How do you use writing or art in your life?
Writing is a lens to appreciate life around ad within me. My training as an ethnographer and anthropologist in education helps me understand the composite ways in which my own life experiences as an escritora are intertwined with the ongoing histories and practices I study in schools. Writing ethnography is part social critique, storytelling, and a daunting journey into the self.
What lessons/teachings from your family, home and/or community do you draw on in your teaching and/or scholarship?
I grew up in Mérida, Yucatán, in México, the youngest of 7 siblings. We were a family of modest means and most of our reading practices revolved around the daily newspaper, the occasional novel or short story from the Spanish version of the “Reader’s Digest.” My father instilled in me a love for humor and reading with a special nightly ritual on the days he would come late from work or upon his return from work-related travels coordinating rural co-ops in the area. He would leave a cuento or comic book (la zorra y el Cuervo, La pequeña Lulú, etc.) and a piece of gum or candy under my hammock (we slept on soft hammocks growing up in the south of Mexico). It was always a joyous moment to wake up and find something fun to read, munch on, and talk about at breakfast or lunch time. These early sensorial pairings (reading-tasting, reading-talking) have marked so much of the way I read and write today. My father found a way to engage my imagination and introduce me to plot lines, critiques of domination and resistance, gendered dynamics, and of course, to irony and humor. In my writings as a professor of education I have worked hard to counter the notion that Latinx families do not expose their children to literacy skills they can use in schools. My whole childhood reading experiences at home would probably be considered “lacking” by such narrow standards, but they were far from it. Those cuentos gave me opportunities to connect with family, to understand the complexities of human relationships, and they gave me an entry point to launch social critique.
What would you tell your younger self?
Growing up in a classist and racist society, I sometimes would second-guess myself. Would others approve? Was this appropriate for me to do? The occasions when I would speak up were the moments I gained a stronger sense of purpose and clarity. The consejo I would give my younger self is to be bolder and to trust my moral compass. Like a turtle carrying a shell of mundos on its back we walk this earth with the wisdom of our relatives guiding us.
Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:
As a professor I have learned that writing is never just our own and that collaboration is the key to our work as scholars and teachers. While it might be difficult to counter practices that reward the lone academic (individual merit reviews and advancement), we must build strong networks of relations and allies. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have had to collaborate with others and I currently have a few such projects in progress. There is much joy and promise in thinking and writing with others where meaning and purpose intertwine in creative and often insurgent ways.
Something else you want to share?
I like to think of writing as a way to be fully present and alive. Writing feels pretty much like breathing to me— a word in, a word out; its rhythm is sometimes soothing, lulling, and sometimes it is fast-paced and unbridled. There is no real balance. We just have to learn to breathe with it, in and out, fast, and slow.