The dilemma of a recovering Catholic

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I have categorized myself as “recovering Catholic” for almost two decades now and haven’t spent too much time contemplating this self-identification. Mostly because I haven’t found the need to do so and nothing or no one has challenged my view.

But yesterday as I made my way to the Santa Fe plaza for a walk I realized my body was on autopilot heading straight towards St. Francis Cathedral. I had not felt the urge or desire to go to a church in several years and as I entered I couldn’t help but feel overcome with mild emotion. I chose a secluded spot towards the back and sat there for a moment and was tripping out at this strong inner desire to kneel. Maybe I’m not as “recovered” as I’d like to think? Maybe my Chicana soul has actually missed church over these years? Wow did I just say that? Have you heard that idea that the older you get the more one seeks out religion? And here I thought that it wouldn’t ever apply to me.

I mean let me explain. I, like many other first generation Chicanillas, grew up in different times from the super faithful abuelitos back in Mexico and was only forced to attend the obligatory Palm Sunday, Easter, Christmas, and Virgen de Guadalupe mass. Other than that, we just didn’t go to church. But that in no way meant that my Mexicana mom was not spiritually faithful. At the time she had been going through her own struggles with what the Catholic church had told her – that she was a pecadora for not having married my dad in church and was banned from receiving communion.

When I was in my 20s I fell in love with going to mass but not because I had suddenly become a devout Catholic. During one of my walks around the Inner Sunset I so happened to pass by St. Anne’s during a mass and heard the faint sounds of music. Having grown up as a band nerd I couldn’t help but to peer inside and was lured in by the beautiful voices. I began attending Sunday mass just to hear the choir. I never verified it but I think the lead voice had been a professional opera singer. I would get goose bumps just listening to their sounds.

But of course all of this came to an abrupt end after I learned more of the dreadful history of the conquest and colonization through my Latin American history class from this amazing Latino professor who looking back I’m sure was a self-professed atheist. How could I attend a place that had at some point condoned the killing of innocent people erroneously considered savages? How could I be part of something that whether intentionally or not, oppressed others? I couldn’t reconcile with the historic fact that the true savages were really the ones who had worn the sign of the cross.

So I don’t know what’s going on with me. Maybe it’s because I’m at a crossroads in life, maybe because I’m getting older, maybe because I just missed connecting with some essence housed in what are considered sacred spaces. Maybe because no matter how much I have distanced myself from any organized religion, deep down there still reside those old Catholic traditions. Almost every Lenten season I still find myself making tortitas de camarón con nopales and capirotada.  It’s not because I’m Católica but because it’s a way of honoring mis abuelitos que en paz descansen. It’s just so intertwined with our Mexicano-ness.

So as I sat there in my rinconcito I kept wanting to cry, mostly because the familiar sights brought back so many fond memories of mis abuelitos, especially because the last time I saw them was in church, laying peacefully in their caskets ready to become one with the Earth again.

Maybe I’m not so “recovered” after all. Maybe recovered isn’t the right word anymore. Maybe the better word is consciente. No se. But what I do know for sure is somehow I didn’t feel so alone sitting there as I contemplated all the problems in my life. I also realized that when I left (bolted out the doors before the 5:30 pm mass started to the strong disapproval of the señora passing out the programs), I felt better, even if slightly, than when I had first arrived.

#lablogadora #recoveringcatholic #chicana #consciente

Artwork: “Chicana Birth” by Irene Jor, ’13

The system is broken…

[Clarification: you are right my dear amigo RR, the system is not broken, it is working the way it is intended to, not in our favor.]

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Today is one of those days that I can feel the massive weight and heavy burden of the broken system upon my Brown female body. Today I embrace my title of “Angry Chicana.” Today more so than others I find myself feeling as if #icantbreathe.

My Chicana heart bleeds for the 43 Brown bodies disregarded, memories of Michael Brown, and Eric Garner shamelessly and unjustly murdered, not killed.

These only the latest cases of how Brown and Black lives don’t matter to those in power and symbolic of the countless Others that don’t and won’t make the headlines because our society has grown callous, cold, and immune.

My mind keeps wandering off to the same old question – how many more bodies will be disposed of? How many more family members discarded?

Many of us say #yabasta but when will it really be enough? When will we go beyond just saying the words “we’re tired” and act, react, and retaliate?

If we are the new majority, growing even exponentially in their frightened eyes and mind, then why is the revolution not happening? What keeps us from going there? Is it fear? Is it backlash? Is it the potential loss of our useless material gains? Is it comfort or outright complacency? Is it that we have become players in the very system that works to keep us down? Que?!

For those of us with at least half of an eye open, how do we convince Others that the time has come to look up from the hypnotic screen and disconnect from the machine? The most pressing time is upon us today, not tomorrow and we can’t continue to watch the nuevo sol leave us further and further behind.

When will go beyond just saying, posting, and tweeting #notonemore, #blacklivesmatter, and #yabasta?

When chingado when?

All we have to do is to stop in our monotonous tracks, link up our arms, walk forward, and demand that the time is now.

Later is no longer acceptable.

NOW.

#lablogadora #Chicana #reactandretaliate

 

Battling the Corrupt System and its Players…

el rio

La lucha va seguir…

I don’t even know how to start this one. Sitting here en el pinche Starbucks of all places trying to make sense of it all, my head still clouded and in the haze of denial. Damn the pain! Damn you vendidos!

Pain and frustration with the reality that at the end of it all it did not matter what we said, or what we did, or who we brought (and damn we had back up!) because they were already bought.

We lose even when we organize, even when we are professional, even when we behave, and even when we have the research to walk the talk. If that is the case, then why play by their rules?

I’m a bit surprised that one tear has yet to fall when inside me siento tan, pero tan mal. Internally screaming at the top of my lungs to el rio who I see everyday of my life, to nuestros abuelitos that I am ultimately accountable to, and to the land – I TRIED, we tried, but los cabrones won today.

Maybe I haven’t cried because my being, my subconscious knows that we will not give up hope, even when the system betrays us, crushes us, and slaps us with the harsh reminder that we are playing with it’s rules.

So today I will mourn and be one with the pain but tomorrow is a new day and another opportunity. Mañana sale un nuevo sol. And although we may not ever completely dismantle the oppressive and unjust system, we can and will find pleasure in being the perpetual thorn in their side.

#lablogadora #contrasantolina

The Lavad@ Principle

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Have you ever noticed that the more lavado/lavada an individual is, the greater the material rewards they receive such as their pay?

It’s as if there’s a mathematical equation in effect:

Lavadismo* = ↑ Salary + ↑ Material Compensations

Lavadismo = ↓ Salary + ↓ Material Compensations

[*Lavadismo: defined as the act of being lavada/lavado; lavar – to wash; frequently used in Chicano/a culture to signify being brainwashed by the system; in other words, used in reference to individuals who have “sold out”; term lavada/o commonly said to individuals who have assimilated and are viewed as sellouts.]

Of course there are always the exceptions to the rule, the outliers. But seriously, has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? If you don’t believe me, put it to the test.

This is especially true at institutions for higher learning. The more the person is willing to go along with the system, the higher up on the material food chain they will be. The more the person has conformed, the greater the pay. The more the person is complicit and complacent, the better the view in their office.

Serio, have you ever compared what a community activist, a radical teacher, or a dissident makes versus un buen lavado at the local institution? Cacahuates versus mangos.

The sad thing of it all is that it makes utmost sense. Why? Because we continue to live in a hegemonic system. Hege-quien? In other words, we continue to live in a society with a most definite hierarchy of dominance – the ruling order who sits on top (and we all know who that is – whites along with their lavado friends) and the rest of us brown and black folk at the bottom.

Institutions within society have the job of making sure this system continues to work the way it was intended – keep those who define the rules on top while keeping the rest of the masses down below. So what clever institutions within society do is to actively find individuals who will ultimately conform and who whether they claim to be aware of it or not, will work to uphold the damned oppressive hierarchical system.

Example, have you ever noticed how the majority of raza who are placed (yes placed) in higher positions suddenly forget their roots and their familia, some of who are still on the other side of tracks? Many times it’s our own raza that behave as the worst gatekeepers.

So next time you see me with that sly smile on your face and your pockets filled with $ the system put there, just remember it’s at the expense and the continued oppression of countless Others.

#lablogadora #xicana #neversellout

El Conquistador

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Yes it has taken me a bit to come back to my writing space. Actually I’ve been submerged in writing but not the fun kind.

What I’ve been trying to shake off for over a week now is the short time I spent at El Conquistador. Yeah I know, what’s up with that? And the most ironic part of it is that it was for a major conference that’s supposed to be all in your face with the importance of multicultural education and diversity. The conference committee must have been asleep on that one or just totally clueless. Maybe they didn’t speak el Español? Quien sabe but they messed up and bad.

And what the heck was up with my brain not realizing the inconsistency before I even submitted to present? It didn’t hit me until I was actually there sitting in a stuffy academic talk when my brain shouted out – “que chingao?!” Yup just like a ton of bricks hitting me in the Chicana chompa all at once. I couldn’t help but to keep exiting El Conquistador so I could catch my breath. I would sit outside trying to make sense of it all while taking in the amazing Saguaros and Catalina foothills.

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Here we were these supposed enlightened and critical folks talking our academic crap in this space that seemed to contradict the very essence of everything we were claiming. And as I sat there fighting the inner battle with my conciencia, I could almost hear that Hilton cabron laughing at us in the distance. Or was it just a coincidence they had chosen that name of all names for this resort in a space that had once belonged to the Native people of Arizona? El Conquistador. I am certain that the name was specifically chosen as a reminder of history not too far gone and definitely not forgotten, especially not by Native people.

So as I sat in this space filled with academics and maestr@s, I was conflicted. There was something, more like a feeling, that I could not brush off and during one of the many moments that I wandered outside of El Conquistador the space spoke to me and it whispered in my ear a reminder of my paternal Yaqui lineage.

20141107_120359Por eso estuvo mi alma tan inquieta. Porque tal vez por estos rumbos caminaron mis antepasados.

My being ached and the only thing I could do was to acknowledge this connection (and pain) when I started my session.

I know that I wasn’t the only one who understood this contradiction. There were a couple of other speakers who said something as well but I don’t think that they felt the same dull pain and tingling in the skin as I did.

And as I walked up and down the corridor I couldn’t help but feel strange and disconnected as I witnessed the academic high rollers off in their clique-ridden corner laughing as they opened their mouths to drink El Conquistador’s poison.

I don’t know about you but these things linger and create conflict within and I just needed to say out loud to El Conquistador – you didn’t conquer us all hijo de la chingada! Aquí estamos y algún día venceremos.

#lablogadora #notconquered #xicana

Seriously New Mexico (and Nation) que paso?

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Anybody else in deep depression or straight out anger this morning?

Maybe I should go door to door telling folks thanks a lot for not getting your behind out to vote.

4 more years of Susana la … (fill in the blank with your favorite word). And if that wasn’t enough of a slap in the face, now a Republican controlled NM House of Reps for the first time since 1950 and the punch in the stomach – a Republican controlled congress [just gagged and choked typing that].

But you know what this reflects? We’ve become flojos – yes I said it. Flojos after continuously hearing how were the majority this and the majority that. Well where the heck was that majority yesterday and where has that majority gotten us people? Um hmm, here to this point.

Maybe this nightmare will serve to wake us up from the apathetic slumber many of us have fallen into. Estamos dormidos. Complacent with so many electronic gadgets that keep us in a constant eye lock with el pinche Facebook, Twitter, and that Insta-crap.

On the other hand, of my obvious disappointment and disgust, I think that this is also a reflection of our disillusionment with the Democratas. I mean sometimes I have trouble discerning between our supposed democrat allies and the republican foes. And if we throw the dirty garras out there, sometimes our democrats behave worse than the republicans – what’s up with that? Is it that they have forgotten what it means to truly work for the people and for social, racial, and economic justice?

So reflecting a bit on this horrible, horrible pesadilla I think we slightly deserve it. We have earned that slap-in-the-face-wake-up call that will hopefully shake us up so bad that we can finally react. Imagine the power and the force if we really took advantage of our numbers?

Here’s my non-professional political analysis: that is exactly what scared the republicans into effective strategy. They are afraid of our growing numbers and the power that might bring with it. But instead of sitting back and giving up they armed themselves and strategized to kick our behinds and kicked it real good.

We need to wake up people! We need to unite to defend our communities. We need to organize in the same manner that the republicanos did. Si no lo hacemos y no reaccionamos, nos va llevar la chinflada.

Here’s to day one, only 1,407 to go.

#lablogadora #damnyourepublicans #democratswaketheF-up #aydioslasusana

Dia de los Muertos…going beyond the trend

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Dia de los Muertos has exploded onto the scene with crazy face-painted hippies and colorful calavera coasters made in China. Could it be that for one of the first times ever, it’s actually popular to be associated with Mexicano-ness? Well… if you notice, the Mexicano roots of Dia de los Muertos have been conveniently left out. Day of the Dead this and Dia de los Muertos that… but nowhere to be found in the description do you find the word “Mexican.”

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Although I have to admit that I like to paint my face and that of my children, this has always marked a time of reflection and nostalgia. Despite the newest and coolest Muertos parties, we can’t allow ourselves, especially us Mexican@s to forget what these days (not just one day) means for us and for our antepasados.

We Mexican@s have always been so in tune with the cycles of life that “death” became something to be remembered, respected, and celebrated. To be alive means to have an end. That is our ultimate fate as living creatures. But for us “death” does not equate to the goriness and fear as is often depicted in American Horror flicks. For the Mexican@, death symbolizes transformation and the entering of the next stage to Miktlan – el lugar de transformación.

This time marks not only the transformation of human beings but the transformation of our precious land. It is the transformation to the resting period of our tierra that unselfishly provides us with sustenance. For those of us here en esta tierra de Atrisco, it is also the transformation of our acequias for they are entering their resting period as well and our precious water will cease to flow through them.

So behind my cool calavera face I am remembering those loved ones who have arrived in Miktlan and who are patiently awaiting our arrival as well. Death is never easy but as we were taught by our abuelit@s, we don’t ever truly die until we are forgotten – for our loved ones continue to live on in our minds, our hearts, and our beings…

Abuelito…

Donde estarás?

Ya no te encuentro abajo de ese árbol que te daba de su sombra,

Allí sentadito en tu silla con tu paquete de faritos en tu mano y tu biblia en la otra, que tantas veces la cargaste y leíste que dejaste la huella de tu dedo por encima.

Mi abuelito tan trabajador, desde los 5 anhos ya entre los borregos.

Paletas, limpieza, bracero en la siembra y cosecha de este lado… siempre un trabajador.

Si pudiera regresar el tiempo tan engañoso, me iba corriendo a nuestra madre tierra para poder verte una vez mas.

Tu sonrisa, tu mirada, tus cuentos y enseñanzas siempre vivirán en mi ser y en mi corazón.

Abuelito… no te he olvidado y pronto estaremos juntos.

faritos

#lablogadora #xicana #diadelosmuertos