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Book cover of ¿Qué Onda?: Urban Youth Culture and Border Identity

¿Qué Onda?: Urban Youth Culture and Border Identity

by Cynthia L. Bejarano

Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Pages: 260
Paperback
ISBN: 9780816526864






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Overview of ¿Qué Onda?: Urban Youth Culture and Border Identity

Angel was born in Arizona and is part of the in-crowd. She likes clubbing, dancing, and going to car shows. Betzayra is from Mexico City and, despite polio-related disabilities, is the confident group leader of the Mexican girls. Arturo is also from Mexico City; he dresses more fashionably than most other boys and is taunted by the Chicanos. Evelyn was born in Arizona, but her mother was from Mexico and she hangs out with Mexican kids because she thinks they're nicer than Chicanos. How these and some two dozen other young Latinas and Latinos interact forms the basis of a penetrating new study of identity formation among Mexican-origin border youths, taking readers directly into their world to reveal the labyrinth they navigate to shape their identities. For Latina/o adolescents who already find life challenging, the borderland is a place that presents continual affirmations of and contradictions about identity-questions of who is more Mexican than American or vice versa. This book analyzes the construction of Mexicana/o and Chicana/o identities through a four-year ethnographic study in a representative American high school. It reveals how identity politics impacts young people's forms of communication and the cultural spaces they occupy in the school setting. By showing how identities are created and directly influenced by the complexities of geopolitics and sociocultural influences, it stresses the largely unexplored divisions among youths whose identities are located along a wide continuum of "Mexicanness." Through in-depth interviews and focus groups with both Mexicana/o and Chicana/o students, Cynthia Bejarano explores such topics as the creation of distinct styles that reinforce differences between the two groups; the use of language to further distinguish themselves from one another; and social stratification perpetuated by internal colonialism and the "Othering" process. These and other issues are shown to complicate how Latinas/os ethnically identify as Mexicanas/os or Chicanas/os and help explain how they get to this point. In contrast to research that views identity as a reflection of immigration or educational experiences, this study embraces border theory to frame the complex and conflicted relations of adolescents as a result of their identity-making processes. This intimate glimpse into their lives provides valuable information about the diversity among youths and their constant efforts to create, define, and shape their identities according to cultural and social structures.

Synopsis of ¿Qué Onda?: Urban Youth Culture and Border Identity

In her ethnography of identity formation among Mexican-origin youth at a Southwestern high school along the US-Mexican border, Bejarano (criminal justice, New Mexico State U.) explores how students at the pseudonymous Altamira High situate themselves within the multiple social, cultural, and political distinctions found in the ethnic identities of people of Mexican descent along the borderlands. Basing her work on four years of field work at the high school, she examines the creation of unique Mexicana/o and Mexican-American/Chicana/o youth cultures through the use of customs and trends that reinforce the borders between the two groups, the use of language to define and distinguish groups, social stratification and informal hierarchy as results of internal colonialism, various conceptualizations of citizenship, and how the fluidity and permeability of identities can lead to interstitial groups that complicate how the youth ethnically identify themselves. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

About the Author, Cynthia L. Bejarano

Cynthia L. Bejarano is an assistant professor of criminal justice at New Mexico State University, where she directs a federal program assisting migrant and seasonal farmworker children to attend the university. She is also the co-founder of Amigos de las Mujeres de Juarez, an NGO dedicated to assisting the women of Juarez and Chihuahua City in their fight for justice.

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