Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies

Decolonial Pedagogies, Literacies, and Methodologies

by Miguel Zavala (Author)
©2018 Monographs XIV, 180 Pages
Series: Education and Struggle, Volume 17


Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies: Decolonial Pedagogies, Literacies, and Methodologies presents an investigation of decolonization in the context of education and what this means for ethnic studies projects. It accomplishes this exploration by looking at the history of Raza communities, defined broadly as the Indigenous and mestizo working class peoples from Latin America, with a focus on the complex yet unifying Chicanx-Mexican experience in the Southwest United States. This book bridges the fields of history, pedagogy, and decolonization through a creative and interweaving methodology that includes critical historiography, dialogue, autoethnography, and qualitative inquiry. Collectively, this work opens new ground, challenging scholars and educators to rethink critical education rooted in traditional and Western frameworks. Arguing for decolonial and Indigenous approaches, the author invites educators and cultural workers to reflect on learning and community in their praxis. Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies will be of interest to students of ethnic studies and Latin American and Mexican history. It is also relevant to teachers, teacher educators, and scholars who are intent on creating spaces of hope and possibility rooted in Freirean, decolonial, and Indigenous frameworks.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Reigniting the Ethnic Studies Movement in the U.S. Southwest
  • My Approach to This Book
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 1: Raza Struggle, Coloniality, and Capitalism
  • Raza Struggle at the Interstices of Race and Class
  • A Framework for Understanding Historical Shifts
  • De-Indigenization/De-Tribalization of Mesoamerican Peoples
  • Becoming Colonial Subjects
  • Becoming Working Class Subjects
  • Im/Migrant Others
  • The Re-emergence of the Mexican as Other
  • Perpetual Violence and Intergenerational Trauma
  • Healing From Violence, Creating Spaces of Hope
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 2: Multiple Marginality: A Dialogue With James Diego Vigil
  • Chapter 3: Decolonial Pedagogies: Working Principles for Our Rehumanization
  • The Schooling Biographies Project
  • Studying-Up Our Schools
  • Student Narratives: The Story Behind the Numbers
  • Writing and Performing Autobiography: (Re)Writing Our Lives
  • Decolonizing Pedagogies: Standpoint and Tenets
  • Centering Colonialism
  • Dialogue
  • Naming
  • Counter-Storytelling
  • Healing
  • Coda: Situating Decolonizing Practices
  • Toward an Experiential, Dialogical Approach to the Curriculum
  • The Traditional, Linear Model
  • The Conceptual, Thematic Alternative
  • The Experiential, Dialogical Approach
  • Cultural-Historical Approaches to a Decolonizing Pedagogy
  • The Role of the Educator
  • Learning as Socio-Historical Praxis
  • Cultural Resources in the Mediation of a Critical Social Consciousness
  • Contradictions: The Genesis of Development and Learning
  • Reclaiming Indigenous Epistemologies: The Movement Within
  • Coda: This Is Not Identity Politics
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 4: Heteroglossia: A Dialogue With Carlos Tejeda
  • Reference
  • Chapter 5: Decolonial Literacies, Mediation, and Critical Consciousness
  • Centering Critical Literacy Practices
  • YPAR: Reclaiming the Process of Knowledge Production
  • Re-centering Learning and Literacy Practices
  • Meta-Reflection Upon Literacy and Students as Writers
  • Reading the Word and the World: Concept Formation
  • Meta-analysis of Language and Conceptual Nudging
  • Epistemic Openness in Critical Literacies
  • Reflecting on Critical Literacy Practices
  • Proximity to Texts
  • Critical Readings and Openings
  • Need for Guided Practice
  • Action Research as Political and Rehumanizing
  • Why Decolonial Literacies in Ethnic Studies?
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 6: Decolonial Methodologies: Toward a Raza Research Framework
  • Introduction
  • The Struggle to De-Colonize Our Research
  • “Third-World” Subversions of the Goals of Western/Modern Research Projects
  • The Crisis of PAR in the Global North
  • A Social Science by and for Indigenous Peoples?
  • Lessons From Kaupapa Māori Research and Participatory Action-Research in Latin America
  • Māori Whanau as Decolonizing Organic Structures
  • Comunidades de Base as Decolonizing Organic Structures
  • The Primacy of Grassroots Collectives in Decolonizing Research
  • Decolonizing Our Research Within the Euroversity?
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 7: Decolonizing the Ethnic Studies Movement: Centering Spirituality and Community
  • From Being a Presence in the World to Being a Presence With Others
  • Knowing Our Heart
  • Decolonizing the Movement for Ethnic Studies: Working Principles
  • Endogenous →← Indigenous Epistemologies
  • Anti-Capitalism, Anti-Colonialism →← Community Self-Determination
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


Figure 1.1. Ontological Shifts and Practices of Erasure

Figure 1.2. The Racialized Other, Exploited Labor

Figure 1.3. Tonantzin: Hope for Raza Workers

Figure 3.1. Chicanx Histories, Rhetoric Courses: Five-Week Experience

Figure 5.1. Action Research in the Barrio Course: Six-Week Outline

Figure 5.2. Text-Context Dialogue Structure

Figure 6.1. Community Organizing as Leading Activity, Organization as Enabling Space

| xi →


First and foremost, I am grateful for Peter McLaren’s continued recognition of critical Latin American scholarship. He has always been there for me as a scholar, Chicanx, and political ally. I am also thankful for the support by Sarah Bode and the Peter Lang Publishing team.

I am forever indebted to my mentors and friends Carlos Tejeda, Shirin Vossoughi, and Manuel Espinoza. We have shared many good conversations and pedagogical experiences and it was with and alongside them that I learned about Freirean and decolonizing pedagogies.

Silvia Toscano, Sean Arce, and the educators with the Xicanx Institute for Teaching and Organizing (XITO) have taught me about the transformative potential in re-rooting our pedagogies in Indigenous-Mexica traditions and knowledge systems.

I would like to thank James Diego Vigil and Carlos Tejeda for assisting with the development of Chapters 2 and 4 respectively, taking the time to dialogue in the tradition of our ancestors.

Art-activist Luis Garcia has graciously contributed to this book through his art. The book cover represents 100 years of Raza education at Montalvo ← xi | xii → Elementary. “100 years of Montalvo Elementary: Educating the Children of Walnut Harvesters and Farm Working Families” is the work of Luis-Genaro Garcia with the assistance of Veronica Valadez, Arturo Rivas, Yaneli Delgado, Jesus Barrrales, Juan Molina.

Natalio Hernández has kindly granted permission to republish his poem No Noquia Ni Tlacatl (I also am a Human Being) in both Nahuatl and English.

Permission has been granted to reproduce the following texts, for which I am thankful:

Chapter 3:

Zavala, M. (2015). From voicing to naming to re-humanization. In Totten, S. (Ed.), The importance of teaching social issues: Our pedagogic creeds (pp. 155–165). New York, NY: Routledge.

Copyright 2015 From The Importance of Teaching Social Issues: Our Pedagogic Creeds by Samuel Totten (Ed.). Reproduced by permission of Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, a division of Informa plc.

Chapter 6:

Zavala, M. (2013). What do we mean by decolonizing research strategies? Lessons from decolonizing, Indigenous research projects in New Zealand and Latin America. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 2(1), 55–71.

| 1 →


Na Noquia Ni Tlacatl1 I also am a Human Being
Na noquia ni tlacatl
nipia notlalamiquilis
nipia nonemilis;
huecaquia ni tlachixtoc ipan ni tlaltipactli
nican niyolqui
nican nitlachixqui.
I also am a human being
I have my reason
my own life;
I have inhabited this land for a long time
I was born right here
here I first saw light.
Sequi coyome quihtohua niyolcatl
samolhui nitlachixtoc;
ni tlahtoli amo melahuac
noquia nipia notlalamiquilis
nipia nonemilis:
ipati notlahtol, yeyectzi notlahtol.
Some whites say I am an animal
that my existence has no purpose;
this opinion is mistaken
I have my wisdom
my own path in life:
my word is worthy, my word is beautiful.
Asica tonati nipamquixtis no tlamantilis
asica tonati ninextis nonemilis,
sampa nisemoyahuas ipan tlaltipactli
It is time to reveal my thought
it is time to make my life known
I shall spread my knowledge throughout earth
ipan nochi Semanahuac. I shall send it forth beyond Anáhuac. ← 1 | 2 →
Maquimatica nochi tlacame
nohua niyoltoc: yoltoc noyolo:
quemantica paqui, quemantica choca;
maquimatica nohua niyolchicahuac.
Let it be known to all
that I am still alive, and my heart is alive:
sometimes it laughs, other times it cries;
let it be known that my spirit remains strong.

The words of Natalio Hernández, a Mexican Nahuatl poet, echo the historical process of survival and recovery for Raza2 communities today. The “I” is both the author and voice of the Mexica people. It is the “voice that speaks to the reader through the text in the form of an ‘I’ that demands to be recognized” (Beverley, 2008, p. 572). The first stanza begins with a story of origin, of being rooted in Anahuác, the land of the Mexica. It is also the experience of coming to consciousness about one’s identity. The second stanza represents the colonization of Indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica: “Some whites say I am an animal / that my existence has no purpose.” These dehumanizing words are challenged by a recognition of ancestral knowledge: “I have my wisdom / my own path in life / my word is beautiful.” The third stanza tells of commitment to action, to “reveal my thought / make my life known.” The final stanza represents the moment of transcendence, of renewal: “I am still alive, and my heart is alive … my spirit remains strong.”

The layers of symbolism in the four stanzas and their relation to each other can be grasped by drawing parallels between them and the four movements represented in the Nahui Ollin (Four Movements) within Mexica epistemology. This framing enables a deeper understanding of decolonization as a process, which Natalio Hernández has beautifully interlaced in his poetry. These movements or energies are reflected in the poem as critical self-reflection and grounding in place and time (Tezcatlipoca, first stanza), gaining wisdom that challenges colonialism (Quetzalcoatl, second stanza), commitment to social action (Huitzilopochtli, third stanza), and transcendence (Xipe Totec, fourth stanza).3

The vision of decolonization encapsulated in the poem “I also am a Human Being” is the impetus for writing this book. I have entitled the book Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies: Decolonial Pedagogies, Literacies, and Methodologies because central to this work is understanding how decolonizing frameworks can inform the emergent, grassroots movement to institutionalize ethnic studies in the U.S. Southwest.4 Chapter 1 provides a historical contextualization of this movement in relation to Chicanx5 and ← 2 | 3 → Mexican peoples, thus re-framing the movement as a 500-year struggle against the colonizing logic of erasure. I focus on the experience of colonization and the struggle of Chicanx and Mexican communities for methodological, political, and personal reasons. My intention is not to negate the experiences or contributions by Black, Asian American, and Native American communities, among others. All these communities have rich, parallel and intersecting histories. It is essential, however, for our own decolonization and self-determination to undertake our own studies and to write our own histories, because for too long, others have written these histories for and about us. Our story as a people is multiple, contradictory, and complex, and is one that needs to be struggled for from within.

Reigniting the Ethnic Studies Movement in the U.S. Southwest

Ethnic studies as a field has been contested throughout history, emerging out of the 1960s civil rights movement and in response to racial apartheid in the United States. Experiencing political exclusion, economic exploitation, and deculturalization in schools, Black, Chicanx and Asian American activists formed the Third World Liberation Front in 1968, which became a grassroots vehicle in the struggle to institutionalize ethnic studies in universities throughout California. These efforts succeeded in making ethnic studies a recognized field across university campuses; however, a renewed struggle has been waged, over the goals and content of ethnic studies since that time.

This new struggle has been taken up more recently in Arizona, with the formation of the Mexican American Raza Studies (MARS) program. Identified as the only district-wide effort, and mandated by a juridical desegregation order, Tucson Unified School District reoriented the struggle for ethnic studies via MARS, which was primarily grounded in decolonizing and Indigenous epistemological frameworks. The program was historic and we have yet to grasp its significance, especially given its elimination in 2010, a ban that was nonetheless deemed in the 2017 federal court case Gónzalez v. Douglas to be unconstitutional and motivated by racial animus.

Although racial animus in Arizona led to the elimination of ethnic studies, targeting only Mexican American programs, books, and curriculum, the struggle has been expanded, with the growing movement in California to institutionalize ethnic studies in California public high schools. For instance, ← 3 | 4 → the El Rancho Unified School District, composed of over 97% Raza students, passed a historic motion to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement. This motion has spurred on other major districts to follow suit. At the state level, California State Assembly Bill No. 2772, if made into law, would require all public high schools to offer ethnic studies. The continued institutionalization of ethnic studies programs across the U.S. Southwest and beyond is timely, especially given the present political and ideological climate, marked by a resurgent White supremacy. As a nation we are living in very troubling times; the inroads and progress made by people of color since the civil rights movement are receding. Yet despite this resurgent White supremacy, ethnic studies programs are growing and their importance is becoming increasingly clear on at least two levels. First, ethnic studies challenges the historical neglect and deleterious effect of a Eurocentric curriculum, which has become thoroughly standardized. Second, in the process of reclaiming students’ cultural identities, these programs are actually reversing the pattern of educational erasure. The budding research highlights positive outcomes for students of color, who often underperform in school or experience low graduation rates, in terms of academic achievement and academic engagement (Sleeter, 2011; Tintiangco-Cubales et al., 2015). Studies of Ethnic Studies in two large districts have found that ethnic studies programs can lead to improved student achievement, even among those most marginalized (Cabrera, Milem, Jaquette, & Marx, 2014; Dee & Penner, 2017).

My Approach to This Book


XIV, 180
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (December)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XIV, 180 pp., 7 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Miguel Zavala (Author)

Miguel Zavala received his Ph.D. from UCLA. He is an associate professor at the Attallah College of Educational Studies at Chapman University. His scholarship explores the intersection of Freirean, decolonizing, and Indigenous-Mexican pedagogies.


Title: Raza Struggle and the Movement for Ethnic Studies
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
196 pages