PBR: Today we are talking with Dr. Jacqueline Mackenzie, author of Empowering Spanish Speakers just published by Summerland Corp. and being distributed by Ingram Book Company, making it available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and on her nonprofit website. Thank you for taking your time to join us and talk about your book.
JZM: Thank you for reading and reviewing my book. I am certain you now have a vastly clearer understanding of the reasons Mexican life is full of underemployment, discrimination, and restricted opportunities for them to reach their maximum adult potential primarily because they are native Spanish speakers.
PBR: My first question, or rather a comment, is how personally impressed I am with your lifestyle of moving in with your Mexican hosts and living with them for such a long period. Tell us, please, a bit about how this came about.
JZM: When I left for Central Mexico in 2005, I already had 35 years experience working beside marginalized Mexican-American immigrants (immigrants with native roots). My attitude was that I was going to spend time inside a heritage I respected. The time had come to learn more about the culture in order to define why for years I had felt so socially accepted when I was with Mexicans. Ethically, I had to know that anything I published was accurate. I had to become a part of a small rural community of subsistence farmers to find valid answers. I simply recorded what I observed, qualitative data, and analyzed the quantitative data. The new information gave me insight. Having been a certified teacher and director of a school, I already knew some of what was misaligned in the management of business and education systems in the USA. After my investigations in Mexico, I knew what misalignment existed in both countries related both to Mexican-American immigrants and indigenous Mexican nationals.
PBR: You have an abundance of statistical data regarding population, ages, nutrition, and education of the indigenous Mexican tribes. What trend stands out the most for you as a wakeup call for us, meaning native English-speaking Americans, to take heed to?
JZM: What I found were native mothers and children hungry for both food and access to information. My best friend and translator traveled into 18 rural villages, several times over a year. We looked at 665 infants, children, and youth. We did not find statistically significant disabilities. We did find that nearly one-third of the children were malnourished; so were their parents. We listened as mothers told us that what they wanted, and asked us to help them acquire, was a means to help themselves.
PBR: From the Internet I have viewed the website for the Summerland Monastery. I notice your “book drive” for Spanish and English children’s books. What are some of the other programs being done by your organization?
JZM: We offer free equine therapy and water therapy to children with disabilities; training local students how to do the same. We open our landlord’s homemade swimming pool to children or adults to empower themselves by learning how to swim. We allow access to our library of 3,000 books; about 15% Spanish or bilingual. We teach English and art regularly. We designed and built a local community center that was funded and is owned by another Central Mexico nonprofit. By example, we teach organic farming techniques and other ecological lessons. In the winter, we assist a Western Mexico nonprofit with a sailing program for youth. Finally, we host travelers and volunteers from inside and outside Mexico.
PBR: How did you come about choosing the main categories of cultural aspects for dissecting into your chapters? Also, how do you define your techniques of objective analysis?
JZM: I looked at the basics of the indigenous culture and recorded them straightforwardly. Then I analyzed the rules and academic materials set into place by public school administrations in both the USA and Mexico. I found that a miss-match exists for Native Mexicans. I found, to quote Representative John Kline, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, stated on February 14, 2011:
“Over the last 45 years we have increased our investment in education, but the return on that investment has failed to improve student achievement. Throwing more money at our nation’s broken education system ignores reality and does a disservice to students and taxpayers.”
The logical answer is to make research-based changes in administrative teaching methods and the materials being taught, plus to enlighten teachers with research-based cultural information and techniques to enhance learning.
PBR: Tell us, please, about your itinerary for your presentation and book tour.
JZM: I will travel by bus and train to colleges, libraries, public school boards, corporate offices, military bases, union halls, and any other place I am welcomed. I am flying from my home in Central Mexico to Seattle right after Easter, then heading south by bus or train to Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tucson. In late summer, I will travel to Chicago and then south by bus or train to San Antonio stopping along the way to speak. In the fall, I will begin in Miami, travel by bus or train north to New York and back to Atlanta stopping both ways to speak before returning home to Central Mexico. My tour will be based on doing everything in my power to share the latest scientific research on how to help marginalized Spanish speakers to learn in academic and work environments regardless of where they reside. My tour will make the point that in the same way that non-immigrant Mexican-Americans cannot imagine living without utilities, rural Mexican nationals cannot imagine living without low-cost public transportation.
PBR: What do you hope to accomplish with your book tour and speaking engagements and how can people reading this interview get more involved?
JZM: Quoting Helen Keller, “The highest result of education is tolerance.” My dream is that months of traveling will result in English speakers learning about practical alternative techniques to apply when interacting with marginalized Spanish speakers. A miracle would occur if administrators in public school and higher education, corporations, agricultural and services businesses, politics, and the military would take notice of this research.
PBR: Again, thank you for your time today, and we wish you the most success with your book.
JZM: I thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain the factors that drove me to write this book.