The Mujeres of "Un Llanto Coletivo." On the weekend of El Grito de la Independencia Mexicana, 2018, some 40 Teatristas, Artistas and Activistas joined Las Maestras Center in a public and collective outcry, to protest ICE's policies and to demand an end to the government-sanctioned unconscionable treatment de los (in)migrantes y refugiados of all ages. Sponsored by Las Maestras Center for Xicana Indigenous Thought & Art Practice of UC SantaBarbara and Otay Detention Resistance Committee of Pueblos sin Fronteras, San Diego
“Mis Hijos! cries La Llorona, the Weeping Woman of Mexican myth and memory. “My children, where have you gone?” It is the turn into the 16thcentury. Prescient, La Llorona, our Indigenous mother, mounts the temple steps of Tenochtitlan and grieves aloud the loss of her Native México and its children. She knows what’s coming.
In the last weeks, as the horror of the separation of children from their asylum-seeking families along the southern border began to surface, outraged news pundits, protestors and congressmen alike retorted, “This is not America.” Among ourselves, the invisible—Native Americans, Latinos, working-class immigrants and their children, citizen and undocumented alike—we speak a different language. We don’t really believe in the right of that border to determine our lives, even as it continues to bitterly determine our lives. We remember things differently. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican American war, the U.S. border was just another line on a map; never recognized by the original inheritors of that land.
We murmur to one another: “The separation of families . . . This is exactlyAmerica.”
Every African American must, on a DNA level, remember the auction block. Until the passage of the Child Welfare Act in 1979, as much as a third of Native American children were forcibly removed from their traditional communities and adopted into EuroAmerican homes. During the Second World War internment of Japanese Americans, thousands of fathers, Issei community leaders, were arrested and separated from their families, some for the duration of the war. In the 1960s Puerto Rican women lost the very prospectof children through mass forced sterilization.
I, a Mexican American, was raised by a strong-willed mother with a little formal schooling, and yet I received a good enough education through government grants and scholarships (not shackled by loans) to arrive at a critical thought or two. I also had the benefit of coming of age in the late 1960s/early 70s when people of color, women and queer folk took to the streets in rebellion. All this resulted if not in full liberation, at least in a political framework about equity and social justice that would carry a generation of us into the next fifty years. Fifty years in which the vast majority of gains made in public education, health care, social welfare, environmental protection, and workers’ rights have been eroded by a government that, decade after decade, rolled over for the rich to become richer.
Still, there was a moment when I had a brief taste not of what America is, but what it could be.
Today, I hold my country responsible for Donald Trump’s rise to power. Decades of greed and organized ignorance brought him there. The greed of a U.S. that has decided to no longer support public education, viable health care, or decent housing for all. The greed that would require that the poor and working classes never grow to full citizenship, never become a politically astute collective body of voters and voices that would insist on a quality of life that eradicated poverty and the racism it engenders. The greed that makes immigrant detention centers where human beings are caged good business for private prison companies.
Cherríe Moraga is a founding member of La RED Xicana Indígena, which began in 2002. It is a network of Xicanas indígenas based in Arizona, New Mexico and California, who are actively involved in political, educational and cultural work that serves to raise indigenous consciousness among our communities and supports the social justice struggles of people of indigenous American origins North and South. As Xicanas living in the United States we self-identify as indigenous women with native origins in the Southwest United States and/or México, but also understand our project to include women whose indigenous origins may reside throughout el Caribe, and Central and South America. Our name, which means “network” in Spanish, further signifies (in English) our alliance with all Red Nations of the Américas, including nations residing in the North.
La RED recognizes Xicano and MeXicano peoples to be a pueblo made up of many indigenous nations in diaspora who through a five hundred year project of colonization, neocolonization and de-indianization have been forced economically from their place of origin, many ending up in the United States. Politically, we recognize that we stand with little legal entitlement to our claim as indigenous peoples within América; however, we come together on the belief that, with neither land base nor enrollment card -- like so many urban Indians in the North, and so many displaced and undocumented migrants coming from the South --, we have the right to “right” ourselves; that is, to attempt to put la Xicana Indígena back into balance with her origins and work vigorously from that site toward the decolonization, economic independence and cultural integrity of our communities. To that end our members support projects, which encourage self-sustaining economies, such as community gardens that produce traditional medicines and provide for the nutritional needs of local communities.
As Xicanas Indígenas, we also see as part of our project to re-envision our families apart from the Eurocentric model of the privatized patriarchal family and to draw example from the tribal structure of our indigenous antecedents ( i.e. the extended family including blood relations and relations of shared affinity). We recognize women as the carriers of the knowledges of our various traditions, especially within the realm of the sacred. As such, we understand our mission requires efforts to re-instate the traditional leadership of women within our communities, especially the female elders’ role as members of tribal councils and as ceremonial leaders. Members of La Red are actively involved in ceremonial practices drawing from Northern and Southern traditions. We continue to organize gatherings with respected teachers and elders to educate young women in the meaning of various ceremonial traditions, to train them in the necessary practices of those traditions, and to encourage their leadership. Fundamentally, we believe it is our right to recover, reclaim and recontextualize our ceremonies for the future generations, with a deep respect for the origins of those spiritual practices as best we can uncover them. Again, without the legal recognition of Xicanos as indigenous peoples, we see as part of our mandate to struggle for religious freedom and the right to practice our ceremonies, as is legally entitled to our northern native counterparts.
As Xicanas Indígenas we affirm the right to self-determination in all aspects of our identities, including ethnicity, sexuality and gender and actively support projects that honor the sovereignty of the female Indígena body. To that end, we find as part of our mission to advocate for and support the rights of gays, lesbians, transgenders and two-spirit peoples and recognize them as critical contributors to the health and balance of our communities. Further, we commit ourselves to interrupting acts of sexual violence committed against our young women, with a special focus on those perpetrated by the men of our own communities.
As many members of La RED are educators and artists, we see the cultural project of de-colonization as critical to our work within the network. We understand that the project of raising consciousness among younger generations of Xicanas/as requires us to create works that re-collect our history and re-envision a future as indigenous peoples. This includes film, visual arts, performance, and imaginative literature. Further as educators, we see it as our task to create alternate environments for learning and alternate approaches to study that can more closely reflect an indigenous point of view and one which subverts the neocolonial project of the corporate-funded Academy.
As Xicanas, we reside in both worlds -- north and south – and envision ourselves as a kind of conduit for this meeting site between two continents separated by an equally genocidal history – that of the English-speaking vs. Spanish-speaking conquistador. Our direct participation in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) since 2001 is reflective of this meeting site, where La RED sponsors the participation of representatives of various MeXicana migrant rights organizations and Indigenous tribes to present their human rights concerns to the Forum. La RED stands in solidarity with the indigenous struggles for sovereignty throughout the hemisphere and many of our members work actively with groups in the United States to support various indigenous campaigns in the south, such as the EZLN’s La Otra Campana. La RED is also a member organization of the ENLACE Continental de Mujeres Indígenas, since 1997 and the Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas (FIMI) since 2001.
Fundamentally, we understand our Mission as Xicanas Indígenas to do our part to fulfill the prophesy of the Eagle (of the North) coming together with the Condor (of the South). We do so by working for social justice and raised indigenous consciencia spanning from the most personal site of the familias in our own communities to the hemispheric level of a growing continental and global indigenous peoples movement. .