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This exploratory study analyzed the influence of Zapotec parental socialization practices on the cultural awareness and involvement, ethnic identity, and Zapotec language use of their adolescent children. A total of 15 parent-child dyads participated in the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents. Adolescents responded to corresponding open-ended questions in a written survey. Results indicate that the children of parents who were the most involved in cultural groups and organizations were more likely to participate in traditional dance and music groups. The children of parents who identified as indigenous and encouraged Zapotec language use were more likely to also identify as indigenous and speak Zapotec. High cultural awareness and participation among adolescents was not always related to indigenous self-identification and/or Zapotec language use. Many adolescents who did not self-identify as indigenous and did not speak Zapotec also reported high levels of cultural awareness and involvement. Implications for parental socialization research on Mexican indigenous immigrants in the United States are discussed.
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Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
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DOI: 10.1177/0739986316670390
Cultural Involvement,
Indigenous Identity,
and Language: An
Exploratory Study of
Zapotec Adolescents and
Their Parents
Melissa Mesinas1 and William Perez2
This exploratory study analyzed the influence of Zapotec parental
socialization practices on the cultural awareness and involvement, ethnic
identity, and Zapotec language use of their adolescent children. A total of
15 parent-child dyads participated in the study. Semi-structured interviews
were conducted with parents. Adolescents responded to corresponding
open-ended questions in a written survey. Results indicate that the children
of parents who were the most involved in cultural groups and organizations
were more likely to participate in traditional dance and music groups. The
children of parents who identified as indigenous and encouraged Zapotec
language use were more likely to also identify as indigenous and speak
Zapotec. High cultural awareness and participation among adolescents
was not always related to indigenous self-identification and/or Zapotec
language use. Many adolescents who did not self-identify as indigenous and
did not speak Zapotec also reported high levels of cultural awareness and
involvement. Implications for parental socialization research on Mexican
indigenous immigrants in the United States are discussed.
1Stanford University, CA, USA
2Claremont Graduate University, CA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Melissa Mesinas, Stanford University, CERAS Building, Room 202, 520 Galvez Mall, Stanford,
CA 94305, USA.
670390HJBXXX10.1177/0739986316670390Hispanic Journal of Behavioral SciencesMesinas and Perez
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2 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
Mexican immigrant, indigenous Zapotec, parent socialization, ethnic identity,
transnational families, cultural engagement
In recent decades, the United States has experienced a growing influx of
indigenous immigrants from southern Mexico (Huizar Murillo & Cerda,
2004; Marcelli & Cornelius, 2001). Indigenous groups that began immigrat-
ing to the United States in the 1970s and 1980s include Mayans, Purepechas,
Mixtecs, and Zapotecs (Cornelius, 1992; Rivera-Salgado, 2005). Despite the
growing presence of indigenous immigrants, research on Mexicans in the
United States assumes a homogeneous experience and neglects to discuss
racial, ethnic, and cultural variability within Mexican immigrant families
(Fox & Rivera-Salgado, 2004; Oboler, 1995, 2006; Stephen, 2007). This
dominant view of Mexican immigrants as a monolithic, monolingual (or
Spanish-English bilingual) group fails to recognize Mexico’s multiethnic and
multilingual diversity. In this study, we examine the relationship between
cultural involvement and indigenous identification among Zapotec parents
and their children. More specifically, we focused on the association between
parental involvement in indigenous cultural organizations and their children’s
involvement in cultural activities, ethnic identity, and Zapotec language use.
Indigenous Mexicans
It is estimated that 1.5 million Mexican indigenous immigrants live in the
United States. In California alone, it is projected that between 100,000 and
150,000 indigenous Mexicans live in the state (Huizar Murillo & Cerda,
2004). According to Warman (2001), Los Angeles has become the city with
the largest Mexican indigenous population after Mexico City. Although
indigenous immigrants have Mexican origins, they possess distinct traits that
set them apart from their non-indigenous counterparts. Indigenous groups
throughout Mexico have suffered political, social, and economic oppression,
which have isolated them within and outside their home country (Kearney,
2000). Common characteristics of Mexican indigenous immigrants include
low literacy levels, poverty, low educational attainment, substandard hous-
ing, lack of health insurance, and high levels of stress and anxiety.
As their numbers, long-term settlement, and geographic concentration
have increased, indigenous immigrants, particularly Mixtecs and Zapotecs,
have begun to establish transnational communities that recreate elements of
their hometowns in the United States through a process of sociocultural trans-
nationalism (Itzigsohn & Saucedo, 2002; Kearney, 1986; Kearney &
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Mesinas and Perez 3
Nagengast, 1989). This has also resulted in the emergence of distinctive forms
of social organization and cultural expression, ranging from civic-political
organizations such as binational newspapers, indigenous radio programs,
indigenous language translation and preservation, as well as the public cele-
bration of religious holidays and traditional Oaxacan music and dance festi-
vals (Besserer, 2002, 2004; Gil Martínez de Escobar, 2006; Kearney, 2000;
Lestage, 1998; París Pombo, 2008; Rivera-Salgado, 2005; Stephen, 2007).
The increasingly dense web of social, civic, and political organizations
creates an environment in which public rituals, such as the celebration of
hometown patron saints, serve as vehicles for reinforcing collective practices
that affirm broader ethnic identities emerging from the immigrant experience
(Kearney, 1995). Hometown associations encourage community building,
cultural exchange, and the flow of information. These processes play a cru-
cial role in sustaining the links that connect communities of origin with new
communities in the United States (Kearney & Nagengast, 1989; Rivera-
Salgado, 2005).
Cultural Socialization
While previous studies provide insights into the civic engagement, cultural
expression, and language preservation of Zapotec adults in the United States,
very little is known about how these practices are passed down to their chil-
dren. According to sociocultural socialization theory, the process of identity
development is linked to the construction of social roles, cultural affiliations,
beliefs, values, and behavioral practices (Parke & Buriel, 1998; Rueschenberg
& Buriel, 1989; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986). Children acquire a world-view
through their involvement in social interactions, particularly within family
contexts. Similarly, familial ethnic socialization theory suggests that family
members’ contributions to adolescents’ ethnic socialization process include
facilitating the internalization of values, perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors
of an ethnic group that lead to feelings of belonging to the group (Umaña-
Taylor, Alfaro, Bámaca, & Guimond, 2009). In this study, we consider socio-
cultural variables, such as language use, values, and traditions in order to
understand the role of familial socialization practices on Mexican indigenous
adolescents’ cultural orientation (Buriel, 1993).
The family is among the most important proximal social contexts that
guide ethnic identity formation (Umaña-Taylor, Zeiders, & Updegraff,
2013). Many studies have identified familial ethnic socialization as a critical
influence on ethnic identity formation (Hughes et al., 2006; Parke & Buriel,
1998; Umaña-Taylor, Gonzales-Backen, & Guimond, 2009). As Latinos are
not a homogeneous group, it is important to consider that indigenous
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4 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
families, such as Zapotecs, may have distinct parent socialization practices
that differ from non-indigenous Latino immigrants (Umaña-Taylor &
Yazedjian, 2006). For example, parental practices of Guatemalan Mayans
in the United States include exposing their children to the Mayan language
through visits to their communities of origin (Menjívar, 2002). Unlike
non-indigenous Latino immigrants in the United States, the children are
not only exposed to the Spanish and English languages, but also to their
parents’ indigenous language (Menjívar, 2002). Casanova (2011) found
that Yucatec-Mayan adolescent immigrants in the United States learn
about their Mayan culture from parents and family through storytelling
about their own experiences and the history of the Mayan culture. Their
parents also encouraged them to learn the Mayan language. Knowledge
and use of language is closely associated with one’s cultural orientation
and ethnic identity (Berry, Phinney, Kwak, & Sam, 2006). Understanding
the role of parental ethnic socialization among indigenous families is
important as previous research has indicated beneficial outcomes for
minority youth, including positive ethnic identity development (Umaña-
Taylor & Yazedjian, 2006).
To better understand the parental socialization practices of Zapotec fami-
lies in Los Angeles, we conducted an exploratory study to investigate their
influence on their child’s indigenous cultural orientation, ethnic identity, and
Zapotec language use. It was hypothesized that parents with high levels of
indigenous cultural knowledge, involvement in cultural organizations, indig-
enous self-identification, and Zapotec language use would socialize their
children to also develop high levels of cultural knowledge, participation,
indigenous self-identification, and usage of the Zapotec language.
A total of 15 Zapotec parent-child dyads participated in the study. The age
range for parents was 35 to 52, with a mean of 42.33 (SD = 5.23). Out of the
15 parents, eight were female (53.3%) and seven were male (46.7%). The
range of parents’ education was sixth grade to trade school, with a mean of
7.47 (SD = 2.23) years of schooling. Length of residence in the United States
ranged from four to 30 years with a mean of 20.07 (SD = 7.76). Parents origi-
nated from six towns located in the northern sierra of the state of Oaxaca in
southern Mexico. According to Mexico’s National Commission for the
Development of Indigenous People (2010), these hometowns range in popu-
lation from 374 to 7,684 residents. The indigenous population of these
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Mesinas and Perez 5
hometowns range from 58% to 98.7%. The hometowns of most parents (12
out 15) had indigenous populations of 97.0% or higher. The percentage of
indigenous language speakers in these towns range from 44% to 88%. The
hometowns of most parents (13 out 15) had indigenous language speaker
rates of 70% or higher.
Adolescents’ age ranged from 13 to 16, with a mean of 14.93 (SD = 1.28).
Ten adolescents (66.7%) were female and five were male (33.3%). All
attended school full-time and were enrolled in Grades 8 to 11. Almost three
-fourths (73.3%) of the adolescents were born in the United States while the
remaining 26.7% were born in Mexico (see Table 1).
All participants completed a brief demographics questionnaire. Parents par-
ticipated in a semi-structured interview that asked about their language use,
participation in cultural activities, and ethnic identity. Children were asked
similar questions in a written open-ended answer survey. The semi-struc-
tured interview protocol and open-ended-answer questionnaire were spe-
cifically designed to capture the unique experiences of Zapotecs in Los
All 15 interviews were conducted in Spanish. They were transcribed and
translated into English to analyze the data. Careful attention was given to the
descriptions participants provided about their attendance to cultural activi-
ties, participation in cultural activities and organizations, their ethnic identity,
Table 1. Demographic Characteristics.
Age 14.93 1.28
Gender (female) 66.7
Country of birth
United States 73.3
Mexico 26.7
Age 42.33 5.23
Gender (female) 53.3
Length of U.S. residence 20.07 7.76
Years of schooling 7.47 2.23
Note. Children (n = 15), parents (n = 15).
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6 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
and Zapotec language use. All participants were assigned pseudonyms to pro-
tect their identity.
Although some research has been conducted with Zapotec and other
indigenous migrant populations in the United States, there are no known
measures that assess their cultural participation and ethnicity. Therefore, to
examine the relationship between the parent and child cultural involve-
ment, and indigenous identification, two separate coding systems were
developed to analyze the parent interview responses and their children’s
written responses.
Parent interview responses were assigned into a “low cultural awareness”
group if they did not mention any cultural traditions, only mentioned tradi-
tions not specific to their hometown (such as baptisms, weddings, and Day of
the Dead), or if they only briefly mentioned cultural traditions specific to
their hometown. Responses were assigned into a “high cultural awareness”
group if they mentioned cultural traditions specific to their hometown (such
as festivities for a holy saint), and provided specific details about the tradi-
tions (such as explaining the purpose of a particular celebration or details
about music and dance performances).
To analyze formal and informal participation in cultural organizations
and groups, parents were assigned into a “low cultural participation” group
if they indicated two or less instances of current or past participation as a
volunteer or in a formal role in a community civic/cultural group or organi-
zation, and/or in a state-wide organization. Respondents were assigned to
the “high cultural participation” group if they indicated three or more
instances of current or past participation as a volunteer or in a formal role in
a community civic/cultural group or organization and/or in a state-wide
Based on their written responses to the open-ended answer questionnaire,
adolescents were assigned into a “low cultural awareness” group if they did
not mention any cultural traditions or only mentioned traditions not specific
to their hometown (such as baptisms, weddings, and Day of the Dead).
Responses were assigned into a “high cultural awareness” group if they
mentioned cultural traditions specific to their hometown and/or provided
specific details about the cultural traditions such as the purpose and dates of
Adolescents’ cultural participation responses were used to assign them to
the “low cultural participation” group if they did not mention any participa-
tion in a cultural activity, or only mentioned participation in school clubs/
organizations or recreational activities. Respondents were assigned to the
“high cultural participation” group if they indicated current or past member-
ship in a philharmonic band and/or dance group.
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Mesinas and Perez 7
Quantitative Findings
Cultural awareness and involvement. Results reported in Table 2 indicate that
most parents (86.7%) described at least some details about their hometown
cultural traditions. Slightly less than half (46.7%) reported at least minimal
details about cultural traditions while two fifths (40%) reported high cultural
awareness. Only two parents (13.3%) did not describe any cultural traditions
specific to their hometown. Most parents (93.3%) reported at least one
instance of informal or formal involvement in a cultural organization or
group. Nine parents (60.0%) reported one to two instances of involvement
and only one parent (6.7%) did not report any participation. One third (33.3%)
reported high levels of involvement in cultural groups and organizations
(three instances or more). Fathers reported higher involvement rates (57.1%)
than mothers (12.5%), χ2(1) = 3.35, p < .10.
Among adolescents, three (20.0%) did not describe any cultural events or
activities, two (13.3%) only described cultural events not related to their
hometown, and three (20.0%) provided some details about cultural events
related to their hometown. Seven adolescents (46.7%) reported high cultural
awareness by describing various specific details about cultural events related
to their hometown. In terms of involvement in traditional bands and dance
groups, one third (33.3%) of adolescents did not participate at all, while the
remaining two thirds (66.7%) reported high levels of participation in bands
and/or dance groups. Most adolescents (80.0%) reported that it was impor-
tant to be involved in cultural activities. We used a median split to create
adolescent age category groups, younger (less than 16 years old), and older
(16 years or older). Younger adolescents were more likely to indicate that
cultural participation is important (100%) compared with older adolescents
(57.1%), χ2(1) = 4.29, p < .05. We used a median split to group hometowns
into two indigenous population groups, High (more than 75.0%) and Low
(75% or less). Adolescents from hometowns with high indigenous popula-
tions reported higher cultural awareness than adolescents from hometowns
with lower indigenous populations (58.3% vs. 0.0%), χ2(1) = 3.28, p < .10.
Although all adolescents had visited their hometown at least once, the fre-
quency of their visits ranged from multiple times per year to only once.
Hometown visits were categorized into two groups, high frequency (multiple
times per year to at least every 2 years) and low frequency (less than every 2
years to only once). As Table 2 indicates, only 30.8% of adolescents visited
their hometown at least once every 2 years. Only one in four (26.7%) visited
at least once per year.
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8 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
Table 2. Adolescents’ and Parents’ Indigenous Cultural Orientation.
Visited hometown in Mexico 15 100.0
Frequency of hometown visits
Low (less than every 2 years) 9 69.2
High (at least every 2 years or more often) 4 30.8
Cultural awareness
No mention of hometown traditions 3 20.0
Mentions traditions not specific to hometown 2 13.3
Some mention of hometown traditions 3 20.0
Detailed description of hometown traditions 7 46.7
Low cultural awareness 8 53.3
High cultural awareness 7 46.7
Cultural involvement
No participation in traditional band/dance group 5 33.3
Participation in either dance group or band 10 66.7
Low involvement 5 33.3
High involvement 10 66.7
Importance of cultural involvement 12 80.0
Zapotec language speaker 7 46.7
Zapotec language use with parents 2 13.3
Indigenous identity label (Indigenous/Zapotec/Oaxacan) 5 33.3
Cultural awareness
No mention of hometown traditions 0 0.0
Mentions traditions not specific to hometown 2 13.3
Some mention of hometown traditions 7 46.7
Detailed description of hometown traditions 6 40.0
Low cultural awareness 9 60.0
High cultural awareness 6 40.0
Cultural involvement
No informal/formal role in cultural organization 1 6.7
1-2 informal/formal roles in cultural organization 9 60.0
3+ informal/formal roles in cultural organization 5 33.3
Low involvement 10 66.7
High involvement 5 33.3
Zapotec language speaker 13 86.7
Zapotec language use with children 6 40.0
Indigenous identity label (Indigenous/Zapotec/Oaxacan) 10 66.7
Note. Children (n = 15), parents (n = 15).
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Mesinas and Perez 9
Zapotec language use. Zapotec language use varied among adolescents and
their parents. Among the parents, 86.7% speak Zapotec (see Table 2). Using
a median split, parents were categorized into two age category groups,
younger (40 years old or younger) and older (older than 40 years old). Older
parents were more likely to speak Zapotec than younger parents (100% vs.
71.4%), χ2(1) = 2.64, p < .10. We used a median split to group hometowns
into two indigenous language speaker population groups, High (70% or
more) and Low (less than 70%). Parents from hometowns with higher popu-
lations of indigenous language speakers reported higher Zapotec language
use than those from hometowns with lower populations of indigenous lan-
guage speakers (92.3% vs. 50.0%), χ2(1) = 2.69, p < .05. Less than half of all
parents (40.0%) reported speaking Zapotec with their children. Among ado-
lescents, 46.7% speak Zapotec. However, there was a significant difference
between adolescents born in Mexico and those born in the United States. Half
of the adolescents born in Mexico used Zapotec with their parents compared
with none of those born in the United States, χ2(1) = 6.35, p < .05. Adoles-
cents from hometowns with higher indigenous populations reported higher
Zapotec language use than those from hometowns with lower indigenous
populations (58.3% vs. 0.0%), χ2(1) = 3.28, p < .10.
Indigenous identity. The use of an indigenous identity label differed signifi-
cantly between parents and their children. Two thirds of parents (66.7%) indi-
cated an indigenous identity label such as Zapotec, indigenous, or Oaxacan
(see Table 2). Fathers were more likely to indicate an indigenous identity
label (100.0%) compared with mothers (37.5%), χ2(1) = 6.56, p < .05. Few
parents (13.3%) reported two or more ethnic identity labels. The second most
frequent ethnic identity label among parents was Mexican (33.3%) followed
by Hispanic (13.3%). Parents from hometowns with higher populations of
indigenous language speakers were more likely to self-identify as indigenous
than parents from hometowns with lower populations of indigenous language
speakers (76.9% vs. 0.0%), χ2(1) = 4.62, p < .05. Among adolescents, one
third (33.3%) indicated an indigenous identity label such as Zapotec, indig-
enous, or Oaxacan. Adolescents born in Mexico were more likely to indicate
an indigenous identity label than those born in the United States (75.0% vs.
18.2%), χ2(1) = 4.26, p < .05. Almost half of the adolescents (46.7%) reported
two or more ethnic identity labels. The second most frequent ethnic identity
labels among adolescents were Mexican-American (26.7%) and Hispanic
(26.7%), followed by Latino/a (13.3%) and Mexican (13.3%). The children
of younger parents were more likely to self-identify as indigenous (57%)
compared with the children of older parents (12.5%), χ2(1) = 3.35, p < .10.
Overall, results in Table 2 suggest that both parents and their children report
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10 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
high levels of cultural awareness and cultural involvement, but unlike their
parents, the children report lower rates of Zapotec language use and indige-
nous self-identification.
To better understand the influence of parental socialization practices on
their children, we conducted a series of chi-square analyses to examine the
relationship between adolescents’ and their parents’ indigenous cultural
awareness and involvement (see Table 3). As noted previously, both children
and their parents were placed into two categories (high/low) based on the
cultural awareness and cultural involvement coding scheme developed for
the purposes of this study. We then created two new groups each for parents
and adolescents. The six parents that reported both high cultural awareness
and cultural involvement (40.0%) were categorized into a “high cultural
awareness/involvement” group. The remaining nine parents (60%) were
placed into a “low cultural awareness/involvement” group. Similarly, the
seven adolescents that reported both high cultural awareness and involve-
ment (46.7%) were placed into a “high cultural awareness/involvement”
group. The remaining eight adolescents (53.3%) were placed into a “low cul-
tural awareness/involvement” group. We then compared the corresponding
proportions of cultural awareness and involvement between parents and their
Table 3. Parental and Adolescent Cultural Orientations (N = 15).
Parental cultural orientation
Cultural awareness and
Indigenous identity and
encouragement of Zapotec
language use with children
Low High
No Yes
% % % %
Adolescent cultural orientation
Cultural awareness
and involvement
11.43* 5.53*
Low 88.9 0.0 85.7 25.0
High 11.1 100.0 14.3 75.0
Indigenous identity
and speaks Zapotec
1.11 3.28
No 88.9 66.7 100.0 62.5
Yes 11.1 33.3 0.0 37.5
p < .10. *p < .05.
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Mesinas and Perez 11
children. Results indicate that all the children of parents with high cultural
awareness and involvement also reported high cultural awareness and
involvement (100.0%), χ2(1) = 11.43, p < .05.
To examine the relationship between indigenous identity, language use,
and cultural awareness and involvement, we created two parent groups. The
nine parents (60.0%) that indicated an indigenous identity label and encour-
aged their children to learn Zapotec were placed into an “indigenous identity/
Zapotec language,” group. The remaining six parents (40.0%) were placed
into a “non-indigenous identity/language group.” Similarly, the seven adoles-
cents (46.7%) who indicated an indigenous identity and speaking Zapotec
were placed into an “indigenous identity/Zapotec language” group. The
remaining eight adolescents (53.3.0%) were placed into a “non-indigenous
identity/language group.” The children of parents who identify as indigenous
and encourage their siblings to speak Zapotec reported higher rates of indig-
enous self-identification and Zapotec language use (37.5% vs. 0.0%) χ2(1) =
3.28, p < .10, and cultural awareness and involvement (75.0% vs. 14.3%),
χ2(1) = 5.53, p < .05, compared with the children of parents who did not self-
identify as indigenous or encourage Zapotec language use. Although the chil-
dren of parents with high cultural awareness and involvement reported higher
rates of indigenous language use and indigenous identity than those of par-
ents with lower cultural awareness and involvement (33.3% vs. 11.1%), due
to the small sample size the difference was not statistically significant.
Overall, adolescents and their parents reported similar rates of cultural
awareness. Cultural involvement was more common among fathers and par-
ents from hometowns with higher populations of indigenous language speak-
ers. Younger adolescents were more likely to indicate that cultural participation
is important. Those from hometowns with higher indigenous populations
reported higher rates of cultural awareness even though most adolescents did
not visit their hometowns frequently. Although most parents speak Zapotec,
older parents and those from hometowns with higher populations of indige-
nous language speakers were more likely to speak it. Adolescent Zapotec
language use was half the rate of their parents. Those born in Mexico and
those from hometowns with higher indigenous populations were more likely
to speak Zapotec. Most parents indicated an indigenous identity label such as
Zapotec, indigenous, or Oaxacan. Fathers and parents from hometowns with
higher populations of indigenous language speakers were more likely to self-
identify as indigenous. Only one third of adolescents indicated an indigenous
identity label. Instead, almost half indicated two or more ethnic identity
labels such as Mexican, Mexican- American, Hispanic, and Latino/a.
Adolescents born in Mexico and those with younger parents were more likely
to self-identify as indigenous.
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12 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
Qualitative Findings
Interview theme comparisons provide another insight into the cultural
awareness and participation of Zapotec adolescents and their parents. Table
4 provides a summary and comparison of the five major themes in the parent
interviews and adolescent written responses: (1) attendance to cultural
events, (2) participation in cultural activities and organizations, (3) impor-
tance of attending cultural events, (4) factors that influenced ethnic identity,
and (5) cultural socialization. Interview theme findings suggest that parental
efforts to attend cultural activities and participate in community organiza-
tions are driven by a desire to stay connected to and to support socially and
financially the people from their hometown residing in both the United
States and in Mexico, to practice and preserve their customs and traditions,
and to pass them on to their children (see Table 4). Most children report
detailed knowledge of cultural traditions, enjoying attending cultural events,
and participating in philharmonic bands and Oaxacan dance groups. Similar
to their parents, they emphasized the importance of attending cultural events
to learn about their cultural origins, to practice their customs and traditions,
and to socialize with other children from their hometown. Parents encourage
their children to join philharmonic bands and Oaxacan dance groups not
only to maintain their traditions but also to provide a positive alternative to
the negative influence of drugs and gangs. Cultural socialization efforts
from parents also include the teaching and encouragement of Zapotec lan-
guage use and hometown visits to Mexico. While most parents identify as
indigenous because they were born in an indigenous village, speak Zapotec,
or because they continue to practice their customs and traditions, their chil-
dren express more complex ethnic identities that entail both a positive affec-
tive component (proud/not embarrassed to identify as indigenous) and
multidimensional ethnic identification (allegiance to two cultures/multiple
ethnic identity labels). The chi-square and interview theme analyses allowed
us to analyze the relationship between cultural awareness and involvement,
indigenous identity, and Zapotec language use across all parents and their
children. Next we examine these patterns within families by focusing on
parent-child dyad comparisons.
Philharmonic bands play a very important role in the cultural socializa-
tion of Zapotec adolescents. The music bands play is a central part of
almost all Zapotec cultural events. Through music, 35-year-old Moises has
been able to instill a deep appreciation of his culture in his 13-year-old
daughter Jessica and other children in his community. Several years ago he
established a music school to teach traditional Oaxacan music. He
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Mesinas and Perez 13
Table 4. Major Themes From Parent Interviews and Adolescent Written
Parent interview themes
Adolescent written response
Attendance to cultural events
Regular attendance to community cultural
Enjoyment of cultural activities
Fundraising initiatives for various causes
were common
Detailed knowledge of cultural
Participation in cultural activities and organizations
Formal and informal responsibilities in
community events and organizations
Member of the philharmonic band
and/or dance group
Importance of attending cultural events
To build solidarity as a community To learn about cultural origins,
customs, traditions, and festivities
To preserve customs and traditions from
the pueblo
To learn how to preserve customs,
traditions, and festivities for future
To keep informed about current events
at the pueblo
To meet other children from the
To set an example of building for their
To practice cultural traditions
To teach the children about their culture
Sense of obligation to be engaged and
work toward the well-being of the
Factors that have influenced ethnic identity
Born in the respective pueblo Proud of indigenous origin
Continue to practice customs and
Allegiance to two cultures/societies
Continued use of the Spanish and
Zapotec languages
Acknowledgment of parents’ ethnic
Spanish and Zapotec language use
Not embarrassed about identifying
with indigenous culture
Cultural socialization
Encourage children to join philharmonic bands and dance groups to help them learn
and maintain their cultural traditions
Use of band and dance group participation as a positive alternative to prevent
youth from engaging in risky behavior
Teaching and encouraging the use of Zapotec language
Sending children as often as possible to their native pueblo
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14 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
I’m the founder and director of Sierra Music Academy . . . When I first started
working with kids I didn’t have a permanent location so we practiced and
rehearsed in other peoples’ garages, yards, and other places. I did that for 5
years until I was able to secure a permanent place for the music academy 4
years ago . . . I’m here every morning and afternoon teaching music.
According to Moises, music and dance have played an important role in shap-
ing his own Oaxacan identity. He said, “What has helped me a lot is the
music. Before I became involved with the band, I participated in dances. I
was always involved in some aspect of my culture.” Like other children and
parents who strongly identified with their indigenous heritage, Moises’
daughter Jessica replied, “I’m 100% Oaxaquena! To be more specific, I’m
Solagueña . . . I was born in Oaxaca and I’m really proud of it.” When asked
about the experiences that have helped shape her identity Jessica wrote,
I’m a member of my dad’s band where I get to play the music that our people
enjoy and dance to. When I play those sones and jarabes (traditional Oaxacan
songs) I get really excited because it makes me feel like I’m in my pueblo with
all my people.
In addition to her high cultural involvement and indigenous self-identifica-
tion, Jessica also speaks Zapotec. Like other adolescents who identify as
indigenous and speak Zapotec, her family is from a hometown of 1,704 that
has high populations of indigenous residents (98%) and Zapotec language
speakers (88.0%).
Moises has three other children ages 4, 6, and 8 who were all born in the
United States where he has lived for 11 years. He hopes to pass on his tradi-
tions to his U.S.-born children and those of other parents from his hometown
through his music academy. He stated,
It’s important for those of us who know the music to get the youth involved to
learn about their ancestors’ music. If we don’t teach them anything, like a
jarabe (traditional song), they will grow up without a culture . . . If they learn
the dances and about their Oaxacan culture they can be proud of their
grandparents and their roots . . . They don’t have to listen to or dance to the
music all the time, but at least they’ll know where they come from.
Another parent-child dyad that illustrates parents’ cultural involvement
and their efforts to encourage the cultural awareness and involvement of their
children is the case of Artemio and his daughter Otilia. Although 46-year-old
Artemio has lived in the United States for 30 years, he wants his children to
learn about his Zapotec culture, including his U.S.-born 16-year-old daughter
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Mesinas and Perez 15
Otilia. He stated, “We attend Oaxacan cultural activities like the Guelaguetza.
We have instilled our culture in our children. It’s good that they know where
we come from so they don’t feel ashamed of our culture. My children appre-
ciate our indigenous culture.” Artemio is from a small town of 374 residents
who are mostly indigenous (98.7%) and speak Zapotec (70.0%).
Artemio was one of the most involved parents in the study. He held formal
positions in several community organizations. While Moises taught music as
a way to transmit his cultural traditions to the children, Artemio taught tradi-
tional dance. He said, “I teach youth from our pueblo so they can perform the
dances at our celebrations.” The role of dance instructor is one of his respon-
sibilities as a board member of his hometown association. He helps to plan
events throughout the year, including several fundraisers. To raise money, he
said, “We organize dances, prepare food, tamales, mezcal, tlayudas . . . A
variety of traditional Oaxacan food.” His position is unpaid but after 50 years
of the organization’s existence, it has become customary for everyone from
his hometown to take turns to volunteer to run it. He explained,
I have held a position in the board four times, each lasting a year. It’s customary
to take an active role in the board . . . We don’t receive monetary compensation
for serving on the board, we do it for our pueblo . . . The organization collects
funds for the pueblo. It was started because the pueblo wasn’t getting any help
from the local or federal governments [of Mexico] . . . The elders decided to
collect funds to help, especially with the water works and electricity . . . The
organization has done a lot to help build clinics, the library, and the sewage
In addition to attending cultural events and celebrations like the
Guelaguetza, his children are also enrolled in music and dance classes. His
daughter Otilia described her experience,
I am a member of a band in our community called Banda Oaxaqueña [Oaxacan
Band] . . . I started at the age of four and have stuck with it all this time . . . my
siblings and I have been part of it since it was started . . . It was started by some
of my relatives who thought that since the Zoochileños in Zoochila are such
good musicians with great bands, they should start one here in Los Angeles . . .
They wanted Zoochileño children in Los Angeles to participate in the band to
keep our customs alive by learning how to play the regional music of Oaxaca . . .
It has taught me to be proud and appreciate our customs from Zoochila.
Artemio’s strong indigenous identity as a Zapotec drive his efforts to teach
his children to appreciate their heritage. However, his positive feelings about
his indigenous identity have evolved over time as a result of life-long
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16 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
experiences of prejudice and discrimination due to his indigenous back-
ground. He explained,
I have had many instances at work when someone has tried to insult me by
saying that since I’m from Oaxaca that means I’m an Indian. When I first
arrived in the U.S., I was so confused that when someone made those remarks
I didn’t know what to do so I just felt bad. It wasn’t until later that I would say
I’m proud of being Oaxacan and speaking Zapotec. Once I was talking with a
friend and he asked me if I spoke Zapotec. I told him, “Yes, I do. Let me tell
you my story. I was born on the floor on a petate [bedrool made of palm fibers].
I was born in the kitchen area of a house with a roof made of paja [straw]. I
only spoke Zapotec until I was 12 years old when I left my pueblo.”
Similar to her father, Otilia’s indigenous cultural identity has grown over
time, but like many other children in the study she has come to embrace mul-
tiple ethnic identities. In addition to Oaxacan, she also identifies as Hispanic,
Latina, and Mexican-American. She wrote,
I identify myself in this way because I’m from the United States and my parents
are both from Mexico . . . At home we express more our Mexican or Oaxacan
culture with the stuff we eat or my dad talking to someone on the phone in
Like her father, Otilia also speaks Zapotec.
The third parent-child dyad is Clara and her son Santiago. Clara is 52 years
old and has lived in the United States for 29 years. She was one of the most
involved mothers in the study. She was previously the president of her home-
town association. She described it as an important position with a lot of respon-
sibilities and expectations to raise money. The selection process involves
committees in both the United States and her hometown. She explained,
The people from our pueblo nominate us, there’s a committee here [U.S.] that
keeps in contact with the committee in our pueblo . . . They select you to
organize a kermes [fundraiser] . . . to help our village . . . or help raise money
for the family of a deceased member.
Although it is considered a traditional obligation to serve if selected, Clara
notes that those in the United States do not always follow the tradition, in part
because the consequences have changed over time. She said,
If they don’t want to . . . we can’t do anything about it. It’s not like there [the
pueblo] where you can punish people to do tequio [indigenous form of
community service] or you spend a day in jail . . . Here there is no punishment.
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Mesinas and Perez 17
Clara is from a small town where most residents are indigenous and speak
Clara’s son Santiago is also highly involved in cultural activities. He is 16
years old and was born in the United States. He regularly attends the fund-
raisers and other cultural events. He wrote,
People host gatherings and sell food to raise money for the pueblo. I like going
to see the dances and the bands because I like the music a lot . . . , it’s important
to me to have these events because my family and I have been going to them
since I was a little kid.
Like Jessica and Otilia, he is also in a band started by family members. He
wrote, “I am a member of a traditional band that my uncles started 2 years
ago to play the music from the pueblo.”
Whereas highly involved parents always adopted an indigenous identity
label to self-identify, Clara and Santiago are an example of where the son or
daughter does not follow the same trend as the parent. For example, when
asked how she identified Clara replied,
As Oaxaqueña . . . Because of the language . . . because of the way I dress . . .
Sometimes on the bus I bump into other people who speak our language so we
speak Zapotec on the bus . . . I’m not ashamed to be Oaxaqueña, on the contrary,
I feel proud.
Her son Santiago, who expressed the same high level of involvement and
enthusiasm about his culture as his mother, did not self-identify as Oaxacan
or Zapotec. When asked how he identifies he replied, “I identify as Mexican
because that is where my parents are from.” Santiago also does not speak
The last parent-child dyad is Porfirio and his daughter Xochitl. Porfirio is
a 40-year-old father of four children. He’s also from the same town as
Artemio. He has lived in the United States for 21 years. All his children were
born in the United States, including 16-year-old Xochitl. Like Artemio and
Moises, Porfirio has taught traditional music and dance to the U.S.-born chil-
dren of parents from his hometown. He is highly involved in his hometown
association and was recently appointed to serve a 1-year term on the board of
directors. Like the other parents in our study, Porfirio’s involvement in cul-
tural activities and organizations reflects his beliefs about maintaining and
passing the traditions and customs to his children. He explained,
Culture and religion are important. This is what I teach my children . . . they
participate in the community gatherings. My daughters are either in a folkloric
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18 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
dance group or part of a musical group . . . my children have participated in
many events . . . I come from a small pueblo and . . . I want to teach them that
the pueblo is part of their identity as well because that’s where their parents and
grandparents come from.
Both Porfirio and Xochitl demonstrate high levels of cultural awareness and
participation. Throughout the interview, Xochitl described specific details
about the most important cultural festivities in the hometown and how they
sometimes have to be modified in the United States. In one of her descrip-
tions she noted,
The first festival we celebrate not only here but in the pueblo is the Fiesta de la
Virgen De Candelaria. In the pueblo it’s usually a 4-day celebration, but here
[U.S.] we don’t have the time or place to do it so we just do it for one day . . .
At the celebration here in Los Angeles we eat food from Oaxaca, perform
dances, and enjoy traditional music from Oaxaca. The second event is the
Fiesta de Santiago Apostol, which is the main celebration for the patron saint
that the pueblo was named after . . . This celebration also consists of a 4-day
party, but we just do it one day here [U.S.]. We do it just like in the pueblo, we
eat Oaxacan food and listen to the band play . . . We keep these customs alive
here in Los Angeles so we don’t lose our traditions.
Like the other highly involved children, Xochitl participates in a band and is
a member of a dance group. She wrote,
The band I play in is called Banda Oaxaqueña . . . I play both the saxophone
and clarinet . . . I’m also in a dance group where we learn the traditional ways
of dancing to Oaxacan songs called sones y jarabes . . . I love dancing to our
music and performing for people to see and enjoy. I love to see how the second
generation children are also adopting these customs.
Unlike Clara and her son Santiago, in the case of Porfirio and Xochitl,
high cultural awareness and involvement was also accompanied by indige-
nous self-identification by both father and daughter. For example, when
asked how he identified, Porfirio replied, “As a Mexican, but I’m also indig-
enous . . . I am Zapotec and indigenous blood runs through my veins. It gives
me great pride.” Porfirio is also proud of his ability to speak Zapotec. He
said, “Many people are embarrassed to speak Zapotec and they don’t realize
how good it is to know the language. I’m not embarrassed about speaking it.”
When asked about how she identified, his daughter Xochitl had a similar
answer, “I identify myself as a Zapotec because it’s in my blood and in my
background. I was born in the Unites States but also feel Oaxaqueña even
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Mesinas and Perez 19
though I wasn’t born there.” Xochitl attributes her trips to the pueblo as an
important influence on her identity. She wrote,
I took a trip to Zoochila in the summer of 2006 with the band. We were there to
play at the celebration for Santiago Apostol (a holy saint) . . . People dance and
played music that made me proud of where I come from.
Xochitl also identified the dance groups as an important outlet to express her
indigenous identity and pride by wearing the traditional dance attire. She
When we dance we wear the typical outfit which for the guys it’s a cotton white
and blue shirt and for the girls it’s a white cotton shirt and skirts tied with a
rebozo [shawl] at the waist. Both men and women wear leather sandals.
Although Xochitl reports high levels of cultural awareness and involvement
and identifies as Zapotec, she does not speak the Zapotec language.
In this exploratory study, we examined the cultural awareness and involve-
ment of Zapotec parents and their adolescent children. Zapotec parents in this
study, particularly those highly involved in their hometown association,
encouraged their U.S.-born children to join the bands and dance groups to
learn and preserve their customs and traditions. Their children reported
embracing their parents’ messages about cultural preservation. For parents,
maintaining close ties with their hometown by attending cultural events is
important not only because it allows them to remain connected to family and
friends but also because they serve as opportunities to teach their children
about their customs and traditions. Studies with ethnic minority youth have
noted that close and warm relationships with parents are associated with
more well-developed ethnic identities (Huang & Stormshak, 2011). Urrieta
(2013) studied families from San Miguel Nocutzepo, an indigenous Purepecha
pueblo in Mexico and found that parents pass on indigenous traditions to
their U.S.-born children through return home visits (Urrieta & Martínez,
2011). Urrieta (2013) refers to these ways of knowing as “indigenous heri-
tage saberes” and argues that their persistence is evidence of indigenous cul-
tural continuity and successful adaptation within the context of migration.
High cultural awareness and involvement among adolescents was associ-
ated with adopting an indigenous identity label and speaking Zapotec for some
participants. Other adolescents reported high levels of cultural awareness and
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20 Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
involvement even though they did not self-identify as indigenous or speak
Zapotec. Although high proficiency in a heritage language is a reliable predic-
tor for ethnic identity (Oh & Fuligni, 2010), previous research suggests a pro-
cess of evolving views about culture, language, and identity among indigenous
youth (Stephen, 2007). They grow up hearing their parents speak Mixtec,
Zapotec, or Triqui; listening to their parents’ music; and participating in the
festivals organized around their communities of origin. But they also grew up
listening to the music that the rest of American youth enjoy, from hip hop to
heavy metal. Some have even pioneered trilingual rap in Spanish, English, and
Mixteco. A recent study described the process by which a group of Oaxacan
young adults ages 15 to 25 created a youth group, Autónomos, in order to pre-
serve their indigenous culture and language through art and hip hop (Equipo de
Cronistas Oaxaqueños (ECO, 2013). Nicolás (2012) found that Los Angeles-
based Zapotec adolescents expressed an indigenous transnational identity that
was not primarily based on language, clothing, or being raised in a rural pueblo.
Even if they did not speak Zapotec, they still believed in the importance of
maintaining the language, especially if their relatives living in their hometown
still speak it.
Ethnic identity development involves multiple cycles of self-explora-
tion, change, and consolidation that are experienced by individuals through
the course of their lives (Ong, Fuller-Rowell, & Phinney, 2010). The varia-
tion in the use of ethnic labels among adolescents in this study suggests that
they may be at different stages in their identity formation. Second genera-
tion Zapotecs in Los Angeles have much more contact with non-Oaxacans
than their parents, as they are more involved in American society in ways
that may influence their ethnic identities (Malpica, 2008). Indigenous youth
may use multiple representations of indigenous identity with which they
might identify rather than a single, self-evident category (Trimble, 2000).
In a previous study, Nicolás (2012) found that young adults used the terms
Oaxaqueño, Oaxican, and Zapoteco interchangeably to mean indigenous.
The term “Oaxican” is a mixture of English and Spanish to describe indige-
neity. Some youth adopt multiple indigenous labels such as Solagueña
(from the pueblo of Solaga), Oaxacan, and Zapotec to better relate to other
indigenous people who may not be from the same pueblo or indigenous
Our findings are similar to previous studies that report cultural exploration
by indigenous youth through participation in Oaxacan dance troupes charac-
terized by colorful traditional dresses and brass bands that play sones y jar-
abes (ECO, 2013; Nicolás, 2012). For young members of dance and band
groups, participating in the preservation of traditions from their towns of ori-
gin allows them to learn about their cultural background and gives them
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Mesinas and Perez 21
reasons for claiming their indigenous identity (ECO, 2013). Dance costumes
often include symbols of their transnational identities, such as a patch of the
Virgin Mary with the pueblo’s initials on one side and the Los Angeles
Dodgers’ logo on the other (Nicolás, 2012). Merging the experience of urban
life in Los Angeles and the cultural practices and festivities of their pueblos
helps to reinforce indigenous beliefs and values. For example, in a recent
study, Oaxacan youth referred to the indigenous community service concept
of tequio as an important experience that made them feel connected to their
indigenous ancestors (Hernández Morales, 2012).
Early cultural involvement of second-generation youth helps to build a
strong relationship with their town of origin in Mexico. Even though they do
not necessarily identify as indigenous when they are younger, it becomes an
important part of their politicization and claim of their indigeneity during
emerging adulthood even for those who were born in the United States or
have never visited Oaxaca (Kovats, 2010). Youth who do not participate in
cultural activities are more likely to feel ashamed or deny being Zapotec or
Oaxacan (Nicolás, 2012). When transnational connections remain strong for
youth, their indigenous identity is more likely to endure into adulthood
(Smith, 2002; Stephen, 2007).
The study included six villages from the north highlands of Oaxaca so
the results may not generalize to Zapotecs from other regions of Mexico. As
adolescents were not interviewed, it was not possible to ask follow-up
questions to their written answers. The questionnaire was long which could
have led some adolescents to not respond to all the questions or to only
provide brief or short answers. Though the current findings were based on
an exploratory qualitative study with a small sample size, they provide a
framework to further study the identity formation and cultural orientation
of Zapotec families in transnational communities in the United States. The
study also provides a foundation to study parent-child relationships among
indigenous immigrants. Additional research is needed to better understand
the cultural socialization processes among Zapotec immigrants in the
United States.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported in part by
funds from Scripps College.
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Author Biographies
Melissa Mesinas received her BA in psychology and Hispanic Studies from Scripps
College and is a doctoral student in the Developmental and Psychological Sciences
program in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. She has con-
ducted cross-cultural research on indigenous communities including Zapotec,
Quechua, and Aymara youth. Her current research interests include the development
of Mexican immigrant youth and parental involvement, ethnic familial socialization,
and college readiness access among Latino families.
William Perez received his PhD from the Graduate School of Education at Stanford
University. He is an associate professor of education at Claremont Graduate
University. His research focuses on the social and psychological processes associated
with academic success and higher education access among immigrant, undocumented,
indigenous, and deported students in the United States and Mexico. He has a forth-
coming book titled Indigenous Mexican Students in US Schools: Ethnicity,
Multilingualism, and Academics (Oxford University Press, 2017).
by guest on September 30, 2016hjb.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Works by Latinx and Indigenous scholars are amending this research inattention by producing studies describing and elucidating the languaged practices and identity developments within K-12 schools and higher educational settings of Ixil, Zapotec, Ñuu Savi, P'urhépecha, Maya, Nahua, and Kichwa, among others (e.g. Barillas Chón 2019, 2022; Casanova 2016Casanova , 2019Kovats Sánchez 2018Mesinas 2021;Mesinas and Perez 2016;Pentón Herrera 2020. These scholars point to how the US's political disregard of Indigenous diasporic people, an educational system that neglect its Indigenous diasporic students', coupled with insufficient appropriate pedagogical interventions (e.g. ...
... Oftentimes, diasporic Indigenous students are participating and contributing to their communities through familial and communal endeavours that highlight the values of alegría and comunalidad, as they are deeply rooted in their Native epistemologies and ways of living. The youth develop positive identities and have a stronger sense of belonging when they engage in caring relationships with adult mentors through their Indigenous ways of living (Bang, Montaño Nolan, and McDaid-Morgan 2018;Casanova 2019;McGinty and Bang 2016;Medin et al. 2014;Mesinas and Perez 2016). This can be done at the start of an academic year when teachers and administrators get to know students and families through official school communication, parentteacher introductions, and back-to-school night events. ...
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Diasporic Indigenous students include the lived realities of diverse Indigenous students living in the United States with familial, relational, and transnational ties to Indigenous communities and pueblos of origin in Abya Yala, also known as Latin America. In this article, we advocate for the creation of positive learning communities to best support diasporic Indigenous students in schools and beyond. Recommendations for educators include understanding the effects of anti-Indigenous discrimination within Latinx communities and reflecting on the ways schooling may unintentionally reproduce colonial or damage-centred perspectives about Indigenous Peoples. The successful cultivation of positive learning communities also requires schools to learn from and cultivate partnerships with diasporic Indigenous families and surrounding communities to uplift social-emotional learning that honours Indigenous comunalidad. We hope the information presented in this article contributes to promoting equitable learning outcomes for all students by disrupting colonial stereotypes and misinformation about Indigeneity and uplifting contemporary Indigenous saberes.
... For Alma and Samantha, indigeneity is one such axis. Zapotecs are part of a larger group of indigenous Mexican immigrants that are often rendered invisible in the United States (Barillas-Chón, 2010;Machado-Casas, 2009;Mesinas & Perez, 2016;Perez, Vásquez, & Buriel, 2016;Vásquez, 2012). As I have described elsewhere (Martínez, 2017), this invisibility extends to educational contexts, and the ideological process of erasure (Irvine & Gal, 2009) is one of the mechanisms by which this invisibility is actively achieved. ...
... on this particular sub-group of indigenous diasporic students in order to contribute to the recently growing literature in psychology (e.g., Cooper et al., 2014;Gonzalez, 2018) and education (e.g., Barillas Chón, 2010;Mesinas & Perez, 2016) that has mainly focused on Mixtec and Zapotec indigenous Mexican youth. Additionally, the current study used a transborder, quantitative, intersectional framework. ...
Using a socio-ecological and an intersectionality framework, this crossnational study examined the perceived discrimination experiences of U.S.- based diasporic Yucatec-Maya Mexican students (n = 66), U.S.-based non- Yucatec-Maya (non-indigenous) Latinx students (n = 65), and Mexico-based Yucatec-Maya students (n = 70). U.S.-based Yucatec-Maya students selfreported experiencing the greatest number of instances of perceived discrimination and higher levels of perceived discrimination distress as compared to their non-indigenous counterparts. Maya language was positively related to peer-perceived discrimination distress. U.S.-based Yucatec-Maya boys self-reported experiencing the most acts of peer-perceived discrimination and first-generation Yucatec-Maya students had the highest levels of peer-perceived discrimination distress. This study examines indigeneity to contribute to an intersectional understanding of Mexican-origin students.
... The same literature has shown how Indigenous Latinxs utilize their linguistic repertoires and cultural backgrounds as assets in navigating education systems that were not designed for them. In particular, these studies have investigated children (e.g., Martínez, 2017;Morales, 2016) and youth's (Casanova, 2019;Pentón-Herrera, 2019;Mesinas & Perez, 2016) language ideologies, maintenance, and revitalization in K-12 and higher education settings (Kovats Mendoza-Mori, 2017). ...
... Mexican Indigenous students, at the margins of invisibility in their school contexts, are a growing population in the U.S. frequently overlooked by researchers and educators (Casanova, 2019;Barillas-Chón, 2010;Pentón Herrera, 2019a;Ruiz & Barajas, 2012). These students have inequitable access to educational and economic resources and are often linguistically and culturally misunderstood (Casanova, O'Connor, & Anthony-Stevens, 2016;Mesinas & Perez, 2016;Morales et al., 2019). The knowledge and traditions of Latinx Indigenous communities are not always valued and as a result, educators lose insight on assets possessed by Mexican Indigenous youths, such as smartness (Hatt, 2007), funds of knowledge (Moll et al., 1992), and community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005). ...
Educators are often unaware of assets Mexican Indigenous children possess that originate from their cultural practices. Using Critical Latinx Indigeneities and Indigenous Heritage Saberes, our studies focus on three unique Indigenous learning communities that provide opportunities of empowerment for these students. We examine the experiences of Triqui middle school students in a Youth Participatory Action Research club and how it facilitated their use of research as a decolonizing tool to hold knowledge inside the school. We explore how Oaxacan students maintain their cultural traditions via a learning community created by an Oaxacan philharmonic band. Lastly, we investigate the experiences of Yucatec-Maya youth with cultural community organization programs that instill knowledge of and pride in their Indigenous identity. Our studies contribute to the critical conversations about equity in education for Mexican Indigenous youth. Recommendations are made for educators and community organizations working with Mexican Indigenous students.
... Paradoxically, Indigenous youth continue to find ways to retain and enhance heritage connections by engaging in significant cultural activities such as powwows, Guelaguetzas, sweat lodges, music groups, familial ceremonies, and other practices (Cruz-Manjarrez, 2013;Kenyon & Carter, 2011;Schweigman, Soto, Wright, & Unger, 2011). Community members and parents often socialize youth into these practices as strategies to keep traditions alive; overall supporting youths' pro-social behaviors, self-determination, and community belonging (Mesinas & Perez, 2016). In schools, although some teachers express empathy for Indigenous students by highlighting the great Indigenous civilizations in their curricula, it is imperative to make purposeful instructional and institutional opportunities that value Indigenous lives, not by generalizing a narrative of European "discovery" and Indigenous "fidelity" that evades the role of race and racial equity that continues to play-out; now transposed as a socio-economic hierarchy, but instead move toward teacher and school awareness of Indigenous youths' strengths to facilitate sociocultural lives responsibly. ...
Little research has been dedicated to Indigenous Mexican students’ education and their sociocultural adaptation to U.S. schools, which includes their ethnic identity as significant to their schooling experiences. This study examines Zapotec-origin youth, original to the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, and how their Indigenous identity can positively impact their education. Often, educators have limited knowledge about Mexico’s ethnoracial groups, presume that their Mexican students share indistinguishable characteristics, and are unaware that Indigenous students are ever-present in their classrooms. Through in-depth interviews, this study reveals how Zapotec high school students assert their Indigenous identity as a basis for developing viable approaches for their overall educational success.
La pregunta sobre la existencia de características comunes inherentes a la psicología de los pueblos Indígenas de todo el mundo ha sido objeto de mucho debate. Nosotros argumentamos que los pueblos Indígenas comparten la experiencia de la colonización, así como sus consecuencias sociales y psicológicas. Desarrollamos este argumento en cuatro secciones: ( a) La historia global de la colonización y las desigualdades sociales; ( b) aspectos relativos a la identidad y los procesos grupales, incluidas la transmisión intergeneracional de valores compartidos, la conexión con la naturaleza y la promoción del cambio social; ( c) el prejuicio y la discriminación hacia los pueblos Indígenas y el rol que juegan los procesos psicológicos para promover relaciones positivas entre los pueblos Indígenas y no-Indígenas; y ( d) el impacto del trauma histórico y del colonialismo en la cognición, la salud mental y el bienestar de los pueblos Indígenas, así como la base para el desarrollo de intervenciones exitosas que integran los conocimientos Indígenas. Por último, abordamos los desafíos futuros de la investigación sobre estos temas.
Whether there are common features inherent to the psychology of Indigenous peoples around the globe has been the subject of much debate. We argue that Indigenous peoples share the experience of colonization and its social and psychological consequences. We develop this argument across four sections: ( a) the global history of colonization and social inequalities; ( b) aspects concerning identity and group processes, including the intergenerational transmission of shared values, the connection with nature, and the promotion of social change; ( c) prejudice and discrimination toward Indigenous peoples and the role of psychological processes to improve relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples; and ( d) the impact of historical trauma and colonialism on dimensions including cognition, mental health, and the well-being of Indigenous peoples as well as the basis for successful interventions that integrate Indigenous knowledge. Finally, we address future challenges for research on these topics. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology, Volume 73 is January 2022. Please see for revised estimates.
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This study adds to the growing interdisciplinary field of Critical Latinx Indigeneities by examining comunalidad (communality or community collectiveness) in a transborder setting. Comunalidad, as Indigenous Oaxacan practices and beliefs, provides a collective understanding of how three Zapotec generations in the US diaspora shape and reinforce notions of Indigeneity and belonging to their lands in Zoochina. I refer to this idea of relational understanding among the US diaspora as transborder comunalidad, the Indigenous epistemology and practice of communal belonging and being across generations in diaspora. Based on oral histories and participant observation fieldwork in Los Angeles, this article looks at sociocultural practices that Zoochina Zapotecs use to challenge Latinidad, Mexicanidad, and Chicana/o identities. By organizing in traditional dances and playing in their Oaxacan brass band, generations in diaspora reinforce transborder communal ties to their homeland and identity as Indigenous peoples, specifically as young and adult children of Indigenous migrants.
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Es este un estudio que describe con precisión etnográfica y profundidad teórica la experiencia de una comunidad transnacional de origen mixteco dispersa en una amplísima geografía que va desde la Región Mixteca Oaxaqueña hasta el Estado de Oregon en los Estados Unidos. Rocío Gil nos muestra en este trabajo que los tindureños, al mismo tiempo que se incorporan precariamente a la moderna agroindustria norteamericana, reafirman sus estructuras de organización tradicional indígena para contrarrestar los procesos de exclusión a los que se enfrentan. En este proceso, la comunidad establece fronteras entre los ciudadanos transnacionales del pueblo que buscan el bienestar y el desarrollo comunitario, y quienes no pertenecen más al mismo. -Carole Nagengast (Universidad de Nuevo México. Directora del Departamento de Antropología)
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This article explores how children and youth learned indigenous heritage saberes (knowings) through intent community participation in Nocutzepo, Mexico. The familia (family) and comunidad (community)-based saberes were valuable for skills acquisition, but most important for learning indigenous forms of belonging, responsibility, and integration into adult life. Understanding indigenous heritage philosophies of learning and familia and comunidad saberes can help expand educators' knowledge about the learning practices of indigenous heritage families and students in schools.
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Deficit perspectives often portray Mexican parents as not caring or uninvolved in their children's education in US schools. Although school truancy mostly affects schools in terms of school funding issues, high Latina/o school absenteeism is often blamed on lack of parental involvement. This study explores parents’ and grandparents’ perspectives about why going to Nocutzepo in México was important for their children and grandchildren's cultural identities, even when their children were truant from US schools. We define diasporic community knowledge as ways of knowing and ways of being that include a broad range of practices inherited by community members as repertoires of practices. Using a transnational ethnography, we draw from data gathered both during the patron saint's fiesta in Mexico and/or during home visits in Los Angeles between 2006 and 2009. We conclude that people from Nocutzepo actively engage in alternative educational practices that supplement US schooling. Through pueblo visits, parents and grandparents were actively and meaningfully teaching their children and grandchildren ancestral diasporic community knowledge.
This review examines current anthropological literature concerned with migration and other forms of population movement, and with the movement of information, symbols, capital, and commodities in global and transnational spaces. Special attention is given to the significance of contemporary increases in the volume and velocity of such flows for the dynamics of communities and for the identity of their members. Also examined are innovations in anthropological theory and forms of representation that are responses to such nonlocal contexts and influences.
Why and how would second-generation Mexicans in New York participate in transnational life? And what factors would affect the nature of that participation in the short and long terms? I pursue answers to these questions in this chapter by analyzing second-generation transnational life among the children of migrants from a town in rural Puebla, Mexico, that I have called Ticuani. The analytical work is twofold: to demonstrate that transnational life exists among the second generation, and to theorize about its etiology-how it emerges, what its nature and limits are, and how it matters. My intent is to offer a corrective to both those who dismiss the study of things transnational out of hand and those who see transnationalism everywhere, as well as to point out ways of getting empirical and conceptual purchase on this important social reality. My argument is that transnational life among second-generation Mexicans in New York is a result of the dual processes of assimilation and settlement and related processes such as social locationing in New York City, migration from and return to Mexico, and the transnationalization of adolescence. (For a fuller development of this argument, see Smith 2001a.1) I argue that transnational life in the sec-ond generation: results from the second generation's engagement with racial, gender, and class and status hierarchies in the United States (and sometimes in Mexico); evolves as the second generation moves from adolescence into early adulthood, an important step in the life course; and reflects their attempt to keep the immigrant bargain with their parents (see Suárez-Orozco and Suárez-Orozco 2001). My answer underlines the importance of the dynamic interaction between the American context and the parents' hometown, focusing on the ways in which transnational sites and practices are used to redefine second-generation social locations and the meaning of Mexican- ness in New York. Mexican-ness is redefined internally, for example, as the second generation returns to their parents' hometown as college students, enjoying that status and keeping the immigrant bargain as they mature. Mexican-ness is also redefined when they reject its negative images in New York-as powerless undocumented workers or dangerous gang members-by learning about religious or cultural practices in Ticuani. But fighting these images within the American context pushes the second generation into a tight engagement with New York's racial hierarchies and the need to negotiate their ambiguous social location with respect to what Du Bois (1969 [1901], 1992 [1935]) called America's "color line." Many in the second generation demonstrate their positive social location in New York by showing themselves to be "not black" and "not Puerto Rican," as did the Irish and other white immigrants before them. Being "not black" is part of being "good immigrants" like their parents, and hence fit for full membership and upward mobility in what some call the "immigrant analogy" (see Omi and Winant 1986; Roediger 1991; Ignatiev 1997; Smith 1995, 1996, 2001a, 2002; Basch et al. 1994; Portes and Rumbaut 2001).2 This dynamic engages both assimilation and transnationalization: they return to Mexico to help escape negative assimilative pressures and end up transnationalizing their own lives. Concretely, in this chapter I analyze the Ticuani Youth Group, a conscious attempt to create a transnational second-generation institution. I analyze the reasons for the failure to fully realize this ambition, as well as the proximate and longer-term latent effects that the group nevertheless has had on the social lives of its members in New York and Ticuani. Although transnational life is different for the second generation, it does exist. Theoretically, this chapter engages one of the most frequent criticisms of transnational research-that transnationalism, to the extent that it exists at all, is a first-generation phenomenon, and that it is squashed under the foot of second- and third-generation American monolingualism and acculturation. I document the second generation's conscious participation in transnational life, and with what effects, and the impact of the life course on this process for the second generation (see Levitt 2001; Smith 1997, 1999). I argue that rather than squashing transnationalization, assimilative pressures actually foster it by giving the second generation a reason to want to redefine their Mexican-ness in a new context. Ticuani is a good case for looking at transnational life in the second generation for several reasons. It has a high degree of firstgeneration participation in strongly institutionalized transnational life (see Smith 1995, 1998, 2001a). For example, since the early 1970s Ticuani has funded major public works projects through its New York Committee for the Progress of Ticuani, and its politics is practiced in both New York and Mexico. About 60 percent of Ticuani's population now lives in the United States, mainly in New York, and about 40 percent in Mexico. Moreover, large numbers of first- and second-generation youth return to the town every two or three years for the Feast of the Patron Saint, Padre Jesus, giving these secondand 1.5-generation youth significant lived experience there. Although some would point to cases like Ticuani as outliers (without actually having a universe from which to make such an assessment), massive exits like that experienced by Ticuani are becoming more and more widespread in parts of rural Mexico (Thompson 2001), making the kinds of dynamics described in this chapter increasingly likely. In one political region I studied in Puebla, one-third of the municipios (counties) have had electoral processes and outcomes changed by migrant participation. Many believe that migrants in the United States contributed to President Vicente Fox's electoral victory in 2000 (Smith 2001a, 2001b). Finally, Ticuani is a good case because the period of research-the fourteen years from 1988 to the present-is an ethnographically long time and hence it has been possible to watch carefully as the processes of secondgeneration transnational life unfold.3 Before proceeding, a word about terminology is in order. I use the term "transnational life," and in some places "transnationalization, " to emphasize processes and lived experience, and I avoid using the popular "transnationalism," which is some-times understood to indicate a kind of "third space" divorced from both the home and host societies.4 The implication of this usage of "transnationalism" is that there is an entirely new way of being as a migrant-a transnational-whose entire life is lived simultaneously in two places. My understanding of transnational life is somewhat more modest and circumscribed but still yields important effects. I understand transnational life as that sphere of life that flows out of the regular contact between sending and receiving societies, a social field of relations that, in the second generation especially, has a character akin to associational life and is particularly strong in particular phases of life. For many in the second generation transnational life has a significance similar to that of the Jewish summer camps in the Catskills during the middle decades of the last century: one's friends came from there, one's social life revolved around the camp experience, and it was most intense during adolescence but persisted into adulthood (see also Smith 2001a, 2001b). I return to these issues in the conclusion.
This study compared the childrearing practices used by Mexican American parents of first-, second-, and third-generation adolescents. Effects of family sociocultural variables on childrearing were also examined. There were 317 adult respondents representing the parents of 186 adolescents. Multivariate and univariate analyses revealed significant generational differences in childrearing styles. Parents of first- and second-generation adolescents reported a more responsibility-oriented childrearing style, whereas parents of third-generation adolescents reported a more concern-oriented childrearing style. The relationship of family sociocultural variables to parents' childrearing practices also varied by generation. In general, the sociocultural variables of child's Spanish to parent, family income, and mothers' schooling showed the strongest relation to childrearing styles emphasizing either responsibility or concern. Results are discussed in relation to the effects that immigration and acculturation have on Mexican American families.