Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Emma H. Fuentes

Second Advisor

Shabnam Koirala Azad

Third Advisor

Roberto Varea


Mexican students in higher education have few opportunities to learn about their heritage and history outside of Ethnic Studies courses. Some students seek alternative opportunities to learn about their identity and to build community with other Mexican students through folklórico. In Mexican folklórico, dancers learn the techniques and skills to communicate stories about their history, culture, and heritage through movement, song, and dance. This study is the story of Mexican students and folkloristas on their journey to (re)discover identity, community, and agency as they move through higher education.

This study uses testimonio to capture the voice, the struggle, and the inspiration of Mexican students as they seek opportunities to learn about identity, community, and agency through folklórico. This study includes the testimonios of 10 folkloristas from the Sacramento, San Francisco, and San José areas of Northern California. Each of these dancers identifies as Mexican and is also a student at a college or university. The folkloristas share their stories as individual testimonios and as part of two small group testimonios, or colectivas. Each of the testimonios are analyzed through Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth and a hybrid of key literature about the performance of cultural memory and imagination. I refer to this framework as social justice cultural performance (Haiven and Khasnabish, 2014; Rich, 2006; Taylor, 2011).

The testimonios reveal that folklórico is a means through which dancers build a strong connection to their cultural heritage. Through this community, folkloristas develop deep bonds of kinship and familia with other dancers. In light of the shifting social and political climate in the United States, folkloristas use the performance of cultural memory, movimiento, and heritage to heal the pain of violent messages about the Mexican community. This agency is a way for folkloristas to empower and inspire their community with positive self-image and self-confidence. Lastly, this study adds to the body of research on testimonio through the addition of spatial testimonio as a new framework. Spatial testimonio moves beyond individual and collective stories to allow spaces and places to author their own stories of Truth, struggle, and resistance.