115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Intersectionality Within the Latino/a Community: Creating Space for Mexican Indigenous Groups in the Composition Classroom

Guadalupe Remigio Ortega, "California State University, Fresno"

The growing number of Mixtecs in the United States requires we revisit the intersectionality within the Latino/a population in higher education. Understanding the indigenous groups that also identify as Latino/a in the United States is critical to re-inform classroom practices. This change is necessary in order to create a welcoming space in the composition classroom which acknowledges and validates cultural and linguistic differences.


As the student population in higher education continues to change culturally and linguistically with the growing number of Latino/a students, it becomes necessary to find ways to re-inform classroom practices that help them find their place and space in the composition classroom. In seeing the composition classroom as a physical and cultural space, it is critical to acknowledge the cultural intersectionality that makes up our classrooms.


This paper draws attention to the issues that result from perceiving the Latino/a community as a homogenous group. I argue that such perceptions ignore the intersectionality within this group and leads to the marginalization and oppression of Mexican indigenous communities in the United States. To make this argument, I use material gathered from my own research for my Master’s thesis at California State University, Fresno, a Hispanic serving institution located in Fresno County, home to a large percentage of Mexican indigenous groups. Using Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Latino Critical Theory (LatCrit), my research demonstrates the need for incorporating pedagogical practices in the classroom that bring consciousness of cultural and linguistic differences.  However, in seeing Latino/as students as a homogenous group, we fail to acknowledge the cultural intersectionality which impacts their learning. Examining the qualitative data I gathered from my composition course, I demonstrate the intersectionality within the Latino/a community. Since current teaching practices fail to acknowledge such intersectionality, they continue to exclude Mexican indigenous within the Latino/a community failing to meet their individual needs.


For this paper, I focus on the Mixtec people who have immigrated to the United States from the Mexican states of Guerrero, Puebla, and most notably Oaxaca.  With the growing number of Mixtecs in the United States, there is limited knowledge of who they are, their cultural values and practices, and most importantly their language and literacy. Due to colonization, industrialization, and the oppression experienced by their own government, the Mixtec community continues to experience marginalization, discrimination, and fear in their own country and in the United States. I propose that by acknowledging the culture of these indigenous communities and validating their cultural identity, we can create physical and cultural space for them in higher education. I use Abraham Romney’s article “Indian Ability (auilidad de Indio) and Rhetoric’s Civilizing Narrative: Guaman Poma’s Contact with the Rhetorical Tradition” and his explication of Guaman Pomas’ rhetoric and ability to demonstrate the need for acknowledging and incorporating the Mixtec community as well as other Mexican indigenous communities in the physical and cultural space of the composition classroom. With the growing number of Mixtec children in the public education system, it is critical we re-inform classroom practices to create a place of learning for these students. As Romney notes, this “challenges composition models that would imagine students as blank slates upon which we inscribe the proper rules. Indeed, we should encourage student contact (with us and with each other) in a way that, rather than challenging the legitimacy of their writing [as well as culture and language], would encourage them to identify, use, and add to the abilities they already possess while also encouraging them to challenge and reshape both established and emerging writing genres” (31).