Literacy Practices in a Foreign Language: Two Cuban Immigrants

Principal Investigator: Kamila Rosolová
Michigan State University


This is a case study of the literacy practices of two adults--Lara and Enrique1--who both came to the U.S. as refugees from Cuba seeking a better life. Lara arrived with her husband and two small children in 1997; Enrique arrived in 2002, only a year and a half before the data collection for this study. Both were able to come to the “promised land” because they won immigration visas in a lottery set up by the Cuban and U.S. government in 1994. This lottery is the result of a treaty that was signed as a part of efforts to end the “boat exodus”, a series of desperate and often tragic attempts of hundreds of Cubans to get to the U.S. shores on shaky rafts (U.S. Department of State, 2000). Every year, the lottery raises hopes for 20,000 Cubans who wish to qualify for the U.S. immigration visas.
My goal with this research was to explore the ways in which literacy and language intersect and are negotiated by immigrants such as Lara and Enrique. Through semi-structured interviews and observations, I tried to capture a portrait of their lives in the U.S. in a different language and culture, and implications of their past and current life situations for their personal literacy practices. Both participants in the case study received five years of university education in Cuba and are literate in their native language--Spanish. When they came to the U.S., they had to start their lives over in a language foreign to both.


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