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Reading, Writing, and Revolution

Reading, Writing, and Revolution
Escuelitas and the Emergence of a Mexican American Identity in Texas

The first book on the history of escuelitas, Reading, Writing, and Revolution examines the integral role these grassroots community schools played in shaping Mexican American identity.

May 2020
248 pages | 6 x 9 | 13 b&w photos, 2 b&w illus., 2 b&w maps |

Language has long functioned as a signifier of power in the United States. In Texas, as elsewhere in the Southwest, ethnic Mexicans’ relationship to education—including their enrollment in the Spanish-language community schools called escuelitas—served as a vehicle to negotiate that power. Situating the history of escuelitas within the contexts of modernization, progressivism, public education, the Mexican Revolution, and immigration, Reading, Writing, and Revolution traces how the proliferation and decline of these community schools helped shape Mexican American identity.

Philis M. Barragán Goetz argues that the history of escuelitas is not only a story of resistance in the face of Anglo hegemony but also a complex and nuanced chronicle of ethnic Mexican cultural negotiation. She shows how escuelitas emerged and thrived to meet a diverse set of unfulfilled needs, then dwindled as later generations of Mexican Americans campaigned for educational integration. Drawing on extensive archival, genealogical, and oral history research, Barragán Goetz unravels a forgotten narrative at the crossroads of language and education as well as race and identity.

  • Introduction. Escuelitas, Literacy, and Imaginary Dual Citizenship
  • Chapter 1. Escuelitas and the Expansion of the Texas Public School System, 1865–1910
  • Chapter 2. Imaginary Citizens and the Limits of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: Educational Exclusion and the Mexican Consulate Investigation of 1910
  • Chapter 3. Revolutionary and Refined: Feminism, Early Childhood Education, and the Mexican Consulate in Laredo, Texas, 1910–1920
  • Chapter 4. Education in Post–Mexican Revolution Texas, 1920–1950
  • Chapter 5. Escuelitas and the Mexican American Generation’s Campaign for Educational Integration
  • Conclusion. The Contested Legacy of Escuelitas in American Culture
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Philis M. Barragán Goetz
San Antonio, Texas

Barragán Goetz is an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University–San Antonio.


Reading, Writing, and Revolution is not merely a book about educational history; it is a trailblazing study on how Mexican Americans have relied on any tools available to create a more inclusive educational system for themselves and their community.”
New Books in Latino Studies

Reading, Writing, and Revolution is the freshest, most innovative scholarship in Chicana/o history to appear in some time. Until now, the history of escuelitas has remained elusive and not extensively documented. Through the creative use of untapped, stellar primary documents and oral histories combined with a tremendous ingenuity of interpretation, Philis Barragán Goetz reconstructs both the local history and the international roots of the escuelitas of Texas. In doing so, she sheds new light upon the whole of the field.”
Carlos Kevin Blanton, Texas A&M University, author of George I. Sánchez: The Long Fight for Mexican American Integration

Reading, Writing, and Revolution situates escuelitas (little schools) as alternative spaces that disrupted the Anglicizing hegemonic institutions of US schools. Mexican Americans revered education and offered racial uplift in these schools, which were based on ethnic self-determination during an era of racial exclusion and segregation. Barragán Goetz recasts Mexican American women as, simultaneously, teachers and revolutionary leaders confronting patriarchy. Merging US and Mexican history, this detailed, well-researched work is the first major study of escuelitas as tools of Mexican American empowerment in the Southwest.”
Cynthia E. Orozco, Eastern New Mexico University, Ruidoso, author of Agent of Change: Adela Sloss-Vento, Mexican American Civil Rights Activist and Texas Feminist

Reading, Writing, and Revolution makes a major contribution to our understanding of the origins and political development of escuelitas in Texas—their founders, teachers, and curriculum. This engaging historical narrative reveals, with incredible detail and nuance, evidence of the Mexican community’s long-standing efforts for self-determination and their struggles to provide their children with the best education possible, on their own terms.”
David G. García, University of California, Los Angeles, author of Strategies of Segregation: Race, Residence and the Struggle for Educational Equality