Becoming Neighbors in a Mexican American Community: Power, Conflict, and Solidarity

By Gilda L. Ochoa | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Constructing Puentes: Mexican American and
Mexican Immigrant Mobilization

“¡Sí, se puede! ¡Sí, se puede! ¡Sí, se puede!” Hundreds of march-
ing parents and students shout in unison outside the Hacienda–
La Puente Unified School District. Their chants become louder
as passing motorists honk and yell words of encouragement.
As many as five hundred La Puente–area residents have come
together this June 1996 evening to demonstrate their support
for bilingual education. Just days earlier, word had spread that
a member of the school board had proposed its elimination.
To consider the state of bilingual education, a school district
study session was scheduled for this evening, and community
residents have come out in force.

FIELD NOTES, June 11, 1996

To casual observers, the participants in this demonstration are united. They share a common concern for bilingual education and similar racial/ethnic and class positions as working-class and Spanish-speaking or bilingual Latinas/os from the La Puente area. It is this combination of cultural commonalities and connections based on shared social locations and experiences of institutional inequality within the school district that has brought them together. While they are unified in their pursuit of a common goal— the maintenance of bilingual education—among the demonstrators we find much variation. There are organizers of two distinct parent groups—Puente Parents and Parents for Quality Education—who differ in activist experience, gender, age, and ideology.

By centering this display of Mexican American–Mexican immigrant political mobilization, this chapter focuses on the solidarity end of the conflict-solidarity continuum and brings together some of the key issues raised in the previous chapters. It illustrates the factors and situations that led to Mexican American–Mexican immigrant mobilization against the Hacienda–La Puente Unified School District (HLPUSD). As parents before them have, La Puente residents criticized the district for not adequately serving their community. They organized to demand that they be heard and

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