Tag Archives: ancestors

Post the Ninetieth or On Resistance as Spiritual Practice

Today is National Coming Out Day. It is a day when many queer and trans* folks who are already out once again proclaim their identities. I’m sure there are some folks who actually come out for the first time on this day, but it is mostly for folks who are already out.

Coming out is such a complicated act, both politically and personally. However, it is more complicated for some than for others. Coming out is not a unilateral or universal experience. It is altered by the different social locations the person occupies. Anderson Cooper’s experience in coming out is going to be very different than CeCe McDonald’s.

And in many ways, coming out is an act of resistance. It is an action that flies in the face of compulsory heterosexuality and heterosexism. It flies in the face of assumed cisgender identity and cissexism. However, coming out carries different risks for different folks. What frustrates me is when folks like Anderson Cooper come out and everyone is like, “That’s so brave. He’s so strong. OMG wow…” Like, I’m glad he came out but lets be real. Coming out for Anderson Cooper carries no risk. He is rich as fuck, he isn’t gonna be fired from his job or become homeless. And yet his experience is seen as normative for all queer people. And we exult him, as if he singlehandedly fought a rhinoceros. Further, his coming out does nothing to challenge the status quo. Rather, his coming out reinforces that assimilationist claptrap that we are “just like straight people”.

What this emphasizes for me is that not everyone has the privilege to come out. Whether because of safety or financial or any other reason, many folks cannot afford to be out. And I think that we must recognize the reasons for that silence. And those of us who can or don’t have the choice to come out, we need to constantly resist and fight against the reasons for that silence.

If coming out is to be an act of resistance, than it must carry risk and it must challenge, at least in some way, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy and capitalism. Coming out is an act of political resistance only when it emphasizes the collective liberation of all people. In other words, coming out and saying “Hey, I’m a normal gay!” is not gonna cut it. When you come out, it must be in solidarity with all oppressed peoples.

Which leads us to a bigger question. What is the nature of resistance?

I would argue that resistance is and must be a spiritual practice. When we resist, we reclaim our power. When we resist, we assert our humanity. It is in resistance that we politicize ourselves and locate our position in the greater social hierarchy. It is only in resistance that we find ourselves, find who we, as oppressed people, really are.

Resistance can take many different forms. It can be as subtle as refusing to identify gender on paperwork or it can be as in your face as protecting your home against foreclosure.  Ultimately, when we resist, we are refusing to have our power taken from us. We are refusing to allow our lives to be moved around without our input. Resistance is certainly not futile because even if we don’t win the battle, our oppressors can never claim our souls. When we resist, even if our efforts are not successful, our humanity is still affirmed.

But even more than that, when we resist, we give thanks to all those ancestors who came before us. We honor their memory of sacrifice and suffering and joy and beauty. When we resist, we do not allow their efforts to go in vain. We continue their legacy and work. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and we must continue their work for the generation that will stand on ours.

In reclaiming our power, we are refusing to be spiritual infants. We are able to co-create our reality with the Universe/Goddess/Great Spirit/Creator etc. We move away from these Western (white) concepts of spirituality as submission or obedience to an All Father, which tell us to just take it and that we will have paradise in the next life. We can be right sized in our relationship with the world. We are neither the rulers of all but neither are we victims of powers beyond our comprehension. Rather, we have our place as stewards and facilitators in the greater scheme. We become the midwives to a new vision of reality. This vision does not come from us but we are still needed to facilitate its birth. Resistance allows us to do this.

We can take responsibility for our actions and our power in this life when we resist. Paradise might be an unachievable aim, but we must still shoot for it in this life. Because we can find exultation in that struggle and create communities that support us and feed our souls, minds, bodies.

As Emiliano Zapata said,

“Es mejor morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.”

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Post the Eighty-Second or Burn

I burn

Darkly.

Opalescent

Flames dancing

On the tips of my eyes

Shedding shadows and shade

Across fields

Of white grass

That feed no one

They buried my heat

In a forest

of Glass and Steel

Hoping that I would

Fail to remember

The blood that kept

My ancestors hot

But even a cactus

Blooms

In the desert


Post the Thirtieth or Mi Madres

What I am about to tell you is a lie but it is the utter truth. 

Indígena

I remember when I first encountered the white man. At first, I could not believe the rumors. People with pale skin and hairy limbs, it could not be possible. And yet there they were. I remember the councils that we had before their arrival. Some of us wanted to welcome them and learn from them, use them against our enemies. But the curanderos, the wise ones, told us that nothing good would come of our meeting. If only we had listened.

I remember those first men. White skin that was weather beaten and sun burnt. I remember their arrogance and their hard metal. I remember how they looked at us with disgust and contempt. And yet I could not understand why. We had done them no harm. But most of all, I remember their guns. The sound it made like a relámpago, thunder that could rip the sky in two.

I remembered the chaos that followed their arrival. The pestilence brought by the whites that our curanderos could not cure.  I remember the battles and the pillaging. I remember seeing my people enslaved and fighting against themselves. I saw my people betray our own cause.

I remember the violence and raping of my sisters. I remember my own rape. I remember running, trying to escape my pursuers. I remember the crashing gunshots and yelling in that foreign, guttural tongue. I remember the fear, the terror that I felt as when I knew there was no escape. I remember crashing through the brush and I remember stopping when I saw Her, Mictecacihuatl. She was dressed in rags, her fleshless skull grinning at me and yet knowing that she possessed an infinite sadness for me, for our people.  She knew as much as I that there was no escape for any of us.

I sensed more than felt what killed me and I was off.

Running.

Running..

Running…

Puta

            Running. Through the ravaged city streets. It hasn’t been 10 years since our subjugation and still nuestra ciudad, nuestra pueblo, is in ruins. I was running from my white john. He refused to pay me, so I kicked him in the nuts. He didn’t like that.

I could feel him behind me, his sword unsheathed. It seemed like he wanted to enter me a second time. I wasn’t going to let him. I took a quick left, and then a right and a right again. This part of the city was winding and confusing, it would be easy for anyone who hasn’t lived here their whole lives to get lost.

But somehow, my knowledge of the city had failed me and after the second right, I was lost. Perhaps it was destruction that still littered the streets. Or perhaps it was all the white invaders inhabiting homes that had once belonged to friends, family of mine. Or perhaps it was los Dioses, spitting on me again.

I heard the heavy footsteps of his boots behind me and knew that I needed to keep moving. I started forward, narrowly missing a fruit stand. I darted around a corner, hugging the wall. He rushed past me, not even giving me a backwards glance. I grinned. Another white man fooled.

I looked up at the rapidly setting sun and knew that I didn’t have enough time to find another john, nor did I want to risk getting caught. I sighed as I began to pick my way in the direction I thought my home was, knowing that I would go hungry tonight, again.

As I was walking down the ally I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It looked like a woman, clad in rags. She was impossibly thin, impossibly old. Her skin was stretched so taut over her bones that it almost seemed as if she didn’t have any skin. I turned my head to look and saw that there was nothing there.

And I was struck once again at how different my life was today than it was ten years ago. And as I remembered those hard years that I suffered and the hardness of my life now, I felt it come on again. That heart-stopping, head-pounding panic that starts in the gut and rips its way up my chest into my head and back down into my heart. I fell to my knees and clutched at my head, leaning against the wall. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. The only thing that was real was the panic, the fear.

I knew I had to breathe.

Breathe..

Breathe…

Por el Hueco

Breathe. It was so hard to breathe. Cramped inside this van, people stacked upon people. No room to move, no room to even think. The heat of the summer sun made the walls of the van scald to the touch; it was unbearable. But the worst part was the smell. The smell of the people pressed together. The smell of sweat, of feces, of fear. The smell of death.

And all the while worrying. Worrying that la migra will catch us. That I will be sent back to my war-torn country with no opportunity to do anything but die. Worrying that I will end up like my brothers, killed or exploited. Worrying about what lay ahead of me, in Ameríca. Knowing that my life there will be just as hard. But what choice do I have?

After centuries of economic co-dependence and exploitation, there was no choice. My country is a war-ravaged slum and my only chance at living a life that I want, without fear of death by starvation or worse, is to go North. And the only way to get there is by risking my life.

But I had hope. Hope that, despite all my worrying and the hardship that I knew awaited me, I would survive this harrowing journey and arrive in Ameríca. I had hope that I would be able to make my own life for myself. I had hope that I would happy and most of all safe.

I had hope.

Sometime later, we stopped. The heat had abated so I knew that it was dark. Something didn’t feel right. I felt like we had stopped too soon. I heard voices outside and my heart nearly stopped. I couldn’t tell if they were the voices of the truck drivers or of others. I could feel the tenseness of the van triple. The stopping and the voices could only mean one thing.

We were caught.

The door flew open. The sudden brightness of the flashlight, after so much darkness, blinded me. People were being pulled out of the van roughly. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to escape too. They grabbed me by the arms and shoulders, hauled me bodily off the van and dumped me unceremoniously onto the ground.

The night was clear. The half moon already high in the sky, providing some illumination of the surroundings. Desolation and scrub land as far as I could see. When they got all of us out they told us that they were leaving us here. That we needed to walk the rest of the way. They had guns pointed at us, to emphasize the gravity of their words.

But I had had enough.

I had enough of being thrown around like some rag doll, with no say or input into what was to be done with me. I was through with others controlling my own destiny. I was finished with being powerless.

I pulled out the makeshift knife that I had hidden in my boot and cried that there were more of us than there was of them, that we could take them and force them to take us further North. We wouldn’t be stranded here to die.

I rushed forward and stumbled, for the enemy that I was rushing had suddenly become Her. La Santisima Muerte. Our Holy Lady of Death. I stopped, agape. I heard the gunshot, but I did not feel the bullet enter me. I collapsed to the ground and it seemed that her bony hand caressed my face. I felt no pain. And as my lifeblood spilled upon the earth, I was at peace. I felt myself rise again and take Her hand.

And I wandered

Wandered..

Wandered…

Colegio

Wandered. Through the corridors of academia. Wandered lost through rooms full of white liberal academics that told me the way things were, the way things are, the way things will become.

But their story rang hollow in my ears. For their stories were not my stories. They did not tell my story. They could not tell my story.

They could not understand what it meant to be colonized, for they were the colonizer. They could not understand what it meant to be subjugated, exploited because they were the exploiter. They could not know how it felt to die a thousand little deaths everyday because they were the murderers.

And yet I clung to it. I clung to the structure and the proponents of that structure. Because it was safe.  I clung to it because I was “accepted”. I had numbed myself to all those small deaths. I felt comfortable in that nagging discomfort that something was wrong. That nagging thought that, yes they said they accepted me as their equal, but they acted in these subtle ways that told me that I was still their property, their play thing. They were humoring me.

But most of all I clung to it because I had forgotten all the old ways of knowing. I had forgotten all of the olds ways of being. Forgot the memories and the scars that my body held, down the deepest strand of DNA. Forgotten the feel my mi madre teirra underneath my feet. I forgot where I came from. Forgot the miles that my people traversed to get here, so far north. Forgot the Diaspora that comes with colonization.

Olvidé a mi famila.

But this state of numbness, this state of forgetfulness could last for only so long.

In a dream, She came to me. Dressed in sumptuous robes the color of midnight; she touched her skinless finger to my forehead. And I remembered.  Remembered the lives of mi madres antepasado. The lives of those strong women on whose shoulders I stand on. Remembered the truth of my blood, my body, my spirit. In that dream, I was awake.

Now awakened, I could not return to the sterile, white halls of academia. I could not return to the cold, dispassionate nature of those people, those rooms. I needed the warmth of family, the heat of community.

I needed the understanding of those who know as I know, who feel as I feel.

And I knew, in that family, in that community is where we can truly decolonize our bodies. It is only when we remember our beloved dead, when we reach into the past and know as they knew, feel as they felt, live as they lived, that we can heal the wound that colonization has inflicted on us. It is only by returning to that point of spiritual origin that we can throw off the chains of mind and soul.

And reclaim what is ours.