In this article, Ana Ramos-Zayas argues that schooling cannot be divorced from the political and socioeconomic forces governing neighborhood development. She focuses on the role of grassroots activists with a nationalist agenda (i.e., in favor of independence for Puerto Rico) in community-based educational projects in Chicago, particularly the Pedro Albizu Campos High School (PACHS), a compelling example of the potential of an educational project based on a nationalist ideology. For Puerto Ricans, the question of the political status of the Island--future U.S. state, commonwealth, or independent nation--has been debated for the past one hundred years. For the students and teachers of PACHS, independence, and an education based on the principles of Puerto Rican self-determination, is the only option. Ramos-Zayas argues that an oppositional education based on such a political ideology is a powerful, yet largely untapped, resource for creating successful ethnoracial youth and popular education programs. She contends that, in a community considered among the poorest of the poor, where Puerto Rican youth continue to drop out of high school, join gangs, and experience the most inhuman consequences of poverty, such a successful social initiative must be considered carefully. She points out the irony that this nationalist ideology--which encourages critical appraisal of U.S. policies toward Puerto Rico and of the ideology of the American Dream--actually encourages high school students to pursue mainstream mobility routes, such as abandoning gangs, finishing high school, and enrolling in college. The powerful, positive presence nationalist activism among Chicago Puerto Ricans is undeniable, as is the sense of hope and possibility that students and barrio residents experience at Pedro Albizu Campos High School and other community development projects in Chicago.
Click here to access this article.