Cati de los Rios
College/School/Department: School of Education
What made you choose Davis?
As a young child, my family and I would make the drive to Davis from Pomona to visit my abuelita who lived in a tiny duplex on J Street. My abuela’s parents had strong agrarian roots and worked as apple farmworkers in Chihuahua, Mexico. Prior to migrating, my abuela was a normalista (a rural literacy worker) in her small pueblo in Chihuahua. As a Mexican immigrant and single mother of five children in Davis, my abuelita slowly put herself through school. As a much older and “nontraditional” student, it took her more than 13 years, part-time, to attain a bachelor’s degree in Spanish at UC Davis. She eventually became a migrant educator in Hamilton City and bilingual teacher in Pomona. My grandmother’s struggle inspired my own mother to attend Santa Rosa Community College and then transfer to UC Davis to pursue a similar career path in migrant farmworker education. My foremothers’ history in both the city of Davis and at UC Davis make it the greatest privilege to work here as this institution drastically transformed the lives of so many women in my life.
In addition, my colleagues in the School of Education are some of the most remarkable and brilliant scholars who are exploring urgent questions and cutting-edge research. The stellar reputation of the School of Education make it such a joy and honor to be here.
What inspires you?
My family. My dad migrated to Pomona as an undocumented immigrant in the late 1970s with nothing to his name and a seventh-grade education. He labored as a day laborer, mechanic and in different factories throughout Los Angeles providing his children with an exemplary model of work ethic. He’s been an extraordinary father and grandfather. My mom grew up on welfare in Davis, and she helped to raise her four younger siblings after her father left. As a bilingual educator and activist, she dedicated her life and career to the educational dignity of migrant farmworker families and children. Four generations of women on my mother’s side (including my abuela and bisabuela) worked as normalistas (rural literacy workers) in Chihuahua, Mexico. My foremothers saw literacy as a process of social inclusion and a practice of freedom. Their participation in literacy campaigns and commitment to the most marginalized in their rural communities in Mexico have deeply shaped who I am and is, in part, why I research the robust and sophisticated literacy practices of migrant and transnational families and children.
What research are you currently working on? What makes it unique?
There has been a robust grassroots movement to revitalize secondary ethnic studies courses in the past two decades, especially in the Southwest. While ethnic studies courses continue to proliferate in California with the support of Assembly Bill 2016, a recently passed piece of legislation that sanctions ethnic studies courses throughout California’s public school districts, there remains a lacuna of qualitative literature on the curricular nature of these courses. As such, my areas of research explore: 1) the contours of ethnic studies and Chicanx studies curricula through ethnographic, multimodal and participatory action research; 2) the civic nature of secondary ethnic studies classrooms; and 3) how ethnic studies teachers are aligning their instruction to Common Core state standards in literacy and social studies in ways that amplify rigorous reading and writing activities as well as critical digital media literacies. One of my recent co-authored articles examining an ethnic studies classroom won the 2018 Alan C. Purves Award for an article judged as most likely to have the greatest impact on educational practice.
Additionally, through ethnographic research I have been documenting the rich epistemic, cultural, language and literacy resources of U.S.-Mexico transnational youth and some of the ways their evolved bi/multilingual literacies can be leveraged for in-school literacy instruction. One of my latest articles explored a U.S.-Mexican transnational student’s critical and close readings of Mexican corridos (a form of Mexican folk music), including narcocorridos, and some of the socio-political lessons young people take from them. Given the originality of this paper, I was recently awarded the 2018 Promising Researcher Award from the Standing Committee on Research from the National Council of Teachers of English for this article.
When not in the classroom or conducting research, what do you like to do?
Spending time with my daughter, Yari, brings me the greatest joy. You can find us at the local public library, parks, museums or with my social justice mom group. I love traveling and visiting my family in Chihuahua, Mexico, and in Southern California. So any opportunity I have, I head down south with my partner and daughter.