Guest Lecture: Ana Celia Zentella's “Bilinguals and Borders–Conflicting Constructions of Bilingualism among US-Mexican Transfronterizos”

April 21, 2011

Ana Celia Zentella is a Professor Emerita of the University of California, San Diego.

Fluency in Spanish and English, the most visible cultural marker of the identity of students who have spent years living and studying in both San Diego and Tijuana (transfronterizos), is both a product and facilitator of their frequent trips back and forth across the US-Mexico border. Interviews in Spanish and English with transfronterizo college students indicate that, despite their proficient bilingualism, their bilingual and bicultural capital may not translate into expected rewards; they struggle with conflicting constructions of language and identity that are the result of rigid national and language borders. In particular, intra-sentential code switching, or Spanglish, is frowned upon, because that way of speaking is identified with el hablar mocho de los pochos (‘chopped up Mexican American speech’). Nevertheless, the linguistic prejudices that transfronterizos encounter in the USA and Mexico, as well as the heightened English-only fervor in California and the nation, may undermine their avowed commitment to Spanish and its central role in their identity.  Interrupting the reproduction of linguistic and educational inequality requires educational and governmental language policies that challenge static notions of nation and language, building on the principles of an anthro-political linguistics.

Sponsors: The Department of Linguistics, the Department of Anthropology, and the Dean’s Office of the College of Liberal Arts