Del Otro Lado: Constructions of Literacy in Rural Mexico and the Effects of Transnational Migration
AuthorMeyers, Susan Virginia
Committee ChairHall, Anne-Marie
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation is a nine-month ethnographic study of migrant families' literacies and corresponding value systems. Specifically, while I found that formal education is strongly valued among Mexican migrant groups, it is considered more a marker of prestige than a means to self-realization or economic improvement. In turn, socially transmitted skills and consejos (advice) are more important to migrant communities' survival and personal and material advancement. In order to demonstrate the role of social literacies and the irony that schooled literacy takes in the lives of many rural Mexicans, I trace the historical development of my field site, the town of Villachuato in the state of MichoacÃ¡n, from its inception as a Spanish-owned hacienda, through its liberation and subsequent small-scale farming initiatives following the Mexican Revolution, and on into the current history of those farms' failure as a result of transnational economic influences like NAFTA. While more and more members of the Villachuato community are being pushed across the Mexico-U.S. border in search of work, public school teachers in rural Mexico are frustrated by rising drop-out rates and perceived student apathy. However, while teachers advocate formal education as the best means of self-improvement, students in Villachuato schools do not find the curriculum relevant to their lives. Rather, they adopt those schooled lessons that they find helpful (i.e., reading and writing skills that help them read street signs and navigate government and commercial bureaucracies); but they actively resist the value systems of meritocracy and personal identity development implicit in public education. By considering the ways in which local communities interface with dominant institutional literacies, this study supports efforts within the New Literacy Studies to unpack the complexities of globalized literacy practices. Further, the discrepancies between Villachuato citizens' priorities and those of their schools suggest important implications for educational policy on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.