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Community cultural wealth and literacy capital in Latin American communities

Lina Trigos-Carrillo (Department of Psychology of Development and Education, Universidad de La Sabana, Chia, Colombia)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 12 December 2019

Issue publication date: 12 December 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the literacy practices of the families and communities of first-generation college students in Latin America, and how community and family literacies can inform the understanding of first-generation college students’ identity and cultural values.


This transnational ethnography was conducted in local communities around three public universities in Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica. Participants included nine fist-generation college students and more than 50 people in their families and communities (i.e. relatives, parents and friends). Data gathering occurred at the university outside the formal space of the classroom, at home, and in the community. Data were interpreted through the lens of the community cultural wealth framework.


The author found that first-generation college students and their families and communities engaged in rich literacy practices that have been overlooked in policy, research, and media. It is argued that the concept literacy capital is necessary to acknowledge the critical literacy practices communities engage in. Literacy capital was manifested in these communities to preserve cultural traditions, to sponsor literacy practices and to question and resist unjust sociopolitical circumstances.

Practical implications

The findings of this study should inform a culturally sustaining pedagogy of academic literacies in higher education. Beyond asset-based approaches to academic literacies in Latin America, critical perspectives to academic literacies teaching and learning are needed that acknowledge the Latin American complexities.


These findings are significant because they unveiled how people in local communities were informed about the sociopolitical dynamics at the national and international scale that affected or even threatened their local culture, and how they used their literacy capital to react critically to those situations.



The author would like to express sincere gratitude to the communities in Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica. Specially, the author would like to thank Miguel Barradas and the Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa, Maximiliano Prada and the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional de Colombia, and Silvia Alvarado and the Universidad de Costa Rica. The author would also like to thank Dr James F. Baumann, Dr Tony Castro and Dr Rebecca Rogers for their careful reading of the manuscript and their insightful comments. Finally, this study would not have been possible without the daily support and care of Charly.


Trigos-Carrillo, L. (2019), "Community cultural wealth and literacy capital in Latin American communities", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 3-19.



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