searching for mami & abuelita

reimagining ethnic studies praxis through women of color feminisms, art, and archiving

by wendy barrales

weaving art-based methods, women of color (w0c) feminisms, digital participatory archiving (par-chiving), and ethnic studies pedagogy, this dissertation investigates how I explored and produced knowledge collectively with young women of color that reimagines classrooms as learning spaces for liberation. this dissertation, searching for mami & abuelita, is an extension of the women of color archive (WOCArchive) a digital storytelling project documenting, preserving and sharing the experiences of our matriarchs of color. this project, born out of an interview with my abuelita aída about her life in rural veracruz, sought out to document and preserve the stories of women of color in my community as a way to learn from their experiences both in and outside of K-12 classrooms. drawing from this transformative experience of documenting stories where i position art as a research methodology of analysis, the archive was incorporated as a praxis.

through an intentional curation of artifacts that showcase the processes and journey in creating this digital dissertation, this project explores: my visual autoethnographic reflections on relationality, key moments on research design from the pre and post launch of the archive, and multimedia participatory tools that invite you, the reader, to co-create knowledge within this project. this dissertation details how i turned to art, woc feminisms, and ancestral knowledge through oral histories, to engage in knowledge production towards re-imagining and creating spaces of liberation in the classroom and beyond.

'abue y tj' analog & digital collage, wendy barrales, 2020

parts of this project are restricted 🪻🌻

below, readers have full access to the first chapter, margarita // daisy, which provides a roadmap of the entire dissertation. this homepage also provides a table of contents with detailed overviews of each chapter and all multimedia resources. if you would like full access to participatory tools and findings chapters, please click on the link above REQUEST FULL ACCESS

an ongoing chrysalis ✨🦋

this is a living dissertation. in some ways, this project is "final" & "published" for the purpose of my degree conferral. but really, this work is an iteration of my chrysalis, a transformative series of moments throughout the creation of this archive and dissertation. because of this, and because theory is a living breathing verb, this project continues to live, grow, and go through its own series of chrysalises. over time, you may notice the names of sections change, texts become private, and/or see larger access to multimedia tools.

how to be an ethical guest: a note on terms of use

  • as a guest of this project, i ask that you annotate, explore, read, and interact with a great level of intentionality and care.

  • this project carries intimate stories of elders from my community. there are tender moments of loss, trauma, laughter, and wisdom. as a guest, i expect that you enter this space only when you are able to be intentional, present, and respectful.

  • i also want to remind you, the audience, that these are personal stories that do not necessarily reflect overall beliefs of a particular identity but rather showcase the nuanced experiences of matriarchs from the Black, indigenous, chicana, and other communities of color

  • this is a growing project and we, the wocarchive, would love to preserve more stories. please follow our instagram @wocarchive to learn more about our submission process

begin exploring.

this dissertation is non-linear --- it is meant to be read in whichever order speaks to you the reader. i encourage you to scroll through the text titles and click on the images that resonate with you, the flowers that catch your eye, or make you feel something.

if you'd like an overview of the dissertation, begin with margarita // daisy 🌼


  • Cover of margarita // daisy.

    margarita // daisy.introduction: tending our gardens

    by wendy barrales

    named after my first country, mi mama, margarita, this first chapter provides an overview of the dissertation and parts of my origin story. this work is grounded in the matriarchs in our community, and my genesis and first point of departure, my mother.

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  • Cover of amapola // poppy

    amapola // poppyfrom sí se puede to pa'lante

    by wendy barrales

    this chapter is a formalized literature review that takes a close look at the current state of Ethnic Studies. the purpose of this literature review is to give the audience a thorough understanding of the state of the field as this project began in 2016.

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  • Cover of lavanda // lavender.

    lavanda // lavender.(in)visible wom(e)n: rewriting ourselves through theory and methods

    by wendy barrales

    this chapter describes the theoretical underpinnings of this dissertation influenced by well-known scholars such as Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and gloria anzaldúa. it also includes artists as theorists who have influenced the work as a disruption to who academia traditionally includes and give flowers. the chapter concludes with a methodology section that explains (1) the design of this project, and (2) how I, wendy, am in relation with my community, students, and the design of this research – in a form that anzaldúa refers to as autohistoria (1981).

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  • Cover of girasol // sunflower

    girasol // sunflowertestimonio and counterstorytelling by immigrant-origin children and youth: insights that amplify immigrant subjectivities

    by Ariana Mangual Figueroa, wendy barrales

    through the findings of this chapter, coauthored with my adviser and mentor dr. ariana mangual figueroa, we discuss how the quotidian mundane stories of immigrant-origin girls help amplify and nuance our understanding of immigration and of agency. this chapter is published in the societies journal and follows the conventions of the journal.

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  • Cover of cempasúchil // marigold.

    cempasúchil // marigold.nuancing latinidad through visual testimonios in a women of color archive: latina girls and matriarchs as knowledge producers

    by wendy barrales

    this chapter explores the visual testimonios of girls and matriarchs with roots in latin america, including my oldest living ancestor abuelita aída. featuring testimonios with roots in guatemala, ecuador, puerto rico, and méxico, the reader learns what latina girls find to be important to preserve for future generations and acknowledge the need for more research on latina girlhood. this chapter also explores the significance of visual, aesthetics, and arts-based methods when creating digital oral histories, what i call visual testimonios. this chapter is published in the undergrad textbook Latinx Experiences: Interdisciplinary Perspectives by SAGE Publishing and follows the conventions of their textbook.

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  • Cover of gipsófila // babys-breath

    gipsófila // babys-breathintergenerational storytelling as a public art praxis

    by wendy barrales

    this chapter touches on how visual aesthetics and intentionally creating intergenerational participatory learning spaces bring various parts together, creating a feeling of wholeness. like babys-breath, the stories are recognizable and in the creation of a digital story space, create community and are connected to the smaller fragments coming together the way they do in a collage, the prominent medium used throughout the WOCArchive.

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  • Cover of floreciendo // blooming.

    floreciendo // blooming.conclusion: where we go from here

    by wendy barrales

    the title of this chapter is quite ambitious for a conclusion. it is a hopeful and ambitious wish. a wish for the young people i’ve had the honor to work with, for educators hoping to do this work, and for ethnic studies as a field, to bloom. it is written with conventions of a letter and feminist autoethnography.

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  • Cover of agradecimientos // acknowledgements

    agradecimientos // acknowledgementsgiving everyone their flowers.

    a thorough note of gratitude to everyone in my community that made this happen.

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watch, view, interact, and explore the multimedia resources from this project through the resources below.

Suggested Citation

Barrales, Wendy S., "Searching for Mami & Abuelita: Reimagining Ethnic Studies Praxis Through Women of Color Feminisms, Art, and Archiving" (2023). Retrieved from


  • publisher place
    New York City