Diaspora Studies in Education

Toward a Framework for Understanding the Experiences of Transnational Communities

by Rosalie Rolón-Dow (Volume editor) Jason G. Irizarry (Volume editor)
©2015 Textbook XII, 209 Pages


The Latino/a diaspora is undoubtedly transforming the demographics and cultural geographies of the United States. Diaspora Studies in Education advances an active use of the concept of «diaspora», focusing on processes that impact the diasporization of the Latino/a population, and more specifically, examining those diasporization processes in the arena of education. Focusing on the education of Puerto Ricans, the second largest Latino/a subgroup, the authors of this volume elucidate themes that are useful not only for those concerned with the education of Puerto Rican youth but also applicable to the study of other diasporic communities. The book is useful as a text in a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses, including foundations of education, multicultural education, anthropology of education, and introductory courses in Latino and ethnic studies departments.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Diaspora Studies in Education
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • References
  • Introduction: Towards a diaspora framework
  • A diaspora within a diaspora: The Latino/a diaspora as context
  • Puerto Ricans as a case study
  • Diaspora as conceptual framework
  • Notes
  • References
  • Section I: Threads of diaspora in relation to other communities
  • Heart of hunger
  • Latino/a diaspora, citizenship, and Puerto Rican youth in the immigrant rights movement
  • Latinidad and politics of citizenship
  • Latino/a panethnicity: Similar, but not identical
  • Constructing Latinidad: Shared histories, experiences, and lives
  • Latinidad, racialization, and the politics of panethnicity
  • Deploying citizenship
  • Conclusion: Finding the points of unity
  • References
  • Learning ethnolinguistic borders: Language and diaspora in the socialization of U.S.Latinas/os
  • Language ideologies, assimilation, and diasporization
  • New Northwest High School and Latina/o Chicago
  • Language ideologies and competing constructions of Latina/o ethnolinguistic identities
  • Out-group perspectives on Latina/o ethnolinguistic identities
  • Constructing and differentiating “Spanish”
  • Constructing and differentiating “English”
  • Rethinking Spanglish
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Hybrid Latina: Becoming a ChicaRican
  • Why autoethnography?
  • Life in Puerto Rico
  • Life on the northeastern seaboard
  • Life in the Southwest
  • Life overseas
  • Life out west
  • Returning to Puerto Rico
  • What do you mean, “ChicaRican”?
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • Section II: Threads of diaspora through circular migration
  • Coca-Cola and Coco Frío
  • Finding community cultural wealth in diaspora: A LatCrit analysis
  • Theoretical framework
  • Research context, data sources, and methods
  • Linguistic capital
  • Social and familial capital
  • Resistant capital
  • Aspirational capital
  • Conclusions and implications
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • References
  • Educated entremundos (between worlds): Exploring the role of diaspora in the lives of Puerto Rican teachers
  • Theoretical framework
  • Research design
  • Research site
  • Participant selection criteria
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Thematic findings
  • Puerto Rican teachers as domestic foreigners
  • Puerto Rican teachers as socially conscious
  • Puerto Rican teachers living between worlds
  • Puerto Rican diaspora teachers: Bilingual and proud
  • Discussion and implications for teacher education
  • Notes
  • References
  • Ballin’ and becoming Boricua: From Roxbury to Rio Piedras and back again
  • Coming of age in the diaspora: Racialization and the politics of identity
  • Finding myself through basketball
  • Understanding diaspora
  • References
  • Section III: Threads of diaspora in established Puerto Rican communities
  • Tony went to the bodega but he didn’t buy anything
  • El Grito de Loisaida: DiaspoRicans, educational sovereignty, and the colonial project
  • Loisaida: The making of a DiaspoRican barrio
  • From the Lower East Side to Loisaida
  • Methods: LatCrit theory and the centrality of counternarratives
  • Counterstorytelling and testimonios
  • Counternarratives from Loisaida
  • Loisaida elementary
  • Loisaida High School
  • Educational sovereignty and the colonial project
  • Notes
  • References
  • A DiaspoRican critical pedagogy: Redefining education for Puerto Rican youth
  • Background literature
  • Puerto Rican migration and transnationalism
  • Colonialism and local oppression
  • Critical pedagogy and counterstorytelling in the Puerto Rican diaspora
  • Research context
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Findings: A critical pedagogy for DiaspoRicans and the case of Puerto Rico High
  • Puerto Rico’s political dilemma and its influence on DiaspoRican youth
  • Puerto Rico High as a space for redefining the education of DiaspoRican youth
  • Conclusion: Toward a DiaspoRican critical pedagogy
  • Notes
  • References
  • From “La Borinqueña” to “The Star-Spangled Banner”: An emic perspective on getting educated in the diaspora
  • Una aventura: Identifying and negotiating new words and worlds
  • A prisoner in my own skin
  • Living and learning in the diaspora
  • Making meaning of diaspora
  • “The heartbeat”: Education within and outside diaspora
  • Education in the heartbeat
  • Leaving the heartbeat in search of educational opportunities
  • My life in multiple diasporas
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index


← viii | ix → Foreword


The story of diaspora is the study of the United States of America. Most of us have been people of some diaspora or other, beginning a couple of hundred thousand years ago with the earliest pilgrimages of our African ancestors to other areas of the globe, and many centuries later moving on to the English pilgrims on the Mayflower, and more recently to the latter-day pilgrims arriving by foot, plane, or ship from countries around the world. As a result, historically, all of us, either personally or through our heritage, have confronted what it means to live and learn as immigrants, refugees, or displaced and dispersed people.

Puerto Ricans, or Boricuas, are a small subsection of this diaspora, yet they provide a dramatic example of it. There are, for instance, more Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States than on the Island. The reasons for this diaspora are complicated and multifaceted, and they include colonization, imperialism, the displacement of farmers to urban areas in Puerto Rico, the scarcity of jobs on the Island, the direct recruitment of Puerto Ricans to the farms of the Northeast United States, the pull of the promise of “streets paved with gold,” and the search for better educational opportunities, among others. Currently numbering over 4,600,000 in the United States—compared with just over 3,700,000 on the Island itself—Puerto Ricans represent a striking modern-day case of immigration, displacement, and diaspora. The implications for education are enormous, as demonstrated by the compelling contents of this book.

In Diaspora Studies and Education, various authors consider what it means to be Puerto Rican in the United States, particularly as related to education. Editors Rosalie Rolón-Dow and Jason Irizarry, while focusing on the Puerto Rican diaspora, go beyond this one case to create a conceptual framework for understanding the immigration of peoples of other backgrounds as ← ix | x → well. Defining diaspora as a process rather than a fixed entity, they examine what they call diasporization, making the case that the Puerto Rican diaspora is both unique and similar to those of other immigrants to the United States. For example, Puerto Ricans represent a distinct case of [im]migration (Márquez, 1995) different from all other groups because we are U.S. citizens, whether we are born in Brooklyn, New York or in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Aside from this significant difference, however, our experiences are quite similar to those of traditional immigrants of color who leave their birthplaces for better opportunities and dreams of success for their children. That is, like other immigrants of color, Puerto Ricans have experienced the consequences of second-class status through a history of discrimination, racism, inferior schooling, poor housing, inadequate health care, limited employment opportunities, and other obstacles.

Given the current trends in globalization—including immigration, the importation and exportation of goods and services, and the increasingly similar educational policies that cross geographic borders—this diasporization is a helpful construct that can illuminate the cases not only of Puerto Ricans but also of other immigrant groups. For example, current immigrants to the United States from many different countries, particularly the youth, reflect a distinctive kind of hybridity unknown to earlier European immigrant groups, who were expected to assimilate to a bounded and singular ideal of “American,” and were rewarded for doing so. Today’s youths, in contrast, largely reject these essentialized notions of nationality, and instead have insisted on creating hybrid and complex identities that are also “American,” albeit quite different from traditional ones.

Although few volumes have been dedicated specifically to the education of Puerto Rican students in U.S. schools, the research in this area is not new. By the early 1960s, the Puerto Rican community in New York City already numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Yet it was not until 1968, the year I started my teaching career in an intermediate school in Brooklyn, that a book of information and research for teachers and other professionals working with the Puerto Rican community appeared, edited by Francesco Cordasco and Eugene Bucchioni, Italian American educators with a deep connection to the Puerto Rican community. This book profoundly affected me, not only because it was the first book I had ever come across that was about my experience as a child, but also because it spoke to my passion as a young teacher. Given the negative portrayals I had seen and heard in the media, and even as a child, in the New York City public schools until that time, the sensitive and thorough treatment that Cordasco and Bucchioni gave to the topic was particularly moving for me. In 1971 Father Joseph Fitzpatrick, ← x | xi → a priest who had worked closely with the New York Puerto Rican community, edited a volume titled Puerto Rican Americans: The Meaning of Migration to the Mainland, a book that explored the Puerto Rican diaspora and described Puerto Rican [im]migration as circular in nature, differentiating it from all previous immigrations (Fitzpatrick, 1971). While not focused specifically on education, this book was nonetheless instrumental in introducing the unique nature of Puerto Rican immigration to a wider audience. However, given the era in which these first texts were published, it is not surprising that very few Puerto Rican scholars were included in their pages. It was not until 1992 that Alba Ambert and María Alvarez, the first Puerto Ricans to do so, edited a volume about the education of Puerto Ricans that included chapters written primarily by Puerto Ricans. This was followed by my own edited text, Puerto Rican Students in U.S. Schools (2000), in which Puerto Ricans themselves, ranging from teenagers to teachers and academics, wrote most of the research chapters, poetry, and personal narratives. As a senior scholar dedicated to these issues for many years, I am comforted to know that a newer group of stellar academics is picking up the torch and continuing the struggle for a more equitable education for Puerto Rican and other marginalized youths. Given the work documented in this volume, the future is certainly promising.

Diaspora Studies and Education both builds on these texts and breaks new ground. First, it makes clear that diaspora is a complex process that cannot be described by a single experience, but rather is influenced by contexts of time, place, and identity. As a result, it is “messy and ever-changing,” as Rolón-Dow and Irizarry explain in their introduction. Moreover, by theorizing the nature of diaspora, particularly as it relates to education, the editors have made a significant contribution to the research on diaspora studies in general. At the same time, both the editors and authors make it clear that the diaspora experience is not simply a theoretical concept, but also a set of lived experiences that are unique and personal, and at the same time, collective and similar to other diasporas. Often painful, these experiences are also always transformative.

In the end, what is especially noteworthy about this volume is the light it shines on the actual people most affected by diaspora, that is, the young Puerto Ricans and other immigrants who increasingly populate our public schools. It is my hope that teachers, administrators, policymakers, politicians, and the general public will grow in their understanding not only of Puerto Rican youths, but also of the impact that the forces of immigration and diasporization have on all of us. When this happens, perhaps they will also begin to appreciate the enormous talents and skills that these young ← xi | xii → people can contribute to our multicultural, multilingual, and multinational society. After over a century of the Puerto Rican presence in the United States, it is past time for this to happen.


Ambert, A. N., & Alvarez, M. D. (Eds.). (1992). Puerto Rican children on the mainland: Interdisciplinary perspectives. New York: Garland.

Cordasco, F., & Bucchioni, E. (Ed.). (1968). Puerto Rican children in mainland schools. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Fitzpatrick, J. P. (1971). Puerto Rican Americans: The meaning of migration to the mainland. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Márquez, R. (1995). Sojourners, settlers, castaways, and creators: A recollection of Puerto Rico past and Puerto Ricans present. Massachusetts Review, 36(1), 94–118.

Nieto, S. (2000). Puerto Rican students in U.S. schools. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.



← xii | 1 → Introduction: Towards a diaspora framework


The idea of diaspora offers a ready alternative to the stern discipline of primordial kinship and rooted belonging.… [D]iaspora is a concept that problematizes the cultural and historical mechanics of belonging. It disrupts the fundamental power of territory to determine identity by breaking the simple sequence of explanatory links between place, location, and consciousness. (Gilroy, 2000, p. 123)

What does it mean to live in between? / What does it take to realize / that being Boricua / is a state of mind / a state of heart / a state of soul… / No nací en Puerto Rico. / Puerto Rico nacío en mi. (Fernández, “Ode to the Diasporican”)

Both of the authors writing this introduction identify as Boricua, or Puerto Rican. Through vastly different experiences, Puerto Rico was born in each of our hearts and souls. Having lived in Puerto Rico during her first 12 years of life, Rosalie’s memories include picking mangos with her abuelo from his backyard tree, hearing Spanish songs echoing off the church walls on Sunday mornings, falling in love with the Puerto Rican mountains as she spent countless summer days exploring the natural world around her home with siblings and friends, and writing poems in fourth grade that spoke of Puerto Rico as a tiny island to be cherished and loved. She also remembers the mixed feelings that came along with packing up her home’s possessions to ship to the United States, and the subsequent letters that her abuela faithfully sent to tell her about life back in Puerto Rico. She remembers hearing negative comments from White classmates in the United States that stereotyped what they called “those other Puerto Ricans,” and she recalls frustrations, joys, and triumphs as she learned more about (in)equity in education teaching Puerto Rican students in a bilingual Philadelphia classroom.


XII, 209
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2012 (August)
demographics cultural geographies education multicultural education anthropology
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 209 pp.

Biographical notes

Rosalie Rolón-Dow (Volume editor) Jason G. Irizarry (Volume editor)

Rosalie Rolón-Dow is Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Delaware. Jason G. Irizarry is Director of the Center for Urban Education and Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.


Title: Diaspora Studies in Education
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