DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Educational History of Mexican Immigrants

by Michelle Jenkins

     “Education”: the word has so much meaning.  Is it really free? Is there an equal opportunity to become educated? Are all nationalities getting the education they deserve? How do we determine if immigrants are being fairly educated?  All of these questions and many other arise when I think about a particular culture and their right to a proper education.  Mexicans are migrating to the United States with great hopes of obtaining more opportunities leading to a better life than what was offered to them in Mexico.  One of the main keys that open the doors of opportunity is education, and with the increase of Mexican immigrant population over the past two decades these issues are crying to be addressed.  I would like to zero in on the key issues of the history of a Mexican education and then focus on the key issues of the history of Mexican education in the United States (mostly New York States).

    Through my vigorous research on the educational history of Mexicans before and after becoming students in the United States I find that some of the key issues in education in Mexico have a great deal to do with insufficient enrollments, the very high dropout rates that occur mostly beyond the primary level, the unfortunate circumstances that are caused by insufficient supply of upper secondary schools (particularly in rural areas), and low levels of student achievement.  Unfortunately some of the schools in the United States face these same issues for American students as well as Mexican students that migrate to the Unites States.  According to an article from “reuters.com” here are a few current key points in reference to education Mexico.

  • “The number of Mexican students has surged to 32 million from 3 million in 1950 as the country’s population exploded.”

  • “Most young children attend primary school but only 62 percent reach secondary school.”

  • “At a secondary level about half of the students drop out and only a quarter reach higher education, according to non-governmental organization.”

  • Mexicans read less than three books a year on an average, a product of low education levels and poverty, studies show.”

  • Mexican students perform badly in the education test run by the organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) that measures standards in 65 industrialized countries.”


Now that we have viewed a few key points about education in Mexico, let us look at a few more key points of  history and determine whether there have been much if any changes over the decades.  Although many Mexican adults have been fortunate enough to find work such as working in the hot steaming kitchens of restaurants, hard labor at construction sites and opening many different types of self-employed business (the icy cart), the children of these immigrants have fared differently where their education is concerned.  Here are a few key points that contributed to the cause of my quest for information:

  • “According to royal decree, every municipality in New Spain had the obligation to operate a primary school; most did not do so. People with sufficient resources sent their children to church schools; in a small village a priest might offer some instruction.”

  • “Young girls sometimes attended convent schools or private secular schools operated by women, and secondary schools for young women opened shortly after the conquest.”

  • “Secondary education for males was largely in the hands of Jesuit missionaries, who arrived in Mexico in 1572.”

  • “Only a limited number of students attended school at any level, however. In general, wealthy individuals employed private tutors and the lower class remained illiterate. Blacks, Native Americans, people of mixed ethnicity, and women of any race had limited educational opportunities. Nevertheless, a determined individual could acquire a basic education, regardless of class.”

  • Higher education began with the founding of the University of Mexico in 1551. Theology and law dominated the curriculum, but the university had chairs in medicine and Native American languages. Mexican-born don Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora, who held the chair of mathematics and astronomy, demonstrated the high intellectual achievement made possible by the colonial educational system. Women could not attend the university, however.”

  • “The great 17th-century Mexican intellectual, Juana Ines de la Cruz, begged to be allowed to enter the university, even offering to attend dressed as a man.”


Well it doesn’t seem that there were many changes from the early 1500’s to now in the educational system in Mexico, maybe that’s one of the major reasons why the population of Mexican immigrants has increased tremendously.  While reading a very carefully selected text “On Borders and Dreams: An Insight into Mexican American Inequality”, I found that this text addressed some of mentioned issues on Mexico and education.  I also found that I was able to take in more information on the history of the educational system of Mexico and recent information as well.  The text basically refers to the experiences of a student, the son of Mexican Immigrants and the some of the challenges faced in a Chicago parochial school system.  What I found most interesting was that the student Alejandro had disabilities: he has learning disabilities, language barriers and structural barriers in which was evidently preventing him from become the best student he could be.  Alejandro obviously wanted to break the history of lack of education that his family possessed.  Reading this text brought on many different emotions and feelings.  When the author touched on the fact that families such as Alejandro’s have been in a sort of bondage and purposely kept down just as the past generations oppressed as Mexican Americans I became saddened.  I became even more saddened when I read that Alejandro eventually dropped out of school, even with his family as devoted as they were.  It just shows that that was simply not enough; once he made his transition from the parochial school to public high school he was bombarded with bias, and stereotyping.  He struggled even more with his language barriers and some of his own personal complications his school life had become just too hard for him.

This information points out just some of the issues that arise once a student migrated to the United states and live in New York State amongst many other cities that has to face some of these same issues and challenges.  I have come to the conclusion that History is repeating itself.  Although life may be better I pray that education for mexican immigrants only gets better.



Semple, Kirk. "NOW ARRIVING; In New York, Mexicans Lag In Education." The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2011. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.



"Colonial Mexico, Education." Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

Of Borders and Dreams: A Mexican-American Experience of Urban Education. Written by Chris Liska Carger. New York: Teachers College Press (http://tc-press.tc.columbia.edu), 1996. ISBN 0-8077-3523-X (hardcover); 0-8077-3522-1 (paperback).


"ERICDigests.Org - Providing Full-text Access to ERIC Digests." ERICDigests.Org - Providing Full-text Access to ERIC Digests. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.






Immigration History of Mexicans

 Natalie Blackford-Charles


This paper was constructed to  discuss  the migration of nationals from Mexico in the city of New York. According to Baker et al 1988 Mexicans were present in Sparse numbers throughout New York City . Between 1990 and 2005, the Mexican population in New York City was the fastest growing Latino national group.In 2001 the number of Mexicans living in the New York City has increased to an  extent  that they had become the third largest group after Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. In order to understand the reasons behind the Mexican immigration to New York we must first review the traditional Mexican immigration in recent years .A huge portion of the sothwestern U.S.A had belonged to Mexico up until the Mexican –American War of 18 46-1846.The first known incorporation of Mexicans in the United States was in the Mid- ninteenth century with the Mexican American War. After losing this war to America  Mexico signed a Treaty of Guadalope Hidalgo in 1848 in which an agreement of a  secession of what now spans an area covering California,New Mexico,Texas,Nevada,Utah, most of Colarado and Parts of Wyoming.They also gained a portion of the Mexican population and granted citizenship to thousands of Mexicans who were still living in southwest America wish spriraled the  wave of Mexicans to the United States.

            The beginning of the 19th century brought the great influx of immigrant in the United States which kept similar trends from recent years which was impacted by labor demands and increased greatly at the beginning of World War 1.  This war resulted in many Americans leaving and defending their country opening up many vacancies in the labor market with the poorer classes of Mexicans moving into the urban industrial jobs.

            This sharp rise in the Mexican population is related to the economic crisis in Mexico in the early 1990s as well as sponsorship of family immigration to America by the immigrants that were already here. With the new Railroad system and export base economy this funded a great portion of foreign capital which brought economic prosperity to Mexico and reflected great development in the Americas economy as well. All these changes create a great demand for labor in helping the U.S to expand and develop, as a result they began to look for help and the Mexicans were quick to reply.

A large percent of Mexican immigrants live under the poverty level when they first arrive in New York. In spite of living below the poverty line, they usually calculate their well-being in America by comparing what they earn in America to what they earned in their home village or city. Many of the villages in Mexico are very poor, and the Mexican immigrants’ income in their home village or city is anywhere between 20% to 40% of what they earn in America. As a result, they are grateful for the money they earn in New York and their ability to send remittances back to their families in Mexico (Rivera-Batiz and Francisco L.).


            Presently the greater New York City metropolitan region is now the home of well over a half million people of Mexican Origin with about 350,000 in the city. The city has become one of the top cities in the concentration of Mexicans in the U.S. In Sum Mexicans came to the United States to find job and to make money to send back home to their families also looking for a better life as most other cultures with the major factor been economic. These economic conditions existed between both Mexico and the Untied States and sparked the immigration to the United States.



Baker,Susan,Gonzales (1988).U.S. Immigration Policies and Trends:the Growing

          Importance of Migration in Mexico,Surao


David A. Badillo (2009). New York Historical Portrait of Mexican Migration to New

          York City. New York State Historical Association.


Rivera-Batiz, Francisco L. “NewYorkTitlan: A Socioeconomic Profile of Mexican New

          Yorkers.” Regional Labor 











DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.