9.10.15

Is the calendar notification that I woke up to this morning. The much anticipated date that was supposed to mark my triumphant move to Mexico City. We bought the ticket early April, my friend and I, dos almas errantes filled with wanderlust, nostalgia, and an overwhelming desire to party through a night of post-punk and mezcal.

Forward five months and instead of boarding a flight in Tijuana, I lounge in my southern Mexico City apartment (cottage, really), while my friend awaits the date she moves in November. So, how to make sense of these five months? Of spur of the moment decisions, of unexpected and even life changing circumstances, of distance, of the unplanned, of the  unwanted-of the necessary chain of events that conduces the way our lives are to unravel.

Fear, really, of having made a wrong decision, of moving too fast.  Of changing how the plan was supposed to unfold, of not letting it develop the way it was discussed and meditated. Of retreating forward and retreating rapidly-skipping all together certain discussions with family and friends, of missing out on the procrastination, of checking off each item down the list of things I needed to do for the most important and damn liberating move of my life.

The last few days I have felt the pangs of nostalgia for Los Angeles and even my body, my bones, are suddenly alert to each kilometer that marks the distance between here and there. Thoughts on how I moved too fast, fear and doubt begin to blemish what really is a performance and act of survival, for happiness, and self-love.

Liberation, really, to choose who you want to be and become, and act upon it. It’s simple but still so challenging, so overwhelming, and somehow so unrealistic for many of us. And when we do it, when I have moved and have made a decision to satiate this hunger for life, this necessity to create, to tune into my dreams and love nurtured by a magnificent city, at least for some moments, some months, some years of my peculiarly short life, all becomes complicated by self doubt, fear, and hate. Emotions that we constantly share among each other and feed ourselves like poison.

To retreat forward and disobey every premeditation, agreement, and plan. Diverging from what at one moment you thought was  best but life-and your beautiful power to destroy, decide, and create- determined you needed otherwise.

Why choose fear when you have already decided to live for love and with courage.  Why subject yourself to suffering when there is post-punk and mezcal. To tune into the desires, hopes, and affirmations deeply buried under all the fear, anxiety, and doubt.

Abi, I’m waiting for you.  Five months and looking forward.

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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.

Waking before the Storm

The luminous silver sheen of a sky heavy with rain frames the dancing ethereal mauve branches of the jacaranda tree. As I ride the train home, I trace the swaying multi-colored flowers down below through my window and as the sky above threatens to inundate us with the total weight of life and destruction, inanimate and slumbering spirits alike are summoned into movement all around me.

Sprinkled throughout the horizon, like beacons of lavender hued hope, the jacaranda tree reaches the apex of beauty just moments before a spring-time rain storm. These trees, although most abundant and common in the subtropical region of our world, are radiant and wild under rainy skies. Because of their color and beauty, they seem to belong no where else but amidst the chaos and freedom of rain and wind. Dancing and alive under the Los Angeles sky.

As I walk home, eager to both avoid and surrender to the looming rain that has already begun to lightly kiss my face, I walk through familiar streets, the wind sinking into my spirit, unrelentingly piercing through every part of me. Around every corner, towering above homes and lined all along the streets, the jacaranda peeks through with its elegant trunk and far reaching branches that cradle hundreds of clusters of fragrant purple flowers. The only radiant beauty under the grey skies, life surrounded by a colorless landscape.

Everything is enlivened by the rain winds. It is an unbound and powerful silence and upheaval, when the wind animates tree branches into a feverish dance, when human eyes are swept upward, when the earth is caressed by the heavens whose light illuminates and transforms our world, making it wonderful again, undoing and erasing the mundanity we’ve imposed upon it. When everything awakens, we again see and feel the beauty of our everyday lives.

The trees sprinkle their sweet syrupy petals from above, the wind cleanses unnecessary burdens from my spirit, and before thundering forward to do its work on another soul, it caresses a smile onto my face.

To emulate the singularity of the jacaranda, the healing power of wind, the radiance of the earth illuminated and nourished by a regenerative liquid, a spiritual life force, to again feel and see: everything is beautiful, everything lives.

I feel most alive in the moments before a storm.

Ella Está Embarcando: The Retreat Forward

The soft lavender hue of my notepad makes writing this a pleasant visual experience. A compliment to these feelings of tranquility and peace affirmed by the music and conversation of the last few hours, of the last few days. Everything that surrounds me at this precise, building, fleeting moment encourages me to retreat ahead in the construction and expression of my creative desires. A shift, a recalibration, a decision. A choice in the direction to do what I have always wanted to do in the places I have always wanted to be.

It has been a long and agonizing accumulation of pain and heartbreak, this life and becoming. As I’ve probably expressed in my writing and in conversation and in silence, I am who I continue to become because of Mexico City and the traversing of physical, spiritual, emotional, creative terrain that it has entailed.

Navigating the intersections of these has challenged and strengthened every inch of my spiritual and physical body. It has broken me down and built me up a hundred times over. Destroyed and inspired an identity faithful to the emancipation from a spiritually, culturally, physically, creatively bordered existence. And the embracement of it. I am a child and inhabitant of the borderlands. They have birthed and destroyed me. Crossing them and inhabiting each edge, each crevice, has strengthened me.

Four years ago, at twenty years old and during my first return to Mexico City, I crossed the physical terrain in search for the affirmation of an authenticity of the self. I returned to Mexico, a symbolic and deeply spiritual journey masked as a study abroad opportunity, to demystify what it meant to live and be and perform as a Mexican from within its political and ephemeral borders. I sought the authenticity and approval that I never received. Because of my language, skin, lived experiences and condition as child of both the diaspora and the transbarrio, I experienced the violence inspired by nationalism and cultural and social distance. I wasn’t Mexican but Pocha, not Spanish but Spanglish, not authentic but foreign. I suffered but eventually relished in it all. I began to look for the unique and non-conforming in Mexico City and I found it at every corner, found that I belonged there because of my love and passion, because of my difference. I learned there that that is precisely what this world depends on.

I fell in love with that city and during my second and third returns, I began to more comfortably occupy this new and different position and perspective, felt the opportunities to reflect and discard, better understand and build anew. The liberty and opportunity of traveling to a new place unfamiliar with your past and who you have been before. A place that attracts people in search of this opportunity. Here I studied, I researched, I worked, and I became.

My fourth return was pure and exhilarating escape. I proved that DF has always been mine, it has always been within my grasp, just a plane ticket, a phone call, an email, a decision away.

This realization was a long time coming. For four years, I felt deep pain when for different circumstances, I have had to leave DF behind for the US. It is when I have felt furthest away from these feelings and visions I mention inspired by the city, from the superior passional quality of absolutely every detail of rising to live another day, from the prospect of recreating this just one more time, that I have retreated into depression and pain. A physical pain inflicted by denial, negation, and distance. My own negation and the impossibility of finding the encouragement and affirmation from my surroundings.

Yet meanwhile this suffering may very well have been self inflicted, it was my reaction to this sudden shift and recalibration into a different terrain, one that I felt and knew was hostile to everything that I had loved so deeply in Mexico City. Being in the US, I felt frustrated and oppressed with the apathy and alienation that inspires people to prefer material well being versus poetry. How this preference informed social interactions, a hug, a kiss, a glance was drained of the desire to truly connect and acknowledge – two exercises I learned to do while living in the city of my dreams. Social and public distance charted out my navigation of space and I hated it so deeply. I made the resolve that my only escape was back to Mexico. And I saw it as an escape in the direction of the fulfillment of my happiness.

This dream that still holds true and that is perhaps more mature with experience and steadfast with conviction, is one that has made many people uncomfortable and has solicited critique, and even spiritual violence, from people I deeply love and have surrounded me all my life. This violence was me denying this for myself. Retreating backward to nostalgia.

Yet everything that surrounds me at this precise, building, fleeting moment affirms that if I continue to obey an environment so unfamiliar with what i love and propels me forward, I will probably never transcend any challenge and pain. Never create of it, use my vision and love to express this experience. This life.

All of this movement and migration has liberated my spirit in such an irreparable way: it can never be undone. I can never retreat backward.

The only option, my only opportunity to continue to live and love, is to move forward. Yet, what I have recently learned is that the pain and suffering that has characterized my life for four years must now be what propels me forward.

In my past, I had refused to accept that I had to expand and deepen and express myself and my vision, to be and use what I had lived to create, to understand that this was another way of living, that it wasn’t anyone else’s say but my own, and that I had to faithfully inwardly listen to this truth. Pain because I couldn’t and was not ready to decide for myself. Pain because we are constantly told to follow the path of obedience. Because to choose sometimes means to challenge those who so desperately seek to preserve the integrity of their decisions, choosing differently means breaking away, building anew.

I will use this pain and life and ultimately love and inspiration to propel myself forward and not to oppress my decision and vision. There is only one way left to escape alienation of present day society, to retreat ahead of it. Wherever the retreat forward takes me.

Mexico City: Añoranza

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¿Como nombrar este sentimiento que me paraliza de tristeza al contemplar sus amaneceres desde la memoria? ¿Qué es esto que me agobia de desesperanza de cerrar los ojos para abrirlos y encontrarme parada a la altura de uno de sus innumerables cerros, a la altura de todo su caos? ¿Qué es esto lo que siento, qué es esto que me a afligido por cuatro largos, hermosos, increíbles, dolorosos años?

¿Como y porqué nombrarlo?

Este amor, este sufrimiento, es el principio y fin de mucha poesía, mucho silencio, mucho mal entendimiento. Fuente inagotable de inspiración y principal tema de debate. Con el fin de racionalizar la poesía, de teorizar acerca del laberinto que es el corazón, me entorpezco con sentimiento, con nostalgia, con añoranza.

Lo que sufro, siento y no pienso, es la poesía encarnada y sollozada. Evidencia de que he sentido un amor inigualable. Que por haber partido por primera vez hace cuatro años, estoy conectada eterna e ineludiblemente con la ciudad. La partida, la ruptura en pleno amor, justo en los más intensos y hermosos momentos, cuando duele más. Cuando es imposible regresar.

Si me hubiera quedado…si hubiera vivido, amado, habitado la ciudad ininterrumpidamente, ¿hubiera bastado el tiempo? ¿me hubiera sentido plena de amor, satisfecha de sentir?

Pero me fui. Y siento. añoro. amo.

Nunca dejare de extrañarla. Nunca dejaré de pensar en ella cuando me encuentre muy lejos. Pese a una felicidad distinta inspirada por otros lugares, pese a la tranquilidad meditada, pese a la sabiduría de los tropiezos, de las distancias, del amor. Nunca.

Siempre me va a doler no estar allí. Siempre me va a doler aunque regrese. Siempre.

Mexico City: Muse

Chad Santos Photography

It is difficult to explain this even to myself.

A wave of emotion overcomes me upon admiring this beautiful picture by Chad Santos of the Valley of Mexico. Burdened with euphoria and bliss, I am surprised to deeply feel and validate a truth that’s lived inside of me for such a long time, a faithful companion in all of my journeys in the past four years.

In my frantic desire to be within and be surrounded by this city, I realize that although physical proximity is and will always be a priority for me when in comes to DF, what I have deeply yearned for is to absorb as much of its essence in order to mold my spirit and being after the beauty of its vastness and its absolute singularity.

A mujer in love with a city. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of people in love with Mexico City. Out of so many of us, constantly growing and multiplying, sharing and encouraging, I wonder how many love it so deeply and so differently as to want to imbue their life and their being with some of its best, most spiritual, most haunting and thus most human qualities. I find myself contemplating how many of us begin to think and feel that this overwhelming love is the beginning of a process of root shaking growth, of emotional and spiritual cultivation.

I entertain this new revelation: I love Mexico City in order to become more like it.

To imbue each detail, each part, each morsel of my days with the qualities and characteristics that have irremediably enamored me. Its restless nature. The love and warmth of its public space. The millions of opportunities to share a smile, a drink, a poem, a sunset with absolute strangers. The sonorously rich cadence of twenty-seven million people rising with the sun and moving through the entirety of its surface, swarming in beautiful choreography of the every day bustle both above and below its concrete lake bed. The opportunity to share anything and everything with it and with its inhabitants, relishing it all in the solace and solidarity of solitude. The scenes, the films, the music, the sunrise, the Sunday strolls, the Saturday café con leche y chocolate croissants, the freedom inspired while on the brink of a kiss, on the brink of a taxi collision. The marvelous of the everyday, the quotidian of the surreal. The fluidity of life within chaos, hope comforted by unpredictability, resting and growing within the unfamiliar, expansion of the self and of the spirit within endlessness.

All of this has inspired me to write profusely and ceaselessly. It has inspired fleeting and soul-searing love affairs. It has inspired my activism, my journalism, my voice, my political and spiritual commitments and expressions. It has inspired such a shift in my cosmovisión that not one thing I do upon rising and upon laying to rest has remained unaffected by my connection to it. It has inspired such profound irreparable change. An unleashing of an incessant river within me, that nourishes my spirit and sprouts the creative projects that serve as ode and poetry to its inexhaustible capacity to inspire this sort of love in us.

What I carry with me, what nourishes me on my journey that is this life, is the affirmation that I am as great and expansive as that city. Of looking within and seeing a reflection of that which I love without measure. A reminder to live and love in homage to this gift: I am serendipity. I am unpredictability. I am vast. I am endless. I am alive.