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Fighting for Respeto: Latinas’ Stories of Violence and Resistance Shaping Educational Opportunities


by Judy Marquez Kiyama, Donna Marie Harris & Amalia Dache-Gerbino — 2016

Background/Context: The experiences of Latina youth in the United States are embedded within a larger social context influenced by gender, ethnic/racial identity, socioeconomic status, language, and sociospatial and political characteristics that can negatively impact their daily lived experiences. Given the challenges that young Latinas encounter, it is necessary to understand the systemic barriers that complicate their educational progress as they confront dominant institutions and systems that marginalize them.

Purpose/Objective: This article is informed by intersecting forms of violence and the relationship between violence and systems experienced by adolescent Latinas. Its purpose is to explore the oppressive structures that influence Latinas’ educational opportunities and to illustrate how Latinas respond to these structures. This article is guided by the following research questions: How are Latina students’ schooling experiences influenced by acts of violence? How do Latina students respond to these acts of violence?

Participants: Analysis for this article was drawn from seven focus groups with 39 Latinas, ages 11–18. The majority (82%) of the Latinas identified as Puerto Rican, inclusive of biracial and multiracial identities.

Research Design: The data in this article originated from a larger mixed-methods study examining the barriers that prohibit Latina/o students from successfully progressing through K–12 schooling. We used focus groups to collect data from the participants and drew upon narrative analysis techniques to represent the stories of the young Latinas.

Findings: Findings highlight how systemic forces position and oppress Latinas, resulting in physical violence, stereotypes, and environmental violence, each of which intersect with Latinas’ gender, race, ethnicity, social class, and language. The authors present the findings by associating key themes of resistance, resiliency, and agency with Latina participant experiences with violence.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The authors argue that these forms of systemic violence must be interrogated further, as future educational opportunities for Latinas will continue to be impacted. Spaces must be created to recognize and further cultivate the resistance strategies that Latinas are developing, especially as they learn to critique and fight against the social systems in which they are embedded.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 12, 2016, p. 1-50
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21630, Date Accessed: 12/14/2017 1:53:21 PM

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About the Author
  • Judy Marquez Kiyama
    Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver
    E-mail Author
    JUDY MARQUEZ KIYAMA is an Associate Professor in the Higher Education Department at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education. Her research examines, through an asset-based lens, the structures that shape educational opportunities for underserved groups to better understand the collective knowledge and resources drawn upon to confront, negotiate, and (re)shape such structures. Her research is organized around the role of parents, families, equity, and power in educational research and underserved groups as collective networks of change. Her most recent publication, with Casandra Harper, is the monograph Parent and Family Engagement in Higher Education: A Critical Examination of the Evolving Relationships between Families, Students, and Institutions (ASHE Higher Education Report Series).
  • Donna Harris
    Rochester City School District
    E-mail Author
    DONNA MARIE HARRIS is a Consultant Research Analyst for Latino Affairs and Bilingual Education at the Rochester (New York) City School District. Her research interests include race and education, educational policy, and the social organization of public schools and classrooms. Currently, she is studying how school policies and practices impact the quality of education and outcomes for Latina/o secondary students in Rochester. She is coauthor, with Judy Marquez Kiyama, of The Plight of Invisibility: A Community-Based Approach to Understanding the Educational Experiences of Urban Latina/os (Peter Lang).
  • Amalia Dache-Gerbino
    University of Missouri
    E-mail Author
    AMALIA DACHE-GERBINO is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri. Her research includes critical approaches to college access, transition, and success for students of color and the sociospatial context of higher education. She investigates how structural geographic factors impact access to higher education institutions for local residents and illustrates that urban spaces are developed and sustained in a manner that divests and isolates low-income communities of color. Her most recent publication, with Vicki T. Sapp. and Judy Marquez Kiyama, is “Against all odds: Latinas activate agency to secure access to college” (Journal of Women in Higher Education, forthcoming).
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