The Educator Loses Her Self and Finds Her Self in History: Recovering the Inner Resources of Good Teaching

rro0035's picture

“Teaching holds a mirror to the soul.
If I am willing to look in that mirror
and not run away from what I see,
I have a chance to gain self
knowledge and knowing myself
iscrucial to good teaching, as
knowing my students and my subjects."

(Palmer 1998: 2)

I am a child of the diaspora, shaped by both time and place. For most of my life, the place I call home happens to be the largest Puerto Rican city in the world. This city now resides in me, and like a magnet, pulls me back—a destiny I first rejected and now embrace. My life has also shaped and been shaped by history, in my case, an intense period of social activism known as the civil rights era. My family migrated to New York during the Great Migration—a time when the school system was unprepared to deal with the large numbers of Puerto Rican students entering the system. I was among the fortunate few not scarred by experiences in CRMD classes for children said to have “retarded mental development,” simply because our home language was different from school language. The new television medium introduced English into our home, possibly saving me from this fate, but not from an Americanization into a second-class citizenship that I have resisted most of my life. I remember vividly playing a pilgrim, dressed in an authentic costume mami made sure I wore for my first Thanksgiving Day performance. In contrast, I cannot remember a single instance when my familiar social world, and the history and culture of my birthplace were acknowledged or celebrated in the school curriculum, even though we are part of U.S. history.


The author during her early school years

As I began to transition into early adolescence I came to understand how very different my upbringing was from that of my mostly non-Hispanic peers. At an age when belonging to social groups outside the home takes on added significance, these differences evoked discomfort and sometimes shame. However, my mother was a very wise woman and at personal sacrifice arranged for me to spend summers with family in Puerto Rico at a critical period in identity formation. For seven years, beginning in middle school, I made annual visits to island relatives whose ways brought into relief cultural practices and traditions that were changing in U.S. communities, reflecting new needs and contacts with other groups. During these visits, I had intensive exposure to the Spanish language, and through it, an introduction to the island’s contentious historical relationship with the United States. I challenged myself to avoid using a Spanglish so as not to offend new acquaintances as I realized that what we did to adapt (or survive) in New York was not always appreciated, and seemed offensive in Puerto Rico, and I needed to belong to both (see Mercado 2011).

Periodic returns to this tiny Caribbean island continues to evoke strong physical responses, as my body betrays what I may sometimes deny—Puerto Rico is also home, even though shame and anger were born of experiences in both New York and Puerto Rico. Mainstream researchers intent on dissecting differences as pathologies theorized the existence of a culture of poverty among Puerto Ricans, a view reinforced on the island and in New York. Even though stateside Puerto Ricans were making economic and cultural contributions to New York City, at the time I was ignorant of this fact as there was never any mention of these positive aspects that I can recollect.

With the insidious influence of the culture of poverty in my two Puerto Rican communities, why would I expect the New York Puerto Rican community to generate anything of worth? Even so, the thirst and quest to learn about New York Puerto Ricans through a scholarship and practice that has been unapologetically oriented toward community and community service has never subsided. It was this quest that brought me to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro) library and archives, the leading national research and policy center on educational, language, and economic issues affecting U.S. Puerto Rican communities (Perez 2009).   


Centro Archives

I turned to Centro archives and library as an educator eager to mine its potential in a course on literacy in the content areas, from the stance of someone who had been schooled in the western literary canon, specifically British and French literature. Journeying into archives housing cultural productions of seemingly ordinary Puerto Ricans who led extraordinary lives in New York City since the turn of the 20th century, I confronted a history and legacy that had, up to now, been invisible to me as a student and as a professional. Why did I not know? This bittersweet realization would affect me emotionally and intellectually, altering my sense of self and my identity as a Puerto Rican New Yorker, at a point in life when many believe we are done with identity development. 

That I would learn nothing about Puerto Rico or of the literary heritage of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. through formal schooling was not surprising. It was not until the 70s that, through litigation and community activism, Spanish/English bilingual education became a reality and through it, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos were able to study some version of their histories and cultures in the public school curriculum. The Ethnic Heritage Act funded projects to create this curriculum, and the Northeast Center for Curriculum Development (NCCD) in the Bronx contracted intellectuals and literati from Puerto Rico to produce resources that were factually accurate and of high literary quality. The problem was that these materials lacked connections to the experience of Puerto Ricans in U.S. cities, which lessened their utility and positive influence they were expected to have. Over the past few years, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College of the City University of New York, founded in 1973, has made it a priority to assemble a trans-disciplinary group of scholars (including educators) to create curricular resources for teaching and learning about the Puerto Rican Diaspora.

What is unusual about Centro’s archival holdings in relation to traditional archives (for example, the archives of the “New World” in Seville, Spain) is that it contains the voices (literally and figuratively) and experience of early pioneers who ventured north seeking artistic and intellectual freedom, and more recent migrants who came in search of a better life (Perez 2009). Centro’s collection offered me the opportunity to learn about the day-to-day lives of working class Puerto Ricans who migrated to New York, through letters, manuscripts, newspaper articles, photographs and other historical documents. I was immediately drawn to the large collection of images of New York Puerto Ricans from the 50s and 60s on display at El Centro, and surrounded by these familiar scenes my family did not seem as strange as I imagined them to be as a young adolescent seeking to belong.

The Jesús Colón collection was the only collection that was relevant and accessible to my purposes in 1996, when I first approached the archivist for assistance integrating historical documents on the Puerto Rican migration in my mainstream teacher preparation courses. Working with this collection gave me glimpses into the early Puerto Rican community in East Harlem through the life of this humble and remarkable man. What I could not anticipate, at the time, is how this experience would also re-orient me to community and to my work as an educator.

In this section, I have presented a brief autobiographical narrative to illustrate how historical forces beyond my control have shaped my life, and how I, in turn, have responded to these forces with an agency born of a double consciousness formed by the experience of the diaspora. In the next section, I focus on the diaspora in literature, drawing on the work of Puerto Rican writers who craft real or imagined characters in believable situations to promote self and mutual understanding.

The Diaspora in Literature
From the very beginning, many of the early Puerto Rican migrants (or pioneros) were writers from working class backgrounds, among them Jesús Colón (1901–1974). Colón is acknowledged by many to be the inspiration for what has come to be known as the Nuyorican Movement, a period of intensive literary and artistic production born of the migration experience to the United States. He worked hard to develop his ability to write in English, to humanize the experience of migration for English-speaking audiences by giving glimpses into how Puerto Ricans lived culturally in New York City. Although Colón wrote that “it is always more interesting to live than to write,” he did both with passion. He never earned a living as a journalist but Colón wrote for several language papers in New York and in Puerto Rico, at the same time. By 1950, Colón had regular columns in English, in labor and community newspapers. He wrote articles and news commentaries as well as poetry, short stories and anecdotes. However, Jesús  Colón was masterful in the use of the cronica or chronicle to relate important events to the community in an engaging and affecting manner.


Joaquín and Jesús Colón. Photo from the Centro Archives.

According to Flores (1986), who wrote the foreword to the 1961 publication of A Puerto Rican in New York and other Sketches, this is the first book written in English about New York Puerto Ricans. Flores acknowledged what others do not, that Jesús Colón wrote the manuscript for this book long before it was actually published. The book is a collection of short, human-interest stories and a social history of New York, some of which is appropriate for students in the upper elementary grades. Two sketches from A Puerto Rican in New York illustrate Colón’s gifts as a writer and as a social scientist.  “Sarah,” offers a simple but powerful life lesson:  “Sometimes we work with people for years; we see them and talk to them every day. But we don’t actually know them.” In “Easy Job, Good Wages” Colón’s stance as labor activist peers through simple prose that paint a horrific picture of working conditions Colón and others encountered when they answered an ad for a job that required them to remove labels from glass bottles—a job that was neither easy nor well paid. While Colón’s work is reminiscent of Walt Whitman and Zora Neale Hurston, it was Langston Hughes, another light-skin mulatto, who had much in common with Colón. Both were active in New York’s Black and Latino communities. Both portrayed the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. Both wrote about racial injustice and both wrote in English and Spanish. Although he wrote more than 400 pieces in his lifetime, little has been written about Jesús Colón and most of his writings are not accessible in bounded form, which is why the Jesús Colón collection housed in Centro archives is so important. Now I am able to answer with clarity what at first forced me into silence: Yes, Jesús Colón does have to do with reading. Yes, Jesús Colón was a communist for the same reason that other well-known writers had turned to communism in the 1930s—as a way to address issues of social inequalities and injustices. 

Two Puerto Rican authors who are well represented in Centro’s library and archives, and who address younger children directly are Pura Belpré (1899-1982) and Nicholasa Mohr (1938-present).  Unlike Jesús Colón who had not yet completed high school when he migrated north, Pura Belpré came to New York as an adult. In 1920 she interrupted her university studies to attend her sister wedding in New York, and never returned to live on the island. After working briefly in the garment industry, as many Puerto Rican women did at the time, Belpré was hired by the New York Public Library (NYPL) system, where she became the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. During her tenure in the NYPL system, Belpré organized programs that focused on island culture and folklore at a time when Americanization policies in US schools denigrated ethnic backgrounds and languages. A talented storyteller, Belpré wrote and re-interpreted Puerto Rican folk tales so that Puerto Rican children would not forget their culture. The first story she wrote for a story-telling course, Pérez and Martina, about a love story between a cockroach and a mouse, became one of the earliest books published in English by a Puerto Rican in the continental United States. Eventually, Pura Belpre would become the best-published author of her time in the United States.


Pura Belpré. Photo from the Centro Archives.

A dark-skinned Puerto Rican like Jesús Colón, Pura Belpré was among the most accomplished of the Puerto Rican pioneers. Victoria Nuñez offers a compelling explanation for Belpre’s successes drawing on documents contained in multiple archives at Centro. According to Nuñez (2009), Belpre was encouraged to publish her work by the library system she served:  “The library became an institutional space that allowed individuals to resist unjust racial hierarchies, beyond better-recognized institutions of resistance such as progressive political parties and unions (2009: 54). In effect, while Belpré may have experienced some obstacles in those early years, she “encountered an opportunity structure in New York City, specifically Harlem, that was rare for the pre-civil rights era” (Nunez, 2009: 55), making it relatively easy for Belpré to publish Puerto Rican folklore for children. She also changed the way the Puerto Rican community of East Harlem related to the New York Public library system. Belpré instituted bilingual story hours, created access to a Spanish language book collection, and implemented special programs based on traditional holidays. Through Belpré's efforts, the 115th Street branch became an important cultural center for the Latino residents of New York City. Belpré also worked at the Aguilar branch on East 110th Street in East Harlem where she initiated similar programs to expand library services to Puerto Ricans.

As Nuñez concludes,

Rather than a story of discrimination … my reading of Belpré’s early work life is one that highlights the heterogeneity of Puerto Rican migrants’ experiences. Although the vast majority of Puerto Rican migrants arrived in the U.S. and entered working class jobs, there were some who encountered and have left a written record of unusual opportunities as is the case with Belpré…” (2009: 70)

Belpré’s life story is captured in the historical account, The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos by the writer, Lucía González (2008), and her life’s contributions memorialized in the Pura Belpré award. The award is presented annually to a Latina/o writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Nicholasa Mohr is another award-winning author (and teacher) who, unlike Belpré, was born and raised in New York City. Through the power and elegance of prose in English and in Spanish, Mohr illuminates the day-to-day lives of individuals in daily struggle to belong and to coexist with dignity and respect, in harmony with others. She began garnering awards and recognitions since her first book Nilda, published in 1973, received The Outstanding Book Award in Juvenile Fiction from the New York Times. More recently, Ms. Mohr has received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature (1997), and The America Book Awards. Theatre productions based on stories such as Nilda, and  El Bronx Remembered have been staged by INTAR and Henry Street Settlements in New York City, and by Richmond College Theatre in London. Ms. Mohr’s considerable literary contributions, created for children and youth, as well as adults, is especially poignant because it allows us to see and understand through the eyes of children, the experience of being Puerto Rican/Latin@ in New York City from the post WWII period and beyond. As the author relates: “That experience when in my young life I witnessed hatred, abuse, brutality and xenophobia based solely on the fact that we were Puerto Ricans will remain with me for the rest of my life.” Celebrating the dignity and strength of the human spirit and the power of being bilingual, Nicholasa Mohr invites all children into textual worlds that positively represent diverse human cultures.

The Diaspora in the Curriculum
Presently, over 80 percent of New York City public school teachers are non-Hispanic whites, and the majority of students (close to 40 percent) are Latinos. Although foundations and diversity courses include the study of issues affecting the education of diverse student populations in public schools, this information is integrated differently in courses on curriculum and teaching, depending on the background and experiences of faculty teaching these courses. As a Puerto Rican who supervises clinical experiences in East Harlem (or El Barrio), commonly referenced as that largest Puerto Rican community in New York City, I chose to work with Centro library and archives to make accessible historical information on East Harlem, so as to assist teacher candidates in planning appropriate learning experiences for children. As I discovered, my students had little studied knowledge of East Harlem, and although I lived in El Barrio as a young child, my informal knowledge was inadequate to make meaningful connections to a course on literacy in the content areas. To some extent, we were all learners and teachers in this course, as I also sought to understand teacher candidates’ experience of El Barrio through learning activities crafted in collaboration with Centro librarians and archivists.

The focus on community fit well with the requirements of the social studies and English language arts standards for New York City (NYC) and New York State (NYS). The history and contributions of local communities is the major theme of grade 2 NYC Curriculum; and fifth graders are tested on how well they interpret historical documents to write a well-reasoned, well-crafted persuasive essay in support of a position or thesis in the NYS social studies exam. This is considered a high stakes test because fifth graders who do not receive a passing score are typically required to repeat the grade, at a critical point in the educational pipeline when they are likely to drop out (De Jesús and Vazquez 2005). This outcome is concerning because the underachievement (or under education) of Puerto Rican students remains unchanged over the past four decades, while their under preparation for and underrepresentation in CUNY colleges has increased in an information-based economy where a college education is needed to make a livable wage.

Although I was guided by a thirst to know about US Puerto Rican history to be a better teacher, armed with a theoretical understanding of the role of curriculum in the construction of human subjectivities, I admit to coming to this work with trepidation. Typically, students in teacher education are rather conservative in their outlook, and use their own schooling experiences as a metric by which to judge how well they are being taught. The archival research project that I had conceptualized simply went against established practice, as the excerpt from a 2006 course syllabus suggests.

This inter-disciplinary collaborative project introduces you to archival collections on local communities with the ultimate goal of enabling you to construct new knowledge appropriate to literacy in the content areas. We will focus on significant writers from local communities. Some local writers associated with East Harlem that few teachers know are: Pura Belpré, Nicholasa Mohr, Pedro Pietri, Tato Laviera, Julia de Burgos, Sandra Maria Esteves, Víctor Hernández Cruz…. Teams of 3-4 will collaborate to create an original multi-media PowerPoint that is easily adapted as a curriculum resource for teaching, grades 1-6, for example, as an author’s study….

Not surprisingly, when the archivist introduced us to the Jesús Colón collection, I asked, “Who IS Jesús Colón?” Some of my students asked: “What does this man have to do with teaching reading? Isn’t he a communist?” to which my response was silence.  As is evident, my challenges were multiple: To build community as we charted an unfamiliar journey into an unknown history of a misunderstood social/ethnic group in New York City.

Even so, I agreed with scholars who argue that schools have the potential to create “cultural spaces” that better serve the intellectual needs of all students (Kanu 2003). Unlike Apple (1990) and other critical theorists who claim that the school is the state’s vehicle for ideological assimilation and homogenization as part of its civilizing mission, specifically through curriculum and pedagogy, Kanu (2003) reasons that, “there is no longer a single set of discourse about progress and change. Rather, there is a space where local and global meet with its own configurations and implications. This “radical hybridity” is the reality of today’s major metropolitan societies everywhere, and, New York, in particular. Consequently, those who have been historically invisible in the curriculum can work in these spaces to interpret themselves, and create knowledge together, and this includes tapping indigenous sources of knowledge that exist in subjugated communities as valuable resources for learning (Gonzalez et al. 2005; Yosso 2005). The inclusion of local communities in the revised social studies core curriculum of New York State and New York City offered a justification for those who needed one to acknowledge its value.

Working with any archival collection requires initiation into the culture of archival research, and students were captivated by the novelty. For example, to work directly with the Colón collection we needed to learn how to handle historical documents, such as letters, unpublished manuscripts. The archivist first explained how the collection was organized to enable us to locate documents of interest, and then demonstrated the special gloves we needed to wear to hold historical documents up close. More importantly, the archivist introduced us to how historians make sense of documents, and how they look for evidence to situate these in time and place, or to seek understanding by comparing an contrasting the past in relation to the present.

What we learned
Qualitative inquiry into participants’ experience of “literacy in the content areas,” suggests that researching and building curriculum around historical documents from Centro archives (and other local archival collections) in connection with works of fiction are both demanding and instructive. First, teacher candidates must come to the realization that the migration experiences of children from Puerto Rico are not unlike the immigrant experiences of many (not all) who have journeyed to the US from regions as diverse as the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, specifically in terms of issues of adaptation, belonging and identity. What is different is the legal status of Puerto Ricans, who, as American citizens, legally belong here, but often treated as foreigners who do not belong. As citizens, this sense of rejection and not belonging profoundly affects the socio-emotional development of Puerto Rican children and youth, with consequences for their educational attainment. This is true even for those of us who are considered academically successful. The emotional impact of not belonging or having to prove oneself to others based on superficial features such as what you look like, how you speak and where you live is neither erased, nor lessened by academic accomplishments.

Two, we all discovered that Puerto Ricans have been migrating north from their Caribbean island since the late 1800’s, and making important contributions to the economic, social, and cultural life of New York City. As their writings reveal, pre-service teachers developed an appreciation for the literary contributions of local communities, generally absent from the preparation they receive. However, we (faculty/instructors) are also responsible for making these understandings useful pedagogically. I first had to provide my students with a model of how this information could be transformed into a practical tool for teaching. It took two years of preparation (within a full-time teaching schedule) to craft my own interdisciplinary author’s study of Colón, as a way to guide a challenging, unfamiliar and intimidating assignment. This first required doing deep reading of primary and secondary sources by and about the writer in order to identify the contents of a teaching narrative. This took the longest because I had to synthesize information that I thought was most relevant to the course and then translate it into simple yet literate prose appropriate for children in the elementary grades. Once I was satisfied with the script, I worked on “enhancements” such as combining narrative with historical documents, e.g., maps, photographs, sound (including music) that was consistent with the message I wanted to convey. I reasoned that formatting the “author study” as a PowerPoint appropriate for elementary school students would facilitate inclusion into the Balanced Literacy Model, thereby increase the likelihood of its utility.

What follows is a brief glimpse into the reactions of diverse participants, in their own words, over the span of several semesters. In excerpt 1, the three non Latin@s that developed the Pura Belpré PowerPoint accurately captures Belpre’s motive and inspiration for writing and for her work with the New York Public Library system, gained from reading original handwritten manuscripts that, at the time, were primarily accessible through the Pura Belpre collection at Centro.  

Excerpt 1: New Dreams
While working in the library, Pura searches for tales she had heard growing up in Puerto Rico, but discovers that there are no Puerto Rican folktales in the children’s collection. Pura’s next goal was to preserve the Puerto Rican folklore…for her community, family, and the children in the United States which whom she fell in love with. Pura recalls, the “eyes of the children…can’t forget it.” These priceless moments encourage her to share her cultural background with the world through her folklore, puppet shows, story telling, and published books. (Spring 2006)

 

In excerpt 2, a non Latin@ student who created the Nicholasa Mohr PowerPoint hones in on a major theme of Mohr’s writing, that she favored using communities in Manhattan (El Barrio or East Harlem) and the Bronx where there were large concentration of Puerto Rican (and where she also lived) as settings for her realistic fiction. As the student author acknowledges through her choice of words, these are communities that are “alive and rich with Latin@ culture.”

Excerpt 2: The Basics
The El Barrio plays a significant role in Nicholasa Mohr’s life. She bases a lot of her stories in that area because she has a strong connection to it. El Barrio is Spanish Harlem, where Mohr grew up and it was alive and rich with Latino culture. (Fall 2007, single non Latin@a author)

 

Another pre-service teacher wrote, “Learning about Nicholasa Mohr…was a new experience. You should definitely continue to use this project in your classes. It is great to learn about minorities like us making such great contributions.” These words acknowledge the authenticity of the writer’s work while at the same time highlighting the fact that in the twenty-first century many Puerto Ricans such as this teacher candidate are still being denied reading of and responding to culturally specific (Bishop 1992) multiethnic literature (Nieto 1997) in their K-12 education.

I was surprised to learn that elementary school pre-service teachers found inspiring Pedro Pietri, one of the founders of the Nuyorican Poets Café. This excerpt reveals the role of family in shaping and nurturing the emerging poet:

Excerpt 3: Pedro Pietri
Pedro Pietri notes his aunt’s influence on his passion for poetry.  She would put on productions at The First Spanish United Methodist Church in el Barrio. Irene Rodriguez, Pietri’s aunt, would often recite poetry to him and his brothers and sister .His passion for the word was encouraged by his relationship with his aunt. (Fall 2006, 1 of 4 authors)

 

The team described Pietri’s poetry as “awesome,” specifically his 1973 poem, “Puerto Rican Obituary,” a deceptively simple and powerful poem about social inequalities:

They worked
They were always on time
They were never late
They never spoke back
when they were insulted…
and they died

Although Pietri was not on the list of choices, pre-service teachers chose to study his writing and were so taken by him that they insisted on adapting Pietri’s writing for use in grades 4-6. From the study of “Puerto Rican Obituary” emerged a connection among Puerto Ricans and non Puerto Ricans in the college class, and the poem was collaboratively adapted for elementary school children. Regarding the experience students reflected, “My group fell in love with Pedro Pietri and his passion. It amazed us to even think we had not heard of him before.”

In addition, as an educator I learned that effective teaching of literacy across the content areas requires much more than general teaching skills. Each academic discipline has its own literacy requirement (e.g., language organization, genre features) that is related to ‘knowing’ and demonstrating how much you know about that discipline. It is important to understand not only the literacy demands of disciplines such as social studies or history, but also the way that students learn how to perform in those disciplines and demonstrate what they know. (Bransford, Brown and Cocking 2000). With the guidance of Centro historians and archivists, I have learned about and integrated archival research methods and historical thinking that frames and explains the literary contributions of Puerto Rican communities in the diaspora, and that future teachers need to teach their students well.


Centro Library & Archives

Summary and Conclusions
Collaborating with Centro historians and archivists makes clear how the past is in the present, and how both the present and the past shape the future. However, creating safe spaces in which to stretch our selves, represent our selves and reinvent our selves, to create a new “us” (see Franquiz, Martinez-Roldan and Mercado 2011) was something that we need to accomplish together. Even when we do not agree, as we sometimes do not, there is at the very least, something of personal significance to be gleaned. What is important is sustaining the quest as a shared experience. I, for one, did not identify with all the writers we explored through the Writers Project, but knowing of their existence mattered a lot. That Puerto Ricans have a vast literary heritage in Puerto Rico and in the diaspora, and that we are not a people without literature, as some would claim matters even more. As Bruner (1996) wisely reminds us, it is through our own narratives that we principally construct a version of ourselves in the world, and it is through its narrative that a culture provides models of identity and agency to its members.  Yes, it was through narratives encoded in the archival collection housed at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies that I/we lost ourselves and found ourselves in history, and in the process, forged the beginning of a better future for us all.


References
Apple, M. W. 1990. Ideology and curriculum. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge

Bishop, R.S.1992. Selecting literature for a multicultural curriculum. In Using multiethnic literature in the K-8 classroom, ed. V.J. Harris. 1–20. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.

Bransford, J., A.L. Brown and R.R. Cocking. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, and Experience & School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 

Bruner, J. 1996. The Culture of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Colón, J. 2002 [1961]. A Puerto Rican in New York and other sketches. New York: International Publishers.

De Jesús , A. & Vazquez,  (Fall 2005). Exploring the Education Profile and Pipeline for Latinos in New York State. Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños Hunter College, CUNY. Policy Brief, 2 (2): 1–14.

Franquiz, M.E., C. Martinez-Roldon and C.I. Mercado. 2011. Teaching Latina/o children’s literature in multicultural contexts: Thoretical and pedagogical possibilities. In Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature, eds. S.A. Wolf, K. Coats, P. Enciso and C.A. Jenkins. 108–20. New York: Routledge.

González, L. 2008. The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.

Gonzalez, N., L. Moll and C. Amanti, eds. 2005. Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing Practices in Households, Communities, and Classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kanu, Y. 2003. Curriculum as cultural practice: Post colonial imagination. Journal of the Canadian Association of Curriculum Studies 1(1): 67–81.

Mercado, C.I. 2011. A life long quest for literacy: A personal and professional journey. In Words were All We Had. Becoming Biliterate Against the Odds, ed. M. de la Luz Reyes. New York: Teachers College Press.

Mohr, N. 1973. Nilda. New York: Harper and Row Publisher.

Nieto, S. 2002. Language, culture, and teaching: Critical perspectives for a new century. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Nuñez, V. 2009. Remembering Pura Belpre’s early career at the 135th St. New York Public Library. Interracial cooperation and Puerto Rican settlement during the Harlem Renaissance. CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies 21(1): 53–77.

Palmer, P. 1998. The Courage to Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers.

Pérez, N. 2009. Two Reading Rooms and the Librarian’s Office: The Evolution of Centro Library and Archives. CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies 21(1): 199–219 .

Yosso, T.J. 2005. Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race, Ethnicity and Education 8(1): 69–91.


©Carmen I. Mercado. Published by permission in Centro Voices on 26 June 2015.

Centro Voices (ISSN: 2379-3864).
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies or Hunter College, CUNY.