Date of Degree

2-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Robert C. Smith

Committee Members

Nancy Foner

William Kornblum

Subject Categories

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Early Childhood Education | Indigenous Studies | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latina/o Studies | Migration Studies | Race and Ethnicity | Sociology

Keywords

Indigenous Mexican Immigrants, Integration, Ethnic Identity, Multilingualism, Education

Abstract

As indigenous Mexican immigrants migrate, settle, and raise families in the United States, parents, particularly women, and their children increasingly have contact with community institutions, such as schools. Despite their growing numbers in U.S. schools, indigenous children, youth, and their parents are often invisible due to their ethnolinguistic identities and undocumented status. Understanding what parents do to help their children is essential to understanding the first generation's integration and their children, the second generation.

To better understand this, I conducted an ethnographic research study at a bilingual Head Start program in New York City, in East Harlem, where many undocumented indigenous families have their U.S.-born children enrolled in an English and Spanish preschool program.

It was not only a place where undocumented indigenous women immigrants, the primary caretakers of their U.S.-born children, congregated but did so in a centralized space. I observed interactions and interviewed twenty-one Nahuatl and Mixtec women about their migration experiences, settlement processes, ethnic identities, and linguistic ideologies within their families and interviewed twenty school personnel. It was a critical school site since Spanish and English were spoken. It was not a monolingual, English-dominant context but a site where institutional leaders were immigrant and native-born Spanish speakers themselves.

Conducting this study with mothers of U.S.-born preschool children was an opportunity to answer the following questions: How do new immigrants who are language and ethnolinguistic cultural minorities in their own country of origin integrate into a new society? More specifically, how do they integrate into institutions meant to accommodate the new society's language minority? However, what happens when the language and culture of that minority integration program – Spanish and English, with Puerto Rican, Dominican, and South American staff – encounter unfamiliar indigenous culture and language among parents? How do the parents, staff, and children react?

The research allows us to understand a newer immigrant group in New York City and appreciate the experiences of immigrants within the diverse Mexican community, including indigenous Mexicans. This research provides a window into the integration, language use, and identity formation of indigenous Mexican immigrant women into an English-Spanish multilingual context in New York City. It also presents information on how they are faring and developing strategies in their communities, schools, and families. It offers more details on how marginalized, undocumented indigenous women negotiate the contexts of bilingualism, which also has implications for their U.S.-born children.

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