“Fresas” (Strawberries) and Other Latino Student Groups: The New Student Demographics in South Texas Schools

By Maria Elena Reyes, Irma Guadarrama and Veronica Lopez-Estrada.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Texas-Mexico border, which covers 1254 miles from El Paso to Brownsville, is sometimes referred to as “the border region” or the “borderlands.” Along the southern-most tip of Texas is an area known as the Rio Grande Valley, or “el valle.”

For decades, there has been a friendly relationship among the citizens in both sides of this border. After 1970, middle-upper class Mexicans increased their investment in Texas, viewed as a safe place to invest. Between 1970 and 2000, there was an explosive increase in the Latino population along the Texas border (U.S. Census, 2006). Although it was once thought that the National Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), passed in 1994, would add to the unemployment rate in the region, Fatemi (1990) argues that the Mexican “maquildoras” (manufacturing plants) have increased jobs along the U.S.-Mexico border while simultaneously creating jobs in Mexico. By 2005, Mexican companies owned $1.6 billion in property, plant, and equipment in the state. One result was the increase of middle and upper class, Mexico-origin students enrolled in public schools along the Texas-Mexico border.

As university educators who work in the Latino-majority schools along the Texas-Mexico border, we have noted interactions among (1) U.S.-born, Mexican American students; (2) poor or working class, Mexican immigrant students; and (3) the colorful, privileged, middle-upper class, Mexican immigrant students, the so-called “fresas.” “Fresas” (strawberries) is the term that local U.S. –born Mexican American adults and teenagers give to the middle-upper class, Mexican immigrants, usually outfitted in the latest designer brands. The term carries ridiculing connotations.

In this presentation, we will discuss the new student demographics, more complex than popular stereotypes, and the inter-generational, social, and economic conflicts among students as played out in Texas public schools.

Keywords: Secondary Education in the U.S., Schools in South Texas, New Demographic Realities of Public Schools in the U.S.

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp.59-68. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.229MB).

Dr. Maria Elena Reyes

Professor, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, The University of Texas Pan American, Edinburg, Texas, USA

Dr. Maria Elena Reyes is a third generation, Mexican American who was born in Eagle Pass, Texas, located along the Texas-Mexico border. She was raised in San Antonio and attended public schools. As a first generation college graduate, Maria attended the University of Texas at Austin. As a student, she participated in the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements. She worked to unionize Mexican American agricultural workers in the Rio Grande Valley. Maria was a homemaker, and for almost ten years, worked as a high school English teacher. Later, she earned a master’s degree in secondary education; in 1991, she obtained a doctorate at the University of Texas in Austin. After obtaining her doctorate, Maria developed the highly regarded University of Texas at Austin Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program. She went to the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in summer of 1996. In 2003, Maria became the first Latina to be tenured at UAF; in 2006, she became a founding board member of the BoysProject [see http://www.boysproject.net/]. In summer of 2006, Dr. Reyes accepted an academic position at the University of Texas Pan American in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.

Dr. Irma Guadarrama

Professor, Department Chair, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, The University of Texas Pan American, Edinburg, Texas, USA

Dr. Veronica Lopez-Estrada

Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, University of Texas Pan American, Edinburg, Texas, USA

Dr. Veronica López Estrada is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) in Edinburg, Texas, where she has held various administrative positions since 1998. Dr. Estrada has served her college as program coordinator for undergraduate and graduate programs, Department Chair, and Interim Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Teacher Education. A former high school English teacher, Dr. López Estrada has been involved in school-university collaboration, research, and professional development of teachers. She currently, teaches field-based teacher preparation courses and serves her department as the Coordinator for All-Level Certification Program. Dr. Lopez-Estrada continues to research and publish in the areas of teacher preparation and mentoring, action research, professional development of teachers, and bilingual education. Dr. López Estrada holds a doctorate in Education Studies from The Ohio State University, and she has been a faculty member at UTPA for 14 years.

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