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  • At the Intersection of Transnationalism, Latina/o Immigrants, and Education
  • Patricia Sánchez and Margarita Machado-Casas

Except for Mexico, “there are now more Latino-origin people in the U.S. than there are people in Spain, Argentina, Colombia, or any other Spanish-speaking country…[In fact, our nation is experiencing] the greatest demographic transformation in the last 100 years of its history” (Mandel, 2004, citing Professor Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco). As former schoolteachers of immigrant children in Texas and California, we have witnessed this demographic transformation firsthand in schools where our students' backgrounds and communities included both first- and second-generation Latinas/os.1 Today as educational researchers and professors who prepare teacher candidates, we are even more intrigued by the social, cultural, political, economic, and educational issues related to this population shift. Our intrigue stems from the unique opportunities that these waves of Latina/o newcomers bring to our society as well as from our concerns that many in the field of teaching do not quite understand nor appreciate the complexity of Latina/o immigration.

For these reasons, we assembled a collection of studies that address the ongoing transformation of our country's landscape—one that includes immigrant transnationalism “as a long-term process which may be viewed, from an analytical perspective, as a trajectory, or rather as a multiplicity of potential trajectories” (Grillo, 2007, p. 199). Latina/o immigration in the U.S. has both a long history and a variety of social actors from different regions of Latin America, revealing many contours of transnationalism—including transnational projects with lengthy trajectories and others with new and recent intensity. These characteristics are evident in several of the investigations in this special issue. But before we present readers with the specific details of each of the research studies on transnational Latina/o immigrants—seven in total—with a special commentary piece by a leading figure in Latina/o education (Sofía Villenas), we wish to provide demographic [End Page 3] information on the U.S. Latina/o community, followed by a discussion on transnationalism as an important lens with which to “see” immigrant students in general. We then offer a description of the work that has been published by scholars focusing on transnational Latina/o families, complemented by demographic information on Latina/o students and a brief treatise on why more research should combine Latina/o students, transnationalism, and education. It is precisely this last analytic category—education—that has been sorely understudied in work dealing with transnational Latina/o children and youth. We hope the current special issue, “At the Intersection of Transnationalism, Latina/o Immigrants, and Education”—graciously supported by the High School Journal—begins to fill part of that void in educational scholarship. Both academic and practitioner communities will greatly benefit from this dialogue and line of research.

Statistics on U.S. Latinas/os

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2007), Latinas/os in this country comprise 15 percent2 of the estimated total U.S. population of 302 million, making Latinas/os the largest minority group in our country. In addition, it is also the fastest-growing:

More strikingly, Hispanics account for half of the total population growth in the U.S. over the last five years [2000–2005]. The impact of Latino population growth is further magnified by the fact that the white and black populations have grown by only 2% and 7% respectively since 2000 (Hakimzadeh, 2006).

Within the U.S. Latina/o population itself, 40 percent are foreign-born (Hakimzadeh, 2006). And during 2000 to 2005, native-born Latinas/ os accounted for 62% of the total change in the Latina/o population, while foreign-born Latinas/os represented the remaining 38% (Hakimzadeh, 2006). The same 2005 data “confirms that Latino population growth has been driven primarily by increases in the second generation” (Hakimzadeh, 2006). This indicates that U.S. Latinas/os are highly immigrant if we include in this definition those Latinas/os with at least one foreign-born parent; the surge in births of the second generation is highly relevant to the issue of transnationalism and education, as we will see further below.

Of the 50 U.S...


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