Sunday, July 3, 2011

Empowering Spanish Speakers, By: Dr Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie

Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie has immersed herself both mentally and physically into her research, while writing Empowering Spanish Speakers: Answers for Educators, Businesspeople, or Friends of Mexicans by sacrificing all the comforts of western civilization to live among her hosts of poverty, malnutrition and faith in rural Mexico. Her book is a combination of scientific research, statistical analysis, and personal exploits; compiled in an easy-to-read hybrid format of a text book, biographical and personal memories.

"With nearly 22% of all USA births each year are to non-native speakers learning Spanish as their first language, predictions inform us that by 2024 half the USA will speak Spanish. Thus officials, academic administrators, CEOs of corporations and educators working with this population must act quickly in a focused manner for best overall results," stated Dr. Mackenzie in her opening remarks. She has humbly postured herself as a social justice advocate of the Mexican culture to promote understanding, education and healing.

Empowering Spanish Speakers is broken down into chapters with icon embedded segue ways allowing for various sub-interests to be highlighted; that of reference material for researchers, teaching guides for educators, and culturally interpreted differences of the Mexican way of life for all to understand. This constitutes a document which can be paged like a novel, or indexed by topic. In my particular case I read the book from start to finish, allowing Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie to present her findings to me in the way she thought best. By doing this I was in awe at the manifestation of her sobering reality check; realizing during my own life "my eyes were wide shut" to truly understanding the daily circumstances faced by such honorable people living under such impoverished circumstances. For example, glance into the eyes of an indigenous Mexican child; if one stares long enough into the depth of their soul, it may become frighteningly compelling for those of us, having more than we need to survive, to reach out and help -- yet so many blink, and turn away. Not Jacqueline Mackenzie, she abandoned all we take for granted to risk her life and live amongst these impoverished people, helping them to have a better life.

From her book: "Many of the existent myths related to Mexican's lifestyles or sociocultural influences are clearly due to a lack of understanding of the Mexican culture, especially in indigenous rural areas. The rural area which was researched was rich with indigenous groups: Guamares, Chichimecas, Guachichile, Otomies, and Purepecha or Tarascan, which includes Celaya, Acambaro, and Yurirapundaro. The only living indigenous language in the state was Chichimeca-Jonaz, but it has been said that the people of the state "have inherited the genetic legacy of the original Indian people." With so much native influence, life in rural Mexico is a blend of sociocultural influences that are embedded in the society's day-to-day existence. Current challenges to the communities struggles to survive from bombardment by external environmental factors influence, bend and may finally change their rich indigenous Mexican cultural practices as elder's struggles to keep traditions. Lacking access to continuous worldview updates is one of the realities of life in a rural Central Mexican campo, but so was a strong desire to retain traditions."

Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie is, in my opinion, a truly courageous person. By having communicated with her I found a philanthropic, almost saint-like quality of her unselfishness, coupled with deep understanding and the desire to share her research. This book is recommended as an addition to all school libraries, and for course studies designed around this information for use as a text book. Anyone and everyone with an interest or curiosity in the Mexican culture, and wishing to get a handle on the emerging Spanish speaking majority, should seek an opportunity to buy this book and read it cover to cover. Only with understanding, education, and having "our eyes wide open" will real change ever occur.

Reviewed by: Gary R. Sorkin

Gary R. Sorkin is the Senior Editor for Pacific Book Review. Please visit Pacific Book Review at:

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