LWRS June 2020 Volume 1, Issue 1


Inaugural Issue co-edited by Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa and Isabel Baca

Inaugural Issue: Recovery and Transformation

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Special Guest Editors

Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

Isabel Baca

Volume 1 Issue 1 June 2020

Latinx Writing and

Rhetoric Studies

Volume 1 Issue 1 June 2020

Senior Editor: Iris D. Ruiz

Special Guest Editors: Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

Isabel Baca

Production Editor: Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

Copy Editors: Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

Isabel Baca

Editorial Board: Sara P. Alvarez, Queens College, CUNY

Damián P. Baca, University of Arizona

Isabel Baca, University of Texas at El Paso

Christina Cedillo, University of Houston – Clear Lake

Candace de León-Zepeda, Our Lady of the Lake University

Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi

Cruz Medina, Santa Clara University

Jaime Armin Mejía, Texas State University

Iris D. Ruiz, University of California, Merced

Raúl Sánchez, University of Florida

Helen Sandoval, University of California, Merced

Jasmine Villa, East Stroudsburg University

Journal of the NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus

ISSN 2687-7198

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly

journal published and supported by the NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are

published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs). Some material is used with permission.

Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and


Publication website – https://latinxwritingandrhetoricstudies.com

Permissions: All materials contained in this publication are property of LWRS

Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and contributors. No parts of this

publication may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher

and/or contributors.

Journal Cover: The crosses for the victims flowed with flowers that visitors watered

consistently until the memorial was moved to Ponder Park. Photo taken by Antonio

Villaseñor-Baca. Villaseñor-Baca (he/they) is a Xicanx bilingual multimedia journalist,

photographer, and poet/writer. Born in the Sun City of El Paso, TX and on the border

with Ciudad Juárez, he spends all his time listening to records and going to concerts.

He has 16 tattoos, his favorite of which are of Chilean musician Mon Laferte and one

of an axolotl- his favorite animal. He is currently pursuing his MFA in creative writing

at the University of Texas at El Paso where is also a professor in the FYC program at

UTEP. He has his own music magazine titled Con Safos, is the online editor for Minero

Magazine, writes for YR Media, and has bylines in El Paso Inc. and Borderzine.com.

Accurately reporting on the border is a priority for him because of the constant

misnarratives about his hometowns. Other images captured by Villaseñor-Baca will

appear throughout this issue.

This issue also features photographs taken by Gaby Velasquez.

See article by Elvira Carrizal-Dukes in this issue for more information on Velasquez.

Special Guest Editor Bios

Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa is an Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M

University-Corpus Christi and co-editor of Open Words: Access and English Studies, a

refereed scholarly journal. His scholarly contributions focus on the intersections

between Chicana feminist theory and Writing Studies under the lenses of border

theory, gender, sexuality, and race. His most recent work is Bordered Writers: Latinx

Identities and Literacy Practices at Hispanic-Serving Institutions, a co-edited collection (with

Isabel Baca and Susan Wolff Murphy) of testimonios and scholarly articles that

examine innovated writing pedagogies and the experiences of Latinx student writers

at Hispanic-Serving Institutions nationwide. Other related published works include:

“Localizing the Body for Practitioners in Writing Studies” in El Mundo Zurdo 5 and

“The Coyolxauhqui Imperative in Developing Comunidad-Situated Writing Curricula

at Hispanic-Serving Institutions,” co-authored with Candance de Leon-Zepeda in El

Mundo Zurdo 6. He is the recipient of the 2020 Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

University’s Excellence in Research and Scholarly Activity Award.

Isabel Baca is Associate Professor of English, Director of the Community Writing

Partners Program, and Director of the Bilingual Professional Writing Certificate

Program at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is co-editor (with Yndalecio Isaac

Hinojosa and Susan Wolff Murphy) of Bordered Writers: Latinx Identities and Literacy

Practices at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. She edited also Service-Learning and Writing: Paving

the way for Literacy(ies) through Community Engagement (2012) and Borders (2011). She is a

2017 University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award recipient and

a 2018 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Initiatives at

Presidentially Designated Institutions Grant recipient. Her research interests include

service-learning in writing studies, bilingual professional writing, second-language

writers, and community engagement in higher education.

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is the professional journal for the college scholarteacher

interested in both national and international literacy events dealing with Latinx

Communities, Diaspora, and Identity and Cultural Practices. LWRS publishes articles

about literature, rhetoric-composition, critical theory, creative writing theory and

pedagogy, linguistics, literacy, reading theory, pedagogy, and professional issues related

to the teaching and creation of Latinx epistemologies. Issues may also include review

essays. Contributions may work across traditional field boundaries; authors represent

the full range of institutional types.

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

A signed Walmart uniform hangs on the Gateway West among the makeshift

memorial in El Paso, Texas outside of the Walmart.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | vi

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

CONTENTS Volume 1 Issue 1 June 2020

1 Editor’s Introduction: Honoring our Past, Living our Present, and

Fighting for our Future – La Lucha Sigue

Isabel Baca and Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

11 The Fourth Movement: Founder’s Letter for Latinx Writing and Rhetoric


Iris D. Ruiz

19 Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años perores

(Chronicle of My Worst Years)

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

49 Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

57 Pardon My Acento: Racioalphabet Ideologies and Rhetorical Recovery

through Alternative Writing Systems

Kelly Medina-López

81 Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican Americans or


Jaime Armin Mejía

97 Inventing PLEA: A Social History of a College-Writing Initiative at a

Chilean University

Ana M. Cortés Lagos

121 Cont. Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

127 Poets in the Classroom: What We Do When We Teach Writing

Laurie Ann Guerrero, with

Sabrina San Miguel and Cecilia Amanda Macias

135 Always Been “Inside”

J. Paul Padilla

161 Rhetorical Herencia: Writing Toward a Theory of Rhetorical Recovery and


Cristina D. Ramírez

179 Cont. Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

185 Review of Bordered Writers: Latinx Identities and Literacy Practices at Hispanic-

Serving Institutions

Juan C. Guerra

191 Review of Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families Translanguaging

Homework Literacies

Marlene Galván

196 Call for Submissions

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

People gather outside the Walmart where the mass shooting took place

and begin to place items to memorialize the victims.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | ix

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Woman brings a carnation for the memorial developing outside of the Walmart.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | x

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 1–9

Editor’s Introduction: Honoring our Past, Living our Present,

and Fighting for our Future – La Lucha Sigue

Isabel Baca

University of Texas at El Paso, on land of the Tigua and Mescalero people. 1

Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, on land of the Karankawan people. 2

De nuestra gente, con nuestra gente y para la gente.

We proudly introduce Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies (LWRS), a refereed

academic journal sponsored by the NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Founded by then

caucus co-chair Iris D. Ruiz, LWRS will play an integral part for enacting the vision

and mission of the NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. LWRS is a venue to “exchange

ideas,” a repository of information to “serve as a resource for members, the

educational community and the general public,” and a network of writers to “support

activities that promote the learning and advancement of students and teachers of

color” (Latinx caucus, p. 1). Our platform is meant for the scholar-teacher (and we

might add scholar-activist) whose interests include writing or rhetoric studies that

center on Latinx communities, diaspora, identity, and cultural practices. As editors of

LWRS, our primary goal will be to provide readers with a robust multimodal and

dynamic publication that features articles about literature, rhetoric-composition,

critical theory, creative writing theory, reading theory, border theory, applied

linguistics, literacy, and professional issues related to the teaching and creation of

Latinx epistemologies. To achieve this goal, we aim to publish authors and scholars

that represent the full range of institutional types through their intellectual and

community labor and whose contributions to LWRS will transcend the traditional

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Isabel Baca and Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

boundaries of our disciplines to offer not only new knowledge but also shape existing


Indeed, it has been an honor to serve as the first guest editors for this inaugural

issue, an issue we themed on recovery and transformation. Recovery as a way to make

visible what may have been lost, and transformation to lead us into what may lie ahead

for us all. From the moment we were appointed as editors, we strived to bring forth

an issue that would embody the beauty of the diverse cultures and languages that make

up Latinx peoples. Yes, we would like to place an emphasis on the plurality and diversity

that is Latinx. At the same time, we also wanted to demonstrate the challenges that

we, as Latinx, continue to face and the individual and collaborative efforts de nuestra

lucha in and outside academia as well as in our respective fields of study. We made a

commitment to one another to establish LWRS as an instrument that could carve out

a new discursive space, where the places made within that space are done so by nuestra

gente, con nuestra gente y para la gente. We envisioned LWRS to serve as national and

international voices that could cut across disciplinary and geopolitical borders. For this

issue, we felt that the contributions selected will add, through forms of recovery and

transformation, to our Latinx history, experience, and identity; for the range and depth

of each piece speaks to the heart, spirit, and intellectual vigor of our gente and of our

work as editors.

Our Work as Editors

There’s work to be done for our profession, for people of color in our profession and in our

classrooms, work to be done for Latinos.

– Victor Villanueva, Jr.

In 2018, we began our work to produce the first issue of LWRS, but we must

acknowledge that this work is built upon the work of others in our community. LWRS

extends a legacy that first began with the Capirotada newsletter, founded and first edited

by Alfredo Celedon Lujan for NCTE’s Latino Caucus. Published in the summer of

1994, this first newsletter, made as a one-page trifold, featured a column by then caucus

co-chair Victor Villanueva Jr. 3 In his column, Villanueva calls us to action: “[t]here’s

work to be done…”. Cecilia Rodriquez Milanes, who was later charged with producing

and editing the newsletter, told us that Capirotada was “important work,” important

because it “gave folks who couldn’t make it to the conferences a sense of ‘who we

were,’” an expression she directly tied back to Lujan’s “¿Quién somos?” question that

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 2

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

he first posed to readers in that first newsletter. Now, almost twenty-five years later,

as editors we recognized that there is still much more “work to be done” as Villanueva

put it back then, and that that work can begin by designating LWRS as a discursive

space where we as Latinx can express and define quién somos on our own terms. So,

we set out to form LWRS in ways that can support our profession, our people of

color, and our gente.

To begin, we were charged by Senior Editor Iris D. Ruiz to develop and create

LWRS for our rhetoric and composition / writing studies profession, and to do so

with the vision and mission of the NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus in mind. This meant

that we needed to ensure LWRS was a refereed academic publication, first and

foremost. We needed a publication that would serve not only as a venue to exchange

ideas but also as a resource for learning and as a vehicle that could provide

opportunities for our Latinx caucus members to advance, both in their profession or

comunidades. So, with that in mind, we set out to produce the first issue and sent out

a call for submissions to various listservs, including our own Latinx caucus listserv, on

January 24, 2019. 4 In our call for submissions, we asked contributors to consider the

following questions:

1. What do transformative modes of leadership look like for Latinx, our gente?

2. What are possible transformative pedagogies that can be effective when

teaching Latinx populations?

3. What transformative modes of engagement best serve or embrace

interconnectivity for identity formation, theorizing, or social change?

4. In terms of recovery, how can activism play a role for Latinx communities?

5. What cultural or pedagogical practices aid rhetorical recovery?

6. How can Latinx develop rhetorical concepts or approaches in and out of the

classroom to account for rhetors who are excluded from traditional rhetoric?

We received numerous submissions by our March 25, 2019 deadline, and we called

then upon the LWRS Editorial Board to blindly review submissions. 5 For further

assistance and where appropriate expertise was necessary, we sent other submissions

to the Editorial Board of Open Words: Access and English Studies, a refereed publication

co-edited also by Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa (with Sue Hum and Kristina Gutierrez).

When it came to the peer review process, we made it our priority to break away from

what seems to be the norm in publication processes, oppressive methodologies in

the rituals and editorial practices found throughout the profession. To set us apart,

we set a priority to offer LWRS contributors something we felt publication processes

within the field lacked, mentorship.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 3

Isabel Baca and Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

As editors, we set into place editorial practices for mentoring writers,

especially young scholars – young Latinx scholars emerging in the field. First, we

voiced our goal to mentor writers in our invitation to peer-reviewers: “Part of our

mission as co-editors at LWRS is to provide mentorship, especially if a manuscript

has the potential to make a significant contribution to the field, so we encourage not

only constructive but also ‘productive’ feedback in ways that can strengthen

manuscripts.” 5 In the review process, we called for productive feedback from our

reviewers. Often, as is the case with blind reviews, criticism and/or constructive

comments over the work may leave authors with little to no clear path on how best

to strengthen their work. To solicit productive feedback from reviewers is to ask

reviewers to go above and beyond and provide ways for how best authors can

improve their manuscripts. Second, we performed additional editorial reviews after

authors submitted revised manuscripts that underwent a revise and resubmit process.

That means that any contribution to LWRS will go through at least four reviews: two

blind reviews and two editor reviews. During our editorial reviews, we reached out to

several authors to discuss the status of the manuscript, options for making the work

more accessible to readers, thoughts on how best to further strengthen areas, and/or

the significance of their contribution to LWRS, especially for our Latinx audience.

Thus, in most cases, our editorial review called for an additional set of revisions.

Some minor. Some major. But all revisions performed were done so as part of our

process to work with our contributors closely. Together, we engaged in mentored


We learned early on that mentoring writers also required providing writers

with resources, especially if those resources were to play an instrumental role to

further develop the quality of submissions. So, as editors, we extended our editorial

practices to include, at times, supportive measures, such as intellectual labor in

locating resources and expenditures at our own expense. These measures were, in a

small way, our opportunity to support scholars, especially scholars of color in our

profession. When institutional and financial support is limited, as one of our

contributors put it, that limitation can be “another barrier of research” for scholars

of color. To aid contributors, when necessary, we provided much needed resources

at the direction of our reviewers’ comments or our editorial feedback. We sent

various books to some of our contributors (when access or resources to that material

was limited) directly from Amazon.com or other web ordering services. In addition

to books, we sent book chapters or articles in PDF to some of our contributors too.

Our supportive measures took place not only to provide access to such material but

also to strengthen our contributors’ arguments or to connect their work further with

current scholarship in the field.

Lastly, as previously mentioned, LWRS carves out a new discursive space in

our profession, but to support that space, we need to align that space with structures

that promote success and retention for scholars of color in our profession, especially

in terms of promotion and tenure. We met several times with founder Iris D. Ruiz to

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 4

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

discuss how (in moving forward) this journal could offer our gente

acknowledgement, accomplishment, and advancement. Our discussions led us to

consider several ways on how to meet these goals.

First, we placed land acknowledgements into the design of our publication.

All institutional affiliations associated with contributors are designated a land

acknowledgement. The acknowledgements serve to remind readers of our ongoing

responsibilities to the Indigenous peoples of these lands. As editors, we recognize

the criticisms and the performativity engendered by this practice, but in the end, such

acknowledgements as our practice provide readers the opportunity to be unsettled or

disrupted to know that la lucha sigue.

Second, we committed to develop LWRS into a top tier journal in the field.

We applied for an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) designation with the

Library of Congress. Our designation helps to acknowledge LWRS as an official

academic publication on record. The ISSN distinguishes this publication from other

publications and records our issues with the Library of Congress. In addition to our

official status, we hope that our laborious review process and our editorial practices

(all aimed at providing support and mentorship in the publication process) pave the

path forward to establish LWRS as the sought-out venue to publish. We want

practitioners and scholars in our field to recognize LWRS publications as noteworthy

contributions to the field and/or vigorous accomplishments from our contributors.

Third, we decided to organize the editorial management structure in such a

way to provide editorial mentorship and extend the professionalization merits de

nuestra gente. Much like the work that began with Capirotada, our work at LWRS is a

community effort, and such work is done so in the spirit of helping to advance our

communities. At LWRS, Senior Editors will administrate and oversee the journal and

provide a final review of copy for publication. Procedures for soliciting submissions,

assigning blind peer-reviews, conducting editorial reviews, and producing annual

issues shall fall to our appointed Guest Editors. On a two-year appointment, our

Guest Editors are charged with the responsibility, production, and release of two

consecutive issues. We will stagger their appointment schedule so that there is a oneyear

overlap between editors. The benefit for this overlap is twofold: (1) to maintain

a level of congruency in our editorial practices and in our issues and (2) to establish a

rotation where the incumbent guest editor mentors the newly appointed guest editor

throughout the publication processes. Whereas Senior Editors are accredited with

service to the profession in academia, appointed Guest editors are accredited with

the publication of an edited journal issue. Our management structure offers Guest

Editors not only mentorship in editorial work for LWRS but also activity in scholarly

work for promotion and tenure. In some small way, this journal and its editors and

contributors encompass altogether the work to be done for Latinx.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 5

Isabel Baca and Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

Our Contributors’ Work in this Issue

We are excited to present the 2020 inaugural issue of Latinx Writing and Rhetoric

Studies (LWRS), and we are grateful for the scholars, practitioners, students, poets and

artists who contributed scholarship or creative work that centered on recovery and

transformation themes. A letter from Iris D. Ruiz, founder of the LWRS journal and

long-time member and former co-chair of the NCTE/CCC Latinx Caucus, opens our

issue. In her letter, Ruiz reminds us of the importance of self-representing and

advocating for publication venues within the field of Rhetoric and Composition. With

the publication of this issue, we are closer to this goal, closer to a transformative


Throughout the pages in this issue, you will find images by photographers

Antonio Villaseῆor-Baca and Gaby Velasquez. These images depict the memorial

honoring the victims (listed below) from the Walmart mass shooting in El Paso, Texas

on August 3, 2019.

Jordan Anchondo

Andre Anchondo

Arturo Benavides

Jorge Calvillo García

Leo Campos

Maribel Hernandez

Adolfo Cerros Hernández

Sara Esther Regalado

Angelina Englisbee

Raul Flores

Maria Flores

Guillermo “Memo” Garcia

Alexander Gerhard Hoffmann

David Johnson

Luis Juarez

Maria Eugenia Legarreta

Ivan Filiberto Manzano

Gloria Irma Márquez

Elsa Mendoza

Margie Reckard

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 6

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Javier Amir Rodriquez

Teresa Sanchez

Juan de Dios Velázquez

The Walmart shooting in El Paso urged us to address this tragedy. We witnessed how

it brought our gente together; how it transformed a border community; and how

together people worked toward recovery, an ongoing process and journey. In addition

to the images, the article “Interview with El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez”

provides readers excerpts (both in texts and video form) from an interview with Gabe

Vasquez. Vasquez, the artist responsible for creating the El Paso Strong mural, was

interviewed by Elvira Carrizal-Dukes, who recounts her lived experience of that day

as she discusses and presents her interview with the artist. We hope the images and

excerpts allow you, as reader, to pause and reflect on recovery and transformation as

you read longer articles found in this issue.

For this issue, our lead article, “Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s

Cronica de mis aῆos peores (Chronicle of My Worst Years),” is by Aydé Enríquez-Loya. By

examining translations, including her own, Enríquez-Loya recovers Villanueva’s work

and demonstrates how this work becomes a story suppressed by translation informed

from various influences, such as migrant worker history or her own background as a

Texas Chicana. What her examination shows is that translations are a reinterpretation

of a text filtered through a translator’s ideological, rhetorical, and cultural


Next, we present work by Kelly Medina-López, who exposes the Western

colonial alphabet as a sustained and systematic technology of colonial oppression in

“Pardon My Acento: Racioalphabetic Ideologies and Rhetorical Recovery through

Alternative Writing Systems.” By using testimonio to support her argument, Medina-

López explores processes of naming and disnaming and proposes using alternative

writing systems to provide a method for reclaiming agency and autonomy. She calls

on readers to consider alternative writing systems as a tool for marking difference. To

underscore her argument, she utilizes emoticons throughout the text to engage and

exemplify an alternative writing system.

Found also in this issue is Jaime Armin Mejía, who offers his essay titled

“Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican Americans or Chicanxs.” In

this essay, Mejía addresses the field of Rhetoric and Composition by exploring how

teaching a course on Mexican food may allow us to address many of the rhetorical

dimensions we use in our writing classes. In his essay, Mejía simultaneously highlights

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 7

Isabel Baca and Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa

the deeply rooted issues of assimilation and our identities as middle-class Mexican

Americans or Chicanxs.

Addressing a college-writing initiative, doctoral student Ana M. Cortés Lagos

describes the creation and development of a first writing program in a Chilean

university in her article, “Inventing PLEA. A Social History of a College-Writing

Initiative at a Chilean University.” Her work is of significance because she stresses the

importance and necessity of historicizing projects like this in order for local traditions

to develop disciplinary awareness and enter a dialogue with other writing studies

traditions on a global scale.

“Poets in the Classroom: What We Do When We Teach Writing” features

Laurie Ann Guerrero, with students Sabrina San Miguel and Cecilia Amanda Macias.

Guerrero held consecutive positions as Poet Laureate of the city of San Antonio (2014-

2016) and the State of Texas (2016-2017). In the spirit of reaching out to the

community, Guerrero, the Writer-in-Residence at Texas A&M University-San

Antonio, introduces two up and coming student poets. Guerrero shares their work

with our readers because of “their persevering commitment to their education, to their

art, and to their brave and difficult emotional / physical / spiritual work.” We are

happy to showcase Guerrero and her students in this issue for our readers.

Switching gears, in the essay “Always Been ‘Inside,’” J. Paul Padilla offers

readers a form of alternative rhetoric by stringing together vignettes as a way to

meditate on rhetorical recovery and transformation. These vignettes offer readers an

opportunity to see how writers, like Padilla, can engage in critical analysis through

personal meditation. His work explores the dynamics of doxa and kairos and delinks

readers from the genre of traditional scholarly writing. His meditations relate to

cultural definitions of, and self-definitions for, Latinx communities.

In our final article, “Rhetorical Herencia: Writing toward a Theory of Rhetorical

Recovery and Transformation,” Cristina D. Ramírez explores how Latinx scholars can

develop rhetorical concepts and/or approaches in and out of the classroom to account

for rhetors who are excluded from traditional rhetoric. Ramírez does this by

introducing and defining the concept of rhetorical herencia (heritage) while focusing on

her grandmother’s recovery work.

We conclude our issue with two book reviews. Juan C. Guerra examines the

scholarly collection Bordered Writers: Latinx Identities and Literacy Practices at Hispanic-

Serving Institutions edited by Isabel Baca, Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa, and Susan Wolf-

Murphy. Marlene Galván assesses Steven Alvarez’s Brokeing Tareas: Mexican Immigrant

Families Translanguaging Homework Literacies.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 8

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

We are breaking ground with LWRS, the first journal in the field with an all

Latinx editorial board and with a focus on solely Latinx writing and rhetoric. We are

grateful for the opportunity to guest edit this inaugural issue. This issue and all

subsequent issues can be found online at https://latinxwritingandrhetoricstudies.com,

a website initiated by Christian Rivera. It is with hope that we look onto the future. It

is with courage and determination that we continue our work. Our lucha is far from

over. Let LWRS be a space of expression, opportunity, and dialogue.

Con respeto a todos y gratitud,

Isabel y Isaac


1. Land acknowledgement – Shepherd, J. P. (2019, March). "Indigenous El PASO":

How the Humanities help us SEE El Paso as a native place. Retrieved March 21,

2020, from https://humanitiescollaborative.utep.edu/project-blog/indigenousel-paso-how-the-humanities-help-us-see-el-paso-as-a-native-place

2. Land acknowledgement – Lipscomb, C. A. (2016, May). “Karankawa Indians.”

Retrieved June 9, 2020, from


3. The first newsletter (and a few others) can be found under the archive section on

the LWRS website.

4. The call for submission for our inaugural issue can be found in the archive on

the LWRS website.

5. The invitation for review can be found in the archive on the LWRS website.


Latinx caucus. (n.d.). Retrieved June 7, 2020, from


Villanueva, V., Jr. (1994). Abrazos. Capirotada: NCTE’s Latino Caucus Newsletter, 1,


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 9

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

A flag made up of both the Mexican and the US flags

displayed at the memorial at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 10

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 11–16

The Fourth Movement: Founder’s Letter for Latinx Writing and

Rhetoric Studies

Iris D. Ruiz

University of California Merced, on land of the Yokuts and Miwuk native

people. 1

Writing this introductory letter as a founding member of this journal gives me

wondrous and chontzin feelings of gratification. This first issue of Latinx Writing and

Rhetoric Studies (LWRS) has special significance in that the inaugural issue is guest edited

by Drs. Isabel Baca and Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa, fellow NCTE/CCCC Latinx

Caucus members.

From the perspective of a former member of twenty years and a co-chair of

the NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus (2015-18), I must say that getting to this point has

proven to have been a journey of camaraderie, self-reflection, activism, and

transformation. Often, Caucus members would discuss in listserv discussions and at

CCCC meetings the politics of citation. We noticed that while we were playing fairly;

we were also playing on an unequal playing field, and through past leaders, like Felipe

de Ortega y Gasca, we understood that these citation politics had a history that was at

least fifty years old. I won’t go into too much detail about this history, but I will say

that the publication of the first issue of LWRS is timely in that it accompanies a

recently published historical book about and by the Caucus: Viva Nuestra Caucus:

Rewriting the Forgotten Pages of our Caucus (2019), now available through Parlor Press with

the help of Dr. Stephen Parks, a longtime advocate for the Latinx Caucus. This

historical record documents how we engaged deeply to recover these matters, and in

doing so, we pursued the documentation of our archival presence in the field since at

least 1968. I encourage our readers to check out that history. This issue also includes

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Iris D. Ruiz

some very important history in the introduction that was shared with us by Cecelia

Milanes, former co-chair of the CCCC Latinx Caucus and lead editor of “Capirotada.”

Milanes provides our audience a glimpse of what the Caucus has been up to for the

past few decades as we have celebrated each other’s accomplishments even while

we’ve been underrepresented.

Still, today, it is very important for the Caucus to continue to self-represent

and advocate for publication venues within the field of Rhet/Comp. Notable about

this journal is that it is the first one in the field to possess an all Latinx editorial board

and to concentrate solely on Latinx issues related to literacy, writing studies, rhetoric,

and pedagogy through various means of aesthetic and creative expression. We are in

the midst of a political climate, for example, that has painted a very negative picture

of Latinx identities within the United States while the Latinx population is growing as

the largest minoritized ethnic group in the United States. This journal is meant to be

seen as providing a counter-vision to these negative cultural images in service to

creating a better-informed “cultural imaginary.” It is meant to serve as a space where

we, as engaged and informed citizens, can speak back with scholarly inquiry and

creative expression to the current political backlash against Latinxs and to matters that

are important to Latinxs.

There are many examples that the editorial group and contributors could cite

to demonstrate this necessity to highlight and showcase our work and the progress

that is yet to come with the help of an accomplished Latinx scholars editorial board.

Since 2008, the battle for Mexican American Studies and HB 2281, has shown

conservative school board officials possess an unfounded fear toward consciousness

raising curricula and pedagogy. Barrio Pedagogy, for example, laid the critical

foundation for Mexican American Studies in Tucson, Arizona but was rejected by John

Huppenthal and Tom Horne. Our history with struggle for cultural knowledge goes

back much further than 2008, however. For example, Latinx civil rights student

organizations, such as MEChA and even our Caucus, have been partially predicated

upon a reclamation of MesoAmerican culture and history. Like other activist groups,

such as The Black Panther Party seeking to claim a nationalist identity, MEChA

demanded a recognition of the southwestern United States as their ancestral

homeland, “Aztlán,” 2 since 1969, and an end to the inferior and demeaning

perceptions commonly held about them by xenophobic, racist white people.

Today, many “identity” based political groups, such as MEChA and our Latinx

Caucus, are thought of by some as being unnecessary “safe spaces” that claim

“victimhood” status and who do not want to play a part in American meritocratic

culture and/or the “pull-yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality. Stephen

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 12

The Fourth Movement

Miller, current Senior Advisor for Policy for the Trump Administration, for example,

advises the president on important matters related to immigration policy, the Dream

Act, DACA, and Latinx, Aztlan-seeking and dwelling populations. There is

documentation that illustrates his disdain for student activist groups, such as MEChA,

UNIDOS, the Black Student Unions, and other identity-based groups, and for those

who identified as Mexican, Mexican-American, and/or Chicana/o/x (Gumble, 2018).

However, what people like Miller need to accept and become open to is that Latinx

gente have a culture that departs from settler-colonial cultural understandings, and

white people also have a culture that needs to be reclaimed (Dutch, Irish, Welsh,

Danish, and English, among many others). The historical and cultural dismissal is still

evident today in that settler-colonial schools have failed to account for MesoAmerican

cultural accomplishments, memories, epistemologies, ways of knowing, writing,

reading, healing, and other cultural attributes in a much-needed Ethnic Studies

curriculum. Without highlighting or at least teaching these attributes, forms, or

experiences, there continues to be a clear disregard for those who have suffered from

colonial trauma and a resistance to allowing colonized populations to re-discover their

history, humanity, and existence within the North American, South American, and

Central American imaginary, or as José Martí would call it, “Nuestra América.” It

seems to be faulty reasoning to assume that Latinx’ attempts at cultural reclamation

and sustainability is in inherent dialogue with and opposition to the “American”

culture and that it is anti-American propaganda.

Building from the Naui Ollin (four movement) Mexica philosophy as a

foundation for Barrio Pedagogy, I’d like to briefly consider how one learns resilience

while experiencing political angst through activism and community. When I began my

service as co-chair, I immediately began the process of deep self-reflection about my

role, about the Caucus membership, about the civil rights struggle, about OUR place

within the academy, and about my being a colonized Latina, now representative of

many other gente with colonial pasts. I began to reflect on what all of this meant to

me and about how intimidation and crass behavior would be obstacles to overcome.

The precious knowledge I gained from these self-reflections manifested into a vision

for the Caucus: greater representation, greater visibility, and a visibly greater group

identity both offline and online. We set out to increase our precious knowledge as a

collective, so on a path toward further knowledge attainment, we began to study what

had happened in the past, where we were headed, and how NCTE and CCCC

represented us and valued us. With that goal in mind, the Caucus went to Oregon in

2017 and held another spectacular workshop, “Latinxs Taking Action In and Out of

the Academy,” with local activists, poets, writers, peers, and artists, musicians who

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 13

Iris D. Ruiz

performed culturally conscious rhetorics. We wanted to celebrate and showcase the

Latinx voice and presence in Portland, Oregon.

The lesson gained in Portland was something I documented and wrote about

in Latino Rebels (2017). In a nutshell, there were clear examples, which I videotaped, of

a continued distance between the Latinx Caucus workshop and the broader CCCC

conference proceedings. “Latinxs Taking Action In and Out of the Academy”

showcased local activists, poets, writers, peers, and even musicians performing

culturally conscious rhetorics to showcase the Latinx voice and presence in Portland,

Oregon. I think as a more seasoned Caucus leader, I was compelled to start

decolonizing this divide--the way I saw how it affected members, myself, and those

not present. In short, I tried to call attention to this divide in a conference review that

I wrote and published “rogue” through Latino Rebels.

I began to seriously work with decolonial theory and practice in 2015, roughly

the same year that I was voted in as the Latinx Caucus co-chair along with Raúl

Sánchez. I became interested in this work when I wanted to problematize what it

meant to occupy the problematic trope of the “student of color.” Doing so was the

early stage for creating our edited collection Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition: New

Latinx Keywords for Theory and Pedagogy (2016), a collection of “decolonized keywords”

to mentor emerging scholars and provide a venue to publish and expose more of our

Latinx “gente.” We were invited to present at the Conference on Community Writing

in the fall of 2017, where Steven Alvarez, Candace de Leon-Zepeda, and Jose Cortez

spoke about the empowering process of being able to write for this collection from a

decolonial lens. In addition, we saw the Caucus continue to grow. We gained and were

sharing precious knowledge, the second movement.

In 1968, the Caucus was only a handful of people struggling with many of the

same issues we experience today. Now, we have over 100 members, and we are

experiencing a Latinx literary and scholarly renaissance that I will refer to as the third

movement of the Nahui Ollin: Huitzilopochtli. Within the past decade, it is apparent

that we’ve discovered our “will to act” in addition to our previous moments of deep

self-reflection (Tezcatlipoca), gaining precious knowledge (Quetzalcoatl). I predict that

as with the fourth movement of the Nahui Ollin, our Caucus is now moving into the

fourth state of transformation (Xipe Totec) (Arce, 2016).

More recently our activism has been visible through our work on anti-racism

and against white supremacy. In 2018, we voted to boycott CCCC 2018 in Kansas

City, Missouri. We initiated what became the Joint Caucus Statement on the NAACP

Travel Advisory, and we contributed to the Joint Caucus Response as well. Without

going into too much detail with these documents, because they speak for themselves,

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 14

The Fourth Movement

we witnessed our initial will to act and to speak about the CCCC organization’s

responses to our concerns with the creation of the Social Justice Action Committee

(SJAC) and the SJAC all-conference event that we feel emulates our regular

Wednesday workshops where we invite local activists, writers, poets, musicians, and

scholars. We also recently added our joint bibliography to CompPile. LWRS is the

continuance of our transformative potential, our Xipe Totec, through which we will

continue to seek transformative change through collective action, self-representation,

and actualization, and we welcome everyone aboard!


1. Land acknowledgement – Diversity statement: University of California, Merced.

(2020). Retrieved February 26, 2020, from


2. “Aztlán,” is the mythical homeland of all MesoAmerican people who reside on

both sides of the United States and Mexican border but were colonized by the

Spanish in the 1500’s and by the English and other European settlers in 1848.

These people claim indigenous roots to this geographical territory that was once

the location of the fierce and intelligent Mexica, Aztec, Mayan, Mixtec, Toltec

and other tribes who intermixed and were said to live harmoniously in the region

before colonization. While “Aztlán” is largely regarded as a mythical homeland,

its location is debated and is thought to be most of the southwestern United



Arce, S. M. (2016). Xicana/o indigenous epistemologies: Toward a decolonizing and

liberatory education for Xicana/o youth. In D. M. Sandoval, A. J. Ratcliff,

T. L. Buenavista, & J. R. Marín (Eds.), White Washing American Education: The

NewCulture Wars in Ethnic Studies (pp. 11–42). Praeger ABCCLIO.

García, R., Ruiz, I. D., & Hernández, A. (Eds.). (2019). Viva nuestro caucus: Rewriting

the forgotten pages of our caucus. Parlor Press.

Gumbel, R. (2017, February 22). Stephen Miller was no hero fighting left-wing

oppression at Santa Monica High School. LA Times.

Ruiz D. (2017, March 29). A Decolonial CONFERENCE Review: Meditations on

inclusivity and 4 c's '17 in Portland, Oregon. Retrieved February 29, 2020,

from https://www.latinorebels.com/2017/03/29/a-decolonial-conferencereview-meditations-on-inclusivity-and-4-cs-17-in-portland-oregon/

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 15

Iris D. Ruiz

Ruiz, I. D., & Sánchez, R. (2016). Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition Studies: New

Latinx Keywords for Theory and Pedagogy. Palgrave Macmillan.

About the Author

Iris D. Ruiz earned her Ph.D. from the University of California San Diego and is a

Lecturer at the University of California Merced. Noteworthy publications in rhetoric

and composition include Reclaiming Composition for Chicanos/as and Other Ethnic Minorities:

A Critical History and Pedagogy (2016), Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition: New Latinx

Keywords for Theory and Practice (2016), and Viva Nuestro Caucus: Rewriting the Forgotten Pages

of our Caucus (2020).

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 16

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Mourners at the memorial.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 17

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Memorial for David Johnson

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 18

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 19–47

Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Crónica de mis años

peores (Chronicle of My Worst Years)

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

California State University Chico, on land of the Mechoopda people. 1

In the rhetorics of translation, in the system of discourse we use to translate meaning,

there is a gap between what is written in the original text and what is understood

through the act of translation. 2 A space of disruption is created in the attempt to reinscribe

what a text says and what a translator claims it says. Edgar Andrés Moros

(2009) argues that the binary distinctions between the theoretical and practical

understandings of translations and translation studies are problematic. He states that

the “distinctions are seen as arbitrary and culturally determined” and “generally used

to maintain power differentials,” and he goes on to explain that these oppositions are

unnatural human constructs (Moros, 2009, p. 8). Moros maintains that despite the

belief that the practice of translation is free from theoretical or ideological choices, the

fact remains that “even if translators do not write about these choices as theory, there

is an implicit theory that they have created and followed, and which may be inferred

at a later time” (2009, p. 11). Furthermore, Jose M. Davila-Montes (2017) argues,

“Translations advertise the existence of a text by, paradoxically, causing it to

‘disappear’ in its original form and then by taking over its identity; a translation is the

very illusion of reading” the original text (p. 1). In addition, translators are typically

given the creative freedom to translate while adhering to the overall message of a text,

but before translators can translate, they must interpret the text from and for their

own understanding. And so, their translation is a reinterpretation of a text filtered

through their own ideological, theoretical, rhetorical, and cultural understandings.

Their translation is a re-inscription of a story upon the original text.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

Tino Villanueva is a prolific Chicano poet, relying on memory to serve as his

muse to write about oppressive educational systems, the erasure and denial of Mexican

American history, learning to defend himself in a foreign language, and interrogating

and coming to terms with Indigenous heritage. In Crónica de mis años peores (Chronicle of

My Worst Years), Villanueva tells the story of his childhood growing up in Texas as a

disillusioned self-recognition of himself as an encumbering remnant of conquest and

domination to America. 3 In the process of telling this story, however, Villanueva loudly

denounces the continued perpetuation of a colonial history deeply embedded within

every fiber of the American education system. Still, while this story is a story that he

tells, this story is not the story that is translated. Villanueva utilizes Spanish almost

exclusively within his Crónica de mis años peores publication. In doing so, he displaces

readers whose first language is not Spanish and who must resort to English translations

of his work. The English translation provided by James Hoggard creates a slightly

different story that adheres to the binary Moros refers to in that Hoggard asserts the

colonial gaze, seeks to control the text, and is dismissive of the decolonial strategies

exhibited in the work. Villanueva’s rhetorical choices of Spanish for this collection is

reminiscent of Gloria Anzaldúa’s resistance to write only in English or to avoid too

much Spanish. Anzaldúa (2007) proclaims that “[her] tongue will be illegitimate” if she

had to accommodate English speakers by not speaking in Spanglish, and that she’s

constantly forced to choose between English or Spanish and or to translate to English

(p. 81). Like Anzaldúa, Villanueva’s use of Spanish throughout the text almost

exclusively marks his text as an act of defiance, and when he refuses to translate himself

by bringing someone else to do it, this substitution is, in and of itself, an act of


Before I go any further, let me pause and first position myself in order to

contextualize the source of my resistance based on my embodied experience. My

positionality is based on the experiential recognition that translations are complicated

by cultural histories, time, and geographic location. Furthermore, as someone who

grew up on the border, I learned early on to read in-between the lines across bordered

spaces as a matter of survival, both literal and metaphorical. I was born in El Paso,

Texas, and I spent most of my childhood in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua Mexico. I did

not learn to speak English until I was 8 years old, and the dual languages are still a

source of tension, especially when my students question whether they should take an

English class from me, given my Spanish last name. Growing up translating for my

mother taught me that the practice of translation is complicated. Some things cannot

be translated. Words are not always enough. As a child, I found myself utilizing

memories, senses, and even dreams to try to capture the words I needed to convey

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 20

Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

meaning to my mom saying things such as, “Es como decía mi Abuelita, o huele como

cuando la tierra se hizo mala.” I’m not sure how successful I was in trying to convey

the right meaning to my mother, but I do know that this lived experience led me to

constantly question how Spanish and English is translated. 4 As a rhetorician now, it’s

led me to interrogate the intentionality and source of mis/translations and implications

of mis/translations on the original text and on their various audiences. Thus, I insist

that there is a gap or space created between translations that calls for scrutiny and

interrogation. This practice can inform and transform both texts in its ability to

unmask the process of translation, show the subtle shifts in meaning and their

implications, and ultimately hold translators accountable.

The interrogation of a translation is more complicated than simply finding the

equivalent or near equivalent word in a different language. I base this understanding

both from my lived experiences and from the established work in cultural rhetorics

and translation studies. Cultural rhetoric scholar, Angela Haas (2008) explains that

language is culture specific; memory and stories are culturally and locally based (p. 9-

10). Similarly, in translation studies, Laura Gonzales (2018) writes that “language is a

culturally situated, embodied, lived performance” and thus calls for “[c]ountering

traditional notions of translation that limit the analysis of language transformation to

written alphabetic texts alone” (p. 3). Thus, as a cultural rhetorician my approach to

reading these poems by Villanueva involves trying to understand the subtle shifts in

the language used to make meaning and to always remember that language and culture

are inextricably linked. My reading of Crónicas de mis años peores is heavily influenced not

only by his history but also by Chicano and migrant worker history in Texas and by

my own history growing up on the border. My readings of these poems are my way of

recovering a story that has been suppressed by the translation, specifically by

Hoggard’s translation.

My scholarship has always been rooted at the crossroad of rhetorics and

poetics, specifically by writers of color, building and or maintaining real and rhetorical

alliances, and creating a discursive community that seeks to aid in our mutual survival.

I was initiated into this path by Native American writers such as Leslie Marmon Silko

(1977), 5 Lee Maracle (2015), and Malea Powell (2012). 6 Powell taught me about the

power of stories and storytellers, but from all of them, I have come to understand that

story is theory. Reading stories as theory makes me cognizant that as I theorize, I am

also in the process of creating another story and aware of the ethics that must underline

my practice. In this article, I will first situate the presence and necessity of third space

as a rhetorical framework to recover Villanueva’s story. Second, I will propose

different rhetorical strategies that can be used as a decolonial praxis within Villanueva’s

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 21

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

text. Lastly, I will put theory into practice by building a story that showcases how the

rhetorics of translation can be used to tease out a decolonial story and in that expose

the dangers of mis/translations. This final section will present a close rhetorical and

translational analysis of a few selected poems from Crónica de mis años peores.

Third Space Politics of Rhetorics and Poetics

The understanding and denial of a relationship between a translator and a text creates

a situation where the actual text and the translation of it can be two separate and highly

divergent narratives. While they are both attempting to tell the same story, the

translation of a text carries an imposed meaning dependent on the translators’ personal

ideologies and theoretical understandings of the text. For example, as a graduate

student, I first encountered Tino Villanueva’s poem “Haciendo Apenas La

Recolección” in the anthology Literature and the Environment edited by Lorraine

Anderson, Scott P. Slovic, & John P. O’Grady (1999). Immediately, I was struck by

the editors’ loose translation of the title and synopsis provided in the introduction to

the poem. “Haciendo Apenas la Recolección” originally from Villanueva’s poetry

collection Shaking Off the Dark (1984/1998) is translated by the editors as “Barely

Remembering” (Anderson, Slovic, & O’Grady, 1999, p. 219) The editors’ translation

of the title suggests the grasping of threads of memory, a faint remembrance that needs

more work. The use of “barely” also carries connotations of scarcity and insufficiency,

suggesting that there are only scarce or insufficient memories. But that is not the case.

“Haciendo apenas la recolección” can also be translated as “Barely Making

Recollection” or “Just Now Making Recollection.” 7

The key to understanding the real significance of this title and the poem is by

recognizing the theoretical and cultural discourses Villanueva’s narrative has created.

Alfonso Rodriguez (1998) suggests, “As a former migrant worker, [Villanueva] has

personally experienced the struggle, and he has developed a way to deal with his

attitudes and frustrations through the creative process in the form of poetry of social

commitment” (p. 84). Furthermore, in “Haciendo apenas la recolección,” Villanueva

retraces the routes of his childhood and reality as a migrant worker in Central Texas.

The journey he undertakes in the poem is the recovery of his story—one that provides

a “sense of peace and liberation” through the process of retelling his story (Rodriguez,

1998, p. 85). As such, in either of my suggested translations, the speaker is not grasping

at faint memories but is instead just now initiating the process of recalling these

events. Additionally, there is a significant difference between Recolección and

Recordar, which is the literal translation of “to remember.” Recolección, to recollect,

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 22

Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

has a more physical and active presence. The act of physically bringing things together

and, even more pointedly, bringing things together that have been together and somehow

belong together.

So, despite the editor’s translation of the title and by association the poem

itself, Villanueva’s memory is not failing. He is just getting started. The distinct

difference between the text and the imposed reading creates a rhetorical space, an

intermediate space, that exists between the original text and the imposed text. One in

which we must ask, how much of the language we use cannot be translated with words

alone but requires an embodied and lived understanding of the text beyond language?

And what happens in the space created between the text and its mistranslation? Whose

story are we really hearing in a translation? And, how can we tell the difference?

Within the space, the space created between the original and translation of a

text, the audience can interrogate the imposition of a translation, the colonial gaze of

a text, and denounce it. Allow the text to speak for itself. But doing so calls for an

alternative discourse and rhetorical framework. As Haas (2008) & Gonzales (2018)

explain, in order to begin the interrogation process, we must consider Villanueva’s

cultural underpinnings and position the text in the borderlands. In Borderlands/La

Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldúa (1987/2007) describes the borderlands as

rupturing spaces where time, history, and peoples collide. To live in the borderlands is

carrying the weight of history on your back, to carry the “hispana, india, negra, española,[y]

gabacha” on your back (Anzaldúa, 1987/2007, p. 216). To live in the borderlands is to

recognize that in this space

you are the battleground

where enemies are kin to each other;

you are at home, a stranger,

the border disputes have been settled

the volley of shots have shattered the truce

you are wounded, lost in action

dead, fighting back; (Anzaldúa, 1987/2007, p. 216)

It is within this context that the rhetoric of the borderlands emerges. It is rhetorically

informed by history, bodies, tongues, scars, and open wounds. It is rhetoric

challenging presence over absence, erasure, and denial. As the child of migrant

workers, Villanueva expresses these precise feelings of being stranger at home and

carrying the weight of his people’s history on his back. In addition, Adela Licona

(2005) terms this as a “(b)orderlands’ rhetorics,” which she argues “move beyond

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 23

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

binary borders to a named third space of ambiguity and even contradiction” (p. 105).

Strategically, Licona places parentheses around the “b” in borderlands in order “to

materialize a discursive border” and to “interrupt any fixed reading of the notion of

(b)orderlands” (p. 105). The materialization of this discursive space is necessary for

stories like Villanueva, both to materialize and counter the narratives that have been

written about marginalized communities, in this case migrant workers. Villanueva’s

story is a borderland story where the weight of history and the oppressive education

system seek to consume him. In a state of ambiguity, he is led to feel like a walking

contradiction. Ni de aquí, ni de allá. But as he negotiates history and the imposition of

history upon his body and memory, Villanueva shows that borderland stories challenge

us to consider how these spaces are and should be about decolonial work. However,

Hoggard’s imposed translation undermines its capacity, ignores the decolonial work,

and perpetuates a colonial imposition and erasure upon brown bodies.

Through Hoggard’s translation, Villanueva’s story is trapped and bound by

colonial practices. Emma Pérez (1999) in The Decolonial Imaginary discusses this third

space as the “practice that implements the decolonial imaginary” (p. 33). It is within

this space of the decolonial imaginary that we as scholars can interrogate and renounce

the colonial presence within academia. Furthermore, Pérez argues that a decolonial

imaginary utilizes third space feminisms to contradict and challenge dominant

discourse (1999, p. xvi). She says, “the decolonial imaginary in Chicana/o history is a

theoretical tool for uncovering the hidden voices of Chicanas that have been relegated

to silences, to passivity, to that third space where agency is enacted through third space

feminism” (Pérez, 1999, p. xvi). The decolonial imaginary is a tactic by which to

challenge the colonial history embedded within the lands, bodies, and stories.

Additionally, Chela Sandoval (2000) shows that third-space feminism is “a theory and

method of oppositional consciousness” and that such theory is “not inexorably

gender-, nation-, race-, sex-, or class-linked” (p. 197). Utilizing third space

methodology, we can build theory to illustrate the intricate process of decolonizing the

translation of a text. By purposefully reading Villanueva’s work through these

methodologies, we are enabled then to recognize the different colonial histories that

are embedded within this bordered space, trapped by coded languages and colonizing

legacies. Our task is to actively resist this colonial history by reclaiming and recovering

Villanueva’s history. Enacting this process of reclamation and recovery is mediated by

positioning ourselves in direct opposition in theory and in practice to the colonial

history of the border. We must carve out a space to make this work happen. Other

scholars, such as Licona (2005), have also articulated the intricacies and complexities

of third space sites that can also shift from not only a practice, as Perez (1999) argues,

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 24

Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

but also a location (p. 105). Licona writes, “As a location, third space has the potential

to be a space for shared understanding and meaning-making. Through third-space

consciousness then dualities are transcended to reveal fertile and rhetorical

performances into play (2005, p.105). Third spaces as practices and locations for the

decolonial work provide the methodology for oppositional thinking that, in the

Villanueva’s case, can be enacted in both capacities. Within Villanueva’s collection,

readers have multiple narratives that overlap and counter each other: his original text

and Hoggard’s translation. Teasing out the embedded story, as I have performed in

my own translation, provides an alternate narrative, and this third space allows us to

transcend beyond the text and engage the decolonial process as a performative action.

Additionally, Villanueva’s role within the Chicano movement speaks to his

positioning within the context of this third space. Heralded as a Chicano poet,

Villanueva’s work, shaped by Chicano activism and the Vietnam war, was foundational

to the Chicano Renaissance (Lee, 2010, p.174). Within Chicanismo, scholars have

problematized the invocation of indigenous identity or a mestizaje as central to identity

formation or legitimacy. 8 This is important to note since Villanueva self-identifies as a

Chicano and asserts his position within the Chicano movement. And within his

collection, Villanueva includes poems that interrogate and reclaim his Indigenous

heritage, such as “Cuento del cronista,” where he invokes Tlacuilo, an Aztec scribe,

and chastises Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca as a “maldito explorador” (“Cuento del

cronista,” 1987/1994, p. 42). In this poem, he asks Tlacuilo for a blessing, to keep him

honorable, to keep him from forgetting his lineage, and in the end, Villanueva comes

to terms with the violence of his heritage and history. Iris Deana Ruiz (2018), for

example, explains this instance as the invocation of “La indigena” trope which, she

says, “seeks to revisit and revitalize the knowledges … and cultural practices of Pre

Columbian indigenous peoples in MesoAmerica [who]…left behind priceless, even

metaphysical, remnants for those of us here in the U.S. who seek decoloniality of the

mind, decolonial agency, and a decolonial consciousness” (2018, p. 223). However, in

line with scholars, such as Gabriela Raquel Rios (2016) and Eric Rodriguez & Evarardo

J. Cuevas (2017), Ruiz explains that invoking “La indigena” trope is dangerous

“because it confronts the purist argument of indigenous authenticity and advocacy and

rejects the modernist subject positions already imposed upon her that do not allow her

to identify with her indigenous, decolonial self” (2018, p. 224). There is also a risk of

rejection, Ruiz explains, placed in a third space “in-between her indigenous and

European self…” (2018, p. 224). In this way, the walking in-between identities, unable

to really claim one identity over another or choosing not to for ethical reasons, places

Villanueva in this third space subjectivity. This third space created by the fringes of

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Aydé Enríquez-Loya

the colonial history of the borderlands is precisely that rupturing space created by

discordant languages that have not learned to speak and hear one another. This third

space subjectivity is the space for interrogation and renunciation.

Working from this third space, I begin teasing out the embedded story in

Villanueva’s collection, allowing me to differentiate between the layers of storying

taking place. My capacity to do this work is initiated by both recognizing Villanueva’s

positionality within third space and by rhetorically analyzing the text and translation

simultaneously from the third space. Aja Martinez (2014) articulates the difference

between stock stories and counterstories. She argues that these differences are fruitful,

and this notion may help us to understand Villanueva’s moves. She says, “Stock stories

feign neutrality and at all costs avoid any blame or responsibility for societal inequality.

Powerful because they are often repeated until canonized or normalized, those who

tell stock stories insist that their version of events is indeed reality…” (Martinez, 2014,

p.70). I would argue that in Villanueva’s collection, the stock story would be the

translations. The translation and the work of translators, as previously discussed,

usually go unchallenged and their biases unchecked. As such, the stock story created

by the translation will supersede the actual story the author wrote. Martinez explains

that the counterstory “is a method of telling stories by people whose experiences are

not often told, …as methodology thus serves to expose, analyze, and challenge stock

stories of racial privilege and can help to strengthen traditions of social, political, and

cultural survival and resistance” (2014, p.70). The counterstory in Villanueva’s poetry

is partially the original story and the story to be teased out in the third space. He

examines the experiences of migrant Mexican children in Texas’ educational system

during the 1950s. Their stories are rarely if ever heard. However, I will argue, the

counterstory for Villanueva’s collection is complicated and nuanced because it’s coded

and largely unwritten. Readers will need not only both versions of the poems but also

may need to be heritage Spanish speakers with an understanding of migrant worker

history in Texas in order for them to work in reading what is not written. Readers must

make meaning in the absence of language. Make do.

Lastly, I must shed some light on the fact Villanueva is certainly not the only

author that can and has had his narrative colonized by the “creative freedom” of a

translator. While I am not suggesting that all translations and translators are wrong, I

am suggesting that a more critical approach to conducting said translations is

necessary. I am also far from suggesting that writers of color have no agency over their

texts or that they enact no heavy resistance on their part. In fact, I’m arguing quite the

opposite. Additionally, as previously noted, I will maintain that it is within the third

space of the borderland created between the actual text and the imposed translation

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Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

that we, as the audience, can utilize to interrogate and denounce the coloniality of the

translation itself and enact decolonial rhetorical strategies.

Decolonial Praxis: Rhetorics of Defiance & Resistance

Within Crónica de mis años peores, Villanueva confronts the racist and colonialist

education system he survived as a child in Texas. This system denied his humanity and

questioned his presence. His attempts to remedy the situation further silenced him.

Villanueva’s experience speaks to many of us with a similar background, and I can

attest the perpetuation of such practices even in graduate school. This dehumanization

is widespread and deeply entrenched within the education system and academia at

large. So much so, that writers and educators of color speak often of challenging the

systems from within. For example, in “The New Mestiza Nation,” Anzaldúa (2009)

speaks of “want[ing] our histories, our knowledge, our perspectives to be accepted and

validated not only in the universities but also in elementary, junior high, and high

schools” (2009, p. 204). Working within the academy to engage this type of work

seems hopeful. However, working within the decolonial imaginary and a third space

reminds us that our strategies must be precise and intentional. Here I am reminded

from Audre Lorde’s (1984/2007) famous text, “The Master's Tools Will Never

Dismantle the Master's House,” that “survival is not an academic skill”: the “master’s

tools” will not lead to real and radical change (p. 112). This leads two to questions,

how can writers of color interrogate and challenge the oppressive systems without

perpetuating the same problems, and as scholars and writers of color, what tools do

we have at our disposal to dismantle such systems?

Recognizing Villanueva’s positionality within a third space, as previously

discussed, allows us to understand that he too is working from within the system. He

could have written the whole collection in English, translated the work himself, or

requested revisions on the translation, but he didn’t. Non-Spanish speakers will

ultimately resort to the translation, never questioning its authenticity. Anzaldúa (2009)

makes a provocative call when she says, “We need to create poetry, art, research, and

books that cannot be assimilated, but is accessible” (p. 210). While the text is

accessible, at least a version of it is, the real story is coded and tightly embedded within

itself. Villanueva’s work cannot be assimilated and subsumed. And in doing so,

Villanueva shows how we can work within the system to show its purpose and

hypocrisy, and through that act, we reclaim our own history and humanity.

Villanueva’s rhetorical play and performance undermining academia’s

expectations while still following the rules to tell his story is reminiscent of Native

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Aydé Enríquez-Loya

American scholars, especially those who have been talking about this very

methodology for quite a while now. For example, in Narrative Chance, Gerald Vizenor

(1989) explains that the trickster is always present and never silent; it is not bound to

text or language. Furthermore, the trickster exists in the spaces between the real and

the imagined, breaking down paradigms and binaries, and trickster discourse is the

means by which to subvert a dominant discourse, according to Vizenor. In line with

Vizenor, Malea Powell (1999) in “Blood and Scholarship” says, “Trickster discourse is

deflative; it exposes the lies we tell ourselves and, at the same time, exposes the

necessity of those lies to our daily material existence…” (p. 9). Thus, I can suggest

that the trickster discourse is present within this third space, a space which forces us

to see the two texts; challenges us to seek the original meaning within its cultural,

historical, and linguistic context; and warrants us to recognize the purpose of the


Powell (1999) moves the discussion further when she argues for “trickster, or

mixed-blood rhetorics” that reconfigure the connection between rhetor and academy

allowing the rhetor to “[follow] the Academy’s, the discipline’s, ‘rules’ by transgressing

them, not just to oppose them but to transform them, to change utterly the grounds

upon which our scholarship exists” (p. 10). Mixed-blood rhetorics, according to Powell

(1999), are a methodology in both how we approach a text and interrogate how a text

is constructed to subvert colonial impositions (p. 10). In other words, to engage mixedblood

rhetorics is not only to read against the grain but rather an active practice of

defiance. Translations are expected to accurately represent the original text.

Villanueva’s approval of a translation leads readers to assume its accuracy. These are

the rules. To recognize and acknowledge Villanueva’s strategies as a trickster’s rhetoric

is to allow the possibility for us to see how he is working within the system to dismantle

it. Furthermore, this process of seemingly working the system on one’s own terms to

radically alter it, speaks back to Lorde. It’s not so much about refusing to use the same

tools to dismantle academia, but rather retooling the methodologies. A sort of making

do with what we have.

Making do, or as I prefer doing a jale Chicano, is the process of finding a way

to accomplish your goals. Growing up, I too heard often my mom saying,

“Necesitamos un jale Chicano,” especially when things broke down around the house.

This meant that we needed to fix it by finding a way that was inexpensive but efficient.

Kelly Medina-Lopez (2018) refers to this type of process as a “rasquache” and argues

that this process of making do can be understood within rhetoric and composition.

She says that rasquache “presents a robust approach to meaning making by allowing

users to pull from the compendium of theories, ideas, experiences, tangible tools, and

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Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

intangible epistemologies they can access. Recycling, upcycling, making do, and

making new meaning through whatever is available is an explicit performance of

rasquache” (p. 2). As previously noted, Villanueva is a prolific writer in English and

Spanish, but he made the choice to use exclusively Spanish for Cronica de mis años peores

and have Hoggard translate the text. In doing so, Villanueva shows the reader how the

oppressive nature of colonialism can function by allowing it to manifest within the text

via Hoggard’s translation. In one way, he is following the academy’s rules. But by

coding the narrative not simply in his own text but in the space between the two texts,

Villanueva enact a trickster rhetoric, a rasquache, un jale Chicano.

Within Crónica de mis Años peores, Villanueva engages an exclusively Spanish text

to define his childhood and to recover his history. Villanueva explains (as cited in Lee,

2010, p. 176) that in this poetry collection memory should:

serve as inspiration--memory as muse, and ultimately, memory as identity. So

you see, memory, for me, becomes a useful device to go back in time to recover

a history which would otherwise be lost--a personal or communal history, no

matter how lackluster or unsettling that history might have been.

The rhetorical use of Spanish to relate this painful childhood illustrates the complexity

of his story. Villanueva utilizes not only his memory to build a story, but by allowing

readers to see the perpetuation of such oppressive practices he speaks of, he builds

theory. At times, the lack of action is action and is necessary for us to witness.

By allowing the two narratives to exist side by side, Villanueva forces us to

recognize the artificiality of language itself. While they are seemingly a mirror reflection

of each other in a different tongue—the reflection is distorted; the reflection is

incomplete. Thus, we must question the source of the reflection. Whose voice do we

hear? Who is the witness and who is the storyteller? In the process of forcing us to

think about these questions, Villanueva asserts (as cited in Lee, 2010, p. 175) that a

text is always a reflection, always a translation:

I would say poems are what they are; they do what they do. Some of them, if

deep-textured enough, will admit multiple interpretations, and the latter are

left up to each reader, as you know. One is not privy to what each reader may

or may not derive from what they read--you get out of literature what you bring

into it.

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Aydé Enríquez-Loya

As readers, we are always in the process of reception, interpretation, and ingestion. We

are hearing and feeling the stories, recognizing the power of these stories on our own

memories and bodies, and utilizing these moments to build more stories and theories.

As such, stories can also be a point of danger because of what we can bring into the

narrative. We have the capacity to suppress it, misinterpret /mistranslate it, and even

to colonize it. Thus, the space that Villanueva creates between his text and the

translation of his text is the third space. It is from this space that we simultaneously

look forward and backward, centered in the fluidity of the “now,” hearing and feeling

and responding to the multiple voices speaking all at once and hearing and listening to

our own bodies and memories respond to convergent and divergent narratives. We

are in this third space or what Pérez (1999) refers to as the decolonial imaginary, as

previously discussed. We are in the process of decolonizing the text, decolonizing

history, and decolonizing ourselves simultaneously.

Rhetorical & Translational Analysis: “Crónica de mis años peores”

Traditionally, the English language has served as one of the master’s tools, and, as

Lorde (1984/2007) reminds us, we need to re-tool and reinvent the tools we will use

to suit our needs (p. 112). Our use of the English language must go beyond just

pronouncing words correctly. In Borderlands/La Fronteras, Anzaldúa (1987/2007) says,

“I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the

world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that

connect us to each other and to the planet” (p. 103). It is within this space of the

borderlands that we have the capacity to dismantle the master’s house re-utilizing the

tools available to us. We might be using the same language, but we are blending it with

our tongues, bodies, memories, and stories. We are re-tooling and building a

methodology. The tools to dismantle the master’s house are ours. They are culturally

and locally based. They are embedded within our stories. Our stories must carry the

weight of all those who came before us and all those who depend on us. Those who

did not get the privilege of going to the university. Those who stand with us in the

struggle. Those who did not finish la primaria. Those women who crossed over every

week every day to clean and to cook and to take care of other peoples’ homes and

families. Those men who crossed over every day to do anything to take money home.

Those who worked in factories here and in Mexico or who worked in the fields, in the

kitchens, in the shadows of existence. Our stories must carry the humbled recognition

of our common plight and our need to fight. Our stories need to undo the history that

is written upon us.

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Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

Because Villanueva knows and understands this history by having grown up in

the 1940-1950s in San Marcos, Texas prior to the Civil Rights Movements, he is able

to undo the history written about him and others like him (Lee, 2010). After he is

indoctrinated with the same colonizing history that had marginalized, erased, and

dispossessed Native Americans, Villanueva, as a child, is forced now to hear the same

demoralizing stories about his people, Mexicanos. Villanueva begins Crónica with

“Clase de historia” (“History Class”) to initiate an act of rhetorical resistance. He says: 9

Entrar era aspirar

la ilegitima razón 10 de la clase,

ser solo lo que estaba escrito.

Sentado en el mismo

predestinado 11 sitio

me sentía, al fin, descolocado


1987/1994, pp. 2, 3).

To enter was to aspire

The illegitimate truth of the class,

be only that which was written.

Seated in the same

predestined place

I felt myself, finally, dislocated.

(My translation)

To enter was to breathe in

the illegitimate idea of the class,

only what was written was valid.

Seated in the same

prescribed place

I felt myself, finally, dislocated.

(Hoggard's translation)

In this example, Villanueva’s story deals with the colonizing goals of the education

system that serves to erase and/or to criminalize Chicanx 12 students within the history

classroom. In the selection and subsequent translations above, Villanueva utilizes

“aspirar” to mark the action his body takes as he enters this space. “Aspirar” has two

possible translations. 13 One is like Hoggard’s translation, as in “to breathe in,” “to

inhale.” Another common definition of “aspirar” though is “to aspire.” The act of

aspiring to a dream requires more than a fleeting thought of a set goal but rather that

the actual process of aspiring is where one begins to believe in the actualization of said

dream. But this does not mean that one achieves it or simply attains this dream by

aspiring to it. For example, Chicanx folks are told to aspire to the American dream, an

achievable dream to all who enter its ivory towers, while failing to recognize that within

this space we are reduced to nothingness. Hoggard’s translation, however, suggests

that within this educational space we become a part of the fraud. Because to enter is

to breathe, to enter is to internalize or accept and suggests that we all become

complacent within this educational system. Poisoned by it, perhaps, but stuck,

nonetheless. The process of entering this space allows us to ingest the illegitimacy as

a reality and accept the fraud as our reality. But that is not the case.

In addition to the problems with translating “aspirar,” it is also important to

identify the subtle shifts that the second part of this line creates. Villanueva refers to

“la ilegitima razón de la clase” (1987/1994, pp. 2, 3). Hoggard translates this line as

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Aydé Enríquez-Loya

the “illegitimate idea of the class.” While Hoggard’s translation suggests that the idea

of the class is illegitimate, voiding the capacity of the members of this class to achieve

anything, Villanueva asserts that he was trained to aspire to the illegitimate reason or

truth of the class. La verdad de la clase. Essentially, Villanueva says that from the moment

he enters these educational spaces he conditioned to desire something that does not

exist, that cannot be attained, and that will always be withheld from him. Villanueva

recognizes that the verdad is a fraud and thus separates what he knows and accepts as

truth from the history he is told to accept as his. This separation is the only way he

can survive.

As Villanueva continues, Hoggard also continues to tell his version of the

story, and it becomes increasingly significant to distinguish the presence and effect of

colonizing ideologies in the rhetorics of translation upon the original text. Villanueva

(via Hoggard’s translation) says:

Era cualquier mañana de otoño,

o primavera del 59, y ya


los de piel trigueña

sintiéndonos solos,

el estado

desde arriba

contra nosotros sin el arma

de algún resucitable 14 dato

para esgrimir

contra los largos parlamentos

de aquel maestro

de sureña frente dura,

creador del sueño y jerarquías,

que repetía,

como si fuera su misión,

la historia lisiada de mi pueblo.

(Villanueva, 1987/1994, pp. 2, 3)

It was some morning in autumn,

or the spring of ’59, and already

we were

the wheat-colored people

feeling ourselves alone,

the state

from on high

against us with no weapon

of any resuscitable date

to wield

against the long speeches

of that teacher

with the hard Southern mien,

creator of the dream and


who repeated,

as if it were his mission,

my people’s crippled history.

(My translations)

It was some morning in autumn,

or the spring of ’59, and already we


the wheat-colored people

who felt alien,

the state

from on high

against us with no weapon

of a retrievable date

to wield

against the long speeches

of that teacher

with the hard Southern mien,

creator of the dream and hierarchies,

who repeated,

as if it were his mission,

my people’s crippled history.

(Hoggard's translations)

In this example, Hoggard’s use of “alien” to translate Villanueva’s “solos” asserts that

Chicanxs exist within America in a perpetual state as foreigners, outsiders, and possibly

from another world. Hoggard’s translation labels Chicanxs’ inability to use history as

a weapon as a result of an inherent “alien-ness.” This perpetual state of an “outsider”

makes history inaccessible and invalid for Chicanx because it asserts that they do not

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Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

belong, and therefore, history does not belong to them or rather does not include

them. This translation perpetuates problematic and dangerous ideologies that not only

impact the translation but the original text as well. Accordingly, Hoggard’s translation

assumes that Villanueva accepts his foreignness as a given. But the fact remains that

“solos” means “alone” not “alien.” Thus, under Hoggard’s translation, Chicanx history

is inaccessible because they do not belong, and such history is utterly non-existent. In

Hoggard’s version, Chicanxs have no recourse to the dreams and hierarchies forced

unto them.

However, in the process of denying the speaker any date to wield as a weapon,

the teacher alludes to his “lisiada historia.” In doing so, the speaker realizes that the

history of his people exists but has been rendered inaccessible in the shadow and fraud

of the American dream and history. He realizes that he must work to recover and give

new life to the Chicanx history that paints all those “de piel trigueña” as criminals,

failures, and foreigners. Such a new life is achievable by allowing this suppressed

history to be told and heard. Under this oppressive education system, Villanueva

reminds readers that they must find a way to tell their story even if they must resist,

defy, and utterly change the system from within to start the process of decolonizing

academia and history books.

By the end of the poem, while both Villanueva and Hoggard are seemingly

talking about the same thing and basically using the same variations of the same words,

the liberties Hoggard takes with both translation choices and even word order changes

the overall meaning of the text. Villanueva (via Hoggard’s translation) says:

Aquí mi vida cicatriza

porque soy el desertor,

el malvado 15 impenitente que ha

deshabitado 16

el salón de la demencia,

el insurrecto

despojado de los credos de la


Sean, pues,

otras palabras las que triunfen

y no las de infamia,

las del fraude cegador.


1987/1994, pp. 8-11)

Here my life scars over

because I’m the deserter,

the wicked impenitent

who left

the classroom of madness,

the insurrectionist

stripped of the creeds of the negation.

So let there be

other words that are triumphant

and not the ones of infamy,

those of the blinding fraud.

(my translation)

Here my life scars over

Because I’m the deserter,

the profane impenitent

who quit

the crazy class,

the insurrectionist

stripped of the creeds of


So let there be

other words that are


and not the ones of infamy,

those of the blinding fraud.

(Hoggard’s translation)

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Aydé Enríquez-Loya

Hoggard creates a “good” translation in the sense that it is lyrical and poetic, but there

are nuances in the language that are unaccounted for. At times these nuances are very

subtle, but within this subtlety, lay the difference. In the example above, the primary

shift lies in the word “deshabitado,” which translates as “left” rather than “quit,” as

Hoggard suggests. This subtle shift automatically carries a negative connotation of loss

and defeat. The shift within one word on its own does not change the entire story.

However, identifying the shift as part of a much larger rhetorical pattern that builds

upon each other begins to radically alter the story. Hoggard’s translation tells the story

of someone who has healed despite the fraud of American history and suggests that

there is nothing to be done about it. History gets blamed as the problem. And history

is a problem. But Villanueva illustrates that history’s continued erasure, dispossession,

and abuse of Chicanxs is perpetuated in the American education system, and while

Villanueva does note a healing process has occurred, he, like Anzaldúa, carries the

scars upon his body and recognizes that there is still much work to be done to rid

ourselves of the blinding mentality of such a universalizing history.

In “Clase de historia,” Villanueva loudly denounces the education system’s

complacency and perpetuation of an indoctrinating colonial history, and in

“Convocacion de palabras,” he interrogates the institutionalization of language itself

(“Convocation of Words,” 1987/1994, pp. 22-27). Here again, Hoggard feeds into the

rhetorical pattern as his translation largely deviates from and is dismissive of

Villanueva’s story. Villanueva begins with:

Yo no era mío todavía.

Era 1960…

y recuerdo bien

porque equivocaba a diario

el sentido de los párrafos;

I was not my own yet.

It was 1960…

and I remember well

because I would mistake daily

the meaning of the paragraphs.

I still wasn’t free.

It was 1960…

and I remember it well

because every day I got the

sense of the paragraphs

mixed up:


1987/1994, p. 22)

(my translations)

(Hoggard's translations)

Villanueva voices the frustration that comes from not speaking the dominant language

and explains that the inability to communicate is dangerous and de-moralizing.

Villanueva says, “Yo no era mío todavía.” “Todavía” can translate as “still” as Hoggard

suggest, making the speaker recognize that he is “still not free.” But this is wrong for

a few reasons. “Todavia” can also mean “aún,” which is closer to “yet,” which suggests

that this is in the process up to this point. Additionally, while “yo no era mío” could

mean the lack of freedom, as Hoggard suggests, it could also mean that as a child,

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Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

which the speaker is at the time, was not in control or command of himself. Here we

can see a marking of time that while he may not feel in control of his life or

understanding his purpose now, there is a sense that this can change in the future.

Additionally, the speaker is referring to having trouble understanding this new

language, and therefore, he could feel a lack of control over the written word. And

depending on the purpose of his exchange, this could be terrifying. Early on, when I

translated for my mother, there was lots of fear. For her, I imagine, because she had

to rely on a child to help her navigate. For me, because there was so much I did not

know and making a mistake could jeopardize my family. The point is that without

ethically engaging Villanueva’s text, taking into consideration both Chicanx history,

regional language nuances, and other rhetorical strategies of storytelling practices

among Chicanx, we have a different story altogether. In such a situation, the original

story is withheld within the text, within the language, within the imposition of the

translated version of the story.

As Villanueva continues, he displays frustration in his inability to hear or fully

understand the information contained which leads him to recognize the need for

himself and for Chicanxs to reject the imposed colonizing indoctrination by taking an

active role in self-education. He says:

Irresoluto adolescente,

recién graduado

y tardío para todo,

disciplinado 17 a no aprender nada,

harás de ti

lo que no pudo el salón de clase.

(Villanueva, 1987/1994, pp. 22-23)

Indecisive adolescent,

recently graduated

and late for everything,

disciplined to learn nothing,

you will do for yourself

what the classroom couldn’t.

(My translations)

Indecisive adolescent,

just graduated

and habitually late,

taught to learn nothing,

you will do for yourself

what the classroom couldn’t.

(Hoggard's translation)

By saying “disciplinado,” Villanueva suggests that he was disciplined or trained to learn

nothing, suggesting that this is an ongoing process but one that he can control. He can

cease to follow, cease to be disciplined. Hoggard, however, translates this as the

speaker has been “taught” to learn nothing, indicating that this is an established

situation, an event that occurred in the past, and that perhaps he is beyond hope. This

noted agency is again repeated and accurately translated in the end where he sees that

he will do for himself what the classroom could not. He realizes that the classroom

was not meant for him or those like him to succeed. This realization is significant

because Villanueva suggests that within this education system different standards are

set for Chicanx and students of color in general. This distrust of the educational system

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 35

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

is a recurring theme for Villanueva. For example, in Villanueva’s (1984/1998) poem

“I Too Have Walked My Barrio Streets” from Shaking Off the Dark, he says:

I too have walked my barrio streets,

gone among old scars and young wounds

who, gathering at the edge of town, on nearby corners,

mend their broken history with their timely tales.

(I’ve been quizzed on Texas history—

history contrived in dark corridors

by darker still textbook committees.

I’ve read those tinged white pages where the ink

went casting obscurantism across the page:

the shadows had long dried into a fierce solid state.

And Bigfoot Wallace had always been my teacher’s hero,

and what’s worse, I believed it,

oh, how we all believed it.) (p. 52).

In this poem, Villanueva asserts that Chicanxs are forced to learn and are quizzed on

the history of their alleged ancestors’ demise, forced to repeat the words that

criminalize, erases, and invalidates their presence within the classroom for a grade.

There are multiple systems in place to ensure their failure. Sadly, this is an occurrence

that is not limited but is extensive and widespread across all educational levels ranging

from elementary education through graduate school. While there are certainly excellent

educators, schools, and districts/departments that reject such discriminating practices,

the fact remains that these are almost the standard.

In order counter the power of language and diffuse the authority that is

bestowed on the translator/translation, Villanueva invokes a convocation of words

that primarily illustrates the archaic and hierarchical construction of knowledge as it

also initiates the process of the decolonizing the language. He says:

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 36

Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

Esta será tu fe:




Las convoqué 18

en el altar de mi deseo,

llevándolas por necesidad

a la memoria.

En la fecundidad de un


me fui multiplicando:




(Emphasis in original,


1987/1994, pp. 22-25)

This will be your faith:




I’ve convened them

in the altar of my desire,

taking these out of necessity

to my memory.

In the fertility of an instant

I multiplied myself:




(My translations)

This will be your faith:




I summoned them

at the altar of my desire,

raising them by necessity

into memory.

In the fertility of the moment

I was multiplying myself:




(Hoggard’s translations)

In this convocation, Villanueva begins by inserting particular words in English. What’s

significant about this weaving of words is both the meaning and story these few words

tell, which I will attempt to convey. Villanueva asserts that these words will become

his faith (p. 22). Convening them upon an altar, the words become either his sacrifice

or his offering in his active renunciation of the domination that has plagued his story

and in the hopes of decolonizing this space. His story becomes his faith, and thus, in

this creed like recitation of his/story, Villanueva argues that we must utilize multiple

languages as we utilize multiple spaces to engage the process of decolonization. The

story Villanueva tells begins by recognizing the problem with the system (“Infraction

/ bedlam / ambiguous”), a system in which the violations against people of color in a

backdrop of chaos makes their humanity uncertain. Villanueva brings these words to

his altar of desire and invokes them to his memory out of necessity (“llevándolas por

necesidad / a la memoria”), out of the necessity to remember, to revisit, and to reclaim

the history that is denied and from which his people are erased.

As Villanueva continues to build his history, the English words begin to pile

up into a mound containing stories and bodies. In a poetic retelling of history,

Villanueva explains both the lure of the American dream, the eminent danger Mexican

people experience (“affable / prerogative / egregious.”) and how recent immigrants

are instilled with the desire to assimilate to reach some form of acceptance but are only

shunned and end up living in an impoverished state (“priggish / eschew /

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 37

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

impecunious”). Villanueva asserts though that in the process of attempting to accept

the indoctrinated history, of attempting to demonstrate that they belong, there is also

an ongoing process of recovery that is occurring. In other words, Villanueva

demonstrates that our histories are interconnected. Our histories, as a people of color,

lie at the foundation of this nation. If we can recognize how our histories build on

each other, then we could map our interconnected struggles. Villanueva’s play with

words here then is demonstrative of the mapping that occurs with language, the way

language has been given the power to divide, categorize, and erase. He shifts it to show

us how can wield their power.

As Villanueva continues, we see the shift that the placement of the words on

the altar creates to build a new story. This difference is utterly missed by Hoggard’s

translation. Villanueva says:

Cada vez tras otra

asimile 19 su historia,

lo que equivale a rescatar

lo que era mío:




(Emphasis in original,

Villanueva, 1987/1994, pp.


Time after time

I understood their history,

which was equivalent to


what was mine:




(My translations)

One after another

I made their history mine,

which was equivalent to


what was mine:




(Hoggard’s translations)

This instance is another example of the subtlety in the translation. “Asimile” could be

translated in various ways. One of which would be to assimilate. This version would

be more in line with Hoggard’s suggestion that this is making something your own as

in the history Villanueva speaks about. But to “asimilar” also means something else.

In this case, I’m prompted with my mother telling me as a teenager: “Asimilate o no

vas a salir.” This meant that my inability to understand what she was telling me

indicated that I would be going out that night. As such, “asimilar” means to

“comprender,” to understand, to have learned the lesson. In this example, Villanueva

is not making this colonizing history his own, but he understands that learning this

colonizing history is important to be able to recover his own. In the same way that we

can see multiple stories in the poem, the original, the translation, and my teased-out

narrative within this rhetorical third space, Villanueva too can see the different

histories building on each other and understands that he must work actively to recover

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Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

his history. We utilize this rhetorical third space, as Licona (2005) shows, to negotiate

meanings between histories and provide an alternative methodology for decolonial

work to happen through poetry.

The convocation of the words in this poem is beautiful and rhetorical. He

builds an altar of English words in a Spanish poem that will serve to protect him. Early

on, children like myself and Villanueva learn the shame of mispronouncing words and

feel in academia that words like doctorate, professor, educated and so forth will protect

us. They won’t. He says:

Porque las hice doctrina

repetida horariamente,

de súbito

yo ya no era el mismo de



faux pas


(Emphasis in original,

Villanueva, 1987/1994, pp.


Because I made them a


repeated hourly,


I already was no longer the

same as before:


faux pas


(My translations)

Because I turned them

into hourly repeated doctrine,


I was not the same as before:


faux pas


(Hoggard’s translations)

There are a few significant shifts in translation here. In this example, Villanueva makes

the words a doctrine that he repeats daily. A key point in these lines is “las hice” in

which he takes ownership of this action and marks himself as the creator of such

doctrine. Then, we have the placement of this odd shift in time that is difficult to

translate. “Súbito” means suddenly and in the placement on the page should mark a

revelation as in, suddenly it dawned on me. But an interesting shift comes in the

following line: “yo ya no era el mismo de antes” (Villanueva, 1987/1994, p. 24). The

word “ya” is past tense and so the phrase is not “I was not the same as before” but

rather “I already was no longer the same as before.” This clunky translation marks an

instance that is beyond translation, but the “ya” and the “already” are important as a

realization that he was already not the same as before. The insertion of the “ya”

changes the sentence and makes the translation sound wrong but it’s right. In fact, I

missed it the first time. This insertion marks this moment as a sudden internal

awakening. Of figuring out that which was already known. A realization as in figuring

out that you knew it all along. This is an empowering realization, and in the context of

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 39

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

Villanueva’s story, it shows that he is in full control and self-aware of the wordplay

taking place. He knew it all along.

As this poem draws to a close, Villanueva recognizes that the process of

reclaiming history requires authority and control over the text. He argues that this

process begins by both dispelling misconceptions and misinterpretations of who

Chicanx are and learning to be the creators of our own history. He says:

Tenaz oficio

el de crearme en mi propia


cada vez con cada una al



1987/1994, pp. 26-27)

A tenacious task

that of creating myself in my own image

each time I pronounced one of them:

(My translations)

A constant effort,

creating myself in my own image

each time I pronounced one of


(Hoggard’s translation)

Villanueva explains that the power to write our own history has the power to create

ourselves. As he moves through the convocation of each of those words, he creates

himself repeatedly in his own image. Here, Villanueva marks a rejection of the imposed

history and colonization. He will be his own person and is wielding himself into

fruition one word at a time. Furthermore, he says:



y de escribir por fin con


las catorce letras de mi nombre

y por encima

la palabra


(Emphasis in original, Villanueva,

1987/1994, pp. 26-27)



and finally writing


the fourteen letters of my name

and over it

the word


(my translations)



and finally willing

myself to write

the fourteen letters of my name

and over them

the word


(Hoggard’s translations)

Villanueva theorizes that to write down his own name has the power to release him

which we can argue would be to write his own history. This libertad, however,

transcends that of any physical bondage but a recognition that bodies and minds can

be consumed and confined by the history that they believe. In the case of a history

that consistently seeks to revisit the exploitation and oppression of people of color,

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 40

Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

they will continue to be both victims and criminals. In either of these views, they

always have seen as less than human and become unreal. Their bodies, stories,

victories, and defeats become unreal. And within the realm of the unreal, it becomes

increasingly easy to ignore, abuse, or deny their human rights and liberties. Villanueva’s

final act of inscribing “libertad” over his name teaches readers that they are all

responsible for their freedom and to find this libertad they must actively seek it and

defend it.


Villanueva’s interrogation of both how we are written and how we are translated are

interconnected. Whether a text attempts to tell Chicanx history or translate it, as

rhetoric scholars, we must question their ethical engagement with the text and with

the history. There is a text and there are words and then there is a space that transcends

these—a rhetorical third space. Villanueva challenges the way history is written, what

history is written, how bodies are written and criminalized within it, and how students

of color within the American classroom continue to be subjected to the same

discriminating practices both in how they are taught and what they are taught.

Ultimately, however, Villanueva recognizes that our complacency with this system as

scholars and educators is part of the problem. If we want to change the system, if we

want to truly build a better society where humanity is not measured by the color of

skin, by the accent in our stories, or by the “foreignness” of our surnames, then we

have to be willing to write down our own names, tell our own stories, and inscribe

libertad over all of it.

Villanueva’s work forces us as rhetoricians to recognize the danger that

constitutes the interpretation, the analysis, and even the translation of texts, especially

those texts by people of color. His work forces us to recognize that despite our best

efforts, we will always bring something of our own into the texts—our own agendas,

our own ideologies, and epistemologies. Recognizing this potential then, Villanueva

asserts in these collections that we must ethically approach all texts. We must recognize

both the spaces which the text inhabits and the center of our understandings of the

text and the discourse that is being engaged. Furthermore, Villanueva helps us to

recognize the fluidity of language, the capacity of language to destroy, and the need to

speak multiple languages. The fact remains that even when the text is in English, the

language might not be “English.” Essentially, speaking of decolonial approaches,

attempting to decolonize our classroom, our bodies, and our minds often leads us to

learn and speak another language. It is a decolonial discourse that presents itself in the

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 41

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

third space. In the space created by the “text” and the translation / interpretation /

analysis and imposition of the new story. As such, our approaches must demystify

colonial tactics and practices so that we can recognize them as such so that we have a

chance to decolonize our spaces, our stories, our bodies, and our minds.


1. Land acknowledgement – California State University, Chico, Office of Tribal

Relations. (2019). Retrieved February 23, 2020, from


2. My use of “text” is not in exclusive reference to an alphabetical written text but

rather used to imply the multiple forms of “texts” we read that do and do not

use any form of alphabet and do include performative and other forms of

material texts. All of these texts require a reading of some form and the transfer

of information from the original text to a level of understanding requires an act

of translation. Later, I shift to using “story” and “stories” when I speak

specifically about the narrative Villanueva creates in his poetry collection and the


3. This collection was originally published without the translation as Crónica de mis

años peores. La Jolla: Lalo, 1987.

4. Laura Gonzales (2018) would refer to this instance as a “translation moment,” as

“instances in time when individuals pause to make a rhetorical decision about

how to translate a word or phrase from one named language to another” (p. 2)

5. Leslie Marmon Silko (1977) in Ceremony writes: “I will tell you something about

stories. [he said] They aren't just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we

have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death. You don't have anything

if you don't have stories” (p. 2).

6. Malea Powell quotes Lee Maracle’s 1990 article titled on “Oratory: Coming to

Theory” in her 2012 CCCC Chairs Address: “Stories Take Place: A Performance

in One Act”: “Among European scholars there is an alienated notion which

maintains that theory is separate from story, and thus a different set of words are

required to “prove” an idea rather than to “show” one. We [indigenous people]

believe the proof of a thing or idea is in the doing. Doing requires some form of

social interaction and thus, story, is the most persuasive and sensible way to

present the accumulated thoughts and values of a people. . .. There is story in

every line of theory. The difference between us [indigenous] and European

scholars is that we admit this, and present theory through story.” (qtd in Powell,

“Stories Take Place…”, 2012, p. 384). In an interview with Liz Lane & Don

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 42

Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

Unger (2017) titled “Malea Powell on Story, Survivance & Constellating as

Praxis” Powell explains: “For me, that practice of story is about engaging in

multilayered historical and experiential events that happen in a space or place and

trying to represent them the best you can or representing them from your point

of view but not in a way that implies nobody else's point of view matters.”

(4C4Equality, Writing Networks for Social Justice


7. Manuel M. Martin-Rodriguez (1993) also translates Villanueva’s “Haciendo

Apenas la Recolección” as “Just Beginning to Remember” in “Aesthetic

Concepts of Hispanics in the United States” Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the

United States: Literature and Art (p. 118).

8. Eric Rodriguez & Evarardo J. Cuevas (2017) speak of the dangers of Chicanx

people taking on the mantle of mestizaje without recognizing how this process is

a nationalistic agenda that makes a problematic and dangerous claim and erasure

of Indigenous identities, lands, epistemologies, and ontologies (p. 230-232).

Additionally, Gabriella Raquel Rios (2016) explains that in claiming and or rather

seeking to verify an indigenous background leads to locating “indigeneity and

Indigenous peoples vis-à-vis racist, eugenicist state-sanctioned logics or we locate

it vis-à-vis racist, eugenicist biological logics. Both matter (however

paradoxically) for the same reason: (ongoing) genocide” (2016, p. 120). Instead,

Rios explains that one should “simply claim our identities through our politics,

and that we align ourselves with Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies”

(2016, p. 120).

9. At the start of this section, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain a few

things. First, the citations will be provided under Villanueva’s original works. In

the book, the original work appears on the left page and Hoggard’s translation

appears on the right. Second, although I discuss my analysis in the paragraphs

following the poetry, I thought it was imperative to show readers all versions of

the text. Third, I provided my full translations in the middle column in italics.

Lastly, my translations presented here are certainly not beyond reproach. I am

not a translation expert. However, what I have tried to showcase is the kind of

work required necessary for us to ethically engage the translational of such

works. In my own translations, I not only relied on dictionary definitions, but

infused Mexican American and Chicanx history, Texas history, regional

understanding of language nuances, embodied experience, and memory.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 43

Aydé Enríquez-Loya

10. “Razón” means motivo & argumento (reason), acierto & verdad, (to say

something is right) juicio (reason), información (inquire within), ratio (at the rate

of), and recado (message) (Webster’s 410).

11. “Predestinado” literally translates as “predestined” not “prescribed,” which

asserts claim over an object for an undetermined length of time (Webster’s 389).

12. While I typically prefer to use Chicanx as a gender-neutral term and since it is in

use with public and activist spaces, I will defer to Villanueva’s use of Chicano

when referencing his own use. As such readers may notice a shifting between the

use of Chicanx and Chicano.

13. My initial approach to translating were from my own bilingual upbringing. My

first language was Spanish and still the primary language my family speaks at

home. I also verified all translations using Webster’s New World. Concise

Spanish Dictionary. 2nd ed. 2006. (45)

14. Resucitable comes from the conjugation of resucitar which means either “to

bring back to life”; “to resurrect, to revive” or “to rise from the dead” (Webster’s

427 (S)). Retrieve is to recuperar, which is to recuperate, recover, reclaim, and

regain (Webster’s 383(E); 415 (S)).

15. Malvado translates as evil, wicked, or a villain (Webster’s 308 (S))

16. Deshabitar means “to leave, to depopulate, to empty of people” (Webster’s 157


17. Disciplinado literally translates as disciplined (Webster’s 169 (S)), which carries

connotations of being trained to do or not do something, of self-control and/or

imposed to be self-controlled.

18. Convocar means reunión (to convene); huelga, elecciones (to call) (Webster’s 121


19. Asimilar means idea, conocimientos, alimentos (to assimilate); compartir (to

compare); equiparar (to grant equal rights to) (Webster’s 45 (S)).


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Lute Books.

Anzaldúa, G. (2009). The new mestiza nation: A multicultural movement. In The

Gloria Anzaldúa reader. Duke University Press by Anzaldua, Gloria. 203–216.

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Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

Davila-Montes, J. M. (2017). Translation as a rhetoric of meaning. Poroi An

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About the Author

Aydé Enríquez-Loya was born and raised on the border between El Paso, Texas and

Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua Mexico. She is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric,

Composition, and Chicanx Rhetorics in the Department of English at California State

University, Chico where she teaches classes in Chicanx rhetoric & literature,

environmental rhetoric, rhetorics of horror, and technical writing. She received a Ph.D.

in English with concentration on Cultural Rhetorics & Literatures of Color from Texas

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 46

Rhetorics of Translation in Tino Villanueva’s Cronica de mis años peores

A&M University. She completed her BA and MA work at the University of Texas at

El Paso. She currently lives in Chico, California with her husband and daughter.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 47

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Gabe Vasquez, El Paso Strong Mural Artist

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 48

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 49–55; 121–125; 179–184

Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist

Gabe Vasquez

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

University of Texas at El Paso, on land of the Tigua and Mescalero people. 1

Fresh new paint sprang up across walls in the city of El Paso after a mass shooting

killed 22 people. For mural artists like Gabe Vasquez, paint is a way of dealing with

crises. For many writers like me, writing is our refuge, our form of expression. Some

take to the streets; others also turn to their canvases and journals.

On the morning of August 3, 2019, I was driving toward the El Paso

International Airport. Little did I know I was heading directly into the line of fire. I

was on the highway, and a white truck behind me flashed its headlights and sounded

an alarming siren. I thought the driver was a civilian wanting to get past me as we

drove onto the Sunland Park exit going east. My first thought was that this was some

sort of new trick or “outfitting” of a car, similar to those annoying loud mufflers. I

thought to myself this is the new loud muffler.

As I passed downtown, speeding Border Patrol trucks were full speed ahead

on the fast lane. I had never seen speeding migra trucks. And then as I got closer to

Bassett center, I saw police vehicles at the entrances closing all exits. At this point, I

knew something was wrong. As I got closer to the Airway airport exit, more police

cars sped by. At that point, I received a text alert on my phone that warned El Pasoans

to stay home because there was an active shooter in progress at Cielo Vista Mall. I

immediately thought about my youngest brother, so I texted him. He confirmed that

he was safe and that the shooting was all over the news. I got off at the Airway exit

and arrived at the airport.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

I was on my way out of town to visit an aunt I’d never met before and to go

hiking with my dog and husband. God works in mysterious ways. The mass shooting

and having to process the hate that caused it was something I needed to deal with

carefully. I’m a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), a fulltime

Assistant Professor of Practice, and an Advisor for majors and minors. I’m also

trying to meet deadlines writing graphic novels and plays. Needless to say, my life in

recent years has increased my stress levels, and my mental and physical wellness has

become a priority like never before. Looking back, hiking with my dog and husband

alone in the forest is just what I would need to help me deal with the shock and pain

of this tragedy. Reading all the breaking news and social media raised my anxiety levels.

When I arrived at the airport, the lady at the counter asked, “Did you hear

what happened? There’s a shooting at the mall.” The way she asked was as if she was

asking me if I’d seen the latest action film at the movie theatre or as if she was sharing

gossip with me. She didn’t understand why I didn’t match her smile or enthusiasm, as

if I was the one being a rude customer because I wasn’t being friendly. Little did she

know that inside my anxiety was increasing, and I just wanted to get out of there and

back across town away from the chaos.

We all have different ways of dealing with tragedy. My way sent me into a

downward spiral of introversion. I just wanted to hide inside the shell of my body to

deal with my own emotions. I needed time to process what was happening and why.

Hiking in the woods was my immediate outlet.

Before arriving to the forest, I encountered Coloradans at a dog park who

asked me where I was from. When I said El Paso, a lady said, “Oh. I’m so sorry.” The

next day at a different dog park deeper into the forest, I encountered not so friendly

stares. In the parking lot, I noticed vehicles with Pro-Trump bumper stickers. At

breakfast, a white man told me to be careful out there. Suddenly, I had thoughts about

my own safety.

I’m a brown woman. My husband is a Black man. I was the intended target of

the mass shooter; my husband would have been a bonus. I wanted to go back home

to El Paso. I felt unsafe. I had no way of knowing if the mass shooter was inspiring

more like him, more killers of Mexicans – people who look like me. It felt too soon to

be out in public. I didn’t know what my face and skin color would trigger for others.

I went further into the forest. I didn’t mind getting lost in nature and disconnecting

from social media. The anxiety was swelling, and I cried it out amongst the tall

beautiful pine trees and breathed in the fresh air.

The people of El Paso immediately got to work in dealing with this tragedy.

Everyone contributed in different ways. El Paso muralist Gabe Vasquez did what he

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 50

Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

does best and got to work on paying tribute to the 22 victims in the racist terror attack

at the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso. He spray-painted a wall for over 24 hours

straight, working through the night, to finish the El Paso Strong mural quickly (Figure

1). The mural, located at 1011 N. Cotton Street, is now a historical landmark in El


Figure 1: The El Paso Strong mural at night. Ronnie Dukes photographer.

Dr. Isabel Baca, an Associate Professor at UTEP, reached out to me and asked if I’d

be interested in interviewing the El Paso Strong mural artist for this publication, and for

that invitation, I am grateful. I was enrolled in Dr. Baca’s Community Literacy

internship course, where we were learning about writing with, for, and about the

community. Dr. Baca is the Director of the Rhetoric and Writing Studies doctoral

program, where I am currently a doctoral candidate. My research focus is on Visual

Rhetoric and Composition. I research Mex-Chicanx artists who advance marginalized

voices through their artwork. I am also involved in the arts community in El Paso as

a comic book author, playwright, filmmaker, and I teach art at the El Paso Museums

of Art and History. In Dr. Baca’s course my internship was with the El Paso Museum

of Art working for their Education department. I also teach Chicana/o Cinema,

Theatre, and the Roots of Latina/o Hip Hop at UTEP.

I knew I had to move quickly in getting an interview with Gabe Vasquez. He

had been featured already in other articles discussing the El Paso Strong mural and the

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 51

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

tragic event that took place on August 3, 2019. I got in touch with Gabe through a

student photographer at UTEP named Gaby Velasquez, whose photos are featured

throughout this LWRS issue on recovery and transformation. I’m grateful to Gaby for

her kindness in sharing her beautiful work with us and for putting me in contact with


The evening I got in touch with Gabe, he mentioned he was getting ready to

dive into a very hectic schedule, so the interview needed to happen that day. 2 I met

Gabe that night at the KLAQ Haunted House where he was commissioned to paint

giant glow-in-the-dark murals to add to the spooky environment and Halloween vibe.

This atmosphere was the backdrop of our interview to describe the setting. I filmed

Gabe in front of some of his murals. Because our meeting was last minute and because

I didn’t have a crew, I recruited my husband Ronnie Dukes to help me film the

interview, so that I could focus on interviewing Gabe.

I truly enjoyed meeting and getting to know Gabe. I felt a genuine kinship with

him, as if I was meeting a brother from another. I believe Gabe is truly a conscious

artist. He wears his heart on his sleeve and on his art. I was moved by his mission to

coach and inspire young people to better their lives. I hope this interview provides

some insight and an artistic perspective of this horrific event that aimed to kill people

of Mexican descent like Gabe and me.

So, without further delay, I present to you my interview with Gabe Vasquez.

Videos of my interview are embedded in this text as links to YouTube so that readers

have direct access to my recording. I edited the videos and added subtitles.


ELVIRA: What is your name and background?

GABE: My name is Gabe Vasquez. I go by the name Grenade. In 2006 I was

introduced to Robert Kasner a.k.a. Jaws who’s no longer with us. He took me in like

a coach and taught me so much. Introduced me to a bunch of people. I'm going to say

the reason I'm good at graffiti letters is because of Jaws. Jaws introduced me to a guy

named Gems. And Gems is the reason I'm doing all this. Because he taught me how

to paint art. There's also a guy named Blast who taught me some things too. I'd say

I'm a collaboration of all the legends in El Paso.

ELVIRA: What kind of art do you make? What is the genre of your art?

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 52

Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

GABE: I'd say that my art is from the soul. There's a lot of graffiti involved. What I

do is what I like. It's who I am.

Video Link 1: Click on image.

ELVIRA: What is an important artist tool? What can't you live without in your studio?

GABE: I like painting with paint brushes, but spray paint - I love it. There's certain

caps that I like using. It's not the one this paint comes with. These little guys right here,

there's different kinds. I got a whole thing. I'll show you. Honestly if I was in a studio,

I'll be upset if I'm painting anything smaller than this. I really want to paint big

canvases. Four by four feet at the smallest. Cuz I like to spray paint them. That's just

what I love to do. I'm really good with a brush too. I went to school for it. Spray

painting is where my heart is completely present.

Video Link 2: Click on image.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 53

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

ELVIRA: When did you start making art?

GABE: I would say in 2006 when I met Jaws. He definitely brought out the artist in

me, sent me to people who really brought it out. It's really hard for me to say. I'm stuck

on 2006. I used to be in a rock band. I did wrestling for eight years. I started taking art

seriously in college. I took spray-painting seriously the whole time I used it. When it

came to art, more than just graffiti, I started taking it really serious in college. I went

to Waldorf University in Iowa that's where I got a scholarship to wrestle. I was out

there, and I was like, man, I haven't done any graffiti in a while. Just training hard. I

was like I kinda want to do graffiti. I started doing business as my major. Then I

switched it to graphic design. Then I switched it to Humanities with a Minor in Art.

When I did that, I started going to the art classes. The teacher Christy Carlson, she

pushed me hard. It's because she knew I was good. I just wanted to do graffiti. She

would say hurry up and finish. I ended up doing nine murals at the college I went to.

One in every department. I did a Marilyn Monroe in the theatre department. It was so

cool. I was so about it. That's when I started taking art seriously. I was still a little

minor at it. I didn't start getting like this until last year.

Video Link 3: Click on image.

ELVIRA: What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field? For

your future students...what words of wisdom?

GABE: It's the same thing I'll tell all my wrestlers. I know you guys have high hopes

and big dreams...you want it all. Hey, I'm not going to tell you you can't have it. But

you're going to lose so many times before you start winning. And when you start

winning you need to remember and realize why you're winning. And what's working

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 54

Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

and do that only. It's gonna' be a while. You're new at this. I believe in you like crazy.

Do you believe in you enough to commit? Because you're gonna' have to be in here

first and you're gonna' have to be the last to leave. Every time. You're gonna' have to

pour your heart out when you're losing. As if you're on top of the world winning. It is

so challenging. You're gonna' get broken down in so many different ways. But if you

can rebuild yourself, you'll come back stronger and harder to break. Just don't get

discouraged by the losses. They're coming. I promise you. I still take some to this day.

Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it. So,

you gotta' really really think about that. Decide where your heart's really at. Cuz it's

gonna' hurt.

Video Link 4: Click on image.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 55

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

An El Paso Strong sign with a US flag posted at the original memorial

in El Paso, Texas outside of the Walmart

where the shooting took place on August 3, 2019.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 56

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 57–79

Pardon My Acento: Racioalphabetic Ideologies and Rhetorical

Recovery through Alternative Writing Systems

Kelly Medina-López

California State University, Monterey Bay, on land of the

Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen people. 1

Rosa, by Any Other Name

As a Latinx ! woman with an ambiguously White first name, Kelly, and a

complicated, hyphenated Spanish language last name, Medina-López, I think about

the words we use to name ourselves a lot. 2 I have secretly (and not so secretly) always

been ashamed of my first name: the sharp “k” and double “ll” pronounced “l” and

not the Spanish “y” causes the Spanish-speaking tongues of my friends and family to

pause, to focus more on the word, to say it as if they hold something bitter in their

mouths at the same time. My Abuelito Medina (QEPD) flat out refused to call me by

my awkward White name, opting instead to twist the Ke - lly into “¿qué le?” short for

“¿qué le importa?” (¿what does it matter?) as a playful joke or the universal “mija”

when naming would fail. In middle school all of my friends had beautiful, strong

Spanish names that rolled off the tongue: Gabriela, Yolanda, Mónica. I wanted one

too, and I even begged my dad to change my name legally, “Please, apá, quiero ser

Belén! o Magdalena!” But he never gave in, and I had a hard time understanding how

my OG Latinx pops had double-crossed me in the name department. By the time I

was old enough to legally change my name myself, “Kelly” was already far too

embedded in my lived reality: we (my name and I) were stuck to each other, no matter

how uncomfortable I felt about it. 3

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Kelly Medina-López

My struggles with naming as a person of color are not new or unique. Latinx

literature and pop culture highlight the impact of naming and disnaming, or, better yet,

“to call someone out of their name” and to insult (see Bucholtz, 2016; Smitherman,

2000), on our community and has helped me understand my apá’s choice to give me

a White name a little better. For instance, in

Pardon My Acento

until I took Spanish for my language requirement in high school (easy A! or so I


Kelly Medina-López

the colonization of writing systems is an entry point for imperial expansion and settlercolonial

violence against indigenous peoples, cultures, and languages. As Mignolo’s

(1995) work revealed, the first colonization of our tongue happened in this long-ago

context, and this colonization occurred in such a violent and traumatic way that it can

never be fully recovered (Gutiérrez Chong, 1999; Menchaca, 2001; Baca and

Villanueva, 2009). Using Mignolo to understand how alphabets have always operated

as a foundational technology of colonization and oppression supports my current

argument about the alphabetic violence of disnaming by excluding Spanish diacritics,

like the accented “ó” in López. In other words, if, as Mignolo uncovered, early

colonization began with a linguistic suppression of alphabetic inclusions and

exclusions in the translations of indigenous speech to Western alphabets, then

contemporary colonization also happens when the 26-letter Western colonial alphabet

erases, or fails to account for, alternative writing systems, diacritical marks, and other

alphabetic symbols and styles through Westernized spellings of our words, specifically

in our names or naming. 7 This erasure, or failure to account for, other writing systems

is what Nelson Flores and Jonathan Rosa (2015) called “indexical bleaching” and

anchored in what they saw as “raciolingustic ideologies” (p. 150).

Raciolinguistic Ideologies

Flores and Rosa (2015) used the term “raciolinguistic ideologies” to expand the

definition of a White gaze, or the recentering and normalizing of dominant White

ideologies about bodies of color. While the White gaze (or ideological “eyes”

Pardon My Acento

a White gaze in schools, where these bodies constantly need to “measure up” to White

middle-class norms (p. 86). In the critique over how a White gaze has influences over

systems of education, Paris and Alim (2014) argued that contemporary curriculum and

pedagogy continue to reinforce hegemonic literate, linguistic, and cultural practices.

This practice meant that minoritized students learn to value White, Western ways of

knowing, doing, and languaging over their own modes, even in assets-based

classrooms where diverse modalities are acknowledged. While Paris and Alim (2014)

were careful in their critique of assets-based pedagogy and recognized it as

foundational to their theorization of CSP, they reminded readers that assets-based

approaches still center the White gaze, and that educational scholarship on access and

equity continued to focus on “how to get working-class students of color to speak and

write more like middle-class White ones” (p. 87). Paris and Alim’s argument reinforce

how the White gaze recenters raciolinguistic ideologies through the standards and

values of the U.S. educational system. But, bringing Paris and Alim together with

Flores and Rosa exposes how recentering White Western values about language and

languaging in school curriculums disciplines people of color and language-minoritized

groups to understand DAE as a superior mode of communication. Thus, assumptions

about accents, grammars, and whose bodies can and do speak DAE work both actively

(through shifts in accent and grammar) and passively (by linking racialized bodies to

“deficient” language) to influence listeners and speakers to norm themselves toward


For speaking and listening, as Flores and Rosa (2015) indicated, raciolinguistic

ideologies reinforce monoglossic language ideologies, or the belief that an idealized

monolingualism is a standard to which all subjects of the nation state should aspire.

Monoglossic language ideologies are not concrete sets of rules about how language

should be spoken or heard, but rather a systemic ideology, a “cultural emblem” whose

circulation “perpetuates raciolingustic ideologies and thereby contributes to processes

of social reproduction and social stratification” (Flores and Rosa, 2015, p. 152). Using

spoken accents as an example, Flores and Rosa (2015) argued that monoglossic

language ideologies allow White listening ( subjects to ignore certain (White) accents

or to consider particular ways of accenting language as “accentless,” while hearing (and

attributing to certain bodies) other accents. In shifting the critique from how speakers

perform language to how White listeners hear language, 10 Flores and Rosa discussed

how appropriateness-based models for language education, like those that encourage

students to use “academic language” or “disciplinary discourse,” inherently support

raciolinguistic ideologies (p. 152). Regardless of any objective language practices

and/or how well a linguistically minoritized speaker performs the “appropriate”

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 61

Kelly Medina-López

language, the speaker can never control how a White listener will hear and interpret

their speech. Monoglossic language ideologies feed the White listener’s understanding

of who and how a speaker should speak before they have even spoken. Thus, their

speech will always be heard and interpreted through raciolinguistic ideologies that

mark their language as deficient, even if they demonstrate the same language patterns

and accents as those used by their White peers.

26 Letras / Letters

Now, let me move from speaking and listening to reading and writing to suggest that

raciolinguistic ideologies can extend our understanding over the impact that a White

gaze has on languaging subjects by an exploration of racioalphabetic ideologies. What I

mean by that is, if raciolinguistic ideologies recenter DAE and mark certain bodies as

always already language deficient by the White listener, then racioalphabetic ideologies

recenter the standard 26-letter Western colonial alphabet and mark alternative

spellings and writing systems, and those bodies attached to them, as also already

deficient to a White reader. This thread of study has already gained substantial

attention, particularly as it relates to writing classrooms. Rhetoric and composition

scholars, that study translingual students and their writing, have done an excellent job

to trace how accents emerge (or not) in student writing and how White readers

understand and interpret “accented writing” (see Canagarajah, 1999; Horner and

Trimbur, 2002; & Matsuda, 2006).

Nevertheless, the primary focus of this branch of scholarship is grammar and

grammars versus spellings and writing systems, which is where a theorization of

racioalphabetic ideologies can add nuance to an understanding of the interlocking

discourses of language and power in a writing classroom. By ignoring writing systems

as critical tools , scholarly discussions about grammar and grammars overlook

alphabets as technologies of oppression and do little to challenge our notion of how

students use writing systems to perform language. Racioalphabetic ideologies, then,

operate from the assumption that there is always only one alphabet in the writing

classroom. This assumption means that a White reader is always reading the standard

26-letter Western colonial alphabet (and othering or racializing any deviations) only,

and a minoritized writer is disciplined not to perform other writing systems because

they are, through a White gaze, excluded from DAE. As a result, words that might

traditionally have alternative spellings, like Spanish language words and names, are

coded into the 26-letter Western colonial alphabet so that they can be read,

deracialized, by White readers. The process of deracializing words, either through

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 62

Pardon My Acento

circulation or recoding, aligns with what Lauren Squires (2014) and Mary Bucholtz

(2016) called indexical bleaching.

Squires (2014), the first to introduce the term, claimed that indexical bleaching

was similar to semantic bleaching, whereby a word, through repetition, loses its

semantic force while still maintaining its grammatical function (see Bybee and

Thompson, 1997), but different in that the words that are “indexically bleached” are

stripped not of their semantic force but of their social or cultural value. Using media

as example, Squires (2014) showed how language that is linked, or indexed, to a

particular media source was adopted and circulated through a community of

consumers before spreading outside of that community to new users who may not

understand the original indexical linkage. In this process of adoption, circulation, and

diffusion, the original social and cultural understanding of the language may be

weakened or forgotten, turning the language from “media language” (i.e. indexed to a

particular media source) to just “language” (i.e. retaining its “semantic meaning and

pragmatic force but [losing] its social meaning”) (p. 43). While Squires did

acknowledge the impact of indexical bleaching on particular cultural groups, she did

not fully connect her theory to how language is racialized and deracialized and how

that might affect minoritized populations.

In “On Being Called Out of One’s Name,” Mary Bucholtz (2016) complicated

Squires’ theorization on indexical bleaching by exploring practices of imperial naming

and disnaming on students from linguistically or enthnoracially mar-ginalized

backgrounds. This extended Squires’ definition of indexical bleaching from the loss of

social and cultural value to “a technique of deracialization, or the stripping of

contextually marked ethnoracial meaning from an indexical form” (Bucholtz, 2016, p.

275). Using Jane Hill (1993), to support her argument, Bucholtz asserted that

“hyperanglicized pronunciation of words seen as other-than-English is a fundamental

strategy of White racial dominance through language,” and “pronunciation strategies

that trivialize nondominant languages indexically reproduce racial hegemony” (p. 278).

Working with Latinx youth to interrogate naming practices, Bucholtz (2016) argued

that the politics of naming, as deliberate mispronunciation, anglicization, and indexical

bleaching, was a normative, dehu-manizing, and deracializing process that is still very

much pervasive in contemporary educational settings.

While both Squires (2014) and Bucholtz (2016) are primarily focused on

speaking and listening, like Flores and Rosa (2015), I extend their indexical bleaching

definitions to include the coding and recoding of alternative writing systems into the

dominant 26-letter Western colonial alphabet. Like hyperanglicized pronunciations,

hyperanglicized spellings also indexically bleach words by removing their social,

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 63

Kelly Medina-López

cultural, and ethnoracial meanings. Often, these two forms of indexical bleaching work

in tandem to further decontextualize language from cultural or social meaning. For

example, normalizing the spelling of Los Ángeles as Los Angeles might encourage a

hyperanglicized pronunciation, whereas accenting the Á might cause readers to pause

and reflect on the histories of the word and the land it names. Indexical bleaching,

then, reframed to include the systematic erasure of alternative writing systems, sustains

and normalizes the practice of excluding or erasing acentos on Latinx names (among

many other possible forms of racioalphabetic harm toward language-minoritized

peoples and their alternative writing systems). Thus, as I return to my exploration of

when and where the “ó” gets left out of López in my professional life, it is not just

about spellings and misspellings, but rather an exploration of when, where, and by

whom I am deracialized, and the impact that has on my scholarly and professional


The complicated history between the early linguistic suppression of indigenous

languages and letters, as Mignolo (1995) explored, and contemporary erasures of

alternative writing systems through racioalphabetic ideologies are both patterns of

White gaze normalizing the 26-letter Western colonial alphabet as an imperial

technology for erasing other ways of knowing, languaging, and being. Before moving

into a more detailed discussion of how and where erasures of the “ó” in López has

happened, I’d like to take this space to point out that Spanish *, like English +, is a

colonial language, and I want to make it clear that I recognize it as such. Colonial

languages are necessarily messy, intersectional, and complicated, and I don’t intend for

this article to be read as forwarding some kind of pro-Spanish agenda. Removing the

acentos from Spanish names can be an agented choice that reflect an individual’s

complex identity. For example, many indigenous peoples of New Mexico, where I am

from, purposefully remove acentos and indigenize pronunciations of their colonial

Spanish names as performances of rhetorical sovereignty. I don’t see this as working

against my argument, but supporting it: the move to indigenize colonial names through

agented revisions of spellings and pronunciations is a move to reclaim linguistic

sovereignty against the violence of naming and disnaming and another way of

responding to the call I make in this article. However it might manifest, disrupting

colonial alphabet systems, especially through agented choices related to names and

naming, is one way to push back against what Asao Inoue (2019) called “White

language supremacy,” opening space for a pluriversal understanding of our alphabetic

technologies, in his keynote address at the Conference on College Composition and

Communication in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 64

Pardon My Acento


To illustrate how racioalphabetic ideologies encourage critical disnamings, I share

stories of being named and disnamed in professional and academic settings as

examples. Above I said that I am careful to respect the proper spelling of López, and

I am. No matter where I enter my name, I always take the time to spell it correctly.

Despite my rhetorical caution, my name rarely appears correctly in professional

documents and materials. Conference badges are my favorite example of this

alteration. I’m always excited to pick up my conference badge at registration: did they

spell it right? Usually the answer is no, and I’m left to draw the acento on myself, as

the image on the right in Figure 1 shows. When I went through a collection of

conference badges, I noticed that the badges that include the accented “ó” were from

Cultural Rhetorics (CR CON), Feminisms and Rhetorics (FemRhets), Popular Culture

Association (PCA), and the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies


Figure 1: Various conference badges (right) and 2019 CCCC

conference badge with hand-drawn acento.

The Conference on College Composition and Communication, 11 the Southwest

Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA), and multiple badges from my

home institute, California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and the California

State University (CSU) system were among those that left the accent off. While it might

be easy to draw basic assumptions about why certain conferences and organizations

accented my name and others did not, I would like to caution any readers against doing

so and instead point our thinking in another direction. My disnaming from López to

Lopez happens everywhere, not just on conference badges, and it is entirely more

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 65

Kelly Medina-López

complex than just the cultural politics of a particular group or conference. Pointing

fingers at particular organizations makes it about individual habits rather than the

structures of racialization that allow racioalphabetics to operate unchecked. In other

words, it calls attention to the symptom but ignores the underlying disease

Pardon My Acento

Speaking to this last point and thinking through what may contribute to when

and how I am disnamed, one reason disnaming may occur is because our web

platforms and applications can’t process diacritic marks. For example, I remember

feeling perplexed that the 2016 Symposium on Second Language Writing asked

registrants to “avoid diacritics” when entering names for name tags (Figure 3). Why

not? Was there a specific reason for those of us who use diacritics in our spellings to

be asked not to? I wanted to ask these questions, but I also felt I had the answer.

Actually, I’m confident that the volunteers (some of whom are friends and colleagues)

who organized that conference recognized the beauty and diversity of all the languages

and alphabets that came together in that space to discuss English language learning

and that they didn’t intentionally ask participants to “avoid diacritics” out of some

intolerance, but rather because the registration software was unable to properly

process diacritics. Actually, the acknowledgement that names with diacritical marks

might be entered on badges may demonstrate this awareness, and I have never seen

this restriction noted on any other online registration forms, before or after.


Kelly Medina-López

The inability of technologies to process alphabetic diversity speaks to the

pervasiveness of the racioalphabetic ideologies in coding and programming and the

26-letter Western colonial alphabet programmers ascribe to in our modern modes of

communication. In her seminal text Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Noble (2018) looked

at the implicit bias of internet search engine algorithms to expose programmer bias

and dismantle the common myth that algorithms are neutral, unbiased, mathematical

tools. I tie the inability of certain internet forms to process diacritics to this same

paradigm: those who code the forms operate from racioalphabetic ideologies to

recenter the 26-letter Western colonial alphabet and thus fail to create technologies

capable of processing diacritics. Considering the role colonial systems of education

have played in racializing and deracializing minoritized groups (Tuck and Yang, 2012;

Ruiz and Sánchez, 2016; Smith, Tuck, & Yang, 2018), in tandem with the continued

globalization of our colleges and universities, the inability of a learning management

system like Blackboard to reproduce diacritics is especially alarming. The failure of

technologies to understand and accommodate diacritics only reifies the 26-letter

Western colonial alphabet as the technological advancement of indexical bleaching and

perpetuating a racial and linguistic hegemony. 13 So, if we understand the 26-letter

colonial alphabet as a move toward settler-colonialism, and alphabets writ large as

resource, commodity, or capital, technologies that fail to account for alternative

alphabets and spellings have already settled the terms through which one can and

should name and be named. Any alternatives are already destroyed and disappeared.

To think through how we might disrupt and delink from colonial alphabets, I will now

move this discussion toward theories of visibility and accommodation, which may

offer new ways to think about the rhetorical recovery and transformation of Latinx

language systems and alphabets.

Figure 4: My name appears as López in Blackboard when entered as López (2019)

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 68

Pardon My Acento

Recovering Alternative Writing Systems

The elefante

Kelly Medina-López

to pass signals the imperial legacies of racioalphabetic ideologies and their histories of

expansion through state power.

Identifying and deploying appropriate accommodations is not a social and

politically neutral task, and neither are the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” (Ahmed,

2012). Making spaces accessible for all bodies requires careful attention to

intersectional abilities, identities, and experiences. Looking at inclusions and exclusions

of diacritics as an accommodations issue sheds light on the rhetorical potential of

recognizing alternative writing systems as tools for recovery and transformation. In

the introduction to Towards a New Rhetoric of Difference, Stephanie Kerschbaum (2014)

examined how teachers approach and accommodate difference in the writing

classroom, arguing for pedagogies that both bring awareness to “differences that have

received little attention” and provide “new insights on familiar differences” (p. 6).

Central to her argument is a focus on “marking difference,” which Kerschbaum (2014)

defined as the places where “speakers and audiences alike display and respond to

markers of difference, those rhetorical cues that signal the presence of difference

between two or more participants” (p. 7). Kerschbaum (2014) recognized markers of

difference as “a new set of tools for tracing and analyzing patterns in how we might

understand one another” (p. 7). Thus, alternative writing systems, like diacritics on

Spanish words, are tangible textual markers of difference, rhetorical cues that signify

an alternative way of speaking, knowing, writing, languaging, and engaging with the

world. They also correspond to both “differences that have received little attention,”

through technological and political erasures like those explored above, and “new

insights on familiar differences,” like the indexical bleaching of common Spanish

words and names written without accents (e.g. Los Angeles vs Los Ángeles)

(Kerschbaum, 2014, p. 6).

I find Kerschbaum’s ideas

Pardon My Acento

and critical reclaiming of our alternative writing systems to not only “mark difference,”

but also to recover our Latinx rhetorical modes and transform possible futures of

writing and rhetoric for linguistically minoritized populations. Toward this goal,

reclaiming our acentos offers one way to make visible our Latinx writing and rhetorical

traditions, challenging deficit thinking paradigms that underline assumptions about

whose bodies and languages fit in the rhetoric and composition classrooms, and whose

bodies and languages need remediation. We can start this change by being careful and

diligent with our own use of the 26-letter Western colonial alphabet in order to bring

more visibility and awareness to alternative writing systems and by looking for ways to

introduce our diverse students to alternative writing systems in our classrooms, in our

mentoring, or in any other modes of contact.

Writing in Acentos

I return to Paris and Alim’s (2017) theory of culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP) for

my discussion on how writing instructors might engage alternative writing systems as

tools for critical consciousness building, like Freire (1996) called for, in the classroom.

In their theorization of CSP, Paris and Alim (2017) were careful to direct attention to

the fluidity and dynamism of languages, identities, and cultures, among youth and, in

particular, youth culture. They insisted that CSP must demand explicit pluralistic

outcomes and not recenter White Western norms and educational values. At the same

time, CSP should resist static or stereotypical reifying of cultural values and be flexible

and responsive to change. Finally, CSP must also be willing to critically engage with

reifications of contradictory or problematic cultural values. These are all practices that

we can keep in mind as we shape our pedagogy to be more mindful of alphabetic


Thus, I ask that practitioners bear in mind how problematizing the 26-letter

Western colonial alphabet with students in the writing classroom might accomplish

those goals. If, for example, the 26-letter Western colonial alphabet is a tool of

racioalphabetic ideologies and indexical bleaching, then how might encouraging the

use of alternative writing systems in student writing yield more pluralistic outcomes?

And, how might hosting conversations about critical erasures through indexical

bleaching open a space for students to engage in dialogue about contradictory cultural

values? I offer ideas here for beginning this work and encourage practitioners to

carefully consider the goals of CSP and within their own classrooms, pedagogies,

students, and ways of knowing and doing when imagining how best to engage CSP in

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 71

Kelly Medina-López

their own space. My recommendations center around three strategies: critical

dialogues, visibility, and tools we might use to accomplish these goals.

One way we might counter racioalphabetic ideologies in the writing classroom

is by engaging students in critical dialogues about the tension between the 26-letter

Western colonial alphabet and alternative writing systems. I use first day introductions

as a starting point because this timeframe is a place where negotiating names often

occurs as commonplace in the classroom. When I introduce myself and my name, I

like to write it out on the board, point to the “ó,” and ask students about it: Why is it

there? What does it represent? Of course, this suggestion assumes that an instructor

has a name that can be used as example. That doesn’t mean, however, that writing

instructors cannot look for other opportunities that may open critical dialogues over

examples that center on accenting or alternative writing systems. By calling attention

to the use of alternative writing systems either through our own naming practices or

through other course materials utilized in the classroom, we can raise critical awareness

about naming, disnaming, and racioalphabetic ideologies, and we can invite students

to consider the role alternative writing systems play on their own identity, identity

formation, writing, and naming practices. Further, we can use these dialogues as a place

to engage critical questioning on cultural stereotypes, reifications, and values that CSP

calls for.

Another suggestion for “writing in acentos” in the writing classroom centers

around visibility. In order to enable the critical dialogues that I call for above we need

more examples, more visibility of alternative writing systems not as separate from the

26-letter Western colonial alphabet, but working with it, against it, and in it. In other

words, we need to be more deliberate with our own spellings and namings, in our

classrooms and in our critical scholarship, even if at times this becomes messy or

inconvenient. A good place to start might be with (re)surfacing the acentos in the

names of places, like Los Ángeles, San José, and México, that typically appear without

accents. We can also be meticulous about respecting and reproducing alternative

writing systems when we see them, like ensuring that we include acentos when spelling

names and words that come to us accented. Please note, I am not suggesting that we

(re)spell anybody’s name, especially those of our students. Rather, I am suggesting that

we direct attention toward the visibility of accents and to continue to make that

visibility prominent, especially for alternative spellings that already exist. Through

critical dialogues and increased visibility of alternative spellings and writing systems,

we can equip students with resources to make agented decisions about their own


LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 72

Pardon My Acento

Finally, and key to ensuring the success of the previous two, we can teach

students how to produce alternative writing systems in digital spaces. I have found that

often one of the reasons the “ó” gets left out of “López” is because people simply do

not know how to produce that accented letter on a keyboard or because the extra work

of toggling between keyboards or making extra keystrokes leads some to believe the

task in doing so is cumbersome and counterproductive. Earlier, in this essay, I use my

university website as an example of how I am disnamed in professional spaces. While

I can only speculate as to the real reason my name appears incorrectly on my

university website, an educated guess would be that whoever entered my name either

did not know how to make the “ó” or did not want to invest the extra time to switch

between keyboards and/or make the necessary keystrokes. I recognize that toggling

between keyboards and/or making extra keystrokes does require more labor, but it is

minimal in scale if the extra effort is part of a commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and

visibility. There are plenty of online videos and tutorials that can be used to teach

students how to accent or type in alternative writing systems. Introducing students to

the tools for producing alternative writing system directly after critical dialogues about

them is a good way to reinforce the discussion.

Critical dialogues, visibility, and an awareness of the tool available are the main

ways that I approach teaching alternative writing systems in the classroom, and I

humbly offer them as a starting point for anyone hailed to engage in this work. Further,

while I speak from my truth in this article and use Spanish and English alphabetics, I

do not mean to overlook or ignore all of the other beautiful writing systems that

experience the same violence of indexical bleaching. Rather, I use my experiences and

languages as example to invite similar work from across the pluriverse of writing

systems, and I am particularly excited to see what might emerge from disruptions that

use syllabaries and logographies.

¿Qué hay en un nombre? / What’s in a name?

We are our names, and our names carry specific rhetorical weight and value. Names

signify something about the bodies, lives, and experiences they are attached to. Names

give us place, purpose, and identity. Names are not neutral. For many Latinx people,

heredamos los nombres de nuestros antepasadxs. Our names are remembrance and

survivance: through our names we acknowledge where we come from and continue

the memory of our loved ones. We honor our past. Looking to that past, I start by

recalling the colonial history of anglicizing Latinx names to introduce the complicated

history of naming, disnaming, racioalphabetic ideologies, and indexical bleaching in

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 73

Kelly Medina-López

the United States. I then moved to a discussion of the systematic erasures of Spanish

language diacritics through state-sanctioned rhetorical violence, like California’s Prop

63. I use this discussion to support a call to decolonize the 26-letter Western colonial

alphabet through “marking difference” and reclaiming our alternative writing systems.

Whether or not people take up my call, at the very least I hope I provided a

new way of thinking about writing systems as colonial technologies and surfaced

important questions about the neutral utilitarianism of words, letters, and spellings.

This work runs parallel to scholarship by Iris Ruiz and Raúl Sánchez (2016), Damián

Baca (2008), and Ellen Cushman (2012), who all introduce alternative writing systems

as frameworks for approaching rhetoric and writing studies differently. Following that

tradition, I encouraged us to stop looking at writing systems as something static and

fixed, but rather as a place of potential revision, something we can change and

challenge, something we can remediate to better meet the needs of our Latinx

rhetorics. Circling back to Ruiz and Baca (2017), in “Decolonial Options and Writing

Studies,” I agreed with the notion that “our decolonial imperative, our contribution to

WS, is to create and recreate the tools, perspectives, and practices most effective in

helping to heal from the colonial wounds of Western history, and to create global

realities no longer determined by imperial, Eurocentric horizons” (p. 228). If writing

systems are tools, then I, like Ruiz and Baca, maintained that we must recreate our

writing systems to recover from past traumas of misnaming, disnaming,

racioalphabetic ideologies, and indexical bleaching. Further, and in solidarity, I invited

allies and accomplices from across alternative writing systems to join in and consider

how they might do similar work. In closing, let’s stop thinking about writing systems

as monoliths, but as sites of disruption: open to additions, subtractions, logograms,

syllabograms, pictographs, symbols, characters, and whatever else we may include that

helps us write and reimagine our Latinx rhetorics, to recover our past but also to

transform our future. 34


1. Land acknowledgement – Office of inclusive excellence. (2020). Retrieved March

17, 2002, from https:///csumb.edu/diversity

2. To my tocayas Kellie Sharp-Hoskins and Kelly Whitney: I am so blessed to be a

part of the Kellies and to share my name with such amazing, smart women!

Please don’t read this as me quitting our club or our name!

3. A note on tone and style: I purposefully translanguage in this essay, not only

across Spanish, Spanglish, and English, but also formal, informal, and oral codes.

Translanguaging, as defined by Ofelia García and Li Wei (2013) is “an approach

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 74

Pardon My Acento

to the use of language, bilingualism, and the education of bilinguals that

considers the language practices of bilinguals not as two autonomous language

systems as has been traditionally the case, but as one linguistic repertoire with

features that have been societally constructed as belonging to two separate

languages” (p. 2). Translanguaging upsets the myth of monolingualism and/or

linguistic homogeneity (see, for example, Makoni & Pennycook, 2005; Matsuda,

2006) and reminds us that language is a social construct. Academic language in

particular, like the alphabets that carry it, has been neutralized and naturalized in

education and academic discourse (García, 2017). Although there has been a turn

towards understanding, unlocking, and leveraging the power of translanguaging

as classroom praxis, particularly in the writing classroom (see, for example,

Horner et al., 2011) academic discourse, as evidenced through how academics

and scholars write for publication, has been slow to adopt translanguaging as

liberatory social justice practice. If we continue to encourage our students to

translanguage, but reinforce Standard Edited Academic English through our

publications, what message are we really sending?

4. See also Lauren Mason Carris (2011), “La Voz Gringa.”

5. I use alternative writing systems as a term that includes not only alternative versions

of Latin script, but also syllabaries and logographies.

6. I want to point to my own privilege here: I was able to make this agented choice,

through education and social status, when most vulnerable and minoritized

people do not have the same power.

7. I am using the term “26-letter Western colonial alphabet” in favor of “26-letter

English” alphabet to emphasize its role as an imperial technology of oppression

and subjugation.

8. I’m following Django Paris’ (2009) revision of Standard English to the more

accurate Dominant American English.

9. Please note, I am using the terms like “listener” and “speaker” not to implicate

particular bodies, but rather as ideological constructs that are symptomatic of the

structures of racialization.

10. See M. Inoue, 2006.

11. I would like to note that on the CCCC Scholars for the Dream Travel Award

Website my name is spelled correctly in the list of past winners.

12. See Calderon, 2014.

13. See Larsen, 1996.

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Kelly Medina-López

14. I didn’t randomly select these surnames names as example. 2010 US Census

Bureau data (the last year for which data is available) lists García, Rodríguez, and

Martínez among the 10 most popular last names in the U.S.

15. Although Medina’s first name should have an accent, I couldn’t find it spelled

José anywhere, so I respect the common spelling.


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About the Author

Kelly Medina-López is an Assistant Professor of Composition Studies at California

State University, Monterey Bay. She has a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Professional

Communication from New Mexico State University. Her research interests include

border rhetorics, Latinx rhetoric and writing studies, Latinx ghost stories and myths,

critical making, and language politics. You can find her writing in Constellations: A

Cultural Rhetorics Publishing Space, Querencia: Essays on the New Mexico Homeland, and the

forthcoming Decolonial Conversations in Posthuman and New Material Rhetorics. She is

currently co-editing a collection tentatively titled We are all Monsters/We are all Saints:

Haunted Migrations and Latindigenous Ghost Story.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 79

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

A homemade poster for Maribel Hernandez, 56 and her husband Leonard Cipeda,

41 placed outside the Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 80

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 81–93

Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican

Americans or Chicanx

Jaime Armin Mejía

Texas State University, on land of the Tonkawa people. 1

I have never stopped trying to assimilate. And I have succeeded in all the

traditional ways. Yet complete assimilation—is denied—the Hispanic

English professor. One can't get more culturally assimilated and still remain

other. People of color carry the colony wherever we go. Internal

colonialism: a political economy, an ideology, a psychology.

–Victor Villanueva, Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color, xiv.

My name is Jaime Armin Mejía, and even though I didn’t start out this way, I have

long been a compositionist for most of my career as a college teacher. My career first

began by my being hired as a TA in an English Department at a borderland’s university

more than 37 years ago. All this time, I have almost always prided myself as a

composition teacher in the field of Rhetoric and Composition Studies. As time has gone

on, though, what was once a young and floundering field has transformed now by

people who sought to professionalize it into a full-fledged academic discipline. Along

the way, as I worked towards professionalizing myself within this discipline, I learned

that the pedagogical approach to the first classes I taught, basic writing courses, was

first used over 150 years before, in the middle of the 19 th century. This pedagogical

approach was determined by the textbook my students and I were assigned to use. Not

only was the approach outdated by over a century and a half, but my students were

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS and/or the site’s authors, developers, and contributors.

Some material is used with permission.

Jaime Armin Mejía

obviously also ill-served, especially when I consider that my students were almost all

Mexican American and from the borderlands. In those early days of my career,

practitioners within the emerging academic discipline of Rhetoric and Composition

Studies were still using approaches that were focused primarily on what students

produced rather than on the processes by which they produced that writing—what was

later described as the product approach as opposed to the process approach to teaching


In no uncertain terms, what we now call Rhetoric and Composition Studies

has changed from what it once was when I first began teaching as a TA in 1982. Today,

it has become so professionalized that the early pedagogical issues directly relating to

composition seem to have been cast aside entirely. Issues relating to rhetoric, on the

other hand, are today what make the field of Rhetoric and Composition Studies more

professionalized than it ever was before. There was once a day when the primary focus

of Rhetoric and Composition Studies was on how to teach first-year college

composition classes. Indeed, developing pedagogical approaches for teaching firstyear

composition classes was our primary focus. In some ways, those days have long

since passed. In their wake, developing an understanding of the rhetorical dynamics

involved in almost everything under the sun has now become our focus. Recent years

have brought an interest in what is called translanguaging or codeswitching, an interest

that decenters the existence of a Standard American English, a type of ideal language

which compositionists in the past, and still today, have typically strived to instill in

their college composition students.

What progressive members of our profession now desire most is to decolonize

the teaching of writing where Standard English is no longer used as one of THE

principal standards for assessing the writing of students. Instead, what this new wave

of scholars and teachers are doing is introducing and legitimizing what many

previously considered non-standard forms of English and culturally based topics

related to them. Approaches for doing so range widely today, depending on the

imagination and knowledge that a particular teacher has at hand.

We, as compositionists and rhetoricians, however, are each situated quite

differently, as our individual circumstances with our teaching careers, as I’ve said, can

and often does differ considerably. What I’m about to present advances an approach

which has pedagogical possibilities which you might find useful in the classes you

teach, classes where I hope you develop rhetoric as the primary focus for the students

and their writing. But as I said, we as teachers of writing are all situated differently.

Graduate student teaching assistants or adjuncts can’t always do what a tenured

professor can. Moreover, textbook committees often determine the textbooks most

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 82

Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican Americans or Chicanx

of us have to use when teaching first-year or advanced writing classes, to say nothing

of high school students enrolled in dual-enrollment classes. And if you don’t know,

textbooks aren’t exactly useful to teachers wishing to engage in decolonizing how

standard English and culturally-based ethnic topics are deployed. Textbook publishers

have long held an over-determined control over much of what we do as writing

teachers, something ethnic minority teachers like me have long lamented and protested

against because of how little the readings included in textbook readers reflect the

identities of the ethnic-minority students using them.

Even if these textbooks were constructed in a way that teachers could

productively use, teachers would still need the training to use such ethnically-based

textbooks. Such training ideally would instruct them in ways which could open up

possibilities for students to write using their own ethnically-based vernaculars. The

training I have in mind for using such imagined textbooks would likely run into many

obstacles within writing programs and English departments because this training

would also involve decolonizing the methods of assessing student writing. Asao Inoue

extensively articulates such assessment methods in his award-winning book (2015) and

his recent Chair’s address to the Conference on College Composition and

Communication (2019). In no uncertain terms, teachers wishing to engage alternative

pedagogical approaches to teaching and assessing first-year college writing as well as

writing in advanced writing classes will require training. Again, the training would have

to encompass teachers assimilating specific cultural contexts and the ethnic nuances

of topics and vernaculars native to the scope and breadth of what the students will be

writing about. In other words, teachers will have to understand the intersectionality of

issues which can serve to expand the repertoire of writing which we as compositionists

should offer up to our students in our writing classes. Teachers assimilating specific

cultural contexts and the ethnic nuances of topics and vernaculars native to many of

our non-mainstream students reverses how knowledge is usually conveyed in

American universities.

Let me generalize about the training likely involved for such teachers. If we as

compositionists are to open up vernacular possibilities to our writing students in our

classes, teachers will have to assimilate knowledge from different cultural contexts not

often a part of their training. Of course, some teachers and some students, on some

level, may have already assimilated knowledge from these ethnic-cultural contexts.

They will need to understand how this knowledge, found at the intersections where

they will be situated, is used in the University and American society. At these

intersections, different levels of identity construction are taking place for both teachers

and students, depending on where the teacher and students are situated at that

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Jaime Armin Mejía

particular time. How students construct their identity at these intersections, according

to gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, race, and social class, as well as location and

time, will all be in the mix when presenting opportunities for students to write. To the

extent that teachers can master the cultural rhetorical dynamics arising at such

intersections, the better they will be able to facilitate and be open to the possibilities

of writing and rhetoric arising in this teaching context.

In the past and more traditionally, anyone who entered the teaching profession

in English was assumed to have assimilated a cultural understanding of mainstream

America, to say nothing of Shakespeare and British cultures. In Rhetoric and

Composition Studies, it’s also always been assumed that prospective teachers will have

assimilated Standard English as well as the process approach to teaching writing.

However, we can almost never assume that our prospective and actual teachers have

learned and assimilated important aspects of different cultures, be they LGBTQ,

African American, Native American, and/or Latinx cultures. Unless the graduate

student or teacher has pursued the study of different cultures and identity formations,

what we will be expecting them to know will require remediation if our students are

ever to expand their writing repertoires. Perhaps orienting prospective teachers to

these kinds of pedagogical approaches exists here in Tacoma as well as elsewhere, but

they most certainly do not exist everywhere. 2 In fact, all one has to do is look at the

textbooks they use to see where our profession is currently situated.

Changing the status quo will be no small matter, for unless these prospective

teachers pursue assimilating knowledge from different cultural intersections and

contexts, advancing pedagogical approaches of difference will only become an exercise

in futility. We live in strange times. What we know to be better pedagogical approaches

for teaching writing to our students simply is not always considered. Education

historian Guadalupe San Miguel, Jr. (1987) documented how in the early 20 th century,

teachers in San Antonio, Texas, argued for pedagogical approaches which were native

to the ethnic students in their schools at that time. In the US, assimilation in

educational settings at all levels has almost always operated against ethnic minority

students. The high dropout and failure rate Mexican Americans have long suffered

reflect the racist ramifications of this forced assimilation. And lest we forget, white

folks, because of their deployment of this one-way kind of racialized assimilation, have

almost never thought to ask what they’re losing from such a deployment. Indeed, they

have long advanced the notion that being monolingual is superior to being bilingual

when, as recent studies show, being bilingual has always required having more

intelligence in every respect. Yet, we, as bilinguals, are typically forced to subtract away

an important part of our ethnic identity construction. What follows offers up one

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Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican Americans or Chicanx

possible way to go, if we are to begin reversing where many of us are currently doing

when teaching composition and rhetoric.

At the Department of English at Texas State University where I teach, we now

offer junior-level advanced writing classes which now allow teachers to choose special

topics. About two years ago, I began teaching this class using Mexican food as its

special topic. I should note that in this course I am not hampered by a textbook

committee about which textbooks I can use. So, I use Gustavo Arellano’s (2010)

collection of essays about Mexican food, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered

America, as well as a mainstream collection of food writing. Since my initial foray into

teaching this advanced writing class, I’ve stayed with Arellano’s Taco USA and have

moved to use Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing, edited by Sandra M.

Gilbert, Roger J. Porter, and Ruth Riechl (2016). This anthology complements Taco

USA well because it has excellent articles covering the various issues about the

consumption and production of food. For this type of class, which engages students

to be creative in their efforts to compose essays related to Mexican food, the readings

from both collections act as touchstones they can use to draw ideas from for their own

creative efforts.

This course is important for these students because it allows them the

opportunity to continue honing their writing skills, something most students seldom

get an opportunity to do after their first-year college composition classes. This course

is also valuable because it presents opportunities for them to engage in cross-cultural

thinking and translanguaging. These students are more mature, and while some may

not take this class as seriously as they should, they often have an investment in their

writing which one seldom sees in other classes. The rhetorical circumstances

surrounding these students in this class are also noteworthy. Not only is the special

topic for this advanced writing English class Mexican food, but their professor is also

a Mexican American—a Chicano, to be more exact. That combination, in and of itself,

creates a rhetorical situation for all of them where the circumstances have utterly

changed from what they typically find in almost all the other classes in which they’ve

likely ever been enrolled at their university. This change in their rhetorical situation for

this class is no joking matter, for as they quickly discover, I bring a level of ethnic

authority to the subject matter which is typically expected of advanced college classes.

Teaching this class, now for the third time, has taken me on to new turf which

I’d not previously ventured into. For the better part of nearly 25 years, I have been

teaching a Chicanx Literature course, and for the most part, most of the students

enrolled in that course have been Mexican American. I have an academic specialty in

Chicanx Literature, having spent a good part of my graduate days studying and then

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Jaime Armin Mejía

writing my dissertation over the serial works of a Chicano writer, Rolando Hinojosa.

By taking the direction of studying Chicanx Literature as a graduate student in the early

1980s, I was obviously going against the grain of where most of English Studies was

going at that time. While I wasn’t the only Chicanx graduate student doing so, there

weren’t many of us engaging this sub-field of American Literature. Most of my

academic career as a student had me assimilating what an American college education

pushed on me. It wasn’t until I entered graduate school that this trek into the

mainstream began its slow reversal. And because I was an ethnic minority student, my

college career always operated against the grain of what the mainstream wanted of

me—complete and utter assimilation away from my deeply embedded ethnic identity.

There’s a great deal of dialectical irony in all of this. For never in my wildest dreams

and imagination could I have ever conceived of ever teaching a class focusing primarily

on the rhetorical dynamics of writing about Mexican food in American society. Even

after having steeped myself in Chicanx Literature and the many cultural aspects

contained in such an area of study, studying and teaching the rhetoric of Mexican food

in an English class goes deeper for me, organically.

You see, I was raised in a home with a Mexican mother whose brilliance

expressed itself daily and most vividly through her cooking of Mexican food, especially

her marvelous and rhetorically excellent enchiladas. And this opinion isn’t only my

own, as there are many folks out there today who remember with extreme exactitude

the sheer rhetorical genius of her cooking Mexican food. This understanding into how

she could use her cooking to persuade her guests of her keen aptitude with her cultural

funds of knowledge is what I can bring into my writing classes. Reading and teaching

the well-researched essays that Arellano collects in Taco USA at best only supplements

what I can bring to my advanced writing classes. Further supplementing this fund of

knowledge is the fact that Food Studies is currently on the rise, with young Rhetoric

Chicanx scholars like Steven Alvarez, Santos Ramos, and Consuelo Salas leading the

way. The history and cultural impact which Mexican food has had and is currently

having in the US represent a complex body of cultural material and mythological

knowledge. It calls up a reservoir of rhetorical dimensions where writing and rhetoric

teachers can find excellent tools for whetting the rhetorical skills and appetites of their


Just as all teachers are situated differently with the diverse circumstances

surrounding their roles as teachers, so too are our students, who occupy the most

crucial part of the rhetorical situation which makes up all college writing classes. Where

white students will most often occupy dominant positions in most English classes,

their presence isn’t marked by having to work against the grain of assimilation like it

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Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican Americans or Chicanx

can be and often is for many Mexican Americans. To their credit, white students do

enroll in a class focusing on Mexican food but can clearly be disadvantaged because

they often have no organic knowledge of the culture and of the social and political

history of Mexico and its diverse variety of foods, there and in the US. Their

knowledge of Spanish is often also quite limited if not altogether nonexistent. Because

of the effects of white colonization, they must tread lightly in a class focusing on

Mexican food taught by a brown professor whose origins are unquestionably Mexican.

Their understanding of Mexican cultural foodways and of the people creating them

often thrives on stereotypes which for them are almost always laughable. If it weren’t

for the fact that they are enrolled in an upper-level English class in a major American

university, a course like this, which could otherwise operate exclusively on superficial

racialized stereotypes, would be a breeze for them. Their rhetorical situation in a class

like this serves notice that colonizing tactics like racialized stereotypes and of

essentializing ethnic human figures are grounds for failure.

Aside from white students, the school where I teach also draws African

Americans, Mexican Americans, as well as students whose heritage stems from Latin

American countries. There are also students from racially blended families, with half

of that blend often being Mexican. Thus far, the kinds of students this class draws

have largely been ethnically, racially, and culturally mixed, as well as notably mixed by

gender and sexual preference. Because my classes represent a vision of the future of

this country, how we manage ourselves in our mixed rhetorical situation has become

increasingly important. We nevertheless have to remember that this upper-division

English class at my school still mainly draws white students—but all that’s changing.

Increasingly, all classes at my University are mixed, and most of the classes I teach,

including my Mexican food classes, are no exception. These mixed students, like in

most all my classes, obviously represent part of a rhetorical situation that I as their

teacher must entertain, just as I, as a Chicano, have long represented a part of my

students’ rhetorical situation when they are writing for my classes. In my Mexican food

writing classes, situated as they are in a central Texas university, students come from

all over Texas, so our discussions often cover predictable and at the same time

surprising cultural dimensions related to Mexican food.

The school where I work became a Hispanic-Serving Institution, an HSI,

about three years ago. Since that time, our campus has become a minority-majority

school. The difference this change has made in student demographics is nothing short

of astounding, given that this school has historically been populated predominantly by

white students. This change, though, is unlike the diversification which occurred in the

late 60s and early 70s when many universities began implementing open-admissions

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Jaime Armin Mejía

policies. The students of color we’re getting in greater numbers today at Texas State

University are meeting entrance requirements which make almost all of them above

average. What I mean to suggest by this is that these students of color come to us as

talented individuals, indeed. The Mexican American students we’re getting today, like

their white counterparts, increasingly come to us with middle-class backgrounds. They

have a level of ethnic cultural sophistication in part afforded to them by the Internet

and other popular culture influences as well as by their social class. When film director

Robert Rodriguez, a student of Américo Paredes, came to campus to give The LBJ

Distinguished Lecture a couple of years ago, the line of students waiting to get in went

on for blocks. While many of those students were white hipsters, some of them were

Chipsters—Chicanx hipsters, who, once again, served to demonstrate a level of ethnic

cultural awareness currently in vogue in American society.

From my experience, the Mexican American students I teach remain a mixed

group. Some are immigrants, some children of immigrants, and fewer still are third-,

fourth-, or fifth-generation Mexican Americans, much like the social scientific studies

(that I have seen) reveal. On some level, these students each have a connection, in

some way, to what Paredes once called Greater Mexico, and as we should all know,

there are many different kinds of Mexican cultures— both in Mexico and the US. In

Texas and certainly at Texas State University, Texas Anglos and African Americans on

some level also have a connection to Mexican cultures, the affinity often being closer

for African Americans than for Texas Anglos. The connections they all have, if they’re

from Texas, can vary, but none can deny having some connection based on some

understanding of Mexican cultures, especially if they come from larger Texas cities.

For many of these students, their understanding of Mexican cultures, to the extent that

they have any at all, clearly can come to them through the Mexican food they consume.

When they enroll in my writing class focused on Mexican food, they know what they’re

signing up for. In fact, it’s been interesting for me to note this semester that each of

the students in my class has worked in some kind of restaurant or other, and not

necessarily at jobs flipping burgers. So, they come to my class because on some level

they have a fascination with and some understanding of the topic of Mexican food.

There’s no doubt that Mexican food, in all its diversity, has hit its stride in current

American popular culture. It’s a wildly popular topic today.

Mexican food, as we all know, comes in many different forms. Gustavo

Arellano (2010) all but conceded that no matter what shape or form that Mexican food

takes, it’s still Mexican food and should be classified as such, which is quite an

admission on his part. In his highly acclaimed book Taco USA, Arellano (2010)

documented how wide the range of possibilities was, and had been historically, in the

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Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican Americans or Chicanx

US, to say nothing of the wide range which exists in Mexico itself. No matter if we’re

talking about tamales, burritos, or enchiladas, to name just three types of Mexican

food, the wide-ranging variety across the countless Mexican restaurants and homes,

where it can be found served, is striking. From high cuisine restaurants to other not

so high sit-down restaurants, and in fast-food haunts and street-side taquerias and food

trucks, the variety of what is served makes any definitive categorization difficult to pin

down. No matter what type of Mexican food we’re talking about, whether it’s mole or

dishes serving nopales, the wide range makes them difficult to categorize definitively.

So, when a writing class with students as diverse as they currently are encounters

Mexican food as a type of cultural topic, a comparably wide range of views that people

have toward Mexican food shouldn’t come as a surprise. This mixed context of

studying and writing about Mexican food recreates an important part of the ethnic

rhetorical situations found in writing classes throughout the country as well as beyond.

How we reached this point (where writing and rhetoric students can write

about their complex relationships with Mexican food) reflects how encompassing

Rhetoric and Composition Studies has become. Today, there’s almost no topic we

can’t cover in our writing and rhetoric classes, something textbook companies have

yet to realize completely. Mexican food as a topic offers up rhetorical dimensions

which present students with the possibility of exploring and analyzing the complexities

in their lives and in the world where they currently live. For some students, if we take

what they write as any indication of how they think and situate themselves against a

current topic of popular culture like Mexican food, then, once again, we see a wide

spectrum of views. This wide spectrum of perspectives reflects how richly complicated

and absurd the topic of Mexican food can sometimes be. For instance, some students

actually gauge the value of an outing to a Mexican restaurant by the chips they’re served

as a preliminary aperitif. If the chips aren’t good, then their whole experience at this

Mexican ethnic restaurant is also not good. What this uncomplicated view reflects, of

course, is a shallowness of thinking that evades other complexities found in most

Mexican restaurants in the US. The level of superficial thinking can, of course, be

gauged and assessed further by the ethnic identity, the gender or sexual preference or

social class level of the person settling on this type of view. What on Earth is this

person thinking, when saying that the quality of an entire Mexican restaurant

experience is based solely on the chips? One doesn’t have to be a Mexican American

to see a lack of critical thinking in a view such as this.

Leaving aside the fact that there are indeed some bad chips served in some

Mexican restaurants, how students situate themselves in places serving Mexican food

provides a goldmine of rhetorical possibilities for analysis. Such places have historically

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Jaime Armin Mejía

been fraught with what are sometimes highly contentious rhetorical dynamics. And

Mexican restaurants are not the only places where such contentious dynamics can be

found. My college students, no matter their ethnic identity, almost categorically come

from middle-class backgrounds. College entrance exams, it is now well known,

measure nothing more than a student’s social class status. And as we all know, getting

a college education today means that these same students are more readily assimilating

middle-class values.

One such value which people in the middle class have adopted widely is the

convenience of eating out and of not having to cook their meals at home. And one

thing my students have confirmed is that, again, no matter their ethnic identity, very

few of them are cooking anymore. Convenience for them has become the most

sought-after quality of most of their situations, and in relation to what students are

eating, what we now know is that for most of them, convenience means that they are

not cooking. What one would think this situation would mean for Mexican American

college students, who hold their culture closely is that the skill of cooking Mexican

food has been saved and nourished through constant practice. However, if one were

to think this about them, that they are conserving important aspects of their Mexican

food heritage, then one would be incorrect. Surmising that their assimilation into white

mainstream culture is proceeding along unabated would also be incorrect, thus

presenting before us a rather striking conundrum. That is, it’s simply too inconvenient

for them to set aside time to cook a meal, any meal from any ethnic group, and such

is the reality for most of our current college students, many of whom come to us with

middle-class aspirations and increasingly from middle-class lives.

Eating out, though, isn’t a convenience which many Mexican American

students from working-class backgrounds can afford. The sexist division of labor

found in many Mexican American homes remains a constant, even today, but this

division of labor is one which has been dissipating with every successive generation.

With more education comes the attainment of a higher social class status for more and

more Mexican Americans. Obviously, there are cultural implications when such

upward mobility happens, which for our writing students can raise rhetorical questions

about the assimilation of mainstream values which can obviously complicate how

they’re situated when it comes to writing about Mexican food. Jody Aguis Vallejo

(2012) stated in Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class, that for

many Mexican Americans, the move up in social class status doesn’t necessarily mean

a loss of culture. For many in her study, assimilation away from their ethnic Mexican

cultural ways isn’t necessarily automatic, nor is it merely symbolic; something

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Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican Americans or Chicanx

celebrated only on commercialized holidays like when whites celebrate St. Patrick’s

Day throughout the country.

There is no doubt that Mexican culinary foodways have become highly

commercialized, something which has been going on for more than a century. A recent

news report from San Antonio, for instance, reported that a very popular chain of

tamale restaurants from the lower Rio Grande Valley, Delia’s Tamales, is opening up

a new restaurant in San Antonio, over 200 miles north of the Valley. When Delia’s

Tamales opened up in the Valley, now with six locations in the mid-Valley, their

commercial success has skyrocketed. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, the most

popular tamale season of the year, they post security guards at the entrances of their

restaurants to ensure no one creates any trouble fighting over their precious

commodity. Having security guards posted there is almost unheard of in any other

restaurant that I know of, whether it be a Mexican restaurant or not. While Delia’s

Tamales is not the only local restaurant making and selling tamales year-round, they’ve

succeeded where few others have even ventured to go on such a widespread scale.

Their wildly successful venture obviously is due to the fact that their tamales are

damned good, and good for folks from all walks of life. The rhetorical dynamics

surrounding their highly successful venture undoubtedly can only mean that people

like Delia have figured out the cultural culinary rhetorical dynamics contextually

surrounding her environment. Certainly, there was some marketing involved in the

commercial success of Delia’s Tamales, but more than even the rising number of

people entering the middle class, the main reason for their widespread commercial

success is based on Mexican culture—and not just any Mexican culture. Their tamales

are unique and native to the Texas Mexican Valley culture of that region, which, as

Gloria Anzaldúa (1987/1999) pointed out, is a unique borderlands culture. Places like

Delia’s Tamales represent but one example of a highly complex rhetorical

phenomenon which our college writing students have much to learn from. All the

ethnically-based restaurants found throughout the entire country, though, can serve as

sites for rhetorical analysis. The main reason for why we should have Chicanx college

students analyze Mexican food and the sites where it’s produced and consumed

represents an act which pushes back against restrictive assimilative forces which have

long been holding too many of us back in American academia.

Back in 1989, I attended my first academic conference where I presented a

paper for the first time just up the road in Seattle. I had traveled from Columbus,

Ohio, in March, and on my flight from Chicago to Seattle, down below, all I could see

was the Great Plains, all covered in snow, and the whiteness of the sight is one I’ll

never forget. When I landed, I remember thinking how far away I was from my home

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Jaime Armin Mejía

in south Texas where it almost never snows because of the sub-tropical climate—it

felt so far away and seeing all that whiteness didn’t help any. In the paper I presented

at that conference in Seattle, I argued that college composition teachers should

incorporate ethnic cultural topics in their classes. Surprisingly enough, my paper was

so well received that, afterwards, I was kidnapped by some basic writing tutors, all of

them people of color and all from the basic writing center at the University of

Washington-Seattle. They took me to what must’ve been Pike Place Market and

straight to a hole-in-wall Mexican restaurant there. At this nook of a place, I had the

privilege of eating some of the best Mexican food I had had away from home ever

since having to live in Ohio for my graduate studies there. The special hospitality I

enjoyed on that day made my trip across the country absolutely worthwhile and special.

It affirmed my thinking about the importance of using aspects of our cultural identity

to develop the literacy skills of Mexican Americans. The message I had come to Seattle

to deliver had resonated with my hosts so much that it sent me back home even

stronger in my beliefs.

Thirty years later, we as Mexican Americans find ourselves living in a country

where a deep racism has once again raised its ugly head. At the same time, more of us

have risen up the social and educational ranks which this country affords and which

we have worked very hard to obtain. Yet, our assimilation into mainstream culture is

still being questioned, as evidenced recently by Tom Brokaw’s comments and apology

about Hispanics needing to work harder at assimilation (Garcia, 2019). Our presence

in this country has a long and complicated history, one fraught with violence but also

with many victories against the suppression of our presence in this country. These

victories, in my view, make me see our future as bright, in part because today, there

exists at least one vehicle which has long been helping us carry ourselves into the

mainstream and the mainstream into our presence. That vehicle, of course, is Mexican

food. It is a vehicle which, much like our history, is fraught with many rhetorical

dimensions which all of us can use in our writing classes to create a greater

understanding of the complexities which, more than anything else, are working to bind

us together rather than working to tear us apart—bad chips notwithstanding.


1. Land acknowledgement – Chief Placido memorial statue. (2020). Retrieved March

21, 2020, from http://www.toursanmarcos.com/attractions/arts/chief-placidomemorial-statue.html

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Mexican Food, Assimilation, and Middle-Class Mexican Americans or Chicanx

2. This was a paper presented at the University of Washington-Tacoma, May 1, 2019.

I wish to acknowledge Rubén Casas for inviting me to present this paper and do a

workshop on the same topic.


Aguis Vallejo, J. (2012) Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle

Class. Stanford University Press

Anzaldúa, G. (1987/1999). Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Aunt Lute


Arellano, G. (2010) Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Scribner.

Garcia, S. E. (2019, January 28). Tom Brokaw apologizes for comments about

Hispanics and assimilation. New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from


Gilbert, S. M., Porter, R. J., & Riechl, R. (Eds.). (2016). Eating Words: A Norton

Anthology of Food Writing. W. W. Norton & Company.

Inoue, A. B. (2015) Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing

for a Socially Just Future. Parlor Press.

Inoue, A. B. (2019, April 4). How do we language so people stop killing each other, or what do

we do about white language supremacy? In Chair’s Address for the Conference on

College Composition and Communication. Retrieved March 4, 2020, from


San Miguel Jr., G. (1987). Let All of Them Take Heed: Mexican American and the

Campaign for Educational Equality in Texas, 1910-1981. University of Texas


Villanueva, V. (1993). Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color. NCTE


About the Author

Originally from the lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, Jaime Armin Mejía teaches

at Texas State University. He has long been active in bringing together related issues from

Rhetoric and Composition Studies and Chicanx Studies, especially as these have to do

with understanding of bicultural literacies originating from Chicanx cultures.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 93

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Local singers pay tribute to the victims through song.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 94

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Candles along the fence light up the memorial at night.

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Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

People gather at night along the line of crosses.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 96

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 97–118

Inventing PLEA: A Social History of a College-Writing

Initiative at a Chilean University

Ana M. Cortés Lagos

Syracuse University, on land of the Onondaga Nation, firekeepers of the

Haudenosaunee. 1

There are currently several publications that trace the development of Writing Studies

from their emergence (which we could locate in the late 90’s) to today (Ávila Reyes,

González-Alvarez, & Castillo, 2013; Molina & Quintana, 2016; Natale & Stagnaro,

2016) in Latin America. Some of these studies suggest that this development happened

in permanent contact with traditions in North America and Australia. In fact, the

approximate dates we usually identify with the emergence of the field coincide with

the first publications by a notable Argentinian scholar named Paula Carlino, who was

the first to perform comparative studies on writing practices in the United States,

Canada, and Australia (Molina & Quintana, 2016). Later, Carlino co-edited Writing

Programs Worldwide, with Chris Thaiss, Gerd Braüer, Lisa Ganobcsik-Williams, and

Aparna Sinha. These contacts and collaborations indicate the intertwining of academic

and personal histories across borders and traditions (Donahue, 2009), which not

always register in scholarly writing. These collaborators and their traditions have

unequal standings, access, and power in global academia (Lillis & Curry, 2010). One

consequence of such power imbalances is that when scholars located at the “margins”

engage in broader (international, cross-border) scholarly conversations they are often

read as emerging from and indebted to the “central,” hegemonic traditions

(Canagarajah, 2002, p. 10).

By this, I don’t mean to say that such learning and borrowing from other

(perhaps more self- aware and longer standing) traditions and disciplines did not

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Ana M. Cortés Lagos

happen. However, I would like to argue that rather than stemming out of other

traditions (ones perceived as dominant or hegemonic), the Latin American tradition(s)

engaged with them as a natural and necessary part of excellent scholarly work, which

requires researching what others have found on the subject matter. It is precisely this

teasing out of the local and the global and the tracing of the circulation and exchange

of theories and concepts that I find most interesting.

I attempt to trace the social history of a writing program in Chile. Specifically,

I focus on PLEA, the Programa de Lectura y Escritura Académica (Program for

Academic Reading and Writing) of the Pontificia Universidad Católica (PUC) de Chile.

Recent scholarship about Writing Studies in Latin America describes the kind of

institutional and social contexts in which the study and development of instructional

models around writing emerged in the region. However, the motivations,

coincidences, and interpersonal dynamics that helped to shape this field—and

particularly PLEA—in Chile are seldom accounted for, in part, because this

development is fairly recent and, in part, because narrative accounts or social histories

are disciplinary approaches in Writing Studies that generally escape the way this field

defines itself in Latin America. However, through narrative accounts and social

histories, I attempt to show how a local tradition grounded in French functional

linguistics took up the Bakhtinian concept of genre; developed questions, lines of

inquiry, and pedagogies around the problem of college writing; and found relevant

echoes in North American WAC/WID scholarship and Systemic Functional

Linguistics. This social history will also show how inspired grassroots work can

produce powerful curricular and institutional transformations. Thus, a social history

of PLEA can provide a view into the kind of academic practices, social dynamics, and

communications across borders that shaped Writing Studies in areas other than the

United States. I believe that such histories are crucial for understanding the different

traditions, theoretical displacements, and (re)inter-pretations that configure the

Writing Studies field on a transnational scale.

The development of PLEA and the study of writing at this institution

continues to evolve since I began collecting data for this study. For the purpose of this

article, I focus only on the initial years of this initiative: its creation, deve-lopment of

an early self-awareness, and implementation. In order to (re)construct this history, I

conducted five interviews with people who played a role in the emergence and

development of PLEA: Natalia Ávila Reyes, Christian Peñaloza Castillo, Soledad

Montes, Natalia Leiva, and Riva Quiroga. 2 I also worked with Natalia Ávila Reyes’

personal digital archive that consists of a series of Microsoft Word, Excel, and

PowerPoint materials, and Adobe PDF files related to the development of WAC

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interventions in three different disciplines: Nursing, Civil Construction, and

Engineering. These disciplines provided a variety of genres, including writing

assignments, rubrics, lists of frequent errors in student writing, presentations for

disciplinary teacher training, and minutes of agreements between disciplinary experts

and writing specialists. Working with these different pieces of a puzzle involved that I

move back and forth between interviews, archival materials, institutional documents,

and other secondary sources in an attempt to construct a chronology and contrast my

interviewees’ assertions and interpretations with other available information about the

particular location in time and space in which PLEA emerged.

I present this history with a sense of personal urgency because the individual

stories that shape institutional accounts are fragile. Even as I tried to gather nar-ratives

and documents for recent events, I came across how dates and facts slip from memory

and how records were irredeemably lost. The people whom I discuss here are my

mentors; PLEA is part of my own training as a scholar and an important piece of the

path that brought me to work in Writing Studies. The tradition in which this program

inscribes itself—if such a tradition exists (see Tapia-Ladino et al., 2016)—is my own

tradition, and by understanding it, I understand my own history as a researcher and

scholar. Hence, the process of writing this social history has re-quired that I constantly

interrogate my own interpretations; search for corroborative support across the

narratives of my different sources; and contrast these personal histories with other

scholarly sources that might help me reconstruct the phenomena I aim to describe.

However, let me address a few limitations. Because the participants I interviewed

are people I care for and trust, I feel a responsibility to document this social

history in a way that does not break my trust with such individuals. Thus, I have tried

to be fair and respectful to the participants who worked to aid me in the creation of

this project. For this reason, I have decided to omit the names of many collaborators

whom I did not interview from PLEA because these individuals did not have an

opportunity to contribute in a direct manner. Instead, I created spaces for the main

actors involved in this history, so these individuals are noted, and their voices inserted

in this text. But I resisted my impulse to insert long transcriptions from the interviews

in the text. Finally, writing this article involved Spanish to English translations, so I

attempted to preserve the tone and expressive quality of these translations. However,

because I may fail at this effort, all original extracts from the interviews can be found

as endnotes (in Spanish) throughout this article.

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Social and Institutional Context

Several related social transformations took place in the Chilean educational landscape

during the first decade of the 2000s: an expansion of the middle class and a broadening

of high school education coverage produced an increase in access to the university

(Neira, 2004). At the same time, in response to this expansion and diversification in

the student population in higher education, there was a sudden growth in the number

of higher education institutions. Indeed, this expansion in access to the university is

documented often by publications dealing with the emergence and development of

the PLEA writing program (Ávila Reyes, González-Alvarez, & Castillo, 2013; Sánchez

& Montes, 2016). These changes are also discussed by Hernán Neira (2004):

Most of these new students have arrived at higher education due to an expansion of

the high-school education coverage that reached 90% in 2000, in an average of 10

years. Though the wealthiest quintile is still the most relevant user of college

education, the rise in student population is due mainly to the fact that the second,

third, and even fourth quintiles are now candidates to university. 3 (par. 10)

Now, broadening access to higher education and the increase in student population

diversity all imply positive transformations, but the way this process unfolded in Chile

is not altogether unproblematic. As Neira and other writers (Cruz-Coke, 2004;

Redondo, 2005) suggest, these new students were not harmoniously integrated into

the university system in a way that produced the equal access to education that would

be expected from such an expansion. Rather, the response to this sudden growth in

the demand for higher education emerged from actors that radically changed the logics

and dynamics of the provision of education: “a generation of businessmen with the

capacity to create universities, supported by power groups and access to capital,”

according to Neira (2004, par. 8). 6 These capitalists were not necessarily motivated by

profit, but by an interest to promote their own conservative ideologies. Thus, most of

these non-traditional students that arrived at the university did so on the “margins” of

the system, so to speak.

Understanding the demands that emerged with the expansion of access to

university requires a brief explanation regarding the larger context of Chilean higher

education. Chilean higher education institutions can be grouped roughly into two

groups: those that belong to the Consejo de Rectores and those that do not. The

organization Consejo de Rectores de las Universidades Chilenas (CRUCH or Counsel

of Rectors of Chilean Universities) was created in 1954 and was designated to

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coordinate the work of universities in the country, with the purpose of generating

standards and guidelines for the excellence of higher education research institutions.

Traditionally, it grouped the most prestigious public and private universities across the

nation, including the two oldest Chilean universities: Universidad de Chile (founded

in1842) and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC) (founded in1888). During

the 1980s, the military dictatorship promoted the expansion of the educational system

by encouraging the participation of private investors in this sector. Thus, numerous

private universities and technical education institutes emerged (Gonzáles & Espinoza,

2011). A limited number of these new universities, since then, have developed into

prestigious institutions in the higher educational system. However, a number of these

institutions have failed as educational projects (Cruz-Coke, 2004). This failure

translates in the incapacity to obtain accreditation, and even proving uncapable to

prepare their students for national standard examinations (Rodríguez Ponce, 2012).

Hence, while the expansion of access to higher education in Chile was a fact,

the inclusion of social and educational differences associated with this transformation

is, in great part, a myth. While the numbers reflect positive change in terms of broader

access to university across socio-economic groups, in practice, students from lowermiddle

classes seldom share the same classrooms with students from more affluent

socio-economic backgrounds. Students from the fifth quintile usually attended

traditional universities (members of the Consejo de Rectores), but students from other

quintiles accessed mostly the newer private universities. Thus, the particular ways in

which this transformation of higher education was experienced at the Universidad

Católica can be explained by these differences and other institutions in terms of

institutional histories and composition of student bodies. Universidad Católica is, after

all, a member of the Consejo de Rectores, a traditional university attended–at the time–

by a majority of affluent students. According to Ávila Reyes (2017):

About the diversification of students that arrived to the University…though that

expansion did take place in Chile, it’s a bit thorny to say that it was very high. Well

yes, the expansion in Chile was of something like the 1000%...Crazy! But from that

percentage, the number that made it into the Universities of the Consejo de Rectores

was very small. So yes. […] Católica did grow. A lot! When I did my undergraduate

studies, there were like 5000 students. 4 It’s nuts how it grew in that decade! 5 But that

exponential growth shown by the global statistics. That was concentrated in the

newer, private universities, not the traditional Universities of the Consejo de

Rectores. 7

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Because Universidad Católica is a traditional university, this institution did not

necessarily experience substantial changes in terms of the composition of its student

body. Still, this institution began to promote a series of internal trans-formations

maybe due to rapid growth in the size of the student population, perhaps as an attempt

to meet international standards, or perhaps to adhere to a general turn toward studentcentered

education in Chile. 8 The Plan for the Development of the University, from

2000 to 2005, acknowledges the need for college education to adapt to a changing

world and to provide students with broad, flexible transferable skills that will make

them more competitive in the contemporary job-market:

For example, the capacity to deal with complex problems in creative ways, be good

team workers, communicate effectively in oral and written form, speak a foreign

language, have a great capacity to process information, etc.

To achieve the previous goals US universities are reinforcing and improving

their general education programs, expanding active learning, promoting

undergraduate research, and extending academic exchange programs with foreign

universities (UC, 2010). 10

Thus, at this particular institution, the pedagogical turn translated into a search

for strategies to promote comprehensive skills and abilities in students and the

development of college pedagogies—a process that emulated, in a way, the U.S. model

of a university. A study conducted by the Chilean scholars Verónica Villarroel and

Daniela Bruna (2014) indicates that this turn toward a model based on competencies

in higher education took place in Chile in the late 1990s, following international trends

in education, and defined competencies as contextualized, transferable skills. Villarroel

and Bruna also mention several controversies that arose with the introduction of these

guidelines, among those who believed these were necessary for the education of critical

citizens and those who believed this paradigm put unnecessary strain on university

professors, but Villarroel and Bruna do not go as far as to analyze the rhetoric around

this turn.

At Universidad Católica, effective oral and written communication were some

of the key skills highlighted by this institutional plan. To this purpose, one measure

that began to be developed was the implementation of a campus-wide written

communication exam. The first step in this direction involved the design of the test

and a rubric to assess writing, which called for experts in psychometrics working at

MIDE UC, 9 a Universidad Católica center dedicated to this kind of work. The second

step was to evaluate this instrument in practice. This step required that a team of

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experts in language be involved, such as professors from the Linguistics Department

like Marcela Oyanedel, Ana Maria Harvey, and Jose Luis Samaniego as well as a few

students studying linguistics. Natalia Ávila Reyes and Christian Peñaloza Castillo were

among those students.

Before the end of this five-year period, the university implemented a written

communication exam, which was a graduation requirement for all undergraduate

students. As the results of this test, scores and rates of approval per academic unit

began to circulate at the administrative level and concerns about writing grew. Cristian

Peñaloza Castillo (2017) comments,

The thing is that, beyond scores, there is the problem. A problem that everyone knew

that was there but that was now being quantified. And so, some academic units start

manifesting their interest in, normally remedial courses…but of doing something.

Thus, before 2003, writing had become an institutional concern at Pontificia

Universidad Católica.

I find that there may be some parallels between the way this local writing

initiative developed and particular moments in Rhetoric and Composition Studies in

the United States. As it so happens in the U.S., the emergence of first-year writing

courses coincided with a national expansion of access to higher education at the

beginning of the twentieth century (Berlin 1987; Bazerman, 2014; Bazerman et al.,

2016). However, as shown throughout this section, this development does not neatly

mirror 1970s literacy crisis narratives (Lamos, 2011; Mutnick, 2000). Indeed, PLEA at

Universidad Católica was not created so much as a reaction to a diversification of the

student body, but rather as part of a transformation of the institutional model that

aimed to align the Universidad Católica with the United States’ higher education

model. However, this top-down agenda to mirror the U.S. university as an educational

model was not grounded in any general pedagogical or curricular design theories, even

less with theories about writing and writing peda-gogies. So, despite these clear

historical parallels, the writing exam, the first-year writing course, and the first research

on writing implemented at this institution were all driven during this period by local

theories, questions, and problems; and all with little to no knowledge or contact with

Rhetoric and Composition disciplinary work in the U.S. For some time, a small group

of people invented Writing Studies locally.

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“We were so young”: Inventing Writing Studies

Between 2003 and 2006, three studies related to academic writing were published by

faculty from the Linguistics Department of PUC (Samaniego, Oyanedel & Mizón,

2003; Harvey & Muñoz, 2006). Both Ana Maria Harvey and Marcela Oyanedel were

key figures in this research: Oyanedel was trained in the tradition of French grammar

and functional linguistics, and she was a pedagogue at heart. Harvey was an acute

researcher in the field of discourse studies, always aware of the more recent

developments in the field. Both, as well as José Luis Samaniego (a grammarian at

Universidad Católica) played an important role in the organization of the ALED

Conference 11 that took place as early as 2001 at Universidad Católica. The theoretical

and rhetorical traditions –French grammar, linguistic functionalism, and discourse

analysis– by these women and the School of Letters they constituted at the time at

Universidad Católica are also important to delineate within the context of producing

the first regional studies on college writing.

Natalia Ávila Reyes appears to draw some attention to a time when these

research lines and the emerging interest in writing as an object of study and the

institutional demands around writing instruction were all seeming to converge but had

not yet been fully made sense of. However, a visit by an early Latin American specialist

in writing may have acted like an oracle to shed some light, a sign perhaps that some

attuned scholars were already seeing the development of a new area of study for this

region. This visit is also a reflection, perhaps, of an institutional context suddenly

receptive to this kind of research and a foreshadowing of the disciplinary spaces that

would take on the task of developing it further in the years to come. However, in that

moment, there were still no writing-specific courses in place at the university, and while

data was being gathered, this group of scholars was still trying to figure out best ways

of approach, as Natalia Ávila Reyes points out: 12

Natalia: The first time I ever heard about this topic was in an ALED Conference that

was organized at PUC, here on this campus (San Joaquín). It was tiny. And, to that

ALED came Elvira Narvaja de Arnoux. Have you heard of her? From UBA

(Univeristy of Buenos Aires). She invented these workshops, that don’t exist anymore,

for the general education program of UBA. […] And those were the first courses that

were taught. In fact, this is the first bibliography that I know of. It is a very linguisticworkshop

approach, very similar to what we started doing here at Universidad


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Ana: Ah! So then, when you started designing the course, you thought: “We will do

something similar to Narvaja’s” …

Natalia: No. We started doing something similar because we were linguists.

One of the first data collections conducted by Samaniego, Oyanedel, and

Mizón (2003) to study college-student writing took place in the early 2000s, within the

context of a research study titled “Function and quality of academic discourse.” 13 This

research was supported by internal university funds called DICPUCs, which are

awarded to research projects that had almost (but not quite) qualified for national

funding. DICPUC includes funds for main researchers, research assistants, and

materials. Natalia Ávila Reyes, Christian Peñaloza Castillo, and a few other research

assistants, who at that time were advanced undergraduate and graduate students,

worked on this project. 14 Apparently, they were all given the task of finding problems

or criteria to evaluate samples of student writing:

There what we did was we gathered texts very much flying by the seat of our pants,

and then analyzed them, also flying by the seat of our pants. Obviously, what you did

as a linguist, taking a text and analyzing what problems it had, was to construct

inventories of errors 15 (Ávila Reyes, 2017).

Their findings on student writing as part of exploratory research were published in an

internal institutional report that is often cited by later works dealing with PLEA

(though the report itself is somewhat difficult to find). Still, maybe one of the most

important contributions of this study –besides the fact that it was the first, hence, a

foundational study on writing conducted at this university– is that this study brought

together a group of people that would later take on the development this kind of


In fact, when the written communication exam was implemented, it was this

team of student researchers that was also called to work on the evaluation process,

beginning with the rubrics to assess students’ writing and ending with the actual

written exams. By 2005, they designed and started teaching a writing instruction

module at the Faculty of Letters in connection with the course “Introduction to

Linguistics.” When the results of the written communication exam offered

opportunities for comparisons among the average scores of different academic units,

more and more faculty started requiring writing courses for their students. Also, as

faculty across different schools started noticing the presence of lingering failing

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students in advanced levels of their undergraduate programs, concerns reached higher

officials of the university’s administration, as Peñaloza Castillo (2017) points out:

So, then the Provost Office said: “We can’t leave these lads hanging, or else they won’t

be able to graduate.” And this is when summer courses were invented. […] I imagine

the first must have been taught by Marcela Oyanedel, Jose Luis Samaniego, they must

have taught some classes, but soon it was Natalia and me who were doing those

courses. They were summer intensives. And there a group of student assistants started

to come together. In fact, I remember that, for one version there were so many

students enrolled that we had to have a morning and an evening session… 16

What they started teaching in these courses –and the way they taught them–

echoes the first research on writing conducted at the Linguistics Department of PUC.

These studies were designed to address frequent errors in student writing,

communicate the academic norms and conventions, and provide linguistic tools to

construct coherent and cohesive texts. A solid tradition of grammar and linguistics was

the core of this design. With time, the group of instructors added to these their

knowledges of education. Much like the American scholars that raised critiques to

current traditionalist approaches to error (Lu, 1991; Laurence; 1993) or who identified

with Mina Shaughnessy’s work Erros and Expectations (1979), this group of Chilean

scholars soon became aware that this kind of traditional or remedial approach centered

on errors was inadequate for teaching writing at the university level. In the context of

our interview, Christian Peñaloza Castillo reflects that the rationale behind this

realization was probably influenced by a turn towards genres, functional grammar, and

discourse analysis that had recently been introduced in the Linguistics Department by

a group of professors and graduate students, together with an awareness about the

specific features of disciplinary discourses (Hyland, 2004; Prior & Bilbro, 2012).

This turn introduced theorists like Bakhtin, Medvedev, and Voloshinov.

Indeed, an article by Oyanedel (published in 2006) and some course syllabi developed

around the time suggest that the reception of the Bakhtinian concept of genre was

mediated by a linguistics foundation that traced a trajectory from Ferdinand de

Saussure, through structuralist linguists such as Roman Jakobson, Louis Hjemslev, and

Émile Benveniste, and then functionalists like André Martinet and Jean Michel Adam

(see also Feuillard, 2012). In this context, the concepts of text and genre came to “fill

in a gap” that sentence-level linguistics could not make sense of; that of the text as a

unit of meaning (Oyanedel, 2006, p. 10). Interestingly enough, these theorists also

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influenced the development of Writing Studies in the U.S. (Miller, 2005; Prior, 2009).

Notably, Bakhtin’s theories heavily influence English studies (Devitt, 2004).

Needless to say, by 2005 several writing courses were in place, and researchers

conducted and published studies on writing and academic discourse. Even though

other scholars (specifically from Universidad Católica de Valparaíso) published rather

prolifically on academic writing at that time, the case of PUC was an interesting

contribution because, at this particular location, Writing Studies emerged in relation

with discourse studies. At this point, from the group of student assistants that began

working on this project, at least Natalia Ávila and Christian Peñaloza were students

with a master’s degree; their work as teachers and researchers was funded by small TA

salaries and university funds. It was young people’s work: exploratory, passionate, but

somewhat precarious. It still had not found a stable place within the institution, neither

in terms of a clear location within one or more university departments or disciplinary

areas, nor as a stable curricular structure, or in terms of sources of funding. The same

can be said about Writing Studies at this particular time and place.

Inventing Writing in the Disciplines: Finding WAC

The PUC institutional plan regarding writing considered two fundamental actions.

One action was the implementation of the written communication exam. The other

action was a curricular intervention that was designed to be implemented in each

academic unit and that consisted of what the University President called “marked

courses.” These courses were selected more or less randomly and were designated as

writing intensive courses: writing activities and writing assessment were important

components of the syllabus. This move was, of course, an attempt to reproduce the

U.S. model of writing intensive courses. However, the teachers designated to work on

development and implementation became cognizant of this parallel somewhere during

the design process, an awareness that further corroborated that the directions this

initiative was taking made theoretical and practical sense in comparison to

international experiences.

So, once summer writing courses were established and academic departments

were ready to count on an introductory, remedial writing course for students, faculty

within those departments started to wonder how to implement the second part of the

plan: writing in the disciplines. This part of the plan is when a new form of

collaboration sprang into action between writing specialists and disciplinary specialists

across campus. The Nursing School and the Civil Construction School became the

first two departments to express an interest to implement this initiative. Later on, the

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Engineering School also jumped on board. Although for different reasons, the

collaboration between the Nursing School and the Engineering School constituted

crucial turning points in the history of PLEA. One of those turning points implied

locating a broader disciplinary conversation within an international field of research

(Writing Studies, Rhetoric and Composition); the other, locating a more powerful and

stable source of funding for this emerging writing initiative.

The Nursing School and Nurses

During Natalia Ávila Reyes´s first encounter with Charles Bazerman, at a conference

held in Chile around 2009, Bazerman had made a comment to her, according to her

recollection, that was something like, “Yes, nurses are always leaders in WAC

initiatives. I don’t know why. They are proactive, enthusiastic… I don’t know.” Some

years later, Ávila Reyes was accepted at the Graduate Program at the University of

California Santa Barbara, under the mentorship of Bazerman. In 2005, however, she

was still trying to figure how to implement disciplinary writing courses at the Nursing

School of PUC. Very soon after, her collaboration efforts produced unexpected


Part of the intervention at the Nursing School dealt with gathering and

analyzing text samples; identifying genres and recurrent writing problems; and finally,

generating writing assessment rubrics for this specific context. The intervention also

involved carrying out a series of workshops for both faculty and student assistants. In

these workshops, writing specialists met with disciplinary experts to discuss issues,

such as how to use rubrics to evaluate student writing as well as discussing the

fundamentals of teaching writing in the disciplines. These workshops were also used

to address and de-stabilize common assumptions about writing, such as the idea that

writing is a basic competence or the idea that writing amounts to remediating the

failings of previous academic trajectories. Instead, learning how to write in a discipline

was framed as a process of enculturation into the discipline, producing arguments

supported by using scholarly references produced by disciplinary experts (Prior, 2013;

Wenger, 1952/1998). Indeed, the work with the nursing school offered and

opportunity to move away from the remedial towards a model that drew on specialist

knowledge to design pedagogical interventions; in other words, pedagogy based on

empirical research.

As Peñaloza Castillo (2017) recounts, this approach was driven both by the

group’s initiative as by the need to persuade campus authorities through the collection

of “hard data”:

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To do this work right, beyond the theoretical background you are putting together,

you need the support of statistics, because, when you talk to psychologists–who were

the ones that had the control of the exam–or even when you talk with Main Campus, 17

you need to show up with your quantitative data. Not just with an uncorroborated

theoretical support. 18

As Castillo points out, the collaborators of PLEA worked to gather empirical evidence

to use as rhetorical resources to inform their practice and to negotiate the relevance

and efficacy of the program with university administrators.

Academics at the Nursing School made these actions possible due to their

active interest to engage in this discussion. In fact, they were not only interested in

performing better as teachers and adequately responding to student writing, but also

developing a scholarly interest in ideas about academic writing pedagogies within their

discipline. Moreover, they wanted to do some research and publish about this work

and experience (Mantuliz, Salamanca, Ávila Reyes, et al., 2011). Ávila Reyes (2017)


And they went to the data bases to do searches about writing, and… Oh! They found

a tradition. That was somewhere around 2005 or 2006. So there, through the nurses,

I got to read Paula Carlino, and I got to read people working on college writing in

Australia, like Aitchinson… 19

Indeed, it was through the collaboration with this group of nurses that Ávila

Reyes encountered WAC scholarship for the first time. Thanks to this serendipitous

event, the pedagogical and investigative approaches that resulted from this group at

PUC suddenly became grounded in a clear and well-established theoretical framework,

informed and defined by the work of scholars such as Susan McLeod, Charles

Bazerman, David Olson, and Paula Carlino. This newfound scholarship was utilized

to re-signify and re-interpret the understanding of academic conventions and genres

and to cast a new light on ideas like the “marked courses” initiative that had been

introduced at this university during the rise of institutional awareness about writing.

Yet, whereas collaboration with the Nursing School emerged from academics in

nursing interested to generate better pedagogical practices for their students, the

collaboration with the Engineering School was triggered by institutional constraints.

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The Engineering School

In 2007, the Engineering School of Universidad Católica went through an

accreditation process conducted by the ABET international accreditation agency.

Apparently, the Engineering School fulfilled all the requirements for accreditation

before going through its assessment process except for one: this school had no

disciplinary writing courses. Hence, for engineers, writing became a problem yet to be

solved. While collaborations between engineers and writing specialists helped to get

the process started, once writing specialists identified some predominant genres,

relevant journals, and recurrent citation practices, engineers quietly retreated back and

left writing to the writing specialists.

The peculiarity of the Engineering School was its size. Generally, other schools

at the Universidad Católica admitted between 30 to 100 students, but the Engineering

School admitted four or five times that number. 20 At the time, the people working on

writing in the university were still, basically, Ávila Reyes, Peñaloza Castillo, and a few

other student assistants. However, to implement a writing course effectively within

this discipline required faculty knowledgeable in WID (Writing in the Disciplines).

Thus, around 2009, Engineering provided a permanent and sustainable source of

funding that initiated a search for instructors, and PLEA was founded.

PLEA experienced accelerated growth and continual development due not

only to the WAC initiative in place and legitimacy across campus but also its source of

funding and presence within the largest school at the university. The coordinators of

the program recruited more young and emerging scholars to teach. Soon, the success

and spirit of collaboration between PLEA groups created a certain glamour around

the program that made it popular among undergraduate students. Hence, during this

period, the best students of their cohort applied to work with PLEA as student

assistants, and they labor was greatly appreciated for evaluating the written

assignments produced by the 40 to 45 students per course, the enrollment norm at the

Engineering School. Work in PLEA was further enriched by collaborators seeking

common goals and outcomes, according to Ávila Reyes (2017):

We held meetings with engineering instructors. We read texts among us. We had one

day each week where we would read a bibliography and comment on it. We all made

the course syllabus together, student assistants and instructors, with an equal right to

voice. We changed those things that didn’t work from one semester to the next. All

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in the logic of action research, because we didn’t know anything. We were inventing

the wheel in that sense. 21

This kind of fully engaged collaborative work, both within the members of PLEA as

well as with the discipline-specialists involved within the initiative, led to pedagogical

models that emerged from empirical research gathered within the program. The

dynamics of such labor dynamics lasted until 2011, when Ávila Reyes left Chile (and

PLEA) to begin her doctoral studies at University of California, Santa Barbara.

However, such work continues in that what was started was left in the hands of a

group of former PLEA student assistants who are now graduate students in


Conclusion: Recent Developments and Future Questions

PLEA continues to grow as a provider of writing courses for different academic units

at PUC. Since 2016, two other initiatives independent from PLEA were implemented

to address writing at the university, no doubt influenced by the work from PLEA. One

initiative is PED 22 (Programa de Escritura Disciplar or Program for Disciplinary Writing),

a program designed for instructors to promote the use of writing as a tool for learning

in academic disciplines. The other initiative is known as PRAC 23 (Programa de Apoyo a

la Comunicación Académica or Program to Support Academic Communication), a writing

center meant to support Universidad Católica’s student population.

During 2014, a specialist in Systemic Functional Linguistics undertook the

direction of PLEA. This theoretical perspective could introduce PLEA to broader

conversations with this theory of language, as well as an additional methodology for

the study of academic discourse, and a pedagogy in coherence with those orientations.

The introduction of this framework may transform and unify the theoretical grounding

of PLEA’s work in ways unimaginable as of yet. This new approach centers on

systemic functional genre pedagogies: “In SFL approaches, the teaching-learning

process is typically seen as a cycle which takes writers through modelling, joint

negotiation, and independent construction” (Hyland, 2003, p. 26). A possible

advantage of having one unified theoretical frame is that it allows each instructor to

design and develop their course syllabi autonomously, while adhering to a common

set of values and principles that orient the program as a whole.

These recent developments show that the formation process of a project like

PLEA is profoundly dynamic and in constant dialogue with thought outside Latin

America: the U.S. tradition in Writing Studies first and the Systemic Functional

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Ana M. Cortés Lagos

Linguistics second. I say dialogue because the different influences that have shaped

the development of this project have always been received by an academic culture with

an identity of its own, which has operated as an active interpretation and appropriation

of these elements. It is difficult to tell, at this point, what transformations in terms of

research orientations and pedagogies these more recent contacts with international

theories will produce. But, most probable, these dialogues between Writing Studies in

Latin America and other traditions will continue to expand. For instance, conferences

like ALES (Association of Latin American Writing Studies) –with a clear transnational

orientation– continue to gain force and a presence in the international panorama. My

hope is that other people will learn from histories like the one I have discussed as ways

to help to interrogate the borders of national and regional traditions in Writing Studies

and to raise relevant questions with regard to the theoretical exchanges,

appropriations, and loans that shaped traditions located at the center of the global

academic landscape (Canagarajah, 2002).

When I began doing this research, back in 2017, my understanding of the field

of Writing and Rhetoric Studies, and its development in Latin America looked very

different. I was new to the field in the U.S. The ALES conference had just been

formed, and I had not had the chance to look at my own tradition from a distance.

Even the question (no longer standing) about the existence of a regional discipline and

tradition seemed relevant and pressing. The present study, which now feels a bit

outdated and naïf raises, however, some important questions. Can the field of writing

and rhetoric be understood as one that develops across boundaries, rather than solely

inscribed within national territories? How would understanding this field across

borders transform the understanding of the discipline? What roles does the study of

regional (marginal or “emergent”) traditions play in the understanding of the field at

large? What are some productive ways of promoting a dialogue between traditions

with unequal prestige and power? And, what are some of the principles and outcomes

that we expect will come from such exchanges?


1. Land acknowledgment - College of arts and science of Syracuse University. (2020).

Retrieved February 25, 2020, from https://thecollege.syr.edu/landacknowledgement/

2. Interviews with Natalia Ávila Reyes and Christian Peñaloza Castillo are cited

intensely throughout the text, because they are co-founders of PLEA. Interviews

with Soledad Montes, Natalia Leiva, and Riva Quiroga were essential for my

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 112

Inventing PLEA

understanding of recent developments concerning this program, but not cited

directly in this article.

3. Personal translation, of the original text in Spanish: “La mayoría de los nuevos

alumnos han llegado a la educación superior gracias a la extensión de la cobertura

de enseñanza media, que era del 90% en 2000, con un promedio de 10 años. Si

bien el primer quintil es proporcionalmente, todavía, el mayor usuario de la

enseñanza universitaria, el incremento de alumnos en ella se debe

fundamentalmente a que alumnos de los quintiles segundo, tercero e incluso

cuarto hoy son candidatos a ingresar a la universidad.” (Neira, 2004, web).

4. Personal translation, of the original text in Spanish: “Alumnos y profesores no

tienen hoy tanta capacidad para incidir en el sistema como una generación de

empresarios con capacidad de crear universidades, apoyados por grupos de poder

y acceso a capitales. Estos empresarios universitarios no necesariamente se

mueven por el lucro, pues muchos lo hacen más bien motivados por incrementar

la difusión y el poder de las ideologías -casi siempre conservadoras- que

comparten.” (Neira, 2004, web).

5. This number is hyperbolic. The actual number was closer to 15000.

6. The 2000s.

7. Original text in Spanish: “La diversificación de los sujetos que llegaron a la

universidad. Si bien esa expansión en Chile es un poco mentiroso decir que fue

súper alta… A ver, en Chile la expansión es como de un 1000% en diez años, una

cuestión así de locos, pero de ese porcentaje los que llegaron a las universidades

del Consejo de Rectores son muy poquitos. En el fondo, […] la Católica creció un

montón. Cuando yo entré eran como 5000 estudiantes, si es ridículo como creció

en esa década. Pero, ese crecimiento exponencial, de locos que muestran las cifras

globales, se concentró más en las universidades privadas más nuevas, fuera del

Consejo de Rectores.”

8. It is challenging to point out specific literature about this topic. Although there are

publications that suggest that such a shift was taking place during the first decade

of the 2000s in Chile and maybe other countries in Latin America (Dettmer,

2008), these references emanate from studies in different disciplinary pedagogies,

e.g. medicine (Triviño et.al., 2009), engineering (Salgado et.al., 2012), nursing

(Araya et.al., 2011). And, the terminology describing the turn may vary

(competences, skills, integral training).

9. Personal translation of the original text: “…la capacidad de enfrentar

creativamente problemas complejos, trabajar bien en equipo, comunicarse

eficazmente en forma verbal y escrita, hablar un idioma extranjero, tener una gran

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 113

Ana M. Cortés Lagos

capacidad para procesar información, etc. // Para lograr los objetivos anteriores

las universidades de los EEUU están reforzando y remozando sus programas de

formación general, expandiendo el aprendizaje activo, favoreciendo la educación

personalizada, promoviendo las actividades de investigación en el pregrado y

expandiendo los programas de intercambio académico con universidades

extranjeras.” (UC, 2010. Plan de desarrollo 2000-2005).

10. Short for Centro de Medición de la Universidad Católica, Center for

Measurements of Universidad Católica.

11. ALED stands for Asociación Latinoamericana de Estudios del Discurso, Latin

American Asociation of Discourse Studies. This organization was founded 1995

in Caracas, Venezuela (http://www.aledportal.com/aled.html).

12. Original text in Spanish: “Natalia: […] yo la primera vez que escuché hablar de

este tema fue en un encuentro ALED que se hizo en la PUC, aquí en San Joaquín.

Chiquitito. Y a ese ALED, vino Elvira Narvaja de Arnoux. ¿La ubicas? La de la

UBA. Y ella inventó unos talleres, que ya no existen, del ciclo básico de la UBA

[…] Y estos fueron los primeros cursos que se hicieron y, de hecho, es la primera

bibliografía que yo conozco. Ese enfoque es un enfoque bien de taller lingüístico,

y es bien parecido a lo primero que empezamos a hacer nosotros en la

Universidad Católica. // E.: Entonces ustedes cuando empezaron a pensar en el

diseño dijeron, ya, algo parecido a lo de Narvaja… // Natalia: No. Empezamos a

hacer algo parecido porque éramos lingüistas.”

13. The original title in Spanish is "Función y calidad del discurso académico escrito."

14. The names of people who were not interviewed or asked to contribute to this

history was purposely omitted.

15. Original text in Spanish: “…ahí lo que hicimos fue recopilar textos, a tontas y a

locas, y analizarlos, también a tontas y a locas. Obviamente lo que hacías, como

lingüista agarrando un texto y analizando qué problemas tiene, era eso: hacer

catastros de problemas.”

16. Original text in Spanish: “Casa Central (Subdirección Académica) dijo, “a estos

chicos no los podemos dejar en el aire porque sino no van a poder aprobar sus

licenciaturas”. Y se inventan los cursos de verano. El primer curso de verano […]

me imagino que los primeros los debe haber dado Marcela Oyanedel, José Luis

Samaniego, que algunas clases deben haber dado, pero ya los hacíamos

básicamente Natalia y yo. Eran cursos durante enero. Intensivos. Y ahí también se

empezó a armar un equipo de ayudantes. De hecho, recuerdo que en una versión

se inscriben tantos estudiantes que tuvimos que tener una versión matinal y una

versión vespertina…”.

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Inventing PLEA

17. Meaning, people in high administrative positions in the university.

18. Original text in Spanish: “Entonces para hacer bien este trabajo, más allá de todo

este marco teórico que te estás armando, necesitas un sustento estadístico, porque

cuando hables con los psicólogos, que eran los que tenían el control de la prueba,

incluso cuando hables con Casa Central, llega con evidencia cuantitativa. No solo

con el soporte teórico no corroborado.”

19. Original text in Spanish: “Y se fueron a las bases de datos a buscar sobre

escritura, y… ¡Oh! Encontraron que existía una tradición. Eso, fue el 2005, tal vez

el 2006. Y ahí, a través de las enfermeras, yo llegué a leer Paula Carlino, llegué a

leer gente que trabaja en Australia con temas de escritura universitaria, como


20. Contrast with recent data on the following site:


(last visited, December, 2017).

21. Original text in Spanish: “Nos juntábamos con profes de Ingeniería. Leíamos

textos entre nosotros. Teníamos un día a la semana para leer bibliografía y

comentarla. Hacíamos entre todos el programa, ayudantes y profesores, mismo

nivel de voz. Cambiábamos las cosas que no habían resultado de un semestre a

otro. Super en la lógica de investigación acción porque no sabíamos nada,

estábamos inventando la rueda en ese sentido.”

22. See PED’s website here: Programa de Escritura Disciplinar,

web: http://escrituradisciplinar.uc.cl/ (last visited, December, 2017).

23. See PRAC’s website here: Programa de Apoyo a la Comunicación Académica,

web: http://comunicacionacademica.uc.cl/ (last visited, December, 2017).


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About the Author

Ana María Cortés Lagos is a PhD student and writing instructor at Syracuse University

in the Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric and Composition. She also serves as

assistant editor for the WAC Clearinghouse International Exchange series (Latin

American section). Her work focusses on the development of the Latin American

writing studies tradition, transnational writing studies, the geopolitics of knowledge

production, as well as WAC and WID pedagogies. Her work has been published in

journals like Textos, Onomazein, Transnational Literature, and Lenguas Modernas.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 118

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

An “El Chuco Strong” sign is displayed with prayer candles.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 119

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

A sign with the names of the El Paso victims flowed with flowers

that visitors watered consistently until the memorial was moved to Ponder Park

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 120

Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

Cont. Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural

Artist Gabe Vasquez

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes


Figure 2: Gabe Vasquez and other artists working on mural.

Gaby Velasquez photographer.

ELVIRA: What inspired the El Paso Strong mural piece? What does this piece


GABE: All right. I can't say that I was directly affected by the tragedy that happened.

I wasn't so hyped to heal the community. The way it happened was that this dude that

I know he had permission to paint that wall and do graffiti on it. Told me that if we

do it right now in the heat of the moment, you're gonna' get a bunch of attention. He

wanted to do it like the billboard, which is just white and orange El Paso Strong. I

thought that was kinda lame. No offense to him, but that's just so simple. I was like

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 121

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

people died, bro. I'm trying to go hard for them. If this is about to be a memorial piece,

I wanted to do them justice. I knew right off the bat what to do because that's just

how I am. I'd like to say that somebody put that idea in my head. You know what,

dude? Let's just do some simple letters and write El Paso Strong. And put the city

inside of it. That's gonna' go hard. That's a lot. I was like I'll do it. I went out and

bought some paint from the store. Went over there and started it. It didn't get real

until I met people who were directly affected. I'm talking about a guy whose sister

dropped to the floor to shield her baby. Broke the baby's arms. Got lit up and died

with her husband. That one hit me the hardest. What a way to go out. Hearing all the

stories. That put me on a mission. People started coming. It wasn't about the news. It

was about people who were directly affected coming and bleeding their soul to me.

Whoa, it means that much to you? Then I guess we gotta' kill it.

Video Link 5: Click on image.

ELVIRA: How does the El Paso Strong mural help with recovery and transformation?

GABE: Well with recovery I'm gonna' have to say that time heals all wounds. Recovery

is also very based inside the mind. Because if you can't let it go, you're gonna' be hurt

forever. But you don't have to be. As far as transformation goes... Well this city has

definitely stepped up its security game. As a society, our own little thing going on, I

just hope that it was an eye opener to people. It could have been any one of us. So, at

any time you can go. It will be your turn. Are you even ready? If you're not, you need

to get out there and get ready. I myself still can't die a happy person. I still feel like I

got so much more to do. That's only gonna' happen through pushing myself. I have a

lot of love for the people that passed. If you don't push yourself and really chase after

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 122

Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

what your vision is, then you're never gonna' have a life that you want. That's what I

want for everyone really. I feel like everyone chasing their desires. I feel like that uplifts

our community as a whole. Improves everybody's life.


Video Link 6: Click on image.

ELVIRA: How did you make the mural? How did you know when the piece was


GABE: This thing is how I do it. I know when I'm done when this thing (pointing to

head) is quiet. Whenever you're painting a wall, if you don't step back a thousand times

it's not a good job. You have to step back so many times. I've been doing this for

fifteen years. I have a real good idea of what a solid mural looks like in my eyes. On

top of that I have a friend who’s my partner. His name is Dave Navarro. He's a very

critical person too. Together we create all these things. He's who I've been doing all

my El Paso Strong Murals with. If I can please that guy, then I know that my art is

amazing. That's good. I did a good job. All right. Dave's quiet. Good.

ELVIRA: How did you meet Dave?

GABE: His brother's Gems. Gems the reason I can do this. A lot happened that day.

I may have lost some friends who weren't really my friends. But not Dave because

Dave's actually my friend. And he stood by my side when everyone left. We've been

painting a lot. Even before that we've been painting. It brought us closer together. I'm

really happy for that. Life is a lonely place.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 123

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes


Video Link 7: Click on image.

ELVIRA: How does the El Paso Strong mural help us heal?

GABE: I'm gonna' be a future art teacher and wrestling coach in high school. In Texas

you have to teach to coach. I love combat. I'm almost a black belt in a martial art. Inspiring

others is what I love doing. It's kind of like, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a

day. But if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. That right there, to me

that's what inspiration is all about. Through inspiration healing just happens. I'm not trying

to distract everyone from what happened. I just hope that through the concept that we're

pushing that is El Paso Strong, that people will remember it and remember everything

we've been through. I'm hoping that how hard I'm trying... shows them exactly how I feel

about what I want to do with my life. I'd like for all this to be what I do for the rest of my

life. Coming from El Paso it's kind of hard. If I was in California, it would be gravy. But

in El Paso, it's a little challenging. We're a good arts community. I'm hoping through all

of this it inspires others to go out there and chase their dreams. Diligently. Super

committed. Just do it. I have a lot of love for the people who were affected. I wish there

was more I could do besides just painting pretty things. If I could at least put this El Paso

Strong mural that means a whole movement that we have. It's like a mentality. Then that's

cool because if it unifies the community just a little bit, if it uplifts it just a little bit, well

then it was worth doing a thousand times.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 124

Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

Video Link 8: Click on image.

ELVIRA: How do you see the role of artists?

GABE: I got a good one for you. Have you ever heard that a picture is worth a thousand

words? Maybe more. I kind of feel an artist is a voice for people. And hopefully what they

do impacts society positively. Don't get me wrong I like to write my name on everything.

I do graffiti. If I can help people become inspired through what I do, present positive

messages through symbolism. Uplifting the community is big deal to me. My role to me

as an artist, is to inspire others, uplift them, inspire them through the things that I do. As

far as community goes, I feel this way everywhere I go. It's about humanity really.

Humanity is so much bigger than society at large. It's everybody. Everything. I'd like to be

a positive source of inspiration to everyone. I'd rather uplift everyone everywhere. I'd

rather just empower everyone everywhere that I go. I'm all about that. I really am.

Video Link 9: Click on image.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 125

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Memorial outside of Walmart with the Mexican, American, and Texan flag.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 126

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 127–133

Poets in the Classroom: What We Do When We Teach Writing

Laurie Ann Guerrero, with Sabrina San Miguel and Cecilia Amanda Macias

Texas A&M University-San Antonio, on land of the Coahuiltecans. 1

In 2019, Texas A&M University–San Antonio celebrated its ten-year anniversary.

Situated in the Southside of the city, surrounded by the beloved nopales and mesquite,

our dear university holds true to the goal of reaching upward and outward, committed

to the students and the community it serves.

I am in my fourth year as a Writer-in-Residence on this campus, which was

built on the land where my family has lived for generations. To be from this specific

part of Texas (having learned in public schools which men should be celebrated for

our independence from Mexico or for our tenacity to be become our own Republic

and how this city and those who governed it played such an important role to form

our identity as proud Texans) requires a much more open mind and more inclusive

way of thinking in order to best understand the steadfastness and audaciousness we as

a people in this area have maintained for generations.

My ancestors toiled in these fields, among the same nopales and mesquite,

raised their babies here, buried their loved ones here. I am raising my babies here. My

grandparents are buried here—my grandparents who picked cotton, who didn’t have

access to education, who endured racism and classism and sexism that wasn’t just

outwardly brought upon them, but was internalized, adding to the complex identities

and histories into which we were born.

And now I, too, work on this land, in a capacity my grandparents could only

have dreamed of. I am a writer, a documentarian—from a family of laborers. Writing

and teaching on this campus has unraveled in me a kind of understanding I could not

have had otherwise.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Laurie Ann Guerrero


by Laurie Ann Guerrero

in honor of the 10 th anniversary of Texas A&M University-San Antonio

for Cecilia Amanda Macias & Sabrina San Miguel

...you cannot afford to think of being here to receive your education;

you will do much better to think of yourselves as being here to claim one…

The difference is that between acting and being acted-upon…

it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

–Adrienne Rich, “Claiming an Education,” (p. 231)

This is what I want to tell you:

This is yours—the air and all who breathe it.

We belong to each other, you see.

You need not carry the stones in your heart

any farther. Here, there is no paper, no

number, no fight you need to produce

so that someone else will make space

for you. It’s the history in your hands

that build, brick by brick, the rooms

into which you walk. We will mark the days

as they come: a job lost, another child

gone, lines—to vote, to eat, to pay our debts—

conferring, as it were, temperance noted

in books our people could not read. Look here,

this is what I want to say: you are not here

to receive your education, but to build upon

the lessons distilled through generations,

to give your own inherent knowing

in return—in the name of something far greater.

In the spirit of yours and mine whose bodies

hold up the soles of our feet and whose knowing

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Poets in the Classroom

tames the quivers in our throats. Here is the lot,

cleared, and in its place, the documented

evolution of our work on this land: our breath

in contracts with the earth and with each other.

You are the bloom that holds the root, making

magic between the soil and the sun.

My students bring with them their own rich histories; more than 80% are from

this area, according to my conversation with our university president, Dr. Cynthia

Teniente-Matson. Also, of the students we serve, Latinx make up 71%, first-generation

students make up 70%, and women make up 60%. These facts are the proof that we

are reaping the benefits of the struggles of those who bore sweat in our name. And

that is sacred. And that is what I get to see and take pride in as part of this institution—

the bloodlines that exist here, the struggle, the empowerment. To know this land, to

honor it, is to represent it well—which is to say, we are a family.

This is the basis for which I run my classroom. As a teaching poet, my job is

not just to get students to write, and write well, but to help students uncover what

needs to be written—their own histories and the history they are making. This work

requires that the classroom become a safe space to explore, to risk, to ask questions,

and most importantly, it requires that all who enter do so with a willingness to be

vulnerable. In this lies strength—and when students are forthcoming with their fears,

their goals, their histories, they become empowered, they become empathetic, and the

steadfastness we inherited from our people becomes that with which we progress. By

adding to the already documented accounts, by offering a previously omitted part of

the story, we recover what was historically taken from us: our voice. And, as important,

we recover a self-awareness wholly developed and nourished by the respecting and

honoring of who and where we are from.

In the last few years, I spent a great deal of time with 2 specific graduate

students, writers: Sabrina San Miguel and Cecilia Amanda Macias. I worked with them

closely throughout four consecutive semesters on campus. I chose to share their work

with you because of their persevering commitment to their education, to their art, and

to their brave and difficult emotional / physical / spiritual work.

Sabrina & Cecilia both graduated in May of 2019 with an MA in English. They

are co-founders of, Feliz, a zine for women of color “who define their own damn

happiness.” The two are a unique pair who had very different paths that got them to

same university at the same time— each challenging and supporting the other, each

speaking up on the other’s behalf, each daring the other to be louder, braver, and each

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Laurie Ann Guerrero

the loudest to applaud in the other’s audience. I was just lucky enough to witness this

gift of young, strong, brilliant women who happened to take some classes with

me…who happened to let me bear witness to this generation of empowered women.

A single mother of three small children, a dedicated writer, native to the

Eastside of San Antonio, Sabrina San Miguel explores the intersections of identities in

her work. Her poetry works to scratch away at the layered history of women in her

family while reconciling also what she intentionally or unintentionally gives to her own

children. A first-generation college graduate, Sabrina sustains her commitment to be

bold, to dare to break tradition, and all in the name of making a space for her children

and community to do the same. Her poetry is gritty, unapologetically honest and

reveals unspoken intimacies in the struggle for justice.



by Sabrina San Miguel

NPR reports that video footage surfaced of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs.

I am driving. Rent is late. I cannot think over the kids’ chatter.

Said the monster both smoke and metal were systematic in his destruction.

The phone won’t get shut off until the 25th.

My children are always loud. Today they are curious.

Aisle after aisle. Pew by pew. Seven minutes in heaven. Trespassing against many.

My son is counting streetlights now. Asking me to reconsider my dinosaur preference. I stand my

ground. Velociraptor, kid and I ain’t budging. Oh god, how will I pay for Christmas next month?

White woman on radio calls in to ask why no one fought back.

I am caught off guard. Stop thinking about bills. I scoff at her question— as if it is normal to bring

a weapon to praise and worship on Sundays.

Texas Department of Public Safety released the list of the dead. Grouped the families

together so that they remained safe, at least on paper.

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Poets in the Classroom

My children are quiet now. I tell my daughter to stop googling his name.

Not to give him power in death. She says she’s happy we don’t believe in

god. I wish we didn’t believe in theaters or schools either.

Twenty-Six in total. Children and the elderly. Mostly women.

I read some of their ages— One. Five. Ten. Children the same age as my own. Not driving in a car

this morning with their mothers. And dinosaurs. I cannot imagine the quiet there. How death

sounds the morning after. Do gunshots echo in the ear canal of those that lived?

A man with a country accent calls in. Says this is how the world is nowadays and we

should better prepare next time.

My son tells me he would protect me from a T-Rex if it ever came to Texas. Ninjas too. I push the

thought of his tiny brown body protecting me from anything out of my mind. Look at him through

the rearview mirror. Scan his almond eyes. Brilliant baby teeth. None missing just yet. Take note

of the gray hoodie. In case I have to identify his body. A quick prayer that I never will.

The program cuts away briefly to something unrelated about Hollywood before we

pull up to the school.

I scan my daughter. Tortoise shell glasses. Unicorn hoodie. Her nails are

painted purple and chipping. Please God let them live— and help me with rent.

Cecilia Amanda Macias is also a dedicated writer, native to the Southside of

San Antonio and the surrounding area. Both academic and creative, Cecilia dares to

ask the questions in her work that too many shy away from. She is a brilliant debater,

deliberate in the expression of her sharp ideas and opinions, and often she speaks the

truths others cannot. A dancer, performer, and visual artist as well, Cecilia’s poetry

holds a space for her to breathe, to lay down her arms, and to reflect on those whose

voices were not as strong as her own. Her work makes no apologies—it is logical and

hard-hitting and demands that you catch up.

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Laurie Ann Guerrero


by Cecilia Amanda Macias

The doves that remained at home, never exposed to loss,

innocent and secure, cannot know tenderness…

–Rainer Maria Rilke, “Dove that Ventured Outside”

You died as swiftly as you hit the glass.

Paper towel scrape—

unresisting plumes

lift off concrete.

Peering electric blue,


eye. Slit throat, guts

on white-gray feathers.

Parking lot processional—

I commit you to the black

garbage. Peace.

I experience a joy like no other when I watched my students receive their

master’s degrees and start their own careers. But it’s the conversations, the sharing,

the risks we took in the classroom that led to the long hours dedicated to the solitary

act of writing—the quiet space where we (myself included) distilled our individual

goals, our collective plights. The quiet space where we go to dare ourselves to be

bolder, be stronger, be true.

While there are a great many benefits to reading and engaging with poetry

(including the reconciling of our own intimate truths and growing our capacity to think

wider and more inclusively), reading poetry will not change our history. But writing

poetry will most certainly change the course of it.

This is what we are doing.


1. Land acknowledgement – The native people. (2020). Retrieved April 30, 2020,

from https://www.nps.gov/saan/learn/historyculture/history3nativepeople.htm

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Poets in the Classroom


Rich, A. (1977/1979/1995). Claiming and education. In On Lies, Secrets, and Silence:

Selected Prose 1966–1978 (pp. 231–236). W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Rilke, R. M. (1995). “Dove that Ventured Outside.” In Ahead of all Parting: The selected

poetry and prose of Rainer Maria Rilke (S. Mitchell, Trans.). The Modern Library.

About the Poets

Laurie Ann Guerrero is the author of Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (University of

Notre Dame Press 2013) and A Crown for Gumecindo (Aztlan Libre Press 2015). Her

latest collection, I Have Eaten the Rattlesnake: New and Selected Poems, is forthcoming from

Texas Christian University Press. She has held consecutive positions as Poet Laureate

of the city of San Antonio (2014-2016) and the State of Texas (2016-2017). Guerrero

holds a B.A. in English Language & Literature from Smith College, an MFA in poetry

from Drew University, and is the Writer-in-Residence at Texas A&M University-San


Sabrina San Miguel was born and raised on the Eastside of San Antonio. A founding

member of Felize Zine, San Miguel is the mother of three and the first in her family

to receive a college education. San Miguel received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English

and in Women’s Studies and her master’s degree in English at Texas A&M-San

Antonio. She is currently at work on her first collection of poetry, My Mother was a


Cecilia Amanda Macias is a founding member of Felize Zine and creates scholarship

researching and producing Chicana literature and performance. Her poetry

investigates Chicana identity, ancestral legacy, and the role of the poet-scholar. Macias

was born into the Tejana diaspora in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is a proud resident

of San Antonio’s Southside and currently works supporting adult education. She

received her Bachelor of Arts and her master’s degree in English at Texas A&M

University-San Antonio.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 133

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

A cross with Jesus Christ was hung from a sign near the memorial.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 134

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 135–158

Always Been “Inside”

J. Paul Padilla

University of Arizona, on land of the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui

peoples. 1

A note from the author

This essay represents a project of decolonial disobedient conservatism. 2 Beginning with a particular

rhetoric partnership and expanding to academic, public, and personal realms, this essay functions as

a meditation on the theme of rhetorical recovery and transformation in naming, self-identification,

agency, and voice beyond the logic of coloniality embodied in the terms Hispanic and Latino. The idea

of the “pluriversity and truth” upon which decoloniality operates defines this meditation (Mignolo,

2017, p. 41). For this essay, pluriversity and truth involves a foundational recognition of Latinx as

“complex, heterogenous people” (Anzaldúa, 2012, p. 77). I narrow focus of this meditation to a

particular segment of Latinx of which I am a member: generations of individuals in the United States

removed from our roots physically, epistemically, culturally, and linguistically by the machinery of

racism and coloniality; a population deemed not assimilable, branded as minorities, and faced with

what comes with, and after, the realization that we have “always been inside” the multiple spaces

called America. The style of the essay reflects influences from the genre of the personal essay, the genre

of critical autobiographical employed by Victor Villanueva, writings on critical race theory, and the

writing of Gloria Anzaldúa. Thus, five interwoven episodes comprise the structure of this essay. For

reference, I describe the episodes as follows: the two episodes entitled “Mary” and “The False Mirror”

establish central concerns regarding naming, self-identification, and agency through a public rhetoric

partnership; the episodes entitled “Where Consciousness, Conscience, Comfort Converge” and

“Towards an End” explore the deeper issues of coloniality and racism within the first two episodes

and suggest theories and approaches to these issues in and beyond the writing classroom; and the final

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

J. Paul Padilla

episode “Voice without a Language” addresses concerns about the limitations of these theories and



Mary Ulloa has been on my mind for months. Everything I know about her comes

from a few paragraphs written by Laurie Grobman in her 2015 article entitled

“(Re)Writing Local Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Histories: Negotiating Shared Meaning

in Public Rhetoric Partnerships.” In the article, Grobman (2015) examined

community-based projects that promoted the partnership between various racial,

ethnic, and cultural groups to show that teacher-scholars and students can participate

in “purposeful, impactful public work” (237) and to identify challenges of power and

control in such partnerships and their resulting product. One young Dominican

American student involved in the partnership described herself as “the only

Hispanic/Latino from the cuidad de Reading (Pennsylvania)” (qtd. in Grobman, 2015,

p. 246).

Yet more than 250 “rhetorical citizen historians” and “citizen-scholars”—titles

only bestowed upon the participating undergraduate writing students who appear to

be neither citizens of Reading, Pennsylvania, nor historians of rhetoric—worked with

Mary and other residents of Reading, who rhetorical citizen historians and citizenscholars

identified as “partners.” Despite the equitability that such a title connotes,

partners were “wholly dependent on collaboration” with rhetorical citizen historians

and citizen-scholars (Grobman, 2015, p. 244); throughout the intellectual labor,

administration, and oversight of the six-year partnership, rhetorical citizen historians

and citizen-scholars were entrusted to uncover, recover, and preserve local racial,

ethnic, and cultural histories (Grobman, 2015, p. 237). From this labor, administration,

and oversight came work that was disseminated to the public, including

“approximately 6,000 books and booklets on local African American,

Hispanic/Latino, and Jewish history” (Grobman, 2015, p. 237).

“Hispanic/Latino”? This framing caught my eye as unusual.

A question arose between Grobman and "community partners (first Jonathan

Encarnacion, then executive director of Centro Hispano who initiated the project,

followed by Yiengst, followed by Toledo)” (Grobman, 2015, p. 246): which moniker,

“Hispanic” or “Latino,” should be used throughout the book and for the title. “Our

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Always Been “Inside”

decision to choose the name ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino’” Grobman wrote, was challenged

by Mary (p. 246).

The decision?


The reason?

“…Mary powerfully and comfortably spoke as an insider with and for her own,

othered community, ‘giving them significant control’ over naming and identity,"

Grobman (2015) noted (p. 246).

A small part of me, I acknowledge, desires to tell you that Grobman’s decision

and reason must represent her recognition of la facultad de Mary. Gloria Anzaldúa

(1987/2012) defines la facultad as a “latent” and “unknowingly cul-tivate(d)” capacity

possessed by those individuals who are caught between two worlds (p. 61). This

capacity permits one “to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities, to

see the deep structure below the surface” (p. 60). For these individuals, la facultad

develops as a “survival tactic,” according to Anzaldúa (2012) against oppressions (p.

61). This tactic is strongest in “the females, the homosexuals of all races, the darkskinned,

the outcast, the persecuted, the marginalized, the foreign” (Anzaldúa, 2012,

p. 60).

Now, nothing in the text in Grobman’s article supports my own desire, and

mi propria facultad tells me that my desire comes from conditioning, both as an individual

of color living in the United States and a scholar of color producing scholarship in the

field of rhetoric and composition studies to give comfort to White fragility and to be

complicit with White privilege.

From the little that I know of Mary based on Grobman’s text, la facultad de

Mary seems obvious: she questions the either/or binary formed by ethnic termi-nology

for Latinx codified by the federal government of the United States; her knowledge of

a cultural identification and naming seems to go beyond this binary; she has the

courage not only to challenge Grobman’s leadership about this binary but also to

confront Grobman and community leaders about their presumed authorial and

cultural agency for Latinx.

Then, mi facultad screams at me. We can see that Grobman’s decision and reason

represents a larger rhetorical trope of Whiteness about roles of authorial agency and cultural agency in

auto-ethnography, a logic of coloniality towards Latinx in the United States about conditional cultural

naming, permissive identification, and probationary agency, a re-enforcement of a subject/object binary

rooted in the power dynamics of race in the United States. We know; we have seen it through the eyes

of those before us. We know; we have seen it through our own eyes. We moan, for we will know we

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J. Paul Padilla

will see it through the eyes of our children. And, I re-center myself, taking a step back with mi


One danger of speaking of la facultad de Mary and mi facultad this way is the

danger of misinterpretation; that, by speaking this way, I am enacting that which

Cherríe Moraga (1981/1983) warned against, “ranking the oppressions” (p. 29). That

is not my intention. My intention is to emphasize the uniqueness of la facultad to each

individual and, in this uniqueness, the specificity of oppressions and the complex

collective experiences that inform our facultad. Think of la facultad, in an individual or

as a concept, beyond the reductionist lens of Whiteness, of racism, of coloniality that

attempt to corral the “complex, heterogenous people,” as Anzaldúa (1987/2012)

describes, that is Latinx to some singular essentialized classification (p. 77). As a

complex and heterogenous people, we can learn and grow and heal from the sharing

of common collective experiences, like the struggle of naming, self-identification, and

agency. One thing learned from this struggle comes from our “ethnographic

observation of white people,” something Krista Ratcliffe (2005) spoke to in bell hooks’

work: a “survival mechanism throughout history” for African Americans to

understand the functionality of Whiteness and racism in cultural tropes (p. 115). I add

that this mechanism can also extend to Latinx in our efforts to understand the

functionality of that which underlies Whiteness and racism in cultural tropes,


To start, Grobman’s decision and reason to use Mary to name an entire

community in an auto-ethnographic rhetoric partnership, given Mary’s objection to

the either/or binary of self-identification, smacks of a cultural trope that Paulo Freire

(1996) identifies as false generosity:

Any attempt to “soften” the power of the oppressor in deference to the

weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false

generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this. In order to have the

continued opportunity to express their “generosity,” the oppressors must

perpetuate injustice as well. (p. 26).

This false generosity speaks to an assumed, overarching authority that Grobman

exercises over both the choice of names and the extent of permissive cultural, authorial

and discursive agency for Latinx in Reading which is represented through her public

rhetorical partnership. Moreover, this false generosity speaks to a larger cultural trope

of Whiteness and racism beyond the function, execution, and product of her

partnership that presents a false mirror to not only cultural naming, but also to

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Always Been “Inside”

intricacies and intimacies of naming, self-identification, and cultural agency beyond


For Mary, for Latinx, and for me the struggle of naming, self-identification,

and agency requires us to recognize and re-exist beyond false generosity and the false


The False Mirror

The painting entitled The False Mirror by French Surrealist Rene Magritte comes to

mind as an analogy. If you have not seen The False Mirror, then here is a description:

the central image of the painting is a single, lash-less eye of a White male, with a round

black pupil set at the center of a clouded blue sky of the iris. Although the eye reflects

an image of the heavens in the natural world, the eye is not a mirror per se. Here, the

painting suggests that the eye is subjective and selective. Such selectivity stems from

an ongoing negotiation by so-called “Man” with his conscious, unconscious, and

collective conscience. Though representative of an art movement that explored the

reality that underlies the mind, The False Mirror reveals to its audience that the eye of

this universality still is raced and gendered and Western. I have yet to see an art history book

acknowledge this point. Thus, The False Mirror serves as an analogy to the mind’s eye to

the unexamined positionality, terminology, and agency granted by coloniality through

which we see and are seen—the selectivity and subjectivity of a raced and gendered

and Western gaze reflected as universal for humanity and civilization.

Perhaps it is common not to question that reality we think our eyes reflect until

we are presented with a situation that challenges not only what we see but also the

notion of how and why we see what we see, as Magritte’s The False Mirror attempts to

do in questioning the positionality of authority. The questioning of this positionality

centers on a duty of reasonable care, not intentionality. The intentionality of [add name

here] as a good person is a common cultural trope of Whiteness used to evaluate

accountability and recourse for a failed duty owed to people of color. With respect to

Grobman’s public rhetorical partnership, I believe that there are grounds to question

the reasonable care that she took to counteract particular dysfunctionalities of

Whiteness—the false reflections of Hispanic and Latino as either/or binary of naming

and self-identification and the appearance of permissive cultural agency for Latinx—

in order to ensure auto-ethnography for Mary and her community.

From her statement, Mary may not have been convinced that Hispanic /

Latino is one term. Her answer—the part that Grobman (2012) quoted—seemed

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J. Paul Padilla

contradictory: Mary maintained, “…so let’s put the words together and reach out to

three communities within one… let’s reach out to the Latino, Hispanic, and

Hispanic/Latino community” (p. 246). Mary identified Hispanic / Latino as one of

three communities, the other two being Hispanic and Latino. Then, she suggested that

words be put together. This contradiction seemed natural, not surprising to me, for it

speaks to the inherent nature of racism with terms like Hispanic and Latino. Apparently,

Grobman and community leaders failed to address this contradiction. Instead, their

discussion centered on the control of naming and identity politics after Mary

“challenged” them (Grobman, 2015, p. 246).

Let me speak generically for a moment. One student challenged figures of

authority on concepts affecting an entire community after these figures of authority

posed and addressed the question, which should be the use of throughout the book and for the

title, Hispanic or Latino? So the authority figures decide which of these concepts is

acceptable based the opinion of one student deemed “an insider” who spoke “with

and for her own, othered community,” and the authority figures were persuaded into

“giving them” significant control over naming and identity by following this one

insider despite the “important lesson that each student will respond differently”

(Grobman, 2015, p. 246). Interesting, no? But what I find more interesting is the shift

in the scope of control over naming and identity given by the authority figures: “Mary

persuaded us to use the term Hispanic/Latino in an article included in the book”

(Grobman, 2015, p. 246). Naming and identity in an article included in the book, not naming

and identity throughout the book and for the title, which was the question between

community leaders and Grobman that Mary challenged.

The question asked, the generosity of control given, but nowhere was there a

genuine dialogue that explored the intricacies and intimacies of naming, selfidentification,

and agency for Latinx, which should be the basis of the duty of

reasonable care in such a partnership. Instead, this type of question has a singular

objective: to confirm the presumptive answer of people who project a privilege of

authority. This type of question reflects a power dynamic within rhetorical situations

and represents a doxa and kairos that involves race and racism in the United States.

Doxa, “the Greek word for common or popular opinion” (Crowley & Hawhee, 1999,

p. 9), results in the conflation of Hispanic or Latino as racial markers, which are terms

of ethnicity, not race, according the federal government of the United States, as well

as cultural markers, which are intended to be markers of origins outside of the United

States, but are markers of meaning in racially-focused American culture. Kairos means

the context of an issue, referred to as “time and place” or “circumstances” by

Quintilian and is the second of two Greek concepts of time that addresses a “kind of

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Always Been “Inside”

time—quality, rather than quantity” (Crowley & Hawhee, 1999, p. 31). Kairos affects

the choice, meanings, uses, and interpretations of terminology related to the United

States’ system of race, like the terms Hispanic and Latino. Such terms come to exist

and evolve with and within time, place, and circumstance; for example, Hispanic and

Latino have taken on social and political connotations (often negative connotations)

amid anti-immigrant rhetoric under the Trump Administration.

Outreach programs exist within a doxa situated in a kairos that extends well

beyond theories of the classroom and the perimeter of a university, which is visible in

Grobman’s partnership. While Grobman (2015) describes her partnership as

“purposeful, impactful public work” (p. 237) and focuses on challenges of power and

control in the partnership and its resulting product, Grobman portrays local racial,

ethnic, and cultural histories with a palatable, almost combative, tension and a

paternalistic slant: partners as “partial and interested, argumentative, vying for

legitimacy and control, privileging one reality to diminish another” (p. 243) and the

argumentative discourse as leading to “dependency” and “subservience” because of

struggles between constituencies and participants in “third spaces” (p. 244). These

themes of dependency, subservience labor, authorship, and privilege suggested

pronounced inequality in the community’s role in the partnership and, likely, the

history shaped with their narratives for the public.

In her question to Mary, Grobman made the rhetorical choice to describe the

question without an explanation of doxa regarding Hispanic and Latino and to ignore

kairos in the history of the living definition of these terms or other terms that may

overlap or precede Hispanic and Latino. Should the onus, then, fall on Mary, if the

humanistic stage of the pedagogy of the oppressed were applicable, to not only

challenge Grobman and community leaders on the use of Hispanic or Latino to

suggest a third option in using those terms, but also object to terms per se and demand

a dialogue about naming, self-identification, and agency for Latinx as acts of authentic


“Authentic thinking,” Freire (1996) argued, is “thinking that is concerned

about reality, does not take place in an ivory tower isolation, but only in

communication” (p. 58). To what reality was Mary to speak? The reality of the

partnership? The reality of her culture as a subject? As an object? The reality in a

negotiated identity? The reality of identity beyond such negotiations? To what extent

could Mary speak to any one of these realities? How? If she did, if she found language

to capture these realities, would Mary be truly heard?

In this conundrum, Mary reminds me of myself: a strong sense of self; an

identity forged through public and personal experiences examined in institutions

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removed from both a challenge tempered by the answer for which permission is

conditionally granted and a place where confirmation is implicitly demanded. Mary

was a college-aged student, Dominican American, in Reading, Pennsylvania in 2015. I

was a college-aged student, Mexican American, in segregated Milwaukee, Wisconsin in

1995—the year that Mary was born, possibly, or two years before. I also see myself in

Mary because of changes to agency as well as to my thinking about naming, identity,

race, and national origin. I was the Mexican kid from the ghetto that graduated from

college and law school. I was a Latino lawyer who practiced law in Chicago, Milwaukee,

and conservative Central Illinois for twelve years. Now, I am a doctoral student in the

Southwest. True today as it was in 1995, Hispanic, to me, represents the concoction of

a racist Nixon and the United States Office of Budget and Management to separate

Latinx from the racial classification of “White” through “ethnicity” as a qualifier as

well as the contempt of my parents toward that term and the imposition of that term

on them. Latino didn’t exist in my mind until 1997, when the United States Office of

Budget and Management codified it as an ethnicity.

Nonetheless, Latino carried a more personal connection for almost twenty

years of my life. In spite of the use of Latino by the American Bar Association, my

roles in organizations like the Latino Law Student Association, the Professional

Latino/Latina Allstate Network, and Conexiones Latinas de McLean County, and my

self-identification as Latino for years, I had not been aware of the academic distinction

between Latino and Mexican American until my second month at the University and,

thus, I was not Latino—or, at least, not in the Southwest. Once aware of this

distinction, I declared that my identity was mine and not a matter of race or politics—

sort of. After my father passed away, I wanted to honor his memory and my heritage

through dual American and Mexican citizenship. A lack of critical thinking overall or

a myopic attachment to the legal recognition of duality underscored my discovery

through the application process for dual citizenship that I already was a Mexican

national by blood.

Now, I self-identify as an American citizen and a Mexican national, identities

that are not synonymous with Hispanic and Latino. Hispanic and Latino reflect a facet

of American identity in a country defined by interlocking systems of domination and

white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, to borrow bell hooks’ two terms. But the

expectation exists for me, as for Mary, to speak of Hispanic and Latino apart from

personal experience and knowledge, terms fixed in time and space and subject to their

doxa in a particular kairos. My agency, like Mary’s, is permissive and probationary,

regardless of our assertiveness, regardless of our ethos and logos.

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Authentic thinking brings me to the importance of the question, why? Why as

a question should precede all other questions. Think of Grobman’s partnership

beginning with why from Mary’s perspective and that from the people in her

community. Why are we presented first with an either/or binary of the Othered? Why do you seek

to reduce us to one of these terms? Why are we Othered in our home, in our community, in this

partnership, in your mind? Why the presumption of authority, of affirmation, of arrogance? Why not

ask us, ask and understand our naming, our identity, our negotiations as we live life here? Why not

let us lead since this is our history? Why do we need your help anyway? Why don’t we just lead? Why

do we speak of ourselves in the different ways that we do?

I cannot help but to think of the oft responses to Why? A polite withdrawal. A

prickly silence. A pointed apology. I think of Freire (1996): “No oppressive order

could permit the oppressed to begin to question: Why?” (p. 67). Freeing one’s

reflection from the false mirror, getting oneself to questions on why speaks to the role

of consciousness of, and of one’s positionality in, contradictions and oppression in

naming, identity, and agency. It also speaks to a concern about the point where

consciousness, conscience, and comfort converge.

Where Consciousness, Conscience, and Comfort Converge

“While only a revolutionary society can carry out this (problem-posing) education in

systemic terms,” said Freire (1996), “the revolutionary leaders need not take full power

before they can employ the method” (p. 67). This sentence proceeds the sentence

about an oppressive order’s prohibition on the question, Why? The challenge of

reaching revolutionary leadership, I think, is the revelation that the critical

consciousness that makes—and keeps—authentic thinking separate from false

generosity begins with a consciousness of who is the oppressed and who is the

oppressor. “Who” is hard to determine in some instances when we, like Laurie

Grobman and Mary Ullao, are people attempting to employ thought, effort, and action

toward a constructive end.

A pedagogy of the oppressed involves a critical consciousness of

contradictions and oppression, as well as the implementation of praxis. Praxis means

transformative action and reflection toward authentic existence, humanization, and

liberation in the process of being. Dialogue is a definitive element of praxis, according

to Freire (1996). Transformation and liberation come from realizations by the

oppressed and the oppressor, the former, of its duality and its initial, misplaced

objective to become the oppressor or “sub-oppressor” (p. 27) and the latter, the

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anguish in the discovery of herself or himself as oppressor, the resistance to solidarity

with the oppressed, and yet rationalizing guilt through the continued dependency and

paternalistic treatment of the oppressed, according to Freire (1996).

This is where I struggle.

Must the oppressed complete the first humanistic stage to enter the second

liberation stage? Is it until then and only then that the oppressor can be liberated? Can

a revolutionary leader employ the problem-posing education effectively if the answers

to the preceding questions are “no”?

Naming and identity come with agency and authority through humanity, yet

the struggle for this agency and authority stems from dehumanization, which is

reflected and reinforced by language that names and identifies me within systems of

oppression and politics of domination designed to promote the agency and authority

of a dominant people. One major system and politics of oppression and domination

is racism. As Mignolo (2017) identifies, racism stems from the logic of coloniality but

shifts with nation-states and, in these, the shifting rhetoric of humanity as defined by

citizenship status (p. 42). For Latinx in the United States, the struggle of racism exists

as one of multiple realities. Latinx have to reconcile positionality as individuals, as

members of communities, and by status in nation-states through the realities of racism

by our presence in the United States as well as by the presence of our territories or

nations of origin in our lives, even if the latter presence is just generational legacy.

These realities of racism come from the histories of colonialization and the

presence of coloniality. Then, truer to the concerns of these realities is this question

of communication in authentic thinking that involves naming and identity: What if the

oppressor and oppressed had each posed the question of why to themselves and each

reached critical consciousness of contradictions and oppression for themselves, but

each decided to value their own interests over the interests of humanization and

liberation? This is not a novel question. Freire addresses it: isn’t the tension between

anti-dialogical action and dialogical action, between false generosity and authentic

thinking, between activism/verbalism and praxis, at core, because of individual


For those individuals with a possessive investment in Whiteness, to borrow a phrase

from George Lipsitz (1998), the assimilationist concept of American identity creates

and fosters social, economic, and political attitudes and benefits from systematic

domination and oppression through racism. For them, maybe critical consciousness

of contradictions and oppression exists, but, because of their positionality, they can

pass or they found a path or they seek a peace and they value that which brings them

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comfort through their investment over all else. This is where consciousness,

conscience, and comfort converge.

Movement toward an end beyond this investment, beyond coloniality, could

be propelled by a deeper exploration of the role of racism, the potential of epistemic

delinking and conscientização, and the capacity to think otherwise about naming, identity,

agency, and difference.

A. On Racism

Toward an End

Recognizing the role of language and discourse in racism, Iris D. Ruiz (2016) argued

that racial classification and hierarchies operate as discursive constructs that distort the

life experience and long history of oppression of certain racial groups and foster

inequality in material realities to maintain current power structures of dominance and

oppression. W.E.B. DuBois’ defines the contradictory nature of race and its history,

according to Ruiz (2016); race has “all sorts of illogical trends and irreconcilable

tendencies” (p. 10) and “[e]ventually, he decided that race might not be a concept at

all but rather, as, ‘a group of contradictory forces, facts and tendencies’” (p. 10).

Sociologists Edward T. Telles and Vilma Ortiz (2009) identified common

misconceptions about race, issues of agency based on race, and the power of social

perception of race regarding Hispanics and Mexican Americans that lead to social,

economic, and political inequalities and attitudes. Race, despite doxa, is not a fixed set

of racial categories applicable to everyone, according to Telles and Ortiz (2009). Yet,

they insist that categories, like Hispanic and Mexican American and Latino, among

others, are arguably conflated with race or interpreted as racial designations. Thus, race

and racial designations involve agency and authority in naming, identity, and mobility

as well as access to opportunity, property, and legal right, as Telles and Ortiz (2009)

discussed. Hispanics and Mexican Americans elect their race—that is, self-identify,

even on matters with the federal government of the United States—but, as Telles &

Ortiz (2009) pointed out, the social perceptions of others determine the race of

Hispanic and Mexican-Americans.

Racism is woven into the concept and language of assimilation and American

identity, visible throughout the legal and socio-political history of the United States.

Here are just a few examples: the Naturalization Act of 1790, the first naturalization

law in United States, restriction on citizenship by naturalization to free White persons;

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Benjamin Franklin’s anti-immigration position towards Germans; Theodore

Roosevelt’s position on the ideal assimilated American; the use of the English language

for assimilation and as the de facto official language of the United States; and, Trump’s

anti-immigration politics and racial politics toward people from Latin America. The

concept of “White” and citizenship in the United States has changed over the history

of the nation. “Whiteness is, however, a social fact, an identity created and continued

with all-too-real consequences for the distribution of wealth, prestige, and

opportunity” (Lipsitz, 1998, p. vii).

People whose descendancy traces back to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the

Dominican Republic, Haiti, the countries of Central America, and the countries of

South America may be allowed to assimilate and to become “American.” While

gender, sexual orientation, and religion were social and legal factors for assimilation

and citizenship at different points in American history, the racial construct of White

has always been the definitive quality. Those who could “pass” as White, by color,

physiognomy, and the adoption of cultural norms, could become American in the eyes

of the public and the law. Those who could not pass were marginalized as hyphenated

Americans by social perception, affecting their status in the social structure, access to

employment and education, and marriage, be it because of social discrimination or, for

a time, if applicable, anti-miscegenation laws. Hispanic and Latino, arguably, is a

conceptual extension of hyphenated American. Re-appropriation and cultural identity,

I think, is where debate about doxa about Hispanic and Latino occur intraculturally.

In response to social perceptions and doxa of Americans, the adoption of

hyphenated-American identities may represent an act of political unification against

racism. One example:

Today racial movements not only pose new demands originating outside state

institutions, but may also frame the “common identity” in response to statebased

racial initiatives. The concept of “Asian-American,” for example, arose

as a political label in the 1960s (Omi & Winant, 2013, p. 89).

Whether it is an imposition by others or a reaction to being Othered, Hispanic and

Latino have a common culture. “The Latinoist movement (Chicanos, Puerto Ricans,

Cubans, and other Spanish-speaking people working together to combat racial

discrimination in the marketplace) is good but not enough,” Anzaldúa (1987/2012)

wrote: “Other than a common culture we will have nothing to hold us together” (p.


The common culture is racism.

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B. On Epistemic Delinking and Conscientização.

Epistemic delinking, a concept of decoloniality attributable to Walter Mignolo and

Anibal Quijano, is a process of clearing a distinct conceptual space for decolonial

approaches to ethics and politics, a “space for ‘thinking otherwise’; that is, for thinking

of writing, literacy, and discourse apart from traditional (i.e., Greco-Roman) histories

and theories of rhetoric and apart from traditional (i.e., classical, liberal) notions of

race and ethnicity” (Ruiz & Sánchez, 2016, p. xiv). These traditions extend from the

applicable colonial matrix of power: coloniality, 3 a concept important to epistemic

delinking and, in this, decolonization and decoloniality. 4

After political independence is achieved, the country or territory in question

still relies on the former colonizer or “the colonial matrix of power” for its knowledge

and resources of knowledge, that is to say, “the ongoing (and thoroughgoing) system

of epistemological, ideological, economic, and cultural hegemony that was established,

developed, and maintained through European expansion across the globe” (Sánchez,

2016, p. 82). Addressing translingualism, but applicable more broadly, Steven Alvarez

(2016) spoke to the liberating potential of delinking across languages in rhetoric and

composition studies because “(d)elinking entails the ability to re-read the world and

the opportunity to re-write it” (p. 27). Mignolo (2017) identified this ability to re-read

and re-write the world through the concept of decolonial disobedient conservatism.

Decolonial disobedient con-servatism seeks to delink from the logic of coloniality in

order to re-exist, both of which involve “civil and epistemic disobedience” (Mignolo,

2017, p. 41). Re-existing, for Mignolo (2017), “implies relinking with the legacies one

wants to preserve in order to engage in modes of existence with which one wants to

engage” (p. 40), but re-existing “depends on the place of the individual in the local

histories disavowed, diminished and demonised in the narratives of Western

modernity” (p. 41). Mignolo (2017) saw re-existing as distinct from resisting, the latter

being “trapped in the rules of the games others created, specifically the narrative and

promises of modernity and the necessary implementation of coloniality” (p. 41).

Epistemic delinking identifies the problem of coloniality, conceptualizes the

source from which epistemic colonialism is bred through the colonial matrix of power,

and proposes an epistemic, discursive, and rhetorical separate from Western tradition

through re-existing. To me, epistemic delinking from coloniality and re-existing are

essential to dismantle racism, along with reaching other objectives, but my question is,

Toward what end?

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If racism is delinked epistemically, what episteme takes its place? Delinking

does not mean a romanticized recapturing of indigenous knowledge, which itself is

varied, complex, the subject of kairos, and must acknowledge that some people are

impacted negatively by coloniality. Yet, they do not have indigenous roots (a few

examples come to my mind: Mexicans of Africans and Chinese descent; people like

me who have visibly dark skin but complete Spaniard roots from migration to Mexico

in the late 1800s and early 1900s). A series of questions about practicing epistemic

delinking and re-existing arise naturally. How? What should and shouldn’t be delinked?

Who decides? What if two or more colonial matrices of power are involved? What

does delinking and re-existing beyond Hispanic and Latino involve for individuals,

communities, and a large society? These questions are not posed to belabor a point.

Epistemic delinking and re-existing are complex theoretical concepts that, if placed

into practice, raises a complex series of problems of the mind, the heart, and morality.

Reappropriation of a pejorative term or rhetorical tropes, inclusion of silenced

or diminished voices, identifying the colonial matrix of power, these approaches are

some examples to move toward epistemic delinking and re-existing in rhetoric and

composition studies. Yet, from my readings, there is no clear-cut analysis as to the

agency and invention necessary to create new knowledge through language and

discourse. Consider the idea of clearing space to “think otherwise” about terms like

Hispanic and Latino and questions like that asked of Mary. Consider the ability to reread

and the opportunity to re-write, consider voice, consider feelings. All of these

would demand “conditions under which knowledge at the level of doxa is superseded

by true knowledge, at the level of logos,” as Freire (1996) identified, to address the

colonial matrices of power involved in race and racism in the United States (p. 62).

With racism, the ongoing negotiations of doxa and logos are intertwined with kairos.

Critical consciousness—conscientização—provides a complimentary means for

epistemic delinking and re-existing consistent with decoloniality. Critical

consciousness is “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions,

and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality,” as Freire (1996, p. 17)

notes, and “by means of which the people, through a true praxis, leave behind the

status of objects to assume the status of historical Subjects” (p. 14). Praxis, authentic

thinking, and dialogical action all serve critical consciousness through epistemic

delinking and re-existing, but epistemic delinking and re-existing need to be,

individually and culturally, a process of discovery with the understanding that

individuals and cultures are in the process of becoming—“unfinished, uncompleted

beings in and with a likewise unfinished reality” (Freire, 1996, p. 84). An important

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reminder for critical consciousness and decolonial disobedient conservatism is to

consider that

[t]he truth is, however, that the oppressed are not “marginals,” are not people

living outside society. They have always been “inside”–inside the structure

which made them “being for others.” The solution is not to “integrate them

into a structure of oppression, but to transform that structure so they can

become “beings for themselves” (Freire, 1996, p. 55).

C. To Think Otherwise

My students gave me something that made think about them, think about doxa and

kairos in thinking, think about the application of critical consciousness, epistemic

delinking and re-existing to Hispanic and Latino, and to think about Jonathan

Alexander’s and Jacqueline Rhodes’ (2014) call on advocacy for difference in the


Each student in two sections of English 102 had the same canned assignment:

identify three additional solutions to help those affected by lead poisoning in Flint,

Michigan, with the audience of your solutions being officials from the State of

Michigan, Flint residents, and entrepreneurs. With a design based, in part, on writing

assignments from my first year legal writing courses at the University of Wisconsin

and a crisis role-playing exercise that was done with me and 25 other students in a

nine-month Multicultural Leadership Program, this assignment sequence as the last of

three argumentation papers would be where I emphasized critical thinking the most in

their writing. The last project was the last of four major steps in more autonomy and

accountability. I was somewhat surprise, I am ashamed to admit, that the majority of

my students identified the issues of class, race, color, and age in the context of the

Flint Water Crisis.

On the last class, one student surprised me with a class card, signed by all

students with notes written by most. I was humbled. So many warm and heartfelt

comments. Even after so many years, the sentiments stuck with me. Sentiments along

the lines of thank you for caring and thank you for emphasizing our betterment. But in these

sentiments was a reoccurring theme: gratitude for “teaching” students to think

critically. These comments came out after spending fifteen weeks together. In their

eyes, I proved myself trustworthy and invested in their good. They could open up to

me to the extent that they felt comfortable, not to the extent that I demanded it of

them. I emphasized my commitment to their agency and to fostering an environment

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of dialogue. Our discussions dealt with examples of doxa in kairos, at first, removed

from them. A speech by Nelson Mandela, portrayed by Morgan Freeman, in the film

Invictus. A talk by Susan B. Anthony on women’s suffrage. Opening statements and

testimony from the film Philadelphia. A speech given by Robert F. Kennedy in

Indianapolis on April 4, 1968; the day Martin Luther King was assassinated in

Memphis. Failures of humanitarian efforts in Sudan. Health decisions and body image

in an Op-Ed article from the New York Times by Angelina Jolie. An article from the

New York Times and a response published in the New York Times about the Native Lives

Matter movement. Environmental Activism displayed through photography by

Sebastião Salgado. The list goes on. All of these involved narratives, but none of them

were narratives per se—narrative was taught as one of many rhetorical strategies for


My premise was simple: for them to think critically about themselves, I needed

to establish the comfort in them to approach issues that they may have never thought

about and that they feel comfortable to discuss. They began to associate the examples

for their projects to themselves and their lives, yet they identified with larger abstract

concepts of humanity and liberation, but not simply through their identity. Their

willingness to bring their lives and social justice issues into the classroom changed with

steps toward an understanding of difference.

Alexander and Rhodes (2014) emphasize the importance of difference in

student narratives and in texts assigned for class reading. Multicultural pedagogy

compromises substantive engagement of difference through a focus on an

understanding of identity that reduces it to a shared humanity concept and to

“somehow identical to (or identifiable with)” one’s own identity (Emphasis in original,

Alexander & Rhodes, 2014, p. 438). This focus creates a flattening effect, according

to Alexander and Rhodes, from “the unexamined assumption that ‘understanding’ and

then ‘tolerance’ or even ‘respect’ are predicated on ‘identity’” (p. 438). As aides to

writing narratives, students, argued Alexander and Rhodes, should be exposed to

difficult texts that directly “challenge the blind spots of dominant culture” and “an

audience’s ability to make radical alterity coherent and tame, texts that enact the

impossibility of unknowable difference” (p. 446). Alexander and Rhodes’ (2014)

argument raises practical concerns about dialogue.

Dialogue is the basis of critical consciousness, authentic thinking, praxis, and

epistemic delinking. For dialogue to occur, Freire (1996) identifies the importance of

“conditions under which knowledge at the level of doxa is superseded by true

knowledge, at the level of logos” (p. 62). Mary Louise Pratt (1991) proposes the

application of contact zones to open teaching as a cultural mediation that would

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embrace “safe houses” and “a rhetoric of belonging” (p. 40). The notion to ask

students to write about difference, like Alexander and Rhodes suggested, after being

challenged by difficult texts is an opportunity to raise questions of agency, authentic

thinking, and generosity of naming and identity, much like those in Grobman asking

Mary about Hispanic and Latino. Without trust and a sense of comfortability, I am

concerned about the narratives that students choose to share. Will that narrative reflect

difference or be flattened by the question asked of the student, the hierarchical

relationship between teacher and student in the assignment, and the student’s desire

to appease the teacher for a good grade?

From my experience, narrative is often taught as a three-week project during

one semester of first year composition. Critical consciousness is forged through praxis

over time. How comfortable will a student be to address difference, especially

difference that involves race and racism, through dialogue beyond the narrative in the

classroom in the political, public, and personal realms from which difference stems?

Perhaps we in the field of rhetoric and composition need to ask ourselves this question

first. I think of race and racism in particular. Scholars identify the importance of race

and racial ideology to writing and rhetoric, yet race and racial ideology since 2009 are

defined vaguely, according to Jennifer Clary-Lemon (2009), and discussed through

metonymy, synecdoche, metaphor, and aporia in the classroom and scholarship. If we

flatten the realities of race and racism through the identity of Whiteness, if we are

reluctant to engage a dialogue about race and racism with one another, what can we

ask of our students realistically?

Our reluctance may have a lasting impact. Our reluctance may do harm to our

students when the writing in our classroom today becomes the basis of their attempts

at dialogue in political, public, and personal realms tomorrow. In our classroom,

students have a presumptive right to their own voice—one of many privileges

packaged with University life. In political, public, and personal realms, the same people

may not, for reasons that contradict the ideals of thinking otherwise, of engaging

difference, of promoting dialogue. A quote from Jacqueline Jones Royster (1996)

comes to mind:

Although the systems of voice production are indeed highly integrated and

appear to have singularity in the ways that we come to sound, voicing actually

sets in motion multiple systems, prominent among them are systems for

speaking but present also are the systems for hearing. We speak within systems

that we know significantly through our abilities to negotiate noise and to

construct within that noise sense and sensibility (p. 38).

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The realities of racism in political, public, and personal realms limit students’

negotiation and construction of sense and sensibility within systems of speaking and

hearing, starting as early as memory will allow. Voice with a language and with

listening, they learn, is a privilege, granted by the performance of master narratives

and, in this, granting naming and identity. This leaves some to discover that their own

voice—their authentic voice—begins without a language.

Voice without a language

But choice hardly entered into most minorities' decisions to become American. Most

of us recognize this when it comes to Blacks or American Indians. Slavery, forcible

displacement, and genocide are fairly clear-cut. Yet the circumstances by which most

minorities became Americans are no less clear-cut. The minority became an

American almost by default, as part of the goods in big-time real estate deals or as

some of the spoils of war. What is true for the Native American applies to the

Alaska Native, the Pacific Islander (including the Asian), Mexican-Americans,

Puerto Ricans.

Victor Villanueva, 1987, p. 18

Generations of Americans, whose descendancy can be traced to Mexico, Puerto Rico,

and the countries of Central and South America, have adopted the binary in the

assimilation/straddling-two-world story. I find that “straddling”—the notion of the

two mutually exclusive worlds brought together by an individual’s conscious efforts—

has become a common trope for those who identify as Hispanic or Latino. This binary

relates to another binary: the assimilation/minority binary.

Both binaries use rhetoric of “home” as the source of their non-American

culture. Yet, for these generations of Americans I speak of, “home” was not only a

haven for culture but also a “contact zone” for American racism. The assimilation/

minority binary entered the home over generations and through different forces that

penetrated home life.

Assimilation is promoted upon entry to the strata of post-secondary, four-year

undergraduate study. This promotion is reflected in the popularity of the early work

of Richard Rodriguez. Victor Villanueva (1987) identified the inherent problem in the

assimilation/minority binary by addressing Rodriguez’s popularity:

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But what is it, really, that has made him famous? (Rodriguez) is a fine writer;

of that there is no doubt. But it is his message that has brought him fame, a

message that states that the minority is no different than any other immigrant

who came to this country not knowing its culture or its language, leaving much

of the old country behind to become part of the new one, and in becoming

part of America subtly changing what it means to be American (p.17).

Rodriguez’s popularity reflects a doxa rooted in racism and allows him a voice to be

the voice of the assimilation for the Latino and the Hispanic. His voice rang in my


Rodriguez became “Richard” to me because I was “Jesse” and not “Jesus.”

Jesse was told about Richard because Jesse, the Marquette student with the Writing

Intensive English Major from a ghetto of the nation’s second-most segregated city,

could do but didn’t do and wouldn’t do—and, apparently, struggled with the exact

same issues in the eyes of some of his teachers—what Richard talked about doing and

did at the 1986 annual conference of the NCTE:

“Listen to the sound of my voice,” [Rodriguez] said. He asked the audience

to forget his brown skin and listen to his voice, his “unaccented voice.” “This

is your voice,” he told the teachers (Villanueva, 1987, p. 20).

Listen to the sound of my voice and find that, despite my bronzed skin, my voice is

“unaccented” like Richard’s voice. But my teachers’ voices, like Richard’s voice, was

not my voice. And, as Villanueva (1987) notes, “[Rodriguez] spoke more of the English

teacher’s power than the empowerment of the student” (p. 20). Their voice is

not my voice; I have a voice of my own. This should be simple to understand. But. But

who would want to hear my voice? Who would want to know about the role of

American racism in my name and my accent? “Jesse” received his name after his

grandfather because his grandfather “hey-SOOS” couldn’t be “GEE-sus” according

to the naturalization agent who worked with my grandfather as the first of many newly

allowed to naturalize under the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952. So, he

became “Jesse”—Jesse Paul Romero. Jesse, the grandson, had his mother Elizabeth’s

accent because, linguistically, he just learned it from his mother, and, protectively, she

wanted to ensure that his skin color, physiognomy, and surname could be drowned

out by the sound of his voice so that I wouldn’t face the same problems she did, like

getting beat in school by teachers, bullied by students, and enduring discrimination

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because of her color, physiognomy, and surname.

The problem with my voice was Jesse didn’t have a language beyond that

which embodied the very thing that he stood against. Others with a voice didn’t have

a language either, like bell hooks (1994) noted:

When I came to Freire's work, just at that moment in my life when I was

beginning to question deeply and profoundly the politics of domination, the

impact of racism, sexism, class exploitation, and the kind of domestic

colonization that takes place in the United States, I felt myself to be deeply

identified with the marginalized peasants he speaks about, or with my black

brothers and sisters, my comrades in Guinea-Bissau. You see, I was coming

from a rural southern black experience, into the university, and I had lived

through the struggle for racial desegregation and was in resistance without

having a political language to articulate that process. Paulo was one of the

thinkers whose work gave me a language. He made me think deeply about the

construction of an identity in resistance. There was this one sentence of

Freire's that became a revolutionary mantra for me: "We cannot enter the

struggle as objects in order later to become subjects." (p. 46)

The experiences of Jesse during his college and law school education in Wisconsin, of

Jesse Paul during the practice of law and in his published writing in Illinois, and of

Paul (just because I always hated the sound of my first name) the doctoral student in

Arizona all have something in common. These experiences, along with other

experiences, observations, and readings, all gave my voice a language.

This leads me to think about Mary, especially in this passage by Villanueva


Better that we, teachers at all levels, give students the means to find their own

voices, voices that don’t have to ask that we ignore what we cannot ignore,

voices that speak of their brown or yellow or red or black skin with pride and

without need for bravado or hostility, voices that can recognize and exploit the

conventions we have agreed to as the standards of written discourse—without

necessarily accepting the ideology of those for whom the standard dialect is

the language of home as well as commerce, for whom the standard dialect is

as private as it is public, to use Rodriguez’s terms (p. 20).

I also think of Ricardo, my son, who turned the age of ten in 2017, as a fourth and

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Always Been “Inside”

first generation American: the son of a father who is an American citizen and a

Mexican national and a mother who is Mexican and a naturalized American citizen. I

think of my son and his voice. I think of bell hooks. I think of 1987, the year

Villanueva wrote those words and when I turned the age of ten that May.

… … …

I sit at a small white iron table shaded by an awning of the Student Union Memorial

Center from the noon Sun that bleaches the University of Arizona Mall. My son sits

at a table a few yards away, revising his paper about Juan Ponce de Leon on his iPad

while I revise this essay.

Two days ago, I had asked him, Why Ponce de Leon?

“Because our teacher wants us to write about the explorers that discovered


He told me about what he learned about Ponce de Leon, about the friends that

helped Ponce de Leon—the slaves.

The thoughts I shared with him that day—those come to mind. Those

thoughts, like so many thoughts before it, have been on my mind. Those are the

thoughts that weigh like lead in your stomach. Thoughts that leave you choosing your

words carefully, concealing your feelings well (you hope), weighing your silence as a

stay you cannot and should not sustain. Thoughts that leave you besides yourself,

questioning critical consciousness, authentic thinking, epistemic delinking, re-existing,

racism, naming, identity, voice. Thoughts that engulf the work you do toward an end

you fear you will never see.

I sit with my thoughts and look across the Mall.

The white campus police truck comes to a stop then leaves as a student in a

gym red tank top and navy track shorts jogs passed my table in the opposite direction,

the magenta band that holds her ponytail in place slowly slipping away from her blonde

mane. Students stop on the Mall lawn for different reasons. Over the years, students

stopped to kick the soccer ball around with my son. I watched him play, laughing,

happy to be included in this world. My son does not really know my work or the worlds

that it touches. And he does not know the depth of my discussions with his teachers

in his world: Ponce de Leon’s “discovery” and “friends”; the annual celebration of

colonial days, complete with the requirement for students to dress up as colonizers

and the master narrative that erases Indigenous and African people of “America”; their

refusal to use words like smart and gifted and leader to describe my son despite their

knowledge of his accomplishments at his elementary, at the University of Arizona, and

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J. Paul Padilla

in many communities throughout Tucson. I remember that delinking “is a long

process, at different levels and with different needs and preferences,” like Mignolo

(2017) said (p. 40), as I stare at the white spots that the sun has bleached into the

bronzed skin of my hands.

I sit in silence, thinking.


1. Land acknowledgement – Native American Student Affairs. (2020). Retrieved

February 26, 2020, from https://nasa.arizona.edu/

2. Argentine sociologist Walter Mignolo (2017) describes decolonial disobedient

conservatism as follows: “the energy that genders dignified anger and decolonial

healing, and its main goals are delink (from the colonial matrix of power, a

concept described later in this essay) in order to re-exist, which implies relinking

with the legacies one wants to preserve in order to engage in modes of existence

with which one wants to engage” (p. 40).

3. Mignolo (2017) provides a short overview of the term coloniality as follows:

“This term – in short – refers to the Colonial Matrix of Power. I understand the

CMP as a structure of management (composed of domains, levels and flows) that

controls and touches upon all aspects and trajectories of our lives. If one looks at

the transformations of the CMP since its formation in the sixteenth century, one

sees mutations (rather than changes) within the continuity of the discursive or

narrative orientation of Western modernity and Western civilisation: from, in the

nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Christianity (Catholic or Protestant) to

secularism, liberalism and Marxism (in other words, from the Christian to the

civilising mission); and from ‘progress’ in the nineteenth century to

‘development’ in the second half of the twentieth” (p. 40).

4. Mignolo (2011) viewed decolonization as “a complex scenario of struggles” of a

period in time where the elite sought to govern themselves and expel “the

imperial administration from the territory” (qtd. in Sánchez, 2016, p. 82).

Decoloniality, in contrast, addresses an aftermath of the elite’s self-governance—

an “imperialism without colonies” (qtd. in Sánchez, 2016, p. 82) that bred

epistemic colonialism, coloniality to use Mignolo’s word.


Alexander, J., & Rhodes, J. (2014). On flattening effects: Composition’s multicultural

imperative and the problem of narrative coherence. College composition and

communication, 63(5), 430–454.

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Alvarez, S. (2016). Literacy. In I. D. Ruiz & R. Sánchez (Eds.), Decolonizing rhetoric and

composition studies: New Latinx keywords for theory and pedagogy (pp. 17–30). Palgrave


Anzaldúa, G. (1987/2012). Borderlands/ la frontera: The new Mestiza. (4 th ed.) Aunt Lute


Clary-Lemon, J. (2009). The racialization of composition studies: Scholarly rhetoric

of race since 1990 [Excerpt]. College composition and communication, 61(2), 367–


Crowley, S. & Hawhee, D. (1999). Ancient rhetoric for the contemporary student. Allyn &


Freire, P. (1996). The pedagogy of the oppressed. Penguin Books Ltd.

Grobman, L. (2015). (Re)writing local racial, ethnic, and cultural histories:

Negotiating shared meaning in public rhetoric partnerships. College English,

77(3), 236–258.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as a practice of freedom. Routledge.

Jones Royster, J. (1996). When the first voice you hear is not your own. College

composition and communication, 47(1), 29-40.

Lipsitz, G. (1998). The possessive investment in whiteness: How white people profit from identity

politics. Tempe University Press.

Mignolo, W. (2011). The darker side of Western modernity: Global futures, decolonial options.

Duke University Press.

Mignolo, W. (2017). Coloniality is far from over, and so must be decoloniality.

Afterall: A journal of art, context and enquiry, 43, 38–45.

Moraga, C. (1981/1983). La güera. In C. Moraga, & G. Anzaldúa (Eds.), This bridge

called my back: Writing by radical women of color (2 nd ed., pp. 27–34). Kitchen

Table: Women of Color Press.

Omi, M. & Winant, H. (2013). Racial formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the

1990s. Routledge.

Pratt, M. L. (1991). Arts of the contact zone. Profession, 1, 33–40.

Ratcliffe, K. (2005). Rhetorical listening: Identification, gender, whiteness. Southern

University Press.

Ruiz, I. D. (2016). Race. In I. D. Ruiz & R. Sánchez (Eds.), Decolonizing rhetoric and

composition studies: New Latinx keywords for theory and pedagogy (pp. 3–16).

Palgrave Macmillan.

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Ruiz, I. D., & Sánchez, R. (2016). Introduction: Delinking. In I. D. Ruiz & R.

Sánchez (Eds.), Decolonizing rhetoric and composition studies: New Latinx keywords

for theory and pedagogy (pp. xiii–xx). Palgrave Macmillan.

Sánchez, R. (2016). Writing. In I. D. Ruiz & R. Sánchez (Eds.), Decolonizing rhetoric and

composition studies: New Latinx keywords for theory and pedagogy (pp. 77–90).

Palgrave Macmillan.

Telles, E.E. & Ortiz, V. (2009). Generations of exclusion: Mexican Americans, assimilation,

and race. Russell Sage Foundation.

Villanueva, V. (1987). Whose voice is it anyway? Rodriguez’s speech in retrospect.”

The English Journal, 76(8), 17–21.

About the Author

J. Paul Padilla Padilla is a doctoral candidate in the Rhetoric, Composition, and the

Teaching of English Program at the University of Arizona. Mr. Padilla’s scholarly work

in rhetoric and composition studies has appeared in Composition Studies and enculturation

and has work forthcoming in College Composition and Communication in late 2020.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 158

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

The figure, depicting the crucifixion, could be seen at the edge

of the memorial as one entered the barricade blocking

the entrance to the Walmart parking lot.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 159

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

A Mexican flag was hung behind the Jesus figurine.

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Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 161–178

Rhetorical Herencia: Writing Toward a Theory of Rhetorical

Recovery and Transformation

Cristina D. Ramírez

University of Arizona, on land of the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui

peoples. 1

The barrio has its history, perhaps it is not written but as for me, it is oral. From the many that

came to the barrio some left to go North to work, others with jobs as musicians, or shoe makers,

others were carpenters, and they all sank roots in that barrio.

Ramona González,

“Historias y Cuentos de Doña Ramona: ¡Adiós, Barrio Chihuahuita!”

Academically speaking, I am a feminist rhetorical history recovery scholar; personally

speaking, I am the maternal granddaughter of Doña Ramona González (1906-1995),

a published Chicana writer from the 1970s, whose texts, history, and herencia I aim to

rescue, recover, and preserve. Importantly, her writings also document the importance

of memory, recovery, and preservation. Doña Ramona’s writings ground my research,

which is a part of my own rhetorical herencia. I begin theorizing rhetorical herencia

through my journey of recovering of my abuela’s writings.

In the summer of 2014, I completed my first book manuscript, Occupying Our

Space: The Mestiza Rhetorics of Mexican Women Journalists and Activists, 1875-1942, a

feminist recovery project, which highlights the writings and rhetorical history of

Mexican women rhetors. While writing this manuscript (spring 2014) and recovering

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Cristina D. Ramírez

the works of Mexican women writers, my family made an archival recovery of our

own: an old cardboard box containing over seven hundred and fifty pages of my

maternal grandmother, Doña Ramona González’s, writings. Her works, written mostly

in Spanish, were produced during the Chicano Movement of the late 1960s and early

1970s in El Paso, Texas. Later that year, my father and I would begin the slow and

laborious process of preserving them through digitization and later translating them

into English. One afternoon, while writing the conclusion to Occupying Our Space, my

father called and asked, “Can I read you a piece your grandmother wrote?” Giving him

all my attention, I listened as he read the introduction to a piece she wrote titled “Picos

y Tolondrones: Para Todos los Preguntones”:

Figure 1

Chicano culture is rich, so it follows that its literature is rich. They are rich

because they are a mixture of Hispanic, Indian-Mexican and a sprinkling of Anglo-

Saxon cultures. The culture that we are most attached to is the Indian-Mexican, the

mixture of which we call Chicano here in the United States. The revolution in this

culture is about not letting it disappear, although it exists in the majority of those

born in the United States, it is hidden for several reasons. And now, it is time to

bring it into the light, to lift it up, and to have pride in it.

Hearing Doña Ramona’s words, delivered in my father’s eloquent Spanish, I

froze. From beyond the grave, my grandmother was speaking directly to me. Her

words, written more than forty-five years ago, validated my writing and gave deeper

meaning to my recovery work. In this piece (Figure 1), an introduction to over ninetyfive

pages of dichos, Doña Ramona frames the importance of recovering the Chicano

and Mexican mestizo culture by recovering the stories of our ancestors from our own

memories and calling upon members of our community to help construct knowledge.

Expressing an early understanding of Chicanismo, Doña Ramona’s concepts from “Picos

y Tolondrones” and other of her writings with regard to historical discursive recovery,

pride in our culture’s history, and memory have come to frame my understanding of

the work I and others do as rhetorical scholars, which I call rhetorical herencia. Herencia

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Rhetorical Herencia

means heritage, or that which is an integral part of you by birthright, such as culture,

language, and traditions.

Claiming a Rhetorical Herencia

In the summer of 1990, at the age of nineteen, I moved from Central Texas to far

West Texas or la frontera, which to this day is home to my extended family and has

been for almost a century. I had been accepted the previous fall semester of 1989 to

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Due to financial reasons, living in the

dorms did not fit the family’s budget. We considered other options. My eighty-fiveyear-old

widowed abuela, Ramona González (1906 – 1995), was living alone and in

need of a caretaker. As what often happens in many traditional Mexican families,

children become the responsible caretakers of their elders. My abuela’s advanced age

had rendered her frail and physically weak, unable to leave the house or shop for her

own groceries; and so, moving in with her offered a better situation for me as a young

woman living in a college town away from family. In return for a place to live, I agreed

to take care of the grocery shopping, cleaning, and caring for Doña Ramona, while I

also went to school.

Upon moving in and taking on the role of caretaker, it became apparent that

my abuela and I were generations apart in some of our thinking, but we found many

more ways to connect and find common ground. To bridge the gap of the seven

decades between us, we focused on the connection to our herencia. Our shared herencia

marked those relevant characteristics and elements as women from the same family:

food, genealogy, traditions, aspirations, religion, geography, literature, and writing. On

many occasions, we spoke of the literature I was reading in my classes at the university,

such as Faulkner and Hemingway, and then, on different days, we would read poetry

from Mexican authors like Octavio Paz or Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. From our talks,

it was obvious she had read these important authors. Having gone only as far as high

school, Doña Ramona had claimed her own education by becoming an avid reader.

On occasion, I would share some of my college class writings with her. She would

offer writing and editing ideas, which many times were far better than the advice I

received from my instructors and tutors. Ashamed to admit, I never stopped to ask or

wonder why this was so, but little did I know that she was a published writer. She has

left it to me to piece together and recover her history.

Unfortunately, it would not be until years after her passing that I would learn

the depths of Doña Ramona’s skill and passion to write and discover her own

significant publications. Unbeknownst to me at that time, in her sixties and seventies

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Cristina D. Ramírez

she had accomplished her goal as a writer, writing mostly in Spanish. Significantly, she

was a published Chicana writer in El Grito: A Journal of Contemporary Mexican American

Thought (1967-1973), one of the key literary journals of the Chicano Movement (Cutler,

2014). However, she did not publish beyond this work. In our many conversations or

pláticas (talks), she did not speak much, if any, of this facet of her past. Possibly because

as many Mexican American women having grown up in the 1920s – 1960s (and even

beyond) did not voice their accomplishments. For them, speaking out, especially to

brag of oneself, was taboo. Writing as family and community scribe, though, Doña

Ramona knew the power of not just our pláticas, but of her own palabras (words).

Today, her words haunt me. I dream them. Fading when I awake, I can’t always make

out the details of the message. I wish I had recorded those pláticas during our sobremesas. 2

In her early sixties, when she began writing the stories and memories she

preserved from her childhood, Doña Ramona cultivated and revealed her intellect,

insight, and creativity through her documented words in cuentos, poems, fables, dichos,

riddles, and creative non-fiction vignettes. During her lifetime, Doña Ramona

recorded her memories for future generations, yet she was not able to realize the

publication of a large majority of her writings. However, the rescue and recovery of

her materials has transformed into my rhetorical herencia. The moments and pláticas that

I spent with Doña Ramona, would fundamentally ground my identity as a Chicana,

and more, would instill hope in me that I could become a writer. Fortunately, I

inherited the seven hundred and fifty pages of her written words, which are now

considered an important part of US-Mexico literary and rhetorical frontera history. In

February 2019, Doña Ramona’s papers were accepted into the Tejana and Chicana

Collection at the Nettie Lee Beson Latin American Collection at The University of

Texas at Austin.

In reflecting on what I have learned about and have yet to recover of Doña

Ramona’s writings, the term herencia consistently comes to mind. Because she

bequeathed me her writings, the scholar in me adds rhetorical to herencia – rhetorical

herencia. Linguistically, I prefer the Spanish word herencia over the English word heritage

because of its connection to my own Spanish language upbringing. As countless

scholars of color (Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherie Moraga, Iris Ruiz, Isabel Baca, and Victor

Villanueva) have argued, Más que nada, el idioma forma una gran parte de nuestro patrimonio. 3

Now, in working on the transcriptions, translations, and future publication of Doña

Ramona’s writings, I frame rhetorical herencia as a key methodological and theoretical

component of rhetorical recovery. Adding to the concepts of Latinx rhetoric, I also

believe that rhetorical herencia can be used to ground recovery work in Latinx research

approaches. As a relatively new term, Latinx emerges from wanting to break down

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Rhetorical Herencia

boundaries of gender, sex, ethnicity, and race, and results in a complex multifaceted

definition, which seeks to include a variety of individuals and identities. Soto Vega and

Chávez (2018) define Latinx as “ refer[ring] foremost to an ethnic identity that is often

associated with a brown racial identity, but it can also refer to a white or black racial

identity, as well as an indigenous identity (not to mention how multiraciality

complicates this simple schema)” (p. 320). For many, the term Latinx conjures mixed

emotions regarding inclusion; however, I see it as a term rife with possibility. Like in

mathematics, the ‘x’ in Latinx serves as a variable, an unknown, or placeholder for a

value that is not yet known. The methodological approach of pairing the Latinx

definition of possibility with rhetorical herencia has the potential to build upon Latinx

scholarship as a connection to our personal (close communities and family) and

professional transformation as Latinx scholars working in a system that many times

works to further suppress our voices.

Latinx rhetorical scholars research, recover, and transform into knowledge not

only of that which is familiar, but also what is not yet known or hidden from others in

the academy. This transformation does not presume a simplicity of the process. On

the contrary, knowledge construction remains difficult because the data must be

subjected to a colonizing sieve of academic research processes. I propose that

rhetorical herencia can aid or begin decolonizing processes, much like Iris D. Ruiz and

Raúl Sánchez (2016) achieved in Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition Studies, to create a

distancing from Western knowledge in order to reclaim one’s own self-determination.

Many times, we don’t know our own rhetorical herencia until we ask such questions as

“Who am I? Where do I come from?” But whom do we ask and where do we turn in

order to uncover our rhetorical herencia? Here I position rhetorical herencia

retrospectively as I see it within the current rhetorical and educational scholarship of

Latinx researchers. Scholars, such as Octavio Pimentel (2015), have turned to la gente

buena in their communities to tell historias de éxito; Aja Martinez (2016) asks questions

about racism within the academy and looks at a counter story; Julia López-Robertson

(2016) works with children of color and their mothers using pláticas literarias to tap into

children’s knowledge of their lives along la frontera. In further surveying the Latinx

rhetorical scholarship, rhetorical herencia grounds and builds our work in the academy.

Rhetorical herencia appears in the scholarship of taco literacies and immigrant youth

literacies (Alvarez, 2017); studies into Mesoamerican códices (D. Baca, 2009); the work

of translation in Latinx communities (Gonzales, 2018); service-learning in our Latinx

communities (I. Baca, 2012); feminist film work (Hidalgo, 2017); the Latino/a

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Cristina D. Ramírez

discourse in education (Kells, et al., 2004), and Chicana feminist rhetorical recovery

(Leon, 2013; Ramírez, 2015; & Enoch & Ramírez, 2019).

For this inaugural issue of Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies (LWRS), which

focuses on rhetorical recovery and transformation, I offer the theoretical and

methodological framework of rhetorical herencia. I borrow Barbara L’Eplattenier’s

(2009) definition of methodology, “[M]ethodology allows us to theorize the goals of

our research, methods allow us to contextualize the research process or the research

subject and materials” (p. 69). The goal of adopting rhetorical herencia as a methodology

is to create a way in which to include our local communities – the barrios, churches,

not-for-profits, and other non-academic spaces of cultural gatherings, including our

families’ histories – in order to uncover marginalized voices and spaces that have been

suppressed by traditional methodologies. Further, I suggest that rhetorical herencia

functions as a feminist research methodology that within its framework questions the

traditional methods of inclusion of white-only western Anglo-Saxon communities into

scholarly conversations, or into the canon. Hui Wu (2002) brings the idea of feminist

methodology to a strong point: “From a gendered point of view, feminist

methodology of rhetorical history does not refer to an innocent research activity for

research’s sake, but rather an intentionally radical effort to exert transformative power

of research methods” (p. 85). Drawing, too, on Michelle Colpean and Rebecca Dingo’s

(2018) recent work on engaging geopolitics of contexts, rhetorical herencia as a

methodology pushes against the “drive-by race scholarship [which] assumes,

unquestioned that unmarked whiteness is the ‘phantom center’ of our rhetorical

theory” (p. 306). Thus, rhetorical herencia research and analysis forwards the

assumption that traditional means of research are not value-free or neutral.

In proposing rhetorical herencia, I direct to it this question: How can Latinx

scholars develop rhetorical concepts or approaches in and out of the classroom to

account for rhetors and/or rhetorics that are excluded from traditional rhetoric?

Rhetorical recovery is historical work, which legitimizes once-suppressed and hidden

forms of writing and brings to light rhetorical situations within our current politics and

work to re/center marginalized peoples’ knowledge. It equates to bringing hidden or

previously unrecognized writings, texts, and/or subject embodiments to the fore

through the process of situating those texts within a legitimized history. In this article,

I define and show examples of rhetorical herencia and also introduce my own work on

rhetorical herencia through the writings my abuela, Doña Ramona González, left our

family and the collective Mexican American community.

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Rhetorical Herencia

Locating and Defining Herencia

A recent study of genetic memory by Berit Brogaard (2014), a Danish American

neuroscientist and philosopher, shows how humans are more than likely born with

collective and connected memories of and about their ancestors. In a Philosophical Issue

article, “In Partial Defense of Extended Knowledge,” Brogaard’s research pointed out

that a person can have knowledge of episodes or actions without having experienced

them within our states of reality. Furthering the argument in “Remembering Things

From Before You Were Born: Can Memories be Innate?”, Brogaard (2013) suggests

that we are able to capture and even relive the memories of our ancestors. Her research

confirms a belief I have held for many years, which is that as living descendants of our

ancestors, we carry a recollection of moments, events, or traumas experienced by our

family members from before we were born, which I call ‘ancestral remembering’.

Brogaard’s research, which indicates that we have a DNA connection to our ancestors,

whether through memory, physical traits, “things remembered” or “things said,”

provides a distinctive connection and opportunity for scholars of color. While the

scientific research is promising, the Latinx community and scholars of color do not

need such research to remind us that we can and do tap into this ancestral connection.

Many Latinx scholars have already been engaging in this practice of recovering our

family and community’s past and connecting it our present scholarship, which helps

us define who we are today. Chicana scholar Eden Torres (2003), in Chicana without

Apology: The New Chicana Cultural Studies, notes “that much of the creative work of

Chicana writers exposes the wounds, confronts those who inflict pain, and tries to

exorcise the shame that some individuals feel. Thus, this work can be seen as an

attempt to grieve, to express the pain, and to heal” (p. 13). Latinx communities already

know that we must link our memories to our current condition. We invoke our

ancestral remembering through our ways of participating in the world –the food we

eat, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, the literature we read, the customs we

keep, the ways we worship, the places we live and work, and the topics we engage in

for research and writing. Rhetorical herencia is the way we study these participatory


Imbricated within ancestral remembering, herencia refers to the traits, customs,

practices, beliefs, and memories we inherit from our ancestors and their connected

collective culture to our present realities. These belongings [I intend a double

implication of “belonging” here as also being a part of a community] – some tangible,

others intangible – are given to us at birth and are those we carry with us throughout

our lives. Our herencia, especially that of people of color, which many times remains

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Cristina D. Ramírez

lost or hidden due to colonial violence and institutional suppression, holds the power

to ground us in the present and direct us toward a transformational future. When one’s

own herencia is uncovered, recognized, and articulated, whether in community writing

projects or classroom assignments, it holds the power to shift the trajectory of future

generations, much like the movement of the Mexican American Studies program in

Arizona public schools (Cabrera et. al, 2014). In our current divisive political climate,

it is not uncommon that the Latinx community can be blinded to or deny their herencia,

preferring the current mode of thinking or status quo, believing that it can possibly

lead to greater economic success or acceptance. Because for many the past remains a

marked unknown, herencia and the processes of uncovering that which is hidden can

also cause anxiety. However, to understand who we are as Latinx people, it is

important to acknowledge our own herencia.

Rhetorical herencia as a methodology or theory can work as a basis for inquiry

into writing studies in the classroom, as well as in the recovery of lost history, stories,

and people, to connect us to those things we know, but maybe are not sure how we

know. Or, as Victor Villanueva (2008) describes in “Colonial Memory, Colonial

Research,” “…knowing something ain’t right and there ain’t no puttin’ it right but

can’t be no ignoring the wrong” (p. 84). The “not ignoring the wrong” is where

rhetorical herencia comes into the process of “puttin’ it right.” As a theory, rhetorical

herencia reminds us that we can materialize and uncover a past through inquiry – doing

genealogical work, digging in local and national archives, and conducting oral histories

with our family and people of our communities and barrios. Rhetorical herencia

translates also into a writing studies methodology of “naming what we know,” as Linda

Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle (2015) have put it. I ascribe rhetorical herencia to

serve as a Latinx threshold concept, which is a “concept critical for learning and

participation in an area or within a community of practice” for the Latinx research and

writing community to use (Adler-Kassner & Wardle, 2015, p. 2). The work of

rhetorical herencia can translate into a rhetorical research methodology of considering

our local community members as knowledge makers, acknowledging those things

spoken or not spoken, uncovering forgotten or suppressed cultures, religions,

traditions and daily practices, and more that we find within our quotidian lives, such

as Octavio Pimentel’s work on redefining success within Mexican American

communities (2015).

As an approach that many of our Latinx scholars already utilize, rhetorical

herencia can be utilized with students in our classes or in our own scholarly work. We,

as Latinx scholars, do write about these inherited memories or what Kiki Petrosino

(2015) in her poem “Literacy Narrative” calls “complaining ghosts.” When we answer

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Rhetorical Herencia

the ghosts and write about the ancestral connections and rememberings – our herencia

– we write ourselves. We come closer to finding who we are, where we are from, and

also, where we are going. Writing about and recovering our herencias helps reconcile

the trauma, recover some of the lost memory, and transform it into public knowledge.

Locating Rhetorical Herencia: un encuentro

During the spring of 2017, I began piecing together Doña Ramona’s expansive work

by digitally scanning her writings, reading them page by page to identify writings for

translation, and mapping her path in becoming a writer within the Chicano Movement.

Primarily, her writings form a feminine part of the Chicano literary Movement through

her five stories that were published in 1973 in one of the first special publications

focusing on Chicana writings, El Grito: Chicanas en la literature y el arte. To offer a

gendered contextualization of her writings, El Grito: A Journal of Contemporary Mexican-

American Thought (Romano-V, et. al. 1967-1973), marks the literary journal that major

Chicano writers, such as Rudolfo Anaya, author of Bless Me, Última, and Tomás Rivera,

author of …y no se lo tragó la tierra/…And the Earth did not Devour Him, published some

of their first writings. Anaya and Rivera would go on to win the Quinto Sol Literary

Award, for which Doña Ramona was nominated in 1974. She did not win the prize; it

went to Estela Portillo-Trambley. 4 In short, my grandmother published alongside

distinguished Chicano writers of the Chicano Movement, yet her writings have gone

overlooked for over four decades. Now, Doña Ramona’s writings, both published and

unpublished, form a part of this told and untold history of the Chicano literary

movement. Significantly, in February 2019, her writings were formally accepted into

the Chicana and Tejana Collection at the University of Texas at Austin Nettie Lee

Benson Latin American Collection under the title, The Ramona González Collected


While she began writing, I was hardly a toddler. Today, as a mestiza scholar, I

write at the textual and geographic border of knowledges, languages, memories, and

places – at the multiple and blurred disciplinary borders of my adopted academic

language of rhetoric, the voice of personal narrative, poetics, history, two languages

(Spanish and English), and the recovery lens of feminist historiography and rhetorical

herencia. These border knowledges and Doña Ramona’s recently recovered writings

(my herencia) are imbricated in my skin and bloodline with a century-long maternal

family history of struggle, life, and community connected to Mexico and the frontera

along the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.

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Cristina D. Ramírez

Figure 2: Image of González Grocery in El Paso, Texas. circa 1938

Herencia, closely tied to memory, connects me to the time I lived with my abuela,

Doña Ramona (1990-1995). We would sit together in the mornings and engage in what

Francisco Guajardo and Miguel Guajardo (2013) call pláticas. Amid the toasted tortillas

and café, our pláticas constructed realities and events from her past – memories of her

growing up in Barrio Chihuahuita, a historical barrio located along the Rio Grande,

and moving to Segundo Barrio (both located in El Paso, Texas). She told of her

wanting to attend college and to become a writer and journalist, and she recounted the

events that happened in the family corner-store, González Grocery (1931-1958)

(Figure 2). I would quickly eat my breakfast and rush off to school, attend my history,

literature, and education classes, not giving these talks a second thought. In reality, it

was my abuela who was truly giving me my own history, literature, and education.

Twenty-eight years after her passing, she once again is guiding me. One

summer evening in 2014, while I was visiting family in El Paso, my mother, Sandra

González, called: “You may want to come and look what is in this box your Tia Norma

brought over.” I had no idea that I was about to open a time capsule of my abuela’s

past, a treasure trove of Chicana rhetorical and literary history. Lifting the lid, I

discovered over seven hundred and fifty pages of manuscript-ready writings stacked

inside the faded vegetable box. The writings in this archive vary in genre: one-page

poems, short stories, and memoirs as long as forty-five pages, universal sayings or

dichos (over five hundred), oral history textual recordings, and much more. These

writings were originally composed on a manual typewriter in the late 1960s and early

1970s and at times reveal her notes and pencil markings visible throughout the faded

pages. As historical artifacts, they stand as textbook examples of primary documents.

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Rhetorical Herencia

In reading her writings closely, I recognize that they are fundamental texts to

recover and preserve as part of our US-Mexico and Texas rhetorical, literary, and

border history. The genres she wrote vary and demonstrate the depth of Doña

Ramona’s Spanish language proficiency, especially for not having been formally

educated in its grammar. For example, there are approximately fifty poems written in

Spanish for children, such as “Amor chiquito,” “A el niño,” “A la niña,” and “El gato y el

ratoncito.” They speak of sweet first love, lessons for behaving at home and school, and

conversations between a cat and mouse. While these themes seem simplistic in nature,

they represent how Doña Ramona understood and communicated Mexican

American’s early literacy practices, such as through fables and tales. Other lengthier

writings reveal a dual border and barrio historical significance. A series piece entitled,

“Por vida de estas santas cruces, yo viví en estos barrios,” narrates the daily living conditions

and details in character vignettes a variety of historical moments of the people in Barrio

Chihuahuita during the early 1900s. One story also reads as an oral account of a barrio

episode in 1910, the year the Mexican Revolution erupted. These writings capture what

Leticia Garza-Falcón (1998) contends narrative writings by Mexican Americans

embody, “a more varied view of the human experience in the social world...[and]…

recover a human complexity which would otherwise have been banished from the

heterogeneous history of the people of Texas and the Southwest” (23). These firstperson

feminine narrative perspectives by Doña Ramona center on a barrio within the

U.S./Mexico borderlands and represent essential pieces to historicize, preserve, and

make accessible to Mexican American scholars and essentially to the greater public of

the Texas border region.

During the civil rights era and at the beginning of the Chicano Movement,

Doña Ramona, now in her mid-60s, began to record the memory of her raza on an

old, grey Remington typewriter. From a young age, Doña Ramona longed to be a

journalist, but never accomplished this goal. Instead, later in life she took up writing,

and, from her memory, she recorded the daily happenings and conversations of the

people from her home community, Barrio Chihuahuita. Word by word, she was

constructing an early Chicano literary history. For over four decades, Doña Ramona’s

unpublished writings lingered in an unmarked family archive. The essence of a

community and personal herencia in this project is reflected in the many of Doña

Ramona’s writings, such as in a piece titled “Los Libros,” whose genre I have labeled a

cuadro, a one-page literary piece (not a poem) that focuses on one subject. In this cuadro,

Doña Ramona gifts a young child a book, admonishing him/her to read in order to

claim a richer (not necessarily monetary) future. These examples point to everyday

community literacy practices in her Barrio Chihuahuita and beyond, such as in other

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Cristina D. Ramírez

barrios, where literacy practices do not resemble the Western standard of knowing and


Figure 3: Los Libros: from the primary writings of Romana González. Circa 1973


This book is yours, very much yours. I give it to you so you can see it and if you want,

you’ll read it and you will have more happiness.

A few verses are scattered in your Book. They are like stairways of stars that will carry

your thoughts high, very high. You will feel joyful when you read and understand them.

They are stories and verses for you, all for you. Through words in the story and in the

verse, you will hear harmonious songs, you will see other lands, you will feel the desire to see

distant and rare stars shining on a clear night. They will make you desirous to recreate

yourself in the aromas of rare gardens and flowers. And you'll have fun watching the

nuances of different birds.

But how sad it is when a Book full of fascinations, of fragrances of carnations and roses,

of sparkling stars, of distant lands and thousands of wonders, that you have in your hands, if

you do not open it to read it and recreate yourself in the beautiful Tableaus. Hold the Books

in high esteem, child, like a treasure. Take care of your Books and enjoy them, the painted

figures, whether from nature or from things. You will see unknown landscapes in the photos

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Rhetorical Herencia

and paintings on the pages of your Books. With your Books you will spend the best times of

your life.

Read, Child……

Read, good books…..

And you will be very rich…..

In “Los Libros” (Figure 3), the literal handing-down of literacy from one

generation to the other in my family emerges as thematically central. Spanish language

writings such as “Los Libros,” and many more within the archive, mark my own

rhetorical herencia with Doña Ramona that represent her passing on to me the tools

and understanding of a bilingual literacy. As recovery researchers, we must ask: When

writing about ourselves, our families, and our communities, how do we remain the

objective researcher? As a trained researcher, I don’t believe that this stance is fully

possible with rhetorical herencia, as with Moraga’s and Anzaldúa’s (2015) theory in the

flesh. On the contrary, researching and writing about one’s own family, community,

or oneself can serve as an act of resistance and decolonization. As the maternal

granddaughter of Doña Ramona, I recognize that I am always already written into this

recovery of these writings, which I call un cuento de cuentos (a story of stories). The

entanglement remains inescapable. As shown here, thetorical herencia equates to a

relational recovery connected to who we are and brings about a transformation of

ourselves and our community. By using rhetorical herencia as a methodology, we

recognize our proximity to the subject. Like seeking out our student’s funds of

knowledge as a decolonizing pedagogy, uncovering my own rhetorical herencia presents

an entanglement in which I hope to remain. Rhetorical herencia as a methodology of

recovery makes this entanglement possible.

In some of the poetry and children’s stories she writes, I can identify the

relational recovery, such as in this short poem, “A la niña.” In this work, I imagine

Doña Ramona thinking of one of my cousins or of me, the young girl that would run

into her lap on our family’s frequent visits and whose tears she would wipe away. After

our family drove away, my abuela possibly sat at the typewriter and wrote:

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Cristina D. Ramírez

Figure 4: A La Niña: from the primary writings of Ramona González. Circa 1973

To the Little Girl

Little girl, do not cry, do not cry,

Time is for something better than just for getting by.

Little girl, smile, little girl, smile

For time soon flees away.

Little girl you are sweetness, you are sweetness,

Treasure it like a virtue.

Let no one take from you that nectar,

That is the springtime of your life.

Child, you are perfume, perfume,

You are the aroma beyond compare

From the gardenia and from the rose,

And the blossoms of the fragrant orange grove.

Conserve your tears,

Keep your sweetness,

Spread the perfume

Along the pathway that you go.

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Rhetorical Herencia

These writings are not the fleeting words of calm from a grandmother to her

granddaughter. Because of the situated historical and rhetorical context within the

Chicano literary movement, “A la niña” (Figure 4) reflects a Latinx bilingual literacy of

a 1960s Chicana writer from the US-Mexico frontera claiming her voice and

transforming the history for those who recover it into knowledge for future

generations. The more I read into and write about the writings from Doña Ramona,

the more I believe this research and recovery work has been reserved for me to

complete. The introduction of her work and recovery of just a few of her writings here

marks only the beginning of this project. Further, I contend that my own rhetorical

herencia and recovery serves as a transformational moment for our discipline, but more

importantly, for the Latinx community, much like the people still living in Barrio

Chihuahuita, looking to find their place with our world.


A method for academic and archival recovery work, rhetorical herencia can function as

a threshold concept for Latinx communities and serve as a methodology for recovering

texts, voices, and materials from our own families and communities. Rhetorical herencia

gives a deep relational connection with our work rather than just a topic that we ask

students to research and analyze. While the phrase rhetorical herencia may be novel, the

method is not new to our Latinx scholars. Many scholars, Aja Y. Martinez (2016),

Steven Álvarez (2017), Cruz Medina (2013; 2013), Isabel Baca (2012), Iris Ruiz (2016),

Laura Gonzales (2018), and many more, have been engaging in this work for decades.

Looking ahead to new research, rhetorical herencia serves as a way of talking about what

we do and naming what we know as a research community.


1. Land acknowledgement – Native American Student Affairs. (2020). Retrieved

February 26, 2020, from https://nasa.arizona.edu/

2. The word pláticas references Guajardo & Guajardo’s use of pláticas as etymology,

inquiry, and pedagogy in “The Power of Plática” (2013) published in Reflections:

Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning (159-164). Sobremesa is a term in

Spanish that refers to the intimate and connective talk after a meal.

3. More than anything, language forms a large part of our heritage.

4. See Faye Nell Vowell and Estela Portillo-Trambley, “A MELUS Interview:

Estela Portillo-Trambley.” Varieties of Ethnic Criticism, vol. 9, no. 4, 1982, pp.


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About the Author

Cristina D. Ramírez is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at the

University of Arizona, where she directs the doctoral program. She specializes in

archival rescue and recovery of work of Mexican and Mexican American female

authors. She is co-author with Jessica Enoch of Mestiza Rhetorics: An Anthology of

Mexicana Activism in the Spanish Language Press, 1875-1922 (Southern Illinois University

Press, 2019).

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

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Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

Cont. Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural

Artist Gabe Vasquez


ELVIRA: What are some of the obstacles and challenges you've encountered as an artist?

GABE: I can describe it in a metaphor. This city is like a bucket full of crabs. Stepping

on each other trying to get to the top and get out. And it's not cool because we can all

make it in whatever we do. There's no need to hate on anybody. Me for instance, I'm

not doing this for the attention, fame or money. I'm real serious about doing art for

my life as a career. I'm real serious about being a very very high pedigree art teacher.

I'm covered in tattoos. Any high school I go to is going to think twice about me. If I

have a really gnarly background, I'm in. And then I can make some real noise in the

community. Helping people get better at being themselves. Really, I'd like to just

eliminate the hate. No matter what you do, you're not the only one here doing it. If

you're the best, good for you. You don't have to act like it. If we're all a big team, then

imagine how much easier those obstacles are removed. It's a big thing. The hate in this

city is pretty real. Envy and all that stuff. If we were all El Paso Tribe, then we're gonna'

go places fast. No one's gonna' have to worry about anything except pushing

themselves. To be worth it.

Video Link 10: Click on image.

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Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

ELVIRA: What impact do you think that commercialism and the media has had on

your work? Is this good or bad?

GABE: Well it's really cool, but a lot of people say ah, you're going to be a sellout. I

would love nothing more than to be on Team Red Bull, Team Mountain Dew, Team

Montana. And just promote everything. Because I think it's really cool. What was

someone's dream to be when they started to play guitar? To be a rock star, right? I

don't see what else you'd do with that. It's just really cool when you can engage in that

segment of this game. There's the quality that's number one to me. There's the

technique that's number one also. Exposure and what you can do with it that's a big

thing too. I'm not trying to be a reckless person and be famous. If I was gonna' be well

known, I'd like it to be positive, uplifting. That way I'm not a bad guy.

Video Link 11: Click on image.

ELVIRA: Can you talk about how do artists survive? How do you make a living? If

there's a message you could give to people in El Paso who want art, what would you


GABE: There's degrees to it because if you want something simple then you might get

it cheap. But if you want something like this, you're gonna have to break the bank.

Everyone has cute ideas they want to have done. When they try to get it done, they

find out how much it actually costs to do it. That's when their ideas aren't cute

anymore. If you want someone really good, you're gonna' have to pay up for it. Not

because we think we're so amazing we gotta' charge for everything. No. What you're

paying for is my fifteen years of blood, sweat, and tears. My family just started having

hope in me. So, you're paying for a lot. No one's just born able to do this. Art is not

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Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez

something you're born with. You weren't born with the soul of an artist. You earned

it through hard work. I went to school at Hanks. My wrestling coach, Coach Carter,

has a great saying. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. I don't know

if you guys think that some people are special, they're not. They just work really hard.

There are some people gifted but if they don't work hard, they're not going far. So

that's the thing when pricing art. The difference is going to the mall for clothes or

going to Goodwill for clothes. What do you want? Name brand? Super amazing. Go

to the mall. You might find some cool things at the Goodwill, but you went there cuz

it's cheap. And you got hand me downs that are worn. So, it's just what you want.

That's the thing that people don't understand. I hate it when they think we're gonna'

do it for exposure cuz I don't need any of that.


Video Link 12: Click on image.

Putting this work together and writing this piece, months after this tragedy occurred

has provided me an opportunity to further process the aftermath. We now know that

the killer was indeed driven by bigotry, hate, racism, and white supremacy emboldened

by the current President of the United States of America. However, even more

infuriating, the shooter, who acted like he was brave driving over ten hours from Allen,

Texas to El Paso, acted cowardly pleading not guilty.

As a playwright, I also had the opportunity to participate in the El Paso Strong

evening of short plays by El Paso Playwrights. This special event was presented by the

Dramatists Guild and the UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance and led by the

amazing award-winning playwright Georgina Escobar, a Visiting Professor of Practice

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Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

at UTEP. I used this writing opportunity to try and wrestle with the bigger issues that

led to this hate crime and act of terrorism. It made me think about the ideologies that

exist that spawn this sort of violence and hate in our society and that goes on to shape

individuals to do such a thing.

In a course I teach, The Roots of Latina/o Hip Hop, my students and I discuss

Robert Moses, known as a “master-builder” in the City of New York, whose own

racist beliefs and actions led to the further destruction of people of color, especially

Blacks and Latinx in the Bronx. I based the main character, El Billonario (The

Billionaire), of my short play on Robert Moses. To me, he represents a corrupt

politician with white supremacy motivations to uplift white people and further

marginalize people of color. I also wrote the short play as a challenge given by the

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel who had just visited UTEP and gave a

playwriting workshop that I participated in. The challenge she gave us was to write a

play based on a profile on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. The assignment was to pick a

character who disrupts our assumptions of people based on race, class, and gender.

I found a white male character on the list with the build of a fireman and the

look of a corporate-looking white man who I perceived we would normally see in

positions of power. In my play, El Billonario is a powerful businessman who acts like a

politician, but his wealth is what gives him so much power over major decisions being

made in the City of El Paso. I wanted to illustrate a dominant force actively advancing

the quality of life for white people and corporate entities, while completely ignoring

and destroying the lives of marginalized communities and people of color. In writing

the play, I was also inspired by an analysis a colleague gave, offering criticism of those

who say they are surprised by acts of hate and violence. I believe I understood her

message as saying that if you’re surprised by the existence of racism and white

supremacy, then you’re choosing to ignore the reality of the experiences and history

of people of color. If you chose to be ignorant of and to the experiences of those less

fortunate in your community, then you too help to pull the trigger, unleashing the

spray of bullets that kills innocent victims who live regular lives buying school supplies

on a beautiful, sunny Saturday in the safest city in America – El Paso, Texas.

I stand with my fellow artist and my spiritual brother Gabe Vasquez when he

says that El Paso Strong is a message to the world that we are a strong community that

will rise above the terror unleashed on our beloved Chuco. If anything, this tragedy only

makes us stronger. El Paso’s artists are just getting started in a renewed movement to

empower, raise awareness, and uplift and heal our community.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 182

Interview with the El Paso Strong Mural Artist Gabe Vasquez


1. Land acknowledgement – Shepherd, J. P. (2019, March). "Indigenous El PASO":

How the Humanities help us SEE El Paso as a native place. Retrieved March 21,

2020, from https://humanitiescollaborative.utep.edu/project-blog/indigenousel-paso-how-the-humanities-help-us-see-el-paso-as-a-native-place

2. This interview took place on Friday, September 20, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.

Embedded Video URL Links

Link 1: https://youtu.be/XKop-v0uogA

Link 2: https://youtu.be/dGvJBO3VvJE

Link 3: https://youtu.be/xJH1gXinlbo

Link 4: https://youtu.be/eE5n-K8ai3U

Link 5: https://youtu.be/jQpx2VLPiKE

Link 6: https://youtu.be/DGpa8ocGEts

Link 7: https://youtu.be/r4_9jLG8PJs

Link 8: https://youtu.be/JH7XIcxIzPE

Link 9: https://youtu.be/LGVxnuvSUsI

Link 10: https://youtu.be/bHNfhsOL5EM

Link 11: https://youtu.be/qc9Sy7lEhnY

Link 12: https://youtu.be/12vZb2atOVA

About the Author

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes is a Doctoral Degree Candidate in the Rhetoric and

Composition program at UTEP where she is also Assistant Professor of Practice and

an Academic Advisor for Chicana/o Studies. Elvira earned a bachelor’s degree from

the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in Journalism, Chicano Studies, and Theatre

Arts, and she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film from Columbia University

in New York City. Elvira was born in El Paso, Texas and raised in Chaparral, New

Mexico. She is the author of graphic novels, plays, and films. Her Japanese graphic

novel A.W.O.L. exhibited at Tokyo Comic Con in 2018. For more information about

Elvira’s work, please visit http://www.dukescomics.com.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 183

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes

Figure 3: Religious items placed outside of the Walmart to memorialize the victims.

Photograph by Gaby Velasquez.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 184

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 185–188

Review of Bordered Writers: Latinx Identities and Literacy

Practices at Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Edited by Isabel Baca, Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa, and Susan Wolff Murphy.

Albany: State University of New York Press, 2019. 248 pp.

Juan C. Guerra

University of Washington Seattle, on land of the Coast Salish peoples, land

that touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish,

Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations. 1

Although members of the various Latinx communities that make up this nation

comprise the largest minoritized group by far, little has been written about

undergraduate students from these communities by scholars in the field of rhetoric

and composition. Like its 2007 predecessor, Teaching Writing with Latino/a Students:

Lessons Learned at Hispanic-Serving Institutions co-edited by Cristina Kirklighter, Diana

Cárdenas, and Susan Wolff Murphy, Bordered Writers: Latinx Identities and Literacy

Practices at Hispanic-Serving Institutions is a concerted effort by a group of impassioned

scholars who wish to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges that Latinx

students encounter as they embark on their college careers, especially in terms of the

narrow, monolinguistic ideologies that continue to inform the teaching of writing in

colleges across the country.

Immediately, a slight modification in titles from the first volume (Latino/a) to

this one (Latinx) signals the sweeping changes that have taken place in the interim.

Although the focus in both collections is on student identities and literacy practices,

the sites and the language used to describe them has also shifted dramatically. For

example, not only has the University of Texas at Pan American become the more

comprehensive University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, but multiculturalism has been

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Juan C. Guerra

replaced by translingualism. As a consequence, the bevy of scholars included in this

volume are in a position to contribute new theoretical, pedagogical and practical

insights that promise to move the field forward in ways that many of the scholars

included in the earlier volume could not have imagined a mere twelve years ago.

Through their well-grounded citations, theoretical positions, method-ologies,

data collection and analyses, the contributors to this volume demonstrate a familiarity

with critical concerns facing the field, especially as those concerns impact the academic

lives of Latinx students who face an array of challenges as they transition from their

communities of belonging to the various community college and university settings

they inhabit. On a broader level and to different degrees, a number of the essays in the

collection explicitly engage the ever-expanding focus across the nation on the

establishment of Hispanic-Serving Institutions and the role they play in providing

Latinx students with the kinds of support they need to be successful. And whether

they invoke more locally nuanced concepts like familia or more widely recognized ones

like translingualism, contributors demonstrate a familiarity with and awareness of how

such concepts can be utilized to address the needs of Latinx students. As a reader, I

am impressed by the range of theoretical and methodological approaches that

contributors call on and heartened by their careful excavation of the critical role that

lived experience plays both in their individual development as scholars in the field and

their efforts to intervene in the lives of their students. In this respect, their use of

testimonio accents and signals a more sophisticated intervention in the field that rightly

acknowledges the vital role that language, culture, and identity play across the projects

that contributors address.

The introduction, ten essays, and five testimonios that comprise this volume

include scholarly research and personal stories designed to enlighten a broad audience

of fellow scholars and educators about how they can make use of the theoretical and

methodological principles available in the field to gather data and stories that provide

readers with a better understanding of the Latinx students they are likely to encounter

in their classrooms. The introduction serves to effectively bind the various testimonios

and essays by providing a coherent narrative that locates the work in the scholarship

that others have contributed to the field. The essays in each of the four parts—

Developmental English and Bridge Programs, First-Year Writing, Professional and

Technical Writing, and Writing Centers and Mentored Writing—are different enough

from one another in terms of the theories and methods they invoke and the data they

analyze, but what is common across the four parts is a palpable commitment by every

writer to make members of a broader audience aware of the challenges Latinx students

have encountered over the last several decades, as well as the kinds of interventions

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 186

Review of Bordered Writers

educators need to consider to make a difference in these students lives. The five

testimonios serve to personalize the more scholarly treatises (although a number of the

ten chapters also make effective use of testimonio) by humanizing the telling and, in line

with current theoretical interests in the field, embodying that telling in the lived

experience of scholars who to a great degree faced and met the same kinds of

challenges in their own personal lives.

Because it is both timely and overdue, Bordered Writers responds to the needs

of a wide audience in the field of rhetoric/composition and beyond. The book is

relevant to graduate faculty and writing program administrators whose primary

responsibility is to prepare graduate students to teach writing to culturally diverse

students. No doubt faculty who teach graduate seminars and practicum courses on

language, culture, identity, and pedagogy will find refreshing takes on topics and

lessons relevant to the scholars they are cultivating. Faculty in schools of education

and administrators charged with addressing diversity by building or rebuilding existing

programs will find the subject matter relevant as well. Finally, the book will appeal to

students in advanced, undergraduate courses designed to examine the teaching of

writing or the broader education of Latinx students as their numbers in university

settings continue to increase. As the co-editors make clear in their introduction,

“[b]ordered writers, in and outside Hispanic-Serving Institutions, have a voice that

must be heard and should not be ignored” (2019, p. 10).


1. Land acknowledgement – Native life & Tribal Relations. (2020). Retrieved

February 21, 2020, from https://www.washington.edu/diversity/tribal-relations/


Baca, I., Hinojosa, Y. I., & Murphy, S. W. (Eds.). (2019). Bordered writers: Latinx

identities and literacy practices at Hispanic-serving institutions. SUNY Press.

Kirklighter, C., Cárdenas, D., & Murphy, S. W. (Eds.). (2007). Teaching writing with

Latino/a students: Lessons learned at Hispanic-serving institutions. SUNY Press.

About the Author

Juan C. Guerra, Professor of English and Chair of American Ethnic Studies at the

University of Washington, is co-editor of Writing in Multicultural Settings (1997) and

author of Close to Home: Oral and Literate Practices in a Transnational Mexicano Community

(1998). His most recent book, Language, Culture, Identity and Citizenship in College

Classrooms and Communities (2016), develops a set of rhetorical and discursive tools that

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 187

Juan C. Guerra

disenfranchised students can use to navigate and negotiate the pedagogical spaces they

inhabit in writing classrooms and beyond in the course of becoming citizens in the making

in a global society.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 188

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

A row of crosses made by Greg Zanis to honor

each victim of the El Paso shooting on August 3, 2019.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 189

Photographs – 2019 El Paso, Texas mass shooting memorial at Walmart

Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

The “Grand Candela” memorial dedicated to the victims located at Walmart.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 190

Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies

Vol. 1, No. 1, June 2020, 191–195

Review of Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families

Translanguaging Homework Literacies

By Steven Alvarez. Albany, State University of New York Press, 2017. 212 pp.

Marlene Galván

Texas Tech University, on land of the Comanche tribe. 1

This story begins with thirty-three-year-old María Cruz’s emigration from Morelos,

Mexico to Southern California, where she married and had four children. Ten years

later she and her family moved to New York City, where through complex networks

of neighboring families, school and religious events, after-school programs, and the

ability to broker languages by María’s eldest daughter, Gina, María and Gina found

themselves in the MANOS community – the Mexican American Network of Students,

a grassroots educational mentoring program organized by volunteer mentors and

Mexican mothers. MANOS offered free after-school and evening tutoring to families,

primarily Mexican immigrant families in New York City. María’s is just one of several

mothers’ stories included in Steven Alvarez’s Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant

Families Translanguaging Homework Literacies. But it is through María’s story that Alvarez

introduces his book’s main goal: to “confirm the importance of collaboratively gained

family literacy for cultivating positive attitudes toward echándole ganas in schooling

and brokering the immigrant bargain” (p. xviii). Alvarez’s premise requires readers to

consider “how the immigrant bargain offers a space for intergenerational

dialogue...with rather than for children, even despite the standardized academic power

of English literacy” (p. xxiv).

In reading this book, it is important to understand “the intergenerational

narrative of echándole ganas,” a term Luis Urrieta, Jr. (2009) argues has no clear

English equivalent because “it is a term embedded in emotion and struggle, but would

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

Marlene Galván

most closely be translated to ‘giving it your all’” (qtd. in Alvarez, 2017, p. xvi). Equally

important are superación narratives, which Alvarez asserts “articulate stories about

quality of life, security, and economic well-being” (p. xvi). Together, narratives of

echándole ganas and superación form part of the immigrant bargain, a common, but

nonetheless complicated history of first-generation parents and their hopes for hard

working, academically successful second-generation children.

Because of Alvarez’s work as a MANOS mentor, his research is situated within

five years’ worth of involved documentation. Thus, his research provides a

comprehensive study that is divided into six chapters and shares the work of seven

mentors, nine first-generation Mexican-origin immigrant mothers and their twentyone

children as they navigate, or broker, socio-linguistic interactions at MANOS.

Chapter 1, “Mexican New York City: Making Community at MANOS”

contextualizes family navigation, particularly for mothers, of educational opportunities

in Mexican New York City and describes a flexible and strategic blueprint used by

MANOS to successfully engage literacy mentorship. Alvarez explores the history of

the larger Mexican-origin community in New York City beginning in 1990 when New

York experienced an influx in the population of Mexican immigrants caused by

financial crisis in Mexico and shifts in New York City’s economic circumstances that

increased demand for low-wage labor (p. 6). While Alvarez describes the changing

landscape of the city, he zooms in on Foraker Street, one of New York City’s Mexican

immigrant barrios and the site of his fieldwork. MANOS was located in the basement

of the San Juan Bautista Catholic Church on Foraker Street. Like the city, the barrio

experienced an influx of Mexican immigrants and thus an increase in student

enrollment and “community desire for educational support” (p. 8). This increase

sometimes strained MANOS’s resources, requiring a collaborative and communal

effort to keep MANOS going. Alvarez details both the layout and structure of

MANOS’s mentoring, documentation of grants, applications, and report cards of

mentees, mentorship time and space allocation, and available resources such as a

library of donated books in multiple subjects and languages. Through his introduction

of the MANOS families and mentors, Alvarez asserts that mentors “brokered

literacies, opening spaces for shared power relations and social interaction among

mothers and children when doing homework” (p. 23). These relationships were

established between mothers, mentors, and mentees and constructed a uniquely

mutual and negotiated translanguaging learning community experience.

Chapter 2, “Translanguaging Events: Homework Literacies at MANOS”

establishes the book’s theoretical framework, a theory that re-constructs

translanguaging events as a “methodological approach for coding and narrating literacy

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 192

Review of Brokering Tareas

activities in situated contexts” (p. 42). Alvarez asserts that the promise of opportunity

and social mobility inherent in the immigrant bargain is also present (though not

always articulated) through increased bilingual opportunities. It is in this chapter that

Alvarez explicitly defines a broker (the noun) as “the mediating participant who

establishes or destabilizes the link of communication among communicants” (p. 43)

and to broker (the verb) as “[serving] as a liaison with influence in exchanges between

individuals” (p. 43). Both mentors and mentees functioned as brokers with mothers in

homework situations at MANOS. Alvarez describes the mentoring at MANOS as

“brokering between audiences and embodying shifting and dynamic positions of

power”; this problematizes monolingual assumptions through a translanguaging

framework which allows communities to “better...understand the nuances of literacy

practices” (p. 41-42). These nuances of brokered performances, however creative and

critical, are not without the added complexity of disrupted or redistributed power

dynamics between children and their Mexican immigrant, language-minoritized

parents which Alvarez continues to discuss in the latter half of his book.

Chapter 3, “Translanguaging in Practice: Homework, Linguistic Power, and

Family Life” offers a detailed look at the day-to-day translanguaging occurrences

during homework and mentoring sessions at MANOS. Alvarez reintroduces readers

to Gina and María and discusses the substantial amount of language responsibility

Gina carried not just for her mother, but her entire family. Alvarez also analyzes two

translanguaging events in a case study that reveals how translanguaging functions to

circumscribe monolingual constraints and helps to develop an “understanding [of]

how language excludes but also includes agents within discourses and communities”

(p. 81). These agents include the significant contributions of language-minoritized

parents in homework sessions and their children’s overall academic progress.

Chapter 4, “Brokering the Immigrant Bargain: Negotiating Language, Power,

and Identity in Mexican Immigrant Families” and Chapter 5, “Brokering

Communities: Community Superación and Local Literacy Investment” describe in

more detail the immigrant bargain at MANOS and examine how MANOS worked to

establish trust among mentors and immigrant families while translanguaging English

language homework. Alvarez explores how MANOS mothers served as powerful

agents in their children’s formulation and perception of the immigrant bargain

narrative as well as how MANOS mentees perceived and were affected by this parental

influence. More specifically, the rhetorical power of immigrant parents both motivated

their children, but at times conflated academic aspirations and success with pressure

to assimilate and distance themselves from their parents. In efforts to ease this tension,

Alvarez notes that “[t]he support that MANOS provided…reflects a community effort

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 193

Marlene Galván

to engage with the dominant institutional language while maintaining the integrity of

the home language used to communicate in personal relations” (p. 108). MANOS’s

support for this type of engagement came through the sustained, nurtured trust of care

and commitment, creating a safe space for brokered performances and translanguaging

events that addressed the immigrant bargain.

Chapter 6, “Tareas, Community, and Brokering Care: Mentoring Local

Languages and Literacies” concludes Alvarez’s research with a call for the use of a

plurilingual model for K-12 schools, university teacher education programs, and

grassroots organizations to practice collaboration in ethnographic fieldwork, creating

a group community literacy specialists Alvarez refers to as educator-ethnographers.

This model, according to Alvarez “[derives] generative themes, crafts, and vocabularies

reflective of the linguistic repertoires of local communities” as well as teaches

educators to be aware of and attentive to “subtractive policies that blame students’

languages and families by characterizing them as shortcomings (p. 143). Alvarez’s time

at MANOS concludes with the book; however, he finishes with suggestions for

educator-ethnographers to continue the work of meaningful community literacy

cooperation. Alvarez’s final claim explicitly points to the importance of community

and academic partnerships, a claim that supports one of the book’s underlying

assertions, an assertion Alvarez acknowledges is not new…that bilingualism is a civil


Through Brokering Tareas, Alvarez offers an in-depth ethnographic study of

MANOS that broadens public understanding of translingual communicative acts,

foregrounding the complexity and richness of such acts. Informed by his positionality,

his in-depth involvement in the community, the book’s methodology noticeably

possesses a deep sense of respect and responsibility to ethical and reciprocal research

within this community. While Alvarez acknowledges that his book does not address

the gender dynamics of these brokered translanguaging events, his work certainly

opens the conversation to these contributions. Overall, Alvarez constructs a

sophisticated, well-sequenced examination of community and literacy that grapples

with the recognition that “the force of academic English’s legitimacy to dominate

certainly does not necessitate believing in a mainstream way of speaking, reading, or

writing” (xxi). Rather, Alvarez argues, “ideological dispositions and preferences

communicated through discourses that sanction the immigrant bargain are instilled in

individuals over long, slow processes” and his work seeks to “focus [on] these dynamic

contributions aimed at advancing immigrant families’ emergent bilingualism” (xxii).

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 194

Review of Brokering Tareas


1. Land acknowledgement – Lubbock County, Texas. (2020). Retrieved April 03,

2020, from https://www.co.lubbock.tx.us


Alvarez, S. (2017). Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families Translanguaging

Homework Literacies. State University of New York Press.

About the Author

Marlene Galván was born and currently resides in the Texas Borderlands. She is the

granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, daughter of Mexican American parents, and

mother to one beautiful boy. She is a lecturer in the First Year Writing Program at

the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Ph.D. student in the Technical

Communication & Rhetoric program at Texas Tech University.

LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies ISSN 2687-7198


LWRS: Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies is an open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal published and supported by the

NCTE/CCCC Latinx Caucus. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-

Noncommercial-NoDerivs) ISSN 2687-7198. Copyright © 2020 LWRS Editors and/or the site’s authors, developers, and

contributors. Some material is used with permission.

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 195

2021 CALL



Latinx Writing and Rhetoric Studies (LWRS) is the professional journal for the college

scholar-teacher interested in both national and international literacy events dealing

with Latinx Communities, Diaspora, and Identity and Cultural Practices.

LWRS publishes articles about literature, rhetoric-composition, critical theory,

creative writing theory and pedagogy, linguistics, literacy, reading theory, pedagogy,

and professional issues related to the teaching and creation of Latinx epistemologies.

Issues may also include review essays. Contributions may work across traditional

field boundaries; authors represent the full range of institutional types.

We seek submissions for our 2021 summer issue!

For details on how to submit to LWRS, please visit the submission guidelines on our

web page: https://latinxwritingandrhetoricstudies.com/submission-guidelines/

To be considered for our next issue, please submit your work by October 1, 2020

Send submissions to all three email addresses:

LWRS –– cccclatinxcaucus@gmail.com

Yndalecio Isaac Hinojosa – yndalecio.hinojosa@tamucc.edu

Christina V. Cedillo – CedilloC@UHCL.edu

LWRS, 2020, 1(1) | 196

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