Literacy in the Flea markets

By M. E. Guerra

Last semester I completed a literacy project around the flea markets in the valley.  I wanted to see what types of literacies were being used in the flea markets or what types of literacies could be found.  The flea markets that were visited were located in Hidalgo, McAllen, and Mercedes.  I also visited one of my kindergarten students to see how literacy in the flea markets influenced him.

The flea market of Hidalgo had few poster board signs up and if there were any they were mainly in Spanish.  Many of the people that come to this flea market are from Reynosa, Mexico.  This is why most of the signage is in Spanish.  People were mainly talking in Spanish and negotiating prices.      

The flea market of McAllen had a lot more signs in English and Spanish.  Most stands had bilingual signs posted to accommodate customers.  There were a lot of written signs with pictures to go with what was stated.  I also found people who sold books, which I found very interesting.  There were all types of music playing left and right.

The flea market in Mercedes had a lot of professional signs posted up in both English and Spanish.  People were conversing in both English and Spanish.  The music around the flea market was mainly country.  There were a lot more children with their parents at this flea market compared to the other flea markets.

One of my kindergarten students’ families owns a t-shirt stand at one of the flea markets and I noticed how much the literacies at the flea market had a great influence in the student.  The student usually related things to the flea market or had experienced certain things other children had not yet experienced.  This students’ language was well developed for his age because his situation allowed him to observe and listen to his parents constantly 0use language.  When I went to visit the student, he was greeting customers and showing them around the stand to see what art design they wanted on t-shirt or what his father was capable of doing.  Not many 5 year olds would just talk to any stranger but this student was able to talk to individuals as long as it had to do with his parents business.  The parents told me they would allow the child to do this so he would not be shy but that they were able to see how it helped with his language.  They also shared that their kind of business dealt with a lot of writing which helped the student see all these words or messages when customers would request for something to be done. The student also took me around the aisle and read all the signs in the stands and told me what I could find in each stand.  I was surprised to see him saying hi to every owner of the stand and vice-versa; the student looked like a grow-up greeting everyone.

Literacy is all around us and strongly used in all places.  No matter how much education an individual may have or how strong they feel in their literacies; it is shown through different ways.  Visiting these flea markets I found out that bargaining is a great way to show a strong literacy skill.  People use language to get what they want and pictures to show what they are talking about.

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