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Dissertations (2010-2014)

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José Palacios: Fragmentos de Sombra: Una Biografía Intelectual de Fernando González

Fifty years after Fernando González’s death (1895-1964) his books are still widely read literary circles and his cultural legacy is vibrant, but academic approaches to his work are rare and they focus on a limited number of his works. This dissertation is meant to fill that void. The method follows two roads. The first one uses the academic conceptual machinery, a deep archival research, and an exhaustive reading of secondary sources, in order to apply them on the reading of González’s entire work. The second road assembles a bridge between academic methods and the readers of González’s work beyond academy. These two roads revealed a pattern of fragmentary thought in González’s oeuvre. It is around this feature that the recurrent themes of his work are interwoven: fragmentation itself, a critique of borders and limits manifested in his resistance to the genres and academic disciplines, the body, the road, the shadows, ambiguity, uncertainty, and the aesthetic experience. This sui generis collection of subjects demanded the incorporation of theory from many different fields such as philosophy, literary theory, physics, logic, biology, history, psychology, politics, anthropology, among others. All these fields were already within the fabric of González’s writing. González, just like Don Quixote, took to the road to show the world that he was not willing to accept a truth that is not made for him. So fragmentation rises as a way preventing the world from having a single truth, religion, genre, philosophy, race, or political system. Each of the fragments is a single battle against windmills.


Patricia Garza-González: The interpretation of N+N and V+N Compounds by Spanish Heritage Speakers 

This study investigates how heritage language speakers interpret compound words in Spanish. These speakers never completely acquired, or possibly lost, aspects of Spanish as their first language, as English became the dominant language sometime in childhood (Montrul, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008; Polinsky, 2004, 2007; Silva-Corvalán 1994, 2003; Valdés 1995).  The study compares Mexican-American heritage speakers that live in Laredo, Texas with a Spanish dominant control group that lives in Mexico.

Two hundred and forty five Mexican-Americans university students that speak a border dialect of Spanish participated in this study. Group A (31 late sequential bilinguals) includes L2 learners who acquired Spanish monolingually in Mexico and learned English after age 12 when they emigrated to the United States. Group B (60 early sequential bilinguals) includes speakers who acquired Spanish monolingually in Mexico or in the home but came into contact with English at approximately age 6 when they started school.  Group C (154 simultaneous bilinguals) includes speakers who acquired Spanish and English simultaneously at home and for whom English has always been the language of instruction and the dominant language in most social contexts. The control group (Group D) consists of 27 native Spanish speakers.

The study is based on the interpretation of two specific nominal patterns of Spanish compounding: [N+N]N (e.g., obra cumbre “masterpiece,” lit. “work summit”) and [V+N]N (e.g., pelagatos “poor man,” lit. “peel+cats”), which have been studied extensively in child language acquisition research.  It was predicted that the amount of exposure heritage language speakers have to English would determine whether or not they interpret compounds in Spanish as they do compounds in English. Given that Spanish heritage language speakers who have acquired the V-O order before the critical age of 12 are familiar with the conventional mechanism of word formation with the V-N configuration, it was also predicted that heritage language speakers would interpret [V+N]N more accurately than [N+N]N compounds regardless of their degree of English-dominance. It was also predicted that semantic transparency/opacity would play a role in accurate interpretation. To test these hypotheses, participants were classified according to their age of L1/L2 acquisition. This was followed by an interpretation task in which the participants selected the correct definition for 40 compound words in Spanish.

The findings support the hypotheses that years of contact with English influence the speaker’s interpretation of these two Spanish compound types in terms of their headedness and transparency. Scores across the board show a 69 percent or better percent accuracy. This suggests that in spite of the low frequency of compound words in the input and reduced language use, there is robustness when it comes to the interpretation of both nominal compounds by all bilingual types. Results also show an interpretation continuum with advantages for late bilinguals, the group with fewer years of contact with English. The earlier speakers came in contact with English and the longer they have maintained contact with it, the more difficulties they encountered to correctly interpret the meaning of the compound. All groups of heritage language speakers interpreted [V+N]N more accurately than [N+N]N compounds regardless of their degree of English-dominance.


Julio César Aguilar: Bajo El Poderío Del Lenguaje: Capacidad Terapéutica De La Poesía En Cuatro Poetas Depresivos Y Suicidas: Raúl Gómez Jattin, Rodrigo Lira, Ángel Escobar Y Julio Inverso

Madness and art are two concepts that are quite often historically interrelated. The term “madness” designates various mental ailments, depression being one of them (major depressive disorder or depressive episodes in their various forms and diagnostic categories). The prevalence of depressive disorders is common among poets, who find therapeutic value in writing poetry. However, a number of poets turn to suicide as a last resort in order to end a life full of emotional suffering. This dissertation focuses on the study of the lives and works of four suicidal poets who suffered depression: Raúl Gómez Jattin, Rodrigo Lira, Ángel Escobar, and Julio Inverso. Natives of four different countries in Latin America, these authors belong to the last two decades of the twentieth century. This study demonstrates the importance of poetic discourse to the depressive poet by contributing to current research on this disease as demonstrated by the use of introspection throughout the creative process. That is, the poet with depression finds relief from the progression of his depressive symptoms by exploring emotions and subsequently exposing his feelings. However, when the word, due to its semantic load, is employed with emphasis on its negative connotation, the effect strongly results in the worsening of the mental condition. Comorbidity of psychiatric disorders is conspicuous. Thus, depression alternates with other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and substance abuse. This is the case with the poets investigated in this study, as two (Lira and Escobar) suffered from schizophrenia in addition to depression, while all four suffered from addiction (alcohol and drugs). Concomitant diagnoses were the trigger for each of these poets to commit suicide. It was also found that in the case of depression, writing poetry was no doubt beneficial. However, when depression was compounded by other mental disorders, the therapeutic capacity of poetry was found to be relative.


Luis Carlos Ayarza: Las Escrituras del Margen. En Torno a los Territorios Canónicos de la Literatura Latinoamericana: Lorenzo García Vega, Jorge Gaitán Durán y Nicolás Gómez Dávila

This dissertation is the study of some works that have been marginalized in contemporary Latin American canons. These writings, while not being absolutely unknown, occupy a marginal level of attention in secular junior and academic criticism (and therefore are rarely studied or proposed in the reading lists of literature programs). Among these texts are the following: memoirs, diaries, travel journals and epigrammatic writings such as scholia, and aphorisms. In this project are analyzed the oeuvres of three Latin American authors: Diario de Viaje by Jorge Gaitán Durán (travel diary), El Oficio de Perder (memories) by Lorenzo García Vega, and Escolios a un texto implícito (scholia) by Nicolás Gómez Dávila . This dissertation examines how the historical and geopolitical contexts in which these texts were written, and also, the life experience of the authors, contribute to determining not only their marginalization from the canon. It also studies  how these texts, because of their unique nature, enter into an active dialogue with their respective traditions, and in the process of this dialogue enrich them, but also problematize them. As a result, new ways to think the canons and canonical criteria are opened. As main theoretical sources the works of authors,Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Edward Said, and Harold Bloom were used. From the first authors, their ideas on minor literature, the rhizome and flows. From Edward Said’s his works on late style, exile, and from Harold Bloom the books: The Western Canon and The Anxiety of Influence. During the investigation special attention was paid to concepts such as exile, acculturation and literary influences. Topics such as travel, relationships between age and creative processes, writing and the visual arts, distinctions between fiction and nonfiction, sedentary lifestyle, and nomadism were studied, among others.


Mark McGraw: The universal Quixote: Appropriations of a literary icon

First functioning as image based text and then as a widely illustrated book, the impact of the literary figure Don Quixote outgrew his textual limits to gain near- universal recognition as a cultural icon. Compared to the relatively small number of readers who have actually read both extensive volumes of Cervantes’ novel, an overwhelming percentage of people worldwide can identify an image of Don Quixote, especially if he is paired with his squire, Sancho Panza, and know something about the basic premise of the story. The problem that drives this paper is to determine how this Spanish 17th century literary character was able to gain near-universal iconic recognizability. The methods used to research this phenomenon were to examine the character’s literary beginnings and iconization through translation and adaptation, film, textual and popular iconography, as well commercial, nationalist, revolutionary and institutional appropriations and determine what factors made him so useful for appropriation.

The research concludes that the literary figure of Don Quixote has proven to be exceptionally receptive to readers’ appropriative requirements due to his paradoxical nature. The Quixote’s “cuerdo loco” or “wise fool” inherits paradoxy from Erasmus of Rotterdam’s In Praise of Folly. It is Don Quixote ́s paradoxy that allows readers and viewers to choose the aspects of the protagonist that they find most useful. Some of that difference in interpretation has been diachronic, starting with a burlesque view of Don Quixote as the insane hidalgo, later developing a romantic interpretation of the protagonist as a noble knight. Much of that difference has been geographical, with Spanish appropriators tending to reflect Don Quixote as a heroic reflection of national character, and many outside of Spain choosing to use the knight as a symbol of impracticality and failure. Ultimately, Don Quixote ́s long lasting influence has been due to his ability to embody the best of the human spirit; the desire to fashion oneself into a more noble identity and achieve greater deeds than one ́s cultural environment would normally allow.


Pablo de Cuba: La usina del lenguaje: Teoría de la poesía neobarroca

La usina del lenguaje: Teoría de la poesía neobarroca examines one of the most relevant poetry tendencies of the last thirty years: the Neo-baroque. In this dissertation I have endeavored to analyze the works of a number of Hispano-American poets, such as: Jose Lezama Lima, Jose Kozer, Nestor Perlongher, Eduardo Espina, Roger Santivanez, among others, in order to demonstrate that Neobaroque is a significant component of the cultural and aesthetic spirit of the contemporary Hispanic World. I also demonstrate and conclude that Neo-baroque appropriates the main discourses of Post modernity, while at the same time implying a critical revision of the poetic traditions to which it belongs, such as Baroque, Modernism, Vanguardism and Colloquialism. Additionally, this dissertation allows me to rethink the Spanish Baroque of the Golden Age looking for connections and ruptures between Baroque, Modernity and Neobaroque aesthetics.

In order to establish a theoretical frame, on one level I adopt a structural approach along with a poetry analysis of the above-mentioned poets, and on another level, I explore the relationship between their works and other cultural endeavors, such as philosophical and theoretical thoughts, as well as appropriate political ideas.


Rebecca Ann Brewer: Language attitudes and linguistic profiling among micro-enterprisers in Mexico

This study examines the language attitudes of entrepreneurial students enrolled in the Academy for Creating Enterprise (ACE) in Mexico City toward six rural and urban varieties of Mexican Spanish to consider whether their attitudes towards these varieties influence their decisions about hiring.

A verbal guise test and focus groups were used to determine the current attitudes held by 98 ACE students towards the popular and upper-class dialects of Mexico City; the urban dialect of Mérida, Yucatan; the urban dialect of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; the urban dialect of Monterrey, Nuevo León; and the rural dialect of San Jeronimito, Guerrero. It was determined that the ACE students, who are current and future entrepreneurs and employers, do engage in “linguistic profiling” (Purnell et al., 1999), preferring the northern varieties of Spanish and the variety spoken by the upper class of Mexico City in all three dimensions of attractiveness, status, and hireability. These results indicate that speakers of the popular variety of Mexico City and the southern varieties of Yucatán and Guerrero are less likely to be hired. In addition, the students’ ratings of hireability were also influenced by the students’ age, gender, business owner status, and exposure to the dialect in question. The students’ level of income was found to be the most likely to influence the ratings of speaker attractiveness and status.

This case study of current and future employers enrolled at ACE responds to a call for the application of language attitudes research (Edwards, 1982; Garrett, 2010) and provides a model for working with an organization. Based on these findings, it was determined that ACE should modify its curriculum to include explicit training regarding linguistic attitudes and hiring practices.


Elia Tovar-Adams: Pensamiento lascasiano e indigenismo en la narrativa de Rosario Castellanos

The present dissertation analyzes the influence of the Lascasian thought in the works of Rosario Castellanos throughout Indigenismo. For that effect, an analysis of the trajectory of fray Bartolomé de las Casas and his evolution as the de Protector of the Indians and the development of the Lascasian philosophy has been made; at the same time, a study of Indigenismo as a philosophical ideology, has been carried out in this work. The Lascasian doctrine has evolved in the literary Indigenismo, with many representatives in Latin American Countries. Rosario Castellanos is considered one of the main writers of Indigenismo, that identifies itself with the Lascasian philosophy.

New Indigenismo, derived from Indigenismo, is analyzed deeply in this work. At the same time, Indigenismo in the narrative of Rosario Castellanos have been studied extensively in this dissertation.


Audrey Bryant Powell: The post-dictatorial thriller form

This dissertation proposes a theoretical examination of the Latin American thriller through the framework of post-dictatorial Chile, with a concluding look at the post civil war Central American context. I define the thriller as a loose narrative structure reminiscent of the basic detective story, but that fuses the conventional investigation formula with more sensational elements such as political violence, institutional corruption and State terrorism. Unlike the classic form, in which crime traditionally occurs in the past, the thriller form engages violence as an event ongoing in the present or always lurking on the narrative horizon. The Chilean post-dictatorial and Central American postwar histories contain these precise thriller elements. Throughout the Chilean military dictatorship (1973-1990), the Central American civil wars (1960s-1990s) and the triumph of global capitalism, political violence emerges in diversified and oftentimes subtle ways, demanding new interpretational paradigms for explaining its manifestation in contemporary society.

In Chile, however, despite a history ripe with the narrative elements of the thriller, a consistent thriller novelistic tradition remains underdeveloped. My research reveals that contemporary Chilean – and by extension, Latin American – fiction continues to be analyzed under the aegis of melancholy and the tragic legacy of dictatorship or revolutionary insurgency. Therefore, a theoretical examination of the post-dictatorial/postwar thriller answers the need to not only move beyond previously established literary and political paradigms toward a more nuanced engagement with the present, but to envision a form of thinking beyond national tragedy and trauma.

This dissertation analyzes samples of the post-dictatorial detective narrative and testimonial account, which constitute the mirroring narrative components of the thriller. The detective texts and testimonial writings analyzed in this project demonstrate how the particular use of the detective story and testimonial account mirror one another at every fundamental level, articulating what I am theorizing as the thriller structure. Using the theoretical approximations of John Beverley, Brett Levinson, Alberto Moreiras, Jon Beasley-Murray, Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Carl Schmitt and Carlo Galli, this project makes an original inquiry into why the thriller emerges as the most apt narrative framework for exploring the forms of violence in present-day Latin America.


Concepción María Hickey: Spanish language use and linguistic attitudes in Laredo, Texas between 1860 and 1930

This qualitative study investigated Spanish language use and linguistic attitudes in Laredo, Texas and the surrounding area from 1860 to 1930. In the public domain, sources include the Spanish and English language newspapers and Webb County Court documents. These were analyzed for evidence of the impact of English language contact and prevailing attitudes towards the use of Spanish from both the Hispanic and Anglo perspective. In the private domain, three major collections of private correspondence as well as other miscellaneous correspondence and records were transcribed and analyzed for evidence of metalinguistic or other attitudes towards Spanish. A linguistic analysis of the orthographic, phonological, morphosyntactic, and pragmatic features of Spanish used in the correspondence was also conducted.

The major collections of correspondence and other private papers include: 1) the John Z. Leyendecker collection, 2) letters from the Clemente and Federico Idar Family Papers, and 3) the Miguel San Miguel Jr. private collection. The multiple authors in these collections come from low to middle income families and from varied educational and linguistic backgrounds, thus providing a broad socio-economic linguistic sample.

Findings include a strong support for Spanish language use and teaching/learning of the Spanish language as well as varied levels of language confidence among bilingual and aspiring second language learners. Negative attitudes regarding class and lack of education rather than ethnicity were clearly held by some writers. Additionally, mixed attitudes about the strong presence of the Mexican culture in Laredo were found. The linguistic analysis found little evidence of English impact during the 1860s, but growing evidence of its influence during the early 20th century. Most prevalent were the use of English loan words, nativized loan words, and nonce borrowings. Some evidence of language shift was noted in the younger writers of the twentieth century. A few of the more salient Spanish linguistic features found include the use of the synthetic future verb form, minimal confusion between ser and estar, metathesis, apocope, vowel raising and lowering, and archaic expressions.


Jeremi Brad Brewer: Culture, poverty, and necessity entrepreneurship: The Academy for Creating Enterprise Mexico and the Philippines.

This dissertation demonstrates how ACE has successfully equipped thousands of poor Filipinos with the tools necessary for them to raise themselves out of poverty by offering them a culture-specific curriculum that they can implement in their businesses. Furthermore, it will be argued that ACE’s culture-specific curriculum could theoretically be applied in Mexico, where the “culture of poverty” exists in abundance.


Lisa Gardner-Flores: Promoting positive ethnolinguistic identity in the Heritage Language classroom through dialect awareness.

This study examined dialect awareness as an instructional practice when used to teach Spanish Heritage Language (HL) learners at a university located on the U.S.- Mexico border. The author employed bidialectalism as a theoretical perspective, recognizing the important role that U.S. Border Spanish plays in constructing ethnolinguistic identity. A mixed-methods research framework was used that included a pre-post survey instrument, focus group interviews, and classroom observations to examine HL student confidence toward learning a prestige language variety and attitudes toward speaking U.S. Border Spanish. Discourse analysis was employed to examine the discursive practices of the DA classroom. Quantitative survey results showed that students developed a number of significant attitudinal changes after taking a course infused with dialect awareness. Triangulated qualitative findings confirmed that student attitudes had changed after one semester. The author proposed an agenda for future application of dialect awareness in Spanish Heritage Language classrooms.


Miguel Angel Zárate Casanova: The construction of early modernity in Spanish film

The presence of early modern Spanish history in Spanish film has received only limited scholarly attention. The entire group of Spanish films dealing with the Spanish early modern era has never been placed under study by any overarching research. This dissertation reframes the evolution of the cinematographic representation of the Spanish past as it studies the mechanisms employed by Spanish films in representing an essential part of Spanish past: early modernity. Studied are 19 period films that group themselves around some of most representative subjects in early modernity: the Monarchy and Nobility, and the Spanish Inquisition. Studied also is the most expensive Spanish period film, Alatriste (2006). Through the analysis of artistic, industrial, historiographical, and political elements, and the deconstruction of the historical message of each film, as well as the analysis of their reception, it is clear that Spanish period films set in early modernity tell us as much about the time of their making and the shaping of the historical consciousness of Spain as they do about the era that they represent on screen.


Rosalinda Aregullín-Valdez: Neobarroco y erotismo en la poesía de Eduardo Espina y Néstor Perlongher

The poetry of Eduardo Espina and Nestor Perlongher is one of the most transcendental of Hispanic neo-baroque, emerging in the eighties and persisting in the new millennium as one of the most influential literary tendencies in the latest Latin- American generations. This dissertation explores neo-baroque as defined by Omar Calabrese: aesthetics of repetition; aesthetic of monstrosity; the importance of imprecision; predominance of labyrinth within a preference for enigma, occult, or the weight of nonlinearly reading of artistic fragmented texts and eroticism as defined by Georges Bataille in the poetry of Espina and Nestor Perlongher. Both poets emphasize the problematic figure of the transvestite and the homosexual transgressive subject and propose a new perspective of linguistic artifice as an artistic and discursive technique and employ eroticism as a mask that unveils the conventionality of the categories, which govern the patriarchal, masculine-heterosexual Western civilization.


Deb Cunningham: The exploration and preliminary colonization of the “Seno Mexicano” under don Jose de Escandon (1747–1749): An analysis based on primary Spanish manuscripts

In 1747, José de Escandón led an expeditionary force into the Seno Mexicano, the remote northern frontier of New Spain, which had developed into a safe haven for rebellious natives who had fled to the region as they resisted Spanish domination in the interior provinces. News of foreign encroachment into the region prompted officials in New Spain to renew their efforts to explore and pacify the region. Within three and one-half months, the area that had resisted previous attempts at exploration had been thoroughly explored and mapped. In December, 1748, Escandón set out to colonize the newly explored region, named Nuevo Santander. During the preliminary colonization of Nuevo Santander from 1748 to 1749, Escandón founded fourteen settlements along the Río Grande.

In this study, I transcribe, translate, and study all primary Spanish manuscripts documenting the exploration of the Seno Mexicano, and the preliminary colonization of the newly founded province of Nuevo Santander. I provide the first English annotated translation of Escandón’s Informe documenting the exploration of the Seno Mexicano, and the first English-language account of the preliminary colonization of Nuevo Santander that is based on all available manuscripts documenting the event: Escandón’s Autos and Friar Simón del Hierro’s Diario.

Escandón accomplished what no Spaniard before him could. He successfully explored the Seno Mexicano, and began colonizing the newly founded province of Nuevo Santander. Under Escandón’s colonization design, for the first and only time in the history of New Spain, Spanish officials relied on colonists rather than soldiers and priests to colonize a region. This colonization design had a definitive impact on the future development of the region, and provided the framework under which a civilian ranching industry would emerge and flourish. Escandón was one of the most important people in 18th century New Spain, and the impact of his accomplishments and unique colonization plan is still evident today on both sides of the Río Grande.


Lola Orellano Norris: General Alonso de Leon’s expedition diaries into Texas (1686–1690): A linguistic analysis of the Spanish manuscripts with semi-paleographic transcriptions and English translations

From 1686 to 1690, General Alonso de León led five military expeditions from Northern New Spain into modern-day Texas in search of French intruders who had breached Spanish sovereignty and settled on lands claimed by the Spanish Crown. His first two exploratory journeys were unsuccessful, but on the third expedition, he discovered a Frenchman living among Coahuiltec Indians across the Río Grande. In 1689, the fourth expedition finally led to the discovery of La Salle’s ill-fated colony and fort on the Texas Coast and to the repatriation of two of the French survivors. On his fifth and final expedition, De León established the first Spanish mission among the Hasinai Indians of East Texas and rescued several French children who had been abducted by the Karankawa.

Through archival research, I have identified sixteen manuscript copies of De León’s meticulously kept expedition diaries. These documents form a distinct corpus and hold major importance for early Texas scholarship. Several of these manuscripts, but not all, have been known to historians and have been addressed in the literature. However, never before have all sixteen manuscripts been studied as an interconnected body of work and submitted to philological treatment. In this interdisciplinary study, I transcribe, translate, and analyze the diaries from two different perspectives: linguistic and historical.

The linguistic analysis examines the most salient phonological, morphosyntactic, and lexical phenomena attested in the documents. This synchronic study provides a snapshot of the Spanish language as it was used in Northern Mexico and Texas at the end of the 17th century. An in-depth examination discovers both conservative traits and linguistic innovations and contributes to the history of American Spanish. The historical analysis reveals that frequent misreadings, misinterpretations, and mistranslations of the Spanish source documents have led to substantial factual errors which have misinformed historical interpretation for more than a century. Thus, I have produced new, faithful, annotated English translations based on the manuscript archetypes to address historical misconceptions and present a more accurate interpretation of the historical events as they actually occurred.


Travis Doug Sorenson: Voseo to tuteo accommodation among two Salvadoran communities in the United States

This study documents and accounts for maintenance and change in dialectal features of Salvadoran Spanish in the United States, especially voseo , as opposed to tuteo , terms signifying the use of the second person singular familiar pronouns vos and tú , with their corresponding verb forms. It compares two distinct Salvadoran populations, one in Washington, D.C., and the other in Houston, Texas.

Salvadorans constitute the largest Hispanic group in the nation’s capital, while in Houston they are outnumbered by other Hispanics, particularly Mexicans. It was predicted that Salvadorans in Washington, D.C. would maintain voseo more and employ tuteo less than those in Houston. This sociolinguistic phenomenon is accounted for by Accommodation Theory. Based on previous studies, it was also predicted that male participants would maintain voseo more than females due to the covert prestige of this form.

To test these hypotheses, data were gathered using three protocols. The first was a questionnaire, with over 100 respondents in each city, on second person singular address forms and social variables. In the second protocol, 10 pairs of subjects in each city engaged in different verbal activities aimed at eliciting direct forms of address. The third protocol involved unstructured home visits with two married couples to observe spontaneous speech.

The results supported the hypotheses in some regards more than others. When considering all the protocols, the levels of voseo were much lower and those of tuteo much higher in both cities than what had been predicted. As expected, voseo usage rates in Washington, D.C., were higher than in Houston in the second and third protocols, but voseo claiming rates in the first protocol were slightly higher in Houston. Also as expected, in both the first and second protocols there was a significantly higher rate of accommodation to tuteo among women than men. The most salient finding from the home visit participant observations was that while there was voseo use in Washington, D.C., there was none in Houston, even among those who had previously used it.


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