LSNA Youth Organizer and Development Associate
Loyola Chicago University MSW Candidate
I began to work with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association when I was sixteen years old as my first job ever in 2009 until 2011. As a Youth Leader LSNA’s After School Matters program I was introduced to social justice and grassroots organizing. In 2016, I returned from college and rejoined the LSNA team with efforts to combine my social work and feminist informed lens for our #BrownInChicago project. Through a strengths based approach towards cultivating passionate and authentic workshops to understand Latinx Identity and Power within our community. Gentrification within our community not only displaces communities but displaces the rich history and culture that has within it. I am working with students, professors and community organizers to capture counter-narratives as a form of resistance against hegemonic supremacy. We anticipate to continue to build relationships and intersect with other opportunities to uplift brown voices and ideas of our community and to learn from others who channel their passions as their resistance.
Arrived to Los Angeles, California with her two sisters and mother. My grandmother sold their home and belongings to pay for a coyote,so they can reunite with my grandfather who worked as a Bracero.
After settling and arranging their next trip, they began their journey to Chicago, Illinois.
My grandmother rented a small apartment for five people in La Villita on the south side.
Mi mamá found a job at a factory in Edgewater. She commuted everyday to and from work for almost two hours for a low wage and no benefits.At the young age of 18, she was work more than eight hours for six days a week.
Mi mamá wanted to go back home. I ask her, what do you miss about home? She says, “todo”.
“Ni de aquí, ni de alla”. So where do I go? I’m too Mexican for the United States, and too “American” for México. This inner conflict has been heard countless times that the authenticity of it seems to diminishes. However, the pain is very real.
I am not looking to fit in.
I am searching for the peace my ancestors did not find.
“When I am unveiled
this time, I dazzle
the mouth. Crown the tongue.
Cradle the sob of waterfalls &
summon every child. Ven
aquí, todos. Escuchame,
finally. Pull me from
the deadest root & watch
it ripen in the good air.
Blessings to all parts of earth
whom are forgotten. Blessings
to the splintered leaves, the dark
stars, the sunken branch. Here
is the calling forth, the new
beginning. Yes, I am old
& debuting fresh wind; yes,
I am young with the pulse
of raucous citizens –
recycled poem, shred of
warrior past – I am the hollered
rush of the Rio Grande, the
feet caught between two
lands. I am the omitted
passage; the forbidden water,
the hieroglyph, the non-border.
Walk me along your name until
I become you, niño de los indios,
de los árboles, del cielo. Yo olvido
nada. & my memory is yours, too.
A ver. Tus manos son los mismos
a miyo. I am closer to you than
even death. Mirame, resurrected
in Coyolxauhqui fractured pieces.
I measure the length of legends.
I swim with ancient grace.
I am a red string around
the ankle of history,
holding together my children
in my splendid mouth.”
Soy el fruto de la lengua prohibida
El fruto de los espíritus olvidados, y de los rostros sin cara
Mi sangre no es azul pero es la sangre de los héroes de nuestra tierra
Sangre mexica, mexicana, y americana corre por mis venas
Soy la magia morena en el aire que intoxica a los colonialistas
Soy la pesadilla del opresor, el recuerdo vivo que los persigue día y noche
Soy de mi madre, y abuelita
Soy de mujeres xingonas y luchadoras
Soy de su sudor y sufrimiento pero también de sus sonrisas y carcajadas
Soy el puente que conecta mis raíces con el reflejo en el espejo en el amanecer
Soy magia morena
Directions: Find moments during this week when you can start a conversation with your mom/dad/abuelx. It may take you a couple of times to get through this. The idea of the Maruchan Interview is that we’re not trying to get all up in your family’s biznezz but we’re opening up a conversation to learn some basics about their travel here to Chicago. There is a lot we can still learn from their responses. Please come to our next meeting on Saturday, December 10th with this assignment done.
Gracias- Philámayaye (Lakota) – Tlazohcamati Cenca tlazohcamati (Nahuatl) – A dupe (Yoruba) – yupaychani (Quichua)
- In what year did you come? Do you know the exact date?
- What time of the year was it? What did you think about your new city?
- Where in Chicago did you first come to live in?
- What surprised you most about Chicago?
- Can you tell me about your first job here?
- Did you feel welcomed in Chicago? Can you tell me something about that?
- Besides family, what simple thing did you miss about home?
*********Take a photo or bring one of them to the next meeting ****************
My aesthetic was inspired by my new favorite artist Princess Nokia in her new video Brujas that pays homage to the goddess Yemaya. I love Princess Nokia because she is the first artist I ever heard to express Taíno native culture which is indigenous Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. I love Princess Nokia because she is unapologetic, embraces her roots and a role model to latinx youth and other youth of color that continue to work hard and rise like roses through concrete. Her music and her message reassures the ancestral power and light I have within myself and always pumps me up to accomplish my goals each day.
Today #BrownInChicago decided to reflect and write about our experience two weeks ago photo shoot that focused on evoking our indigenous ancestry. I am of Puerto Rican descent on my maternal side and wanted to channel a look that resonates with my spiritually. I wanted to pay tribute to Yemaya, who is a diosa from South Western African Yoruba religion. She is called an Orisha and is the mother of all Orishas totaling 14 Yoruba gods and goddesses. Santeria , which translates to way of the saints, originated from West Africa, and more commonly spread during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and was expressed as part of Yorba/Cuban Afro-Caribbean culture. Santeria promises wisdom and power in dealing with life’s hardships through a combination of practical and oral traditions.
My mother prayed to Yemaya as her favored orisha in times of need for strength and need of protection from trauma and misogyny she experienced while ending an abusive relationship with my father and she moved me away from our family to Miami for safety. When he was later arrested and deported we lost almost all our resources and child support and my mother had to start again on her own. Yemaya is a strong source of maternal energy for protection and tenacity young mother have to channel to raise their children with little resources and support. I admired my mother growing up seeing how hard she worked, took pride in her bright blue eyeshadow and grinning smile. Tonight I invited her to teach me how to do my makeup like her signature look to embody the diosa named Yolanda.
For as long as I remember she always wore blue eyeshadow that brings out her big cafe eyes and painted her lips fiery red. Inherit my gift of empathy and healing from diosa because it is the gift my mother bestowed upon me. We are resilient against life’s waves that attempt to drown and stifle our voices and dreams. As my mom painted my face she told me about how much she loves to wear blue because it’s a color so many women shy away from with make up (myself included). To my surprise I looked into the mirror and saw the ferocity and gentleness I see in my own mothers eyes.
We danced to Aguanile by Hector Lavoe y Willie Colon is about highlighting Santeria’s African roots, with a typical folk verse of the Festival of the Cross, the song has a small verse is interpreted by Lavoe in Greek ,”Kyrie eleison”, popular custom among the natives, dating back hundreds of years. She attempted to teach me more moves to dance to the song but laughed and said you can’t teach the dance you just have to feel the music and let the dancing come naturally within you. I closed my eyes and imagined myself on a warm days in Miami as a kid dancing in the living room with my mom. I may not have the best rhythm but I like to feel music and let go. Tonight daughters of Yemaya we thank you diosa for your strength to keep me afloat, and your currents to guide my path.
Throughout this project I have been able to center my identity to my brownness and connect with my native and African roots more. As a social work graduate student I’m seeking to be a healer and help provide therapeutic services to alleviate generational trauma and build self awareness. I owe my skills of empathy as a gift Yemaya has shared for me to heal others and to proudly serve as a bold Latina among a field that is dominated by white women. In a discussion with #BrownInChicago students many of the young women discussed how hard it was growing up to find positive Latinx role models to celebrate against the saturation of sexist, patriarchal and Eurocentric values. We shared stories of burning and bleaching the kinks in our hair to appease desires of straight blonde compliance. Shielding our skin that from the sun that illuminates the richness in our melanin, but we were socialized to see ourselves as shadows. The gift of this project is that I am feeling more beautiful and grounded each day with other youth as we journey together to de-center whiteness and grow together.
ONLINE RESOURCES ON NATIVE PEOPLES:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures:
Comisión Nacional para el Desarollo de los Pueblos Indígenas
[National Commission for Indigenous Community Development of Mexico]
“We Shall Remain” (2009):
The movie “Dakota 38”:
Stand with Standing Rock:
The Standing Rock Syllabus:
PLACES TO VISIT:
American Indian Center:
D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies:
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian:
Nuestras Historias collection of the National Museum of Mexican Art:
Ancient Americans & Hall of Native North America collections at the Field Museum:
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site:
Lily Be Storytelling Workshop and Photo Journalism Workshop Diosa Latinx Photoshoot: Honoring our ancestors and indigeneity
We began this morning with a passage from Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence is personal account of an indigenous Australian family’s experiences as members of the Stolen Generation. The erasure of a person’s culture is stripping people of their power. Colonist use this technique to make you feel ashamed for keeping traditions alive whether that is through language, music, religion, or clothes. The these things is what protects our energy and keep us grounded to our ancestral power. This power are secret songs, recipes, dances, prayers, and wishes that we used to survive erasure.
We asked students around the table their thoughts about the reading and many stories resonated with one another’s similar experiences.
Violet: the reading reminded me of the erasure of culture and I feel sad that there are things about my culture that I will ever know or known it was lost. I feel guilty at times that my attempts to learn Spanish or more about Puerto Rican or Colombian culture is a mere caricature of what I try to embrace. But I have to be easy on myself because the goal of colonization is to make me forget my past or leave to responsibility for myself to uncover my history. I am grateful to not have to explore and connect on my own and with the support of this space,
Many other agreed for feeling guilty about their spanglish but we had to stop to check ourselves and as a reminder that the Spanish language is a colonizer language and we do not know the tongues of our maternal native ancestor.
Aide: I feel like instead there is now a shift within our generation in comparison to our past generations that had to assimilate to survive. Now we digging up our buried cultures and history so we do not forget. In order to survive we must remember our past.
Eduardo: This passage reminded me about the Korean exchange program at his High School and how he stood up for his fellow exchange student and checked a teacher for scolding the exchange students for speaking Korean and not English. He connected that experience to being young and learning English in elementary school and also being scolded for not speaking English. When you police language around students that are in their right to speak to what is comfortable to them and made me feel safe when I wanted to be understood.
Arely: I want to keep speaking Spanish alive in my family because it makes me sad that my cousins refuse to speak Spanish. I am taking extra classes to improve my reading and writing in Spanish because I think my language is beautiful.
It was revealed within a few other reflections in the room that many students had a similar experience of being forced into speech therapy services or put in low comprehensive courses Spanish was their first language and they were still learning English. Offering the wrong referral services can highly impact the self-esteem of a young student who is made to feel their Spanish is a barrier.
The remainder our meeting was spent split into two groups. Students with Lily Be who was crafting their stories and students in our Diosa Latinx photo shoot. Towards the end of our meeting we all came together for an impromptu bruja circle photo opt. I never felt so fierce, magical and strong while hand and hand with my sisters. All dope Latina women with different strengths and experiences. All between us centuries of beauty and light we share within our blood through our ancestors.