This study examined the language and literacy practices in two Mexican schools over a period of approximately six months. Our project was guided by the theoretical notion that these practices reflect both societal influences and some of the ways that a given society itself is shaped. We applied this idea to the linguistic interactions that we recorded in four classrooms, two beginning primary classrooms and two grade 4 classrooms. Classroom observations, teacher and administrator interviews, school-produced documents, and publicly displayed texts constituted the data corpus. Findings indicated that students were provided with considerable freedom in terms of their spoken language which contrasted greatly with the emphasis on form in the production of written language. Reading constituted a middle ground depending on whether students were directed to read silently or aloud. We concluded that these practices shaped a particular type of literate habitus, one that positioned both teachers and students to accept as natural the idea that, at best, schooling could provide only partial access to the kinds of linguistic capital valued by dominant interests. On the basis of our findings, we recommend a retheorization of these language and literacy practices in terms of how they might be reformulated to challenge the dominance of particular literacies. Retheorizing these practices requires deeper understanding of the types of literate capital available to students in specific locations, and also that asymmetries between these types are not merely questions of knowledge or technical mastery, but also questions of power and access to power.