El otro Mexico
El otro Mexico que a cá hemos construído
el espacio es loque ha sido
Este es el esfuerzo de todos nuestros hermanos
y latinoamericanos que han sabido
-Los Tigres del Norte (1)
"The Aztecas del norte…compose the largest single tribe or nation of Anishinabeg (Indians) found in the United States today…Some call themselves Chicanos and see themselves as people whose true homeland is Aztlán [the U.S.Southwest]." (2)
Wind tugging at my sleeve
feet sinking into the sand
I stand at the edge where earth touches ocean
where the two overlap
a gentle coming together
at othe rtimes and places a violent clash.
Across the border in Mexico
stark silhouette of houses gutted by waves,
cliffs crumbling into the sea,
silver waves marbled with spume
gashing a hole under the border fence.
Miro el mar atacar
la cerca en Border Field Park
con sus buchones de agua
an Easter Sunday resurrection
of the brown blood in my veins.
Oigo el llorido del mar, el respire del aire,
my heart surges to the beat of the sea.
in the gray haze of the sun
the gulls’ shrill cry of hunger,
the tangy smell of the sea seeping into me.
I walk through the hole in the fence
to the other side.
Under my fingers I feel the gritty wire
rusted by 139 years
of the salty breath of the sea.
Beneath the iron sky
Beneath the iron sky
Mexican children kick their soccer ball across,
run after it, entering the U.S.
I press my hand to the steel curtain—
chainlink fence crowded with rolled barbed wire—
rippling from the sea where Tijuana touches San Diego
unrolling over mountains
this “Tortilla curtain” turning into el río Grande
flowing down to the flatlands
of the Magic Valley of South Texas
its mouth emptying into the Gulf.
1,950 mile-long open wound
dividing a pueblo, a culture
running down the length of my body,
staking fence rods in my flesh,
splits me splits me
me raja me raja
This is my home
this thin edge of
But the skin of the earth is seamless.
The sea cannot be fenced,
el mar does not stop at the borders.
To show the white man what she thought of his
Yemayá blew that wire fence down.
This land was Mexican once,
was Indian always
And will be again.
Yo soy un puente tendido
del mundo gabacho al del mojado,
lo pasado me estira pa’’trás
y lo presente pa’’delante,
Que la Virgen de Guadalupe me cuide
Ay ay ay, soy mexicana de este lado.
The U.S-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country — a border culture. Borders are set upto define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition.The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los atravesados live here: the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half-breed,the halfdead; in short, those who cross over, pass over,or go through the confines of the "normal." Gringos in the U.S. Southwest consider theinhabitants of the borderlands transgressors, aliens — whether they possess documents or not, whether they're Chicanos, Indians orBlacks. Do not enter, trespassers will be raped, maimed, strangled, gassed, shot. The only "legitimate" inhabitants are those in power, the whites and those who align themselves with whites. Tension grips the inhabitants of the borderlands likea virus. Ambivalence and unrest reside there and death is no stranger.
In the fields, la migra. My aunt saying, "No corran, don't run. They'll think you're del otro lao." In the confusion, Pedro ran, terrified of being caught. He couldn't speak English, couldn't tell them he was fifth generation American. Sin papeles — he did not carry his birth certificate to work in the fields. La migra took him away while we watched. Se lollevaron. He tried to smile when he looked back at us, to raise his fist. But I saw the shame pushing his head down, I saw the terrible weight of shame hunch his shoulders. They deported him to Guadalajara by plane. The furthest he'd ever been to Mexico was Reynosa,a small border town opposite Hidalgo, Texas, not far from McAllen. Pedro walked all the way to the Valley. Se lo llevaron sin uncentavo al pobre. Sevino andando desde Guadalajara.
During the original peopling of the Americas, the first inhabitants migrated across the Bering Straits and walked south across the continent. The oldest evidence of humankind in the U.S.— the Chicanos' ancient Indian ancestors — was found in Texas and has been dated to 35000 B.C (3). In the Southwest United States archeologists have found 20,000-year-old campsites of the Indians who migrated through, or permanently occupied, the Southwest, Aztlán — land of the herons, land of whiteness, the Edenic place of origin of the Azteca.
In 1000 B.C., descendants of the original Cochise people migrated into what is now Mexico and Central America and became the direct ancestors of many of the Mexican people. The Cochise culture of the Southwest is the parent culture of the Aztecs. The Uto-Aztecan languages stemmed from the language of the Cochise people (4). The Aztecs (the Nahuatl word for people of Aztlán) left the Southwest in 1168 A.D.
Now let us go.
Un pájaro cantó.
Con sus ocbo tribus salieron
de la "cueva del origen."
los aztecas siguieron al dios
Huitzilopochtli, the God of War, guided them to the place (that later became Mexico City) where an eagle with a writhing serpent in its beak perched on a cactus. The eagle symbolizes the spirit (as the sun, the father); the serpent symbolizes the soul (as the earth, the mother). Together, they symbolize the struggle between the spiritual/celestial/male and the underworld/earth/feminine. The symbolic sacrifice of the serpent to the "higher" masculine powers indicates that the patriarchal order had already vanquished the feminine and matriarchal order in pre-Columbian America.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Spaniards and Hernán Cortés invaded Mexico and, with the help of tribes that the Aztecs had subjugated, conquered it. Before the Conquest, there were twenty-five million Indian people in Mexico and the Yucatán. Immediately after the Conquest, the Indian population had been reduced to under seven million. By 1650, only one-and a-half-million pure-blooded Indians remained. The mestizos who were genetically equipped to survive small pox, measles, and typhus (Old World diseases to which the natives had no immunity), founded a new hybrid race and inherited Central and South America. En 1521 nació una nueva raza, el mestizo, el mexicano (people of mixed Indian and Spanish blood), a race that had never existed before. Chicanos, Mexican-Americans, are the offspring of those first matings.
Our Spanish, Indian, and mestizo ancestors explored and settled parts of the U.S. Southwest as early as the sixteenth century. For every gold-hungry conquistador and soul-hungry missionary who came north from Mexico, ten to twenty Indians and mestizos went along as porters or in other capacities. For the Indians, this constituted a return to the place of origin, Aztlán, thus making Chicanos originally and secondarily indigenous to the Southwest. Indians and mestizos from central Mexico intermarried with North American Indians. The continual intermarriage between Mexican and American Indians and Spaniards formed an even greater mestizaje.
Intimate Terrorism: Life in the Borderlands
The world is not a safe place to live in. We shiver in separate cells in enclosed cities, shoulders hunched, barely keeping the panic below the surface of the skin, daily drinking shock along with our morning coffee, fearing the torches being set to our buildings, the attacks in the streets. Shutting down. Woman does not feel safe when her own culture, and white culture, are critical of her; when the males of all races hunt her as prey.
Alienated from her mother culture, ‘alien” in the dominant culture, the woman of color does not feel safe within the inner life of her Self. Petrified, she can’t respond, her face caught between los intersticios, the spaces between the different worlds she inhabits.
The ability to respond is what is meant by responsibility, yet our cultures take away our ability to act—shackle us in the nameof protection. Blocked, immobilized, we can't move forward, can't move backwards. That writhing serpent movement, the very movement of life, swifter than lightning, frozen.
We do not engage fully. We do not make full use of our faculties. We abnegate. And there in front of us is the crossroads and choice: to feel a victim where someone else is in control and therefore responsible and to blame (being a victim and transfer ring the blame on culture, mother, father, ex-lover, friend, absolves me of responsibility), or to feel strong, and, for the most part, in control.
My Chicana identity is grounded in the Indian woman's history of resistance. The Aztec female rites of mourning were rites of defiance protesting the cultural changes which disrupted the equality and balance between female and male, and protesting their demotion to a lesser status, their denigration. Like la Llorona, the Indian woman's only means of protest was wailing.
So mamá, Raza, how wonderful, no tener que rendir cuentas a nadie.
I feel perfectly free to rebel and to rail against my culture. I fear no betrayal on my part because, unlike Chicanas and other women of color who grew up white or who have only recently returned to their native cultural roots, I was totally immersed in mine. It wasn't until I went to high school that I "saw" whites. Until I worked on my master's degree I had not gotten within an arm's distance of them. I was totally immersed en lo mexicano, a rural, peasant, isolated, mexicanismo. To separate from my culture (as from my family) I had to feel competent enough on the outside and secure enough inside to live life on my own. Yet leaving home I did not lose touch with my origins because lo mexicano is my system. I am turtle, wherever I go I carry “home” on my back.
Not me sold out my people but they me. Not me sold out my people but they me. So yes, though "home" permeates every sinew and cartilage in my body, I too am afraid of going home. Though I'll defend my race and culture when they are attacked by non-mexicanos, conozco el malestar de mi cultura. I abhor some of my culture's ways, how it cripples its women, como burras, our strengths used against us, lowly burras bearing humility with dignity. The ability to serve, claim the males, is our highest virtue. I abhor how my culture makes macho caricatures of its men. No, I do not buy all the myths of the tribe into which I was born. I can understand why the more tinged with Anglo blood, the more adamantly my colored and colorless sisters glorify their colored culture's values to offset the extreme devaluation of it by the white culture. It's a legitimate reaction. But I will not glorify those aspects of my culture which have injured me and which have injured me in the name of protecting me.
So, don't give me your tenets and your laws. Don't give me your lukewarm gods. What I want is an accounting with all three cultures-white, Mexican, Indian. I want the freedom to carved chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of my entrails. And if going home is denied me then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture — una cultura mestiza — with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture.
The Wounding of the india-Mestiza
Estas carnes indias que despreciamos nosotros los mexicanos asi como despreciamos condenamos a nuestra madre, Malinali. Nos condenamos a nosotros mismos. Esta raza vencida, enemigo cuerpo.
Not me sold out my people but they me. Malinali Tenepat, or Malintzín, has become known as la Chingada — the fucked one. She has become the bad word that passes a dozen times a day from the lips of Chicanos. Whore, prostitute, the woman who sold out her people to the Spaniards are epithets Chicanos spit out with contempt.
The worst kind of betrayal lies in making us believe that the Indian woman in us is the betrayer. We, indias y mestizas, police the Indian in us, brutalize and condemn her. Male culture has done a good job on us. Son las costumbres que traicionan. La india en mi es la sombra: La Chingada, Tlazolteotl, Coatlicue. Son ellas que oyemos lamentando a sus hijas perdidas.
Not me sold out my people but they me. Because of the color of my skin they betrayed me. The dark-skinned woman has been silenced, gagged, caged, bound into servitude with marriage, bludgeoned for 300 years, sterilized and castrated in the twentieth century. For 300 years she has been a slave, a force of cheap labor, colonized by the Spaniard, the Anglo, by her own people (and in Mesoamerica her lot under the Indian patriarchs was not free of wounding). For 300 years she was invisible, she was not heard. Many times she wished to speak, to act, to protest, to challenge. The odds were heavily against her. She hid her feelings; she hid her truths; she concealed her fire; but she kept stoking the inner flame. She remained faceless and voiceless, but a light shone through her veil of silence. And though she was unable to spread her limbs and though for her right now the sun has sunk under the earth and there is no moon, she continues to tend the flame. The spirit of the fire spurs her to fight for her own skin and a piece of ground to stand on, a ground from which to view the world — a perceptive, a homeground where she can plumb the rich ancestral roots into her own ample mestiza heart. She waits till the waters are not so turbulent and the mountains not so slippery with sleet. Battered and bruised she waits, her bruises throwing her back upon herself and the rhythmic pulse of the feminine. Coatlalopeuh waits with her.
Aqui en Ia soledad prospera su rebeldia.
En Ia soledad Ella prospera.
(1) Los Tigres del Norte is a conjunto band.
(2) Jack D. Forbes, Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlán. (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, Premier Books, 1973), 13 183; Eric R. Wolf, Sons of Shanking Earth (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, Phoenix Books, 1959), 32.
(3) John R. Chávez, The Lost Land: The Chicano Images of the Southwest (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1984),
(4) Chávez, 9. Besides the Aztecs, the Ute, Gabrillino of California, Pima of Arizona, some Pueblo of New Mexico, Comanche of Texas, Opata of Sonora, Tarahumara of Sinaloa and Durango, and the Huichol of Jalisco speak Uto-Aztecan languages and are descended from the Cochise people.
(5) Raay Tannahill, Sex in History (Briarcliff Manor, NY: Stein and Day/Publishers?Scarborough House, 1980), 308.
(6) Chávez, 21.