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Mexican Elites and Language Policy in Tucson’s First Schools
Divergencias: Revista de estudios lingüísticos y literarios
  • Elise M. DuBord
Document Type
Educational institutions developed in Tucson, Arizona in the last quarter of the 19th Century during a critical time in cultural and political shifts of power between Anglo and Mexican elites in Southern Arizona. This paper examines unofficial language policies in both public and parochial schools in Tucson that reflect the accommodation of power between the two groups. The data used to reconstruct these de facto language policies comes from school documents, newspaper articles and advertisements, memoirs of teachers, politicians and others as well as historical accounts of the formation of Tucson’s first schools. Tollefson (1991) suggests that “language policy is used to sustain existing power relationships” (11) and in the example of Tucson, parallel language policies in the schools reflect the interests of both Anglo elites in governmental positions and Mexican elites with historical ties to the region. U.S. funded territorial schools favored a language policy of assimilation that promoted the English language and Anglo cultural values and generally used Spanish as a transitional tool to facilitate the acquisition of English. Parochial schools funded by the local elite Mexican community maintained Spanish as the language of instruction. In an attempt to promote unity by creating a level linguistic playing field, language policy reproduces social inequalities by attempting to erase minority culture and language; which in turn causes an oppositional reaction in said minority group that diminishes the original goal of creating a shared identity (Schmidt 2000). Language policy in the parochial schools was an attempt by Mexican elites to maintain their privileged status and reject assimilation, while policy in public schools threatened the Mexican community’s local authority by imposing English as a requisite for access to public education. I conclude that language policy in both school systems Elise M. DuBord The University of Arizona Divergencias. Revista de estudios lingüísticos y literarios. Volumen 1, Otoño 2003. 4 demonstrates that both Anglos and Mexicans had dominant roles in the social and economic hierarchy of Tucson although this shared status was actively being contested.
Department of Languages and Literatures

First published in Divergencias: Revista de estudios lingüísticos y literarios, v.1 n.1 (2003), pp.3-17, published by the University of Arizona.

Original Publication Date
UNI ScholarWorks, University of Northern Iowa, Rod Library
Date Digital
©2003 Elise DuBord
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Citation Information
Elise M. DuBord. "Mexican Elites and Language Policy in Tucson’s First Schools" Divergencias: Revista de estudios lingüísticos y literarios Vol. 1 Iss. 1 (2003) p. 3 - 17
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