Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Hispanic Studies and Educational Studies

First Advisor

Christopher van Ginhoven Rey

Second Advisor

Andrea Dyrness


For many years, the United States has been known as the great “melting pot” with a mixture of people representing different races and ethnicities that have come together to form one nation and one American identity. The American educational system has attempted to facilitate the creation of one national identity through the process of assimilation and through its insistence that its citizens leave behind their other racial and ethnic identities. As part of this thesis, I investigate the ways in which culture, families, schools and society have shaped the identities of fifteen Latino students at Trinity. Identity theorists have spoken of the formation of identity as a free choice, which one makes with unlimited options and restrictions. However, they have neglected to recognize the various restrictions and limited opportunities that people confront while constructing their identities. Through this investigation, I explain how the identities of Latino students have been influenced by restrictions by various individuals or institutions, such as family members, friends, teachers, peers, and institutions, such as schools. Using critical race theory and Latino critical theory, I examine the influence of racism, classism, and sexism on the identities of the students who participated. These students have struggled to define themselves and construct their identities in order to survive in a nation that has placed an emphasis on assimilation in order to succeed. Their identities and experiences have been profoundly shaped by culture, the perceptions of others, and research and demographic initiatives. As part of my investigation, I discovered the potential of the college to encourage the development of student identities through different spaces throughout the campus. For many of these students, their time at Trinity has influenced their identity development as they attempt to find themselves in a new context. Many students expressed the feeling that their experiences at Trinity have been about defending their identities. Students felt they had to defend their Latino identity against the negative perceptions of their intellectual capabilities and of their immediate Hartford neighbors, whom are mostly Latino. My research touches on the implications of these and other findings for the college if it is to create a more welcoming environment for the various identities represented in the student body.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies and Educational Studies.