Scholar Stories: Dra. Carla España

How do you use writing or art in your life?

I grew up in a family of storytellers and artists as we sang and danced in our Chilean folklore group. We left Chile when I was five and it was just my mom, my dad and I in Queens, New York. It was telling stories, writing, singing, and dancing that helped me with that transition. I wrote letters to abuelita and tías. Cantaba para pasar la pena. I returned to singing and poetry recently as ways to love and connect deeply with myself and my abuelitas and tía that have passed. As a teacher educator I design courses, lesson plans and write articles, amplifying the voices of language-minoritized children and teachers. I use writing to think through the moments where my spirit breaks as I hear comments like “those kids don’t care,” “no Spanish is allowed,” or “speak English because it’s an English day,” across monolingual, bilingual and multilingual learning spaces. I sing to heal and to celebrate the joy in resisting, in thriving, and growing. 

What lessons/teachings from your family, home and/or community do you draw on in your teaching and/or scholarship?

My mom always told me “no se pierde nada con preguntar,” and that’s guided me in my teaching and research to get to know the experiences that are different from my own and to question why there are systems that dehumanize children’s learning experience. My family has supported my bilingualism, from their decision to enroll me in a Spanish school on Saturdays when we came from Chile, to their interests throughout my doctoral studies. Our dynamic language practices and family and community literacies are examples that I constantly return to in my work when partnering with schools to provide learning experiences for my graduate students, writing workshops and curriculum design. 

What would you tell your younger self?

I would share the words from some of my favorite songs to help my younger self process the many changes in life (from Chile to NYC, schooling in English), to resist, to heal.

From Mercedes Sosa’s “Todo Cambia”

“Pero no cambia mi amor

Por mas lejo que me encuentre

Ni el recuerdo ni el dolor

De mi pueblo y de mi gente

Lo que cambió ayer

Tendrá que cambiar mañana

Así como cambio yo

En esta tierra lejana”

From Ana Tijoux’s song “Antipatriarca” 

“No sumisa ni obediente

Mujer fuerte insurgente

Independiente y valiente

Romper las cadenas de lo indiferente

No pasiva ni oprimida

Mujer linda que das vida

Emancipada en autonomía

Antipatriarca y alegría”

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:

Like Antonio Machado’s poem says, “caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar,” create your own path. 

6. Something else you want to share?

In my writing, teaching and now new mamá to baby Luna Esperanza role, I am guided by the words of Cherríe Moraga: 

“I write to remember. 

I make rite (ceremony) to remember. 

It is my right to remember.”

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