About the Author

Dr. Irma N. Guadarrama has Ph.D. from the College of Education, specializing in Language and Culture, Interdisciplinary Studies; Bilingual and ESL Education; College of Education, from the University of Texas at Austin; a Master of Arts in Bicultural Bilingual Teacher Education from the University of Texas at San Antonio’; and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Reading from Texas Christian University, Ft. Worth, Texas.

July 10, 2019

I have first-hand information about immigration because of my background: I was born in Ciudad Juárez, México, and as a young child my parents legally crossed the border and then, as a teenager I became a U.S. citizen along with my parents and six siblings. I believe that my immigrant experience has contributed greatly to understanding the plight of the migrants that desperately flee from their countries in search of a new life in the United States. 

            My work with immigrant children and their families began while studying for my undergraduate college degree. Upon graduation, I accepted a teaching appointment at an elementary school in one of the most poverty-stricken areas in San Antonio, indeed, in the entire state, teaching bilingually (Spanish/English) to recent immigrant arrivals, some of whom were undocumented. My undergraduate training in urban (or inner-city), community-based education attributed to an educational philosophy that I chose to follow, combining my educational goals in the classroom with those of the community.  In my 45-year career, I’ve worked almost entirely with immigrant families, mostly in educational matters, but which almost always required me to function in the role as “advocate.” My graduate degrees at the Master’s and Doctoral levels were interdisciplinary, focused on, in addition to working with various aspects of education, the social, cultural, linguistic, economic, and political fields of study. 

Field Research in México and Central America

            As a tenured professor at the University of Houston, I developed a field-based, anthropological program in Yucatán, titled, the University of Houston Language and Culture Exchange Project whose purpose was to provide university students with opportunities for field experiences in a service learning environment that allowed them to live and work within the community. In this case, we were able to implement the summer project in Tetíz, Yucatán, a small rural town with residents that spoke Maya (Yucatec), either as bilinguals (Spanish and Maya) or as monolingual speakers. We conducted research using tools such as ethnography, and in the roles of participant/researchers. The program was implemented for three consecutive summers and about 40 university students participated. 

            As a field researcher, I completed work in Oaxaca and Guatemala, mostly amongst the indigenous populations. In Guatemala, I worked as a volunteer participant/researcher with a women’s group in the development of a “school” for elementary children in a Quiché community in the town of Santa Cruz del Quiché.  

            Most recently, I published a book that includes products of my research while in Guatemala as well as my work at a Texas-based detention center, assisting the legal team in working with women from the northern triangle countries of Central America who were seeking asylum. The book titled, In the Shadow of the Half Moon: Struggles of Women from Central America in Search of a New Life, was published in May, 2018 and I’ve been able to share my work with Sociology and Mexican American Studies students at the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve also engaged in other discussion platforms such as a radio interview and public library book talk. 

            In conducting my research, I collected first-hand interview data, analyzed the information in terms of time, place, and circumstances and situations (socially, politically, historically), all of which I corroborated with knowledgeable members in Guatemala’s indigenous community. 

            In my most recent trip to Guatemala this year (January 13-30), I visited several towns and cities (Santa Cruz del Quiché, Zacualpa and surrounding towns; Panajachel, La Antigua, and Guatemala City) for the purpose of conducting interviews and observations in relation to the migration phenomenon amongst Guatemalans. 

            I also visited El Salvador and Honduras, from April 29tto May 14 of this year. I collected interviews and photos on the subject of identifying major root causes of migration to the United States as well as to document the experiences of those individuals that have returned or have been deported. My next visit is scheduled for Guatemala and México in August where I will collect information regarding the border crossings between the two countries.