my mestiza consciousness

i woke up this morning and there were so many thoughts slipping and hovering throughout the motions of my morning routine and i am inclined to untangle everything on paper. what you are about to read is an unedited stream of consciousness, an in-cohesive essay, a rambling. this is an extremely long read.

you have been warned.

now, let me start by describing the wallpaper on my computer (it relates, i promise). my wallpaper is a painting of a beautiful young latina who wears a red dress and sits on a mexican and united states flag. her gaze is fixed on something beyond the flags she lounges on, and an enormous aztec calendar rests behind her. i do not remember the painting’s title nor the artist’s name.

this painting evoked many thoughts, one of them concerning the dual identities that xican@s navigate today. the identities that i am referring to are that of the host country and that of the country of origin. for example, as a xicana, my dual identities are mexican and estadounidense. many xican@ scholars have described the plethora of identities that makeup the mexican culture and influence mexican identity, specifically indigenous identities. these scholars, and other xican@s, have affirmed their devotion to their indigenous identity that has been hidden and ignored by many before them. this identity is a current reality for many and an obscured ancestral memory for others; this trinity of identities, then, is what many xican@s are accepting and honoring as their own. this is a wonderful and much-needed aspect of the movement that has continued to expand and has lots of work to do throughout the states and latin america.

i want to briefly state that i understand the complications of trying to separate identities to make sense of them; all cultures intertwine and are influenced by each other, but i am hesitate to describe mexican identity as indigenous. the mexican culture does practice and preserve many aspects of its indigenous roots, and there are so many cultural variances and overlappings that exist within mexico that i cannot fully distinguish indigenous culture from mexican. however, i am describing indigenous identity as one that practices and bathes in its native languages, beliefs, cultures, and customs. of course, the extent to which one practices these aspects are relative, but i contend that there is a difference between indigenous and dominant culture in mexico, a dominant culture that has tried to hide and eradicate the existence of its indigenous roots and peoples throughout its history.

with that being said, there are many xican@s who feel a sense of responsibility to accept and pride themselves on their indigenous identity although they are disconnected from it. this sense of devotion to a once hidden and shamed element of their historical identity, of their ancestry, has sparked questions of identity for me. more specifically, who qualifies as ancestry? when will we also acknowledge the multitude of historical cultures and identities that have shaped our peoples today? i am thinking of the how ancestral blackness is not celebrated, nor asian, and other identities that xican@s may not practice today but have surely influenced our culture, like the indigenous identity. although it can be contended that the emphasis on indigenous identity is an overall attempt to empower native, mexican culture that was oppressed and diminished by colonialism, such thinking depicts indigenous culture as pure, untinged by other influences. it still does not insist on valuing and exploring other historical influences that may have enriched or added to mexican culture. my thoughts have also stemmed from the recent, cruel and horrific attitude of dominican leaders to ethnically cleanse the state. whose culture is worthy of acknowledgement and value in our own?

many may wonder: what is the point of knowing one’s ancestry, despite the need to soothe that curious craving to uncover one’s past? by understanding our pasts, we can better discern our identities that help us maneuver current societal conditions and institutions. in other words, the past defogs the answers to questions of why we look the way we do, why we speak the way we do, why we believe in the things we do, the foundation of which our families and communities have grown and lived in, and how all of this helps shape who we are today.

and, despite the abundance of racial diversity in latin america and the seemingly overwhelming denial of racism that xican@s say come with it, i am wary of the argument that latin america is ignorant of its racism. many xican@s have argued the latter, but i believe such thinking is another version of internalized colonialism. i am confident that latin american scholars have explored race relations in their country. i am confident that there are latin american scholars who have studied how racism manifests in latin america. now, whether xican@s have access to their findings, theories, and studies is another story: in general, the west is portrayed as the sole incubator of liberal thought when that is not the case. or, at least, i do not believe it to be so. whether or not these scholars have evoked social movements to move towards racial equality is yet another story, but even then i am sure there has been some type of work done. there has to have been.

these are incomplete thoughts, and i welcome more thoughts, complete or incomplete. i know i have much research to do: i plan to read more xican@ literature and investigate the work of others, especially those in latin america, who have delved deeper into this abyss.

*****notes*****:
**throughout this piece, i refer to xican@s as those of latin american descent who grew up in the united states, in general xican@s refer to those of mexican descent but i think this experience can be applied to those of other ethnicities.
**i refrain from saying “american” to describe united states residency because central america, south america, and latin america are all americas. estadounidense refers to being from the united states without designating the u.s. as a focal point in the americas.
**mexico has experienced mass migrations and influences from the aforementioned peoples i mentioned. i am sure there are many others that i did not mention as well.

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3 thoughts on “my mestiza consciousness

  1. yussss. I think this speaks to something really prevalent–how people tend to construct singular, monolithic narratives. for many, it is too complex, too contradictory to their narratives of “blood origin” contributing to how a person thinks today, to recognize difference in their ancestry. this is furthered by stereotypes in popular culture–one hardly ever reads “flamenco dancer” #Spain and imagines a dark skin person, or “ballet” #Europe and imagines anything but whiteness. It seems to be too complicated a process to acknowledge the beauty and strong culture in Mexico (and also in Black America) that has come out of such unfortunate circumstances as colonialism and slavery. Many prefer rather implicitly claim purity by harkening back to indigenous ancestry (or African ancestry in Black America), without recognizing that cultural affinity and respect for indigenous peoples does not have to come with erasure of other narratives.

    • exactly! ah tolu you said that so beautifully. the other day i saw a youtube video where toni morrison responds to an interviewer’s question of when she will include white people in her novels (or something along those lines). she makes an important point that whiteness does have an influence on how people of color view themselves, but people of color have also existed and can exist without the “white gaze” as she calls it. i saw this video after i wrote this bit, and i think it relates, in that by pop culture constructing stereotypes of “flamenco dancer” and “ballet” as occupations/activities/talents/etc in which whiteness exists, it also excludes the possibilities of other peoples thriving in those arenas. i’m not sure if that makes sense. lol. but we can probably talk about this further soon 😉 thank you for sharing your thoughts, they are always a pleasure to read. 🙂

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