I am a tenth generation Tejana with roots to what is now San Antonio that trace back to 1770. Utilizing intersectional historical analysis and archival methods, my dissertation documents the lived experiences of Black and Chicana educator-activists in San Antonio from 1836-1960 to place in context historical events, ideologies, and systems that worked against their communities. Centering these women not only contests San Antonio’s colonial-centric narrative but also identifies the consciousnesses necessary to create oppositional educational methods, practices, and leadership strategies necessary for economic, social, political, individual, and collective change.
My work in academia is directly tied to mom, Gloria, and dad, Ramiro: During the late 1950s through the 1970s, my parents endured discrimination and blatant racist attitudes and pedagogical practices within a San Antonio public education system that was modeled by Jim Crow era de jure segregation laws. As ethnic Mexicans, their experiences are not uncommon for the time: My dad, Ramiro, whose first language was Spanish, was physically punished for not adhering to “English Only” rules and because of his bilingualism and dark skin, would constantly be told by his teachers that he should not try to excel in his studies, and that he would not amount to anything because he was “just a Mexican.” Similarly, my mother, Gloria, remembers being paddled if Spanish slipped from her mouth and, as a girl student, she was discouraged from excelling in any other areas besides secretarial work or home making.
Inspire of and despite their (mis)treatment, my mom and dad taught me that there is joy in learning and knowledge creating processes: By the time I started school, they had equipped me with writing, reading, and listening skills that would allow me to excel at a young age. They were always present at school meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and volunteered at school events. Even now, they always ask about what topics I am researching, what I’m teaching, how students’ receive my lessons, offer suggestions that might help get students more engaged, and never hesitate to remind me that the work I am doing matters and is needed.
As my first teachers, my parents helped me understand that education can be a site for consciousness raising and individual and community empowerment.
I stand on their shoulders as they continue to inspire my teaching philosophy, pedagogical practices and passion to work with and learn from our communities.