amar a méxico

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I love Mexico. I love how Mexico is resilient. I love Mexico, aware it is hurt, violated and terrorized, contests and affirms itself in light of so much erasure and destruction. I love Mexico multifaceted and shifting. Mexico in Los Angeles, Mexico in New York City, Mexico within and beyond all of its borders. My time in Mexico pushed me to detest how the state has destroyed people’s lives. But seeing how those who that has hurt, from Ayotzinapa to the thousands displaced, continue to fight for the Mexico impunity, racism, misogyny, corruption and profit have tried to erase, wills me to love a Mexico resisting.

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todo cambia

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Forever indebted to you, Negra.

me siento débil ante el peso del cambio, del tiempo transcurrido desde que escribí palabras ya muy lejanas. busco desesperada la inspiración que antes me inundaba. busco las flores radiantes que ya parecen esconder sus caras del sol. busco llenarme del deseo implacable que me llevó, y obligó a regresar a la ciudad de méxico: convicción irremediable. inspiración casi celestial que llena el cuerpo y hace los extremos de tu ser pulsar en afirmación de que eres, aquí. es observar, de lejos, los caminos que has trazado por Borderlands/La Frontera, queriendo, desesperadamente regresar a dónde estabas más feliz. el incesante andar te lleva por dónde debes viajar, por un dolor que es crecimiento, nostalgia que es lejanía, sabiduría que es aprendizaje. no hay paso atrás. no puedes ser la mujer ni escritora que antes fuiste. transfronteriza, pasajera en trance, mujer indomable: tu camino queda adelante. el ciclo empieza de nuevo, los retos y oportunidades de renacer están incrustados en el territorio que empieza con tu primer, nuevo paso.

To Mexico City’s Raging Aztec

Your skin, as you so correctly pointed out, is indeed lighter than mine. About a few lighter tones of brown. The tonalities of our skin aren’t the only borders that separate us. The differences between how we speak and what we sound like are as thick as the rusted metal plates that catch the gleam of golden sunsets in Tijuana.

You Chilango, speak Nahuatl. I Pocha, speak Spanglish. Although on days when I need to put on a more authentic performance of my Mexicaness, I pull out my seven years of (un)learning Spanish to pass just as you do. Cuauhtémoc is your martyr, you consider Tenochitlán usurped, Cortes a bastard, Trump a bigot, and are frustrated and angry and consider everything culturally constructed around you in the last 500 years a terrible joke.

And I agree with you, on the frustration, disdain, and pain of seeing, and being one of a few who has survived the destruction of what you consider the true expression of your authentic self. But you raging at me in Nahuatl on the metro is not fucking okay. 

It went down like this: Riding the metro on a January evening, a friend and I discussed the excitement and unease brought on by the start of a new year in the city. Two transplants in Mexico City by way of Los Angeles and San Diego, Mexico City to us is the current cultural and political mecca of our creativity and lives. For my friend a photographer and I a writer, it was a long time coming.

We were riding northbound on a packed Line 2 train, squeezed between students and office employees, discussing our plans for the year. And as naturally as Spanglish rolls off my tongue in the middle of Broadway in Downtown LA, and as easy it is to integrate the colloquial slang of my campesino grandfather in my conversations with elder Chilangxs in a coffee shop in Colonia Portales, I spoke English with my friend on the metro. Laughing and discussing our plans, our conversation was suddenly interrupted by the grunts and mumbling of a man sitting in the row directly in front of us. Unphased we continued with our conversation until it was again abruptly interrupted with the man’s husky voice exclaiming, “Fuck!” followed by his incoherent mumbling.

Suddenly aware of his anger at us, we became more tense as we pretended to ignore him. Our resilience to continue on with our conversation, one that fluidly switched to Spanish and Spanglish, infuriated him further. Suddenly made brave, and impatient to this man’s anger at us, I turned and stared squarely at him. Locking eyes, he pulled up his sleeve to show me the pale brown color of his wrist and inner arm and said to me in Spanish, “Can’t you see? I’m lighter than you and I speak Spanish. I speak Nahuatl too! Do you speak Nahuatl?”

Left dumbfounded, my friend jumped to respond and scolded the man for eavesdropping and even interrupting our conversation. At this point, having broken that immaculate and entrancing silence that characterizes metros all over the world, we had the attention of the entire car.  Eager to avoid this confrontation, I turned back to my friend and we resumed our conversation, except now my anxious voice increasingly integrated Spanish. Unrelenting, the man continued to rant at us, accusing us of pretending English fluency, scolding us to be ashamed, us two dark brown womxn, at having embraced English as it’s the language of Donald Trump.

There, a full-out quadrilingual argument ensued on the metro of Mexico City. In our exchange, I explained that Trump was a racist, sexist pig and not at all representative of an entire language and country (perhaps half-heartedly because maybe he DOES and maybe that’s exactly why the U.S. is the most terribly racist country in the world). I explained my family’s history of migration. I explained that like myself, thousands of Mexicans in the U.S. don’t speak Nahuatl and still live the spiritual and material violence promoted by Trump. I explained, with a nervous and infuriated voice, that that doesn’t make me any less, or anymore, Mexican.

Unsatisfied, the man went from scolding us like an elder, to scolding us like pochas. Unauthentic, arrogant, shameless, embarrasment. All these things I’m sure he threw at us in Nahuatl.  Our exchange lasted about three metro stops, when he decided to end the conversation and stand up to get off at his stop. And amidst awkward giggles and sighs, we let him know it was our stop too, and followed right behind him.

Getting off the train and away from the suffocating silence and probing stares of fellow passengers, we walked off and toward the exit, tense and contemplative. Such an intimate and intense confrontation and discussion, one I have dedicated essays and much meditation on, made quickly public.

Not belonging to either nationalism, but to the local experience of my life in Boyle Heights and joy and heartbreak in Mexico City. Choosing to embrace my transfronteriza existence came after five years of traveling between Mexico City and Los Angeles. Facing constant questioning of my accent, the confusion of having “perfect English” despite such brown skin, the ruthlessly violent nationalism of the US’s immigration policy toward Mexicans and Mexico’s increasing deportation and violence against Central Americans, the classism embedded in the social fabric of Mexico City and the self-hate of my diaspora anxious to succeed and be visible in the institutions del otro lado. My life navigating nationalism led to my commitment only to the transbarrio. To the value and connection of our experiences as people pumping with life and love and not limited to our possession of a passport, a passing accent or knowledge of either English or Spanish, or of an adequate performance to please a perpetually displeased authenticity police.

The anxiety of facing and being spiritually defeated by the Aztec in Mexico City’s metro opens these wounds and reminds me of the pain that like a border still unites us. His anger fueled by a racism and nationalism all his own, all still present and ephemeral in the streets of this city and in the probing stares of our elders in our hoods of Los Angeles and New York City. Gentrification, displacement, colonialism, patriarchy, violence, hate, nationalisms, borders, misunderstanding. Years of colonialism and imperialism sustain the meta-border that still separates and divides us.

For our diasporas, when it comes to melanin and identity, language and performativity, nothing is ever just one shade of belonging, neither Pocha nor Aztec. Like the diversity of the brown gleaming faces of school children  in playgrounds in Boyle Heights, our essence is of endless promise, endless forms to be. We wear jade around our wrists, huaraches or sometimes jelly sandals on our feet, handwoven rebosos and leather jackets frame our shoulders, nostalgia pumps in our hearts, and Zapotec hip-hop, Nahuatl prose, Spanish scoldings, Spanglish epiphanies enlighten our mornings and nights in our hoods and campos.

All this left unspoken in a metro car filled with hate and anxiety. Coming back to healing and mediation, laughing and reaffirming that what unites us can be more powerful and conducive to collective healing than what divides. Still searching for those spoken words to help this healing. For now, I build the strength and peace to continue this journey in my current nepantla capital.

nepantlera

dignidad rebelde

Estar en medio y sentirte cómodx y feliz por retarlo todo. Las fronteras políticas e identitarias. Las sexuales y de género. Las guías de cómo y cuando vivir tu vida. Las expectativas de ti, de cómo comportarte en cada momento, en cada etapa, en cada contexto. Saber lo qué se espera de ti y por qué y rechazarlo todo. Habitar los márgenes y gozar de la intemperie.

Por qué la historia, aquella que habita tu cuerpo, que informa tus miedos, que alienta el valor y la feroz resistencia con que navegas el mundo, ha demostrado la violencia que se te inflige cuando obedeces a estos parámetros, a las fronteras físicas, emocionales, espirituales, y creativas.

Nacer y ser mujer que atraviesa fronteras, desde antes que fueras semilla en el vientre de tu madre, desde antes que aprendiste a discernir las fronteras invisibles que desmembra cuerpos, comunicación, comprensión, y amor en un mundo ciego descompuesto que solo es competente a la disociación, enajenación y miedo. Cuando solo sentías la ausencia y el carácter incompleto de tu ser.

Comprenderlo y aceptar y celebrar y vivir y existir en medio. Hasta en el amor, celebras de la ambigüedad y promesa de no comprometer, sino compartir. De gozar del amor en su expresión más pura y regenerativa. Querer y no herir, nutrir y hacer libre.

Estar en medio es amenazar a todo y todxs que existen encerrados en si mismos, en las fronteras que se les impusieron, en la falsa comodidad de las falsas pero violentas fronteras. La neplanterx alienta la transcendencia colectiva. Es aquellx que a pesar de sus miedos, a pesar de los miedos ajenos, genera nuevos espacios, habitándolos, y ensanchado ese espacio con la valentía fortalecida por un centenar de generaciones, haciéndonos espacio a todxs, seres libres del miedo.

End of a season and the continuation of renewed cycles, my journey to Mexico City

It’s about that time of year here in Boyle Heights when the jacaranda trees shed the last of their beautiful lilac flowers. And as the last of its sweet petals frame our view of the early summer sky, I prepare to once again head south for Mexico City.

The jacaranda tree, magnificent and populously planted all over Boyle Heights, has perhaps been my favorite companion in these last few Spring months. Be it enjoying the sight of them through the train window coming home from yoga on the metro gold line or walking beneath them on especially gloomy and overcast days, their presence has been a personal source of happiness and inspiration.

And just like the many beings I continue to meet on my journey, I feel grateful for the jacaranda and what it has taught me about presence, resiliency, and the cyclical nature of our days, lives, opportunities, and worlds.

Well, it was only very recently that I received an offer to work as the Managing Director for the Center of International Policy’s Americas Program in Mexico City, an organization I’ve worked as an intern and journalist for the last three years.

I was surprised and deeply grateful regarding the timeliness of this amazing offer, considering that my plans for a Fulbright didn’t come into fruition this past April and in light of my overwhelming desire to make a more permanent move to DF. Considering that for over two years, I have made two unsuccessful attempts at graduate admissions at UNAM, countless unfruitful job applications to Mexican organizations, and an endless amount of sent emails and withheld sighs and depressions experienced in the process. Simply put, this offer is basically a dream come true for this transbarrio writer and nepantlera.

Yet after the conversation with my friend and would be boss, I have walked around my neighborhood, contemplating the increasingly bare branches of the jacaranda, and it was during these barrio saunters that I sincerely felt a sadness about leaving and embarking south. Of leaving during a time I have felt I have become more intimate and familiar with Boyle Heights.

In an instant I felt conflicted whether to stay in Boyle Heights and explore and deepen the possibilities of my happiness here or to heed this opportunity to embark on a career in journalism in Mexico City, a destination I have sought to arrive to so desperately, so insanely, so intensely for so long.

And in considering this sudden and unexpected opportunity not only to travel and live in the city of my dreams, but work in the field of journalism, and to be physically and creatively closer to a life of writing and living splendidly, I feel compelled to take a cue from my favorite trees that in their cycles and essence have taught me an important lesson about blooming and letting go.

For over three years, I have struggled with transitions. Refusing to be present and struggling with accepting and letting go of new spiritual, personal, and emotional seasons. These have included the spiritually debilitating experience of transitioning back into the often alienating culture and politics of the US. Of the institutional violence inflicted upon young people of color not only seeking to survive the job market, but living and existing in US society. Of my own intolerance and violence toward myself, the way I have adopted criteria and judgment toward myself, and my ability and capacity to achieve, create, and exist. Meanwhile these many forms of violence are products of both tangible and metaphysical legacies of injustice and inequality, one of the biggest challenges has been recognizing that I have always been where I needed to be, both physically and emotionally.

What I now realize is that meanwhile it has been so in the past, transitions do not necessarily have to be painful. That cycles end only to begin different and more necessary journeys. That in searching for affirmations and inspiration, we must take cues from the universe and the worlds around us, from the beauty of the changing branches of the jacaranda tree to the boundless and limitlessness of earth and peoples despite borders, of the grandeur of existence.

What is wonderful and what I am so unbelievably grateful for is that I owe the beginning of this cycle to hard work, serendipity, and coincidence. It is recognizing that it is a result of my work and effort over three years and that it is also a product of a phone call and an alignment of both well wishes and a genuine search for support. And it has perhaps even come in a time when I’ve needed it most: it is a ripple of cycles that came before, many that even began before I came to exist in this present form.

I am open to embarking on this cycle and I recognize that I must bloom and let go as the seasons require. That my potential and power to regenerate, reinvent, and heal is limitless. And that I am so incredibly excited for what lies ahead. And that I am strong and ready to transition and flow and relish in it.

I recognize and affirm that Boyle Heights and my gente and these trees are resilient and are within me as much as I stay and live within them. That I am headed to where I need to be only to return to continue what many of us began for ourselves and together.

And just like the jacaranda tree bears its beautiful branches regardless of the season, I am grateful and love my life both in times of splendor and simplicity, triumph and challenge, growth and stillness.

Como pasajera en trance y repose, I look forward to the transitions and renewed seasons that await.

“Perspectives From the Cracks”: A Nepantlera on Traveling and Writing

It is hard for me to find any form for this. Whether to start with an anecdote, an iteration of a theory, a feeling, or a description. I don’t know what form to give this desperately necessary expression of how my lived experiences within and in-spite of borders challenge and inspire me as a writer and traveler, of how my living and seeing awaken and deepen my connection to my memories, journeys, and experiences.

A cycle, a passage, a channel that connects my past to my future. The borders that sever the physical and spiritual terrain on which I stand. What should be the length? What should I emphasize? The tone, the intensity? I simply can’t figure it out even as I write. Ambiguity and formlessness, endlessness and fluidity: the only certainties I have of myself not only as a writer but as a person, as a traveler, a border crosser, a nepantlera.

Everything flows and everything is connected, and even as I write, it is impossible to obey the borders and restrictions of prose, of these letters, punctuations, and spaces. My writing itself is nepantla: the borderlands, a passage way between the worlds where I have deeply lost and re-formed myself, my thoughts, desires, and capacities. The places I have been to in my travels and the terrain I know only thanks to the memory of the heart. My body, my love, my mind, and my writing: where I travel, what I see, and what I seek grows from the in-between, it becomes stronger, it extends in this formless, limitless space.

It was a few days I ago that I connected the dots between a theory and my life – which, as a student of Latin American and Latina/o Studies, I did so for four years and very often. Except now, firmly standing in the transbarrio-scape and in the creation and formulation of the poetry of my everyday life does this revelation seems to have much more of an impact on my spirit and life – putting it into practice, into words, into a vision, seems like the appropriate, and desperately necessary thing to do. And it all seems to fall into an unordered, unbounded, unbordered arrangement of letters and embraces.

Gloria Anzaldúa  wrote about the borderlands, the nepantlas it creates, and why and how to inhabit and transcend them. She wrote about nepantla as an in-between cultural space that hurls us into displacement. The in-between space of the peoples connected to – and severed by – multiple communities, opressions, identities, languages, sexualities, belongings, desires, and -scapes.

In the tradition of chicana feminism, nepantla was and is an uneasy but necessary point of departure for a new consciousness – a liminal space of great confusion, anxiety, and loss of control where transformation can occur.

But, as it has been written by Anzaldúa and lived by my self, it is deeply immersed in this state, up to the brim with anxiety and helplessness, overwhelmed by ambiguity and hazed by the opaque hues of the in-between, that we find the opportunity to deepen our comfort with the unfamiliar. To recognize its power is to transform ourselves.

Anzaldúa, in the poetry of her prose and denuncia de sus teorias, explained that nepantleras, as people who experience the nepantla state, serve as agents of awakening who inspire and challenge others to deepen their awareness, desarollar greater conocimiento. In existing and guiding us, escribó Anzaldúa, they serve to remind us to search for wholeness of being.

All of this, which I learned as a student and have lived as a muxer, is not new for me but it recently came up in a conversation with a friend and photographer about our potential creative projects and collaborations. I explained that I wanted to write about transbarrio-scapes, about this borderless, geographical and spiritual terrain I belong to and deeply know- the beauty of public plazas y esquites a la luz del día, the borderless and boundlessness of racial and class and gender violence (it exists here too, we perpetrate it here too), how and why I can enjoy an ice cream cone on my porch in Los Angeles, close my eyes and smell the moisture of the wet dirt roads of Durango, how everything that is severed, is connected, how everything that is severed, is within us. I found myself explaining that I sought to write about, and from within, nepantla.

This realization came thundering down on me as I sat in the middle of the East Los Angeles County Library and it fizzled away among the bilingual book stacks. I have lived in nepantla all of my life but I suddenly and violently awoke to realize it four years ago when I independently returned to Mexico for the first time.  Traveling to Mexico City and returning has meant deep pain. It has challenged every previously formed notion of my identity, personality, purpose, sense of belonging, and dreams. Since then, I have struggled with my own journey with belonging and borders yet I have become more keenly aware about the presence of this tension and struggle on a larger, more collective, more deeply rooted way.

I saw much more clearly the bordered existence of everything – from people’s notions of large and small scale national loyalty and our incapacity to embrace sexual, physical, spiritual and emotional ambiguity and transition, to our obsession to belong even if it means never questioning, even if it means never deciding for ourselves, even if it means destruction.

I write from within the cracks to articulate the nepantlascapes that form my everyday life, the spaces that I navigate everyday. Because, even if it has and may continue to represent pain and displacement, I see it everywhere. It exists and may remain unseen because even our visions, even our words, even our embraces are bordered and taught to only perceive and accept and yearn for worlds that are separate and disarticulated, passing by those that bleed, meld, harmonize, and exist in connection.

I feel inspired to write and express nepantla as a collective and necessary transcendence, encouraging others to see and embrace and grow in their own journeys. I feel compelled to accept these ambiguities, to accept borderlessness, to accept and continue to grow. To defy fragmentation of the spirit and of existence. To love myself within them and despite them.

I write out of nepantla. Searching for and expressing the nepantlascapes that populate the worlds that compose me. Traveling I found nepantla and writing I become nepantlera.