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The Mexican diaspora: On constructing and negotiating mexicanidad in Mexico City


The ethnic identity of Mexicans in the diaspora is starkly at odds with the identity ascribed to them in Mexico. In Mexico, nationality plays a central role in construction of a mexicanidad, or a Mexican ethnic identity; while in the United States, mexicanidad is constructed and negotiated on a continuum of ethnic authenticity. In the current study, I first set out to describe the typology of a speech community of heritage speakers temporarily living in Mexico City by analyzing their social recognition of non-standard linguistic variables. I supplement the quantitative data with participant observations; these shed light on the relevant linguistic resources speakers use to navigate totalizing ascriptions of identity.

I elicited data with a social recognition questionnaire, sociolinguistic interview and careful participant observations. The participant pool includes eighteen second generation Spanish heritage speakers who enrolled in an education abroad program at the Universidad Nacional Aut�noma de M�xico (UNAM) through the University of California. I categorized participants’ evaluations of non-standard variables into three nested fields, as described in Santa Ana & Parodi (1998). The field notes of my observations were collected throughout six-month.

The results demonstrate a unique typology among the select speech community, which contrasts the evaluative behavior of Mexican Spanish monolingual speakers. The observations illustrate the unique linguistic resources that become available to speakers for navigating the social landscape and to effectively perform mexicanidad through the variable use of linguistic style. Interestingly, among the stylistic resources are the non-standard variables characteristic of their variety of Spanish. The findings show that variables with a tendency to stereotype speakers are repurposed by heritage speakers, who value the variables in the stylistic practice of performing and reaffirming a Mexican ethnic identity, or mexicanidad.

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