Listening to Manu Chao and reading over LALS readers and lecture notes, después de tanto tiempo asegurándome que sólo sé que no sé nada, me pregunto: What the heck did I learn as an undergrad? Today, as years have come and gone, there’s still so much to remind myself of, to reflect, and to learn.
Keeping tabs on all of the theoretical morsels, sometimes bitten off in chunks too big for us to chew much less digest, the discussions, debates and epiphanies, is difficult. And these lessons are erased by time and distance as we take to our present context, new countries, new cities, new deadlines, and the flux of our realities. Having studied Latin American and Latina/o Studies and Politics at UC Santa Cruz (please take note of the “and” “Latina/o” and the banana slug reference, these are all necessary to contextualize the experience of a brown womyn studying and deconstructing social science) I remember a few things more vividly than others.
I remember that sublime thrill – the feeling I can only associate with that deep, long, desperate breath of air you struggle for after you’re doused with ice cold water or deprived of air for a few seconds too long – it was to study Latin American and Latina/o studies. What is globalization? What is a border? neoliberalism? injustice? economics? migration? my father? my mother? my community? myself. This struggle for breath and air is at once painful and desperate, reviving and invigorating. It was the most painful and illuminating period of intellectual development of my young life (only to be rivaled by the learning and un-learning inspired by life in Mexico City, however, this has been much less intellectual). This, of course, was complimented by my aggravating study of Politics. I would sit in a classroom, obviously out numbered by white students, outnumbered by voice, by confidence and upon further reflection, deprived of the platforms for discussion and intellectual debate that reflected not only experience beyond theoretical constraints – experience as telling of state institutional policies and deprivations as violence, for example – but the opportunity to express fundamental and powerful critiques of the Political Science and Politics model of the U.S., born out of Latin America. I always felt, as a student of Politics, that I was doomed to perpetually build the monster I so ardently deconstructed as a student of LALS. Torn, disarticulated, left without a language to speak to these two parts. I understood, and still do, what Politics is and represents and that it is why I wanted to train my intellect and spirit – because how ever hard you try, your spirit is part of the being that creates these thoughts and compels you to intellectual debate – to the language of the deciders, deliberators, creators and destroyers.
But I also learned that this way of knowing doesn’t easily welcome your language and voice: the struggle of the classroom reflects many struggles, your voice is shut down by non-verbal, unspoken, deeply rooted assumptions of who should do the talking. I’ve traveled, I’ve lived in Mexico, I’ve studied in UNAM, where I’ve studied politics, philosophy, and latin american studies. As I corporally, intellectually, and spiritually distanced myself from that time of great growth, it became less present, it’s as if I almost unlearned those theories and forgot that frustration. But it’s still there, isn’t it? Slumbering and sulking and awaiting to astound other students, the silent of the social sciences. But these students, I, will always bellow. In so many ways, their clamor wields potency and power.
This is what I remember from undergrad: simmering in this creativity, power, and articulation. And there is so much still to digest and reflect. And somehow, as soon as I take moments to breathe and tune into Manu Chao, it’s as if it all rushes back. The all nighters at Stevenson Computer Lab and the feeling that this epiphany on neoliberalism and cultural production for my term paper will have no parallel, ever again.