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illustration of people with hair on their bodies

A hairy girl’s lament

illustration of people with hair on their bodies

Illustration by: Jessica Martinez

All of my life

I’ve been a hairy girl

My arms? Covered!

My legs? Covered! 

My upper lip

My sideburns

My stomach

(My god, even my knuckles? Hair can grow there too???)

Covered.

I dreaded wearing basketball shorts to P.E. 4th period 

I was always embarrassed, always mocked

Chewbacca… Very original

White girls with blonde arm hair

They shimmer in the sun

But thick dark hair drapes over my skin

It doesn’t sparkle or shine

For so long I’ve been ashamed of my body

But then…. lo and behold… 

White Feminism™ decided it’s COOL to be hairy

Thanks, White Feminism™!

I’m still trying to love all my hair

I stopped shaving my arms and stomach 

(I saved thousands of $$$!)

I look back and cringe at the memory of bleaching my arm hair

I wish I could have told little me that she was beautiful

Her hair didn’t make her “manly” or ugly

It’s natural, everyone has body hair, who cares?

So this one goes out to all my hairy girls 

Your hair is beautiful

Your hair on your arms and legs and knuckles and stomach

Even your hair on your toes, especially those hairs

All of your hair

All of it

All of you

illustration of 4 different nature scenes with writing over them

i am, i am not

illustration of 4 different nature scenes with writing over them

Visual by: Jessica Martinez

i am not the drowning voices

that attempt to torment

my every move and

breath;

i am not

a fragment

of your imagination.

i am not

a rock

on the pavement

or a pebble on a cliff –

not the distraught

representation of womanhood

with scattered

goals and dreams and aspirations; 

not the woman 

with a loss of identity

when you fail

to push

your way into

my veins 

and mind 

and being.

 

 

i am not

reliant

on your existence

or influence; 

i am not living 

for the harsh whispers 

(or should i say yells?)

that attempt

to enchain 

my spirit.

i am not the corrupt 

representation of 

innocence

upheld with a tainted image

of perfection 

and enamored 

like the virgin mary. 

 

 

i am not enslaved

to the bitterness

and cruelty

that resides 

at the tip of your tongue

and i am not to retreat 

to the shadows

and succumb to your power. 

i am not the virgin mary, 

or did you forget?

 

 

i am kindness and warmth

but also rage and passion; 

warm fires slowly grow within me,

creating an identity 

that is forceful and

everchanging

like the trade winds,

but also holding a gentle touch; 

soft and comforting 

like that of the sun 

warming and giving life

to the earth.

 

i am not

i am 

i am not

i am

illustration of young girl facing laughter

Se te hizo chistoso cuando….

Una riza debe de consolar el alma de todo lo malo en la vida. En cambio, a veces sin reconocerlo, las personas tristemente usan sus rizas para burlar y aislar a los demás. 

Our laughs say so much. Rather than console people’s souls from all the negativity in their lives, sadly, people use their laughs to mock and isolate others. 

To this day, I ask myself why was it funny when you heard me ask a question in Spanish to our first-grade teacher? Were you amused by the way my bilingual tongue could roll its “r’s?” Did you think it was okay to laugh at those who were gifted with the ability to speak in anything but what was normal to you? When I was younger, your laughs would have broken the thin sheet of ice that covered the entirety of my heart, but today, I can simply tell you that each new comment brings a layer of protection from your witty laugh. My dual identities were not something meant to be turned on and off, like a light switch for your amusement each time I translated your dirty words. 

Was it funny that as an adult, you realized that you had no direct connection to the language of your ancestors? Meanwhile, having been raised speaking Spanish, developing into Spanglish, and tracing the sounds of Nahuatl from my parents’ lips, I understood the importance of sembrando las semillas nativas de mis raíces into the diverse communities I have proudly worked with.

I can assume by your jokes that it was funny when you saw the holes in our jeans patched up with extra fabric at our knees. Did you feel the need to mock us by showing off your brand new clothes every school year in comparison to our hand-me-downs? Maybe you were just jealous that we had more fun on the playground, causing the denim at our knees to wear out. Could it be that your mamá never taught you the value of a good pair of jeans, passed down from sibling to sibling with the help of a sewing needle? Or what about the looks our parents received upon appearing at parent-teacher conferences, award assemblies, or meetings after work, not being able to change out of their stained and dirt-filled clothing after a long day of agricultural work? 

Now tell me, why was it funny to poke at the scar on my right arm from a shot that identified I was born in Mexico? Was it really all that fun to poke at, like if it was a dimple from a smile, that drew people’s attention for a needed explanation? It isn’t funny when the same classmates you grew up teasing, are now fearing deportation or might have families facing the inhumane treatment of immigration detention centers. It isn’t funny to be fearfully awaiting any upcoming news on the status of DACA. Where are you now to support the “simple” fears that became real, all too fast, for the undocumented community? 

To retrace back on the years, my fragile corazón de pollo grew to combat all the emotions that came from your laughs. Your laughs never made me feel like being bilingual was ever shameful, for it only made the connection I have with my community much stronger. I may not have come from the wealthiest of families, but we are all equally worthy and deserving of creating our own success stories. I wish my childhood-self would have been strong enough to realize that our backgrounds are much more valuable than the constant laughs and mockery the country still directs towards us.

You see, children tend to laugh at a lot of things; but, to this day, why was it funny? 

Do you still think it’s funny when you realize that the innocent minds cultivated by ignorance grow up to be the peers, politicians, and public officials who use their laughs to mock and shame our community? Children grow up oblivious to how these forms of subtle mockeries shape the lack of acceptance for other cultures and nationalities. Growing up in similar communities tends to be helpful when navigating and developing your identity. However, stepping out of those communities can be tough when finding and claiming your space. Once you learn to disregard the critiques and mockery of society, you begin to realize that our communities are not looking for pity but simply a desire to be heard. 

In a world that challenges us with their laughs, there is no way out, other than to mature and defend ourselves at such an early age. For this reason, always remember that we create our identity. We defend our identity. We enable our identity. 

When we finally use these mockeries to reclaim our power to prove you wrong, don’t be surprised by our laughs, because little did you know, that we would be the future of this country.

Visual by: Haven Morales

La nariz como la de mi padre

En cada foto

En cada reflejo

En cada estremecer de caras

Mi cara y la de mi padre producían una encrucijada biológica

rechazaba la sobresaliente nariz

Como dos espejos temblorosos que jugaban conmigo

Metiéndome el pinchazo de la cruel claridad que inquiría a verme entre el espejito

Nariz grande que cuando pasaba mi dedo exigente por encima

Recorriendo se encontraba con el bache que resaltaba

Minuciosamente se cambiaba de forma condenada a corregirse

Ah me gusta este angulo!

Como si la mismísima mano artística de Dalí la hubiera pintado

La figuraba como sus relojes derretidos que me perturban

Distorsionada grande fea me delataba y me colocaba a la semejanza de mi padre

Mi cara discute la arquitectura de la cara porosa de mi padre

la misma nariz que me pertenencia

Como dos espejos temblorosos que me aflojaban

Entre la cruel claridad y la tenaz obscuridad

En cada sufrimiento repentino y en cada esfuerzo

El maquillaje no podía cubrir mi inseguridad

Me alejaba del espejo

Quisiera que mi reflejo fuese como las pinturas de los pintores impresionistas

Que niegan la claridad que me hace sufrir el espejo

Así es como mi mirada se iba aflojando hacia el suelo

Así es como mi mirada nunca es fija cuando te veo en la cara.

Esto soy.

Soy esta nariz.

Nació en Yaanga: A Xicano in Settler Los Angeles

La historia de esta tierra,
It sings of pain, suffering, and trauma.

I grew upon it, oblivious
Not knowing what it meant,
To see its memory
Struggle for existence.

“This is YAANGA,” a Xicano tells me,
The ancestral lands del Pueblo Tongva.
He says we have forgotten its memory,
That we’ve forgotten its people.
Coloniality and modernity have erased them.

All of us here who inhabit
The settler colonial fabrication of Yaanga
Falsely named
“El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina
de los Ángeles de Porciúncula”
By spanish colonizers and their followers,
We mustn’t forget to see its roots and memory
Because it calls for dignity and recovery.

With those ceremonial days,
Cuando estoy danzando,
I look to the Cosmos
To bless these lands,
And I pray to Mother Earth
To protect these original guardians
And their future generations.

When I walk through the streets of LA,
I hope that one day
This community
Will see the Native people of these lands,
And together with our familias
We can
Liberate,
Decolonize,
Indigenize,
And respect Mother Earth.

Nació en Yaanga,
I see and feel the ancestors
Del Pueblo Tongva
And the Pueblo today lives and fights
Erasure,
Marginalization,
Recognition,
Memory.

Yaraarkomokre’e.

Girl Head Pendulous

Girl Head Pendulous

Written by:

Vanessa González Soto

For Mama and mi Tio

Show me a man who lives alone and has a perpetually clean kitchen, and 8 times out of 9 I’ll show you a man with detestable spiritual qualities”

Charles Bukowski

 

An account of a young 24 year old Latina releasing herself from the chains of the absent father and of his crude world and in her search for healing.

Photo by Vanessa González Soto

 

 

ON HER FRONT DOOR ON HER STOOP – EARLY AFTERNOON

She shuffled impatiently through the pockets of her black hoodie.

VAN, (24 yr old)

ON A LIVE WIRE UP OFF THE STREET…

(She stands licking her lips on the traffic intersection)

She pulls out her inhaler. She thinks what a real horror show it would be if she misplaced it. The dependency on it cripples her, should she find herself losing it.

FADE TO BLACK.

INT. BIXBY PARK, LONG BEACH, CA – CAR RIDE – 6:00 PM

She struggles a bit to harness her Siberian Husky. She manages and takes his leash. She walks to her alley heavy-headed where her white Toyota is parked.

(key in the ignition)

She glances through her rear-view mirror until her dog settles at his favorite spot next to the window where she had left a small opening for him to entertain throughout the ride.An air of anticipation is felt but a memory, maybe it is more like a sensation, maybe melancholy takes hold.

(it jolts her suddenly)

Whatever it is, the sensation is familiiar, persistent, unwanted. 

The air through the car windows fills her lungs again resuscitating her

(she twists the volume knob and RADIOHEAD’S “Karma Police” plays)

FADE OUT.

 

INT. SKATE-PARK- ON THE CURBSIDE

When the sky cannot decide to be mesmerizing blue or dazzling gold. The dueling of the skies above her at six in the evening.

Photo Courtesy by Eustace Simpson

ZOOM IN

(She continues to sit at the curbside scrolling through her playlist)

In controlled symmetry, she unwinds her earphones.

(one is busted!)

She gets too caught up with deciding what album to play.

She scrolls, scrolls, and scrolls.

(she begins to mouth and bob her head to FRANK OCEAN’S “Nights” from the BLOND album)

She has been sitting on the hard concrete for minutes now a creeping numbness takes hold of her. Feet first, her legs solidify on the curb.

She remains there. She eyes the ocean, the sky, the people who now have faded in the in-between. You know when the earth’s natural light and warm glow becomes replaced with the artificial.

Photo Courtesy by Eustace Simpson

(it is approximately 8:00 PM, light posts light up)

 

She suddenly finds it hard to breathe….

Suddenly relevant, one puff, three puffs for the fear,

Girl head pendulous over the cupboard,

suffocation interruption bursts ignite the oxygen glitches.

She don’t connect.

She tucks her feelings into a ziplock in the back pockets of her jeans,

like little necessary Gods concealed,

Girl head pendulous over her knees, holds agitation of head

She don’t give courtesy to the concrete,

hands remain at distance,

eyelids encapsulated that hang low, how low, why low?

In the certain demise of her lungs as

she kicks away at the eyes below her but the eyes dead ahead subdue her.

She curls, she expands, as she contemplates the hanging why’s of her eyes.

Memories flick on and off like light switch.

She is in retrograde.

But she remembers God only pricks, right?

BREATHE!

 

FADE OUT.

INT. HER TIO SITS ON THE CURB WITH HER- NIGHT

VAN

“A rush of blood to the head said led to your death, but see I saw the soul glitch. Do you know unhappiness? How it pains?”

TIO

“It lies simple and heavily on the soul, mija.”

VAN

“Do you think of her often, sometimes, every day?”

TIO

“See the heartache carries you to the bottle but they never understood me.”

VAN

“In how many ways did they fantasize your death at the curbside? See your friend came knocking at our door with honest words…”

TIO  

“The world hurts”

VAN

“Are you with her now? Did you get love, Tio?”

                           TIO

 he sits silently (beside her)

VAN

“I saw the soul glitch in you. Alcohol plus you plus bottle did not equal you.

                            TIO

(he remains silent)

VAN

“How many disdained your ways? What happened? Why did you let your head fall to the concrete?”

VAN (cont’d)

“Tio?”

(She turns to find him gone)

VAN (cont’d)

“I miss you the most. Will I find you under the guava tree?”

(her legs lift her to her feet)

She gets into her car and drives away.

Her uncle bleeds heartache,

he reads alcoholic,

but he remains a lost confidant and sensitive in the ways she is.

VAN (cont’d) (as she drives home)

“Where is my father?

(pensive)

In another home or maybe in that corner restaurant by my mothers home….

Who is my father?

My father is the creased up couch with chewed up David sunflower seeds in between the cracks you know where someone has been sitting on for days, my father is me everytime I look into the mirror to the nose that demarcates me from my sister.

Why is he my father?

To realize I am composed of something else.”

VAN (cont’d)

(Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” poem reverberates in her mind)

“Tio, cada vez que mi padre encaja su  pupila en mi pupila no pierdo mi ser de sentido.”

“Daddy, daddy you bastard I’m through!”

(She proclaims)

INT. DRIVING DOWN PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY- NIGHT

She cannot gauge her fears. She drives down familiar streets.

VAN

“I’d rather chip my pride, than lose my mind out here”

(she reassures herself)

She comes up to the corner of Wilmington Avenue and PCH, the neon Coin Laundry is lit up and she contemplates the connection…

(night ride in a contemplative mode)

She remembers driving in her mother’s 1979 orange Z-28 Chevy at thirteen and stretching her head up to the window with anticipating eyes to find her uncle exiting the Coin Laundry as he walks out with a crinkled black plastic bag concealing his most meticulous effort and the cleanest whites folded neatly in his bag. She remembers how he curled up in the passenger seat because his knees would always hit the dashboard.

(a smile came to her)

She felt a comfort to find him in the passenger seat where she could nudge the seat and he would turn and share a glorious smile.

She would continue to meet her uncle at laundromats, gas stations, and parks as the years went by in his best attire which was assembled by a white tee tucked in blue faded jeans and how his jeans were always short above his ankle exposing whiter socks than his sneakers.

(she manages a laugh)

She revelled in the simplicity of her uncle’s attire because it rendered a simple man . His washed out hat that tucked away his auburn blond hair, as mama and I

waited for him day after day,

as he trailed off

into the streets in a Bukowski crisp, free verse

and waved goodbye.

(she remembers….)

VAN (cont’d)

(she pulls into the Coin Laundry  parking lot for a second)

In those multiple car rides

as she sat in the backseat

she came to realize how pride took form

and how pride and the bottle were synonymous to her uncle.

Far from the bottle, her uncle she thought was her confidant her equal in the matters of solitude where under the guava tree in mama’s backyard he spoke about life to her at thirteen.

 

INT. THE KITCHEN- NIGHT

She enters the kitchen door to find mama busy at the stove, el arroz frying and the meat boiling in a delicious aroma as she paces back and forth between the news and the meal at hand.

Everything lively and mama tuned into Univision news where matters of presidential idiocy are televised relentlessly with occasional mentions to Syria, the overload of news that never seem less morose.

MAMA

“Ya dijo el Jorge Ramos…pues el Trump ya nos gano”

(her face gradually showing surrender)

(Van sits on the kitchen table and opens her notes on her iphone and begins to type something….)

“Papa, you never stand a quiet minute in the same room as me

But how you smile and laugh with the guests in your greatest disguise

Papa you ransack the refrigerator because the beans and tortillas are not sufficient for you

But how you go about your way to cook lavish meals for yourself

and bring bread for the guests!

Papa you never handle the furniture with care

Mama don’t go wasting your time to care about the tears here and there

And how you speak so lovely to others other than your daughter

Don’t no one hear your yells

Don’t no one hear the shouts

Don’t no one hear the poundings

Don’t no one else know about your other self

You don’t know how little you matter

To the family you shattered

When one terrible day it will matter to you

In all your shucking, stealing, and jiving

You scratch for that eternal itch in the

smoke that incinerates your family in your periphery

who , I,  on a live wire up of the street stand in an age old clique

The standing image of the girl with daddy issues and

her head heavy, like a pendulous to the ground”

 

(She stops typing, and closes her phone)

 

INT. MAMA’S ROOM

She finds her little niche at the end of her mom’s bed where she is busy folding clothes.

VAN

“Mama can I ask you some-thing—–“

(she remembers not to ask)

Mama always found it hard to talk about her brother.

                                          MAMA

                  “Si, Vanes?”

                                            VAN

                   “Nada mama.”

(she begins folding clothes with her)

FADE OUT.

INT. THROUGH VAN’S WINDOW PANE- THE NEXT MORNING

A familiar memory of her uncle is staged before her.

Through her window,

she sees mama sitting under the guava tree

in the beat up white plastic chair

and sees her tuning through the radio stations

until a familiar tune plays.

(a compilation of Rancheras play)

Her eyes well up seeing her mama under the guava tree.

VAN

(in deep thought)

“These daddy issues

feel fatal to my mind

but I begin to heal

under the guava tree, Tio”

(she sits next to mama)

Growing Up Brown

Brown.

The color of dirt. The color of the mud that falls after a hard rain. The color of an old rusty object. The color of that unwanted crayon you used to leave in your coloring box. To put quite bluntly, the color of waste. Although harsh sounding in its depiction, I could find no other way to describe my own sentiments towards the color and the way I once perceived the hue of my skin. Is it permanent? Absolutely. Did I like it? Absolutely not. But must I accept the color I have been granted? I must and I am.

The process of accepting my skin color has been and still is difficult. I still feel a slight tinge of anxiety every time I walk outside and into the sun. I became obsessed with shielding my skin and in turn developed an unhealthy relationship with the great yellow beast. It’s just now that I’m beginning to gear my thoughts in a more positive direction.

I’m beginning to tell myself that walking amongst the sunny pavements is healthy and that jumping from shady spot to shady spot while wearing a jacket in 80-degree weather is not.

I’m starting to tell myself that lying on a towel at the beach is supposed to be fun, and that trying to fade my skin with lemon juice is not.

I’m trying to tell myself that I would be lying to the world and to myself if I lightened my skin in the editing room than if I presented my true skin color in a photograph.

Yet, despite the fact that a wide range of skin colors surrounds us I can’t help but think of the magazines I pass in the supermarket. Page after page, model after model I often feel like I’m missing out on something.

I feel like I can’t see my skin color amongst the models on the page. Where are my brown skinned women? I am certain that there are many beautiful brown skinned models however, to this day I still see few to none.

Instead, it is preferred to apply a fake tan rather than showcase naturally brown-skinned women. After years of flipping through pages of light-skinned models I developed the sense that dark was considered inferior.

It had to be inferior if it wasn’t included amongst the magazines and popular Latin American novelas. To think how many millions of dollars are spent on the fashion industry and selling a look that is desirable, I concluded that brown was ugly and although untrue, white was right.

I continued to feel trapped. Trapped in skin that I couldn’t change. Trapped in my old habits of running from the sun and sweating through my jackets.

“Aren’t you hot Natalia?”

“No I’m okay. I actually feel normal.”

I was trapped by the lies I told myself and those around me. I was trapped but what I thought people wanted to see. I was trapped by what I thought was the “right” color skin. I was trapped in my own mind that didn’t let me break free from the magazines I thought held beauty’s truth and the world’s universal beauty narrative.

I was trapped, until a dear friend questioned me.

“But why Natalia? Why do you believe this?”

After being ceaselessly asked why, I was finally emotionally and mentally exhausted.

There was no longer a reason to believe in the inferiority of dark skin. It was a perceived notion I had conjured up based on history and the little presence of brown skin in the media. An idea that once seemed unchanging was suddenly something that could be changed.

I took charge of deciding what was true and what was false and the idea that “white is right” most certainly is not true. It’s a falsification that advertisements try to sell us and I’m no longer buying it.

I’m not advocating for the idea that colorism doesn’t exist. It certainly does yet I believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can change this concept by changing the narrative that is attached to the color.

Brown is not the unwanted color. Brown is the color of our indigenous ancestors. These are the same ancestors that have contributed the beauty of their highly complex cultures to the various Latin American cultures we know today.

Brown is the color of a sugary sweet chocolate bar that we crave after something salty to eat.

Brown is the color of the wood that comprises our musical instruments.

Brown is the color of the soil of the Earth, which gives life to the plants and the trees that fill our lungs with oxygen.

Brown is the base of all things beautiful and sweet and for that brown is the color I want to see on me.

Hold not your strength from me dear sun for I will run beneath your rays so I may test my strength and show my brown people that I’m not ashamed of who we are.

I’m brown year-round and I’m proud to be brown.

THE PATH TOWARD XICANA INDÍGENA (XINACHTLI SERIES)

“Xicana/o encounters with diverse Native knowledge allowed Xicanas/os to arrive (or continue to be in process of arriving) to their own sacred bundles and places of knowledge. When Xicanas/os came to these traditions, memory was opened up for Indigenous people; memory can be the most powerful building block. The revival of Indigenous identity proliferated amongst the youth in the Chicano community and represented a spirit and a return to spiritual ways. A community that was once told that they did not belong was now claiming a place on this continent.”

Jennie “Quiahuicoatl Meztli” Luna

This is a testimonio of my identity politics, to my critical consciousness, and to my own struggle(s)—which has been very difficult considering my privilege and what that means and looks like. Being a white-cis-passing, heterosexual, de-Indigenized Xicano male has been an interesting picture for my own identity and experiences. As a Raza student, McNair Scholar, La Gente writer, Mechista, and—what I would like to believe—an activist for agitating, destabilizing, and deconstructing european (westernized) knowledge, institutions, and ideology, my journey to this foundation and position speaks to my navigation in higher education.

As I first entered the colonial academic institution of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a transfer student, I was working under a completely different type of framework as a young self-identified Mexicano. As a punk kid in South Gate in the outskirts of South East Los Angeles who worked very hard at Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC) motivated by a desire to subvert the academy, I was a radical—but not entirely. I had books on Marxist thinkers; I delved into the fiery pits of anarchist theory and practice; I looked toward a poststructuralist way of philosophy, theory, and paradigm—which meant reading thinkers like Foucault, Deleuze, and Derrida. As you can see, I worked under a very european and westernized framework, which did not recognize nor nuance my positionality as a Mexicano in United States society.

I didn’t know nor understand the Raza struggle entirely at LASC, which was a predominately Black and Brown college. When I took the only course on Mexican-American history, I began my introduction and acknowledgement to my Raza’s historical (and contemporary) struggle for liberation and self-determination—I was opened up to new, but always mine, epistemologies and groundings.

But this was only a small taste; it was one I wouldn’t feel completely until UCLA.

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 4.06.28 PM

Author Kristian Vasquez, right, at San Diego’s Chicano Park.

What caused a spark in my Spirit and made me excited at the time was the student organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA), which I learned about in the Mexican-American history class from watching the documentary Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. I slowly started to identify simply as a Chicano; at the time, I understood this identity to be an extension of being Mexicano. Upon transferring into UCLA, I knew I had to learn and understand who I was, but my journey toward a cohesive but complex identity would only be complicated further.

To put things into perspective: as I attended MEChA’s Transfer Raza Day (TRD) yield event, I was amazed at the community of Raza students on campus. Hosted by Monica Hurtado and Braulio Valaguez, these two individuals led a motivated committee of other Raza students and successfully put together a memorable day. Although I arrived late, receiving an award from Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) the morning of, I still enjoyed the day and was blown away from the keynote speaker José González, a Tucson, Arizona educator who advocated for Ethnic Studies. He opened my eyes to many things concerning my culture, my people, and what education meant for our Gente. One of my takeaways was the idea of blossoming Browness, or asserting your Browness and your culture so much that people are forced to see it; my own identity was renegotiated after this day.

Because I was an Academic Advancement Program (AAP) student, I was able to attend their Transfer Summer Program (TSP) in 2016. As a part of the Chicana/o cohort, I was exposed to many new people with ancestral and community knowledges, and my classes challenged me to think and be critical on a level I was never exposed to. This came with radical reconceptions, re-articulations, and reconstructions of the knowledge base I drew from, adopting a more solid Chicanx epistemology and framework. I was more exposed to things I never experienced growing up, and to have this little family for what it was at the time was beautiful.

As I navigated UCLA, I found myself becoming more and more involved. I joined MEChA de UCLA and would later be voted into the position of Chicana/o Studies Co-Coordinator with my fellow Mechista and Compañera, Maritza Geronimo. I enjoyed the knowledge I would build with my Compañerxs at MEChA meetings and through the direct knowledges of my fellow Mechistas.

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 4.05.58 PM

Kristian Vasquez and Compañera Maritza Geronimo.

Through much exposure and deliberate discovery, I was able to begin a coherent idea of Chicanismo and what that meant today. With my Compañera Maritza, I was able to have critical discourse and conversation of these topics. We started our journey to defining what it meant to us: we looked at Chicana/o authors and close read their works, almost like studying Mexica codices. And I knew this political ideology wasn’t something rooted in Mexicanidad, but understanding pan-Indigeneity. It transcended and transgressed borders and nations; Chicanismo, or rather Xicanisma, would stress this importance.

Navigating through Campbell hall, studying in the Young Research Library, and finding comfort in the Student Activities Center at UCLA, I would face a very active student role. And the activist part of that role entailed me working toward self-determination and liberation of my Raza community. This also meant challenges I was perhaps not completely ready for. But I had the support of my fellow Mechistas and a student-initiated retention project by MEChA (Calmecac) to keep me moving forward.

Although only being at UCLA for a summer integration-program and completing a very rigorous and difficult Fall quarter, I had developed my own identity in a strong, but incomplete, sense. Here is a poem I wrote, which was a part of the zine project of my Intro Chicana/o Studies course, titled “La Muerte: Para Mis Antepasados de Anahuac/México”:

I AM THE PRODUCT OF COLONIALISM. As such, my voice speaks from passion, de la muerte: the living.

I walk on colonized lands—of precious, beautiful lands disrupted by the product of the white man’s capitalist mode of production. I breathe the air from machines that spit smoke, polluting the only tierra we call home. My lungs are made from modernity, from progress.

I don’t know the language of my ancestors, and I struggle to use and talk my colonizers lengua—so reluctant to speak what dominated, to speak what ordered genocide, to speak what erased what would be my culture.

I see Aztlán as a metaphor for redemption, of retribution, of wanting a spiritual home. Somewhere in what is considered México, my history, my family, my Raza, they were killed, tortured, callously conquered and told they were not human: they needed to be put straight. This is historical fact and it is painful.

I walk the streets of South Gate, my hometown, a once dominantly white community. I feel the presence of a memory, of a people not from my own blood, but people who ate from these lands, who worshiped these lands, and now we occupy—not by choice, but by legacies of colonialisms.

I was criticized once for claiming hecho en México, as if what is now California didn’t once belong to México—of course this being after the first wave of colonization by the Spanish conquistadores.

La Muerte: they survive in my blood, masked by the color of my white skin: a constant reminder that I’m in a colonized body, in a raped body, in a tortured, ambivalent body. My browness, my indigeneity, lives only through my veins, mi alma.

I once screamed in community college: Yo soy Chicano! The fucking political remains! Resistance lives in my blood! Revolution runs through my tongue! And those days were met with a silence from my own family, my friends.

Para la muerte: I see you, feel you, want to learn more from you.

And just like this piece, they live in fragments inside me, in history, in memory. But I will live for them: to remember and to resist—to fight in my life for their memory, for those still here, and those lost forever in the cosmos.

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Kristian Vasquez at San Diego’s Chicano Park.

In the poem above, I express an understanding of myself as a Native individual who, through colonialism, was subject to an erasure of an Indigenous past. It wasn’t until I discovered a very important Indigenous scholar who opened my eyes to a new understanding of this way of knowing. Being introduced to Dr. Jennie Luna’s work, by the Chair of MEChA de UCLA, Natalia Toscano, I was able to read and reflect on what she terms Xicana Indígena. This identity and term recognizes the need and imperative toward reclaiming Indigenismo through political and critical consciousness, as it is said in Nahuatl, not spanish, challenging constructions of language. It is also defined as being a Native to these lands and being a diaspora people coming into the United States, and those who stayed during conquest, the events of 1848 (the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo). It is a radical but necessary evolution of what Chicano was built on.

Xicana Indígena is also female-centered, highlighting female energies within our spirituality; it seeks to understand women and spirituality, looking for a return to dual-dualities outside of the european framework of binaries. As a collective identity, it is a radical reconfiguration of the initial identity of Chicano. This precious knowledge came to me as a radical restructuring of ideas and practices.

But the work of recognizing this term, its advocates, and its development is minimal. So we take on the spanish renditions of Xicano/a/@/x. I say I am Xicano, but being part of the Xicana Indígena people is something to be raised into our Raza collective consciousness. We must recognize our Indigeneity from wherever our Raza comes from in this hemisphere, including: El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, and beyond.

The future is Indigenous, and when we acknowledge how close our communities really are, the process of consciousness will be pushed forward. The path toward Xicana Indígena is an opening to a new and expanded notion of what our veteranos y veteranas of the Chicano Movement set in motion. We are agents of change; to revolutionize our political identity is to recognize our processes of liberation. As a new generation it is our job to decolonize spaces which do not recognize us, and this starts with reading, having discourse, and searching through what UCLA scholar Maylei Blackwell termed “retrofitted memory,” in her book ¡Chicana Power! Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement. Our revolution will be guided by our spiritual reclamation.

Identity as a complicated, complex, and nuanced experience can be opened up by introducing new concepts and experiences. As a series, I will locate those critical resources for mi Gente to start thinking about these important conversations.

Let my testimonio be the start: this is the Xinachtli series.

Tlazocamati.

 

Author’s note: I chose not to capitalize “european” nor “spanish” because of power dynamics situated by westernized doctrines of language construction. In effect, I am contesting their power over capitalization, capitalizing instead words like: “Native,” “Indígena,” and “Raza.”

Navigating UCLA sin nuestras Madres (a series): -Xillona Pero Xingona?: Un Amor Sin Fronteras-

We walked onto the UCLA campus for the first time: juntas. My mom’s eyes wander but she stays put, too afraid to explore, so I pull her along. I know what she’s feeling because I feel it too: do I belong here? But I stay quiet and pretend to be overly excited: her anxiety eases.

“Mira Ma, hay que tomarnos una foto allí.”

We pose in front of a huge UCLA sign. Esa es mi madre bien sonriente, bien chingona.

We then go from workshop to workshop, all in English, as if to remind us that this is not meant for us. Pero estoy acostumbrada, so I quietly translate in my mom’s ears, sometimes too engaged in what is being said that I forget to catch her up to speed. My mom smiles and nods her head as the speaker continues.

It is the end of Bruin Welcome Day and as we stand by Janss Steps my mom looks at me: “Ay mija que bonito esta la escuela, me da orgullo. Yo también me tengo que poner las pilas, que mensa soy que no puedo ni entender lo que hablan.”

My heart breaks. Ma, que no sabes que tu inteligencia is not measured by your inability to speak English. Your brain flourishes with knowledge: respeto, amor, sinceridad. Things all these people you call professional lack. Ma que no ves que la educación que tu me diste es la única razón que estoy aquí.

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Now I am halfway through my first quarter at UCLA and feel the distance growing between us. I do not want it to happen, mi corazón se sostiene pero no es suficiente.

I called my mom to ask about what she thinks of me attending UCLA and how it has affected our relationship. She laughs:“Pues ya no me hablas. Eso es lo que más siento, que ya no tienes tiempo. Pero me acostumbro y se que es porque estás estudiando. Son cosas de la vida, los hijos no son para siempre. Pero pues veo que ya estás muy ocupada,” she says sarcastically.

I know she is kidding, but she is right. I do not call her enough. It is not that I forget, it’s that most days I am hurting so much due to school that I feel like hearing your voice would only increase my pain. It would make me want to run back home to my safe space: to you.

I laugh as I ask if she misses me:

“No como no. Todos los días, pero ya no lloro,” she says as her voice cracks.

I miss her. I miss her so much sometimes no se que hacer. Extraño llegar a casa, y ver tu cara después de un dia largo. Abrazarte para recuperar las pilas. I need you most days mom, pero no te puedo decir sin preocuparte mas de lo que ya estas.

“Tambien me paso pensando en ti, si comes, si estás fuera tarde, es que tienes que comer ok Maritza. Estás estudiando mucho y necesitas las fuerzas.”

I have been going through this strange feeling of wanting to go home to my mom forever, but then realizing that I have to keep hustlin’ at this institution for her. Recently at a La Gente meeting I shared with a group of Mujeres that I had been missing my mom and wanted to write a piece about: 1) How higher education affected mother-daughter relationships and 2) How these Mujeres were now navigating UCLA without their madres.

I did not expect what was to follow: all the Mujeres collectively sighed and nodded their heads. Soon each of them started sharing a little of how they had been coping with the physical and emotional distance from their mothers. I then asked if they would like to participate in my article: they agreed with full enthusiasm.

So I begin by opening up a little about my experience and will continue this series by looking at different Mujeres’ stories as they share how they are navigating UCLA sin sus madres.

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