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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