Saturday, April 9, 2011

Homegirls by Norma Mendoza Denton is a fascinating, and yet, perplexing, view of gangs in the San Francisco Bay area. Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be providing you incites on the inner workings of the gangs, symbolism of certain material items, and other such related details.

As an opening, I'd like to give you a bit of summary on the first chapters.

Mendoza-Denton’s fieldwork primarily takes place at Sor Juana High School, located in a suburb of the San Francisco Bay area, surrounded by Euro-Americans. The conversations dive deep into the lives of ‘traditional’ girls who are typically recent immigrants from rural Mexico, Piporras. Urban, middle-class immigrants with a more cosmopolitan attitude called Fresas, and Jocks who align with more mainstream European American philosophies.

A clear divide in immigrants and the Euro-American students is seen clearly in the places they eat lunch, the music played in the commons, as well as the cars they drive, which were nonexistent with the Piporras either being bused in or walking. Piporras were scheduled, protected, and secluded from school activities.

They usually retrieved their lunch and ate it in the ESL classrooms and never changed in public for gym class. They were isolated and much of this was due to their parents expectations. Their linguistic capabilities were mocked by teachers and classmates, as they were seen as more proficient in Spanish than English. The Westernized Fresas were assumed to speak less English than Piporras. Why? They grew up with a higher socioeconomic background in the big Metropolises of Mexico.

The Latin jock girls participated in extracurricular activities with the mainstream Euro-American jock girls. Gang girls called the jocks “coconuts” and accused them of “selling out” or being whitewashed to the mainstream.

The school was like a “mini United Nations”, in that a complex classification system using codes was in place for nonnative and native speakers. Interestingly, however, the codes were assigned after the parents took a test and their answers were categorized, and the children were placed into one of two categories: Limited English Proficient or Fluent English Proficient.

In Mendoza’s fieldwork, she came across several orally fluent “Chicano English speakers” who continued to be classified as (LEP) because they showed disruptive behavior. In a sense, the division of speakers and their abilities was more so based upon their behavior and not so much their linguistic abilities.

Sor Juana High School represents the demographic situation facing many schools in the US. The rising diversity of immigrants and their impact on school capacities, affording students the opportunity to learn about differences.


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