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

 

Hermana Chicana

cara y v

The world stood still the moment you ‘left’ us. It might have been imperceptible to others, but it was life-altering and shattering to those of us who had the honor of being part of one of your extensive circles.

I am moved by the amount of love pouring out of the community, your school, your students, everyone who knew you and was touched by your presence, but I don’t want to hear the “God needed an angel,” that “God has his (her) reasons,” that “it was time for you to go to a better place.”

I don’t want to hear it.

I could hear you saying to me – “that’s how people deal with things, déjalos.” I know that it’s just what we pitiful humans say when we can’t explain the unexplainable or undo the unacceptable.

All I can think of is the void, the void in my life now that you are gone. I will forever miss your face, tus gestos, tus chistes, tu risa, tu generosidad, absolutamente todo de ti, hasta las cosas con que no estaba de acuerdo, todo.

maya gonzalez

Artista – Maya Gonzalez

For over 16 years you put up with me. You were mi hermana Chicana. La mujer who has caught more glimpses of who I really am more so than any other. Mi hermana Chicana that even after lapses of incommunicado, you could still complete my sentences and follow my insane train of thought.

I can still hear our chistes and crazy laughter that time we were in that Vinagrette place you forced me to go to up in Santa Fe (okay it wasn’t bad, just not in my element). We were laughing so hysterically, barely noticing (or not caring about) the harsh stares radiating from los ojos chuecos de las uppities sitting next to us.

You were mi hermana Chicana, not because I had told you everything, especially not those deep dark secrets that I still keep hidden, it’s because you were my reflection – mi otro yo. Many of my stories and dilemmas were reflected in yours as well. Nothing needed an explanation, it was just understood. And as I would look at you during those moments, I would think in my head – “Are you sure you’re not my long-lost twin, mi cuatita?”

I’ve been going over so many of the memories, trying to relive the moments spent with you. From the crazy “how can you eat sugar!” sermons you would give me to our deep talks shared over cafecito, everything playing on repeat in my head.

Mi hermana Chicana how can this be? ‘Passed on’ – that amazingly beautiful mujer tan fuerte who not only touched my life so profoundly, but that of thousands more.

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“Dreams washing over me” by Margaret Garcia

The belief is that the soul remains connected to its place and people for 4 days after. It’s been 3 days since and I want to believe that you can still hear me…

Gracias for being my friend. Gracias for everything you did for me, for your students, for your familia, for everyone… Gracias por tu luz tan brillante y por tu energía tan bonita. Te voy a extrañar un chingo! Ahora no mas le pido a esa energía creadora que te guie en tu camino. Siempre seguirás en nuestros corazones y en nuestros pensamientos. Te amo con toda mi alma mi hermana Chicana!

 Ahora me quedo esperando ese día en que te volveré a ver…

Q.E.P.D. Cara Connors Esquivel – la madre esposa amiga maestra activista Chicana chingona y que!

 

#lablogadora #Chicana #hermanaChicana

Cellphone Addiction – Moderate or Severe?

Have you noticed that everywhere you go – restaurants, meetings, the park, museums, university classes, etc. – a significant (if not majority) of people are glued to the screen? Over the past several months or so, I’ve made it a point to take note of how much this is actually going on. And I’ll be honest that these observations started when I realized that I had a problem. What I have found is that making these observations is much more entertaining than the damned mini-computer that wants to control me.

So I’ve put together a top 10 list that can help you decide whether you have a moderate to severe case of “screen fever.”

Signs that your condition is moderate (mild doesn’t exist):

  1. You can’t get through a meal without looking at your cellphone.

It doesn’t matter if you are at home, at a restaurant, or even chowing down in the car (most dangerous), you find yourself glancing at your phone and/or computer every other bite. Next time you go out to eat, make it a point to check out the tables near you and see how many people/families you spot with eyes locked on their phones. Last time we were out, there was another family of six and guess what they were all doing? Yup, on el chingao cellular, every single one of them including the 6 year old chamako who was sporting a better phone than mine!

  1. You spend a significant part of a meeting reading email, looking at the latest FB chisme, sending texts, etc.

All I can say is time yourselves people. Make it a point to notice how many minutes (or maybe seconds) pass by before you have to check your phone, again, during the meeting. I don’t know about you but seeing the organization’s top-notch vato continuously on his phone or computer throughout the whole damned meeting sent a clear message: what the rest of us were talking about was definitely not as interesting or not regarded as priority for him. Chale.

  1. You can’t drive from point A to point B without checking your phone.

I’m literally becoming more and more afraid to drive around town. Many of you don’t know this but I was hit driver’s side almost three years ago by a woman who ran a red light. Guess what the most likely hypothesis was of why she ran the red light? Yup, checking out what was on her phone and not my van right in front of her distracted face.

  1. It has become normal for you to talk to your partner, spouse, or significant other through FB posts and comments.

This one baffles me. I’ve tripped out how some couples/spouses spend most of their day posting on each other’s FB and/or commenting on each other’s posts. Que? Don’t you get enough convo at home?

  1. You strategically place your phone within arm’s reach when you go to bed.

You find yourself waking up at odd hours of the night and not to use the bathroom or get a drink of water, it’s to check to see if any interesting updates have come through.

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Here are the signs that your condition is severe (and you might require professional help or may need to quit cold turkey):

  1. You have succumbed to the act of texting while driving. Really severe: You have even found yourself texting while on the highway.

No explanation needed, it’s just insane. It’s like reading a book while driving. “Oh I got it honey, don’t worry I can multi-task.” Bull. What trips me out is that people think that others don’t notice or maybe they haven’t realized it’s so obvious. “I swear I wasn’t looking at my phone! I was looking at the cat in my lap!”

  1. You literally can’t use the bathroom (and I’m not talking #1) without your phone. You even find yourself routinely sending a text and/or posting a FB status when you’re on the pot (and no I don’t mean on ‘pot,’ I mean literally using the escusado (toilet).

Gross, right? According to a recent study, 1 out of 6 cellphones are contaminated with fecal matter. Can you guess why? I couldn’t believe a professor, yes professor, posted an update that her cellphone had fallen in the toilet. WTF. Why was the phone in there with you to begin with?

  1. You found yourself in a state of horrific panic when you momentarily lost/misplaced your phone.

I mean you were literally cussing through a dry heave attack while tearing up everything in sight looking for your phone. And when you managed to find the damned thing (sitting on top of the toilet), your reflex was to hug and kiss it (potential feces and all).

  1. You have replaced 95% of real-time conversations with family & friends with social media.

Who needs to have real, in the flesh conversations with family and friends when you got el Facebook, Snapchat, and Facetime?

  1. You refuse to acknowledge that you have a problem.

Conclusion: I’m not about to say that I don’t have a problem too. How do you think I came up with part of the list? Eh!

Gente, realizing you have a problem is the first step in the process to recovery, right?

 

#lablogadora #screenfever #cellphoneaddiction #Chicana