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Lourdes Diaz Soto

Lourdes Diaz Soto's 1997 book, Language, Culture, and Power: Bilingual Families and the Struggle for Quality Education, focuses on the Puerto Rican, Spanish/English bilingual community in Steel Town, a small industrial town in Pennsylvania. In particular, the book explores the language dynamics within and outside of the Spanish-speaking community, and it provides a detailed examination of the dismantling of the town's award-winning, twenty-year-old public school bilingual program and the effect of the program's termination on the Puerto Rican families, particularly the children. Soto's goal in writing the book was "to afford voice to the families regarding their perspectives on bilingual education in their community" (1997, p. xix). This research will review Soto's work, paying particular attention to its contribution to the study of bilingualism and bilingual education programs.

The book is the result of nine years' worth of data collecting, mostly in the form of interviews with twelve Latino/a members of the Steel Town community. Soto's participants were all "nominated by members of the bilingual community for their leadership skills and were described as 'well respected in the community'" (Soto, 1997, p. 25); they were interviewed regarding their personal educational experiences as well as those of their children, their attitudes toward bilingual education, and their in-home language practices. All of them were highly educated, upwardly-mobile, and active in their community; Soto chose them for her study specifically because they had succeeded "in spite of hostile educational climates" (Soto, 1997, p. 25).

The "hostile educational climate" in Steel Town--the problem around which Soto's book revolves--is that in spite of the town's large Latino/a population, the community at large is extremely prejudiced against Spanish-speakers, to the extent that they voted to abolish the bilingual program in their public school...

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