On Mexican/Chicano Students
I remember my reaction when I first walked into a school here in the United States. I saw how students interacted
with each other and how they interacted with the professors. How they voiced their opinions even challenging the professor.
Not only did they challenge the professor, but also they challenged her in a loud way. I remember my nervousness. All my life
I have been told to love my teachers. Never to question them. Never to challenge them. Never to look at them directly,
and never to be confrontational with them. Whenever I was taught a lesson, back at home, we never spoke in a loud tone. I
mean our teachers were not deaf. We were told to speak politely in soft even tones. Not to be proud of our knowledge but to
always be humble. Here things were different. Students who spoke out ... students who challenged the teacher or contradicted
her were rewarded. The A student was the student who interchanged opinions and was always confrontation with
other students and with the professor/s. In other words, a show-off!
There is a big difference, then, between the Mexican student and the Anglos in learning styles and cultural
backgrounds. Here I will discuss some of these differences. I will also offer several suggestions for those teachers teaching
First of all, We are not all the same.
Sure, we come from Mexico; however, this does not necessarily mean that we all share the same racial, cultural,
and traditional backgrounds.
Mexican students may come from different racial, traditional, cultural backgrounds: such as Indigenous nations
in Mexico, or they may come from the city such as Guadalajara, Jalisco; or, they may come from farming communities
or small towns; or they may be Europeans born in Mexico. Furthermore, each Indigenous Mexican nation
has its own language, traditions, values, dances, culture, etc. Just as each Mexican state has its own traditions, dances,
culture, and so forth.
No one student can speak on behalf of all Mexicans.
Do not ask us about what does "Cinco de Mayo" means to us. Because, to speak frankly, not all Mexicans celebrate
such date. Do not ask us about our "Aztec Past" ... you want to know about the Aztecs: find an expert on this subject. However,
I must be clear to you: there is no such thing as an expert student when it comes to the Aztec past. Do not make the mistake
that because we look "Indian", that, therefore, we are experts in the Mexican "Indian" cultures. We can help you in certain
matters though, like, for instance: why do I celebrate certain dates and not others. If you want to know about my culture,
in particular, you should really become acquainted with me first to see if I want to speak to you about such topic and/or
whether or not I do posses such knowledge.
My ancestors were not cannibals.
My ancestors did not sacrifice children and human beings.
My ancestors were not savages.
I am not an "Indio."
No, we are not angry with you: just at your STUPIDITY!
And yes, we are very sensitive when you begin teaching us about a Past that was forged and invented. If you
are doing it intentionally: STOP IT! If you are doing it unintentionally: STOP IT! All you are doing is teaching us to Hate
Ourselves and, believe it or not: you are teaching us to HATE YOU and those like you. (Unintentionally, of course)
We Love Our Family.
This is no stereotype: this is a truth.
Most of us have more than one mother, more than one father, and more than four grand-parents: all living in
the same house. What do I mean by more than one mother: our aunts become our mothers (also, our eldest sister becomes
our mother when both parents died). What do we mean by more than one father: Our uncles and great-uncles become our
fathers--including our grandfathers and our eldest brothers and our god-parents. What do we mean by we have more than
four grandparents: sometimes we are lucky enough to be taught by our great-grandparents... even our great-great grandparents.
We truly have thousands of cousins. And we know each one of them by name and nickname. Therefore, do not Shame
us because you decided to put your father in a home for the elderly and we didn't. Do not Shame us because we Love
our Family and we prefer to be around them. We accept your views, why can't you accept ours? Most of us who come
here to the United States are expected to Return Home. We are even expected to be buried there: in our Mountains and Valleys....
We understand that this culture is alien to us ... we at least try to understand it. Do not come to us with The American Way
Of Life is better than any other way of life. Please do not bullshit us.
A lot of us prefer to listen, instead of being active communicators. Do not force us to speak when we
do not want to speak. Do not point us as being different from the rest: we know all of this just as we know our strengths
We are not Europeans.
We are not Asians.
We are not Africans.
We see the world differently from Europeans, Asians and Africans.
We understand Time differently too (some of us, anyway).
We verbalized and non-verbalized our emotions differently too.
Spanish may not be our first language. It could it our third or our fourth or it could be not our language
If Chicanos, English could be our only language and not know one single word in Spanish. Do not blame us for
this. It is not our fault.
Do not assume that because we are Mexicans that this means that we are illiterate or dumb or stupid. If we need
your help, we will ask for it.
Here then are some of my suggestions into teaching Mexican/Chicano students. Please note: these suggestions
may not apply to every Mexican/Chicano student. So, my first suggestion is to treat each student individually.
Expect the best from each student. If you expect stupidity from a person, stupidity is what you will get.
Be kind to the student. Treat him as a human being and not as a dumb animal that needs your protection and
Respect our cultural differences.
Teach us according to our strengths and not our weaknesses.
If we do not wish to speak, please respect our wishes. Do not embarrass us in front of other students.
Respect our living space (or personal bubble).
That is all I can think of, for now.