Narrating Cultural Citizenship: Oral Histories of First-Generation College Students of Mexican Origin

By Benmayor, Rina | Social Justice, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Narrating Cultural Citizenship: Oral Histories of First-Generation College Students of Mexican Origin


Benmayor, Rina, Social Justice


When I was in high school, I worked in the summers. Not because my parents made me...it was me, I wanted to do it. I wanted to have money for myself and to help them out. It was in the summer that I got a letter from ETS [Educational Talent Search], asking me to come to a program called FOCUS. It is a mini bridge program preparing us for college....(1) I did it for a week and then I went back to work in the broccoli fields in Greenfield. All of a sudden, I got a call on the walkie-talkie. I was putting the boxes of broccoli together in the trailer. It was my supervisor's brother. He said "Pedro, I got some news for you." He hands me the walkie-talkie. [My supervisor on the other end] told me he got a call that I got accepted [to the university]. I was pretty happy! I told my mom. She started screaming! She was packing broccoli. She stopped and said she was very proud of me. It was good. All she could do was smile. She was so happy. Her dream for me to go to college was going to be complete (Student interview, Gonzalez, 2000).

**********

THE "BROCCOLI STORY," AS I HAVE DUBBED IT, 15 ONE OF MY FAVORITES AMONG more than 80 hours of oral histories with first-generation college students on our campus. In a graphic and poignant way, Pedro Gonzalez captures the pride and hope that going to college represents for so many Mexican-origin (2) students and their parents. I always think of this story as I drive through the patchwork fields in the region. How many of the women and men I see stooping over this green gold are dreaming these dreams for their children?

Pedro's story also reminds me of why I joined the founding faculty of California State University. Monterey Bay (CSUMB). This new university was envisioned specifically to serve the historically underrepresented in higher education--low-income, working-class students from ethnic, racial, and im/migrant backgrounds. Given its geographic location at the edge of the Salinas Valley in California, I knew that many of my new students would be the daughters and Sons of migrant mexicana/o farm workers, who work the fields to put food on our tables every day. Young women and men of Mexican heritage comprise 25% of our student body, and most of them are the first in their families to attend college, sometimes the first to graduate from high school. (3) The opportunity to combine professional and political purposes in one coherent effort remains very seductive.

Along with its emotional force, the "broccoli story" draws me in with its subtexts, interpretive possibilities, and theoretical potential. The story is about a personal and collective dream of achieving a college education. It makes a point of affirming a strong sense of responsibility to family, which for students often takes the form of continued contributions to the family economy, as well as role modeling, paving the way to higher education for younger siblings. These commitments shape Mexican-origin students' goals and aspirations in very significant ways. Pedro was not in the fields when telling this story. He was at the university library, constructing his account. He could tell the story because at that time he was living it.

How do I, as an oral historian, faculty member, and informal ethnographer on my own campus, interpret this story? Does it merely assert the culturally gendered role of the independent male provider? Or is the story really about how first-generation students of Mexican origin construct and fulfill that educational dream? How do they negotiate the transformative experience of higher education? Are they "losing their culture" to upward mobility, as some studies would claim? Do they experience college as a process of deracination? Or are they negotiating multiple cultural worlds in integrative ways, venturing into the unknown world of higher education to bring new resources to their cultural communities? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Narrating Cultural Citizenship: Oral Histories of First-Generation College Students of Mexican Origin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.