009). Migrant student populations in the United States also experience marginalization, such as the consequences of living in impoverished neighborhoods, English language learning, and high-stakes testing while also finding support in mentors and teachers (Suárez-Orozco, Suárez-Orozco &Todorova, 2008).

Latinx Indigenous students from México experience a dissonance in the educational systems in the United States, especially when their ancestral knowledge, identities, and languages are erased in the construct of Latinidad (Martinez, 2017; Urrieta & Calderón, 2019). While there is limited research on the Indigenous Mexican migrant students and families, studies such as Casanova’s (2012), which focuses on the resilience and agentive practices of Indigenous Mexican migrants, inspires my narrative study (Casanova, 2012; Casanova, O’Connor, & Anthony-Stevens, 2016). Therefore, my research question(s) for this critical narrative study are as follows: How can educational spaces serve as sites of empowerment for an Indigenous migrant woman in Lenni Lenape ancestral lands or New York City? What are some of the possibilities, contradictions, and limitations that arise? How does Dolores Cruz’s agency manifest in her life?

Critical Self-Narrative of the Researcher

Yo soy campesina, Indígena-Migrante, e intelectual, and I became an expert at crossing borders at the age of seven. Borders like the U.S.-México wall militarized my campesina mind, body, and spirit, yet resistance to these political open wounds (Anzaldúa, 1987) unequivocally expanded my humanity. As a child, becoming a professor in a higher-education institution seemed impossible because my situation consisted of being born into a poverty-stricken family in Huaquechula, Puebla, México.

Being Brown and an Indígena-Migrante student as well as an undocumented seven-year-old in a wealthy suburban community on the Kumeyaay Coast in Southern California meant being educated in public schools that centered the project of settler colonialism. I grew up in immigrant enclaves that replicated the poverty of lands, but within miles there existed large mansions and gated communities where my Brown body was interpellated as foreign and dispensable, and as a potential domestic worker at best. At that point in time, I experienced a double-consciousness (Du Bois, 1903), and as an immigrant child, I internalized the colorism and racism towards communities of color that were upheld in the curriculum of the surrounding predominantly white public schools.

My identity as an Indígena-Migrante campesina born in Puebla, México, who grew up in a low-income and single-parent household has contributed to my commitment to educational equity and political activism in my community. As a Gates Millennium Scholar, I was given the opportunity to navigate my undergraduate studies, master’s program, and now doctoral program without having to worry about the financial cost of higher education.This privilege has granted me access to spaces of higher education that past generations of my family could not have possibly imagined. However, my passion for educational equity and social justice is rooted in the teachings of my family as well as my work as a community educator. Additionally, my work alongside local grassroots community organizations in San Diego, California, have inspired my approach to research and the methodology of this study, with the intentional act of centering the narrative and experiences of an undocumented Indigenous migrant Latina as a way to disrupt power.

My family, especially my mother, has provided the ultimate inspiration in my educación. Over centuries through their humble labor, in the vast cornfields of Puebla, México, my family laid the foundation for generations. While they worked in the fields in México and in homes, factories, restaurants, and other capitalist enterprises that benefit off of low-wage labor of undocumented folks in the United States, I was given the opportunity to focus on school until the age of thirteen, when I started working menial jobs like my family. Yet, my Má consistently emphasized the importance of a college education and engaged in inspirational pláticas and consejos, or dialogues and advice, throughout my educational journey, as well as provided a weekly fresh pot of frijoles to sustain me during my time in college. Her tender acts of sustenance did not go unnoticed and are examples of community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005); my mother’s consejos continue to sustain me as I continue in academia as a doctoral student.

I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school, college, and graduate school, and there is undoubtedly immense privilege that comes with being college-educated and a graduate student. At the same time, as an education researcher, my work is also informed by K-2 schooling experiences, some of which include erasure and discrimination in institutional spaces of learning. My goal as a scholar, human, and educator is to practice continuous reflexivity and accountability. In engaging with this chapter, I also invite teachers, professors, and educators to deeply reflect on the ways in which settler colonialism and other systems of oppression show up in the classroom or in educational spaces. By naming and addressing the erasure of Indigenous migrant knowledges, languages, cultures, identities, and lives, as well as working to cultivate equitable spaces of learning, educators can potentially uplift and sustain the lives of students and, by extension, their families and communities.

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