A wall of exclusion and domination

The actual physical borderland that I’m dealing with …
is the Texas-U.S Southwest/Mexican border. The psychological
borderlands, the sexual borderlands and the spiritual borderlands
are not particular to the Southwest. In fact, the Borderlands are
physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each
other, where people of different races occupy the same territory,
where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the
space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy.

I am a border woman.. I grew up between two cultures, the
Mexican (with a heavy Indian influence) and the Anglo (as a
member of a colonized people in our own territory). I have been
straddling that tejas-Mexican border, .and others, all my life. It’s
not a comfortable territory to live in, this place of contradictions.
Hatred, anger and exploitation are the prominent features of this
landscape.

However, there have been compensations for this mestiza,
and certain joys. Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact
one’s shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to
swim in a new element, an “alien” element. There is an exhilaration
in being a participant in the further evolution of humankind,
in being “worked” on. I have the sense that certain “faculties”-
not just in me but in every border resident,. colored or noncolored-and
dormant areas of consciousness are being activated,
awakened. Strange, huh? And yes, the “alien” element has
become familiar-never comfortable, not with society’s clamor
to uphold the old, to rejoin the flock, to go with the herd. No, not
comfortable but home.

Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera

Prototypes for the Trump wall aimed at securing the united states against mexicans, or rather, at guaranteeing the controlled and exploitable flow of mexican and central american labour, and other commodities, into the united states, began last month …

The US government has announced the start of construction on eight prototype barriers for the border with Mexico, a campaign promise of President Donald Trump.

The Customs and Border Protection says four of the prototypes will be made from concrete, while the others are from “alternate or other materials”.

The prototypes will be up to 30ft (9m) high and 30ft long and are expected to be completed within 30 days.

Officials will then spend up to three months evaluating the designs for their effectiveness, including gauging their resistance to penetration with small hand tools.

Cameras and sensors will be incorporated into the final wall plan.

Each wall will cost up to $450,000 (£334,000) and will be paid for by federal funds which have already been sanctioned. There is, however, no agreement on the initial $1.5bn (£1.11bn) Mr Trump has requested from Congress to start construction of the final wall.

During his campaign, Mr Trump insisted that Mexico would pay for the structure.

(From the BBC 27/09/2017)

Much can be said against this obscenity, but then it is but one more wall among so many others that seek to divide land, sea and people; and a wall already exists along this border, though less formidable than what is now proposed.  These are first walls of oppression, serving to assure territories of extraction and exploitation, processes which depend on the relative fixing of populations to controllable territories.  They are also walls of protection for the ongoing theft of the wealth of others, walls of inequality.   They are instruments for the surveillance and management of human movement.  And they are walls of death, for all of those who endeavour to overcome them.

In the absence of being able to physically tear down this monstrosity, we throw against it words that may fissure it and plant seeds for other human possibilities.

We cry out against the wall with the words of Gloria Anzaldúa …

 

El otro Mexico

El otro Mexico que a cá hemos construído 
el espacio es loque ha sido
territorio nacional.
Este es el esfuerzo de todos nuestros hermanos
latinoamericanos que han sabido 
progressar.

-Los Tigres del Norte (1)

“The Aztecas del nortecompose the largest single tribe or nation of Anishinabeg (Indians) found in the United States today…Some call themselves Chicanos and see themselves as people whose true homeland is Aztlán [the U.S.Southwest].” (2)

Wind tugging at my sleeve
feet sinking into the sand
I stand at the edge where earth touches ocean
where the two overlap
a gentle coming together
at other times and places a violent clash.

Across the border in Mexico
stark silhouette of houses gutted by waves,
cliffs crumbling into the sea,
silver waves marbled with spume
gashing a hole under the border fence.

Miro el mar atacar
la cerca en Border Field Park
con sus buchones de agua
an Easter Sunday resurrection
of the brown blood in my veins.

Oigo el llorido del mar, el respire del aire,
my heart surges to the beat of the sea.
in the gray haze of the sun
the gulls’ shrill cry of hunger,
the tangy smell of the sea seeping into me.

I walk through the hole in the fence
to the other side.
Under my fingers I feel the gritty wire
rusted by 139 years
of the salty breath of the sea.
Beneath the iron sky
Beneath the iron sky
Mexican children kick their soccer ball across,
run after it, entering the U.S.

I press my hand to the steel curtain—
chainlink fence crowded with rolled barbed wire—
rippling from the sea where Tijuana touches San Diego
unrolling over mountains
and plains
and deserts,
this “Tortilla curtain” turning into el río Grande
flowing down to the flatlands
of the Magic Valley of South Texas
its mouth emptying into the Gulf.

1,950 mile-long open wound
dividing a pueblo, a culture
running down the length of my body,
staking fence rods in my flesh,
splits me    splits me
me raja     me raja

This is my home
this thin edge of
barbwire.

But the skin of the earth is seamless.
The sea cannot be fenced,
el mar does not stop at the borders.
To show the white man what she thought of his
arrogance,
Yemayá blew that wire fence down.

This land was Mexican once,
was Indian always
and is.
And     will be again.

Yo soy un puente tendido
del mundo gabacho al del mojado,
lo pasado me estira pa’’trás
lo presente pa’’delante,
Que la Virgen de Guadalupe me cuide
Ay ay ay, soy mexicana de este lado.

The U.S-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country — a border culture. Borders are set upto define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition.The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los atravesados live here: the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half-breed,the halfdead; in short, those who cross over, pass over,or go through the confines of the “normal.” Gringos in the U.S. Southwest consider the inhabitants of the borderlands transgressors, aliens — whether they  possess documents or not, whether they’re Chicanos, Indians orBlacks. Do not enter, trespassers will be raped, maimed, strangled, gassed, shot. The only “legitimate” inhabitants are those in power, the whites and those who align themselves with whites. Tension grips the inhabitants of the borderlands like a virus. Ambivalence and unrest reside there and death is no stranger.

In the fields, la migra. My aunt saying, “No corran, don’t run. They’ll think you’re del otro lao.” In the confusion, Pedro ran, terrified of being caught. He couldn’t speak English, couldn’t tell them he was fifth generation American. Sin papeles — he did not carry his birth certificate to work in the fields. La migra took him away while we watched. Se lo llevaron. He tried to smile when he looked back at us, to raise his fist. But I saw the shame pushing his head down, I saw the terrible weight of shame hunch his shoulders. They deported him to Guadalajara by plane. The furthest he’d ever been to Mexico was Reynosa, a small border town opposite Hidalgo, Texas, not  far from McAllen. Pedro walked all the way to the Valley. Se lo llevaron sin un centavo al pobre. Sevino andando desde Guadalajara.

During the original peopling of the Americas, the first inhabitants migrated  across  the Bering Straits and walked south  across the  continent. The oldest  evidence of humankind in the U.S.— the Chicanos’ ancient Indian ancestors — was found in Texas and has been dated to 35000 B.C (3). In the Southwest United States archaeologists have found 20,000-year-old campsites of the Indians who migrated through, or permanently occupied, the Southwest, Aztlán — land of the  herons, land  of whiteness, the Edenic place of origin of the Azteca.

In 1000 B.C., descendants of the original Cochise people migrated  into what is now Mexico and Central America and became the direct ancestors of many of the  Mexican  people. The Cochise culture of the  Southwest is the  parent  culture of the  Aztecs.  The Uto-Aztecan  languages stemmed from the  language of the Cochise  people (4). The Aztecs (the Nahuatl word for people of Aztlán) left the Southwest in 1168 A.D.

Now let us go.
Tihueque, tihueque, 
Vamonos, vamonos.
Un pájaro cantó.

Con sus ocbo tribus salieron
de la “cueva  del origen.”
los aztecas siguieron al dios
Huitzilopocbtli.

Huitzilopochtli,the God of War, guided  them  to  the  place (that  later  became  Mexico City) where an eagle with  a writhing serpent in its  beak  perched on  a cactus. The eagle symbolizes the spirit  (as the  sun,  the  father); the serpent symbolizes  the soul  (as  the  earth,   the  mother). Together, they symbolize the struggle between the spiritual/celestial/male and the underworld/earth/feminine. The symbolic sacrifice of the serpent to the “higher” masculine powers  indicates  that the patriarchal order had already vanquished the feminine  and matriarchal order in pre-Columbian America.

At  the  beginning of  the  16th  century,  the  Spaniards  and Hernán Cortés  invaded  Mexico and, with the  help of tribes that the Aztecs had subjugated, conquered it. Before the Conquest, there were twenty-five million Indian  people in Mexico and the Yucatán.  Immediately after the Conquest, the Indian population had been reduced to under seven million. By 1650, only one-and­ a-half-million  pure-blooded  Indians  remained. The mestizos who were genetically equipped to survive  small pox, measles, and typhus (Old World diseases to which  the natives had no immunity), founded a new hybrid race and inherited Central and South America. En 1521 nació una nueva raza, el mestizo, el mexicano (people of mixed Indian and Spanish blood), a race that had never existed before. Chicanos, Mexican-Americans, are the offspring of those first matings.

Our Spanish, Indian, and mestizo ancestors explored and settled parts of the U.S. Southwest as early as the  sixteenth century. For every gold-hungry conquistador and soul-hungry missionary who came north  from Mexico, ten to twenty Indians and mestizos went along as porters or in other capacities. For the Indians, this constituted a return to the place of origin, Aztlán, thus making Chicanos originally and secondarily indigenous to the Southwest. Indians and mestizos from central Mexico intermarried with North American Indians. The continual intermarriage between Mexican and American Indians and Spaniards formed an even greater mestizaje.

Intimate Terrorism: Life in the Borderlands

The world is not a safe place to live in. We shiver in separate cells in enclosed cities,  shoulders hunched,  barely  keeping the panic  below  the  surface  of the  skin,  daily drinking shock  along with our morning coffee, fearing the torches being set to our buildings, the attacks in the streets. Shutting down. Woman does not feel safe when her own culture, and white culture, are critical of her; when the males of all races hunt her as prey.

Alienated from her mother culture, ‘alien” in the dominant culture, the woman of color does not feel safe within the inner life of her Self. Petrified, she can’t respond, her face caught between los intersticios, the spaces between the different worlds she inhabits.

The ability to respond is what is meant by responsibility, yet our cultures take away our ability to act—shackle us in the name of protection. Blocked, immobilized, we  can’t move  forward, can’t move backwards. That writhing serpent movement, the very movement of life, swifter than lightning, frozen.

We do not engage fully. We do not make full use of our faculties. We abnegate. And there in front  of us is the  crossroads and choice: to feel a victim where someone else is in control and therefore responsible and  to blame  (being  a victim and transfer ring  the blame on culture, mother, father, ex-lover, friend, absolves me of responsibility), or to feel strong, and, for the most part,  in control.

My Chicana identity is grounded in the Indian woman’s history of resistance. The Aztec female  rites of mourning were rites of defiance protesting the  cultural changes which disrupted the equality and balance between female  and  male, and  protesting their demotion to  a  lesser  status, their denigration. Like la Llorona, the Indian woman’s only means of protest was wailing.

So mamá, Raza, how wonderful, no tener que  rendir cuentas a nadie.

I feel perfectly free to rebel and to rail against  my culture. I fear no betrayal  on  my part because, unlike Chicanas and other women of color  who  grew  up white or who  have only recently returned to  their native  cultural  roots, I  was  totally immersed in  mine. It wasn’t until I went to high school  that  I “saw” whites. Until I worked on  my master’s degree I had not gotten within an arm’s  distance of them. I was totally immersed en lo mexicano, a rural, peasant, isolated, mexicanismo. To separate from my culture (as from my family) I had to feel competent enough on the outside and  secure enough inside  to live life on my own. Yet leaving home I did not lose touch with my origins because lo mexicano is my system. I am turtle, wherever I go I carry “home” on my back.

Not me sold out my people but they me. Not me sold out my people but they me. So yes, though “home” permeates every sinew and cartilage in my body, I too  am afraid  of going  home. Though I’ll defend my race and culture when  they are attacked by non-mexicanos, conozco el malestar de mi cultura. I abhor some of my culture’s ways, how  it cripples its  women, como burras, our  strengths used  against  us, lowly burras bearing  humility  with  dignity. The ability to serve, claim the males, is our  highest virtue. I abhor how my culture makes macho caricatures of its  men. No, I do not buy all the myths of the tribe into which I was born. I can understand why the more  tinged with Anglo blood,  the  more  adamantly my colored  and colorless sisters  glorify their colored culture’s values to offset  the extreme devaluation of it by the white culture. It’s a legitimate reaction. But I will not glorify those aspects of my culture which  have injured  me and which have injured  me in the name of protecting me.

So, don’t give me your tenets and your laws. Don’t give me your lukewarm gods. What I want is an accounting with all three cultures-white, Mexican, Indian. I want the  freedom to carved chisel my own face, to staunch the  bleeding with ashes, to fashion  my own  gods  out  of my entrails. And if going home is denied me then  I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture — una cultura mestiza — with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture.

The Wounding of the india-Mestiza

Estas  carnes  indias que  despreciamos nosotros los  mexicanos asi  como despreciamos condenamos a  nuestra madre, Malinali. Nos condenamos a nosotros mismos. Esta raza  vencida, enemigo cuerpo.

Not me sold out my people but they me. Malinali Tenepat, or Malintzín, has  become known  as la Chingada — the fucked one. She has become the bad word that  passes  a dozen times  a day from  the  lips  of Chicanos. Whore, prostitute, the woman who  sold out  her  people to the Spaniards are epithets Chicanos spit out with  contempt.

The worst  kind of betrayal lies in making us believe that  the Indian woman in us is the betrayer. We, indias y mestizas, police the  Indian  in  us, brutalize and  condemn her. Male culture has done  a good job on us. Son las costumbres que  traicionan. La india en  mi es la sombra: La Chingada, Tlazolteotl, Coatlicue. Son ellas que oyemos lamentando a sus hijas  perdidas.

Not me sold out my  people but  they me. Because of the color of my skin they  betrayed me. The dark-skinned woman has been silenced, gagged, caged,  bound  into  servitude with  marriage,  bludgeoned for  300 years,  sterilized and  castrated in  the twentieth century. For 300 years she has been a slave, a force of cheap labor,  colonized by the  Spaniard,  the Anglo,  by her  own people (and  in Mesoamerica her  lot  under  the  Indian  patriarchs was not free  of wounding). For 300 years she was invisible, she was not heard. Many times she wished to speak, to act, to protest, to challenge. The odds were heavily against her. She hid her feelings; she hid her truths; she concealed her fire; but she kept  stoking  the  inner  flame. She remained faceless and voiceless,  but  a light  shone through her  veil of silence. And though she was unable to spread her limbs and though for her right now the sun has sunk under the earth and there  is no moon, she continues  to tend  the flame. The spirit of the fire spurs her to fight for her own skin and a piece of ground to  stand  on,  a ground from which to view the world — a perceptive, a homeground where she can plumb the rich ancestral roots into her own ample mestiza heart. She waits till the waters are not so turbulent and the mountains not  so slippery with sleet. Battered and bruised she waits, her bruises  throwing her back upon herself and the rhythmic pulse of the feminine. Coatlalopeuh waits with her.

Aqui en  Ia soledad  prospera  su rebeldia. 
En Ia soledad Ella prospera.

Endnotes:

(1) Los Tigres del Norte is a conjunto band.

(2) Jack D. Forbes, Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlán. (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, Premier Books, 1973), 13 183; Eric R. Wolf, Sons of Shanking Earth (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, Phoenix Books, 1959), 32.

(3) John R. Chávez, The Lost Land: The Chicano Images of the Southwest (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1984),

(4) Chávez, 9. Besides the Aztecs, the Ute, Gabrillino of California, Pima of Arizona, some Pueblo of New Mexico, Comanche of Texas, Opata of Sonora, Tarahumara of Sinaloa and Durango, and the Huichol of Jalisco speak Uto-Aztecan languages and are descended from the Cochise people.

(5) Raay Tannahill, Sex in History (Briarcliff Manor, NY: Stein and Day/Publishers?Scarborough House, 1980), 308.

(6) Chávez, 21.

(Excerpts from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borlderlands/La Frontera, as selected by warscapes.  The full essay can be read here)

Chavela Vargas singing La Llorona …

The Weeper

They all call me the black, Weeper
Black but affectionate.
They all call me the black, weeper
Black but affectionate.
I am like the green pepper, weeper
Spicy but tasty.
I am like the green pepper, weeper
Spicy but tasty.

Oh of me, Weeper, weeper,

Weeper, take me to the river
Cover me with your shawl, weeper
Because I’m dying of cold (freezing)

If because I love you you love, Weeper
You want me to love you more
If I’ve already given you life, Weeper
What else do you want?
You want more?

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