LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS 2014 | Volume 2 Latin American Encounters (LAE) aims to promote critical dialogue on the issues that affect and shape the lives of Latin Americans in Canada. LAE provides an interdisciplinary space for groups and individuals who are interested in the production and dissemination of knowledge that questions hierarchical relations at the local, national and global levels. The journal’s main purpose is to explore the formation of LatinAmerican-Canadian identities/subjectivities and build the foundations for a systematic understanding of the social, economic, political and demographic context within which such identities form. LAE espouses bilingual (English/Spanish) written and visual work by authors who define themselves and/or their work as Latin American and who engage new, critical and provocative conceptual and ethnographic/empirical approaches.
EL propósito de Encuentros Latinoamericanos (ELA) es promover un diálogo crítico sobre las problemáticas que afectan y configuran las vidas de los Latinoamericanos en Canadá. ELA provee un espacio interdisciplinario para aquellos grupos e individuos que estén interesados en la producción y difusión del conocimiento que cuestione las relaciones jerárquicas a nivel local, nacional y global. El propósito principal es explorar la formación de identidades/subjetividades latino-americanas-canadienses y cimentar el entendimiento sistemático del contexto social, económico, político y demográfico dentro del que dichas identidades se forman ELA es una publicación bilingüe (Inglés-Español) que promueve trabajos escritos y visuales de quienes autodefinan su trabajo como Latinoamericano y quienes involucren nuevos enfoques etnográficos/empíricos provocativos, críticos y conceptuales.
http://www.spanishservices.org/en/ The Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples offers services and programs to the Spanish speaking community in Toronto, Ontario.
EDITORS Editorial Coordinator: Paloma E. Villegas, Ph.D., Sociology and Equity Studies in Education Areas of interest: The production of Migrant Illegalization in relation to Race, Citizenship and Gender
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS: Juan Martin Arellano, M.A International Affairs , The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University. Areas of Interest: Global Political Economy, International Development, Indigenous Peoples and Development Projects, Social Justice and Human Rights, Policy Development and Evaluation, and Positive Youth Development. Madelaine Cristina Cahuas, Ph.D. student, Department of Geography & Program in Planning University of Toronto. Areas of Interest: Health Equity, Community Engagement, and Social and Environmental Justice in planning and building ‘healthy’ and ‘inclusive’ cities. Lidia Valencia Fourcans, M.A in Latin American and Caribbean Studies Areas of interest: Latin American Culture and Identity, Latin American and Caribbean Development and Development Geography, Contemporary Latin American Philosophy and Thought, Modern Latin American and Spanish-American Literature, Immigration and Settlement Studies, Media Studies and Gender Studies. Tania Hernández-Cervantes, Ph.D. candidate of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Areas of interests: Social and Environmental Justice, Global and Local Agro-food Systems, Agroecology, Rural-Urban relationship and Ecological Economics. Irma Molina, PhD Social Anthropology Areas of Interest: Analytics and Ethnography of War, Everyday-Life Theory, Ethics and Fieldwork in Contexts of Political Instability, The Ethics and Politics of Knowledge Production and Representation. Henry Parada, Ph.D. Areas of Interest: Latin America Social Work, Community Development,Anti-Oppression, institutional ethnography, child welfare Hernán Sicilia, B.A Film Production and Cinematography Areas of interest: Spanish-American Poetry, Baroque and Romantic Latin American Literature, Spanish-American Linguistics, Indigenous influences in Mexican Spanish language, Mexican Film Industry, Mexican Political Affairs. Luz Maria Vazquez, Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology, York University Areas of interest: climate change, politics of environmental knowledge and development.
BOARD OF REVIEWERS Mirna E. Carranza Associate Professor School of Social Work McMaster University KTH # 309-B Hamilton, ON, Canada
Glafira Rocha Independent Writer and Playwright Holds MS in Philosophy (UNAM) and B.A in Letras HispĂĄnicas (UAS). Has published extensively and received prestigious awards.
Maria del Carmen Suescun Pozas Associate Professor Department of History Brock University St. Catharines, ON, L2S 3A1, Canada
Pablo Heidrich Senior Researcher on Trade and Development The North-South Institute 55 Murray Street, Suite 500 Ottawa, ON K1N 5M3, Canada
Ruben Gaztambide-Fernandez Associate Professor Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at The University of Toronto 252 Bloor Street West Toronto, ON M5S 1V6, Canada Ana Lorena Leija Ph.D. Associate Artistic Director Aluna Theatre 123-1 Wiltshire Ave. Toronto ON, M6N 2V7, Canada ÂŠ 2014 Latin American Encounters All rights reserved. ISSN 2291-4927 Cover design by Robert Direnna Page composition, typography and design by Sandra Elizondo www.sandraelizondo.com
Lisa Kowalchuk Associate Professor Department of Sociology and Anthropology University of Guelph 6th Floor Mackinnon Building, 50 Stone Road E Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada
2014 | VOLUME 2
INTRODUCTION/ INTRODUCCIÓN Paloma E. Villegas Traducción: Lidia Fourcans
FEATURE ARTICLE / ARTICULO ESPECIAL Paisajes Mineros, Geografias de Resistencia. Territorialidades en Disputa en Guatemala y Chiapas, Mexico Maria Fernanda Paz Salinas
ARTICLES / ARTICULOS Community Voices, Community Action: Latin American Education Network 2013 Community Education Forum Report Alexandra Arraiz Matute & Derik Chica
Prescribed Lack: The Prevalence and Dangers of Deficiency Theories to Explain the Latina/o Schooling Experience in Toronto* Francisco J. Villegas
Experience of a Latino Teacher in Toronto Schools Derik Chica
Yo Cuento - Latin American Newcomer Children Tell Their Stories Monica Valencia
POETRY AND NARRATIVE / POESÍA Y LETRAS Postcard Ari Belathar
I Carry a People in my Voice Ivania Erazo
La Pasión de Cristo Oliver Velazquez Toledo’s
VISUAL CONTRIBUTIONS / CONTRIBUCIÓNES VISUALES 81 Impressions of Peru Manuel Arellano
Batik en Uruguay Robert Direnna
2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Paloma E. Villegas1 Traducción/ Translation: Lidia Fourcans2
Welcome to the second issue of Latin American Encounters (LAE). This issue brings together texts and visual submissions from diverse sources: researchers, community members, grassroots activists, creative writers and artists (these categories are not mutually exclusive) whose work engages Latin America and/or Latin American subjectivities in Canada. Their contributions further our understandings of the social, economic, political, demographic, and artistic context under which Latin Americans in Canada and elsewhere are situated. This means that both the material and our intended audience are purposefully interdisciplinary. Their contributions also further understandings of how Latin America and Latin Americans in Canada are produced and understood through different social scales: local, regional, national, transnational/translocal. This issue also has important contributions to questions of power, resistance, subjectivity, identity, and memory. Contributions further our collective understanding of how power relations construct and maintain our understandings of Latin America and Latin Americans in Canada as well as how those power relations are reflected upon, negotiated and counteracted. Our feature article “Paisajes Mineros, Geografias de Resistencia. Territorialidades en Disputa en Guatemala y Chiapas, Mexico” by Maria Fernanda Paz Salinas engages with the transnational and translocal effect of one Canadian business sector: the mining industry. Specifically, Paz Salinas examines the rise of Canadian mining companies in the south of Mexico and Guatemala and the response by indigenous communities. She uses the concepts of de-territorialization and re-territorialization to point to the link between power relations, time and space. The mining companies de-territorialize the space around mines not only by physically dislocating local communities but by changing the rules under which space and its inhabitants are understood and represented. However, she also points to practices of re-territorialization by indigenous communities, who come together, often across the Guatemala and Mexico border and produce new ways to understand space. This can lead to what Paz Salinas calls “un proyecto de existencia otro,” a new way to understand space and time that is not tied to imposed nation-state physical boundaries and subject positions. Moving from the transnational to the local, the next set of articles examine the experiences of Latin American children and youth in Toronto and the need to include their perspectives. The “Community Voices, Community Action: Latin American Education Network 2013
Paloma E. Villegas received her PhD from the department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto (OISE/UT). She has a Master’s degree in Women Studies from San Francisco State University Her research analyzes the production of migrant illegalization in relation to race, citizenship and gender. She is currently a Lecturer at the University of Toronto, Scarborough.
Lidia Valencia Fourcans holds a B.A. in English literature from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico and an M.A. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University of Guelph. She is currently pursuing graduate studies at the Department of Geography, University of Guelph. Lidia has taught contemporary literature, textual analysis and theory of translation at the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos and The Alzate University, Mexico. She is also a registered English-Spanish Translator with specialization in Literary and Legal translation. Her main areas of interest and research are Latin American Culture and Identity, Gender and Development Studies, Contemporary Latin American Philosophy and Thought, Modern Latin American and Spanish-American Literature, Economic Geography and Consumption Geographies.
Community Education Forum Report” by Alexandra Arraiz and Derik Chica discusses the work of the Latin American Education Network (LAEN). LAEN emerged from discussions among local community members in Toronto about the barriers Latin American youth and their families experience vis-à-vis schooling, including a high push out rate (Mantilla, Schugurensky, & Serrano, 2009). The report focuses on LAEN’s second annual community forum on Latina/os and schooling, outlining the main themes that emerged from discussions among community members, educators and families and youth. “Prescribed Lack: The Prevalence and Dangers of Deficiency Theories to Explain the Latina/o Schooling Experience” by Francisco Javier Villegas problematizes the use of deficiency theories by community members when thinking about the disengagement of Latina/o youth in Toronto. Focusing on his work with Latina/o students in different contexts, including a mentoring group and the LAEN forum discussed by Arraiz and Chica, Villegas argues that deficiency theories are embedded in our day-to-day discourse and hinder the possibility of collective resistance to the numerous inequities found in Toronto schools. Like, Valencia, Arraiz and Chica, he proposes centering the voices of students as way to counteract such processes. Derik Chica’s “Experience of a Latino Teacher in Toronto Schools” is a first person account of the formal and informal processes that affect Latina/o youth in schools. Situating himself as an anti-racist educator, Chica reflects on school hiring practices, the treatment of students by teachers and administrators and the difficulties in learning to navigate the schooling system in Toronto. He also discusses the ways he has inserted himself to create change in schools and the education sector as well as to improve the educational experiences of Latina/o and other racialized and marginalized youth. Our last article is “Yo Cuento- Latin American Newcomer Children Tell Their Stories” by Monica Valencia. Valencia examines the impact of migration on Latin American children living in Canada, particularly their separation from grandparents, their experiences of multiple movements and the difficulties they face upon arrival. Valencia reminds us that the experiences of children are vital for our understandings of migration trajectories and experiences of incorporation. In our “Poetry and Narrative” section we present three contributions. “Postcard” by Ari Belathar discusses the power of borders as well as the role of memory and nostalgia in those who have been exiled. “Ivania Erazo’s “I Carry a People in my Voice” takes you on a journey through the “generations of struggle and courage” of Salvadorians (I. Erazo, personal communication, May 22, 2014). Yet, like the indigenous communities Paz Salinas discusses in her article, Erazo is also interested in transnational connections between Latin Americans. She states: “The fibres of this piece are interconnected into the lives of other Latin American countries as its author dreams of a united Latin America, one that can accomplish mutual respect, peace and justice. This piece is a reminder that even though the aftermath of colonization still breathes in Latin America, Latin American people carry their own voice, and they are willing to fight so they can share it” (I. Erazo, personal communication, May 22, 2014). Finally, Oliver Velazquez Toledo’s “La Pasión de Cristo” (the passion of Christ) uses the biblical story of the same name and situates it among contemporary Mexican drug and alcohol
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Paloma E. Villegas & Lidia Fourcans
users. In the story, religion is linked to drug use and rehabilitation including “el cristianismo mariguano” (marijuana Christianity) and Christ preaching the message of getting clean. The visual contributions to this issue include photographs by Manuel Arellano and Robert Direnna. Arellano’s photographs were taken during a trip to Peru as part of Canadian International Development Agency’s International Youth Internship Program. Direnna uses the Batik technique to depict two broad themes. The first is the arrival and experiences of Africans to what we now call Uruguay during Spanish colonial rule in Latin America. His goal is to visibilize these communities to create a more comprehensive picture of that period of time. The second theme focuses on religious symbols, as way to “reflect on art as way of thinking that is linked to life itself”.
References Mantilla, D. , Schugurensky, Daniel, & Serrano, J.F. (Eds.). (2009). Four in ten: Spanish speaking youth and school drop out in Toronto. Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network (LARED), and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
10 | Latin American Encounters
2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Paloma E. Villegas3 Traducción/ Translation: Lidia Fourcans4
Bienvenidos a la segunda publicación de Encuentros Latinoamericanos (ELA). Esta publicación reúne trabajos escritos y visuales de diversas fuentes: investigadores, miembros de la comunidad, activistas comunitarios, escritores creativos y artistas (estas categorías no son mutualmente exclusivas) cuyo trabajo involucra a Latinoamérica y/o subjetividades latinoamericanas en Canadá. Sus contribuciones permiten un entendimiento más profundo de los contextos sociales, económicos, políticos, demográficos y artísticos bajo los cuales los latinoamericanos en Canadá y en otros lugares están situados. Esto significa que tanto los materiales como la audiencia prevista para esta publicación son intencionalmente interdisciplinarios. Estas contribuciones también favorecen una mejor comprensión de cómo Latinoamérica y los latinoamericanos en Canadá son producidos y entendidos a través de diferentes escalas sociales: local, regional, nacional, transnacional/translocal. Esta segunda publicación también incluye importantes contribuciones que responden a preguntas relacionadas al poder, la resistencia, la subjetividad, la identidad, y la memoria. Estas contribuciones amplían nuestro entendimiento colectivo de cómo las relaciones de poder construyen y mantienen nuestros conocimientos de Latinoamérica y de los/as Latinoamericanos/ as en Canadá y también invitan a la reflexión de cómo esas relaciones de poder son entendidas, negociadas y contrarrestadas. Nuestro articulo especial “Paisajes Mineros, Geografías de Resistencia. Territorialidades en Disputa en Guatemala y Chiapas, México” por María Fernanda Paz Salinas estudia los efectos transnacionales y translocales de un sector empresarial canadiense: la industria minera. Específicamente, Paz Salinas examina el levantamiento de compañías mineras en el sur de México y Guatemala y la respuesta por parte de las comunidades indígenas. Paz Salinas usa los conceptos de des-territorialización y re-territorialización para señalar el vínculo entre relaciones de poder, tiempo y espacio. Las compañías mineras des-territorializan el espacio alrededor de las minas no sólo mediante el desplazamiento físico de las comunidades locales sino también mediante el cambio de las reglas bajos las cuales el espacio y sus habitantes son entendidos y representados. Sin embargo, ella también señala las prácticas de re-territorialización de las comunidades indígenas, quienes se unen, frecuentemente a través de la frontera de Guatemala y México y producen nuevas formas de entender el espacio. Esto nos lleva a lo que Paz Salinas
Paloma E. Villegas recibió su doctorado del departamento de Sociología y Estudios de Equidad de la Universidad de Toronto. Tiene una maestría de Estudios de Genero de la Universidad estatal de San Francisco. Su trabajo analiza la producción de la ilegalización de lo migrantes y sus vínculos con la racialzation la ciudadanía y el genero. Trabaja como docente en la Universidad de Toronto, Scarborough.
Lidia Valencia Fourcans es Licenciada en Letras Inglesas por la Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México y Maestra en estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe por la Universidad de Guelph (Canadá). Actualmente cursa estudios de postgrado en el Departamento de Geografía, Universidad de Guelph. Lidia ha enseñado Literatura Contemporánea, Análisis del Discurso y Teoría de la Traducción. También es traductora registrada de inglés-español con especialización en Literatura y traducción Legal.
Paloma E. Villegas & Lidia Fourcans
llama “un proyecto de existencia otro”, una nueva forma de entender el espacio y el tiempo que no está ligada a las fronteras físicas de nación-estado y a la posición del sujeto. Yendo de lo transnacional a lo local, el siguiente grupo de artículos examina las experiencias de niños y jóvenes latinoamericanos en Toronto y la necesidad de incluir sus perspectivas. Las “Voces de la Comunidad, Comunidad en Acción: Red de Educación Latinoamericana 2013 Reporte del Foro de Educación Comunitaria” de Alexandra Arraiz y Derik Chica discute el trabajo de la Red de Educación Latinoamericana (por sus siglas en inglés, LAEN). La Red de Educación Latinoamericana surgió de las discusiones entre miembros locales en Toronto sobre las barreras que los jóvenes latinoamericanos y sus familias experimentan con respecto a la educación escolar, incluyendo una alta tasa de expulsiones (Mantilla, Schugurensky, & Serrano, 2009). El reporte se enfoca en el segundo foro comunitario anual de la Red de Educación Latinoamericana sobre latinas/os y la educación escolar, delineando los temas principales que surgieron de las discusiones entre miembros de la comunidad, educadores, las familias y los jóvenes. “Carencia Prescrita: La Prevalencia y los Peligros de las Teorías de la Deficiencia para Explicar la Experiencia de Educación Escolar en Latinas/os” por Francisco Javier Villegas problematiza el uso de las teorías de la deficiencia por parte de miembros de la comunidad al momento de pensar en el desinterés de la juventud latina en Toronto. Enfocándose en su trabajo con estudiantes latinos y latinas en diferentes contextos, incluyendo el ser mentor de grupo y el foro de la Red de Educación Latinoamericana sobre latinas/os y la educación escolar discutido por Arraiz y Chica, Villegas argumenta que las teorías de la deficiencia están incorporadas en nuestros discursos del día a día y limitan la posibilidad de generar una resistencia colectiva a las múltiples desigualdades presentes en las escuelas de Toronto. Como Valencia, Arraiz y Chica, él propone centralizar las voces de los estudiantes como una forma de contrarrestar dichos procesos. El artículo de Derik Chica titulado “Experiencia de un Maestro Latino en las Escuelas de Toronto” es un recuento en primera persona de los procesos formales e informales que afectan a la juventud latina en las escuelas. Posicionándose él mismo como un educador antiracista, Chica reflexiona sobre las prácticas de empleo, el trato a los estudiantes por parte de los profesores y los administradores y las dificultades en el aprendizaje para navegar el sistema escolar en Toronto. Él también discute las formas en que él mismo se ha posicionado para crear un cambio en las escuelas y en el sector de la educación así como en el mejoramiento de las experiencias de las/os latinas/os y otros jóvenes discriminados por su raza y marginalizados. Nuestro ultimo articulo es “Yo Cuento- Niños Latinoamericanos Imigrantes Cuentan Sus Historias” por Mónica Valencia. Valencia examina el impacto de la migración en niños latinoamericanos viviendo en Canadá, particularmente sus separación de los abuelos, sus experiencias con múltiples mudanzas y las dificultades que enfrentan después de su llegada. Valencia nos recuerda que las experiencias de los niños son vitales para nuestro entendimiento de las trayectorias de migración y las experiencias de incorporación. En nuestra sección de “Poesía y Narrativa” presentamos tres contribuciones. “Postal” de Ari Belathar discute el poder de las fronteras así como el rol de la memoria y la nostalgia en aquellos que han sido exiliados. “Llevo a mi Gente en mi Voz” de Ivania Erazo nos lleva a un viaje a través de las 12 | Latin American Encounters
“generaciones de lucha y coraje” de los salvadoreños (I. Erazo, comunicación personal, 22 de Mayo, 2014). Empero, así como las comunidades indígenas que Paz Salinas discute en su artículo, Erazo también se interesa en las conexiones transnacionales entre los latinoamericanos. Ella dice: “las fibras de esta pieza están interconectadas con las vidas de otros países latinoamericanos mientras su autor sueña con una Latinoamérica unida, una que pueda lograr un mutuo respeto, paz y justicia. Esta pieza es un recordatorio de que a pesar de que las consecuencias de la colonización aún respiran en Latinoamérica, la gente latinoamericana lleva su voz propia, y están dispuestos a luchar para poder compartirla” (I. Erazo, comunicación personal, 22 de May, 2014). Finalmente “La pasión de Cristo” de Oliver Velazquez Toledo usa la historia bíblica del mismo nombre y la sitúa entre los mexicanos contemporáneos usuarios de drogas y alcohol. En la historia, la religión es ligada al uso de drogas y la rehabilitación incluyendo “el cristianismo mariguano” y Cristo predicando el mensaje de sobriedad. Las contribuciones visuales en esta publicación incluyen las fotografías de Manuel Arellano y Robert Direnna. Las fotografías de Arellano fueron tomadas durante un viaje a Perú como parte del Programa Internacional Juvenil de Pasantía de la Agencia Canadiense de Desarrollo Internacional. Direnna usa la técnica del Batik para representar temas más amplios. El primero es el arribo y las experiencias de los africanos a lo que ahora llamamos Uruguay durante el régimen colonial español en Latinoamérica. Su meta es visibilizar estas comunidades para crear un retrato más extenso de ese periodo de tiempo. El segundo tema se enfoca en símbolos religiosos como una forma de “reflexionar sobre el arte como un pensamiento que se une a la vida misma”
Bibliografía Mantilla, D. , Schugurensky, Daniel, & Serrano, J.F. (Eds.). (2009). Four in ten: Spanish speaking youth and school drop out in Toronto. Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network (LARED), and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
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FEATURE ARTICLE ARTICULO ESPECIAL
2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Paisajes mineros, geografías de resistencia. Territorialidades en disputa en Guatemala y Chiapas, México María Fernanda Paz1
RESUMEN / ABSTRACT En la última década la presencia de emprendimientos mineros de capital canadiense en el estado de Chiapas -localizado en el sur de México- y en el norte de Guatemala, ha ido en aumento y también han aumentado las oposiciones a los mismos. Las comunidades campesinas e indígenas de uno y otro lado de la frontera han sido protagonistas de luchas por la defensa de territorios, fuentes de agua, salud y modos de vida amenazados por la actividad extractiva. Pero no todo es mera oposición. Desde la resistencia se ha venido tejiendo asimismo una propuesta contrahegemónica de integración mesoamericana, que implica la construcción de nuevas territorialidades, y con ello la afirmación y proyección espacio-temporal de los pueblos indígenas. El presente trabajo busca comprender la oposición a la minería en Guatemala y Chiapas, México, como proceso que apunta a lo que algunos autores denominan procesos de Territorialización-Desterritorialización-Reterritorialización (Haesbaert, 2011). Palabras clave: minería, Chiapas, Guatemala, territorio, territorialidad, desterritorialización, reterritorialización.
El 18 de junio del 2005, en el municipio indígena de Sipakapa, departamento de San Marcos, Guatemala, se llevó a cabo la primera consulta popular sobre la explotación minera. Se trató de un acto jurídicamente respaldado por la propia Constitución Política de la República de ese país, por el Convenio 169 de la OIT - ratificado por Guatemala en 1996 como parte de los Acuerdos de Paz - y por el Código Municipal de Sipakapa. En la consulta participaron 2,564 personas de trece comunidades; de ellas, 2,448 expresaron claramente su negativa a que la empresa Montana, subsidiaria del corporativo canadiense Goldcorp, llevara a cabo la extracción de oro y plata a cielo abierto en la mina denominada Marlin (COPAE, 2012; Yegenova y García, 2009; Otzoy, 2007). La empresa tramitó un amparo de inconstitucionalidad y el gobierno guatemalteco no reconoció el carácter vinculante de la consulta. La mina se instaló y ha operado desde entonces. Los pueblos indígenas, por su parte, refrendaron el procedimiento comunitario para expresar su opinión sobre el presente y futuro de sus territorios, y desde entonces se han organizado 75
1 María Fernanda Paz es doctora en Ciencias Antropológicas por la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana y fue becaria de la Fundación Rockefeller en el Programa de Estudios Avanzados en Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable (LEAD) en El Colegio de México. Se desempeña como investigadora titular del Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias de la UNAM y es miembro del Sistema Nacional de Investigadores. Su trabajo de investigación ha girado en torno a la dimensión social y política del manejo, conservación y deterioro de los recursos naturales y en la actualidad está trabajando los temas de gobernanza local y conflictos socio ambientales. Ha publicado varios libros y artículos sobre la temática socio ambiental.
María Fernanda Paz
Consultas Comunitarias de Buena Fe2 en todo el país, y una consulta extraterritorial3. A través de este mecanismo participativo se han manifestado más de un millón de personas en contra de los emprendimientos mineros en ese país. En el estado fronterizo de Chiapas, México, se han presentado también en los últimos años diversas expresiones de oposición a la actividad minera en territorios indígenas. En esta entidad, la lucha antiminera comenzó abiertamente en el año 2007 en el municipio sureño de Chicomuselo, donde la empresa canadiense Blackfire explotó un yacimiento de barita y oro hasta el año 2009, en que el tajo fue clausurado y la empresa expulsada de la comunidad tras el asesinato de uno de los líderes de la oposición, Mariano Abarca Roblero. No fue ésta sin embargo la única concesión minera en la región, y pronto la amenaza extractivista así como la oposición a ella, se extendieron por la Sierra Madre y el Soconusco. En febrero del 2013, más de dos mil indígenas de las etnias Mam, Mochó y Caqchikel, representantes de 78 ejidos localizados en once municipios de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas, reunidos en la comunidad El Pizarrín en el municipio de Motozintla, decidieron conformar un grupo de autodefensa que se dedicaría a patrullar la región para evitar saqueo ilegal, contaminación y destrucción por parte de las compañías mineras canadienses Blackfire y Linear Gold que operan en la zona (Mandujano, 2013) En la última década la presencia de emprendimientos mineros de capital canadiense en Chiapas y Guatemala ha ido en aumento, y también han aumentado las oposiciones a los mismos. Las comunidades campesinas e indígenas de uno y otro lado de la frontera han sido protagonistas de luchas por la defensa de territorios, fuentes de agua, salud y modos de vida amenazados por la actividad extractiva. Pero no todo es mera oposición. Desde la resistencia se ha venido tejiendo asimismo una propuesta contrahegemónica de integración mesoamericana, que implica la construcción de nuevas territorialidades, y con ello la afirmación y proyección espacio-temporal de los pueblos indígenas. Alrededor de estas ideas tejeré mis reflexiones en este trabajo; antes empero deseo aclarar que las luchas contra la minería y los conflictos derivados de la exploración y explotación minera no son privativos de las comunidades indígenas. Si algo se ha demostrado en los últimos años es que estos conflictos congregan una amplia diversidad de actores sociales que se oponen al modelo extractivo. En los propios casos aludidos en este trabajo, la presencia de organizaciones sociales diversas del campo y la ciudad, de grupos de estudiantes, académicos, ambientalistas y de religiosos no es la excepción sino la norma. Me interesa, sin embargo, destacar la dimensión étnica de la resistencia pues es uno de los ejes fundamentales desde donde se articulan las contrapropuestas en Chiapas y Guatemala.
2 Se denominan Consultas Comunitarias de Buena Fe, siguiendo lo estipulado en el Artículo 6,numeral 2, del Convenio 169 de la OIT, que a la letra dice: “Las consultas llevadas a cabo en aplicación de este Convenio deberán efectuarse de buena fe y de una manera apropiada a las circunstancias, con la finalidad de llegar a un acuerdo o lograr el consentimiento acerca de las medidas propuestas”. 3 El 3 de noviembre del 2013, convocados por El Consejo Francisquense de Los Ángeles, California, EUA, y el Consejo Francisquense por la Defensa del Territorio, Montañas Lugares Sagrados del municipio de San Francisco El Alto, departamento de Totonicapan, Guatemala, se llevó a cabo la primera Consulta Comunitaria Extraterritorial de Buena Fe, en la ciudad de los Ángeles, California. En ella participaron miles de migrantes del pueblo Maya Kíché de San Francisco El Alto, residentes en esa ciudad. Al final de la jornada que duró todo el día, se contabilizaron 4,257 votos en contra de la minería, mismos que se sumaron a las 45,593 expresiones de rechazo recolectadas en la Consulta de Buena Fe celebrada el 30 de julio del mismo año en el municipio de San Francisco El Alto en territorio guatemalteco. La consulta extra territorial marca sin duda un precedente que invita a reflexionar en la dimensión transfronteriza de la resistencia. http://comunitariapress.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/cronica-consulta-de-buena-fe-desde-los-eu/
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Paisajes mineros, geografías de resistencia. Territorialidades en disputa en Guatemala y Chiapas, México
Minería y resistencia en Chiapas y Guatemala: entre la desterritorialización y la reterritorialización Chiapas y Guatemala, como otros estados de la República Mexicana y como la mayoría de los países latinoamericanos, están inmersos en el proceso de reprimarización de la economía; es decir que la producción de commodities está por encima de la producción de manufacturas y del desarrollo de la industria. Las plantaciones comerciales, la producción de energía hídrica y eólica y la minería, han jugado en esto un papel fundamental. El proceso extractivo y las relaciones de poder que lo sustentan, reconfiguran económicamente las regiones al convertir antiguas zonas comunitarias de agrícolas en áreas mineras o de potencial minero, tal y como ha sucedido en el sur del estado mexicano de Chiapas, en la región de la Sierra Madre, y en el norte de Guatemala. En aquellos casos donde la explotación del mineral ya opera, la reconfiguración física de las zonas se expresa, además del cambio de uso del suelo y la transformación de paisaje, en la destrucción de ecosistemas, el agotamiento de las fuentes de agua y la contaminación ambiental Las transformaciones impactan asimismo la dimensión social, cultural y política, dado que se trata de territorios históricamente poseídos y ocupados por los pueblos indígenas Mam, Mochó y Kaqchikel. Al romper la propiedad colectiva de la tierra se rompen también las prácticas sociopolíticas que se articulaban en torno a ella, y los sentidos identitarios tejidos en la trama de las interacciones sociales. Se opera, en suma, una resignificación completa. Algunos teóricos de la geografía política se refieren a estos procesos como desterritorialización y reterritorialización, para llamar la atención sobre la relación entre espacio y poder (Haesbaert, 2004; Raffestin, 1986; Sack,1986; Agnew y Oslender, 2010). La desterritorialización, impulsada desde el poder hegemónico, no implica sólo el despojo físico que ejerce un grupo sobre otro, sino el dominio/control material y simbólico sobre el territorio. Desterritorializar significa ocupar, apropiarse, resignificar, imponer prácticas y representaciones, reestructurar el espacio y las relaciones sociales y culturales que lo producen. Significa también excluir, o incluir de manera precaria (Haesbaert, Op.Cit.). Al desterritorializar, se reterritorializa, nunca se genera un vacío; es decir, se construyen nuevos territorios en su dimensión material y simbólica; se imponen otras prácticas y significados. Desterritorialización y reterritorialización son por tanto procesos que ocurren de manera simultánea y a través de los cuales se busca afirmar un dominio. Sin embargo, frente a las relaciones de dominación opera la resistencia, también como expresión de poder (Foucault, 1994)4, y desde ella no sólo se expresa oposición y reacción, sino también se impulsan procesos creativos, se proponen nuevas y múltiples territorialidades5, y se construyen territorios en red que rebasan fronteras étnicas y político administrativas, para
4 Para Michel Foucault, la resistencia no es contraria al poder ni anterior a él, es consustancial a él, y “… es tan inventiva, tan móvil, tan productiva como el poder. Es preciso que, como el poder, se organice, se coagule y se cimiente. Que vaya de abajo a arriba como él, y se distribuya estratégicamente” (1994:162) 5 A diferencia de Robert Sack, quien define la territorialidad como un acto consciente y deliberado, como una estrategia diseñada por individuos o grupos para controlar el acceso- uso de un área geográfica, con sus consecuentes implicaciones sobre las relaciones sociales, Claude Raffestin (1986) se refiere a la territorialidad como un complejo sistema de relaciones entre individuos y grupos con el territorio y la alteridad, mediadas por prácticas, representaciones y técnicas. Así, mientras la definición del primero refiere más a una conducta orientada a un fin, para el segundo, la territorialidad es más un proceso relacional. En este trabajo consideramos que ambos enfoques, lejos de ser contradictorios, son complementarios.
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garantizar y reivindicar la existencia de un proyecto o, mejor dicho, un proyecto de existencia otro, que no se ciscunscribe a un lugar. En esta re-territorialización (que alude a referentes materiales y simbólicos viejos y nuevos, así como también a viejas y nuevas articulaciones socioespaciales que no se agotan en el Estado-nación, ni se oponen a éste), se generan asimismo los nuevos sujetos que las refrendan. Esto es lo que está sucediendo en la región que nos ocupa: frente a los paisajes mineros, las geografías de la resistencia. Veamos un poco de contexto. Hasta finales del siglo pasado Chiapas figuraba en las estadísticas económicas nacionales en el lugar 19 y 20 en cuanto a producción de minerales líticos, y no es sino hasta la última década cuando la minería metálica comenzó a registrarse como foco de inversión nacional y extranjera para exploración y explotación. Según el Servicio Geológico Mexicano y la Coordinación General de Minería de la Secretaría de Economía, en el año 2010 se reportaba la presencia de nueve empresas de exploración minera en la entidad; seis de ellas canadienses (Linear Gold Corporation; Brigus Gold; Fronteer Development Group, South Malartic Exploration, Inc., Radius Gold; Blackfire Exploration). Para el mismo año, la dependencia declaraba el otorgamiento de 97 concesiones mineras, de las cuales, en 2012, estaban vigentes 76; 29 de ellas en la zona estudiada (Secretaría de Economía, 2012). El aumento de las concesiones en Chiapas debe contextualizarse en el marco nacional: según indican López Bárcenas y Eslava Galicia (2011), del 2000 al 2010 en México se entregaron 26,559 concesiones mineras sobre el 35% del subsuelo nacional; en 2012 la cifra había aumentado a 27,159 según el último reporte del Sistema Integral de Administración Minera de la Secretaría de Economía6. Las modificaciones al artículo 27 de la Constitución hechas en 1992, la Ley Minera emitida ese mismo año, que amplía el periodo de las concesiones de 25 a 50 años (prorrogables a 50 años más) y que declara a la minería actividad de utilidad pública, junto a la ley de inversión extranjera, han sido el marco jurídico que respalda la expansión del capital minero sobre tierras, muchas de las cuales habían sido hasta entonces, de propiedad social. La inversión minera moderna en Guatemala tiene una historia similar. Comienza con el fin del conflicto armado en 1996 y la expedición de una nueva Ley Minera en 1997 que, al igual que la mexicana, crea condiciones favorables para la inversión privada en este sector. Quince años más tarde, en 2012, se habían otorgado 276 permisos de explotación y 111 de exploración minera, a las que se suman 734 solicitudes en proceso en el Ministerio de Energía y Minas (ONU, 2011). Según reporta Sandt (2009:6), más de la mitad de las concesiones se encontraban, en 2008, en territorios indígenas de los departamentos de San Marcos, Huehuetenango, en el oriente de Alta Verapaz y en Izabal7. Al igual de lo sucedido en Chiapas, las comunidades indígenas no fueron tomadas en cuenta: ni informadas, ni consultadas. El silencio gubernamental y la imposición de los proyectos mineros en territorios indígenas de Chiapas y Guatemala han jugado, sin duda, un papel importante en la activación de
6 Datos de la misma dependencia muestran que la superficie bajo concesión se duplicó en un periodo de sesis años entre 2006 y 2012, pasando de 16,491 hectáreas a 32, 573Ver: http://www.siam.economia.gob.mx/es/siam/p_Titulos 7 De las cuatro transnacionales mineras que operaban en Guatemala hacia el 2010, tres eran canadienses: Goldcorp, Nichromet Extractions y Hudbay Minerals; la cuarta es la firma australiana BHP/Billition (Sandt, Op.Cit.: 7)
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las protestas pues ponen de manifiesto, una vez más, la intención de invisibilizar la existencia de los pueblos indígenas y su pleno derecho a existir como tales; derecho que reconocen las Constituciones de ambos países en donde se declaran pluriétnicos y multiculturales8. Desde este agravio que los niega se han construído las demandas de los pueblos movilizados; y desde él, también, se impulsan y promueven contrapropuestas para reafirmar su presencia no como reminiscencias del pasado, sino como pueblos activos en un mundo globalizado. Las movilizaciones contra la minería en Chiapas y Guatemala, si bien con expresiones distintas, se han venido articulando en ambos lados en torno a dos ejes fundamentales: la lucha por los derechos, y la defensa del territorio; ejes que, por supuesto, se implican mutuamente aunque tienen diferentes puntos de tensión. Desde la demanda de los derechos, los pueblos indígenas interpelan al Estado; mientras que a través de la defensa del territorio, desafían su soberanía. Al reivindicar los derechos le reclaman al Estado el no reconocimiento y cumplimiento de sus obligaciones a partir de los compromisos adquiridos y signados; pero también confirman su presencia y exigen reconocimiento pleno de su diversidad. El reclamo de los derechos es un reclamo que apunta a la inclusión que se formula desde el eco de aquellas voces rebeldes que, casi dieciocho años atrás, sentenciaron: “Nunca más sin nosotros”.9 Por otro lado, al defender el territorio, se cuestiona el carácter “unitario” del Estado y al territorio como el ámbito espacial donde éste se expresa. La defensa del territorio por parte de pueblos y comunidades indígenas pone en la mesa de discusión el asunto de la multiterritorialidad o de las territorialidades superpuestas (Agnew, J y U Oslender, 2010), como hecho negado e invisibilizado desde el poder hegemónico, pero que emerge con fuerza en los procesos de resistencia y pone en evidencia lo que Raffestin (1980) denomina múltiples poderes espacializados. La defensa del territorio como eje de lucha de los pueblos indígenas que enfrentan un proceso de despojo y precarización por parte del capital minero transnacional, lejos de colocarlos como víctimas pasivas, los constituye como sujetos que se reformulan o, mejor dicho, se reterritorializan; plantean otras formas de relación con el Estado, con la sociedad y con el entorno. El territorio que se defiende no se agota en un espacio físico claramente delimitado; esta definición es un tanto estrecha cuando se alude al espacio apropiado, construído, significado; es decir, el territorio como ámbito de producción y reproducción material y simbólica. Defender el territorio, es defender formas de organización societaria que permiten su apropiación y el desenvolvimiento de la vida cotidiana de quienes lo ocupan. No se trata de “mantener las cosas como estaban”, o el retorno a un pasado idílico remotamente probable. En la oposición a las formas modernas de expansión del capital, los pueblos indígenas buscan descolonizarse,
8 En la Constitución de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, en los Artículos 4º y 27, se reconoce el carácter pluricultural de la nación mexicana y la obligación del Estado de proteger sus tierras, usos y costumbres. En Guatemala, el carácter multicultural de la nación se reconoce en el Artículo 66 de la Constitución promulgada en 1986, y la defensa de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas se ratifica con la firma de los Acuerdos de Paz en 1996 que contemplan los lineamientos del Convenio 169 de la OIT, arriba citado. Cabe recordar que México también es signatario de dicho compromiso internacional. 9 Palabras de la Comandante Ramona del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, pronunciadas en el zócalo de la Ciudad de México en Octubre de 1996. 10 No hay en las luchas contemporáneas de los pueblos indígenas de Mesoamérica la nostalgia de un falso pasado mítico, ni el romanticismo de “volver a la raíz”, a la “esencia”; por eso decimos que no buscan esencializarse pero sí descolonizarse, en el sentido al que aluden algunos teóricos poscoloniales como Santos (2000). Dicho de otro modo, buscan romper la dominación no sólo económica, sino también política y cultural.
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no esencializarse10. Defender el territorio es territorializarse, lo que significa tomar el control político, económico y cultural del espacio. La vista no parece entonces apuntar al pasado, sino a un presente que los posiciona en el aquí y el ahora y los proyecta en el tiempo.
Tejiendo resistencias antimineras: de la defensa del lugar a la construcción de territorios-red La actividad minera, de exploración y explotación, es fundamentalmente destructiva, aunque en su modalidad a cielo abierto la destrucción es mayor. Arrasa bosques, pulveriza montañas enteras, desgasta y contamina los acuíferos, erosiona tierras, remueve y dispersa por agua, suelo y aire peligrosos venenos que matan y enferman igual a la flora, que a la fauna, que a la población del lugar y más allá (Macleod, M y C. Pérez Bámaca, 2013). Su capacidad devastadora no se agota en lo biofísico: destruye lazos solidarios, tejidos comunitarios y esperanzas otrora compartidas, a través de un discurso que promete una mejor vida (de empleos temporales, salarios precarios y carreteras que faciliten el éxodo), pero también a través de la amenaza y la coerción. En la lucha contra la minería canadiense en Guatemala y Chiapas, la represión de la protesta, la intimidación a los oponentes a través de amenazas, asesinatos y encarcelamientos se repite cada vez con mayor frecuencia. Los casos son cada vez más graves, como la masacre sufrida por el pueblo maya kakchikel de San José Nacahuil, en Guatemala, en donde en septiembre del 2013 fueron asesinadas 13 personas y heridas 15 más. Pero ni las amenazas, ni la represión, ni la muerte, han podido parar la oposición. Los pueblos indígenas de ambos lados del Río Suchiate, aún cuando han sido golpeados, divididos y amenazados hoy se re-encuentran en el agravio, y desde la condición de conflicto con el capital minero, tejen redes de resistencia. La oposición a la minería ha generado un interesante proceso de organización, movilización y construcción de alianzas. Las comunidades afectadas han buscado articularse entre ellas en ambos lados de la frontera, así como con grupos ambientalistas y otras organizaciones sociales regionales. En Chiapas participan de manera activa en la Red Mexicana de Acción contra la Minería (REMA), una organización nacional que nació en el año 2008 y tuvo su segunda reunión precisamente en el municipio de Chicomuselo en agosto del 2009. Como parte de la estrategia de organización y resistencia, en los últimos años se han llevado a cabo múltiples foros, reuniones informativas, caravanas, denuncias, así como impugnaciones a las manifestaciones de impacto ambiental de algunos de los proyectos mineros, como el de la mina de titanio, en el ejido Nueva Francia, en el municipio de Escuintla, Chiapas, que se logró detener, por lo menos temporalmente (Castro Soto, 2012). En Guatemala, la lucha que comenzó en el occidente, se ha ido expandiendo a diversos
11 Tras la consulta de Sipakapa se conformó el Consejo Regional contra la Minería que más tarde se convertiría en el Consejo del Pueblo Maya de Occidente. El Consejo del Pueblo Maya de Occidente, en sus propias palabras, “es la articulación de las autoridades e instituciones propias del Pueblo Maya en el Occidente de Guatemala: Consejo Mam (San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango y Retalhuleu), Consejo K’iche del Quiché, Consejo K’iche de Quetzaltenango, 48 Cantones de Totonicapán, Consejo de autoridades comunitarias de Momostenango, Asociación indígena de San Francisco el Alto, Asamblea de los Pueblos de Huehuetenango, Alcaldías Indígenas del Pueblo Ixil y Comunidades Kaqchikeles de Chimaltenango”. http://consejodepueblosdeoccidente.blogspot.mx/2012/11/ autoridades-del-pueblo-maya-de.html
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Paisajes mineros, geografías de resistencia. Territorialidades en disputa en Guatemala y Chiapas, México
puntos del territorio nacional hoy amenazados por los proyectos mineros. Se han conformado frentes, consejos11 y organizaciones; se han empleado métodos tradicionales de protesta como tomas carreteras y marchas, pero también se ha recurrido a los mecanismos legales como la consulta, la denuncia y los amparos. La exigencia al Estado guatemalteco sobre el respeto a los derechos indígenas para decidir de manera libre e informada sobre sus recursos y territorios como lo estipula el Convenio 169 de la OIT ha sido, sin duda, uno de los ejes articuladores de la lucha antiminera; el otro, desde mi perspectiva, ha sido la configuración de una geografía de resistencia al modelo extractivista en alianza con comunidades afectadas o en riesgo de afectación, que se encuentran del otro lado del Suchiate en territorio mexicano. Los pueblos mames, mochó y cakchikel de Chiapas y Guatemala, separados y desterritorializados en otros procesos históricos de conformación de las naciones modernas, hoy hacen de la oposición a la actividad minera su oportunidad para constituirse como pueblos indígenas mesoamericanos que se oponen al modelo socioeconómico y político que los pone en riesgo de desaparecer. Los esfuerzos de unificación mesoamerica desde propuestas subalternas comenzaron a tomar forma en diciembre del 2008, cuando en el ejido Libertad Frontera, Municipio de Mazapa de Madero, Chiapas, se llevó a cabo el Primer Encuentro Binacional contra la Minería y en Defensa de Nuestros Recursos, Derechos y Territorios, con la participación de 17 organizaciones de Guatemala y 8 de México (CIEPAC, 2008). El segundo encuentro se llevó a cabo cuatro meses más tarde, en marzo del 2009, en el municipio de San Antonio Huista, en Huehuetenango, Guatemala (CIEPAC, 2009). En ambas reuniones destaca el posicionamiento étnico de la resistencia que reclama el respeto a los derechos de los pueblos indios a decidir libremente sobre su futuro y su territorio. En 2012, las reuniones binacionales dieron lugar a la conformación de un Movimiento Mesoamericano Contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero, que se reunió por primera vez hacia finales de enero de ese año en el Valle de Siria, Honduras con la presencia de delegaciones nacionales de Panamá, Costa Rica, Honduras, Salvador, Guatemala y México, así como representantes de organizaciones solidarias de Estados Unidos y Canadá. En este encuentro las organizaciones participantes se comprometieron “a luchar coordinadamente para exigir la cancelación de las concesiones mineras que han sido impuestas sin el consentimiento de los pueblos”12. En abril del 2013 se realizó el segundo encuentro en el municipio de Aguacatán, Departamento de Huehuetenango, Guatemala. En éste se aprecia un carácter más estratégico del movimiento que ya no se conforma con generar espacios de encuentro, sino que se enfoca también a delinear “los ejes y acciones de los próximos tres años”. Estamos claramente frente a un proceso de construcción de territorios red que trascienden fronteras étnicas y nacionales, y se agrupan en torno a otras territorialidades.
A modo de cierre La oposición a los proyectos mineros efectivamente tiene que ver con la defensa de territorios
12 Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero, “Declaración Política”, Primer Encuentro del Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero”, Enero 26-29 del 2012, Valle de Siria, Honduras, http://www.movimientom4.org/ El subrayado es mío.
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y de los bienes naturales que hacen posible la vida; el agravio de compañías mineras refiere al despojo y al impacto de la actividad extractiva sobre la salud, las actividades económicas y el patrimonio de las comunidades. Son resistencias al propio modelo que impulsa y sostiene a estas empresas extractivas, es por ello que no hay negociación posible pues lo que está en disputa es la existencia social de uno de los grupos en pugna; es decir, las condiciones sociales, económicas, ecológicas y culturales que permiten y garantizan esa existencia. No se trata de conflictos de interés, ni tampoco de competencia por el acceso a un bien o un recurso. Lo que se debate son las condiciones materiales, sociales y culturales que hacen posible la vida fuera del proyecto hegemónico (Martínez Alier, 2009; Escobar 2006). Lo que he querido resaltar en estas líneas son los procesos de cambio que se generan desde estas oposiciones. No hay sólo denuncia, no hay sólo oposición. La desterritorializaciónreterritorialización impulsada por el capital que instrumentaliza los territorios, es contestada a través de otros procesos de reterritorialización que se generan desde abajo, desde los ámbitos subalternos, desde los pueblos indígenas en resistencia que reclaman el reconocimiento y respeto de la diversidad y la diferencia y, desde ahí, buscan reconfigurar espacialmente las relaciones de poder.
Bibliografia Agnew, J. y U. Oslender (2010). Territorialidades superpuestas, soberanía en disputa: lecciones empíricas desde América Latina. Tabula Rasa, Nº 13, julio-diciembre. Bogotá, Colombia, 191-213 Aldhuy, J. (2008). Au-delà du territoire, territorialité? Géodoc, 55, 35-42 Castro Soto, G. (2012). La actividad minera en Chiapas. Un recuento del 2000 al 2012. El Escaramujo, año 7, nº 38, Chiapas: Otros Mundos, A.C. Consultado en http://www.otrosmundoschiapas.org/docs/ escaramujo/escaramujo738_actividad_minera_chiapas.pdf CIEPAC. (2008). I Encuentro Binacional por la Defensa del Territorio. Declaración Política. Consultado en http://www.ciepac.org/docprint.php CIEPAC. (2009). II Encuentro Binacional por la Defensa del Territorio. Carta Abierta.Consultado en http://www.ciepac.org/docprint.php Consejo del Pueblo Maya de Occidente (2012, November 19). Consultado en http://consejodepueblosdeoccidente.blogspot.mx/2012/11/autoridades-del-pueblo-maya-de.html COPAE (2012). Consulta comunitaria. Ejercicio del derecho de libre determinación de Los Pueblos Maya. Consultado en http://www.copaeguatemala.org/2.html Escobar, A. (2006). Difference and Conflict in the Struggle over Natural Resources: A Political Ecology Framework. Development, 49(3). 6-13. Foucault, M.(1994). Un diálogo sobre el poder, Barcelona: Altaya. Haesbaert, R. (2011). El mito de la desterritorialización: del “fin de los territorios” a la multiterritorialidad. México: Siglo XXI. López Bárcenas, F. y M. M. Eslava Galicia (2011). El Mineral o la Vida. La Legislación minera en México. México: COAPI.
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López Maldonado, M.V., L.Hurtado, E. Menéndez Pérez, R. Gutiérrez, (2008). La resistencia a la minería en Centroamérica. Madrid, España: Editorial SOdePAZ y Atrapasueños Editorial. http://memoria2009.sodepaz.org/data/documentos/cuaderno2.pdf Macleod, M. y C. Térez Bámaca, (2013). Tu’n Tklet Qnan Tx’otx’, Q’ixkojalel, b’ix Tb’anil Qanq’ib’il. En defensa del la Madre Tierra, sentir lo que siente el otro y el Buen Vivir. La lucha de Doña Crisanta contra la Goldcorp. México: Centro de Estudios Antroplógicos Ce-Acatl, A.C. Mandujano, I, (2013, febrero 26). Campesinos crean en Chiapas ‘guardias civiles’ para frenar a mineras. Proceso, 1904. Retreived from http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=334747 Martínez Alier, J. (2009). El ecologismo de los pobres. Conflictos ambientales y lenguajes de valoración. Lima, Perú: Espiritrompa Ediciones. Organización de Naciones Unidas. (2011). Observaciones sobre la situación de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas de Guatemala en relación con los proyectos extractivos, y otro tipo de proyectos, en sus territorios tradicionales. (Informe del Relator Especial de Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas). Consultado en http://www2.ohchr. org/english/issues/indigenous/rapporteur/docs/GuatemalaIP16th_AUV.pdf Organización Internacional del Trabajo (1989). Convenio OIT 169 Sobre Pueblos Indígenas y Tribales en Países Independientes. http://www.cdi.gob.mx/transparencia/convenio169_ oit.pdf (consultado el 1º de diciembre del 2013) Otzoy, I. (2007). Sipakapa y el límite de la democracia. Consultado en http://www.istor.cide.edu/ archivos/num_24/dossier2.pdf Raffestin, C. (1980). Pour une Géographie du Pouvoir. Paris: LITEC. Raffestin, C. (1986). Ecogénèse territoriale et territorialité. In F. Auriac et R. Brunet (Orgs.), Espaces, jeux et enjeux. (pp. 175-185). Paris: Fayard, Fondation Diderot. Sack, R. (1986). Human Territoriality: its Theory and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sandt, J. van de. (2009). Conflictos mineros y pueblos indígenas en Guatemala, Universidad de Amsterdam, Cordaid, La Haya,. Santos, B de Sousa. (2000). Crítica de la Razón Indolente: Contra el desperdicio de la experiencia. Para un nuevo Sentido Común: la ciencia, el derecho y la política, vol. I, Bilbao, España: Editorial Desclée del Brouwer, S.A. de C.V. Secretaría de Economía. (2012). Anuario Estadístico de la Minería Mexicana. (Ampliada 2011/ Versión 2012). Consultado en http://www.economia.gob.mx/files/comunidad_negocios/ informacion_sectorial/mineria/anuario_estadistico_mineria_ampliada_2011.pdf SIPAZ. (2013). Chiapas: brigadas de autodefensa contra el saqueo de empresas mineras. http:// sipaz.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/chiapasbrigadas-de-autodefensa-contra-el-saqueo-deempresas-mineras/ Yegenova, S. y R. García (2009). Guatemala: el pueblo de Sipakapa versus la empresa minera Goldcorp. OSAL, Año X, n° 25, abril. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.
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2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Community voices, community action: Latin American Education Network 2013 Community Education Forum Report Alexandra Arraiz Matute1 & Derik Chica2
Introduction In 2008, a report released by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) indicated that Spanishspeaking students were not completing high school at a rate of 40% (Brown & Sinay, 2008). This figure was a cause for alarm among both community members and educators who are concerned about equity in schools. Increased attention led to research efforts investigating the cause for the high incidence of students being pushed out of schools, and the ways in which the schools were failing to engage them in meaningful ways (Gaztambide-Fernandez & Guerrero, 2011; Mantilla, Shugurensky & Serrano, 2009). In these instances, the experiences of youth were taken into account to create a series of recommendations that were passed on to the school boards for consideration. Other initiatives have also listened to the youth and have focused on the development of training materials for teachers to engage students in their classrooms in a way that is not oppressive and avoids perpetuating cultural stereotypes (Pueblito Canada, 2013). In the fall of 2011, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and the TDSB called out to various members of the Latin American/ Spanish-Speaking/ Hispanic community to form committees focused on this opportunity/achievement gap faced by students from these communities in the publicly funded education systems. The TCDSB committee, 3Partners in Motion, consisted of members from the Portuguese-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities while the TDSB committee, Avanzando Unidos, was initially focused on planning for April’s Hispanic Heritage month. Throughout the year, members of our community attended several meetings for the formed committees and noticed a lack of collaboration between the various initiatives in our community focused on the education of youth. Thus, in the Summer of 2012, the Latin American Education Network (LAEN) was born in an attempt to bridge these initiatives, foster
1 Alexandra Arraiz Matute is a third year doctoral student in the Curriculum Studies & Teacher Development program in the Curriculum, Teaching & Learning department at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Her research interests include cultural & linguistic identity and their intersections with culturally responsive & relevant pedagogies within a transnational space. 2 Derik Chica is a secondary mathematics and science teacher for the Toronto District School Board. He completed his B.Sc. at the University of Toronto majoring in Human Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology. He also holds a B.Ed. from York University. He is the Latin American Education Network Co-Founder and Co-Chair and is an active advocate for human rights and social justice issues in Toronto. He is currently interested in pursuing a Masters and eventual Ph.D. in issues surrounding Latin American identity in Toronto. 3 The variation in names reflects the different categories used in school board census, Statistics Canada census, as well as an ongoing debate within the community where members choose to identify with different terms (i.e, Alcoff, 2005). For the purposes of this piece we will be using the term “Latin American” throughout.
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collaboration and more effectively mobilize community knowledge and resources. After an initial meeting of members who had taken part in both school-board led committees, LAEN emerged with the following vision and mission: Vision: A strengthened and united Latin American community in Toronto supported by a network of diverse educational initiatives. Mission: To support and advance educational initiatives through a diversity of community support groups, organizations and individuals. In the following piece, we bring the results from the second community forum that LAEN organized in late 2013. As the organization has strengthened and began to move forward, one of the greatest areas of work has been to make the community voice be heard in as many and as varied mediums as possible. It is our hope that by bridging the academic world with the community organizing that LAEN has been immersed in, we can create dialogue between the two as well as add to the literature being written about the Latin American community in Toronto. The discussions and conclusions voiced in the 2013 forum highlighted the need for stronger community networks in order to provide more support and resources to community members, including the families of youth currently in the education system. In order to contextualize part of the forum, we will start by discussing some of the work that LAEN was involved in during its first year after its constitution. This included a first community forum, of which we will give a brief overview, and connect it to the second forum. The majority of the paper will focus the second forum, particularly the main themes raised and conclusions that emerged. We end by elaborating on the implications of some of these conclusions for our community moving forward.
LAENâ€™s first year
After a few months of working together in 2012, a community forum was planned to receive community input as per our vision of community engagement and strength. This community forum would serve to inform the priorities and direction that LAEN as a group should take for the following year. LAENâ€™s 1st Annual Forum occurred on Saturday October 27, 2012 at the North York Civic Centre in Toronto. The event, which was co-sponsored by the TDSB and TCDSB4, included information booths from the different community organizations, workshops for parents and youth as well as plenaries. The Parent Workshop was designed as a panel with speakers from the Catholic Parent Involvement Committee (CPIC) and WoodGreen Settlement Services providing information on Parent Councils, school board structure and settlement resources. The Youth Workshop consisted of two interactive discussions: a member from ExpresArte facilitated the first discussion centered around cultural identity(ies) and education. The second discussion emphasized
4 This meant that both school boards supported LAEN with some financial resources. However, we did not have any board representatives attend the forum to listen to the community consultation. This changed for the second forum, where we did have some school board trustees attend to listen to the conclusion segment of the forum.
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Equity and Human Rights, which was facilitated by two student speakers from the Peer Education Network. Following the workshops, all attendees had an opportunity to dialogue with each other while lunch was provided to them free-of-charge. There was a plenary to summarize the conclusions of the day. At that time we had a skit presented by the Teach 2 Learn youth regarding stereotyping that Latina/o youth feel they face throughout schooling, a presentation from the Hispanic Development Council on an Alternative Curriculum and final thoughts on LAEN’s next steps. Attendance at the 1st LAEN Education forum was unfortunately severely affected by a storm. Through informal approximations taken that day, it is estimated that 60-70 people attended. According to our workshop facilitators, there were approximately 20 attendees at the Youth Workshop and 20 attendees at the Parent Workshop (which included community organizers and educators). Our optional registration processes (including email, registration, phone registration and on-site registration) recorded 51 people present: seven youth, six parents, thirty from organizations, and eight “other” (educators, TDSB/TCDSB Staff, etc.). Organizations that attended included: • • • • • • • • • • • •
Mennonite New Life Centre North York Community House Woodgreen Community Services Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples Hispanic Development Council Working Women Community Centre (On Your Mark) Jane Finch Community and Family Center Student Connections Alameda Theatre Company TCDSB Homework Help Asociacion de Profesores Hispano-Canadiense
• • • • • • • • • • •
Equitable Education Initiative Teach 2 Learn Avenida Magazine SALO (Student Aid & Learning Opportunities) Youth Action Network Accents Bookstore OLAS (Organization of Latin American Students) UofT & OLAS York Peer Educators Network Consequencias Toronto Association of Parents in Catholic Education Peel District School Board.
From the results of the 1st forum, it was clear there was a dire need to focus our efforts on parents and youth outreach more concretely in order to support them in structuring committees and working groups that would allow them to focus on actionable plans in response to the challenges that the community faces in the education system. It was also important that LAEN follow up with the discussions that occurred during the workshops and the plenary of the event, and be accountable to the community in how their voices and their recommendations were taken to the boards and acted upon. It might be helpful here if we explain how LAEN is structured. When LAEN first came to be in 2012 it was envisioned as compromised of 3 committees: Parent, Youth, and Organizations/ Individuals. The Organizations/Individuals Committee was the first to be structured with terms of reference that include membership applications and structure, and the election of two co-chairs. The co-chairs outreached to over 50 organizations around Toronto who chose to Latin American Encounters | 27
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become voting members or supporting members of the committee. This helped to both have a clear organizational member structure as well as garner commitments from organizations in their level of involvement with LAEN. Currently, LAEN has 15 voting members. As part of the mandate to ensure that voices and recommendations are moved forward and acted upon, we have maintained consistent and constructive communication with both the TDSB and the TCDSB. In an effort to place LAEN in a position where we can begin effecting change, we have attended and become voting members of two advisory committees, one in each board. For the TDSB, we have become voting members of the Equity Program Advisory Committee (EPAC) and meet once a month to discuss issues of equity in curriculum and programming in the TDSB. We have also attended and become voting members of the SpanishSpeaking Advisory Committee (SSAC) in the TCDSB. SSAC is a committee that meets quarterly with Board members and trustees in the TCDSB to push forward recommendations from the Latin American community. In order to increase availability and accessibility of resources and documentation for and from the community, we have developed and maintained an online newsletter that includes the LAEN online drive, School Board Updates, Organization Information and LAEN Updates. The LAEN Drive is a database including anything ranging from opportunities (job & volunteer postings, grants, scholarships, etc.), research/documents concerning our community, event flyers and LAEN minutes. The newsletter is distributed approximately twice a month and is updated almost daily. We currently have 330 subscribers to the newsletter, including parents, youth and individuals working in social services that are interested in being informed of things happening in the community. After setting up these structures and having gained some ground in relationships with the school boards and other organizations, LAEN took the opportunity to call for another community forum to report back to the community as well as continue to foster dialogue around the work that needs to be done. The following section discusses this forum in more detail.
2nd LAEN Education Forum
LAENâ€™s 2nd Annual Education Forum was on Saturday November 30th at a Catholic Public School, located in the northwest of Toronto. This event was sponsored by the TDSB, TCDSB5, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), Ontario Educators in Catholic Education (OECTA), BASICS radio, and Radio Voces Latinas and Mi Tierra Restaurant. The forum occurred within a school that has a reported high population of Spanish-speakers. Childcare, lunch and public transport tokens were provided, and we held a raffle with donations from several organizations in the community (Hispanic Development Council, Centre for Spanish Speaking People, Krudar Muay Thai, Aluna Theatre). As we had received good feedback on the presence
5 The TDSB contributed financial resources, the TCDSB did in kind with a permit for the school to host the forum. This year we also counted with the attendance of two school board trustees, Chris Bolton (TDSB) and Garry Tuanan (TCDSB) who came to listen to the conclusion segment of the day. All XX trustees from both school boards were invited to attend.
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of organization information booths, we had information booths set up around the gymnasium where the forum was held. Organizations that held information booths this year included: • • • • • • • • • •
Teach2Learn Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples WoodGreen Settlement Services Hispanic Development Council Organization of Latin American Students @ University of Toronto Latin American Researchers of Ontario Aluna Theatre Youth Action Network Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education Jane & Finch Community and Family Centre
• • • • • • • • •
Latin American-Canadian Art Projects Schizophrenic Society of Ontario Homework Help Hispanic Future Care Latin American Studies Department @ University of Toronto Working Women Parkdale Community Legal Services TDSB TCDSB
Registration was optional again for privacy and confidentiality reasons. We began the morning by holding a plenary in which we invited a youth and a parent to present their experiences about the TDSB/TCDSB education system in Toronto. They received a small honorarium in recompense for giving us their time and sharing their stories, many filled with struggle, with the large group. After a quick introduction to the day and the work that LAEN had been involved in since the last community forum, the group broke out in to workshops. These were divided into 3 groups: parents, youth, and community/educators. Each workshop had a minute taker, a translator and a facilitator, as we learned from the first forum that not all the conclusions/conversations from the workshops were written down, meaning there was nothing to refer back to after the plenary. The parent workshop was facilitated by a new parent from ExpresArte; the youth workshop was facilitated by a community member from Student Aid and Learning Opportunities (SALO), a tutoring program for Latina/o secondary youth; and the facilitator for the community/educators workshop was one of the co-chairs of the community/ individuals committee of LAEN. After the workshops lunch was provided, and a youth dance group, EncontrArte, and a senior dance group, Siempre Felices, performed. We then held a closing plenary where each workshop group presented their discussion and recommendations to the other groups.
Through informal approximation during the opening plenary, there were 100 people in attendance. 69 people registered and an additional 18 recorded their names at the workshop but did not register. Not all attendees attended the workshops. In the community/educator workshop we had 41 in attendance; in the youth workshop we had 32 in attendance; and in the parent workshop, we had 7 in attendance. It is important to emphasize that because registration
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was optional, all numbers are approximate and based on recorded data. The following table summarizes the demographics recorded from those registration forms that were filled out.
Statistics based on registration forms People Registered* In workshops
38% Youth, 9% Parents, 62% Community/ Educators
Family size and age groups of children (20% 26% < 4 Years, 47% 4-8 Years, 26% 10-16 Years of 1 or more children; 29% 2-3 Children) 42% TDSB, 36% TCDSB, 14% YRDSB, 8% Blank Youth â€“ 26%
33% 8-17 Years, 44% 18-21 Years, 22% 22-26 Years 55% TDSB, 17% TCDSB, 6% YRDSB, 22% Blank
Toronto Postal Code
45% NW, 17% SW, 17% NE, 1% SE, 1% from Vaughan
Heard about the forum
7% TDSB/TCDSB, 40% LAEN, 52% Community (45% of those heard about it from Teach2Learn)
* n= 69 *Toronto was divided approximately by Yonge St. and an extension of Eglinton Ave. We now want to move on to discuss in detail the discussions that were had in the three different workshops as well as the conclusions and recommendations that came from them.
During our workshops with parents, youth and community members, we discussed the same three specific questions around community participation and the education system. Specifically, the three groups were asked:
1) What challenges does our community face in the public education system? 2) What can the Boards do in helping us overcome these challenges? 3) What can we do to address these challenges?
These questions were meant to generate dialogue around the specific challenges each group identified in their own experience inside the publicly funded education system. We wanted to move past identifying the challenges, to courses of action that could be taken to address these. To this end, we situated the discussion around not only what the Boards could do to look at systemic inequities, but also how the community could use its agency and mobilize resources towards initiatives to mitigate some of the deleterious effects of the inequalities experienced. In this sense, the conversation was meant to centre not only around the negative 30 | Latin American Encounters
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effects of discrimination, but also on the empowerment of the community, and the agency of both parents and youth in resisting these microaggressions. The following section outlines the themes recurring across all three workshops. This triangulation of the data serves to identify issues that were meaningful to organizations, parents and youth in the community. We have separated the themes according to the three questions asked in order to facilitate reading and analysis.
For the first question we identified three overarching themes across the three groups: stereotypes/prejudice, lack of support and representation in schools, and language & identity challenges. The way in which each of the three groups identified or experienced each was different, but they all named these experiences as significant challenges faced by the community. Stereotypes/Prejudice In regards to stereotypes and prejudice, the discussion included the experience of everyday microaggressions faced in schools as well as in organizational or community services settings (ie, Essed, 1991; Pierce et al, 1977; Solorzano, Ceja & Yosso, 2000). Youth for example, spoke of feeling that teachers held racist stereotypes about Latino/as, including thinking that “Latina/ os can’t speak English, don’t keep up with school work”. They also felt that their own cultural capital was not valued, and articulated feeling like there were lowered expectations for them “even though in Latin America the school curriculum is challenging”. Similarly, they also felt that teachers did not know how to support students who learn in different ways, and instead were quick to pathologize them, such as “diagnose youth with ADD” and that instead of supporting them, “they push kids out”. This is consistent with much of the literature around teacher expectation and student engagement in schools. Community educators and parents held similar views. Parents specifically expressed feeling that they were not respected “as people” by schools themselves. Community educators identified similar experiences to those voiced by parents and youth, but furthermore expressed concern about how these expectations created “self-fulfilling prophecy” scenarios for youth, in which youth internalize the lowered expectations held about them and their lack of opportunities leading to poor future outcomes and student disengagement. Specifically, stereotypes included that Latino/as are not able to perform as well as other students, that they won’t understand or are intellectually inferior, and that they shouldn’t be introduced into ‘regular’ classes for fear of holding back the rest of the class. Lack of support in schools A second prominent theme was a perceived lack of support from the school. This theme was expressed in a variety of ways, including a lack or deficient communication between the school and families, and lack of academic support and resources. However, it was also articulated as evident in the lack of representation in schools and school boards. The youth, for example, listed a variety of ways they struggle to find support in their Latin American Encounters | 31
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schools. They spoke of an endemic problem with communication between the school and certain students. They gave specific examples of this problem being experience as a lack of support on resources available to them (such as scholarships), and no information on how to navigate the school system for youth. Specifically, the youth also spoke about the challenge of navigating the academic vs. applied streams; particularly around a perceived lack of choice and agency. Currently in Ontario, high school students in Grades 9 & 10 are offered courses in academic, applied, or locally developed streams. In grades 11 & 12, students can choose between courses designated ‘open’, ‘college prep’, ‘university prep’, and more options for technical, cooperative and experiential learning opportunities (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2011). While the provincial ministry of education theoretically abolished streaming in 1999, researchers have questioned whether this change was more a matter of form than of function (Brown, 2010). In reality, students in Grade 9 ‘applied’ or ‘workplace’ streams, were less likely to graduate and apply for post-secondary than those in the academic or university prep streams (Brown, 2009 & 2010; Brown & Parekh, 2013; King & Warren, 2010). Furthermore, once students choose courses in Grade 9, it is extremely unlikely they will change streams after that first year (Brown & Parekh, 2013; People for Education, 2013). In addition, these tracks are heavily grouped by social class (family income) as well as race (Krahn & Taylor, 2007; Caro, 2009). This concern around the different streams was articulated in a similar manner to the lowered expectations that teachers have of them, so that students felt that teachers sometimes made choices about the classes students should take based on prejudiced judgments about their abilities. All in all, these factors lead to a detrimental environment in school, one that the students did not feel fostered or encouraged learning. A critical aspect of this negative environment that many youth pointed to was the presence of police in schools, and the ways in which they felt policed, profiled and otherwise marginalized by the presence of police in their schooling environments. Many experiences around negative experiences with police officers in schools were shared, and a number of the youth also remarked the similarities between their experiences and those of other students of color in schools. This is consistent with some of the literature around police in schools and the concern about connections with unintentional consequences such as the overrepresentation of youth of color in the justice system, and the interactions of police with youth of color (Valdez, Fizthorn, Matsumoto & Emslie, 2000; Ruck & Wortley, 2002). Parents also spoke about communication between the school and home. They felt this was one of the biggest challenges they faced in their children’s schooling. Particular instances mentioned were the methods of communication (such as relying on homework binders, notebooks which are sent home with students every day) and what the teacher chose to communicate about. Community educators also spoke of the challenge of communication as a specific hindrance to parental involvement in schools. Similarly, access to timely support or adequate resources in schools was another area of concern. Especially important were support services to get to know the education system, both at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Language support was cited as a critical area of need, as were teacher accountability and an importance to understand the history of the Latin American diaspora in Canada. Furthermore, the need for more representation in school staff/faculty and at the school board level was expressed as another area of concern. 32 | Latin American Encounters
Language & Identity Language has been identified as a challenge for all populations who do not speak English as their first language (Proyecto Latino, 2010). This is the same for the Latin American community, the majority of whom speak Spanish at home, especially if they are recent immigrants. Immigration, of course, brings with it another set of stressors on the family unit, which are compounded by the struggles of language within the public system and pressures to assimilate. The youth group voiced precisely this concern when talking about the challenges of adapting to Canada as a whole experience. In schools, this is further complicated by pressure to speak English, difficulties getting to know an unfamiliar school system, and trying to navigate a new social structure. The relationship between language and identity is complex and has been well documented in the research literature as an area of constant flux, especially during adolescence (i.e, Baez, 2002; Edwards, 2009; Gerin-Lajoie, 2011; Zulueta, 1995). Language can also present a different set of challenges for immigrant parents as they adapt to Canada. In terms of their childâ€™s schooling, parents at the forum articulated challenges around accessing resources and how being able to advocate for their children is complicated by a lack of knowledge and a deficiency framework that operates in relation to minority populations (Solorzano & Solorzano, 1995; Valenzuela, 1999). Community educators likewise identified language and identity as an area that presents challenges for our community within the school system. Primarily, discussion centered around the experience of not understanding the language, and the strain this put on relationships between schools and families, but also within families themselves. In addition, there is a social stigma associated with not knowing the dominant language and this causes tremendous social pressure for youth in schools, particularly around being labeled ESL and separated from their peers who are in the â€œregularâ€? classes, causing students to not identify with their peers and feel isolated from the other students.
What school boards can do
The second question posed to each discussion group was around what specific actions the boards could take to ameliorate the challenges faced by the community. This question was meant to foster discussion around the particular circumstances around some of the challenges identified, and ways in which those circumstances could be modified. In this sense, it was meant to elicit concrete suggestions that could be presented to the boards, in contrast with the more generalized challenges that were previously identified. This question generated lively discussion and from the different groups we were able to identify 4 themes that cut across all three discussions: the need for looking at staffing practices and staff training, providing specific resources and support, engaging in improved communication with both families and the community, and supporting research that can help provide more solutions and generate further discussion. Staffing/Training The youth group discussion focused on the need for teachers to undergo anti-oppressive training in order to address some of the problematic dynamics that occur in classrooms. In addition, training on anti-oppression would also facilitate understanding of the needs of different Latin American Encounters | 33
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communities and the ways in which these are not being met or respected in schools. This would also help to address many of the micro-aggressions reported by students and mend some of the relationships between racialized students and teachers. These suggestions were echoed by the community educators group, who mentioned training in areas of equity and anti-oppression as a priority for teachers. In addition, monitoring and enhancing the quality of educational staff would be of critical importance to ensure that this training is not merely a superficial gesture, follow up is needed. Similarly, training should also include some of the work that is known already around the communities facing most marginalization in the school system in order to prepare teachers to more deeply understand the situation of different students in their classrooms. In addition, more attention should be paid to hiring teachers that better reflect the diverse population of students in Toronto. This would include hiring teachers with “relevant backgrounds, culture, language and histories”. Provide Resources/Support A second prominent theme arising out of the discussion was the need for schools to provide some of the resources and support that youth, parents and community educators had identified as lacking. These suggestions are meant to address those perceived gaps in services and support. For the youth group, there was a great need for support around respect and relationships with teachers. To this end, many youth suggested “respecting the community’s space” while also “holding teacher’s accountable for unfair teaching practices.” One suggestion to facilitate this was to form a group to deal with and support student grievances. In order for students to have more access to information and the choices available to them, and to exercise their agency in making those choices, many youth articulated the need for better access to resources and information around scholarships, Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) applications, and having extra support to navigate things like the Ontario University Application Centre (OUAC) websites which can difficult to navigate. This, in conjunction with the above mentioned training would hopefully encourage a more nurturing learning environment with safe spaces specifically for “race focused groups and creative projects” where students would be “encouraged to realize and achieve their dreams as they see them” and reduce instances of “harassment by teachers, principals, cops” and instead “welcome students so they are not afraid to come to school”. The community educators group also suggested taking a look at curriculum resources, to include more content from Latin American studies and more Latin American themes in the curriculum. This would encompass more Latin American resources and making use of a more grassroots based curriculum, some of which is being worked on already by Latin American organizations within Toronto. Communication with Parents & Community A third theme that was recurring throughout the discussions was the need to improve communication between schools, families and the community. This is particularly important for parent involvement, which is a priority area for both boards and schools, and has been shown to have significant positive effects in the education of children and youth. To this end, there 34 | Latin American Encounters
were several recommendations made to facilitate the communication between all parties. The parent discussion focused around very concrete, tangible changes that could be made in order to facilitate parent involvement in school/board-run events or meetings. For example, people spoke of needing transportation assistance and child minding in order to be able to attend many events. Furthermore, these also needed to be offered at times that were accessible for parents who have work commitments during much of the day. Another point that was made for parents was the need to distribute more information about the current resources that are available to them right now, as many felt they were not aware of many of the existing services and did not know how to find out more information. Similarly, the discussion in the community educators group centered around strategies for “opening up communication” in order to facilitate and promote parent involvement. From the current situation, members stated it obvious that “more efforts on reaching out and advertising” have to be made, and voiced suggestions such as “communication in other languages”, having “parent volunteers translate during Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA’s)” and using already existing committees—such as the Catholic Parent Involvement Committee (CPIC), Parent Involvement Advisory Committee (PIAC), and the Spanish Speaking Advisory Committee (SSAC)—as an official link between community, parents and schools. In this sense, committees like SSAC could support the development of parent handbooks and making them accessible. Schools can also act like a ‘hub’ for families, connecting them to institutions or organizations that may offer the support that they need if the school is unable to provide it, without delay. This can be facilitated by both strengthening connections with community organizations that work with the Latin American community in Toronto and allowing more access to schools. Community members stated this would allow schools to “promote social integration and contribute to improving the inequality of opportunities” by “promoting extracurricular activities, having settlement workers in schools, providing school orientations” in addition to working with other communities. Finally, in order to continue to foster conversation and dialogue, the community educators group felt it was important to encourage and engage in continuing research. For example, members articulated that it was important to “participate in the investigation of themes of diversity, schooling, academic results, formation of link between teacher and institutional schooling with family”, as well as “explore work in conjunction with Constituents (Federal and Provincial) and advocating links between organizations and universities”.
The third question that the discussion addressed was specifically around community agency and community mobilization. This question, “what can we do to address these challenges?” was meant to move the discussion away from external solutions and instead focus on ownership and empowerment of youth, parents and community educators to face these challenges. The discussion in response to this question centered around community collaboration, building community, parent involvement and communication, and working across the different groups to build community capacity.
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Community Collaboration The discussion in the community educators group centered around uniting voices, members gave suggestions such as having LAEN “participate more actively in CSAC”, and “identify clear objectives of what we want to accomplish”. To this end, attendees felt it is critical to “accept and understand that community advocacy, within individual and collective power, is important, indispensable, and inevitable to improve our life conditions”, “[c]ollectively identify needs, what the real challenges are and how to address them”, especially through “collaboration, compromise, impact, solidarity, progress, positivism, information, and integrity.” Part of this strategy in the future should include increase community outreach through media, TV, markets, restaurants, festivals, etc., and continue to push for more Latino/a representation in positions of power in the city. Similarly, it was discussed that we must work with other communities to support each other and demand higher educational level for our youths. This must be done in conjunction with the school system, ensuring support and sharing the responsibility for education between communities and the system. For example, contacting local trustees to address needs and brainstorm ideas as well as increasing the days and voice of Settlement Workers in School (SWIS). Parent Engagement and Communication Another important aspect discussed had to do with facilitating the engagement of parents, teachers and community to ensure familial support and use information networks to get information to parents and students. These networks would not only distribute information on available resources, but also “promote participation between families and friends as well as members of the community”; such as word of mouth, brochures, pamphlets, parent handbooks, websites, all available in Spanish. It is important not only to focus on working with parents, but also work with the youth. One example is tutoring programs that help with academic achievement and resisting detrimental messages youth might be receiving at school. Most importantly though, youth expressed it is the commitment to “clearly represent [their] youth voices” and “get them to believe that it is an asset to have two cultures when the content of curriculum is 93% white people”. Working with Youth and Parents Youth similarly spoke of the need to unite and mobilize their agency and resources. Members articulated realizing that they need to “create more spaces for Latina/o youth to meet and support each other” so they can “be our own role models and teachers”. In addition to supporting youth led initiatives and projects from which they can feel a sense of ownership, they also discussed the need for a LAEN youth committee as well as a youth committee for other organizations. Finally, they also identified the need to support existing spaces for youth and help them grow. Similarly, parents spoke of supporting and learning from each other, such as in the Teach2Learn workshops. It was also important to “form an organization to call out to people”, such as the LAEN parent committee, in order to promote outreach and keep parents united and informed. Part of the work discussed also centered around shifting paradigms of education to share the responsibility with the teachers an “be an example of the change we want to be and the art it is to be a parent”. 36 | Latin American Encounters
Conclusions There were several points that came from the 2nd annual forum which have given LAEN some priorities and directions as the group moves forward. Through the demographic analysis of attendees, for example, we saw that only 7% of people heard about the forum through their school or through the boards. This suggests that communication with the boards is indeed an issue, as voiced by many participants at the forum. For LAENâ€™s part, this means a responsibility for pointing this out to the school boards, and collaborating more effectively with them on communication. Conversely, we also saw a large portion (45%) of outreach done by Teach2Learn, suggesting that communication through organizations can be more effective6, and that there is a need for support from other community agencies in order to communicate events and information to the community. Challenges that were identified by all groups included experiencing prejudice and stereotypes from teachers and school staff, a general lack of support in schools which manifested in various ways, and struggles with language and identity. Many of these challenges has been voiced at the first LAEN community forum, as well as being described by literature specific to the Latin American youth in education in Toronto (Gaztambide Fernandez & Guerrero, 2011; Mantilla, Schugurensky & Serrano, 2009). This suggests that not a lot (if any) change has occurred since the first report identifying this problematic was published in 2008 (Brown & Sinay, 2008). Therefore it continues to be important to draw attention to this matter at the school board levels, including through the committees of which LAEN is a voting member, as well as through advocating for recommendations to be implemented. When focusing on support and suggestions that could be given to schools and school boards, the areas that were named most frequently by all groups included changes in staffing and increase in training, particularly anti-oppression training; providing increase resources and support in the various areas; working on opening up communication with parents and the community at large. An important point that came through in the participation and discussions throughout the forum was the importance of community and the support network that can be created in relationship with community organizations that already exist. This was significant as it marked a shift in the discussion from centering the power at the boards level and moving it to the communityâ€™s level. Partnerships between school boards and community organizations were recommended as an important and under-utilized resource. Given the existent assets that the community possesses, the discussion then moved towards mobilizing those resources and our community agency to discuss the steps that we could take to face the identified challenges. An important theme that arose was the need for community building and community collaboration, articulated through a sentiment of unity and the strength through that unity. As a community, we also committed to working with parents and youth in order to build on parent involvement and also create spaces for their own projects to take place. This includes providing support to the parent and youth members that
6 Many of the youth that attended who had heard of the event through this organization was also part of the youth dance group that performed; suggesting that offering different opportunities for participation might increase attendance.
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are interested in forming parent and youth committees to work in LAEN. To this date, we are actively recruiting parents and they have begun to discuss how to best structure meetings to serve their needs. The youth committee has met a couple of times at the time of writing, and have developed priorities that they wish to focus on to develop a work plan for their committee. The community dialogue had by the community during the 2nd Annual LAEN Education Forum and the conclusions derived from it suggest the need for more collective action in our community and greater involvement of the school boards in this endeavor. While we have started the conversation around collective commitments to actions that can be taken by mobilizing our community resources, it is clear from the magnitude of the challenges identified by all that a partnership is also needed in surmounting these. The 2013 forum opened the door to this conversation, and the presence of a few board Trustees gave encouragement to the timeliness of such conversation. We hope that in presenting the consultation and responses of the community that we can continue to move forward in finding ways to collaborate and improve the educational situation of our youth in Toronto schools.
References Alcoff, L.M. (2005) Latino vs Hispanic: The politics of ethnic names. Philosophy Social Criticism, 31(4), pp. 395-407. Brown, R.S. (2010) The grade 9 cohort of 2004. Toronto District School Board Research Report. Organizational Development Department, Research and Information Services. Brown, R.S. (2009) An examination of TDSB post-secondary patterns : 17 year old students, 2007. Toronto District School Board Research Report. Organizational Development Department, Research and Information Services. Brown, R.S. & Parekh, G. (2013) The intersection of disability, achievement and equity: A system review of special education in the TDSB. Toronto District School Board Research Report. Organizational Development Department, Research and Information Services. Caro, D. H. (2009). Socio-economic status and academic achievement trajectories from childhood to adolescence. Canadian Journal of Education, 32(3), 558-590. Edwards, J. (2009). Language & Identity: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Essed, P. (1991). Understanding everyday racism: An interdisciplinary theory (Vol. 2). Sage. Gaztambide-Fernández, R.A., & Guerrero, C. (2011). Proyecto Latino: Year 1—exploratory research. Report to the Toronto District School Board. Retrieved December 16, 2013, from http:// www.oise.utoronto.ca/oise/UserFiles/File/ProyectoLatinoReportJan2011.pdf Gérin-Lajoie, D. (2011) Youth, language and identity: Portraits of students from English-language high schools in the Montreal area. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press. King, A., & Warren, W. (2010). Who doesn’t go to post-secondary education? Toronto: Colleges Ontario Krahn, H. and Taylor, A. (2007). “Streaming” in the 10th grade in four Canadian provinces in 2000. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 81-004-XIE. Education Matters, 4(2): 16-26.
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Mantilla, D., Schugurensky, D. & Serrano, J. F. (Eds).(2009) Four in Ten: Spanish Speaking Youth and School Dropout in Toronto. Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network (LARED) and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2011) Ontario schools, kindergarten to Grade 12: Policy and program requirements. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/ document/curricul/secondary/oss/oss.html People for Education. (2013) The Trouble With Course Choices in Ontario High Schools. Retrieved January 2nd, 2014 from http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/ trouble-with-course-choices-in-high-school-2013.pdf Pierce, C. M., Carew, J. V., Pierce-Gonzalez & Wills, D. (1977). An Experiment in Racism: TV Commercials. Education and Urban Society, 10(1), 61–87. Pueblito Canada (2013) Our voices in schools: A toolkit for inclusive learning. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved from http://www.pueblito.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Our-Voices-inSchools-Toolkit.pdf Ruck, M. D., & Wortley, S. (2002). Racial and ethnic minority high school studentsʼ perceptions of school disciplinary practices: A look at some Canadian findings. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31(3), 185-195 Solorzano, D. G., & Solórzano, R. W. (1995). The Chicano educational experience: A framework for effective schools in Chicano communities. Educational Policy, 9(3), 293-314. Solorzano, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, racial microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2), 60-73. Valdez, N., Fitzhorn, M., Matsumoto, C., & Emslie, T. (2000). Police in schools: The struggle for student and parental rights. Denver University Law Review, 78, 1063. Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive schooling: US-Mexican youth and the politics of caring. Suny Press. Zulueta, F. (1995). Bilingualism, culture and identity. Group Analysis, 28(2), 179-190.
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2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Prescribed lack: The prevalence and dangers of deficiency theories to explain the Latina/o schooling experience in Toronto. Francisco J. Villegas3
ABSTRACT Based on my experiences in projects relating to schooling and Latina/o youth, this reflection calls for a new way of describing the Latina/o schooling experience. The paper begins by discussing the prevalent use of deficiency frameworks to refer to Latina/o culture, families, and students in community gatherings. It then describes student and parent narratives that counter such racist rhetoric. With this in mind I call on educators, agency representatives, and community members to deploy more critical frameworks that center the voices of students in their analysis, recognize the inequities and violence present in the ways our youth experience schooling, and hold school boards accountable. Key words: Schooling, Latina/o students, Latina/os in Toronto,
In November of 2013 the Latin American Education Network (LAEN) invited members of the community to attend a forum regarding the current state of schooling for Latina/o students. The forum consisted of three different workshops to identify barriers experienced within Toronto schools by Latina/o youth and to determine steps to address them. The forum consisted of a welcoming reception followed by attendance to a short workshop. To determine which workshop to join, attendees were organized according to the categories of “student”, “parent”, and “educator/community member” and asked to attend the respective workshop. In these workshops attendees were asked three main questions: 1) What are the barriers experienced by members of the Latina/o community in schooling? 2) What can the school boards do? and 3) What can we do? Following the workshops, spokespeople from each group shared the dialogue and ideas that came out of the conversations in a collective debriefing. Within the forum, and particularly during the debriefing period, there were noticeable differences between the ways students narrated their experiences and the discourses employed by some parents regarding necessary steps to address the barriers discussed in their workshops. While students discussed how systemic racism affected their schooling aspirations and the treatment of their families in the school system, some parents denounced the community for not caring “enough” about schooling. This discursive divide showcases a conceptual dissonance to the framing of Latina/o engagement in schools. On the one hand, deficiency frameworks are prominently used
1 Francisco J. Villegas completed his Ph.D. from the department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at OISE/University of Toronto. He has a master’s degree in Mexican American Studies at San Jose State University. His work revolves around the intersection of race, immigration, and schooling. His dissertation looks at the ways social actors construct, resist, and redraw the concept of membership as it relates to access to schooling for undocumented students at the Toronto District School Board.
Prescribed lack: The prevalence and dangers of deficiency theories to explain the Latina/o schooling experience.
to condemn the perceived shortcomings of Latina/o parents and their communities. These discourses follow familiar tropes regarding the supposed disinterest in schooling by Latina/o parents (and subsequently their children) as well as extolling the virtues of assimilation2. On the other hand, more critical discourses reject deficiency as an explanation and point instead to the ways systemic forces operate to push out racialized students and construct barriers that can affect academic engagement, all the while demanding respect for the community (Baca Zinn, 1995; Dei, 1996; Dei, Mazzuca, McIsaac, & Zine, 1997; Delgado Bernal, 1998; Delgado & Stefancic, 2000; Fernandez, 2002; Ladson-Billings, 2007; Solorzano & Bernal, 2001). Given the wide divergence between the discursive formations used to explain the schooling of Latina/o students, this paper is a personal reflection on the disservice brought on by the use of deficiency theories and the need to move towards more critical understandings of the ways our youth experience schooling. The intended audience for this paper is educators, community agency workers, and other similarly interested parties, particularly given the open access format of this journal and its link to the Latina/o community in Toronto. To pursue these goals I reflect on my experience as a past coordinator of a tutoring and mentoring collective (SALO), an attendee at various community initiatives regarding Latina/os and schooling, and as the facilitator to the youth workshop at the aforementioned LAEN forum. Finally, I make no claims to groundbreaking work within this paper as many of the arguments presented here have been made by countless students, community members, and academics. However, in spite of the presence of these knowledges, we continue to experience a bombardment of deficiency rhetoric in public spaces created to discuss the Latina/o schooling experience. Thus, in this paper I attempt to embed my personal experiences and recollections as a way to describe the divergence between dominant discourse and the reality on the ground. Prior to unfurling my argument, I wish to take a moment to discuss three points: my point of departure for this discussion, the use of student narratives and personal experience to drive the argument, and the terminology employed throughout this essay. Firstly, I do not claim to know what it is like to be a Latina/o student in a Toronto high school. I came to this country seven years ago and underwent most of my formal schooling in the U.S. Having said that, my involvement with Latina/o students in Toronto started during the first year of my Ph.D. studies in the University of Toronto and stems from my prior work in the U.S. to not only expand the schooling pipeline but to change the context under which we receive schooling. Thus, I write from the positionality of a U.S. raised Chicano (and not Mexican American) who has worked in a number of different endeavors to discuss and transform schooling for Latina/os in Toronto. Throughout this paper I employ my recollections to develop my argument. I write this paper from my memory of these events as well as public materials and make no claims towards objectivity or complete accuracy (nor do I believe either is possible). Instead, I reflect on the discourses employed to speak about the Latina/o community and the ways race and culture have been used to signal to deficiency. I also take my discussions with students seriously. That is, rather than infantilizing them or downplaying the effects of their experiences, I center
2 These discourses appear to have broader components that include the ways “culture of poverty”(Ladson-Billings, 2007) narratives are deployed as well as racist deficiency theories such as the “mañana syndrome” (Gonzalez & Fernandez, 2003).
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them throughout this paper. In relation to the LAEN forum, I write from the perspective of a facilitator of the workshop and refer to the notes taken (see LAEN, this volume). Individuals who participated in the workshop had full knowledge that notes would be taken and met the notetakers. Finally, the confidentiality of attendees is protected throughout this paper and instead of references to individuals, I focus on the broader themes discussed. As a final preliminary point I speak to the issue of identity. As many of us are aware, identity and the label(s) we employ to speak of ourselves and our communities are complicated. While there are many ways to identify individuals from the space known as Latin America, I employ the term Latina/o. Although far from perfect, I believe this term to be more useful and less pervasive than the often-used “Hispanic” as it does not privilege a Eurocentric perspective on the peoples of the colonial construct known as the “Americas.” I recognize that there are other identities such as “Chicana/o” and “Boricua” that recognize the effects of empire and are embedded within an anti-colonial framework. However these terms do not relate to such a broad group of people as Latina/o. As such, given the need for a larger panethnic label and limited choices that are widely recognizable, I employ the term “Latina/o” throughout this paper to refer to those who trace their ancestry and identity to the peoples of the landmass constructed as Latin America.
Individualization of “the problem” We live in a neoliberal time where individualism is rewarded and results are framed as consequences of individual choice. Within the context of schooling, it is not uncommon to hear that Latina/o students fail to exhibit a drive to “better themselves.” As Dei et al. (1997) remind us, the blaming of students for their negative experiences in schooling and academic results is a widespread phenomenon and “embodies socially constructed notions of individual failure” (p. 6). This exclusive focus on the individual is part of a process where the responsibilities of institutions such as schools are offloaded onto individuals, their families, and their communities3. Individualization is particularly prevalent in discussions about “student underachievement,” its causes and the ways to address it. These discussions often focus on the production of particular peoples in need of saving (e.g. “at risk” youth, most often constructed as racialized youth) as well as statistics about standardized testing and the “drop out” rate. In terms of causes, as I stated earlier, the reliance of deficiency theories individualize blame onto specific actors—students and parents—and their associated “cultures” (read as race and implied value towards education). By placing the onus on racialized students, families, and communities, the schooling institution maintains a meritocratic façade of a neutral site where all can succeed but some do not due to personal or cultural deficiencies. This process influences how the perceived “problem” is addressed. For instance, there are many programs in the city that seek to “supplement” a prescribed lack4 and can fall into this trap by re-inscribing negative
3 At the same time schools are quick to take credit for “positive” outcomes such as improved test scores. 4 This can include beliefs that racialized students lack respect for themselves or authorities, lack an enriching environment (most often at home) in which to learn, and/or lack the capacity to learn.
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Prescribed lack: The prevalence and dangers of deficiency theories to explain the Latina/o schooling experience.
tropes onto students. These tropes are not only then communicated to students by members of the school board, but also by community members who purport to want to “help” them. One way presumed deficiency is communicated to racialized students is by devaluing knowledges and experiences. This leads to their construction as unintelligent or unwilling to learn. Schooling environments matter and it is difficult to learn in a space where one is treated as having an absence of knowledge and an inability to learn. Through the discussions at the LAEN student workshop, individuals expressed a feeling of being disrespected by the assumptions of teachers and administrators that they lacked the capacity to do school work and that their cultures and knowledges lacked legitimacy in the schooling context. The inscribing of deficiency (read as lack of knowledge in this case) on racialized bodies is not a new phenomenon and students are affected by an incongruous school system that proclaims equity while dismissing students’ capabilities. One way this occurs involves respect. Dei et al. (1997) and Valenzuela (1999) see respect and the awareness of disrespect as pivotal to students’ perception of schooling. Disrespect, can happen through school officials’ dismissal of students’ cultural practices, personal knowledges, and ways of being. Dei et al. (1997) found that students “held firmly to the belief that authority figures (e.g., teachers, principals) must respect them in order to wield authority over them” and “they perceive[d] these power structures [in the school system] as intended to subordinate them further” (p. 106). This displays the conflicting messaging from school officials to students: schools are portrayed as meritocratic and respectful of difference while educators scorn and devalue students’ cultures and knowledges. According to Valenzuela (1999), “the overt request[s] [that students care about schooling] overlie a covert demand that students embrace a curriculum that either dismisses or derogates their ethnicity and that they respond caringly to school officials who often hold their culture and community in contempt” (p. 24). The results of such an experience can include student resistance to assimilative pressures, and in their resistance, students undergo further marginalization in the schools and the eventual subtraction of their bodies from their schools and campuses. “Tuning out” and the possible result of attrition are often conceptualized as processes that occur in a short period of time. However, as Schugurensky (2009) states, attrition involves “a slow process of disengagement with academic activities that takes several years” (Schugurensky, 2009, p. 4). At the LAEN forum’s workshop for youth, many students spoke of the recognition that schooling was not intended for their benefit. They received these exclusionary messages in subliminal and overt ways, including being ignored by teachers, treatment as inferior students because of ESL designations, and being actively discouraged from pursuing an academic stream that would make university attendance a possibility. In short, there were myriad ways in which students at the forum felt discouraged, humiliated, and disrespected within their schools. This reflects Leonarda Carranza’s (2009) argument that our students and communities are often met with derision in Toronto schools. In order to conceptualize student disengagement at the TDSB, Carranza (2009) utilizes the lens of humiliation. She states, At the structural level humiliation takes place within the lived experience of surveillance and the mark of criminality that characterizes the experience of racialized student’s in school. Humiliation lies in the language of security that demands that Latin American Encounters | 43
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racialized bodies be searched, stopped, ordered, and consistently checked. It hides in the language of responsibility and discipline and is authorized to restrict the freedom to move, to go to the washroom, to eat, and to speak. This lens, documented through her work beginning in 2006, provides an understanding of the violence Latina/o youth face in TDSB schools. I have witnessed the humiliation of students with whom I have worked as well as its effects. As an example, a 10th grade Latino student in SALO (a tutoring and mentoring collective) had been consistently placed in the lowest streams in schools that would make him ineligible for university or college attendance. I became involved with him at his mother’s behest when we realized that school counselors were unwilling to create a course schedule for him that would lead to higher-level courses and a path to postsecondary education. In fact, when looking at his file we were told that he had been pegged for the lowest stream for quite some time. In meeting with his teachers it became evident that little was expected of him and that there had been significant effort put towards finding deficiencies. One example occurred when I first met his guidance counselor who expressed disappointment in an assessment stating that the student did not have a learning disability. There was also a great concern regarding his and his mother’s desire to place him in a higher stream as they did not wish to challenge him because they thought it was too great a task for him. These low expectations from teachers and the attempt to attribute their cause to cognitive learning deficiencies became a constant during my time working with him. Late in the year he worked on a history assignment with a tutor and was accused of plagiarizing. The teacher, expecting extremely low quality of work from him, did not believe he could have written the assignment, publicly embarrassed him, and gave him a zero. While we met with school officials regarding this issue and came away with an agreement, much damage had been done. Our student went from displaying pride in his assignment to frustration and pain. In this way, we can see the humiliation this student experienced as well as the degree to which the quality of his work was already prescribed. Many students receive help in the course of a school year. In fact, many wealthy students do so as a common practice in order to upgrade school marks and enroll in prestigious schools. However, for this student, given his racialization and the ever-present suspicion regarding wrongdoing and criminality, the only possible explanation for his teacher was plagiarism. In this way, the discourse of deficiency justified the placement of this student in the lowest streams within the school given the ways school administrators and faculty understood his capacities. When the student worked to disprove the assumptions of his teachers, he was met with suspicion and prescribed misconduct. This was not an isolate case. As a member of SALO, I witnessed the violence Latina/o students experience in school when they shared their stories or when meeting with their educators. These stories parallel many of the findings in the literature. High school students in the program were regularly called “dumb” in class by their educators, were the recipients of racist labels such as “beaners” and were consistently discouraged or outright prevented from pursuing higher education. One high-achieving Latina in the 11th grade came to us in tears one day. She had visited her guidance counselor a number of times wanting to discuss career paths. She began by asking about becoming a veterinarian, to which she was told her goals were too lofty. A different day she contacted the same counselor and asked about becoming a pharmacist only to receive a similar 44 | Latin American Encounters
Prescribed lack: The prevalence and dangers of deficiency theories to explain the Latina/o schooling experience.
response. In total, she contacted this counselor over eight times with similar career questions ranging from becoming a psychologist all the way to a flight attendant. All were met with the same negative response and deflating result. The amount of pain and spirit injury incurred by such a student caused her to ask herself, and later on to ask us, about the point of remaining in school. In all, reaching out to her guidance counselor had led to frustration and helplessness regarding her future. The experiences outlined above and those described by students at the LAEN workshop push our students out of schools and reflect a multi-layered process that takes time, repetition, and involves a multitude of school officials (Dei et al., 1997). While it may not be a nefarious plot on the part of educators, the process demonstrates the ways that race and the resultant discourse of deficiency is inscribed in our students’ bodies when read by faculty and school administrators. In this way we can speak to systemic processes that not only discourage our youth from schooling spaces but also actively work to remove them. However, returning to my discussion on individualization, these structural factors are seldom questioned within the logic of neoliberalism. Thus, rather than engaging with the barriers illustrated by students, “tuning out” is often constructed as a personal failure that stems from Latina/o culture. In response to the TDSB’s report outlining the 40% “drop out” rate among Spanishspeaking students, Daniela Mantilla, Daniel Schugurensky, and Jose Francisco Serrano (2009) issued a “call to students, parents, teachers, youth and anybody concerned with this situation to share their perspectives” (p. 4) to discuss the problematic and offer possible recommendations. Many of the contributors adhered to the abovementioned deficiency theories regarding Latina/os. They characterized them as undervaluing educational outcomes (Chacon Castro, 2009; D’Andrea, 2009), experiencing chronic domestic violence (Bascuñán, 2009), being absent from schooling associations (Bascuñán, 2009; Romero Cachinero, 2009) and having pre-determined schooling paths due to parents’ demographic characteristics (Betancourt, 2009). These responses serve to further the already racist, sexist, and classist understandings of Latina/o bodies and the institutions to which they belong (family, church, community, grassroots organizations, etc.) rather than provide solutions. These responses also ignore the context under which Latina/os undergo schooling, employing a framework whereby the Latina/o student or her/his family and community are inherently understood as deficient. In line with a neoliberal understanding of student performance, Dr. Romero Cachinero (2009), at the time a member of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, outlines “ten factors that can improve school attainment of minority students” (p. 65). Sadly, not one includes interventions that the School Board, or an individual school, can take. Rather, all focus on assumptions of deficiency in the realms of “family demographics”, “parental involvement in children’s education”, “cooperation between parents and community support organizations”, “motivation and self esteem”, “cognitive abilities and learning styles”, “raising of cultural awareness”, and “nutrition and neighborhood” (p. 65-66). While these factors certainly affect the ability of students to remain in school, the analysis locates the sources of deficiency at the individual, family, and community levels and fails to account for institutional factors that affect student persistence in Toronto schools. As such, according to the author, the intervention necessary to stem the attrition of Latina/o students is to supplement the individual and those around her/ him in order to overcome those deficiencies. Latin American Encounters | 45
Francisco J. Villegas
While stories of violence and disrespect within schools are often told by youth, I have attended too many meetings where the onus of achievement continues to be placed solely on the shoulders of students and their families while neglecting the effects of institutions. For instance, I have been to meetings organized by local tutoring groups for Latina/o students that aim to teach parents about the value of schooling and I wonder, do these individuals recognize to whom they are speaking? At times I attempt to interrupt these discourses by inserting my own experience. I come from a family that has never surpassed the poverty line and where my parents did not receive a large amount of formalized schooling (second grade education for my dad and middle school diploma for my mother). However, I witnessed daily sacrifices to assure my sister and I had necessary school supplies. Of course, when I relay this personal story, the distributors of deficiency theories proclaim my parents to be part of the few “converted,” that I come from an exceptional family. To be fair, I believe my parents to be quite exceptional. At the same time, how can I explain that my experience is part of the norm, that I have gotten this far because I am one of the lucky survivors, that I have been lucky to receive institutional support at key times and that everyday I recognize that I inhabit an academic space that is not meant for me? So I ask, if my case is “exceptional”, how do you then describe the parents of countless students that sent their children to the tutoring program at the University of Toronto known as SALO?5 How do we explain the pride and love exhibited by parents yearly at the Latina/o & SALO graduation at the University of Toronto?6 How do we explain the presence of so many parents at so many workshops where my community is bombarded with racist rhetoric? Finally, why do I continue to receive so many phone calls from Latina/o parents regarding SALO, a program that no longer exists? We must recognize that our parents have always considered education important. To begin from this point of departure can provide the means to develop new frameworks that cater to the specificity of our community’s experience. This would include listening to the voices of our youth and the ways they describe their schooling experiences as well as holding public institutions responsible for responding to the needs of the community.7
Regardless of the years of work to debunk racist ideas about the Latina/o family and community we continue to hear them. At the LAEN forum, I heard some parents demanding that parents stop watching novelas and work on school assignments with their children. At other meetings, I have heard people say that parents should lose a job so that they can do more to facilitate their children’s learning and I wonder, how privileged must one be to tell someone to lose a job? What kind of rhetoric will be deployed if a parent cannot feed/clothe/provide shelter for a child? What will it take to disrupt this logic to a sufficient extent that we stop employing internalized racism and tropes regarding a culture of poverty? When will we recognize that, particularly for working class families, attending meetings during work hours or on weekends may not be feasible? 5 For more information about this defunct project please see http://salotutoring.com/about/ 6 An event that includes high school, undergraduate, and graduate students finishing their respective degrees 7 This includes attending events like the LAEN forum where every trustee for the TDSB and TCDSB received multiple invitations and out of thirty-eight only two attended.
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Deficiency theories are also present in ways school officials treat our communities. While speaking of the American context, Suarez-Orozco et al (2008), found that [w]hile teachers tended to be quite positive about immigrant students, they did not think much of immigrant parents. They tended to see them as uninterested in their children’s academic welfare and reported that immigrant parents were often absent and uninvolved, without taking into consideration their difficult work schedules and language barriers (p. 136). The quote above refers to racialized migrant students. These discourses expressed by educators follow racist ideologies regarding the degree to which racialized individuals value schooling, and follow a generational theory of deficiency that flows from the parent down to the children. Although these theories have been proven wrong time and time again (Carter, 2005; Gaztambide-Fernandez & Guerrero, 2011; James, 2009; Ladson-Billings, 2007; Noguera, 2008), they continue to gain currency as they are quoted throughout the literature. It is interesting to note that in relation to this perceived disengagement of parents from their child’s schooling, many immigration authors have cited schooling, or giving children better life opportunities through schooling, as one of the primary reasons for migrating (Suarez-Orozco, et al. 2008; Valenzuela, 1999). In addition, parents and family influences have also been cited as reasons for children to remain in school (Dei et al. 1997).
Rather than focusing on the individual as a source of the problem, Dei et al. ask “how is it that schools engage some students while at the same time disengage others?” (1997, p. 4). To which they posit, mirroring Schugarensky (2009), that the pushing out or subtraction of students from schooling is not a spontaneous decision but rather a process affected by a large number of factors. This tuning out occurs as a result of years of violence and disrespect experienced by racialized students in school including the disparaging of their families and knowledges as well as the low expectations and belittling by school administrators and educators. Valenzuela (1999) situates part of the answer to Dei’s question about differential student engagement in the politics of caring. In her study at Seguin High School in Texas, she found that “the predominantly non-Latino teaching staff sees students as not sufficiently caring about school, while students see teachers as not sufficiently caring about them” (Valenzuela, 1999, p. 61, emphasis in original). In relation to the politics of caring, she found that students who did not appear to fit the expectations of caring about their “education” are often marginalized in the schooling experience (Valenzuela, 1999). This could include the way students dress, talk, and react in classrooms. Conversely, some students who felt stereotyped as not caring or scapegoated by faculty or administrators became less interested in their schooling. This dynamic was discussed at the LAEN forum when students narrated experiencing racism, being criminalized, receiving incorrect designation as English learners, and experiencing difficulty or outright denial in enrolling in “academic” streams. These experiences caused at least one of the attendees to leave school, another to switch between numerous schools, while most of the Latin American Encounters | 47
Francisco J. Villegas
attendees, who also appeared younger, voiced ongoing difficulties. We must treat the experiences of our students as representative of consistent and continuous violence at the hands of schooling institutions rather than redeploying the same deficiency frameworks that provide further injury to our communities and youth. Given the breadth of racist experiences communicated to us by our youth, why do we continue to hear deficiency framings when we attend meetings about the condition of schooling for our students? Perhaps it is time to quell the derision to our own communities and join a stronger movement that maintains the highest standards for our communities and our students while simultaneously demanding that the systems of oppression outlined above are addressed8. At the same time, we must question the institutions that purport to serve our communities and resist hegemonic understandings of our communities. I propose that the first step be quite humble and begin by listening to those most affected. As George Dei (2010) reminds us, it is vital that we prioritize and trust the stories of students currently experiencing schooling. Furthermore, we must employ frames of analysis that go beyond colonial constructs of schooling and deficiency. As such, I look forward to further conversations about transformative possibilities and interventions that foster resistance to the racist, sexist, and colonial logic of curricula and pedagogy. At the same time, we must ensure that not only are youth part of the discussion regarding these collective mobilizations, but that they are the driving force behind them. To that end, I am encouraged by the final resolution passed at the LAEN youth workshop: to develop and facilitate a youth committee within LAEN that can dictate and mobilize all parties within the network. I hope that these efforts are prioritized and that our collective resources are made available to ensure the fulfilment of the goals of this committee while questioning and resisting dominant framing regarding our peoples, families, and communities.
References Baca Zinn, M. (1995). Social science theorizing of Latino families in the age of diversity. In R. E. Zambrana (Ed.), Understanding Latino families: scholarship, policy, and practice (pp. 177-189). Thosuand Oaks, Ca.: SAGE Publications. BascuĂąĂĄn, P. (2009). School dropout among Spanish-speaking students: causes and solutions. In D. Mantilla, D. Schugurensky & J. F. Serrano (Eds.), Four in ten: Spanish-speaking youth and school dropout in Toronto (pp. 19-21). Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Betancourt, G. (2009). School dropout among the children of Latin American immigrants. In D. Mantilla, D. Schugurensky & J. F. Serrano (Eds.), Four in ten: Spanish-speaking youth and school dropout in Toronto (pp. 24-25). Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.
8 This is not to say that our communities do not need to work on specific problems. However, these problematics do not stem from an inherent deficiency and must be interrogated in relation to the ways that multiple modes of oppression intersect including patriarchy, racism, and colonialism.
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Carranza, L. (2009). Humiliation and schooling. In D. Mantilla, D. Schugurensky & J. F. Serrano (Eds.), Four in ten: Spanish-speaking youth and school dropout in Toronto (pp. 26-27). Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Carter, P. L. (2005). Keepin’ it real. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chacon Castro, A. (2009). A question of attitude. In D. Mantilla, D. Schugurensky & J. F. Serrano (Eds.), Four in ten: Spanish-speaking youth and school dropout in Toronto (pp. 31-32). Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. D’Andrea, M. (2009). The disadvantages of Latino youth in Toronto. In D. Mantilla, D. Schugurensky & J. F. Serrano (Eds.), Four in ten: Spanish-speaking youth and school dropout in Toronto (pp. 38-39). Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Dei, G. J. S. (1996). Anti-racism education : theory and practice. Halifax, N.S.: Fernwood Pub. Dei, G. J. S., Mazzuca, J., McIsaac, E., & Zine, J. (1997). Reconstructing the drop-out: a critical ethnography of the dynamics of Black students’ disengagement from schools. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. Delgado Bernal, D. (1998). Using a Chicana Feminist epistemology in educational research. Harvard Educational Review, 68(4), 555-582. Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2000). Critical race theory : the cutting edge (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Fernandez, L. (2002). Telling stories about school: using critical race and latino critical theories to document Latina/Latino education and resistance. Qualitative inquiry, 8(1), 45-65. Gaztambide-Fernandez, R., & Guerrero, C. (2011). Proyecto Latino--Year one. Report to the Toronto District School Board (pp. 103). Toronto, ON: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Gonzalez, G. G., & Fernandez, R. A. (2003). A century of Chicano history : empire, nations, and migration. New York: Routledge. James, C. E. (2009). African-Caribbean Canadians working “harder” to attain their immigrant dreams: context, strategies, and consequences. Wadabagei: A Journal of the Caribbean and its Diaspora, 12(1), 92-108. Ladson-Billings, G. (2007). Pushing past the achievement gap: an essay on the language of deficit. The Journal of Negro Education, 76(3), 316-323. Noguera, P. (2008). The trouble with Black boys : essays on race, equity, and the future of public education (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Romero Cachinero, M. C. (2009). Ten factors that can improve the school attainment of minority students. In D. Mantilla, D. Schugurensky & J. F. Serrano (Eds.), Four in ten: Spanishspeaking youth and school dropout in Toronto (pp. 64-65). Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Latin American Encounters | 49
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Schugurensky, D. (2009). The educational experience of Spanish-speaking youth: the Brown report and the forty percent question. In D. Mantilla, D. Schugurensky & J. F. Serrano (Eds.), Four in ten: spanish-speaking youth and school drop out in Toronto (pp. 6-11). Toronto: Latin American Research Education and Development Network and the Transformative Learning Centre, Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Solorzano, D. G., & Bernal, D. D. (2001). Examining transformational resistance through a critical race and LATCRIT theory framework, Chicana and Chicano students in an urban context. Urban Education, 36(3), 308-342. Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive schooling: U.S.-Mexican youth and the politics of caring. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
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2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Experience of a Latino teacher in Toronto schools Derik Chica1
Introduction My name is Derik Chica and I have been teaching in Toronto as a contract teacher for three and a half years. I was born in Canada but both of my parents are from Ecuador. From the stories I have heard within my social network, I think my familial story is similar to many second and third generation Latin@s in Toronto. My father came to Canada at the age of eight and my mother at the age of 21. Their experiences influenced me in various ways. I grew up learning of the struggles and barriers my grandfather overcame to build a life in Canada with his family. I also experience privilege that my family did not have when they were in school and was reminded of this daily throughout high school. My parents urged me to learn Spanish in high school—interestingly, Spanish was my first and only language until I was four years old— but in primary school they told me to only speak English because it was “impolite” to others who did not understand. In Grade 7, my family chose to move to Richmond Hill for fear of “bad influences” in Toronto schools. Now, as a secondary teacher, I am teaching those “bad influences” and am humbled by many of their experiences and learning of the many inequities that exist in the current school system. This paper is a means of expression of the various injustices I have observed in the school system and how they affect countless youth. It is also a reflection on the lessons these experiences have taught me. Because of my precarious employment status as a contract teacher, I have worked at three different schools. I would like to highlight the lessons I have learnt from my students at each school. This apparent reversal in roles of teacher and student is an important decolonizing praxis central to my pedagogy and therefore, central to the organization of this paper. Through conversations with students, I have learned that the neocolonial hierarchy of power within a classroom, especially between teacher and student, push out many students from schools. I especially take interest in an anti-racist pedagogy, noting the immense Eurocentricity of the math and science curriculum. I would like to emphasize that my experiences are not meant to affirm prejudices against anyone but instead, call for a drastic reorganization of the current education system. My critiques are directed to a neocolonial system that indoctrinates actors to form certain pedagogies and beliefs. At the same time, I understand that the challenges we face are not only the tasks of teachers, administrators, or support workers but of society as a whole (Noguera, 2008). It is my hope that anyone reading this paper will use their agency to take whatever feasible action to advocate for change.
1 Derik Chica is a secondary mathematics and science teacher for the Toronto District School Board. He completed his B.Sc. at the University of Toronto majoring in Human Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology. He also holds a B.Ed. from York University. He is the Latin American Education Network Co-Founder and Co-Chair and is an active advocate for human rights and social justice issues in Toronto. He is currently interested in pursuing a Masters and eventual Ph.D. in issues surrounding Latin American identity in Toronto.
I wish to share my experience to raise awareness of the fact that teacher allocations to schools are solely based on a factory-like measure of years taught, regardless of fit or desire to teach in certain schools. Because of the way I was hired, I have a paradoxical critique of the system. On the one hand, I was privileged to attain a contract job at the age of 23, shortly after completing my Bachelor of Education. On the other hand, the means by which I obtained my position were not as coordinated as I would have liked. Teachers affect countless students’ lives every day and one would think that hiring practices would be based on informative and inquisitive decisions, but alas, mine was not. On a Saturday afternoon, I missed a phone call from an unknown number and that night, I noticed I had a voicemail. Listening to the interview request from the vice-principal, I was both ecstatic and confused. Before being hired to a school, candidates must be hired centrally and put on an “Eligible to Hire” list. I was not on it. The school had permission to bypass this hiring practice because there was no one who could teach math and science on the list. The school then looked at applicants with last names A to E and chose twenty random applicants from those who could teach math and science, without evaluating their resumes first. The first seven applicants to call back received an interview that same week. How is it that a school board that receives thousands of applications every year, can choose a teacher at random? I later learned many other teachers have been through similar circumstances. Although I was hired by the board, instability continued a year and a half later when I was bumped out of my school by a teacher with higher seniority. Because of cuts in funding to education, increasing class sizes, and decreasing enrollment of students, Toronto had too many secondary teachers. This meant the teachers with the least experience in the system lost their places to those with more experience. Despite many of my students protesting to the principal that I should remain at the school, there was nothing anyone could do. Seniority was the sole determining factor for allocation of teachers and if someone with higher seniority than me loses their place in their school, they bump anyone less senior than them out of another school. This surplus and bumping process has continued every semester (every five months) and will probably continue for some time with future cuts in funding to education. One effect of this process is that every school has a local culture and five months is not enough time to familiarize myself with that culture. In addition, forming lasting relationships and attempting to facilitate equitable changes in the school system requires more time. For this reason, it has been very discouraging to attempt meaningful engagement knowing that I will be in a different school in a few months.
Teaching in “Priority” Areas
Every school where I have taught has been a school located in a “Priority Neighbourhood” (United Way of Greater Toronto and the Canadian Council on Social Development, 2004). Although the label of living in a “Priority Neighbourhood” further stigmatizes and essentializes people who live there, it does identify the geographical areas that have been ignored by 52 | Latin American Encounters
Experience of a Latino teacher in Toronto schools
different constituencies. These schools require very specific teachers who through their own experiences, can engage and relate to the students who face multiple overlapping barriers outside of school. In my experience, teachers who guide without flexing their authority are the ones who are most successful in engaging students. Teachers who do not disrespect and demean students and their opinions are able to have the best attendance in classes. Teachers who show genuine care without attributing deficiencies to their students are able to spark motivation to be pulled back into school. Through discussions I have had with community workers, most people tend to agree with this yet we still have policies in place that restrict teachers from teaching at a school where they feel they can engage with students the most because of their social consciousness and pedagogical style. This needs to change if we are looking to move forward in closing any opportunity gaps and inequities that exist for marginalized communities.
School #1 – Lesson learned: Stereotypes and barriers
Barriers within the System I started teaching at my first school in 2009, a school plagued by stereotypes. This school was comprised of mainly Black and Latin@ students. Within a week, I connected with many of the Latin@ students and learned of their experiences in Toronto schools. For many students, I was the first Latino teacher they had met. I did not fit the stereotypical Latino: my students had been told by media that university (and sometimes Post-Secondary School in general) was not for Latin@s. Latinos “belonged” on the street, in gangs, and failing out of school. Latinas were stereotyped as over-sexualized, stupid, and also failing out of school (Schugurensky, Mantilla, & Serrano, 2009). In this way, students through different messages were informed that university was for “white people” and “smart people” who had good grades in Mathematics, Science, and English. This intersection of stereotypes that situate Latin American students as unqualified for university is perpetuated by the lack of teachers from marginalized communities and constructs an inevitable disengagement from this institution that we call “education”. Understanding university as a privileged space while thinking oneself as underprivileged may create a dissonance that leads to disengagement from school. From a high school perspective, university is seen as the top level of a hierarchical system so if it is “not for me”, then why engage in the scripted behavior to get there? There were many teachers in my school who “cared” about the students but many times, this “caring” was done in a charitable fashion by simplifying curriculum, streaming towards applied and workplace classes, and providing students with exceptions to due dates and even attendance (Schugurensky et al., 2009). It is important to note that the system encourages a culture of silence and conformity where although some teachers may disagree with certain practices, it is common to conform to the norm to avoid peer conflict. Although teachers at this school acknowledged the barriers that students faced in their personal lives, they used this as an “excuse” to explain the failures of many of the students: “Poor Juan lives in a bad area. Just give him an open book test and let him pass the course.” By lowering our expectations, we inhibit learning and only perpetuate the oppressive system that is in place.
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We must give students agency over their decisions and provide equitable opportunities for everyone. Furthermore, the system encourages seeing students as failing in education rather than the education system failing them. When we label students as “at risk” or with a “learning disorder” we are only further pushing them out of the system. Special education as an entity seems to be a reactive measure to place the onus on students for their lack of schooling success rather acknowledging that the institution must change to improve education for all students. Although I have met many families say that special education has allowed them access to more resources and support for students, I have also met many families who have experienced the addition of a negative stigma attached to special education as a further barrier they must overcome. By selectively labeling students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), schools are forming a dangerous division in schools: those with an IEP and those without. Creating this image of the “other” and attributing a deficiency of learning to them creates conditions ideal for stigmatization. I am not completely against an IEP. This document goes into a student’s Ontario Student Record (OSR), a file which all teachers have access. Hypothetically, a teacher can read a student’s IEP and support their learning in the classroom using past recommendations, which is especially useful with growing class sizes. Unfortunately, I do not see this practice commonly put into place and IEPs usually label a student as being “troublesome” before teachers are able to meet the student. To reduce the stigmatization of an IEP, I question why not every student has one. Would it not be useful to have a supporting document to aid all students? Or would this just lead to more pre-encounter labeling by teachers? The concept of placing the onus on the education system has really revolutionized my thinking as a teacher. First of all, we need to understand that we cannot place all the blame on individual teachers, principals, social workers, etc. There is a culture of silence in many of these institutions where criticism is not received very well. From conversations that I have had, the most common reply to this type of critique is paraphrased as, “students need to take ownership over their actions and not always blame the system.” However I believe that a critique of a system does not remove a student’s agency over their actions; it simply acknowledges the environmental and contextual complexities that surround us. As a result of this common conversation, individuals sometimes adapt to the dominant culture of meritocracy to avoid conflict with coworkers, and at times, for personal gain. If there is a gap between the school expectations and achievement levels, why do we not focus on changing the system to support students rather than blaming students for not living according to the system? For example, there has been an increase in the cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) diagnosed in schools in the past decade. Instead of only placing the onus on ability of students to focus, perhaps we also need to look at systemic causes, like the increasing rate of access to information that technology provides and the inability of the education system to keep up. Navigating the system and policy implementation Throughout my time in this school, and with my newfound passion of integrating anti-racism into my classroom lessons, I started attending centralized meetings concerning equity. Through this involvement, I was able to connect with other staff that guided my ideas and taught me 54 | Latin American Encounters
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how to navigate the existing structure and policies of the board. That’s right, I had to learn to “navigate the system”. It was not straightforward or self-evident. Navigational knowledge allows people to use the many services available to them and provides a potential avenue of accountability for the community in ensuring that their rights are met. I met staff who have worked centrally for decades and still did not know how to navigate the entire system. Through my community work, I have acted as a consultant in navigating the system and this has helped to advance many great initiatives that already exist. Why is it that to buy a cell phone there seem to be so many more support systems in place but to find a policy in the education sector, it requires skill and knowledge of existing documents? For anyone who is interested in equity policies in education, I urge you to read “Equity and Inclusive Education: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2012). This is a Ministry-created document aimed towards creating equitable opportunities for students in every school. Unfortunately, the implementation of these policies is not successful. I still hear the voices of many youth who have successfully or unsuccessfully passed through the system complaining of the racism that exists. I still see acts of bullying going unnoticed by adults unless there is parental involvement, and even then it is commonly dismissed. Many youth still do not feel the comfort to express their identities freely in a classroom and many times, expression is actually oppressed. I still see our LGBTTTQ youth being pushed out of the system because it does not provide adequate safe spaces for their expression. Race, gender, sex, and sexual orientation (some examples of identity) are sometimes discussed in a unit of a course instead of being implemented into every subject and every classroom. Perhaps by understanding the clear and concise equity policies that await implementation and sharing this knowledge we can begin to provide more accountability for our schools in implementing these policies. We can also begin to retake control of public education and understand that we are the authorities in this sector.
School #2 – Lesson learned: Student voice
Religion/Faith in Schools My next school was in Etobicoke. Here I encountered an entirely different demographic. The majority of the student population was Muslim, mainly from the Horn of Africa. Coming from a Catholic family, I was not knowledgeable of the Muslim faith and so much of my time was spent learning from my students and the way the Toronto education system conflicted with their religion. On some days (mainly Fridays) their faith required them to engage in prayer during lunch or third period (class). I had no problem accommodating my classroom for this but I started to wonder why the school would not change the schedule to better accommodate the large majority of their students. In addition, I learned that many students were denied their prayer time because teachers at this school believed they were using it as an “out” from the classroom. I question why a teacher has the right to deny someone’s ability to express their religion. I feel that many teachers try to control the decisions of students in their classroom rather than attempt to guide them. More importantly, why do we engage with our students from a standpoint of suspicion rather than leading with trust?
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Many of my students felt the expectation to be completely obedient to authorities such as teachers. If a teacher denied them access to express their religion, they simply had to “live with it”. Others would get into a verbal argument with a teacher that usually led to being sent to the office or even a suspension. Many students were unaware of their rights or processes that already existed to legitimize their complaints. One of the most important lessons we discussed in class was the importance of keeping a record of conversations. During one incident, students were denied their right to prayer and came into my class complaining. I immediately asked them to write a statement describing exactly what happened and then collectively bring that statement to the Principal. They did so. The matter was resolved, and more importantly, the students began to learn the impact that raising their voice can have. Student council At this school (as well as my first school), I was the staff advisor for Student Council. According to policy, student council has the power to affect many changes in schools (along with parent council) but unfortunately, many students (including myself when I was in school) see Student Council reserved for the “successful” students and, parallel to all other governing bodies, not a representative of themselves. A local school policy that troubled me was the fact that students who were not achieving high grades were not allowed to be on Student Council. Although the argument can be made that these students may need to “focus” more on school to upgrade their marks, I argue that these students are being pushed out of the system (i.e. disengaged) and involvement in Student Council can be an attempt to bring them back in. More importantly, if Student Council is only composed of students with high marks, then we are only representing a certain demographic in a governing body of education. These Student Council members may go on to become City Council members, and once again, only certain voices will be represented in governing bodies. In addition, our Council bodies have not had the experiences that pushed other students out so the push-out factors will not be on their radar or list of priorities. In both school 1 and 2, I successfully encouraged students who were seen as not “ high achieving” to run for Student Council and they were able to become active elected members. I noticed a re-engagement with school and, more importantly, a newfound confidence in speaking out against injustices. Providing youth a comfortable space to speak out their thoughts and opinions is of outmost importance especially if we wish to institute change in the future. These youth will grow up to become leaders. In many city and central governing meetings I attend, very rarely do I see youth representation even though the topics discussed are “how to engage youth” or “how can we support our youth”. Youth experience the injustices we see in the system, they should not only be consulted but should be leading the charge against these injustices. This will not happen unless we work together in providing more spaces and more encouragement for youth to employ their voices.
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Experience of a Latino teacher in Toronto schools
School #3 â€“ Lesson learnt: anti-racism in school
In every school, I have attempted to bring the topic of racism into conversations with students because it is a lived reality for many of our racialized students. Because of my lighter skin, my initial conception of race was purely biological and I conceived it as not a significant factor in education. With my university background in biology, chemistry, and psychology, I believed race did not exist because all races were too genetically similar to be seen as different. Throughout my undergraduate experience, I was fortunate to be a member of a new initiative, SALO (Student Aid and Learning Opportunities). At the beginning, I saw this as an opportunity to help tutor students from high school and â€œgive back to the communityâ€?. In this space, I met a now close friend who provided me opportunities to explore the world through a more critical lens. At first I was very resistant to this new method of thinking, believing that colourblindness was much more important in a classroom. Then I realized that although the physical and biological sciences could explain internal processes very well, they did not explain group or societal dynamics. By ignoring race (and all other social identities) in any interaction, we are ignoring how these socially constructed concepts affect the lives of many people living through oppression. We are in fact, oppressing them even further. The lived realities of many marginalized groups need to be integrated into every classroom and school to create a much more inclusive space of learning. Implementing anti-racism into my teachings was one step towards creating inclusive spaces, but more importantly, I was able to support racialized students in creating clubs. Black Student Alliances and Latin American Organizations in the schools where I taught were able to pull many students back into schooling. Many students commented that they had never joined a club before because they were not able to relate to them but felt compelled to join these student groups. Finally the schooling system seemed to be attempting to relate to them in a way that it could not before. I faced some resistance among colleagues but when I pointed at many universities having these same clubs and the potential to connect students from the two institutions, I gained much more support. In my third school I started to truly see the effect of these groups. Students openly volunteered to join the executive and we saw passion in many disengaged students to engage in the coordination of the group that many teachers did not think was possible. The led me to reflect on the often discussed idea that some students inherently lack the passion to do well in school. I believe it is a complete myth. It is the system that lacks the ganas (desire) to implement innovative ideas to engage the students. With the success of these racialized student groups, I now wonder why there has not been more of a push towards creating these groups in every school.
Through my reflections I hope to demonstrate the transformative potential in all of us. My way of thinking today is completely different from three years ago and will continue to change throughout my career. This is the same for every youth, student, educator, administrator, and
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politician. Change is everywhere. With access to information exponentially increasing, we need to create classrooms that allow students to critically examine that information rather than remaining with a traditional classroom that “banks” knowledge into students’ minds (Freire, 1970). Transformation is a potential in all of us, and for that reason, we also need to avoid dichotomizing the world into “us” vs. “them”. We all have a part to play in transforming the schooling experience for all students. Frontline workers must examine the transformative potential to students that decolonizing practices can create. At the same time, many frontline workers are overworked considering many schools are an aggregation of oppressed youth pushed through a system that does not work. This system of education was created during a time of the industrial revolution where factory-like settings were popularized and as a result, the grade system was a great way to fabricate “responsible citizens” (The RSA, 2010). Age was perhaps the simplest commonality between students, so why not make the grade system based on age? Looking at the school system now, we see growing disparities leading to the further stratification of society as a whole. We need to work in solidarity to steer our community in a direction towards positive transformation and against stereotypes. By acting in a united way, we can create a wave of pressure against political ideas that will only lead to the further stratification of society. We also need to demand accountability from elected officials who make decisions that affect education as a whole. Finally, we need to strive for a change in society that will positively affect the daily experiences of youth in Toronto schools.
References Freire, P. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder and Herder. Noguera, P. A. (2008). The trouble with Black boys: And other reflections on race, equity, and the future of public education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass United Way of Greater Toronto and the Canadian Council on Social Development. 2004. Poverty by Postal Code. The geography of neighbourhood poverty. Retrieved from http://www.unitedwaytoronto.com. Schugurensky, D., Mantilla, D., Serrano, J.F. (2009) Four in ten: Spanish speaking youth and early school leaving in Toronto. Retrieved from the Latin American Research and Education and Development Network and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education website: http:// fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~lared/fourinten2009F.pdf The RSA (2010, October 14). RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U Ontario Ministry of Education. (2009). Equity and Inclusive Education in Schools: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation. Toronto: Author.
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2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Yo Cuento1 - Latin American Newcomer Children Tell Their Stories Monica Valencia2
ABSTRACT Despite considerable interest in studying newcomer children to Canada, few studies include this population group as study participants. This study involved 10 children born in Latin America who have lived in Canada for five years or less. Study participants were between the ages of 9 and 11; five boys and five girls. Five children were from Colombia, two from Venezuela, one from Mexico, one from Bolivia, and one from Ecuador. I conducted individual research sessions where children and I drew, wrote, and conversed. Children drew the most significant events in their migration process and wrote short narratives. The main findings from this study include the impact of grandmother/grandchild separation on immigrant children, children’s multiple transitions across countries and within Canada, children’s worries due to language barriers, and the value children place on peer cultural brokering. The study concludes with recommendations to listen to newcomer children in order to better serve and help with their transition period in a new environment Key words: Immigrant children, Latin America, loss, residential mobility, cultural brokering
Introduction Migrant children tend to be absent from research and policy-related projects. Often researchers consult adults instead of children (Albanese 2009; Morrow and Richards 1996; Hill et al. 1996); however, there is no guarantee that their representations of children’s views and understandings are accurate (Albanese 2009). Many studies also tend to focus on either youth or kindergarten children, and often, middle childhood is overlooked (Hill et al. 1996). Other researchers are discouraged from reaching out to children due to the ethical complications and the disconnect that exists between a child participant and an adult researcher (Colbert 2010). Another reason for their exclusion is the “long-held belief that [newcomer] children adapt quickly” and that they do not get homesick (Fantino and Colak 2001). Boyd (2006), for example, states that children acclimatize more easily than their parents. Nonetheless, children’s silent approach to immigration issues does not mean they are coping well with their new environment (Fantino and Colak 2001). Fantino and Colak note that perhaps their lack of expression is due to adults’ unwillingness to listen. The book The Inner World of the Immigrant Child explains that silence is a process in which the child is negotiating and filtering his/her surroundings (Igoa 1995).
1 Yo cuento is Spanish for I matter/I narrate 2 Monica Valencia holds a Master’s Degree in Immigration and Settlement Studies from Ryerson University. Her research interests include qualitative methodologies, immigration, and newcomer children. She has worked in the non-profit sector as project lead and currently works at CERIS, a knowledge exchange hub for migration research.
That means that although there is no external dialogue there are many conversations taking place internally. The two types of investigations that do include newcomer children as key informants are clinical studies and evaluations of programs for bilingual literacy development (Esquivel et al. 2010; Dual-Language Book Club 2009; Taylor et al. 2008; Bleiker et al. 2008; Cummins et al. 2006; Rousseau et al. 2005; Bagilishya et al. 1998). Based on this approach, this study sought to discover what children themselves experience as immigrants, how they feel throughout those experiences and what interpretations they assign to those experiences.
Separation from grandparents The literature fails to address both the separation between newcomer children and their grandparents and the hardships of living with that loss. Many scholars assume that the only separation that can be emotionally devastating for children is from the parents who emigrate (León and Serrano 2010; Todorova et al. 2005; Falicov 2005). Moreover, the literature on migration presents loss only in relation to adult immigrants who miss their extended family members (Todorova et al. 2005; Falicov 2003; Orozco and Orozco 2001). Despite researchers acknowledging that the definition of the nuclear family needs to be extended to include the composition of immigrant families (Thomson and Minkler 2007a; Telegdi 2006; Goodman and Silverstein 2002), their studies continue to overlook the link that exists between the immigrant child and the grandparent who stays behind. Residential Mobility The literature teaches about the stress caused by immigration (García Coll and Magnuson 2005; Orozco and Orozco 2001; Bonovitz 2004) and about the negative repercussions that residential mobility has on children (Bose et al. 2007; Hanna 2003; Tucker et al. 1998). However, these two types of “moves” are not explored collectively. Moreover, the use of quantitative methodology in this research area limits the depth of the results (Fong and Hou 2001; Tucker et al. 1998; Hagan et al. 1996). The effects of residential mobility are commonly measured in terms of academic success and rates of high school completion (Bose et al. 2007; Hanna 2003) and not by the psychological impact or emotional wellbeing of mobile children. Consequently, children cannot express their feelings of anxiety and disorientation, nor can they inform on their coping mechanisms. School Life and Language A large body of literature explores the school experiences of immigrant students, including language acquisition (Souto-Manning 2007; García Coll and Magnuson 2005), poor academic performance (Schugurensky 2009; Yau & O’Reilley 2009), stigmatization (Entorf and Lauk 2006) and identity conflict (Louie 2006). It is also common to find discussions on the role of parents and the dynamics of peer influence (Perren et al. 2010; Bernhard 2009; MacNaughton 2001). Despite all, it is rare to find data that result from personal interviews with children. This is due
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to the fact that a lot of studies are concerned with school experiences but not with the day-today lives of newcomer children (Díaz 2002). Cultural and Language Mediation Research seems to mainly concentrate on cultural brokering offered by children or youth to their parents (Orellana 2009; Love and Buriel 2007; Morales and Hanson 2005). On the other hand, language mediation (cultural brokering by and for classmates) receives less attention. The literature on language mediation in dual-language classrooms paints a picturesque image. Children scaffold for each other and invest in their peers’ second language acquisition (Angelova et al. 2006; Olmedo 2003;Rubinstein-Ávila 2003). But little is known about monolingual classrooms. Additionally, studies on language mediation are concerned with young elementary students (Coyoca and Lee 2009; Olmedo 2003), excluding the experiences of older children. Lastly, measuring scales and observations are the main sources of data, silencing the views of those in the midst of it all (Benner 2011; Angelova et al. 2006; Rubinstein-Ávila 2003). Theoretical Framework The new sociology of childhood was the most appropriate approach to guide the research design and data analysis of this study. This theoretical understanding focuses on children in the present and not on who they will become (Corsaro 2005). It positions children as competent social agents who have the capacity for autonomy and decision-making (James et al. 1998) as agents and doers who actively participate in their social environment (Corsaro 2005). Children are viewed as being able to reproduce meaning and interpret the situations they face (King 2007; Matthews 2007). The other theory employed was acculturative stress – a theory that is common among studies on immigrant children (García Coll and Magnuson 2005). Acculturative stress refers to the stressors present in the migration and acculturation experience of immigrants, their psychological impact, and, to a larger extent, the ways in which children deal with these experiences (Suarez-Morales and Lopez 2009; Caplan 2007; Smart and Smart 1995). Children, like adults, face a range of stressors during their migration and adaptation processes (García Coll and Magnuson 2005). It should be noted, however, that there are discrepancies between adults’ and children’s acculturative stress.. Hence, the combination of both theories led to thorough descriptions of the particular lived experiences of children as they encountered a variety of stressors during their immigration and settlement process. Methodology This study involved in-depth and unstructured qualitative interviews (which included drawing, writing, and storytelling) with 10 newcomer children. These children were between the ages of 9 and 11 and had resided in Canada for less than five years. Unstructured interviews seemed to be a perfect fit for this study’s objective because this method focuses on revealing participants’ perspectives and experiences (Bryman et al. 2009). Moreover, individual interviews allowed me to invest my undivided attention to one child at a time, take detailed field notes, and be responsive to their cues. Esquivel et al. (2010, p. 31) explain that “drawings in combination with narratives Latin American Encounters | 61
provide insights to inner experiences of children related to traumatic experiences such as displacement [...] or planned relocations”. Rousseau and Heusch (2000) concur as they explain that analyzing stories and drawings helps improve the understanding of the processes immigrant children go through. After obtaining consent from both parents and child, I explained to the child the activities and purpose of the research project. I began by telling them a little about me and then invited them to do the same. They were free to choose the writing and drawing materials and the order of the activities. Usually, they preferred to commence by drawing the scenes that represented important events in their migration and settlement trajectory. Then, they complemented those drawings with written narratives. They presented both drawings and narratives, explaining to me their significance. I accompanied them by partaking in the same activities in order to tell them my story as well. At the end, I asked them for their feedback and thanked them for their participation. Findings The most recurring and pronounced theme in the research sessions was the role of grandparents in children’s lives, with particular emphasis on grandmothers. The ten children referred to their extended families and grandparents, but eight of them delved in great detail about their relationships with their grandparents. Another recurring theme was migrations and transitions across borders and within cities. Highly mobile children expressed their anxiety and instability about moving from place to place. School and language were also very important for these children because they had many worries regarding language barriers and peer acceptance. Lastly, children shared their cultural brokering experiences and the way they benefitted from them. From hence forward, children’s pseudonyms will be used to refer to their individual comments. Grandparents – Porque los perdí (because I lost them) Coni’s simple and striking phrase, “porque los perdí” (because I lost them), summarizes the experience of children who leave their grandparents behind. In three words he was able to convey a poignant message. Perder (to lose) implies that he can no longer have what he once did. Many child participants used to live in intergenerational homes before coming to Canada so they are accustomed to growing up with their grandmothers. They wish their grandmothers could come to Canada to visit or live with them. Grandmothers played a crucial role in these children’s lives; they cooked for them, they played with them, they told them stories, they spoiled them, they took care of them, but most importantly, they loved them immensely. Steven said that his grandmothers “eran las que más me querían. Me mimaban. Me hacían comida. Ellas me querían mucho / were the ones who loved me the most. They pampered me. They cooked for me. They loved me a lot”. Daniela also used to have a close relationship with her grandmother. She described her grandmother as a vibrant lady, full of energy and “a funny grandma which I love”. Daniela added that grandmothers are “experienced so whatever they make, you love it...somehow they have the magic touch.” Sebastian’s drawing illustrates the painful experience of leaving family behind. He drew a boy extending his hand to reach for his family, looking back at them while his mother dragged him away (see Illustration 1). When he presented the drawing he said his mother was “tratando de cogerme, tratando de llevame porque yo estaba muy triste y no quería ir / trying to grab me, trying 62 | Latin American Encounters
Yo Cuento - Latin American Newcomer Children Tell Their Stories
to take me because I was very sad and did not want to leave”. Sebastian says that if his “familia en Ecuador estaba en Canadá prefiero Canadá / family in Ecuador were in Canada, I would prefer Canada”.
Children even suggested implementing the question of grandparents into the research sessions. Steve recommended that I ask children how they feel in order to know “si extrañan la familia, a alguien / if they miss the family, or somebody”. For example, Isabel narrated that one day in her school “me puse a llorar porque extrañaba...a mi abuelita, a mi familia / I cried because I missed my grandmother, my family”. Similarly, Daniela used to cry every night before going to sleep because she was “freaking out” at the thought of not seeing her family again. In her drawing of Colombia, Daniela included a red heart to signify where her family is (see Illustration 2).
It is evident that the bond between grandchild and grandmother has the potential to affect the immigrant child to a great extent, both positively and negatively. In positive terms, children get happy when they remember their grandmothers or when they communicate with them. In negative terms, children get sad, uncertain, and bored when their grandparents and other relatives are absent. They become so melancholic that they cry and desire to return.
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Transitions – Me mudé de casa y me mudé a Canadá (I moved houses and I moved to Canada) The sentence above, articulated by Anthony, highlights that there are two types of major moves that immigrant children experience, international and local. Often, research assumes that an immigrant child leaves the sending country to arrive in the receiving country, reinforcing a dichotomy of here and there. In this study, however, I found that four out of ten children lived in the U.S. before coming to Canada. These multiple migrations add layers to children’s stories and shape their perceptions of Canada. For example, Isabel and Daniela were afraid to start school in Canada because in the U.S. they had experienced bullying. The issue of multiple migrations should be studied further to investigate how this affects children how they cope with these transitions, and how they differ from immigrant children who make direct trips. Steve’s travel map provides a version of a multi-layered trip (see Illustration 3).
Once in Canada, these children moved several times in a short period of time. In Jessica’s case, every time she changes cities she worries about making friends because she does not want to be lonely. She said that when she moves to a new school “I feel nervous because you never know what’s going to happen.” Changing schools is challenging for any child. However, the difficulty is amplified when the child is new to the country and does not speak the language. Anthony, like Jessica, switched schools three times. This instability has made Anthony uncertain because whenever he moves he expects to move again. In his drawing he shows his family moving into an apartment and he writes inside a speech bubble “I wonder where my new home will be” (see Illustration 5). His comment demonstrates that he questions the permanency of ‘home’.
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Yo Cuento - Latin American Newcomer Children Tell Their Stories
The phenomenon of multiple transitions needs to be addressed because mobility fails to provide children with a sense of security, stability, and home. Furthermore, it needs to be known if moving aggravates the hardships of settlement and how children can receive support. School and Language – Mi primer día de escuela (My first day of school) / My biggest weakness [was] my communication. Isabel’s story title, “Mi primer día de escuela / my first day of school,” captures a turning point in her settlement experience. Several children wrote about their first day of school, expressing worries about making friends, learning English (Illustration 5) and being mocked. Jessica explained in her narrative that although she was glad to start school in Canada, her biggest weakness, as she described in her narrative, was her communication. She thought that “nunca iba a aprender inglés / I was never going to learn English. Similarly, Isabel and Candice thought learning English was “impossible”. In turn, that affected their emotional well-being as Isabel stated, “me sentí triste y mal / I felt sad and bad”.
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The children were sad because they knew that they needed to master the language in order to function socially and academically. Jessica acknowledged that if she spoke English she would be able to “hacer amiguitas / make friends and “hacer todo / do everything.” For example, Anthony said he likes his last school better than the other two because he has “muchos amigos / many friends.” In terms of academics, James discussed how his grades improved once he “knew the language” and Isabel explained how acquiring English enabled her to participate in her favourite class. In sum, children presented language as their major source of worry, given that language is the factor that either allows or hinders a children’s opportunity to partake in their school community. Cultural Brokering: Children Helping Children – I was lucky that there was this other girl that spoke Spanish and English In many cases, when we think about cultural brokers, we think about children helping adults. In this study, however, the children talked extensively about relying on (or them helping) other children as cultural brokers. For example, James shared that he “was lucky that there was this other girl that spoke Spanish and English.” He considered himself fortunate to find a bilingual classmate who helped him while he learned English. He said the girl “would explain it all to me.” He appreciated her help because he thought that it would help him “do great in school.” Isabel also had a classmate who helped her with translation and interpretation. However, she engaged in reciprocal brokering where she helped her broker as well. In her story, Isabel wrote: I helped my friend with math and she helped me with English. Daniela discussed her experiences as a broker and the importance of her role. She said she liked to assist non-English speakers because “ya tenía la experiencia de ser una niña nueva y sabía que es muy duro y me gusta ayudarles / I already had the experience of being a new girl and I knew that it’s very hard and I like to help them.” Sometimes Daniela even offers to help during after-school hours. Other children, like Coni, were taught how to “comportarse, las reglas de la clase / behave, the classroom rules.” Coni liked to be told this information because he learned what he was supposed to do in school. In a way, peers acted as guides who give newcomer children tips, advice, and warnings on how to navigate their new environments. Overall, mediation among peers proved to be very beneficial to immigrant children as it served to connect them with their teachers, friends, and new surroundings.
A common stressor for these newcomer children was family separation. Children experienced loss because they miss their grandmothers’ love, care, companionship, and support. Immigrant children, then, are affected by loss as their adult counterparts due to their separation from family members other than their parents. For that reason, researchers and policy makers should take into account the rupture of the grandchild/grandmother dyad in the case of immigrant children who migrate along their parents. Another stressor for immigrant children is residential mobility. Children are often not asked about how they feel when they move to a new place and what they struggle with. In
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Yo Cuento - Latin American Newcomer Children Tell Their Stories
the current study, children expressed that they were anxious, nervous, shy and hesitant about making new friends, leaving old friends behind, overcoming loneliness, making sense of their moves and finding stability. The phenomenon of residential mobility combined with international moves deserves greater attention by parents, settlement workers and teachers so that children can receive proper support during these transitions. Language was also a major preoccupation for the children interviewed. They emphasized the limitations of having low English proficiency such as not being able to make friends, understand teachers, and read texts. For them, language acquisition was not easy and quick. In their view, learning the language meant overcoming solitude and achieving high grades. Teachers and school staff should be sympathetic and patient with English learners and assist them in their adjustment to a new linguistic environment. Finally, the children who participated in this study highlighted the significance and the utility of receiving language mediation. They mentioned that providing mediation for peers was a rewarding experience because they could help other immigrant children. Mediators translated school assignments, taught phrases and facilitated the communication between newcomer children and teachers/classmates. In addition, mediators introduced children to new customs and school protocol. Ultimately, researchers should expand the scope of their studies beyond brokering for parents and mediation in dual-language classrooms.
Conclusion There is extensive and valuable literature on the subject area of Latin American newcomer children, but adults such as teachers, parents and younger adults act as key informants. When immigrant children participate in research, the use of quantitative methods limits their responses to those topics of interest to the researcher. Moreover, studies tend to focus on either youth or kindergarten groups. The particular experiences of the ten children make it evident that when children are encouraged to share their stories they reveal what is truly important to them. Knowing what hampers and facilitates their settlement is crucial to learning about their needs and assets in order to create and implement programs and initiatives that support them.. The age of immigrant children does not mean that they are incapable of identifying their needs, expressing their feelings and voicing their opinions. Their worlds are complex and their narratives are compelling. Learning about their lives as newcomers is not only an engaging experience but also an informative lesson for parents, school personnel, policy makers, researchers and settlement workers. Their stories leave powerful messages that direct us to the questions they want us to address.
Bibliography Albanese, P. (2009). Children in Canada Today. Don Mills, Canada: Oxford University Press. Angelova, M. Gunawardena, D., and Volk, D. (2006). Peer teaching and learning: Co-constructing language in a dual language first grade. Language & Education: An International Journal, 20(3): 173-190. Latin American Encounters | 67
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Yo Cuento - Latin American Newcomer Children Tell Their Stories
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Rousseau, C., and Heusch, N. (2000). The trip: a creative expression project for refugee and immigrant children. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 17(1): 31-40. Rousseau,C., Drapeau, A., Lacroix, L., Bagilishya, D., Heusch, N. (2005). Evaluation of a classroom program of creative expression workshops for refugee and immigrant children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46(2): 180-185. Rubinstein-Ávila, E. (2003). Negotiating power and redefining literacy expertise: Buddy reading in a dual-immersion programme. Journal of Research in Reading, 26(1): 83-97. Schugurensky, D. (2007). “Does education equalize opportunities? The implications of the TDSB cohort analysis for democracy and meritocracy”. Diversity in Education Parents’ Forum. Toronto: Ethnocultural Community Network of the Toronto District School Board. Smart, J., and Smart, D. (1995). Acculturative stress. The Counseling Psychologist, 23(1): 25-42. Souto-Manning, M. (2007). Immigrant families and children (re)develop identities in a new context. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(6): 399-405. Suárez-Morales, L., and Lopez, B. (2009). The impact of acculturative stress and daily hassles on pre-adolescent psychological adjustment: Examining anxiety symptoms. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 30(3-4): 335-349. Taylor, L., Cummins, J., Bernhard, J., Ada, A., Winsler, A., Bleiker, C., and Campoy, I. (2008). Affirming plural belonging: building on students’ family-based cultural and linguistic capital through multiliteracies pedagogy. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 8(3): 269-294. Teledgi, A. (2006). Family reunification: the key to successful integration. Canadian Issues, Spring: 94-96. Thompson, E. (2003, December 10). “Many grandparents raising grandchildren”. Leader Post A3. Todorova, I., Louie, J., Suárez-Orozco, C. (2005). “Making up for lost time: the experience of separation and reunification among immigrant families”. In Suárez-Orozco M., SuárezOrozco C., and Qin-Hilliard D. (eds.) The New Immigration: An Interdisciplinary Reader. New York: Routledge 179-196. Tucker, J., Marx, J., and Long, L. (1998). “Moving on”: Residential mobility and children’s school lives. Sociology of Education, 71(April): 111-129.
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POETRY & NARRATIVE / POESÍA Y LETRAS
2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
POSTCARD Ari Belathar1
Perhaps something is starting to break in the stammering seconds in the acrobatic heart beating where we are bleeding without kisses or chants while in the distance your city and mine die of rainstorms and you hurt me you hurt me eliciting my doubts like the night like my vocation for void and the kneel down nights of your people (caressed by the murmur of water and rage) I am afraid I see myself trembling before the infinite solitude of the south and I do not want to tell you more about the space between the fall and the acrobat (scene of that sweet battle mouth to mouth) stop this carousel that does not stop turning inside my head stop this fragrance of cemetery freedom and flowers I do not know about words nor understand the squares in the window 1 Ari Belathar is a Mexican poet and playwright in exile. Between 1994 and 2001, she facilitated creative writing and popular theatre workshops for indigenous women and children throughout Mexico. She was also a founding member of the first Mexican community radio station during the student strike at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1999. After being kidnapped and tortured by the Mexican National Army in 2001 due to her work as an independent journalist and human rights defender, she escaped to Canada. Belathar has published her poetry in literary journals and anthologies around the world, and has served as a writer in residence at the University of Windsor, Brandon University and Alameda Theatre Company in Toronto.
I understand a lot less the landscape that is invented after I only know that here I am saturated by nights exiled from a country that only exists in the shadows that nostalgia draws up (nobody chooses borders like a postcard) when the gardens of the world are filled with equestrian statues of cowards we are standing in the centre of what it couldnâ€™t be and to be here is an inevitable mirage yet I havenâ€™t cried for your absence and I havenâ€™t cried because one day I left our home with my hands tied to the silence and my childhood broken in little pieces how to tell you that my heart is a dead bird that I lose myself in each mirror without violence in my gaze that my language is now the language of the enemy and I do not have more than my poor delirium defeated by the distance I only know that here I am writing with the burden of a postponed revolution Latin American Encounters | 73
2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
I Carry a People in my Voice Ivania Erazo1
at the sound of Sumpul flowing I am on the deserted path I keep stretching through the highest of trees needing the Sunlight from the loneliness of the forgotten echoes my heart beats, joy unravels the veins, and particles of what I’m holding so close I have been summoned to give in, to disarm my Creator, whispers more Wind then roots into me, swaying from the east to the west the sunset kisses me as we embrace the sun drenched land, crackling through my feet searching for anything that looks familiar, a pot, a spoon, a necklace, a vase all I see are broken pieces where have my people gone? silence silence I keep stepping over my words, I don’t remember what they sound like na hu a? Nahuat? Nahuatl? Tlakaxoukayotl- ‘no se dice así, me dicen’! se dice libertad, freedom fuego, fire, tletl- ‘ese idioma no!’ a language that we gave the land of the Savior El Salvador do you remember? silence silence the essence of peace has left my land as the birds no longer sing, and the waters are stilled Creator, I hold my arms outstretched, will you tell me where to fly next?
Visionary leader and activist Ivania Erazo has dedicated her life to rekindling histories of hope, purpose, solidarity and identity. Born into a family of revolutionaries fleeing the government sanctioned terror of El Salvador’s civil war, Ivania’s passion for justice and restoration began at a young age. Now she is a catalyst for change and a fiery advocate for the human spirit. In service locally and internationally, she has transformed her family’s struggle into inspiration for civic contribution. During her 2 year term as president and co-founder of the Hispanic Fraternity Association, she helped to institute the city of Hamilton’s celebrated Hispanic Heritage Week. Ivania is the 2013 recipient of the Jose Eduardo Memorial Scholarship. With pen and paper, Ivania gives voice to the dignified struggles of marginalized and displaced immigrant communities. Hers is a legacy of freedom, inspired by the words of Monseñor Oscar Romero, “Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the only force that will overcome the world”.
I carry a people in my Voice I hold a memory that was stolen I carry a people in my Voice I see those that were born from my people, suffer the land is infertile, Mother groans for there is no fruit, the people are unable to cultivate, the tyrant has stolen from them. the children are bare, the grandmothers are left behind and the fathers and sons have been disappeared and killed I carry a people in my Voice a language that we gave the land of the Savior El Salvador do you remember?
The Wind whispers the Creators desire to me I have given you the ocean, swoon it with your sharp gaze I have given you the Harvest, it is sprouting out of your hands I have given you the Land- let it reform itself under the heat of your heart You are my beautiful, perfect creation, I will continue to liberate you from under the possession. I remember your language, I see your people Walking down the streets of San Salvador, I see the echo of my people in the gaze of the campesino I see the destiny of my people in the children, that sing freely The strength and kindness of the Creator in the hands of mothers tired but valiant, the mother continues to rise every morning. May the suns’ fire never turn away from us, may it remind us of los que lucharon the water that breathes, the wheat that has risen- it continues to sway through the earth rebuilding, replanting. this land is mine,it is yours it is mine, a people I carry. I carry a people in my voice I carry Efrain’s dream and Milagro’s passion Milagro’s voice is broken Efrain, where are you?- hijo, dónde estás? Latin American Encounters | 75
I Carry a People in my Voice
Milagro’s memory holds la matanza, el cerro Guazapa mutilada But Milagro’s vision holds the saviour resurrected, the land erupting with paz Choosing life. Me I am in this foreign land, looking for answers I carry a people in my voice We are the generation ripped from the struggle, belonging more there, than here. My heart ripping at the seams, faced with generations of pain a peace maker- my grandmother a guerrillero- my uncle a liberator- our people the people I carry in my voice Libertad. Tlakaxoukayotl
I carry a people in my voice a language that we gave the land of the Savior El Salvador do you remember? El idioma se llama liberación. liberación del corazón not liberation of peace documents signed, but a liberation from sorrow, a liberation that brought the sons and daughters back to their mothers, a liberation that brought back the disappeared, a liberation that honored those who fought for truth. for freedom, for dignity, be liberated, be liberated for the walls that surround you will be left in history- even in hours of uncertainty, of shadows, of darkness with the signs of liberation: shaking off oppressive yokes, bringing joy to hearts, sowing hope 76 | Latin American Encounters
Sowing hope, sowing truth, sowing back the fibres of a country that was dismantled because of the fear of truth. Tlakaxoukayotl Libertad Liberaci贸n del coraz贸n Bajo el cielo azul, the people of El Salvador rise, knowing who they are. Guerrero campesino profesor persona Tlakaxoukayotl libertad Liberaci贸n del coraz贸n unraveling walls in my heart, as I rise with my people
In a land where only the invisible threads of my heart remind me of what I have not seen, but of who I am. I hear my people wailing in my heart, weakened, but not broken. A land of liberated people, is not oppressed, is not tortured, is not assassinated, is not disappeared. Deprived of hope no longer, in perfect union with Redemption A El Salvador, no se le olvida.
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2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
La Pasión del Cristo Oliver Velazquez Toledo1
Mt 11:25 Yo también me tiraría a llorar si no fuera por respeto a la convivencia, le dije al Cristo cuando pataleaba en medio de la sala para evitar la aprehensión de aquellos romanos que lo sometían y lo hacían probar de vuelta las cáscaras de su propio vómito. Esos restos que se habían acrisolado entre las fibras de la alfombra, mas conservaban el resabio de la hiel. No mames, haz algo, escuché que el Cristo murmuraba con ese tono oprimido por la bota del captor, no me niegues. Sonreí, porque aunque él ignoraba la trascendencia de estos hechos, este mitote era por su bien. Al menos así le pareció cuando a las tres de la mañana rabiaba que su vida era un desastre, que no había cumplido siquiera los sueños que no tenía, que su madre había enfermado debido a sus constantes escándalos por alcohol, drogas, peleas; su madre, esa mujer bondadosa y de paso torpe que salía a abrirnos cuando llegábamos a su casa, ahogados de espíritu y fe, porque, eso sí, si el Cristo ganaba en inspiración cuando bebía, cuando fumaba era sublime y nos convencía a todos de seguir empedándonos. Padrino, padrino, me reclamaba cuando asumía que yo andaba menos borracho, ¿por qué me has abandonado? Hacía un año, mientras honrábamos una garrafa de pulque en una ladera del Ajusco, se había visto que el Cristo era inflamado por una necesidad de hablar, y lo escuché larga pero intermitentemente. La flama de mi propia pituitaria también encandecía, pues había fumado y bebido tanto o más que nuestro señor, así que me distraje varias veces; aunque luego regresara a confundirme entre su sinsentido, debo admitir que de pronto comprendí algo. En esas santas horas, según lo escrito, nacía el cristianismo mariguano. Bienaventurados, proclamaba, quienes corren la bacha a la derecha, porque de ellos será el reino de la que viene por la izquierda. Etcétera. De bajada se nos trepó el payaso, como era de esperarse según el orden de ideas, de modo que con las carcajadas encabritamos a los perros del rumbo. Apenas nos abrimos paso entre las fieras hasta un corral ayudándonos con la garrafa vacía para que, montados en una mula, muertos de risa, entráramos luego al barrio con la garrafa llena de nuevo como por milagro, en el momento en el que una peregrinación hacia la capilla de por ahí entorpecía el tránsito con sus palmas en alto y sus feligreses nos vituperaban por atravesarnos, mientras nosotros les mentábamos la madre por puro reflejo y azuzábamos al animal. Éramos dos, pero teníamos la fortaleza de una docena. Con sus días y sus noches, en el Desierto de los Leones nos impusimos en cuarentena la tentación última de quemarle las patas al Diablo. La víspera, el Cristo había echado a los fariseos del templo. Unos pendejos que habían resuelto utilizar nuestro callejón como atajo hacia los campos de futbol. El Cristo, a quien para 1 Oliver Velázquez nació en el Istmo de Tehuantepec, México, en 1980. Estudió letras hispánicas en la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana en la ciudad de México y actualmente cursa la maestría en literatura latinoamericana en la Universidad de Toronto. Ha publicado en la revista Cantera Verde de la ciudad de Oaxaca, en los periódicos mexicanos El Día y El Financiero y en las antologías Sales de nostalgia (2003) y Desde el fondo de la tierra (2012). Hace dos años que vive en Canadá.
Oliver Velazquez Toledo
entonces ya la barba de chivo le formaba una suerte de espiral en el cabo, mientras el cabello se le enredaba de no bañarse, se les puso enfrente y les ordenó que volvieran por donde chingados habían venido. El más decidido respondió que no, que iban a los campos, que quién era el valiente. Ya sabían de la fama del Cristo en los alrededores, le buscaban camorra sólo para probar que no porque les hubiera partido la madre a unos judiciales podía dárselas de rey. Ni bien se había callado el intruso cuando un zurdazo le marcaba la boca, fulminante. El otro no alcanzó a evitar que el Cristo sacara su cinturón de un tiro y le propinara algunos azotes con la hebilla. El del suelo, por supuesto, no despertaba; de quien supimos que se llamaba Lázaro, por su amigo que le pedía auxilio mientras metía las manos para defenderse del cinturón. Los vecinos comenzaban a asomarse. El Cristo vio que, en efecto, el tipo estaba como muerto, pero la indignación lo hizo patearlo. Levántate, Lázaro, le espetaba. Llamaron a la policía. Dispusimos apartarnos por un tiempo a una casa vacía en el Desierto, una especie de cabaña que habían olvidado unos millonarios donde escondíamos la mirra, el incienso y el oro, además de unas caguamas. Como siempre, el Cristo vomitó en la alfombra pasadas las dos. Poco después empezó a quejarse y recordó que ya tenía 33 años, que su vida era un desastre, dijo que a la cárcel, mejor prefería la granja. Así me acordé del primo del Cristo que había vuelto del Gabacho, John se llamaba ahora, pero le habíamos apodado el Bautista, porque era de la religión. Me había intentado persuadir de llamar a los de una clínica de rehabilitación cuando el Cristo me lo pidiera, me daba treinta varos para el teléfono, le dije que sí, nomás; pero heme ahí, si no lo veo, no lo creo. El Bautista ya lo veía venir, seguro, de suerte que les llamé a los de una clínica en la Roma, de acuerdo con el folleto que me había dado. Pronto se supo que la clínica era clandestina y que lo único cierto era que allá adentro los bañaban cada mañana con el agua fría de la manguera, para luego sentarlos a oírse unos a otros en un ronda infinita de flagelaciones. Al Cristo le tocó la suya, una vez que aceptó su sino y contó todo lo que sabía delante de aquella turba enardecida que al poco rato pedía que lo crucificaran, un ejercicio terapéutico que consistía en que al paciente lo ataran en estrella y luego uno por uno le pateara los güevos hasta muy entrada la tarde, especialmente si era de reciente ingreso. Yo lo di por muerto. A los tres años coincidimos en un vagón del metro, ya no tenía el cabello largo y estaba afeitado de la cara, traía la camisa por dentro, se había aprendido de memoria pasajes de la Biblia y los recitaba a los pasajeros. Tal vez no me reconocería, pero decidí hablarle, él me vio desde lejos, caminó hacia donde estaba. Resucitado, le dije. Me miró con infinita sabiduría el bendito, te perdono, pinche Judas, me contestó, vete y no peques más. Se dio la media vuelta, me dejó ahí, cruzó al siguiente vagón, donde continuaba recitando versículos, a la hora en que yo me quedaba con un único pero hondo pensamiento, ¿por qué carajo no fui a la universidad?
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VISUAL CONTRIBUTIONS / CONTRIBUCIÓNES VISUALES
2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Impressions of Peru Manuel Arellano1
Spanish Hace dos años tuve la oportunidad de participar en el programa internacional de pasantías para jóvenes de la Agencia Canadiense de Desarrollo Internacional (ACDI). Trabajé con la Asociación Menonita para el Desarrollo Económico (MEDA), una ONG Canadiense, en un programa para incrementar la productividad de los pequeños productores agropecuarios de Perú y Nicaragua a través de su acceso a tecnología agrícola. Lo que más me impactó al recorrer la costa, sierra y selva peruana, fue la historia, la cultura y los pueblos de este gran país. Los paisajes andinos y la historia todavía viva, escribiéndose es algo que nunca olvidaré. Cuando estaba en Perú, había protestas contra el proyecto minero Conga, y la sociedad estaba dividida en cuanto al papel de esta industria en la economía peruana. Las fotos muestran a beneficiarios del programa en comunidades rurales del departamento de Apurímac, una región pobre y aislada del resto del país. Las tomé cuando visité estas comunidades para desarrollar planes de negocios para su proyectos. El propósito de las fotos fue un motivo personal para documentar mi experiencia en Perú. Durante mi estadía en Lima, mi casa quedaba en un barrio afluente llamado San Isidro, un triste contraste con la realidad en el interior del país. Da pesar que personas que comparten la misma nacionalidad vivan en condiciones tan diferentes. Es como si Perú fuese un país compuesto por dos mundos diferentes, uno de la élite limeña y el otro por decendientes de indígenas empobrecidos. De regreso de Apurímac pasé unos días en Cusco y en el Valle Sagrado. Una de mis experiencias más memorables fue cuando visité Machu Picchu. Allí se siente una armonía y una paz indescriptible. Será por eso que los incas venían aquí para descansar y realizar ceremonias religiosas. La tranquilidad en que vivían los incas es la misma que se siente en Machu Picchu: el alma es libre de soñar e inventar un mundo utópico, regido por el imperio de la hermandad.
English Two years ago I had the opportunity to participate in the International Youth Intership Program, offered by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). I worked with the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), a Canadian NGO, in a program aimed to increase the productivity of small-scale agricultural producers in Peru and Nicaragua by
1 Manuel Arellano is a communications and development specialist. Born in Colombia and raised in Canada, he has Master’s degree in Latin American & Caribbean Studies / International Development from the University of Guelph. Manuel participated in the Canadian International Development Agency’s International Youth Internship Program and was based in Peru for six months.
improving their access to agricultural technologies. What struck me most while exploring the Peruvian coast, mountains and jungle, was the history, the culture and the peoples of this great country. I will never forget the Andean landscapes and the countryâ€™s living history. While I was in Peru, there were protests against the mining project Conga, and society was divided around the role of this industry in the Peruvian economy. The photos show beneficiaries of the program in rural communities in the Department of Apurimac, a poor region isolated from the rest of the country. I took these pictures when I visited these communities to develop business plans for their projects. The purpose of the photos was a personal reason to document my experience in Peru. In Lima, I stayed in a house located in an affluent neighborhood called San Isidro, a sad contrast to the reality of people in the countryâ€™s interior. It is sad that people who share the same nationality, live in such different conditions. It is as if Peru is a country made up of two different worlds, one of the Lima elite and the other of the descendants of impoverished indigenous peoples. On my way back from Apurimac, I spent a few days in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. One of my most memorable experiences was when I visited Machu Picchu. When you are there, you feel an indescribable peace and harmony. This is probably why the Incas came here to rest and perform religious ceremonies. The calmness in which the Incas lived is the same feeling one experiences in Machu Picchu: the soul is free to dream and to create a utopian world, governed by an empire of kinship and solidarity.
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Impressions of Peru
1 Ojos negros que me miran desde otro mundo que cargan con siglos de injusticia que cuentan la historia real de esta tierra Cara de niña y señora que conoces los secretos del mundo que reflejas tu superioridad sobre mi que te tomé la foto porque eres indígena porque eres pura de esta tierra porque nunca llegaste porque no eres mezcla ni mestiza Linda niña de pelo juguetón y flor amarilla de zapatillas rosas y manga descosida con las manos sucias del suelo gris ¿a qué jugabas cuando te interrumpí?
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2. Productores de palta (aguacate) en el Valle de Ocobamba, Provincia de Apurímac. 3. Quisiera ser una nube, hacer parte de ese ejercito celestial que patrulla los Andes. Porque desde el cielo no hay duda que las montañas viven, y si no hablan es porque han llegado a dominar el arte de la aceptación. Sienten las retroexcavadoras igual que Jesús los clavos. Si no hablan es porque conocen la verdad. Saben que a pesar del dolor la vida sigue por los siglos de los siglos. Desde el cielo, resulta difícil pensar que hace siglos una civilización tan rica habitaba estas montañas. El reflejo de los techos de cinc y los cerros pelados por la minería hablan de desarrollo y progreso. Pero debo reconocer que las dos minas que advertí desde el avión son sólo una gota en el océano. Ese mar de montañas, con sus picos nevados y sus lagunas verde intenso, es todavía un territorio salvaje. Una vez en tierra, el combi subió y bajó los Andes varias veces antes de llegar a nuestro destino de Abancay. Por la vera del camino, hombres y mujeres, viejos y jóvenes, cargaban en sus espaldas provisiones y vida, bebés con pulmones mejores que los míos y los tuyos, pues respiran el poco pero puro oxígeno de la sierra, esa sierra que huele a eucalipto y suena a zampoña, donde fluyen ríos y riachuelos que bajan de la montaña. Es fácil entender el amor y respeto que sienten sus habitantes por la Madre Tierra. La tierra les da de comer y les pinta cuadros. Además les da vivienda, pues sus casitas medio torcidas están hechas de barro. La verdad, no sé si sentir pesar o celos de estas personas. Bien es cierto que son pobres. Pero llevan un estilo de vida sin apuros, respiran el aire más puro del mundo y viven dentro de una postal. 84 | Latin American Encounters
Impressions of Peru
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4. Velero en Callao, Provincia del Callao.
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5. Niños de indígenas en Lamas, Provincia de San Martín.
6. Hacienda de Yaca, Provincia de Apurímac. Latin American Encounters | 87
2014 | Volume 2
LATIN AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS
Batik1 En Uruguay Robert Direnna2
Mis obras están inspiradas en las etnias africanas que llegaron a Uruguay durante la época de la colonia española. A través de dos elementos naturales como la tela de algodón y la cera de abeja , intento recrear sus orígenes, sus costumbres y el sufrimiento padecido en los años de esclavitud. Es una manera de rescatar a las minorías, reavivar la memoria colectiva que contienen para construir un retrato de una sociedad y una época . Buscando el contraste de dos culturas me inspiran también motivos religiosos. Es donde reflexiono sobre el arte como un pensamiento que se une a la vida misma, donde la memoria es la encargada de comunicar un tiempo irrepetible.
1 Más sobre la técnica del Batik: Países como Irán, Sri Lanka, la India y Tailandia han sido permeados por la técnica del batik, pero es más prominente aún en Malasia e Indonesia, sobre todo en Java, esa isla que ahora es identificada por sus batiks. También encontramos manufacturas similares a la técnica indonesia en diversas partes de África. Desde 2009 la técnica del batik indonesio es considerada como patrimonio cultural inmaterial de la humanidad 2 Robert Direnna nació en Salto, Uruguay, en 1964. Artista plástico autodidacta y diseñador web. En su juventud se vinculó a las artes gráficas como diseñador gráfico en un diario local y años más tarde como diseñador web. Sin estudios académicos, pero atraído por el arte, el dibujo, el tallado de madera y la cerámica, se sintió seducido por una técnica particular. El Batik. —Ese teñido de tejidos que consiste en aplicar capas de cera sobre zonas reservadas (aquellas regiones que no se desea teñir), fijándose las anilinas en aquellas zonas no reservadas—. Direnna experimentó sobre distintas telas, con diferentes colorantes, incluso vegetales, alterando las proporciones de cera para obtener un mejor efecto craquelado. La experiencia lo condujo a desarrollar su propia técnica en el teñido de telas, de esta forma sus trabajos han adquirido una característica muy personal. Actualmente realiza también trabajos en óleo y acuarela.
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