Mexican children grow up in a society where English and Spanish are associated with “development” and economic success and indigenous languages with backwardness and marginalization, and where English seems to be owned only by so-called native speakers, rendering Mexican English teachers as deficient. However, Mexican educators and Mexican pre-service English teachers have attempted to transform this reality for the last 12 years in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Using multimodal identity texts (photos and videos) and narrative, this paper presents ethnographic portraits of Mexican English pre-service teachers as well as indigenous and mestizo children from Oaxacan semi-urban and rural communities participating in a critical-ethnographic-action-research project. This project teaches “English” in order to (re) negotiate the pre-service teachers’ and children’s identities and to challenge the historical and societal ideologies that position them as deficient learners and their translanguaging and multiliteracy practices as inappropriate. Utilizing “identity texts” (Cummins, 2006) and critical pedagogy (Freire, 1970; Norton & Toohey, 2004) as a theoretical framework, the data was collected through participatory classroom and community observations, semi-structured interviews, and pre-service teachers’ and children’s identity texts. The analysis and discussion of the data address three main emergent themes: (a) pre-service teachers as bilingual and/or multilingual teachers; (b) children’s identity (re)negotiation through the creation and performance of identity texts; and (c) the use of English to address topics that matter in Mexican people’s lives. It is concluded that transforming English occurs in micro experiences and contexts, which leaves us hopeful that transformation can also occur in macro-contexts.