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Experiences of Oaxacan Youth Attending High School in Los Angeles: Implications for Educational Practice


It is well known that a significant number of California students are of Mexican heritage. What is less apparent to educators is that increasing numbers of these students are children and youth from Indigenous communities of that region. Effects of globalization and free market forces have not only caused the displacement and migration of Indigenous peoples to large cities within Mexico, but also to several parts of the United States, in search of work. Indigenous students from Mexico differ considerably from their mestizo peers, both culturally and linguistically (V�squez, 2012). For California educators, this means that within the group known homogeneously as “Latino,” is in part made up of students from families who may speak an Indigenous language at home, and who may observe Indigenous cultural traditions and ways of life (L�pez, 2009; Ochoa and Ochoa, 2005). A growing body of literature is shining a light on the challenges Indigenous students encounter as they navigate the educational system - in Mexico and here in the US. There are between 100,000 and 200,000 Zapotec immigrants who now live in greater Los Angeles, and the number of Indigenous children and youth from communities in Mexico are attending California public schools is increasing. Due to their unique background, Zapotec students may present educators with additional considerations as they plan for their instruction and support. The work presented here chronicles a year-long case study which sought to explore the schooling experiences of Oaxacan youth at an urban high school in Southern California. During the course of the investigation, multiple factors within the school environment were analyzed, including instructional practices, school and district procedures and perceptions of staff, students, and parents with regard to Oaxacan students. It is the hope that the findings of this investigation, which delves into an area that has been the focus of precious few studies within the extant literature, will generate further conversation and inquiry about the layers of complexity that exist for Indigenous Oaxacan students attending school in LA. Perhaps the discussion contained within the pages of this work will begin to pave the way to greater awareness among educators and can be an impetus for informed decision- making which with have a positive impact on Oaxacan students in US public schools, and on otherIndigenous students from Latin America.

Keywords: Zapotecs in Los Angeles, displacement of Indigenous peoples, Mexican migration, Indigenous education, Oaxacan students, Oaxacalifornia, transnational spaces, translocality

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