Bilingual and trilingual schools in rural Puebla state

Bilingual Indigenous Primary School "Ninos Heroes de Chapultepec" in Nealtican, Puebla

Bilingual Indigenous Primary School “Ninos Heroes de Chapultepec” in Nealtican, Puebla

Elementary school

Elementary school

First grade classroom

First grade classroom

First graders working on math.

First graders working on math.

Elementary students who have lived in U.S. with school principal

Elementary students who have lived in U.S. with school principal

Middle school library

Middle school library

Middle school students presented trilingual stories and plays

Middle school students presented trilingual stories and plays

Migration to and from the United States mixed with projects to maintain indigenous languages impact schools we will visit in the rural Puebla state town of Nealtican.

Educators and families are developing ways to deepen the education of their students from Náhuatl and Spanish-speaking families, as well as the children who have lived in the U.S. (and perhaps were born there) and have returned to Nealtican as bilingual Spanish-English learners or sometimes as dominant English-speakers. It’s a complicated mix. Spanish is the dominant language, while many families maintain the use of Náhuatl, their primary language.

The elementary school teaches Náhuatl with collaboration between Náhuatl-speaking teachers, parents and grandparents who bring cultural and language lessons to school. Other families from Nealtican return from the U.S., primarily New York and New Jersey, with children who were born in the U.S. Depending on their ages and educational experiences, some speak more English than Spanish. Some are acquainted with Náhuatl, while others are not. Through partnerships with a university in Puebla, the school offers weekly English lessons for all students, and is working on projects to support the English of the students who lived in the U.S. Another project will offer academic support to students who need to strengthen their Spanish.

At the middle school one teacher brings together all the students with a migrant experience, as well as those who know Náhuatl. They have written and published prize-winning stories in Spanish, English and Náhuatl and created plays from their stories. The school has partnerships with community groups and universities to support their efforts.

The impact of migration and family separation is intense among the children in the schools. Many children have one parent or part of the family in Mexico while other family members are in the U.S. Other children were sent by their families in the U.S. so that they can know their extended families and native land and learn Spanish. Administrators, teachers, parents and collaborators from universities continue to search for ways to learn more about the students and how to support them.

Impacts of migration to the U.S.: San Francisco Tetlanohcan, Tlaxcala

Collecting medicinal plants

Collecting medicinal plants

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Rehearsing a play.

Rehearsing a play.

Collecting medicinal plants

Collecting medicinal plants

San Francisco Tetlanohcan is a rural indigenous community in the state of Tlaxcala with a large number of families whose relatives have migrated to the U.S. The women have organized around issues of migration and have two groups, one that develops popular theater and the other to make products from local medicinal plants. They also contribute to maintaining the use of Nahuatl in the community.

We will visit Tetlanohcan to meet the women and hear their stories.

Los Otros Dreamers: young adult migrants who have returned to Mexico

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Los Otros Dreamers Christmas party at La Casa de los Amigos

Los Otros Dreamers Christmas party at La Casa de los Amigos

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Los Otros Dreamers is a Mexico City organization of young adults who were born in Mexico, went to the U.S. with their families as children, grew up undocumented in the U.S., went to U.S. schools, speak English, may or may not speak Spanish, and then either decided to return to Mexico hoping for more opportunities, or were deported to Mexico.

As a group they try to work their way through the maze of bureaucracy in Mexico in order to study in universities, and they search for meaningful work and ways to re-build lives here. As individuals their stories challenge our minds and hearts and make us think hard about the U.S. laws and policies around deportations and family separation. Those who were deported tell of the anguish of being ripped away from families because they were stopped and detained for driving without a license or perhaps for simply waiting on the corner for a bus. Their stories of the actual deportation describe being dropped off at a bridge in a border town and told to walk across to Mexico, often in the middle of the night.

Many of Los Otros Dreamers work in call centers that contract with U.S. companies who want speakers of U.S. English answering their customers’ calls. We’ll talk about the huge contradictions that this situation provokes.

Similar groups exist in other parts of Mexico, too, as word spreads. Advocate Dr. Jill Anderson is editing a book of stories of Los Otros Dreamers from all over Mexico. The bilingual book is scheduled to be published in Mexico in May 2014. The group and the book (Los Otros Dreamers-The Book) have Facebook pages you can check out.

La Casa de los Amigos: Our homebase in Mexico City

Fountains by Monumento a la Revolucion

Monumento a la Revolucion

Monumento a la Revolucion

Breakfast at the Casa

Breakfast at the Casa

Casa de los Amigos

Casa de los Amigos

DSC09962La Casa de los Amigos is a Center for Peace and International Understanding in Mexico City. The Casa was established as a nonprofit organization in 1956 by the Quaker community in Mexico. As the mission of the Casa explains, “Through its programs, community space, and social and cultural activities, the Casa promotes peace with justice, fosters understanding between groups and individuals, and supports the human dignity of every person.”

The Casa offers various programs related to migration and social justice and operates a guesthouse. Our lodging while in Mexico City will be at the Casa guesthouse, and many of our activities will take place there or be coordinated with the extraordinarily knowledgeable Casa staff and volunteers.

The building itself carries the distinction of being the former home and studio of one of Mexico’s renowned muralists, José Clemente Orozco. The guesthouse offers simple, comfortable single and double rooms with shared bathrooms. We will make good use of the lounge, guest kitchen and meeting spaces for formal activities and informal relaxing time.

The Casa’s location in the Tabacalera neighborhood and near the Monumento a la Revolución, puts us very close to major transportation arteries and within easy walking distance of many places we will visit. Tabacalera remains a neighborhood where residents line up at the local tortilleria to buy fresh tortillas for their midday meal, stop by the fruteria for fresh fruits and vegetables and browse the news outlet on the corner.

The plaza at the Monumento a la Revolución, a major Mexico City landmark two blocks from the Casa, serves as a gathering place for people playing in the fountains, bicyclists and skateboarders, and groups promoting causes, as well as Aztec dancers and drummers in the evenings. The Monumento itself houses an extensive museum devoted to the Mexican Revolution and includes an observation tower with spectacular views of the city.

Across the street from the plaza is a call center for U.S. companies where many of the workers are young adults who migrated to the U.S. and have returned by choice or through deportation. Because they are English-speakers, the call centers are often their first employers in Mexico. So, the issues around immigration are embedded into all parts of our experience in Mexico.

http://www.casadelosamigos.org/en/

Meet Instructor Kathy Bougher and get an overview of the course!

Kathy (center) with members of Los Otros Dreamers.

Kathy (center) with members of Los Otros Dreamers.

Let me introduce myself!

Hi, I’m Kathy Bougher, instructor for Mexican Perspectives on Migration. I’d like to tell you a little about the course and why it is so important to me.

I’m an instructor in the School of Education and Human Development at UCD in the MA Program in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education. So, I work with teachers who teach immigrant students who are emerging bilinguals, sometimes referred to as English learners. I taught in Denver Public Schools for twenty-five years, primarily working with bilingual immigrant students in middle school and high school, before I came to UCD. Much of my commitment to immigration work comes from listening to my students’ stories during those years. I’m also part of several organizations in Denver working for the human rights of immigrants. I’ve traveled extensively in Mexico and Central America for three decades, and I’m a fluent Spanish speaker.

I’ve taught other courses on immigration, and several years ago I took groups of Denver teachers on trips to the US-Mexico border to learn about immigration issues and Mexican schools. So, I’m excited to offer this course in the central part of Mexico focusing on immigration. It’s open to all undergraduate and graduate students from any major or program.

I see a couple of “big-picture” goals with this course. One is that U.S. immigration laws, policies and practices impact people all over the world, including all of us, whether or not we ourselves are recent immigrants or have family or friends who are immigrants. So, as members of our communities, the more informed we are, the better decisions we can help make. In addition, for those who are educators, we often work with immigrant students and families. When we become more informed about our students and their experiences and backgrounds, the better the relationships we can build with them and their families, and the richer the educational experiences we can provide.

As a student in this course you will be exposed to a variety of issues and points of view on multiple migration and immigration questions that play out in Mexico. Mexico is an amazing crossroad where Mexicans who have family who have migrated to the US interact with Central Americans who are trans-migrants, that is, traveling through Mexico in route to the United States. Mexico also brings in refugees from many places around the globe. In addition, Mexicans who have lived in the U.S. return to Mexico either on their own or because of deportation. So, it’s a complex picture and every one of these aspects of migration links to decisions made in the U.S. and other countries, and impacts people in many parts of the globe.

So what experiences will you have in this course? You’ll meet people from organizations such as Los Otros Dreamers, The Other Dreamers, a group of young adults who were born in Mexico, went with their families to live in the US as small children, and then either were deported or chose to return to Mexico. They’ll share their stories about the traumatic experience of deportation, family separation and adaptation to a new life in Mexico, sometimes including learning or relearning Spanish, and their struggles to study in universities and find meaningful work.

We’ll go to rural communities where women who are single heads of households because of migration organize popular theater around political issues and make products from medicinal plants. We’ll talk with human rights experts about intense issues such as human trafficking and disappeared migrants. We’ll visit a migrant shelter where Central Americans who travel through Mexico on freight trains seek refuge for a couple of nights.

We’ll learn about the growing numbers of migrants returning from the US and talk to families and educators in schools with returning students who may have had all their education in English in the US.

We’ll also visit cultural and historical sites in Mexico City, Tlaxcala and Puebla, in order to provide some context to the issues around immigration and to get a bit of a picture of life in central Mexico. We’ll spend time with university students in the city of Puebla and share insights and perspectives on migration, university studies and the experience of teaching. And, that’s just a sample of what you’ll be doing and learning.

Being able to speak Spanish is not a requirement for this course, but it will be extremely helpful.

If this looks like an experience that would enrich your education and your perspectives on the world, keep looking through the blog postings on this site, email me with any questions, and talk to the people in the UCD Office of Global Education. They can also help you with questions about financial aid or scholarship resources. I will be happy to set up a time to talk with you by Skype, too. I’m here in Mexico and Central America until the end of March, but I’m easily available. I look forward to hearing from you!