I came for the children, but I learned for myself
Garrett-Hatfield, Lori Hughes
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Mexican women make up one of the largest percentages of learners in adult English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes nationwide, and yet there have been very few studies about them in the literature. A review of literature suggested that Mexicanas may be unique in the adult education community because of their proximity to the United States border, the cyclical nature of immigration during the history of the two nations, and in the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico in the United States. In addition, many Mexican women have operated not only under a patriarchal system, but in the shadow of two women, Malitzin Tenepal and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Anecdotal evidence suggested that some women who strive to get an education may be subjected to abuse from their male partners because of their desire to become educated. Evidence collected in the qualitative study suggested that when the Mexicanas began learning English, their male partners resorted to coercion, verbal abuse, and physical violence to prevent them from attending classes. The Mexicanas in the study reported feeling a sense of hopelessness about their relationships with their male partners, but the feeling of hopelessness was present before the women began attending classes. The Mexicanas in the study reported feelings of desperation when they could not advocate for the needs of their children because they did not know the language. Once the Mexicanas who were studied began to learn English, they were better able to help their children access services in the areas of medicine, education, and other community services. As the women learned English, many felt a sense of pride in themselves. They had dreams and goals of furthering their education and working in a career of their choosing. They also wanted to help other women within their community who did not know the language. Suggestions for changes within the community and future research are discussed.