Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education PhD, Joint with San Diego State University


School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Felisha Herrera Villarreal

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

William Pérez

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Roberto D. Hernández

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Deborah Faye Carter

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2019 Gabriela Kovats Sánchez


Chicanx Studies, diaspora, ethnic identity development, Indigeneity, Indigenous Mexicans

Subject Categories

Higher Education


The purpose of this study was to provide a deeper understanding of the lived experiences and identity formation of Indigenous Mexican students in U.S. higher education. Latinx critical race theory and critical Latinx Indigeneity served as conceptual frameworks for this study, and a decolonial lens was employed to distinguish the unique educational experiences of Indigenous Mexican students from the broader Latinx student population in the United States. A testimonio research design was used to explore two research questions: (a) What is the role of higher education in the identity formation of Indigenous Mexican students? and (b) How do Indigenous Mexican college students challenge or disrupt colonial perceptions about Indigenous people on their college campus and in their communities? Twelve Indigenous Mexican (Mixtec/Ñuu Savi, Zapotec/Bene Xhon, and Nahua) college students and graduates participated in the study, which involved participation in a 90-minute oral testimonio interview. Through a constant comparative analysis of the data, multiple readings of the participants’ transcripts and testimonios, and feedback from the participants, four themes emerged: (a) defining Indigeneity in diaspora, (b) higher education as a consciousness-raising space, (c) tensions within Chicanx Studies and Chicanx-based campus organizations, and (d) the urgency for public Indigeneity on and off campus. Findings revealed how participants publicly affirmed their Indigenous identities during college, particularly when exposed to courses in Ethnic Studies, Chicanx Studies, and Anthropology. Findings also shed light on intra-Latinx discrimination and its impact on Indigenous Mexican decisions to advocate for their respective Indigenous communities both on and off campus. The study contributes to the limited body of research on Indigenous Mexican students and their experiences in U.S. schools. It also begins to interrogate the ways Indigeneity is represented within Chicanx Studies curricula and Chicanx-based campus organizations from the perspective of Indigenous Mexican college students.