My name is Rocío Sánchez Ares. I am currently a visiting professor at Tufts University. I taught Spanish as a Heritage Language in Boston Public Schools at the secondary level and at the elementary level in the Lawrence Public School system in the state of Kansas. I followed an ethnic studies framework, that focused on teaching Latinx youth and children about culture, power, and historical knowledge, while underlining Spanish language maintenance, and the validation of the students’ cultural and linguistic identities as bilingual or multilingual and transnational citizens. Contextualizing the Spanish as Heritage Language curriculum as Ethnic studies validates the heterogenous Latinx cultural and linguistic heritage of minoritized communities. In our curricula, we explored, our origins, histories, and systems of oppression and resistance. A Latinx ethnic studies curricula can challenge white dominant views of history, as the students feel they have a space. The students reflected on our positionality in this process, understanding our identities, just like culture are fluid and highly contextualized. We followed Chicanx and Latinx frameworks about identity, culture, and history in the borderlands. For instance, Gloria Anzaldúa’s work transnationalism and hybrid cultural identity construction. In our class, there was a culminating Critical Youth Participatory Action Research Project (PAR)towards addressing anti-Black and anti-immigrant sentiments while promoting Latinx leadership in the process, on which the students worked throughout the semester. The students draw on photovoice, theater, or related interactive methodologies to present their group work.
The students created identity collages to reflect on the construction of our cultural identity as Latinx immigrants in the United States. We addressed the tension between our self identity and our social identity, that is how we see ourselves and how others see us in society. The students worked in small groups to develop infographics, that is a chart to represent information on forms of exclusion experienced by Latinx communities in different institutional contexts, including schools, universities, policymaking, politics, health care, and society at large. The students discussed intersecting forms of racism, and sexism affecting our Latinx community to brainstorm solutions. In addition, the students developed persuasive writings about why bilingualism must be a human right for immigrant students in U.S. schools. The students had an opportunity to share and read these essays with administrators from the MA education department. As a result, we received a grant with bilingual books for each student. The class also received a grant to collaborate with the Harvard Museum of Natural History to participate in events, i.e. day of the death, and display their work at the museum.
I strongly believe than an ethnic studies approach can be beneficial to Latinx students from different backgrounds in varied ways. The students engaged in processes of critical racial literacy when analyzing systems of institutional oppression, while learning about their history of resistance. When students feel included in their curricula, their academic performance enhanced. In this process, the students were able to develop vital capital and see themselves as worthy, as smart, and as agents of change, thus, developing their community leadership.