Immigrant Children in Transcultural Spaces Chapters 2-5 

What is Orellana referring to when she speaks of transnationality? 
How does that factor into the lives of B-Club members? 
How does transnationality differ from traditional views of borders?
Think of stores that were shared by the children of B-Club, now think of the strain it has on the students as they attempt to tackle everyday school.In what ways can these events affect their learning?
Most of these children, like most transnational children, have vast connections to different people and distant places.How can we provide students the opportunity to incorporate their travels, family connections, and life experiences into the classroom?Educating Across Borders
Educating Across Borders
The Case of a Dual Language Program on the U.S.-Mexico
María Teresa de la Piedra, Blanca Araujo, and Alberto Esquinca
Foreword by Concha Delgado Gaitan
The University of Arizona Press
© 2018 by The Arizona Board of Regents
All rights reserved. Published 2018
ISBN-13: 978-0-8165-3847-8 (paper)
Cover design by Lisa Force
Cover photo by Samat K. Jain
Publication of this book made possible in part by funding from the University of Texas at El Paso
Department of Teacher Education, and by the proceeds of a permanent endowment created with the
assistance of a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data are available at the Library of Congress.
Printed in the United States of America
♾ This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
Foreword by Concha Delgado Gaitan
1. Theoretical Frameworks to Understand the Transfronterizx Experience
2. Sociocultural Perspectives on Learning in Dual Language Settings
3. Conducting Research on the U.S.-Mexico Border
4. Stories of Transfronterizx Experience
5. Language and Literacies Crossing Borders
6. Making Connections: Recontextualizing for Academic Writing
7. Translanguaging: Access to Science Discourse
8. Multimodality as a Resource for the Social Organization of Learning
9. Understanding, Valuing, and Modeling Transfronterizx Funds of
Conclusion: Transfronterizx Practices as Generative Spaces
Appendix: Methods
Daily news reports about immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border
project an image of a narrow territory between the two countries, leaving
most people ignorant about the lives of the people that live on both sides of
that strip of land called the border.
Gloria Anzaldúa writes that “To live in the Borderlands means you / are
neither hispana india negra española / ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata,
half-breed / caught in the crossfire between camps / while carrying all five
races on your back / not knowing which side to turn to, run from . . . To
survive the Borderlands / you must live sin fronteras / be a crossroads.” The
transfronterizx construct, in this book, illustrates how the languages and
ethnicities merge through daily interactions across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Borders are created and defined by those who stand to benefit most by the
demarcations. A case in point is the immigration debate, which divides us by
political and legal borders. These challenging and engaging times also
provoke us to cross the barriers of culture and consciousness. We assume
positions as “us” and “the other” while we find comfort in the fact that
voiceless communities transact and experience their value.
Transfronterizx stories of students, teachers, and school leaders in the
Border Elementary School (BES) bring to light insightful issues of daily life
on the border. The authors utilize dual language practices and funds of
knowledge tools to theorize on the linguistic portrait created by bordercrossing.
The uniqueness of this book is that the linguistic and cultural
transfronterizx community commonly known as the border exists against the
backdrop of a mostly bilingual militarized El Paso border. Nearly twenty
thousand agents patrol the seven hundred miles of the border by air
surveillance and other electronics. And yet life moves along day after day.
Every morning one can awaken to traffic reports on the three main bridges
that connect El Paso with Ciudad Juárez. Businesspeople cross these bridges;
they are engaged in international commerce. Thousands of transfronterizx
students also cross every morning; among them are students such as Gabriela
and her classmates.
During a fifth grade history assignment, the teacher gave the class roles to
play depicting a period of history known as the Great Famine. Gabriela and
her team brought their home practices to school. Students included a remote
control during the multimodal role-play so that they could forward, rewind,
pause, and repeat small segments in their presentation. This part of their
performance was based on their home practice of reading Mexican newspaper
comics at home. The digital transfronterizx literacies were accompanied by a
discourse of words and idioms in Spanish with accents in English, which they
learned from the English television program Dora the Explorer.
By constructing new discourse norms in a shared space in this specific
historical point in time, we learn the importance of the language of
transfronterizx students as well as the relationship between the children and
their teachers.
Educating Across Borders is reminiscent of Ana Celia Zentella’s
ethnography of the social and linguistic realities of New York Rican students
and their mastery of their bilingualism and multidialectal repertoire. These
linguistic abilities enable them to navigate their family networks and their
antagonistic cultural environment outside the home.
I worked closely with de la Piedra, Araujo, and Esquinca at the University
of Texas, El Paso, in their early careers. During that period, I became aware
of their strong commitment and scholarship applied to issues in the schools.
They were equally dedicated to the communities that are home to the families
of the transfronterizx students. Throughout the book, we follow the authors’
hearts into the dual language worlds that transfronterizx students embrace.
Not only are the authors theoretically engaged with the concept of
transfronterizx, but they are also embedded in the communities of the young
people whose stories help us to understand the linguistic dynamics of the
students who reside in the U.S.-Mexico region that most people know as “the
Concha Delgado Gaitan
1. Anzaldúa, Gloria. 1999. Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunte Lute,
We feel truly grateful for the opportunity to write this book about the
language and literacy practices on the U.S.-Mexico border from this beautiful
desert we call home.
We would like to thank the teachers and leaders of Border Elementary
School (BES), who welcomed us with openness, interest, and cariño.
Ms. Ornelas, in particular, was not only an inspiring participant in our study,
but a colleague who thought with us about language, knowledge, and
learning. A los chicos de 4to, 5to, y 6to grado del programa dual, mil gracias
por darnos sus sonrisas, su calidez, y su tiempo. It was humbling to learn
about your lives and your resilience.
We wish to thank Concha Delgado Gaitan for her friendship and
mentorship. She worked with the three of us when we started as assistant
professors at the University of Texas at El Paso. Her consejo helped us grow
as Latinx scholars. It is a great honor to have her words as the foreword to
our work.
We would like to thank colleagues who have read parts of this book as
members of our writing group and colleagues: Erika Mein, Aurolyn Luykx,
Zulma Méndez, Amy Bach, and Katherine Mortimer. We are also grateful to
our students: Mayra Ortiz Galarza, Diana Camberos, and Betina Valdez.
También agradecemos a Ricardo Vásquez por ayudarnos con la edición del
texto en español. Finally, we are grateful to the blind reviewers for valuable
insights that allowed us to improve our work.
Gracias a mis co-autores, colegas y amigos, Blanca y Alberto, con quienes
hemos compartido los últimos ocho años en este proyecto colectivo, y los
últimos dos de intenso trabajo de escritura. Blanquita, tu cariño y
disposición fueron muy importantes en este proceso, y Alberto, tus
comentarios y preguntas nos ayudaron a pensar los datos desde distintas
A mis padres, Teresa Schroth y Alberto de la Piedra, gracias por su apoyo
y amor constante. ¡Gracias por creer en mí y apoyar mi sueño de ser
antropóloga aun cuando muchos me trataban de convencer de dejarlo!
Gracias por su paciencia y enseñanzas, siempre.
A mi esposa Verónica Gallegos, gracias por tu compañía y por leer varios
borradores de este y otros proyectos. Gracias por entender mis ausencias
para terminar este primer libro y siempre estar dispuesta a acompañarme
para descansar después de largas horas de trabajo.
A mis dos chiquitos, que ya no lo son más, Nicolás Hernández y Lucía
Hernández, gracias por su paciencia y comprensión cuando los dejé de lado
por “el tenure” y, recientemente, por “el libro.” A Nicolás, gracias por
editar el libro, porque todavía necesito ayuda con el inglés y tú lo escribes
con mucha facilidad. A Lucía, gracias por hacerme tecitos cuando no me
sentía bien pero igual tenía que trabajar.
I am genuinely grateful to be surrounded by generous friends, family, and
—María Teresa (Mayte) de la Piedra
My extreme gratitude to all the students and teachers at BES who welcomed
us in their school.
To all my friends and colegas who provided feedback and insight.
A mi familia, en especial en memoria de mi papá, quien también fue
—Blanca Araujo
A los que cambian muros por puentes
A los estudiantes que cruzan todo tipo de puentes para llegar a estudiar
A las maestras que crean puentes de entendimiento para sus estudiantes
A todos las amigas y amigos que alguna vez me acompañaron en el cruce
A mi madre, que me enseñó a leer (en) el Puente Libre
—Alberto Esquinca
Educating Across Borders
This book focuses on a three-year ethnographic study of transfronterizx
(border-crossing) students conducted by a team of researchers in a dual
language (DL) program at Border Elementary School (BES) on the U.S.Mexico border. We are glad we can share the students’, teachers’, and
administrators’ stories as transfronterizxs and analyze how these educational
agents experienced daily border-crossings and life on the border in general.
The ethnography conducted responds to a broad question: “What tools do
transnational students use to navigate U.S. schools?” This inquiry brings new
insight into our specific research interests. In this book, we center on
language practices, as well as the particular kinds of knowledge that
transfronterizx students used as learning resources to navigate the DL
program at BES. This school was located just a few minutes from the river
that forms the border between the United States and Mexico. This river is
called the Rio Grande in the United States and known as the Río Bravo in
Mexico. Transfronterizx students enrolled in BES could, and often did, walk
just a few blocks and cross the bridge between these two nations.
The two-thousand-mile line that divides the United States and Mexico is
the place where the Global North and South meet. El Paso and Ciudad Juárez
are considered sister cities by virtue of the social, cultural, economic, and
ecological interdependence tying both cities. In total, there are about
2.5 million residents in the Ciudad Juárez / El Paso border region. Ciudad
Juárez, Chihuahua, is currently considered one of the five most dangerous
and militarized cities in Mexico. Furthermore, Ciudad Juárez was considered
the most dangerous city in the world in 2008 because of the high levels of
murders related to organized crime and femicide. Ironically, the city of
El Paso—with close to one million inhabitants—is considered one of the
safest and least violent cities in the United States. All this occurred in the
context of the drug war between cartels that skyrocketed between 2008 and
2015. El Paso has its share of the militarization of the border, with twenty
thousand patrol agents, frequent arrests and deportation of “undocumented
immigrants,” and electronic and air surveillance practices (Heyman 2015).
El Muro de la Vergüenza (the Wall of Shame), spanning seven hundred
miles, is part of the growing surveillance practices deployed to stop Mexican
nationals from crossing this border.
Context influences not only the research we conduct but also who we are
as researchers. Our context is particular. We live on the U.S. side of this
border, in “el otro lado.” Nonetheless, we see, breathe, and listen to Ciudad
Juárez. We see Juárez from our office windows and our backyards. We smell
the Mexican food when we walk our streets, in our homes and restaurants.
Stores smell of Fabuloso while the clothes of our students smell like Suavitel.
We hear and speak the Spanish language every day in a great variety of
contexts, including, of course, the corridos (Mexican folk ballads), rancheras
(Mexican folk songs), and baladas (ballads) that fill the air and our hearts in
stores, in cars, and on the streets. The violence that occurred during the last
decade touched us in many ways, as did the transfronterizx students in these
pages. This context colors our ethnographic work.
The border holds special places in our hearts and lives. The three authors
are transfronterizxs in different ways; our positionalities explain our interests
in the topic of transfronterizx education, our ways of approaching the
research, and the ways the research participants related to us. In many ways,
we were insiders and shared many of the experiences of the transfronterizx
students, like our bilingualism and biliteracy, our experiences as members of
a minoritized group, and our experience of immigration (de la Piedra and
Esquinca) and belonging to a working-class family (Araujo). However, we
were also outsiders, who tried to learn from these experiences. Our privileges
as college professors who had an office in el otro lado (the other side), who
moved comfortably in the English-dominated world of academia and the
university, and who had the privilege of deciding if and when we wanted to
cross the border, describe some of the crucial differences between our
transfronterizx experience and that of the research participants.
When we started our fieldwork in 2009, we set out to understand the lives
of transfronterizx students who were immigrating by the thousands in the
unique linguistic and cultural landscape of the border. We observed the flows
of students and the different ways schools met these students, sometimes with
welcoming abrazos (hugs), but mostly with misunderstanding,
discrimination, and frustration. Thus, we decided to focus on a school that
had sizable numbers of transfronterizxs, that was close to one of the crossing
points (“el puente,” or “the bridge”), and that offered DL education. We
wondered if the DL program would be a learning context where
transfronterizx students could use their language and funds of knowledge for
academic purposes.
Previous studies document that transnational students and their experiences
are mostly invisible in U.S. schools (Cline and Necochea 2006; Conteh and
Riasat 2014; Gallo and Link 2015; Mangual, Suh, and Byrnes 2015), as well
as in schools in other countries, in particular in Mexican schools (Franco
2014; Hamann, Zúñiga, and García 2008; Leco 2006; Sánchez and Zúñiga
2010; Zúñiga 2013). Although our research focuses on one kind of
transnational experience, the transnational experience on the El Paso–Ciudad
Juárez border, we draw from the prior literature of transnationalism and
education, which provides background about the lives and schooling of
transnationals in general. The students in this ethnographic study navigate
two countries, two languages, and two homes on a weekly and sometimes
daily basis. By focusing on transfronterizxs, we highlight the intensity of the
border-crossings that take place along the geographical and cultural border
that both unites and divides the United States and Mexico.
An invisible line that exists on a map with tangible implications for the
lives that take place around it, la frontera (the border) is a fascinating context
in which to research issues related to Spanish-English biliteracy and
multilingualism. The transfronterizx experience allows us to highlight the
complexities of language, literacy, and identity on the border, while
complicating binaries such as global and local, micro and macro, and sending
and host community. In this way, we expand the enterprise initiated by
scholars of transnationalism and education (Hamann, Zuñiga, and García
2008; Orellana et al. 2001; Sánchez 2007). This ethnography contributes to
this emerging and timely research literature by documenting and analyzing
the practices that transfronterizx students engage in which are a result of the
relationships they keep on both sides of the border, through their intense daily
contacts. The transfronterizx experience itself questions binaries, as
transfronterizxs’ lives themselves are in constant movement, back and forth.
The DL program at the research site allowed exciting and productive
border-crossings concerning knowledge, language, and literacy practices.
Thus, with this book we also contribute to the field of DL education. In
general, researchers have demonstrated higher academic and linguistic gains
for emergent bilinguals who attend one- and two-way immersion programs
rather than other program models, such as the transitional bilingual education
model or English-only (Lindholm-Leary and Genesee 2014; Thomas and
Collier 2002). This is true for both native English speakers and native
speakers of another language. In particular, research shows that two-way
immersion programs provide a context where students have the opportunity
to learn each other’s languages and literacy practices while building positive
intergroup social relationships (Christian 1994; de Jong and Howard 2009).
Nevertheless, there are also critical perspectives on DL programs which
caution us that they may also serve to reinforce the privileges of native
English speakers (Valdés 1997), as well as those who enjoy white racial
privilege and wealth (Valdez, Freire, and Delavan 2016). These programs
might also, paradoxically, foment negative perceptions of minority languages
(Durán and Palmer 2013). Thus, DL programs may also be a space of
reproduction of privilege for the already privileged and of discrimination for
emergent bilinguals. For example, in her article about dual immersion
programs, Valdés (1997) offers us a cautionary perspective on the low quality
of native language instruction, the inequalities of English and Spanish
speakers in these programs, and the reproduction of power relationships
between the two languages and those who speak them. In particular, Valdés
refers to the unequal power relations among the two main groups of students
in the DL immersion program she studied: middle-class Euro-American
students and low-income Mexican origin students. However, we argue that
the program we studied—which included both one-way and two-way DL
programs—is not one that reproduces the privilege of Anglo-Americans, the
middle class, or English speakers. In this program, almost 100 percent of
students were Mexican or Mexican-Americans, and the community served
low-income families. Thus, the DL program described here includes “the
disempowered socioeconomic groups” (Hossain and Pratt 2008, 69) within
the Spanish-speaker language group in the United States. Besides, the
majority of English-dominant students were Mexican-American students
raised in homes where adult family members spoke Spanish or both
More recently, some studies have provided details on the productive uses
of language, literacy, and cultural practices in DL programs (de Jong 2016;
Henderson and Palmer 2015; Poza 2016; Sayer 2013). These studies question
the “ideal” model of DL programs as spaces where two languages are equally
distributed over time and where the program population is characterized by
an equally “ideal” distribution of the target population of fifty-fifty. These
studies question these ideals by documenting the actual bilingual
proficiencies and hybrid language practices in the classrooms. Findings of the
research presented in this book contribute to the literature on hybridity since
it questions artificially created and neat language distributions, and it
documents the language and literacy practices of transfronterizxs, a
constantly mobile population that crosses national (and other) borders. In a
world dominated by monoglossic notions that privilege English over any
different language, as well as ethnocentrism that privileges mainstream
practices over practices of minoritized groups, documenting rich
transfronterizx language and literacy practices is crucial to counter
entrenched deficit perspectives about transfronterizx and other transnational
students. This study contributes to developing a theory to understand the
physical and metaphorical border-crossings of linguistic and ethnic
minoritized students in U.S. schools.
We base our analyses on extensive ethnographic research, during which we
collected data through participant observation in classrooms and other school
settings, focus group interviews with transfronterizx students, and individual
interviews with teachers, administrators, and staff members. Thus, first and
foremost, this book is informed by the voices of the transfronterizx students
that talked to us and shared their views and experiences, as well as the voices
of the teachers (Ms. Ornelas, in particular) and administrators. Our
perspectives as transfronterizxs and residents of this border also inform this
book, as well as our experiences as teacher educators and researchers of
language and literacy practices in Mexican immigrant communities.
Chapter 1 introduces relevant literature and critical concepts for
understanding the transfronterizx experience. We draw on research on
immigration and education, transnationalism, and transnational students to
situate the broader context of transfronterizxs in schools. Also, we discuss
theoretical constructs that allow us to understand transfronterizxs, such as
simultaneity (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004), border thinking/gnosis
(Mignolo 2000), and border theory (Anzaldúa 1999; Vila 2000). In this
chapter, we start to develop the most significant theoretical frameworks we
used to make sense of the findings of this ethnography.
Chapter 2 continues the discussion of relevant literature and theoretical
frameworks. Here we discuss concepts key to understanding the
transfronterizx experience with language, literacy, and identity in academic
settings. We introduce sociocultural perspectives on language and literacy
studies, including the New Literacy Studies (Barton and Hamilton 2005; Gee
2000; Kalman and Street 2013; Street 1984), the notions of
recontextualization and translanguaging practices (García 2009), and research
in DL programs.
Chapter 3 introduces the researchers and the research setting. It starts with
the introduction of the researchers and our positionalities as primary
instruments of this ethnography. Then we introduce the El Paso–Ciudad
Juárez border as the context of this study, as well as crucial information about
the social, cultural, and linguistic context. We also include descriptions of the
school, the DL program, and the participants.
In chapter 4, we present an in-depth description of the transfronterizx
experiences and stories. The U.S.-Mexico border region is a unique context
in which different cultures and languages blend. Transfronterizxs’ lives take
place in two countries and two languages. Maintaining constant contact with
both sides of the border influences the experiences and identities of
transfronterizxs. The purpose of this chapter is to present the stories of the
transfronterizx experience in the school community: principals, teachers, and
families. Through these narratives, we analyze the discourses that construct
the transfronterizx experience and context in which the practices discussed in
the subsequent chapters will be situated.
Chapter 5 addresses the transfronterizx literacies. Research on
transnational literacies has focused on youth who live in one country and
communicate using digital literacies across national boundaries. This chapter
describes the literacies that these transfronterizx youth acquire as bordercrossers. Our focus is on the print and digital literacies learned outside of the
classroom and how the students are using these in academic settings.
Chapter 6 continues with the topic of transfronterizx literacies; however, in
this section, we emphasize how students used transfronterizx literacies for
academic purposes, particularly in the language arts classroom. We illustrate
how transfronterizx texts and experiences are used for academic purposes, in
particular in the context of learning narrative writing. We present the case of
one transfronterizx teacher who successfully facilitated literacies crossing
many borders. Drawing on the continua of biliteracy model and the New
Literacy Studies perspective, we show the recontextualization of texts and
practices. These processes help us understand biliteracy development in this
border area, which is both global and local.
Chapter 7 analyzes meaning-making practices in a fourth grade two-way
dual language classroom. We show how emergent bilingual learners and their
teacher participate in activities that mediate understanding of science content
knowledge. The teacher creates a borderland space in which the full
repertoire of students’ languages, including translanguaging, is recognized
and validated. We illustrate how the teacher guides students to use strategies
and meaning-making tools in both languages to construct meanings of the
science content. We also demonstrate how she scaffolds students’ language
development, develops students’ higher-order thinking, and involves all
students in constructing understanding.
Among the tools recent immigrant students used to navigate U.S. schools,
we found multimodal literacies in two languages, Spanish and English. In
chapter 8, drawing from literature on multimodality (Dicks et al. 2011;
Gutiérrez et al. 2011) and recent research on translanguaging practices
(García 2009), we analyze multimodal literacy events in this DL program that
serves transfronterizxs. In this context, one immigrant teacher’s ideas about
how to best teach literacy to emergent bilinguals and immigrant students
aided her in creating an authentic learning environment. We contend that the
everyday construction of “safe learning spaces” in DL classrooms through
multimodal and translanguaging practices become possibilities for social
change. These findings contribute to the growing conversation on how
multimodal literacies challenge traditional views of literacy as isolated skills
and construct safe spaces for learning.
Chapter 9 discusses how young transfronterizx students bring their funds
of knowledge (González, Moll, and Amanti 2005) to the classroom and use
them in relevant ways to understand the content. We argue that developing
awareness of how students use transfronterizx knowledge in schools can
provide teachers and researchers of students in other contexts with a better,
more complex understanding of the resources students bring to school to
recognize ways in which to capitalize on these mobile resources for relevant
educational experiences. In this chapter, we also reflect on the community
cultural wealth (Yosso 2005) of transfronterizx students.
Finally, we address the conclusions and implications for pedagogical
practice. Results of this research challenge traditional views of language and
literacy as isolated skills and allow us to theorize the transfronterizx
experience in academic settings. We will summarize findings presented
throughout the book. This chapter will also have the objective of synthesizing
main findings concerning pedagogical practices with emergent bilinguals.
1. The term transfronterizo has been previously used by academics (Relaño Pastor 2007; Zentella
2009) and the media, such as BBC (Sparrow 2015), the Chronicle (Viren 2007), and NPR (McGee
2015). Recently, Tatyana Kleyn has used the term in her work with returnees to Mexico (Kleyn 2015;
Donnellon et al. 2016). We use the gender-neutral term transfronterizx. However, students did not call
themselves transfronterizxs; they identified as Mexican.
2. A flow of Mexican families went in the opposite direction from most of the country’s experience
at that time to El Paso, Texas, when one million Mexicans returned from the United States to Mexico
from 2009 to 2014. See the documentary Una vida, dos países, or Children and Youth (Back) in Mexico
(Donnellon et al. 2016) at
3. We use the term “emergent bilingual” (García 2009) rather than other terms, such as “English
Language Learners” or “English Learners,” to avoid defining emergent bilinguals solely by their
relationship to English.
4. Dual language programs vary by the languages spoken and the amount of instructional time in
each language. One-way DL programs serve language minority students while two-way DL programs
combine students who are learning English and students who are learning another language. The
program we studied was a 90–10 DL model, rather than a 50–50 DL model, where students start in the
lower grades with 90 percent of instructional time in the non-English language.
Theoretical Frameworks to Understand the
Transfronterizx Experience
The purpose of this chapter is to examine relevant literature and concepts to
understand the transfronterizx experience with a particular emphasis on
language, literacy, and identity in academic settings. The critical perspective
of community cultural wealth (Yosso 2005) serves as the broader theoretical
framework that includes the diverse forms of capital that students bring with
them to school. Community cultural wealth is our starting point, as we
believe the transfronterizx practices we describe here are part of the rich
repertoires of practice that students have at their disposal to act in the diverse
contexts they traverse. In order to analyze language use and literacies among
transfronterizxs, we review literature on transnationalism and transnational
students (Hamann, Zuñiga, and García 2008; Orellana et al. 2001; Sánchez
2007), border theory, border thinking, and border epistemologies (Anzaldúa
1999; Mignolo 2000; Vila 2000). These complementary bodies of literature
provided the background for the study and the theoretical constructs that
allowed us to analyze the unique, fluid, and complex experiences of
transfronterizxs in a DL immersion program. This chapter and the next will
briefly introduce related literature and theoretical frameworks; in subsequent
chapters we will continue the description of these frameworks as they pertain
to each topic developed in the respective chapter.
Community Cultural Wealth and Transfronterizx Capital
Community cultural wealth refers to the unique forms of cultural capital,
resources, and assets of students of color (Villalpando and Solórzano 2005).
Yosso (2005) defines community cultural wealth as the array of knowledge,
skills, abilities, and contacts possessed by marginalized groups that usually
are not recognized and acknowledged in schools. This perspective critiques
deficit thinking and deficit structures that disadvantage communities and
people of color (Contreras 2009; Jain 2010; Oropeza, Varghese, and Kanno
2010; Pérez Huber 2009; Rincón 2009; Yosso 2005). There are six categories
of capital within the community cultural wealth framework. The different
categories of capital utilized by communities of color to survive and resist
oppression are navigational, social, resistant, linguistic, aspirational, and
Navigational capital is the ability to make it through social situations or
move through “institutions not created with communities of color in mind”
(Yosso 2005, 80). Examples include navigating through hostile universities
or other institutional structures permeated by racism, such as judicial
systems, healthcare facilities, and the job market. This form of capital
acknowledges individual agency even within constraining situations. Social
capital comprises the networks, community resources, and people that can
provide support to navigate through institutions. Social capital is also utilized
to get employment, health care, immigration assistance, and education. We
saw both forms of capital in our study when families relied on each other to
get jobs and housing.
Resistant capital is the resistance to subordination by people of color. It
includes legacies of communities that have resisted racism, capitalism, and
other forms of subordination and forms of oppression. Resistant capital
comprises various types of oppositional behavior, challenging the status quo,
and transforming oppressive structures.
Linguistic capital is the “intellectual and social skills attained through
communicating in more than one language and/or style” (Yosso 2005, 78).
Linguistic capital values the communication and language skills that students
of color bring to school. It includes storytelling, cuentos (stories), dichos
(sayings), and the ability to communicate through art, music, and poetry.
Linguistic capital also includes drawing on different language registers and
styles and translating for parents. In this study, students were using linguistic
capital in many ways, such as translating poetry from Spanish into English
and writing music lyrics.
Aspirational capital is the “ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the
future even in the face of barriers. This includes high aspirations of families
for their children, resiliency through dreaming of possibilities beyond present
conditions, and the nurturing of a culture of possibility” (Yosso 2005, 77).
Aspirational capital is encouragement to do all the things that some members
of the family and community never had the opportunity to do. In the case of
the transfronterizx students, families did whatever was necessary for them to
be safe and to continue in school.
Familial capital is knowledge nurtured among familia (family). This form
of capital includes a deep commitment and healthy connection to a
community and to the extended family which may consist of abuelos
(grandparents), amigos (friends), tíos (aunts and uncles), primos (cousins),
and compadres. In this study, these networks developed in both nations,
Mexico and the United States. Familial capital can be fostered through many
social events, settings, and models, such as caring, coping, and providing.
Familial capital includes family lessons that help shape one emotionally and
give moral guidance (Yosso 2006). Familial capital is being committed and
maintaining healthy connections to the community. This commitment allows
people to realize that they are not alone in situations. During our study, we
experienced families sending their children to live in El Paso with relatives to
keep them safe from the violence in Juárez. Families in El Paso were making
sure the children were safe and had a place to stay. These acts demonstrate
how extended families were committed to children being and feeling safe. As
presented in chapter 4, transfronterizx children also committed to helping
parents to “arreglar” (arrange or fix) their immigration status.
These forms of capital build on one another as cultural wealth, are strongly
related, and overlap. Through an analysis of the data, it was evident that the
participants in our study demonstrated the use of several forms of capital in
their experiences with language, literacy, and school. When these kinds of
capital were related to crossing borders, both physical as well as metaphorical
borders, we called it transfronterizx capital.
Transnationalism and Transnational Practices from Below
The term transnationalism has been used in different fields, with particular
emphasis on the flows of capital, goods, services, and labor that transcends
national boundaries. Literature about the economics of labor migration,
remittances, transnational corporations, and international trade emphasizes
the cross-border flows of capital and goods. Transnationalism also implies
the movement of people across national borders. “Transnationalism involves
individuals, their networks of social relations, their communities, and broader
institutionalized structures such as local and national governments” (Portes,
Guarnizo, and Landolt 1999, 220).
Research on transnationalism initially focused on international enterprises,
systems, organizations, and associations; however, studies paid less attention
to the private sphere (Sánchez and Machado-Casas 2009) of transnationalism
and its everyday practices, which are also manifestations of globalization.
Transnational practices are defined as “the political, economic, social, and
cultural processes occurring beyond the borders of a particular state,
including actors that are not states but that are influenced by the policies and
institutional arrangements associated with states” (Levitt 2001, 202). These
everyday transnational practices “from below” (Smith and Guarnizo 1998)—
including language and literacy practices such as the ones described here—
were a response to the global institutional contexts of transnationalism
imposed by governmental policies and “dependent capitalism fostered on
weaker countries” (Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt 1999, 220).
Transnational practices “from below” are both local and global, in that they
are local responses to political and economic policies with global impacts
beyond the local community. Practices from below are tied to social
relationships and issues of power and become important tools to survive and
resist oppression. Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt (1999) noted the need to
engage in research that understood the reaction of everyday transnationals to
these policies and their larger geopolitical, economic, and social contexts:
“These activities commonly developed in reaction to governmental policies
and to the condition of dependent capitalism fostered on weaker countries, as
immigrants and their families sought to circumvent the permanent
subordination to which these conditions condemn them” (220). In other
words, everyday transnational practices from below are a response to global
institutional contexts of transnationalism, which place transnationals in a
situation of subordination. Transnationals develop these practices “from
below” as survival mechanisms and as a response to situations of
marginalization experienced from below. Thus, we posit that transnational
practices are part of transnationals’ community cultural wealth (Yosso 2005)
that is the “array of knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts possessed and
utilized by Communities of Color to survive and resist macro and micro . . .
forms of oppression” (Yosso 2005, 77).
The technological advancement in communication and transport
technologies of the last decades made transnational practices “from below”
(Smith and Guarnizo 1998) or “grassroots” transnationalism possible. These
technologies have not only made communications across borders constant
and fluid but also have brought new practices tied to these intense
communications. In 1999, Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt described “the ready
availability of air transport, long-distance telephone, facsimile
communication, and electronic mail” as providing the “technological basis
for the emergence of transnationalism on a mass scale” (223). Technologies
are space- and time-compressing (Harvey 1990); thus, they are necessary
conditions for transnationalism (Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt 1999). Today,
the space- and time-compressing circumstances are even more evident with
newer technologies that include chat rooms, games, Skype, and instant
messaging. Then the world experiences an even larger transnationalism
Individuals and their social networks and communities have appropriated
these tools and engaged in a wide variety of learning activities both in and
out of school contexts. Thus, these actions may or may not be
institutionalized, but they all involve learning and language use. In this book,
we focus on the language and literacy learning tied to transnational activities
“from below”—that is, activities that are organized by individual
transnational persons. We focus on the movement of people, their practices,
“and more abstract items, such as information, advice, care, love, and
systems of power” (Sánchez and Machado-Casas 2009) across nations. To
understand these practices, like Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt (1999), we
“delimit the concept of transnationalism to occupations and activities that
require regular and sustained social contacts over time across national borders
for their implementation” (219). Within these activities, language, literacy,
and educational practices—the focus of this book—have been understudied
(Sánchez and Machado-Casas 2009).
Within the field of immigration, a close look at the literature of immigrant
children during the last decades of the twentieth century reveals a notion of
immigrants and immigrant families that saw a linear process in their
trajectory, from the “country of origin” to the “host country.” This notion
assumed that immigrant families moved to the United States and settled,
ignoring that most maintained frequent contacts with their countries of origin.
During the last couple of decades, there has been a “transnational turn” (Lam
and Warriner 2012) in immigration research, which considers these complex
lives of immigrants. We follow Henry Trueba’s distinction between the
concepts of immigrant and transnational:
Conceptually, the main difference between an immigrant and a
transnational person is that the immigrant does not have
frequent and intensive contact with his original culture and
consequently can eventually lose his home language and
culture and assimilate to the mainstream society. A
transnational person cannot afford to lose his language and
culture because his contact with the home culture is frequent
and intensive . . . [and] goes back and forth between the
country of origin or residence and another country. (Trueba
2004, 40)
Ethnographic studies with immigrant families offered a critique of these
limited views, revealing, for instance, that transnational practices have
become a regular part of life (Orellana et al. 2001). These practices are
acquired and moved through transnational social networks. Furthermore,
“networks are both a medium and an outcome of social practices ‘from
below’ by which transnational migrants, individually and collectively,
maintain meaningful social relations that cut across territorial boundaries,
link several localities in more than one country, and extend meaningful social
action across geographical space” (Smith 1994, 20). Thus, transnational
networks and transnational social practices are an intricate part of the daily
lives of immigrants. Furthermore, many of these families live in “a state of
‘betweenness,’ orchestrating their lives transnationally and bifocally” (Smith
1994, 20). Even though we draw from an important body of literature that
proposes the term “immigrant” for this literature review, we will use the term
“transnational” to include the diverse kinds of migrants who still have
contacts, relationships, practices, and other types of interactions with people,
businesses, institutions, and places across national boundaries.
In general terms, transnationals are persons who live in and belong to two
or more countries at the same time. In their work on simultaneity, Levitt and
Glick Schiller (2004) define that notion as living life “that incorporates daily
activities, routines, and institutions located both in a destination country and
transnationally” (1003). This idea allows for broader analytic lenses that
enable capturing the complex realities of transnationals, which are “often
embedded in multilayered, multi-sited, transnational social fields,
encompassing those who move and those who stay behind” (Levitt and Glick
Schiller 2004, 1003). We draw on the concept of simultaneity to understand
how transfronterizxs are embedded in transnational social fields which
function to mobilize knowledge and texts across national boundaries. We
adopt Levitt and Glick Schiller’s (2004) proposal that to understand the
transnational experience it is important to capture “the experience of living
simultaneously within and beyond the boundaries of a nation-state” (Levitt
and Glick Schiller 2004, 1006). Participants of the present study crossed
many borders both physically and metaphorically. The youth described here
are transnational “in that they have moved bodily across national borders
while maintaining and cultivating practices tied—in varying degrees—to
their home countries” (Hornberger 2007, 325). However, because they live
on the border between two countries, transfronterizxs have a unique
experience of crossing borders, as will be developed in the following
Transnational Students
As the notion of superdiversity (Vertovec 2007) suggests, at this moment in
history we witness “a tremendous increase in the categories of migrant”
(Blommaert and Rampton 2016, 21). Because of the heterogeneity of the
transnational experiences, there are several distinct definitions of
transnational education and transnational students in the literature. A
significant number of studies focus on transnational students in higher
education (Soong 2015; Robertson 2013; Wallace 2016; Wilkins and
Urbanovic 2014). This literature examines the education-migration nexus and
its complexities, focusing mostly on students who have lived their whole
lives in one country and travel to another country to attend higher education,
most of the time as young adults or adults. For example, Poyago-Theotoky
and Tampieri (2016) define transnational education as the education offered
by an institution for students from different countries. Transnational students
in higher education are also called international students. Most of these
students are privileged in several senses. The fact that they can study abroad
says that most have had high levels of education in their countries of origin,
as well as the economic means to leave their countries and arrive in the
country where they attend college. This is significantly different from the
transfronterizx students who participated in this study. The students in our
study are not elite international students but are refugees fleeing economic
and violent insecurity.
Researchers also focus on transnational students and their experiences in
K–12 U.S. or other nations’ public school settings. These are also a
heterogeneous group of students with a diversity of backgrounds. In general,
transnational students are those students who have affiliations in schools in
two countries and build cultural roots in both contexts (Franco 2014; Sánchez
and Zúñiga 2010; Vázquez and Hernández 2014; Zúñiga, Hamann, and
Sánchez 2008).
Transnational students lead lives immersed in two different
countries. These students are immigrants themselves or have
one or two immigrant parents, and as a family, they remain
connected to both their new country of settlement and their
country of origin. Transnational students have experiences,
perceptions, and social relationships that span two nations and
may be entirely different from those of the “traditional”
immigrant. In fact, many transnational students may forego
some of the normal life experiences of immigrants and live
comfortably for years between two countries and two cultures.
Some transnational students, however, do not differ markedly
from immigrant students and may gradually adopt life patterns
associated with being immigrants. (Sánchez 2008, 857)
Within the umbrella term of transnationals, scholars have used several
terms to capture these experiences, such as transmigrant, binationals,
retornos (returns), or migrantes retornados (returned migrants), and
transfronterizxs. The multiplicity of terms reflects the diversity among
transnationals. For example, transnational students may be students attending
school in the United States and who visit their country of origin for short
periods of time, such as during the summer (Sánchez 2007). Other students
have attended U.S. schools but returned to live in their country of origin—in
this case, Mexico—due to repatriation or economic reasons (Hamann,
Zuñiga, and García 2008; Jacobo-Suárez 2017; Sánchez and Zúñiga 2010;
Zúñiga 2013). These students are called “retornos” or “retornados” (returned
migrants) (Petrón 2009). The term “transmigrant students” has been used to
describe migrant students who are in one country temporarily only as part of
their journey to another country. These students generally do not have longterm lives in any of the places they inhabit, frequently following their parents
in their journey searching for work opportunities (Bantman-Masum 2015;
Gnam 2013; Prickett, Negi, and Gómez 2012). Literature includes “emotional
transnationalism” (Wolf 2002), a term used to describe students who may
have never set foot in another country; however, their everyday lives
incorporate values, goods, and practices from that country. Undocumented
students in the United States may also be considered part of the group that
experiences emotional transnationalism. Researchers have also paid attention
to the unique lives of indigenous transnationals (Machado-Casas 2009;
Stephen 2007). Referring to the U.S.-Mexico border, Monty (2015) used the
term “transnational students” to identify Mexican students who live on the
border and study in the United States but go back to Mexico for diverse
reasons during the semester. de la Piedra and Araujo (2012a) initially referred
to transnationals on the border as cross-border transnationals; however, in
later publications, they used the term transfronterizxs. Although diverse, in
general terms “transnational students lead lives immersed in two different
countries . . . [and] have experiences, perceptions, and social relationships
that span two nations” (Sánchez 2008, 857). The literature shows that
transnational migration principally impacts economically disadvantaged
students who attend U.S. schools, and who deserve an educational system
that understands and values them.
Transfronterizx Students
Within the umbrella concept of transnational students, we locate
transfronterizxs (Relaño Pastor 2007; Zentella 2009), who deserve a
particular term because of the unique experiences of transnationalism that
occur on the border between the United States and Mexico. Transfronterizxs
are border-crossers who live and study on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico
border, often crossing on a daily or weekly basis. They may have spent years
going back and forth between both countries (Zentella 2009). The concept of
transfronterizx students is different from transnational students in that the
contacts between two countries and across borders are more intense and
engaged in an embodied experience. In other words, transfronterizxs
physically cross the bridge between two countries.
In the U.S. Southwest, this back-and-forth movement has characterized the
communication and population movement since the Mesoamerican Age
(Vélez-Ibáñez 1996). These contacts take place often, sometimes the same
day or the same week, and entail back-and-forth movement from one country
to another. After the space- and time-compressing technologies, a second
necessary condition, according to Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt (1999), for
transnationalism is the creation of networks across space. We posit that
transfronterizxs are in a better position than other transnationals to initiate
cross-border activities because of the closeness between the United States and
Mexico. Because of the geographical location, most transfronterizxs have a
“dense network of communications” (Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt 1999,
224) across the border. Transfronterizxs “are from acá y allá [from here and
from there], actively transcending borders and fronteras” (Relaño Pastor
2007, 275). In the case of transnationals who do not live on the border, it
seems that the greater the access “to space- and time-compressing
technology, the greater the frequency and scope of this sort of [transnational]
activity. Immigrant communities with greater average economic resources
and human capital (educational and professional skills) should register higher
levels of transnationalism because of their superior access to the
infrastructure that makes these activities possible” (Portes, Guarnizo, and
Landolt 1999, 224). However, because of transfronterizxs’ unique
geopolitical situation, unlike other transnationals, they do not need high
economic capital to engage in transnational activities, as they may cross the
bridge by walking or driving. Granted, compared to other fronterizxs who do
not have the privilege of crossing the border (Lugo 2008), transfronterizxs do
have the opportunity of mobility across the national border, as well as the
privilege of having U.S. citizenship or permanent U.S. residence (Bejarano
2010). Some transfronterizxs belong to middle-class or privileged families,
but most of the participants of this study were members of working-class
families and experienced marginalization from U.S. mainstream culture.
The binational context of transfronterizxs’ lives is not the only element that
makes their transnational practices unique. The border is a marginalized and
complicated context on both sides of the border, and students learn to
navigate this complicated context. “In El Paso, the unemployment rates are
twice the state and national average, and per capita income is two times lower
than the national average” (Moya and Lusk 2009, 49). Although attractive for
labor possibilities and a growing city, Ciudad Juárez was hit with violence,
militarization, and a history of colonial relationships with the United States.
Thus, the marginalized space of the border characterized by coloniality
(Cervantes-Soon and Carrillo 2016) colors the transfronterizxs’ transnational
experience. Transfronterizxs experience daily surveillance where boundary
reinforcers (Bejarano 2010, 392)—that is, checkpoint border patrol agents,
teachers, students, administrators, and school staff—“judge, assess, surveil,
and ‘inspect’ them as ‘aliens’ or who have ‘illegally’ crossed” (Bejarano
2010, 392) into U.S. or school territory.
Literature on border theory (Anzaldúa 1999; Vila 2000) and Mignolo’s
ideas of border thinking (2000) add to the definition of transnationalism to
explain this experience on the border “where colonial difference is embodied
and experienced in the literal demarcation and crossing of international
boundaries” (Cervantes-Soon and Carrillo 2016, 282). “‘Borders’ are not
only geographic but also political, subjective (e.g., cultural) and epistemic
and, contrary to frontiers, the very concept of ‘border’ implies the existence
of people, languages, religions, and knowledge on both sides linked through
relations established by coloniality of power” (Mignolo and Tlostanova 2006,
208). Transfronterizxs experience the border as a tangible national border as
well as borders that are less tangible, such as linguistic, ethnic, and schoolcommunity boundaries.
Border thinking (Anzaldúa 1999; Michaelsen and Shershow 2007;
Mignolo 2000; Mignolo and Tlostanova 2006; Vázquez 2011) is the notion
that our epistemological stances must have an embodied component.
Transfronterizxs’ experiences with education are embodied. Border thinking
also means using nondominant knowledge and languages to break through
the limits of colonially instantiated educational practices. “Border thinking
brings to the foreground different kinds of theoretical actors and principles of
knowledge that displace European modernity . . . and empower those who
have been epistemically disempowered by the theo- and ego-politics of
knowledge” (Mignolo and Tlostanova 2006, 206–207). In the context of the
education field, border thinking is a way to move beyond the epistemological
stances of mainstream learning organization and theories. Furthermore,
“epistemology is woven into language and, above all, into alphabetically
written languages. And languages are not something human beings have, but
they are part of what human beings are. As such, languages are embedded in
the body and in the memories (geo-historically located) of each person”
(Mignolo and Tlostanova 2006, 207). Transfronterizxs’ border thinking
supported them to use their language—characterized by translanguaging and
recontextualizing—to narrate alternative narratives or counterstories (Yosso
The border’s marginalized location is also evident in the narratives about
it. Outsiders conceptualize the border as a transitional space (Heyman 2013);
like its name in Spanish, “El Paso” is narrated as a place of temporary
residence. From a mainstream outsider’s perspective, “the only relevant
persons are transitory crossers who are deemed subject to official
examination and enforcement” (Heyman 2013, 62). Recently, U.S. Attorney
General Jeff Sessions came to our city and used words used to describe war
zones when talking about the U.S.-Mexico border. These negative and
damaging perceptions of our border perpetuate the coloniality and
asymmetrical relations of power. These narratives impact daily social
interactions and support the creation of exclusion. This dehumanizing
perspective on the border and the stories presented in this book depict very
different images of borderland residents and everyday lives. Instead of
outsiders’ simplistic views of the border, border views tend to depict
subtleties, complexities, and gray areas in the daily transnational practices of
borderlanders (Heyman and Symons 2012).
Gloria Anzaldúa (1999, 25) defines the borderland as an open wound
“where the third world grates against the first and bleeds” and where the life
force of two worlds merges “to form a third country—a border culture.”
Thus, transfronterizxs live in “the space between two worlds” (Anzaldúa
1999, 237), which is in itself a space of change or a “third space” (Moje et al.
2004). From this space, transfronterizxs use their experiences and resources
to navigate their diverse worlds. We will see in the following chapters that
“the fluidity of languages and cultural milieus in which [transfronterizxs] are
involved every day highlight the influence of border-crossing experiences in
the construction of their identity” (Relaño Pastor 2007, 264).
Thus, the transfronterizx everyday experience is colored by the fluid,
contradictory, and marginalized context of the border, where people are in a
state of nepantla (in-between) living within and among multiple worlds
(Anzaldúa 1999). The practices we analyze in this book are a product of this
fluidity and also of the contradictions and subordination of the transfronterizx
context. These “third spaces” (Moje et al. 2004) or “epistemic borderlands”
(Cervantes-Soon and Carrillo 2016) “where the colonial/modern global
design intersects with local histories” (Cervantes-Soon and Carrillo 2016,
285) are genuinely spaces of possibility for education of transfronterizx and
other transnational students.
Relevant Literature on Transnational Students in the United
States and Mexico
Demographic trends today show the importance of transnationalism in U.S.
schools. Latinxs are the largest “minority” group, comprising 17.6 percent of
the total U.S. population (Flores 2017) and 25.4 percent of the public school
students (Geiger 2017). While 11 percent of Latinx students are foreign-born,
52 percent of U.S.-born Latinx children are “second generation” or children
of immigrants (Fry and Passel 2009), and 70 percent of Latinx students speak
a language other than English at home (Fry and Gonzales 2008). It is
estimated that by the year 2030, 40 percent of U.S. public school students
will have come from homes where the first language is not English (Howard,
Levine, and Moss 2014). These numbers underscore the significant presence
of both the Latinx population in U.S. schools and the transnational realities in
these households. Concerning Mexican nationals, in 2011 nearly 12 million
lived in the United States, and 6.3 million U.S.-born children had at least one
parent born in Mexico.
As transnationalism becomes more common in today’s globalized world
and increasing flows of students find their way across borders, educators are
struggling to understand how to meet the needs of transnational students.
These students are often framed as a problem to be solved, and as lacking
resources to contribute, very much like the deficit thinking perspective
described by Valencia (1997). Teachers are unprepared to work with them,
starting with a lack of information about what transnational students know
(Cline and Necochea 2006; Gallo and Link 2015). As a result of this
situation, transnational students’ particular needs are seldom reflected in the
curriculum (Boske and McCormack 2011; Conteh and Riasat 2014; Knight
and Oesterreich 2011; Stewart 2014). Mainstream teachers often do not
acknowledge the cultural and linguistic assets transnational students bring
with them to the school context, and policy makers blame students
themselves for low literacy and academic performances, rather than a lack of
policy that includes them (Mangual, Suh, and Byrnes 2015).
Researchers have presented evidence that U.S. schools do not always
construct environments conducive to the academic success of transnational
students. Researchers show that Latinxs are less likely to participate in
advanced level courses and Gifted and Talented programs (Ford 2010).
Dramatic dropout rates for Latinx students (Noguera 2012), in particular
foreign-born (National Center for Education Statistics 2010; Romo and Pérez
2012), overrepresentation in special education (Noguera 2012), and lower
academic achievement rates of emergent bilinguals as compared to
nonemergent bilinguals (Fry 2008) show that schools are not addressing these
students’ needs or their assets. Ethnic segregation (Reardon et al. 2012) and
complex relationships between U.S. schools and Spanish-speaking parents
(Cavanagh, Vigil, and García 2014; Delgado-Gaitan 1990; Díez-Palomar and
Civil 2007; Stromquist 2012; Valdés 1997) have been documented. In some
schools nonwhite students often are ignored, resulting in what Hall (2016)
called “bleaching syndrome,” in which students change their behaviors and
language patterns. Jasis (2013), for example, reported segregation of Latinx
students and no academic guidance. This literature shows a complex and
adverse set of circumstances that contribute to the limited opportunities of
quality education for linguistic minorities in the United States.
Even though we are aware of the benefits of multilingualism, societies and
educational systems are not doing enough to maintain transnational students’
languages. We know that the majority of immigrant families in the United
States lose their native language by the third or even second generation
(Rumbaut 2009). Subtractive schooling (Valenzuela 1999), school practices
that not only ignore but devalue the cultural and language practices of
transnational students, have been amply demonstrated by a good number of
studies that document disappointing results. Researchers have documented
discriminatory practices against Spanish native speakers (Cortéz and Jáuregui
2004; Petrón and Greybeck 2014; Whiteside 2006) and linguistic segregation
(Gifford and Valdés 2006) in U.S. schools. For example, Conteh and Riasat
(2014) show that mainstream teachers believed that using two languages is
not beneficial, but on the contrary could purportedly “confuse” and “block”
transnational students’ academic progress. All in all, there is still much to do
to support the actual enactment of language policies that promote
multilingualism and multiculturalism (Torrente 2013), as well as more
inclusive relationships with transnational students and their parents (Durand
In the Mexican school system, things are not much better for transnational
students (Franco 2014; Hamann, Zúñiga, and García 2008; Hamann, Zúñiga,
and Sánchez 2006; Sánchez and Zúñiga 2010; Zúñiga 2013). Despite
Mexican federal programs specifically meant to help transnational students,
the few studies that explore transnationals’ schooling experiences paint a
bleak picture of Mexican schools’ preparedness to receive transnational
students and their families. For many of these students, the transition is a
complicated process that sometimes jeopardizes their educational success.
Mexican classrooms face serious economic hardships, including lack of
resources, materials, and even teachers (Franco 2014). Besides, these students
are invisible or face discrimination by their teachers, classmates, and even
from the educational system. Transnational students in Mexico may be
children of Mexican immigrants, but they have seldom lived in Mexico for
long periods of time. While their last names and physical characteristics may
initially allow them to blend in with their classmates (Hamann, Zúñiga, and
García 2008; Sánchez and Zúñiga 2010; Zúñiga 2013), soon after the initial
impressions, mainstream Mexican students perceive and treat their
transnational peers as different (Zúñiga and Hamann 2008). Transnational
students were perceived as problematic, rebels, disobedient, or even potential
narcos (drug dealers), who tended to establish dysfunctional relationships
due to their experience in their “dislocated families” (Zúñiga, Hamann, and
Sánchez 2008). Teachers and school authorities in Mexico often ignore
students’ educational biographies. For example, Zúñiga (2013) describes the
story of a transnational student who had been classified by a U.S. school as
“gifted and talented.” However, she was labeled as “problemática”
(problematic student) in a Mexican school due to her ways of “doing” school:
she actively participated in class discussions and often questioned her
teachers’ knowledge. Thus, Mexican teachers interpreted transnational
students’ behaviors from their idealized views of the “good student,” ignoring
not only the students’ life experiences and funds of knowledge but also their
actual abilities and skills developed and recognized in other contexts.
Like the U.S. situation, mainstream teachers in Mexico are not prepared to
understand transnational students’ linguistic backgrounds. Although Mexican
nationals highly valued English, the transnational students’ use of English
was considered a disloyalty to their country and culture. In Hamann, Zuñiga,
and García’s (2008) study of teachers’ perceptions of transnational students, a
prevailing belief among teachers was that no special support was needed
because students could speak Spanish, thus they could incorporate and
assimilate to the school context with no support from the teacher or peers.
Furthermore, some teachers did not allow English spoken in their classes,
which could lead to these transnational students’ English language loss
(Franco 2014; Hamann, Zúñiga, and Sánchez 2006; Vázquez and Hernández
2014). Furthermore, it is easier for transnational students to use Spanish in
U.S. schools than English in Mexican schools (Zúñiga and Hamann 2008).
Paradoxically, transnational students were not allowed to use their Spanish in
U.S. schools, and when they went back to Mexico, they were prohibited from
using English in the Mexican school. Students experienced these
contradicting messages about language in their everyday practices in
academic settings in both countries. This situation may have terrible
consequences for students’ academic identities, their language and biliteracy
development, and their academic success.
In sum, from this literature review about transnational students’ schooling
in both the United States and Mexico, we conclude that many transnational
students face a complex trajectory in their education compounded by the
limited opportunities of relevant education for linguistic minorities in both
countries. There is still much to do to support inclusive instructional practices
and relationships with and for transnational students, their families, and their
communities. The transfronterizx everyday experience documented and
analyzed in this book—colored by the fluid, contradictory, and marginalized
context of the border—shows how these students use their experiences and
resources to navigate their complex worlds. From the perspective of the
historically subalternized borderlands (Cervantes-Soon and Carrillo 2016),
we analyze the language and literacy practices which are part of the repertoire
of transfronterizx community cultural wealth (Yosso 2005). Practices
analyzed in this book show the integration of linguistic, navigational,
resistant, familial, social, and aspirational capitals (Yosso 2002) of
transfronterizxs. The DL program, as well as the teachers’ and school
leaders’ understandings of the transfronterizxs’ lives and funds of knowledge,
contributed to the creation of “third spaces” (Moje et al. 2004) or “epistemic
borderlands” (Cervantes-Soon and Carrillo 2016), as will be presented
through the examples offered in this book.
1. Although there is no exact translation, the term “compadres” in this context refers to close friends
—almost family—who are bonded by a child’s baptism.
2. Although infrequently studied, this is a significant population. Recent calculations estimate that
more than half a million “U.S.-born children of Mexican immigrants moved to Mexico” from 2010 to
2016 (Borjian, Muñoz de Cote, van Dijk, and Houde 2016, 42).
3. See Borunda’s article, “U.S. Attorney General Calls Border ‘Ground Zero,’” published in El Paso
Times (Borunda 2017).
4. PROBEM (Programa Binacional de Educación Migrante) and EBSF (Educación Básica Sin
Fronteras) are two examples of these national programs.
Sociocultural Perspectives on Learning in Dual
Language Settings
The previous chapter introduced relevant literature on transnational
students, border epistemologies, and community cultural wealth that we drew
on to define the concept of transfronterizx students and transfronterizx
capital. In this chapter, we further develop our theoretical framework by
complementing the literatures on transnationalism, border epistemologies,
and community cultural wealth with sociocultural perspectives on language,
literacy, and learning (Barton and Hamilton 2005; Gutiérrez et al. 2011;
Kalman 2008; Rockwell 2018; Rogoff, Goodman Turkanis, and Bartlett
2001; Street 1984; Wertsch 1991). We will refer back to chapter 1, as the
literature on language and literacy practices intersects with the research and
theory revised in that particular section. Within these large bodies of
knowledge, we focus specifically on literature about biliteracy (Hornberger
and Link 2012), mobile literacies and recontextualization (Barton and
Hamilton 2005; Bernstein 1996; Kell 2000), and translanguaging practices
(García 2009). In this chapter, we also review the literature on DL programs,
with a particular emphasis on language use and literacy practices. Research
on DL classrooms provides the background to understand the school context
where students were encouraged to use their transfronterizx practices.
We draw on sociocultural and ideological models of language and literacy
practices. Ideological models of literacy, as explained by Street (1984, 1993)
help to understand literacy (and orality) in its social contexts, taking into
account the discourses, symbolic representations, and complex historical,
social, and cultural processes around literacy. Sociocultural perspectives on
language and literacy emphasize the need to approach literacy in the moment
of interaction. “Situations are rarely static or uniform, they are actively
created, sustained, negotiated, resisted, and transformed moment-by-moment
through ongoing work” (Gee 2000, 190). Thus, rather than focus on language
systems themselves, scholarship in the field of language and literacy
education focuses on “languages as emergent from contexts of interaction”
(Pennycook 2010, 18). More recently, from a sociocultural perspective,
ecological models of language and bilingual practices shed light on the
environment where these practices occur and inform “on the complex
interrelationships among the different factors within this environment” (Gort
and Sembiante 2015, 9). These perspectives emphasize that language and
literacy are not discrete objects; rather they are diverse, multiple, fluid,
complex, and dynamic. “Such ecological models acknowledge that
bilinguals’ language practices are dynamic, malleable, and influenced by
naturalistic opportunities in the environment that tap into their potential to
develop and use multiple languages, language varieties, and literacies” (Gort
and Sembiante 2015, 9).
In the last decade, scholars have proposed a good number of concepts to
try to capture this multiplicity of language realities, such as translanguaging
(García 2009), polylanguaging (Jørgensen 2008), translingualism
(Canagarajah 2013), and metrolingualism (Pennycook and Otsuji 2015). All
these terms represent a new turn in language and literacy scholarship, which
not only defines language as a social practice but also assumes that language
diversity is not the “unexpected,” but rather the “expected” (Pennycook
2010). This trend of scholarship cautions us to be aware of the discourses that
normalize monolingualism, language separation ideologies, and artificial
linguistic boundaries, which ecological realities question every day. Recent
scholarship in the field has proposed alternative narratives to those dominant
narratives. Tied to these counterstories on linguistic realities, scholarship on
transnationalism also questions artificial cultural, identitarian, subject matter,
time, and geographic boundaries. “Migration makes communicative
resources such as language varieties and scripts globally mobile, and this
affects neighborhoods in very different corners of the world” (Blommaert and
Rampton 2016, 23). The notion of superdiversity (Vertovec 2007) relates to
these counterstories, as “superdiversity is characterized by a tremendous
increase in the categories of migrant” (Blommaert and Rampton 2016, 21).
In these anti-essentialist perspectives about language and literacy, the
notions of repertoires of practice or language repertoires account for the
flexibility of use of resources in a wide variety and moving array of contexts.
“This dispenses with a priori assumptions about the links between origins,
upbringing, proficiency, and types of language, and it refers to individuals’
very variable (and often rather fragmentary) grasp of a plurality of
differentially shared styles, registers, and genres, which are picked up (and
maybe partially forgotten) within biographical trajectories that develop in
actual histories and topographies” (Blommaert and Rampton 2016, 26). It is
in this new moment of the field of language and literacies that we locate our
study. Data presented here on the repertoires of language and literacy
practices of transfronterizxs speaks to superdiversity, as transfronterizxs offer
particular ways to be in the spectrum of transnationalism, and their complex
and mobile language and literacy practices—as will be shown in the next
chapters—are tied to their mobile trajectories across national borders.
Moving away from essentialist perspectives that may see Latinx/Mexican
immigrants or transnationals as one homogenous linguistic group, we
propose that transfronterizxs’ everyday practices question the artificial
identitarian, linguistic, geographic, and national boundaries created by
institutions, such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),
the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and local school districts, to name a few.
These everyday practices include language and literacy repertoires.
Literature on Transnational Literacy Practices
The “transnational turn” in immigration research reviewed in chapter 1 has
also influenced the field of language and literacy studies (Lam and Warriner
2012). Studies of transnationals explore the flows of knowledge and practices
that occur in transnational contexts (Lam and Warriner 2012). We use the
concept of transnational literacies as defined by Jiménez, Smith, and Teague
as “the written language practices of people who are involved in activities
that span national boundaries” (2009, 17). Recent studies stress the link
between transnational literacy practices and new digital communication
technologies (Alvermann et al. 2006; Lam and Rosario-Ramos 2009; Lam
and Warriner 2012; Mclean 2010; Stewart 2014), similar to the research
findings presented in chapter 1. Transnational young people engage in digital
literacies to read across a variety of symbol systems when they use the
Internet for instant messaging (Lam 2009; Lam and Rosario-Ramos 2009) or
send emails to kin and friends transnationally (de la Piedra 2010, 2011).
Thus, outside the context of the school, youth read and create a variety of
multimodal texts. Usually, these texts represent the youth’s purposes and
motivations, “engaging their subjective experiences in ways that school texts
do not” (Moje et al. 2008, 111). A few studies have also noted that students
draw on their textual resources “derived from their transnational fields of
activity in approaching” (Lam and Warriner 2012, 210) literacy in school
(Ajayi 2016; de la Piedra 2011; Skerrett 2015).
Researchers also emphasize the multiplicity of language, language
varieties, and registers used in these transnational interactions. Among
transnational students and their families, translanguaging practices—that is,
the “multiple discursive practices in which bilinguals engage in order to make
sense of their bilingual world” (García 2009, 45)—are used every day in and
outside the context of the school. For example, Purcell-Gates (2013)
documented the biliterate practices of immigrant farm workers and their
families, who spoke Spanish at home with the purpose of maintaining the
Spanish language for communication with their families in Mexico, while
also using English in everyday literacy events. Scholars have long stressed
the importance of promoting biliteracy practices at home, as well as inside
the classrooms (Durand 2010; Purcell-Gates 2013; Gallo et al. 2014; MartínBeltrán 2014; Stewart 2014), with the purpose of developing both languages
in flexible ways. Lam and Rosario-Ramos (2009) present a study in which
transnational students employ the Internet and more than one language to
communicate, seek information, and develop relationships in their countries
with people who speak their native languages. For these students, digital
media is used as a mediator to participate in different linguistic communities
in which they make social links. Thus, language and literacy practices are
resources that transnationals have available to them in order to preserve
transnational identities, connections, and relationships—that is, transnational
social capital as part of their community cultural wealth.
Transnational literacy practices are not limited to speaking or writing.
Richardson Bruna (2007) documented informal literacy practices of Mexican
transnationals in a U.S. school, such as tagging, branding, and shouting out.
These informal practices were used by Mexican students to honor their
country and state of origin; they wrote the name of their state of origin in
benches or the whiteboard, used clothes referring to Mexico, and shouted
“vocal tributes” to their land. Religious literacy practices are among
transnational practices. Transnational families read and wrote sacred text in
Spanish, such as religious literacies on candleholders, calendars, and church
buildings (Jiménez, Smith, and Teague 2009; Purcell-Gates 2013; Smith and
Murillo 2012; Stewart 2014). Other studies have emphasized transnational
students’ skills as literacy mediators (de la Piedra and Romo 2003) or
translators for their communities (Orellana 2009; Stewart 2014). Stewart
(2014) analyzes the case of a bilingual student whose rich biliteracy practices
gained him recognition as a translator in church, in a recovery group, and as a
These studies have one thing in common. For the most part, precious and
valuable transnational practices are not recognized at school. In an
assimilationist context where the Spanish language is not valued, biliteracy
practices are essential for transnational students to preserve not only their
communities’ language (Díaz and Bussert-Webb 2013; de la Piedra 2011) but
also their social practices and identities. Language practices are linked to
students’ identities (Andrews 2013), and if perceived as a resource, they are
powerful tools for learning. Bilingual identities are tied to students’ funds of
knowledge and language knowledge. However, the pervasive ideology of
“English-only” can shape students’ schooling experiences and identities.
Some students perceive English as more important and valuable than
Spanish, for example, aligning with the negative perceptions that mainstream
teachers have about transnationals’ native languages (Andrews 2013; Díaz
and Bussert-Webb 2013; Farruggio 2010; Relaño Pastor 2008).
In addition, researchers also document the spontaneous uses of
transnational practices—with no recognition by teachers and schools—or the
explicit and organized instructional practices that include transnational assets
of the students for learning. Thus, in these studies, students utilize their
transnational literacies to position themselves academically (Hornberger
2007). These scholars talk about the creation of a “third space” (Moje et al.
2004, 41). Moje and colleagues define third space as the
integration of knowledges and Discourses drawn from
different spaces the construction of “third space” that merges
the “first space” of people’s home, community, and peer
networks with the “second space” of the Discourses they
encounter in more formalized institutions such as work,
school, or church. . . . What is critical to our position is the
sense that these spaces can be reconstructed to form a third,
different or alternative, space of knowledges and Discourses.
For example, Martín-Beltrán (2014) argues that there is a “third space” in the
translanguaging practices of bilingual students with different fluency levels.
Others have also documented similar practices where students translanguage
in order to help each other to mediate learning (Olmedo 2003). Thus, findings
of selected studies by scholars in the field suggest that pedagogical
approaches in the U.S. classroom that facilitate transnational students’
engagement with transnational literacy practices already exist. These
pedagogical practices usually include encouraging students to use textual
resources and knowledge that traverse boundaries, guiding students to
investigate the ways texts function in their communities, recognizing when
students use diverse frames to interpret texts, and engaging with texts in
personal and experiential levels (Creese and Blackledge 2010; Dworin 2006,
Gutiérrez, Morales, and Martínez 2009; Medina 2010).
We have contributed to the discussion of transnational literacies outside
and inside schools, proposing the term transfronterizx literacies:
Transfronterizo literacies are the multiple ways in which youth
communicate across national borders in and around print.
They are intimately related to everyday life on the border and
transfronterizos’ fluid and multiple border identities. These
include the events where youth physically or virtually moved
texts across national borders. These literacies vary in terms of
purposes, content, media, and identity work. (de la Piedra and
Araujo 2012b, 709)
The types of transnational literacies presented here have unique
characteristics because students’ literacies are intimately related to their
experiences as border-crossers. We found a set of practices that
transfronterizx engaged in when finding ways to navigate U.S. classrooms.
New Literacy Studies, Literacy Practices, and Context
In this section, we address essential concepts that originated from the New
Literacy Studies (NLS) framework, such as literacy events and literacy
practices, as well as the relationship between these concepts and context. We
draw on the theoretical and methodological framework of the New Literacy
Studies, the ideological model of literacy (Baynham 1993; Gee 2000; Kalman
1996, 1999; Kalman and Street 2009; Street 1984; Zavala, Murcia, and Ames
2004), which approaches language and literacy from a critical and ideological
perspective. It avoids the polarization of orality-literacy and technicalcultural aspects of literacy. From this perspective, literacy is a social
phenomenon, “inextricably linked to cultural and power structures in society”
(Street 1993, 7). In other words, “reading, writing, and meaning are always
situated within specific social practices within specific Discourses” (Gee
2000, 189). According to this model, the social uses of literacy relate in
diverse ways to the ideologies of literacy and the cultural values of its users.
An assumption of this paradigm, then, is that literacy is not one, but multiple
and local. Furthermore, there are dominant and subordinate literacies,
according to how they are socially valorized.
The notion of multiple literacies implies that there is not just one kind of
literacy based on technical skills. On the contrary, literacies vary according to
the context and society in which they are embedded (Street 1984). The notion
of local literacies accounts for the literacy practices that are related to local
identities (Street 1994). For example, literacy is performed and valued very
differently in a school classroom in the United States, where essay and
literary texts in English are highly valued and tied to “good” students’
identities, from literacy in a rural Quechua community in the Peruvian Andes,
where religious biliteracy and communal literacies linked to local
government and Andean rituals are most valued. Context, then, is crucial to
the interpretation of language and literacy practices. In turn, language and
literacy practices are inextricably connected to, even constitutive of social
meanings, discourses, or social narratives. These literacy practices that occur
in everyday interaction influence, in turn, the ways we think about ourselves
and our ways of being in the world, as well as dominant discourses and our
A fundamental concept that allows the researcher to “see” the social
character of literacy is literacy practices (Street 1993). Street builds upon the
notion of “literacy event” developed by Heath (1982) to define this notion.
Literacy event is “any occasion in which a piece of writing is integral to the
nature of participants’ interactions and their interpretive processes” (Heath
1982). Literacy events also include talk around the written text, multimodal
forms of communication, and the social rules of the interaction (Baynham
1993). Street adds to this definition, arguing that literacy practices are “a
broader concept, pitched at a higher level of abstraction and referring to both
behavior and conceptualizations relating to the use of reading and/or writing.
‘Literacy practices’ incorporate not only ‘literacy events’ as empirical
occasions to which literacy is integral, but also ‘folk models’ of those events
and the ideological preconceptions that underpin them” (Street 1993, 12). An
example, and relevant to this study, is the deficit thinking perspective on the
Spanish language, the hegemony of English that spreads monolinguistic
language ideologies, as well as the simplistic views of bilinguals as the sum
of two monolinguals. These are part of the folk models or discourses that are
enacted in everyday practice and that influence language teaching and
learning. In turn, these theories are co-constructed in everyday interaction,
through teaching activities, teachers’ and students’ messages, and attitudes
toward languages. Thus, “people’s understanding of [language and] literacy
is an important aspect of their learning” (Barton and Hamilton 2000, 14)
because these direct their actions.
Using the notion of literacy practices, we were able to approach literacies,
taking into account the micro and macro contexts in which practices are
embedded. The NLS model accounts for both a broader societal context—
power and cultural structures and broader discourses of school districts and
state educational agencies—and the moment-to-moment, negotiated,
interactional context of literacy. The children in this study participated in the
fast and interconnected world of superdiversity (Vertovec 2007).
“Transnational literacies can be seen as literacy practices that reflect the
intersection of local and global contexts” (Hornberger and Link 2012, 264).
Transfronterizx language and literacy practices developed within mobile
multilingual repertoires “across local and translocal spaces” (Blommaert
2010, 9). Drawing on Blommaert and Rampton’s (2011) discussions of
language, literacy, and superdiversity, “rather than working with
homogeneity, stability and boundedness as the starting assumptions, mobility,
mixing, political dynamics and historical embedding are now central
concerns in the study of languages, language groups and communication” (3).
In Hornberger and Link’s words, this represents
a further paradigmatic shift from a sociolinguistics of variation
to a sociolinguistics of mobility befitting today’s increasingly
globalized world and mobile linguistic resources, and he
draws on long-standing conceptual tools such as
sociolinguistic scales, indexicality, and polycentricity to help
us think about language in this new sociolinguistics. In this
paradigm, contexts of biliteracy can be understood as scaled
spatiotemporal complexes, indexically ordered and
polycentric, in which multilingualism and literacies develop
within mobile multilingual repertoires in spaces that are
simultaneously translocal and global. (Hornberger and Link
2012, 265)
Thus this paradigm shift in the study of language is tied to the paradigm shift
of superdiversity introduced in chapter 1. These changes emphasize the
importance of understanding the continuum and intersections rather than the
duality of micro/macro, global/local contexts of language and literacy
practices in superdiversity. Because of the mobility of the transfronterizxs’
lives, it was mainly important to pay attention to aspects of the context to
understand language and literacy practices.
Biliteracy, Translanguaging, and Multimodality
Because of the superdiversity and globalization phenomena described above,
language and literacy researchers have grown interested in biliteracy
(Hornberger 2003) and multilingual literacies (Martin-Jones 2000); that is,
“in the growing significance of two ‘multi’ dimensions of ‘literacies’ in the
plural—the multilingual and the multimodal” (Cope and Kalantzis 2009, 2).
Scholars add to the definition of literacy practices to include multiple
languages, as well as a wide variety of means of communication, such as
sound, image, video, and body movements. Responding to a “linguistic view
of literacy and a linear view of reading” (Jewitt 2005, 330), multiliteracies
and multimodality literature (Dyson 2003; Gee 2008; Kress 2000; Rowsell,
Prinsloo, and Zhang 2012) proposes a broader view of literacy that includes
multiple modes of communication and is rooted in social interaction.
Similarly, literature that addresses polylingual and polycultural learning
ecologies (Gutiérrez et al. 2011) proposes a social organization of learning
for emergent bilinguals that privileges hybrid literacy practices and
Research on biliteracy and multiliteracy focuses on the intersections of the
fields of bilingual education and literacy studies. For example, Hornberger’s
continua of biliteracy addresses the complexities of teaching and educational
research, accounting for the enormous variation of what we mean by “being
biliterate.” This framework helped us make sense of the transfronterizx’s
literacy practices because, far from organizing dichotomist schemes (for
example, L1 and L2, monolingual and bilingual individuals, or oral and
literate communities), it accounts for “continua [that] are interrelated
dimensions of one highly complex whole” (Hornberger 2003, 5).
Transfronterizx students developed biliteracy along the continua of their
Spanish and English languages, the continua of the contexts of language use
on the border and across national borders, and the continua of a wide variety
of topics that reflected their experiences as transfronterizx. Research in the
last decade has reframed biliteracy (Escamilla et al. 2013) to reflect more and
more the continua introduced by Hornberger’s continua of biliteracy model,
and thus has moved away from a simple definition of biliteracy as reading
and writing in two languages.
We also draw on literature that goes beyond the notion of language as
bounded systems to capture the multiplicity of language realities, such as
translanguaging (García 2009). Translanguaging defines language as a social
practice and assumes that language diversity is the “expected” (Pennycook
2010). According to García, translanguaging refers to the “multiple
discursive practices in which bilinguals engage in order to make sense of
their bilingual world” (García 2009, 45). These practices include not only
linguistic knowledge but also “cultural knowledge that comes to bear upon
language use” (47). Bilingual communities (including school communities)
must translanguage in order to construct meaning. We posit that the notion of
translanguaging is compatible with the borderland epistemology of
transfronterizxs described in chapter 1. Translanguaging is an approach to
bilingualism centered in practice and which questions the idealized notion of
a balanced bilingual. Transfronterizxs and their practices question notions of
nationality, home cultures, home languages, and cultural practices. They
question the socially constructed neat divisions of language users. As
scholars have recently argued for the case of emergent bilinguals (García
2009; Palmer 2011; Valdés 2003), transfronterizx language and literacy
practices question the idealized notions of “a balanced bilingual,” who may
keep two languages separate as if this were the only and “true” bilingual
(Valdés 2003). Questioning these idealized notions is part of a
counterstorytelling that confronts deficit perspectives.
A translanguaging framework proposes that bilingualism and biliteracy are
resources that can and should be utilized by educators in classroom settings
(García, Ibarra Johnson, and Seltzer 2017). For example, Martín-Beltrán
(2014) recognizes that bilingual students may use translanguaging with
different fluency levels in their classroom. Students naturally participated in
translanguaging practices while they tried to help each other mediate
learning. Traditionally in DL programs, which are highly supported by
research as effective programs for emergent bilinguals and other vulnerable
populations (Thomas and Collier 2002), there has been a language separation
policy. The rationale for this policy has been to try to protect the minoritized
language spaces in instruction. However, this policy has been critiqued as
artificial or as unfavorable to second language development (Palmer et al.
2014). Recent research has documented dynamic bilingualism (García and
Kleifgen 2010) and translanguaging practices as resources that support
learning (Canagarajah 2011; Creese and Blackledge 2010; Martínez 2010;
Reyes and Vallone 2007). Contrasting English-only approaches defining
students merely by their relationship to English or dominant ideologies of
linguistic purism that value bilingualism but still have a dual or plural
monolingualism perspective (Palmer et al. 2014; Pennycook and Otsuji
2014), translanguaging pedagogies approaches consider the wealth of
meaning-making resources that emergent bilingual students already possess.
After all, as García points out (2009), translanguaging is how bilinguals and
multilinguals communicate, and we know this phenomenon is common
across the globe.
Translanguaging includes multiple modes of communication. Language
does not operate in isolation from other modalities but is one of many
different semiotic resources. Communicative events include semiotic
resources such as gesture, image, audio, and oral and written language (Cope
and Kalantzis 2000). As Kress suggested more than a decade ago, “it is now
no longer possible to understand language and its uses without understanding
the effect of all modes of communication that are copresent in any text”
(2000, 337). When we talk about text in this book, we refer to textual
practices (Arnold and Yapita 2000) broadly defined. In a prior research
project about vernacular literacy practices in the Andes, de la Piedra found
that alphabetic literacies coexisted and sometimes were integrated to Andean
textual practices that required a broader view about language, text, and
literacy (de la Piedra 2009). In order to understand these indigenous
multimodal literacy practices, which included ritual and body movements, de
la Piedra uses Arnold and Yapita’s (2000, 13) definition of textual practices
to describe the kinds of communication practices that include diverse
modalities of communication. They analyzed textual practices found in
Andean textiles, as well as the rituals and oral texts, such as prayers, dichos
(sayings), or consejos (advice). According to Arnold and Yapita (2000), these
multiple forms of texts represent “a collection of textual practices and
Andean texts, which complement each other” (13). These indigenous literacy
practices remind us that the alphabetic literacy valued at school is just one
textual practice among many others that coexist and are integrated with
school literacy practices. Text has a broad meaning, expanded to textual
forms such as pictures, poetry, song, body movement, photographs, graphics,
models, videos, video games, computers, and so on. When we talk about text
in this book, we refer to textual practices, defined this way. See chapter 8 for
additional literature on multimodalities.
This book contributes to this body of research that seeks to show the
creative ways in which bi-multilinguals cross different boundaries (that is,
linguistic, cultural, or national boundaries) in order to create new possibilities
of language use and participation in educational settings. In this book, we
illustrate how transfronterizx emergent bilinguals, with the guidance of their
teacher, learn to use the full range of meaning-making tools—including
translanguaging and multimodality—to mediate understa…
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