Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
Indigenous Guatemalan immigrants, like other migrant communities from Latin America, face great challenges in U.S. schools. In addition to marginalizing economic and social policies, high unemployment, and lack of access to health care, childcare, and public transportation, research suggests that deficit orientations and incomplete understandings of students’ family and community backgrounds create obstacles for academic development by (im)migrant children (Combs, Moll, & González, 2011). Within the U.S. Latinx student population, Guatemalan immigrant children fare among the lowest groups in terms of school achievement (Rivera & Lavan, 2012; Marroquin, 2015). Through the lens of critical ethnography (Smith, 2012), this study documented the school experiences of indigenous, multilingual Guatemalan children living in the U.S. Midwest and southwestern Guatemala. Findings indicate that, despite children’s strong educational backgrounds and positive school experiences in Guatemala, U.S. teachers often ignored these experiences and some assumed (incorrectly) that immigrant children did not have school in Guatemala.
The study is grounded in what Paulo Freire (2014) called a “pedagogy of hope.” Using sociocultural orientations to teaching and learning and humanizing pedagogies, I highlight instances in which (im)migrant students, families, and educators demonstrated agency and educational resilience to counter formidable oppression from the state and dominant interests. The study contributes to educational research conducted in “a spirit in opposition, rather than in accommodation…at a time when the struggle on behalf of the underrepresented and disadvantaged groups seems so unfairly weighted against them” (Said, 1994, p. xv).