Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Tricia Kress

Second Advisor

Gerardo Blanco--Ramírez

Third Advisor

Gresilda Tilley-Lubbs


Borders, borderlands, and borderland experiences differ for people. Borderlands are physical Outer spaces in which individuals and groups of people dwell, as well as being figurative and historically rooted spaces of oppressive structures, practices and policies. In those spaces, language, identity and negative perceptions meet, and are contested and dichotomized (Anzaldúa, 2012; Behar, 2003; Cruz, 2006; Godinez, 2006). Using a framework of the dichotomized spaces of culturalism versus structuralism noted in literature, I highlighted Latina critical theories suggesting remedies for the improvement of Mexican youth academic experiences and performance in U.S. schools. In my qualitative study, I utilized testimonio to elicit Mexican youth narratives of their transitions from schooling experiences in Mexico to those in the United States, and auto|ethnography to document my complicit role in the transition of their stories from their oral state to my written form. I used identity as a lens through which I documented participants’ educational borderland experiences (Anzaldúa, 2012; Gee, 2000; Irizarry, 2011a; Ravitch, 2015; Roth & Tobin, 2007; Rumberger and Rodríguez, 2002; Valenzuela, 1999). Participants reported feeling isolated, largely due to challenges with English language acquisition. Participant identity shifts were clear, ranging from strong Mexican identification, to de-emphasizing it. Limitations of my study were the small sample size and its composition. Implications for policy can be drawn from participants’ linguistic challenges. Results from my study stand to fill a gap in literature on the experiences of Mexican youth transitioning from the federally controlled Mexican educational system to urban centers in the U.S.


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