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Latino voices and the impact on Latino education

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When we look at the Latino experience in the States, we see so much diversity that it can be hard not to get lost or confused. Who are we, really?

Depending on one’s physical appearance, it may be easier to identify with other groups who may or may not share a similar history of marginalization or discrimination. Other Latinos fall victim to comparing themselves to the images depicted in the media. The resulting feeling of otherness that comes from measuring oneself against the “mainstream, all- American” prototype or over identifying with non-Latino groups can be isolating, especially now when we experience the daily barrage of news centered on identity politics.

Is it possible for Latinos who have such different backgrounds and experiences to come together under one collective voice? This question is critical if we want to rally behind what is important, like fighting for good schools for our children.

In my recent Real World online dialogue, titled “The Outsiders: Latino Perspectives on Voice, Agency and Leadership,” I was able to ask two very interesting people to share their thoughts on the topic. I invited Dr. Xaé Alicia Reyes, professor of Education and Puerto Rican & Latino Studies at the University of Connecticut, and Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., writer and associate editor at Being Latino, to comment on the persistent portrayal of Latinos in media as cleaning ladies, gardeners or as overly sexualized personalities.

I wanted them to think about how media images influence the development of Latino identity, and even more important, how might these images impact our expectations of Latino youth in schools.

As a Latino educator, I am concerned with the alarming high school drop-out rates, which for Latinos and African Americans hover around 60 percent in some areas. What can we do with our collective voices to challenge mainstream media? How can we get past our internal differences so that we can focus on building the kinds of schools we want for our children?

One of the important outcomes of the dialogue was that in spite of the gender difference, age difference and level of education, both Dr. Xae Alicia Reyes and Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. were clear about the need for better understanding of the diversity within the Latino community.

In order for us to consider a collective voice, we need to pay attention to how we disassociate ourselves with one another. Often we attach status to language, skin color or hair type, creating barriers to communication. We need to own up to our feelings about class and poverty. These are socially-constructed barriers, according to Dr. Reyes, that can prevent us from galvanizing around important issues that affect all of us – like what we want from our schools.

It is no surprise that both Hector and Dr. Reyes stressed the importance of education. Not only for Latino parents who need to have important conversations with their children about the impact of media, but for teachers who need to understand the context of the Latino experience. What strategies can teachers use in the classrooms that help develop Latino voice and agency?

School leaders need to prioritize the arts and other programs that foster healthy social development, which is crucial to academic success. If schools connect what is going on in the classroom to the real world, they will understand the purpose behind education.

Regardless of our internal differences, the Latino community can and should rally around schools that can really make a difference.

Raquel Ríos, PhD is an educator, critical theorist, philosopher, artist and writer. She has traveled extensively in the United States and internationally as a professional development specialist for learning organizations on change leadership, inter-cultural competence, language acquisition, critical literacy and social justice. Raquel writes novels for the young adult audience with publication pending. She currently lives in New York.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. This entire country needs to come together and do something about education.

  2. YES we should stop focusing on our differences (such as being Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central American, etc and wether or not we speak english first) and come together and put all our ideas as one.

  3. It’s not if we can – The real question is what are we waiting for ? I always beleive leadership – The blacks have there own leaders the whites have thier own and we the Browns have who ?? every group needs one to stand up and at the least raise thier hand and say ” I beleive !!

  4. Considering how hard its been for African-Americans to come together,I can only say good luck to my Latino brothers & sisters. I’ve always made sure in my life that we stand together against our common problem-American racism.

  5. The vast differences and mixtures of the Latino communities honestly should not be an issue we should all come together as one for the sake of our children’s futures when it comes to many things including education other wise the same cycle continues without anything getting better

  6. The problem, as I see it, is this whole collectivist mentality. We are not BORG. We are not part of a collective, therefore, there is no one voice for all. We are as diverse in culture, as we are in appearance. My suggestion is to focus in our own homes, our inner circles, and decide what you want to instill in the next generation. Leave the schools out of it, it’s not their responsibility to develop good personal traits, manners, and leadership qualities. We are not “one nation” when it comes to education, and a central governing authority is not smart enough to develop a curriculum for millions of children spread out over thousands of miles. Focus locally.

  7. @kevin, while I see your position–focus locally–not taking accountability for our people is simply put– a cop out for unimpressive educational and wealth attainment levels. Collectivism serves many a prosperous community (for example Jewish and Asian communities), and if it can serve to help our country increase its overall academic situation, then I see no problem in its use. Let’s face it, latinos are growing in numbers and decreasing in education. It is no wonder the dismal reactions by other Americans who perceive our growing hispanic population as a detriment to our country. Let’s prove them wrong, lets help one another and lets start by acknowledging we are a diverse subgroup with diverse needs.

  8. Seguro que si…como no! Lol :D

  9. We are individuals with strength in numbers! <3

  10. 99% of this country can be a powerful persuasion…si!?

  11. @Karen, “our people”? I’m American of Puerto Rican descent. Which are my people, Latinos in Cali, or the ones in Florida? This is the problem, we are not a homogenous blob of culture just as New Yorkers are very different from South Carolinians. Jews and Asians keep their culture in tact (I’m not an expert), but Jews are not one culture either. Americans (white) view us as socialist, as collectivist. Collectivism mutes the individual for the good of the many. This is not an American philosophy(although they govern as collectivist). I speak for myself, I take responsibility for my family. Why would any Latino assimilate into American culture when they don’t need to learn English. But what happens when those “crutches” aren’t available, what then?

  12. Ah, collectivism and Latinos! How quaint, yet how archaic and dangerous. Look at what collectivism has done for Europe, look at what it has done for North Korea or Cuba. No wonder Latinos will never get out of the cultural and social malaise they always find themselves in – usually before they start complaining and blaming their problems on someone else. As for negative ethnic and racial stereotypes in the media, what the practitioners of the varied Grievance majors ( ju know who you are) can’t understand is that there are no smoky back room conspiracies designed by white conservative Rush Limbaugh types inventing varied ways to screw over Latinos on TV, movies, print, and academia. Instead the movers and shakers in the media are always urban elites, progressive and liberals that hold huge fund raising galas for Obama and Planned Parenthood. That’s who controls the media – the media that portrays Latinas as maids, and Chicanos as low riding AK-47 shooting gang bangers!

  13. Maybe. But our experiences & cultures ARE different, each with its own “thing”. 34 countries in LatAm with rivalries & not all of us care about what goes on in the US. We are not some homogeneous group just because we may speak spanish.

  14. No different than the US & UK just because they both speak a form of English.

  15. BL has to get past this obsolete notion of Pan Latino-ism. Ain’t gonna happen and it should never happen. Latino “A” is very different than Latino “B” and never the twain shall meet.


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