Muxerista Pedagogy: Raza Womyn Teaching Social Justice through Student Activism

Article excerpt

Using Chicana/Latina/Queer Feminist Thought and Raza Womyn grounded theory as theoretical frameworks, this research utilizes the methods of ethnography, participant observation, and narrative analysis to explore the contributions of Chicana/Latina student activists to social justice education. The study focuses on the members of an undergraduate student organization called Raza Womyn. The research illuminates the way Chicanas/Latinas struggle against racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia as activist educators employing a distinct kind of education called Muxerista pedagogy.

Keywords: Student activism, Muxerista pedagogy, Chicana/Latina feminism, Social justice education

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In college, many students of color engage in a process of self-discovery and social consciousness. Some undergo this process as a result of learning about their racialized, gendered, classed, and sexualized identities and his(her)-stories, especially in Ethnic, Women's, Labor, and/or Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) Studies courses. A great majority of other students learn about this through their participation in student organizations as student activists (Munoz, 1989; Garcia, 1997; Solorzano & Villalpando, 1998a). Often student activists engage in meaningful acts of pedagogy during which their collective actions and conversations lead to a raised critical consciousness as they dialogue during meetings, at protests, vigils, conferences, and community events (Covarrubias & Revilla, 2003). Many of us who consider ourselves activists and who have had the experience of raising our racial, class, gender, and/or sexual consciousness, for example, are very familiar with these experiences. They become part of our identities and epistemologies. We sometimes forget how detailed and intricate the experience was and continues to be. It is difficult for many to explain how it is that one develops conscientizacion (Freire, 1970; Castillo, 1994), which can lead to other obstacles.

For example, sometimes new activists and longtime activists have a difficult time connecting or building bridges between them because they are at different levels of consciousness and because they have different visions of social justice and liberation. I find these issues of great concern for I believe that there are many lessons to be learned and taught by long-time activists about their struggles for justice. I further believe that the fervor and enthusiasm and changing times and strategies of new activists make incredible contributions to the shifting facets of "liberation struggles" today. My research is taking steps towards building bridges between new and long-time activists, while also documenting Chicana and Latina student activism as a form of alternative education that is alive in many spaces across the nation. While many of the findings shared in this piece may appear to be things that have already been contributed by early Chicana/Latina feminists, there are distinct experiences, voices, and lessons to be learned from the specific involvement and thought processes of the women whose experiences I have been researching and documenting for the past five years. This article examines the process and development of a Muxerista pedagogy amongst Chicana and Latina college student activists in an organization called Raza Womyn de UCLA, which was created by Chicana/Latina students at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1979.

Why Raza Womyn?

As an activist scholar, I have focused my academic work on learning about and from activists who are engaged in creating social justice pedagogy in schools and communities. Thus in 1999, when I attended the 4th annual Raza Womyn conference, I became intrigued by the work that was being done by approximately 10 undergraduate Chicana/Latina students. Amazingly, these ten women had organized a conference that attracted over 400 Chicanas/Latinas of all ages from throughout Southern California. …