On Loss, Gain, Acceptance and Belonging: Spanish in the Midwest

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Elena Foulis
Stacey Alex


In this article, the authors analyze the creation of a performance piece in both English and Spanish with undergraduate students to creatively combine Latina/o/x oral histories and performance artists’ personal experiences as Spanish speakers. Each performer selected an oral history collected by one of the authors in the digital and publicly available archive, Oral Narratives of Latin@s in Ohio. Through a Latino Critical Race Theory framework, and an analysis of the undergraduate student performers’ and audience’s reactions, the authors demonstrate how this kind of performance can be used as a pedagogical tool to strengthen Spanish as a heritage language learners’ sense of belonging in predominantly white educational spaces  by contesting epistemic violence and forging Latina/o/x networks of solidarity. Linguistic and cultural maintenance in the face of racialization is conceptualized as a tool for place-making and social justice, particularly in the Midwestern communities that have experienced backlash to growing Latino presence. The performance provides a model for future artistic work that harnesses the power of community cultural wealth as conceptualized by education and Latina/o studies scholar Tara Yosso (2005). Crucially, rather than insist on cultural and linguistic conformity for the sake of social and political unity, this work critically attends to the diversity among Latina/o/x experiences represented across the performance.

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