Ahora Puedo Respirar Now I Can Breathe
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This research explored the struggle and resiliency of a Mexican American community in Central Texas as they attempted to maintain, teach, and celebrate their Mexican American roots, customs, knowledge, and celebrations through community education. The research employed critical ethnography to explore history and its impact on self, organization, and community; it also interrogated agency within racially contentious times. Additionally, this research provides insight into public pedagogy of teaching, learning, and leading as a means to remember and record the growth and change within the local Mexican American community. The community learning exchange theory of change informed this dynamic-critical place-based conceptual framework. The study’s framework was a hybrid that included: theory of change, public pedagogy, community cultural wealth, culturally relevant pedagogy, and community education through the arts. The research design was grounded in critical ethnography, social cartography, anthropological life, and history mapping. From the research findings, five tenets of critical consciousness emerged and are presented through community voices (i.e., stories from research partners, el vestido, and visual artifacts), giving breath and description to each tenet. The five tenets were (a) critical awareness of self; (b) deficit thinking and resiliency (racism and segregation); (c) organic process of an emerging public pedagogy: teaching, learning, and leading; (d) community education; and (e) cultural pride and sustainability. Implications of the research include growing your own leaders which provides an entry point for Mexican Americans to share the ways in which community education has and can uplift a community through teaching, learning, and leading. Last, an implication for the resiliency of the Mexican American community reflected that Teatro has been able to crisscross spaces of contention, peace, and harmony. This research invites the reader to breathe together.