Happy Birthday, or not?

 

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“Eye Awakening” by Judithe Hernandez

As my tío Mazatzin pointed out late last night in his FB post (yes I saw it, just been in avoidance behavior since then), I’ve made it through another trip around the Sun, but barely.

On this day that witnessed my first breath of life, __ years ago (you fill in the blank), that took place in one of the vast concrete jungles in the land of Califaztlan, I am forcing myself to write because writing has always been therapeutic, healing in its form for it allows my ISTJ (introverted) self to connect with feelings that I’ve learned to keep too deep inside, too hidden from the world and especially from those around me.  I write because it is one of my only forms of release.

So today I am sincerely thankful to the gente that have taken the time to send me good thoughts and good energy my way.  I am also most thankful to my mama who brought me forth unto this world, who nurtured me along the way and who has put up with my stubborn brain and being for the longest.

Today I force myself to write these words of recognition and of some type of celebration that I am still here walking upon this Earth, our sacred Tonantzin.  I say force because a large part of my being is on the verge of shutdown mode, of walking along a dangerous precipice leading to a dark downward spiral of nowhere.

Those of you who know me, or can claim to know a bit of me, might understand that this was a most difficult year and to think that it will only a get a bit worse before it can possibly get better.  Big sigh.

The introverted Chicana that I am, wishing so fervently for a better connection with the social self, the self that wouldn’t give a damn about who I told things to or what things I told to who.  Instead I am here, on this day of my birth, walking with mostly dread in the heart.

Lo siento mi día de cumpleaños but I want this day and especially year to be over with already, to become something of the past, a-longer-than-wanted moment that I can look back upon with slight nostalgia but with mostly relief that it’s finally over.

2017, or better yet, 5 Kalli, please be a better one.  Wait, you have to be a better one or I might completely lose it.

This will be the year that as Sandra Cisneros stated during her plug on Latinos USA a couple of weeks ago, it’s finally time for me to marry the most demanding of spouses – that of writing.  What better way of describing the art of and commitment to writing but as a demanding and most jealous spouse? Yes, all of what appear as negative qualities are true but as Cisneros pointed out, it is a spouse that never betrays and never abandons. Brilliant.

So if I’m a bit off or seeming rather distant, it is because I am on mi luna de miel with the greatest spouse of them all – the pen and the word.  Wait, that’s two, even better.  JK.

Feliz cumple a mi.

 

#lablogadora  #Chicana

Who needs the white man…?

Who needs the white man when I got my lil primo to put me down, to oppress me, to hate on me, to trample on me, to remind me of the colonization that lingers on. screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-12-06-46-am

That’s why the system continues to win so cleanly because it has you – mi hermano, mi otro yo – working against me.  Their lily white hands staying so clean while ours are filthy with each other’s blood.

I read about this so many times in those god damned classes but every time my brown eyes would read the words outing us to the world on how we have been more divided then united, I would deny it.  I would say to all of those white folks sitting around me talking about us as if I wasn’t there, that they were so wrong.  The body cringing, sinking lower in my chair.

Four days later and here I am with a figurative stake in the heart, but not in the mind and never in the spirit.

Who needs the white man when I got you?

 

#lablogadora

 

 

Harsh Transitions: From Ceremony to White Space

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.12.03 AMHere is my Brown Xicana body sitting in white space and I can’t help but reflect on how the being feels as if it has to suddenly change, a type of harsh transformation where I go from being the real me to having to put on the mask.  I remain aware so that I don’t forget and so that I can continue to resist.

All around me what appear to be beautiful spaces, everything carefully tended to – from the plantas y florecitas to every single item hanging on the walls. Everything so carefully and methodically placed. But what I observe instead of the glossy veneer is the painful condition of whiteness.  Their stiffness and awkwardness of being attempting to seep into me.  I observe how they walk, talk, and interact.  Their every move and word calculated.  Always thinking hard about what they will say, do, wear, stand, eat, I mean everything.

As I eat their bland breakfast devoid of color and spice, I am watching a group of older women, “The Santa Feas,” all decked out with their Native jewelry thinking that by wearing the sacred stones that somehow they can absorb some of the essence of the hands that made it.  An impossible task.  I think about this contradiction – they love to wear the stones carved by Native Brown Red hands but those are hands that they would never love or allow to touch their naked flesh.

A family of four sitting behind me, no one talking. Dreadful silence.  Thinking about my own children and how everywhere we go their freedom of being is demonstrated through their cries and loud laughter.

It’s hard to believe that only a few days ago I was in immersed in the songs.  The drumbeat still resounding in my ears, reminding me that the prayer is for 365 days and not only 4.  The Ceremony, a complete and utter disconnection from la suciedad (a.k.a. la sociedad or society).  La ceremonia, teaching us how to experience life and the world from an entirely different perspective – imparting onto us an amazingly un-ordinary way of seeing.

I can still feel the hot sand under my bare feet as my body moved with the heartbeat of the drum.  Eyes closed but I can see more clearly that way for the lesson is in the heart and in the spirit.

No fancy landscaping.  No elaborate artwork.  No smooth marble finish or automatic coffee dispensers.  None of that.  Instead we are immersed and submerged in everything raw and real.  We become one with the Earth, connected to the tree, connected to each other through the sacred songs.  A giving of thanks through fast, flesh, and blood – something these petty minds trained in the act of continual comfort would never understand.

For 15 years I have been deeply connected to that sacred space. It is the place where I made the commitment to walk the Red Road alongside an Eagle Dancer.  It is the place that has seen my blooming uterus four times over, where my little ones have been raised, Sundance children. Arbors witnessing my struggles and inner battles that I face as a human being who aims for a higher form of critical consciousness, a being who strives to become at least a bit liberated from the pendejada.  A woman who seeks a shedding of the social skin.

I am here, but my spirit is always there.

 

#lablogadora  #whitespace  #sundance  #ceremony  #chicana  #xicana

4 Months, 10 days since…

cara 3It’s been 4 months and about 10 days since that unfortunate day.

Today it would (and should) have been 48 years since you took your first breath upon the Earth but instead you now cover parts of her.  Your being nourishing our Mother Earth.

I haven’t stopped thinking about you, missing you, aching inside.  Being on the hill helped, it helped to keep me moving forward when part of me died with you.  I had gone up with the intent, with the thought that to make peace, I had to let you go.  That’s what the people said I had to do in order to heal. But looking out at the expansive horizon on one of those days it came to me that I never had to do such a thing.  Making peace had nothing to do with ‘letting you go.’  It hit me there and then that you could and would always live on in my heart, mind, and being.  At that fleeting instant I can say that I felt what I would describe as relief, not peace.

I want to believe that I heard your voice and felt your presence while I was there in ceremony.  I asked you if it was okay for me to head down and for a moment I heard your laugh and you said in that super Mexicana/Chicana tone, “Ándale ya vete con tu familia, que estás haciendo aquí sufriendo?!”  I swear I heard you.

Ay Cara.

365 days ago I was with you celebrating this day.  It had been years since that had happened.  Your birthday always coinciding with our ceremonias but you understood.  Although I am still not talking to the Creator (whatever that may be), I am grateful that I was with you last year en tu día in that amazing place that connects us.  Everything was perfect – the lush green view spanning beyond what our eyes could see, the delicious mole with its chiles and spices prepared specially for you, the mezcalito you loved so much, la música, and especially the family and friends gathered around you.

I close my eyes and wish with so much force that somehow I could teleport back to that specific moment in time, just to see you again.

So many things left unsaid.

Te quiero.  Feliz cumple a ti.

Xicana Reflection – On Death

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Artwork by Ruth Olivar Millan

How do I even begin this one?

It’s been a couple of months since my brain and fingers have attempted to put into words what is on the mind and in the heart.

Fear.

That is the word that can most express some of what I am feeling and the thoughts that linger in the aching brain.  I am afraid of what may arrive at my door.  Thoughts of who will be next hide in the dark recesses of my mind.

“Please Creator, we’ve already lost two…”

But every good Mexicana knows that it always comes in 3’s. “The dreaded 3,” forming on my lips as I try to suppress the question – “Who will it be?”

The last time we had a significant shock to the system like this was almost 20 years ago – mi abuelito, mi abuelita, y luego mi tia – the 3 all in one year.

I’m trying to be a good student of life and accept that this is the fate of all living, including me, and those that I love.

As I gazed upon the lifeless body of the woman who had been the stand-in abuelita for so many of our children, I realized that before me lay the vessel that had housed a loving and generous being.  As her soul was making its way upon its journey to Miktlan, it seemed as if her factions had taken on more of their indigenous roots.  Despite the continued inter-mixing across generations, our history and connections revealed in our faces and characteristics.

Those of you who have been in its presence know that death has a certain smell, a certain heavy feel and sound and I was reminded of its peculiarities as I stood there almost motionless trying to reason with something so simultaneously incomprehensible.

I couldn’t help but succumb to the vestiges of my Catholic upbringing, “Porque Creador? Porque ahorita y porque ella?” – as if the Creator had anything to do with our loss.

The gut reaction: to run as far as I could from that god awful smell, sight, and sound but what would the gente think of me then?  The same reaction I felt when they texted me (yeah can you believe that?) that you, my beautiful Hermana Chicana, were gone.  But instead of running away, I ran inward to that ‘rational’ and scientific part of me and stated something so ridiculous as, “This is part of being living… everything that has a birth will have a death. Everything, including you and me,” said out loud (I think) as my children looked at me with confused faces, streaks of sadness breaking through despite my neutralized words intended to somehow lessen the pain of it all.

So mis hermanas y hermanos I say with this that life is fleeting and uncertain. I try to remind myself of this fact every time I begin to feel that sinking sensation into what is mostly petty human thought and action.

Focus: joie de vivre. (Mira, mira. The two years of French in high school kicking in.)

 

#lablogadora #chicana #fear

 

Xicana Reflection: Trump, Race, and Schools

“Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses…”

Name that tune. For those of you who grew up listening to 90s rock like me, it’s an easy challenge.

“Killing in the Name,” by Rage Against the Machine, of course. [Press link to song here to get the full effect of this piece, andale.]

Coincidentally the other day when I had just heard the horrible news in the morning that #TrumpElTonto would be the GOP frontrunner, that song with its lyrics so true was playing on the radio.

And as I continued to reflect on this notion of someone like Trump being closer than ever to holding the Presidential seat of los Estados Sufridos, my mind wandered off to the fact that this $%#& has wreaked havoc for many people of color and allies alike.

But, have all of these Trump-terias (like tonterias, get it?) invoked the same effect on all of us across the country? I wonder if the children of liberal well-to-do whites feel the same sense of fear as many children of Mexicano and Latino descent have expressed in classrooms across the nation?

And for those of you naysayers, yes the children are talking about Trump at school. They talk about him on a daily basis. He has become their nightmare, a nightmare that was clearly expressed in a 3rd grade art project at one of our local dual-language schools. Arpillera after arpillera stood out the monstrous disfigured head of “el pelos de elote.”

At first I kept asking, but how is it that this diablo has made its way into the class? But after hearing their stories I understood that the children were repeating the fears of their parents – most of whom are undocumented and now afraid.

“My greatest fear is that my family gets deported if Trump becomes President.”

“I don’t want to get deported, this is my home.”

And many other fears expressed by children who do not deserve to feel this way while Trump el cabron is living out his most sensationalized reality TV series yet – The Imposter.

I have heard many people express surprise at the Trump-terias expressed by este guey but not me. What Trump has done is to scratch off the veneer of sugar-coated tense racial relations that for so long have been hidden underneath the surface of a “can’t we all just get along” rhetoric. Now that the veneer is gone, we are able to bear witness to all of the twisted, ignorant, backward, and horrific thinking of masses of people who at one point claimed to be the friends of Brown and Black bodies.

“I’m not racist, I have a friend who’s Black!”

Those very same people who paid so much lip service to equal opportunity have suddenly and shamelessly jumped on the Trump bandwagon.

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What Trump represents is the very real racial tensions that continue to exist. He has said things in our faces that many out there no longer dared to say but always kept in their subconscious. Trump has opened the floodgates to a real look at racial dynamics.

Trump has brought todo eso feo to the surface and now that it’s there, its due time to admit that there has always been a problem.

 

#lablogadora #race #Trump #schools

PARCC and Punishment

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For the past couple of weeks, many students across Albuquerque Public Schools have been head deep into the infamous PARCC testing and the stress and pressure is readily felt across campuses and classrooms. This year, as well as last year, our family made the decision to opt our elementary-aged children out of taking PARCC. We made this decision not because we consider ourselves to be experts of any type on the matter of standardized testing, but we are reasonably informed regarding the impacts this phenomena has on the bodies and minds of all those impacted – students, families, teachers, administrators, staff, and others. As a parent and educator I firmly state that I am not against all types of testing. This would be a contradiction to my own teaching over the years. I understand the importance of authentic assessment but disagree with monopolistic testing tendencies that are being forced upon us.

Regardless of the decision made by families on testing – to test or not to test, I believe that decision should be respected. In the same manner that I will not go out of my way to pressure, harass, or bully other parents to opt out, I feel that my decision should be respected as well and that my children should not be the bearers of any negative consequences including remarks and/or behaviors directed at them.

With that said, I have to say that I was quite disappointed and angered to hear one of my daughter’s PARCC related experiences this past week. Apparently students who take the PARCC are rewarded with special snacks at school – something I do not disagree with. But what I do wholeheartedly disagree with is that apparently this “special” snack – a bag of veggie straws – was passed out to the PARCC taking students while the teacher stated that students who opted-out of the test could not receive the snack. Veggie straws where subsequently handed out to the PARCC takers while the opt-outers looked on with tear-filled eyes reflecting the shame they were made to feel.

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Seriously? What is wrong with education today? What have our teachers been driven to do as a result of this test? I can almost hear some of the die-hard testing proponents say that this was the correct thing for the teacher to do. What I say in response is how was this act of in essence punishing my child for a decision largely made by her parents ethically okay? Did my child have to be present to witness this and what did the teacher’s decision to opt my child out of the snack teach her as she sat there confused, ashamed, excluded, and simultaneously held up as the example for the rest of the class? “See children, this is what happens when you opt-out of tests. No veggie straws for you!”

Although I hold a doctoral degree in education, I don’t claim to be an expert on the standardized testing madness, it’s not my field. But, this experience my child has undergone highlights how we’ve hit rock bottom with this. I end this by saying that I don’t blame the teacher, I blame the system (especially Susana Martinez and her side-kick Skandera) and the horrible impacts it’s having on all of us.

#lablogadora #PARCC #testing #education