"Sweetheart Señoritas" and the Boys of "Wallaceton": Race Leadership and Youth Culture at Two Mission Schools

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 11:30 AM
Gregory B (Hyatt)
Julie Cohen , University of California, Irvine
This paper explores the education and experience of Mexican youth at two mission schools in Los Angeles in the early twentieth century. I examine how students created peer cultures to navigate, contest, and/or appropriate administrators’ mixed messages that promoted acculturation on the one hand, and “race leadership” on the other.  I argue that girls and boys at these “sister” schools created shared codes that drew from multiple and overlapping identities, but they did so vis-à-vis the distinctly gendered spaces and aims of their respective schools.  At the Frances De Pauw School for Spanish-Speaking Girls, students gained preparation for Christian citizenship as mothers, wives, and low-level Church workers and remained isolated from developments in modern education. At the Spanish American Institute (SAI), boys received education in “Christian character and manhood” and moved through an environment shaped by a totally different set of expectations for assimilation and leadership among “their people.”  In both schools, students exercised what Aihwa Ong describes as a “flexible citizenship,” through and in relation to their peers, that enabled them to create and draw from multiple subjectivities, along lines of race, gender, youth, as students and workers, to negotiate the missionizing aims of their schools.
Examining the tensions of assimilation and segregation advanced by the schools in this study, I argue that missionaries and students transgressed traditional notions of the U.S.-Mexico border in their respective (and competing) assertions of ideal citizenship and identity.  In this way, my study enters into conversation with the other papers on this panel in its effort to flesh out the relationships between notions of ideal citizenship, national borders, race, gender, and identity formation.
See more of: Educating the Citizen: American Colonial Education among Latinos, Hawaiians, and Filipinos
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