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Women in Ancient Anahuac

 

Video Presentation filmed Saturday,

January 30th 2010,

Centro Cultural de Mexico, Santa Ana, CA

 

posted 2.23.10

Women of Anahuac:
Challenging White Supremacy in Chicana Feminism

 

PART 1 of 2
Citlalli Citlalmina Anahuac
Edited by Olin Tezcatlipoca and Arlene Valdez-Pinedo,
2004-2009

7.12.09

 


Introduction:

Colonialism did not end with the Independence of Mexico, or the separate independence of the individual Central American states, and it definitively did not end for our people in the reservations here in the “United States.”

Colonialism is an everyday reality for our people. We are the Indigenous people of this continent, commonly known as Mexican, Central American, and Native American. To acknowledge our common experience and common necessity of liberation, we will use the term Nican Tlaca to refer to those of us who are of Mexican, Central American, and Native American descent.

When we speak as Indigenous women, Nican Tlaca women, we are speaking as women who have endured genocide, terrorism, cultural rape, and the theft of our lands. We do not belong to a generic woman experience. We do not share most of the white woman’s experience. We as a people, have had our lands stolen for over 500 years. Our culture was systematically butchered, and our identity was left in ruins. Because of all of this we are confused about our identity. We have been taught to completely disconnect ourselves from our Indigenous identity and heritage. It is presented to us as backwards and uncivilized. As Nican Tlaca women, we are specifically recruited to join philosophies and ideologies, that try to universalize the woman experience. We are offered feminism as a solution to end our oppression. But this concept is far too limiting and far too gender-focused-far too Eurocentric to be able to address the complete colonized condition that we are in as a people. There is no doubt that there is sexism. There is no doubt that women are suffering in very specific ways connected to the fact that we are women, but there is also the fact of the ongoing colonialism that allows for such a brutal acceptance of this destruction of our humanity. Our men, are also given solutions. They are given capitalism, gang culture, violence, and a white man’s ego to calm their insecurities. It is time to view these concepts with a more critical lens; we need a real solution that acknowledges our ongoing colonial reality.

There is no question that the fight for truth, justice, and equality and should be a struggle that all of our people take on. Feminism in its purest sense is a great concept that has touched the lives of so many women. It's a beautiful idea. Feminism is a beautiful philosophy in its demand for justice and equality for women. Feminism calls for equality between men and women. Feminism is a beautiful concept that can be the priority in your life if your people are not a colonized people; if your land is not stolen; if your people did not suffer from a genocide of 95% of it's population; if you are a woman of European descent (because it is more likely that you have not been colonized); if you were not poor. If you did not suffer from the destruction of your culture and heritage; if you had a clear sense of identity and you know exactly what your heritage and history is. If all of the things mentioned above were not an issue for you, feminism works rather well for you.

When speaking of issues regarding our equality as Nican Tlaca women and men, it is safe to declare that our equality as human beings has been denied for the past 500 years. Our culture has been and continues to be systematically belittled and ignored. Our heritage is constantly questioned as to if it contains any validity as to exist in independence. Culturally, we are seen as eternal children in state of ineffective rebellion. Our biggest problem is the ongoing colonization of our people that exists within the white supremacist world view. The colonization of our people is what indoctrinates our people into a vortex of self-hate and lies. White Supremacy is the script of colonialism that continues to reign over our political, social, and economic relationships while we live in this colonial state of perpetual occupation and genocide.
What is white supremacy? In a workshop offered to help end white supremacy, it is defined as follows:
“White supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of establishing, maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege. “

Workshop offered by Mickey Ellinger and Sharon Martinas.



Colonialism is the system used by white supremacy to govern and control our people’s social, historical, cultural, and financial well-being. Colonialism governs the way we interact with each other as a people and with others. It is not a single relationship. It is multi-faceted and multi layered. It is the consequence of 500-plus years of planned cultural and educational annihilation and genocide. Colonialism and genocide set our economic and social standards. They dictate cultural values and the definitions of our identity. All of this perpetuates white values as the norm. We are participating in a colonial monstrous machine that has been manufactured for our consent.


The problems that we face as a people today are the result of being under European terrorism and cultural assault, not just white male sexism. The colonial experience has transformed us from being proud Nican Tlaca people, a people of this continent, where we feel as if we are trespassers on our own lands. We feel have no rights to our full culture and heritage and that we have no right to be free from Europeans. We have gone from one of the most educated people in the world to one of the most ignorant and least educated colonized people. Within this experience of being a colonized people we are offered false solutions to our colonial condition. We attempt to solve our problems like Europeans because we equate their experience and oppression with ours, without knowing that their historical place is a colonizing one. They fight for justice as a free people. Speaking their language, loving their culture, loving themselves, as a free people. Not us. We are ignorant of the very fact that we are suffering from more than 500 years of a disease called Colonialism. Europeans address problems as colonizers not colonized. In a realistic and courageous conversation for the total decolonization of the mind and land of the Nican Tlaca people, we must address all factors and search for all possible ways of making sure that our liberation is a profound, complete, and permanent reality. We have to be aware of all the colonial reactionary mentalities that cripple our vision for a complete liberation. On this path towards liberation there will be many distractions that tempt us to fight for quick and meager results, instead of solid and permanent liberation.

Years back I was invited to read one of the best articles that I have seen on the issues of feminism and liberation. As hard as I have tried I have yet to know that name of the author ( If you know please let me know! I would love to meet her/him) All I know is that it was published by La Verdad in 1997 and it was posted on the website of Union Del Barrio. In reading it, I found great insights and a refreshing view on how feminism has affected our people, especially the women. It is entitled "A Revolutionary Nationalist Perspective: On The Need To Truly Challenge Sexism Through National Liberation Focused Chicano Mexicano Struggle."

"Fundamental to any revolutionary organization and pro-independence
conscious movement is the absolute political, social, and economic
equality between men and women. As part of developing a progressive
consciousness among our gente, we must work to combat sexism in all
its forms and manifestations."

We have to incorporate justice within our respective organizations and not allow divisive and colonial attitudes to lurk amongst us as we work to end the colonization of our people. We must ask ourselves where such sex-based oppressive attitudes come from. Machismo is not inherently Nican Tlaca as we have been taught. It does not come embedded in our men’s DNA. It is a colonized-learned-behavior. Just because we are not Eurocentric “feminists” does not mean that we cannot fight sexism as a Nican Tlaca women, as Nican Tlaca people.


When we take a look at our history before the invasion and study the structures of our societies pertaining to the gender roles we find that our women’s participatory involvement was deep rooted and appreciated. Our men were not machistas when we were Mexica or Mayan free people. This is not to say that it was a women’s world and the concept of equality existed as it does today with all of its limitations. Todays freedoms of women didn’t exist anywhere before the 20th century. The understanding of gender and what that mean to our ancestors needs to be understood within it own context. For example, Nancy Tauna wrote a great essay regarding philosophy entitled “Native Women Philosophers” in which she states “In native cultures…there is (or was before colonization) equality between men and women .Women bear the race. Men bear the culture. Neither can exist without the other. There is no superior or inferior.” Our Nican Tlaca view of the relationship between men and women is that we are an example of Our Creators duality in that we are an equal and inseparable duality. We understood that just how one cannot separate the body from the mind, men and women could not be separated. We are just one duality of the universe. Tauna shares with us how Mariella Bacigalupo, a Mapuche anthropologist “critiqued the practice within feminism of judging other women by the white feminist yardstick.” We cannot look at our culture and historical experience through the eyes of white women nor can we solve our problems as white women do. We live within a colonial matrix and must first realize that white women also helped built the system. They receive the same white privilege that white men do, but in lesser form, with less access. The sexism that they experience is connected to their full access and colonialist rights to all the stolen goods. Are these the rights that we are fighting for as colonized women? No. White women and Nican Tlaca women have different needs and different rights to resources that should belong to us as a Nican Tlaca people.

Nican Tlaca People Before 1492

We are presented the modern world as we know it as a product of European genius and intellect. We are told that American culture is the most advanced and liberal society in the world, if we do not know world history, we buy this farce and digest it as a reality. But we don’t stop and think of what life was like before America was created, we are not offered the option to compare and contrast Nican Tlaca societies, as if to say, there was nothing of value in those societies so why bother. But we must go back. Before 1492, before 1519, we must return to the time before the European white supremacy invaded our lands and our lives. We must do our best to decipher what the codes of justice, education, and science were amongst our people. Who were we before the European invasion? What culture did we live?

When studying our societies prior to the invasion of our lands, it becomes evident that our gender roles were very different from the European model that we have been presented. To really understand the gender dynamics that we had as a people prior to 1492, we must let go of the self-hating identity issues that keep us from loving ourselves as the full and mixed-blooded Nican Tlaca (Indigenous) people that we are. We have to dismantle the colonialist-genocidal practices of allowing ourselves to be defined as “Hispanic, Latino, Raza, and Mestizo.” These are the identities under which we are allowed to operate and participate in a decolonizing discussion. The true, complete, oppressive and racist experience of being a colonized people is not allowed to be discussed in a liberation context. Our identity as a people and our understanding of being women, have been colonially constructed.

In reclaiming our Nican Tlaca identity we must reclaim our philosophies, especially when it comes to do gender politics. In learning of our history in a non-Euro-centric manner, we will find a whole new approach to the reconstruction of our identity via our pre-invasion societies. When you begin studying our Nican Tlaca history, you will find extensive information on our women’s participation in our daily lives. What role did Nican Tlaca women play prior to the European invasion? How have those roles changed under colonization?

 

Mexica Women


Lets take a look at the Mexica (Aztec) culture. In the Mexica (meh-shee-kah) society we find that our women played key roles in the foundation and maintenance of our societies. The reason why we choose the Mexica civilization is because it was the last major civilization. There is a massive body of information that exists based on original documents written at the time of the invasion. Although these writings come from the Euro-centricity of the invaders, they offer a great glimpse into what was the culture and social organization of the Mexica.


To begin to analyze our societies prior to 1492 requires that we search deep through original source for remnants of any reference to women. Although we must be extremely cautious in reading the writings of Europeans who cared less to fully grasp our culture, there are certain consistencies that we can find. For example, there is much information on Mexica (Aztec) women were doctors, priestesses, artisans, litigants, business women, teachers, etc. In the Mexica civilization we see a display of women’s participation that was heavily documented by Spanish friars who were dumbfounded to learn that our women shared in the molding and direction of the Mexica culture.


The Florentine Codex is the biggest source of information regarding the Mexica culture. This 12 volume book set was written in the 1550s by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun. Sahagun was commissioned by the Spanish government to fully document the culture of the Mexica to better learn how to colonize them. When reading these original sources we must keep in mind that their sole objective was gathering information that would best serve the agenda of total colonization of the Mexica people. Many of the books written on the Mexica, who are erroneously called Aztec, use the Florentine as their main reference. Sources like the Florentine Codex, offer us a glimpse into the social organization and culture of the Mexica. In book 6, Sahagun documents that the obstetrician was very well prepared in visiting the pregnant woman. Once a pregnant woman was in her seventh or eight month “…there was consultation as to some midwife to be sought out, to be supplicated to bathe their maiden in the sweat bath and to serve as midwife.” (p.149). Although Sahagun dilutes the importance of the profession of such a doctor, it is evident that the “midwife” was an obstetrician. There are many other examples of women in various roles that were described in other belittling terms.

 

In Indian Women In Early Mexico, Susan Shroeder and Stephanie Wood, share their research on what they understood to be the roles of Mexica women. “..it is evident that Indian women were not only co-progenitors of their histories but also active participants in influencing the direction that those histories would take.” (p4) They go on to elaborate on the various roles held as merchants, doctors, litigators, priestess, teachers, and conclude that colonialism had a devastating impact on status of women. They demonstrate that Mexica women lived a much more equal and liberated lifestyle that allowed them to participate in many realms that in other places of the world were quite limited. The imposition of colonialism, as demonstrated in this study, became a restraint on women’s roles in our society.
“Moreover from this time forward the well-defined
and often quite complementary gender roles as they
were known for the pre-Hispanic era changed,
and native women in general experienced a
diminishing presence in traditional social spheres.”
Introduction (p. 5 Schroeder and Wood)
The racist ideas that usually accompanies much of the negative interpretations given when describing our Nican Tlaca history, seems to include the idea that women were kept enslaved in their household, barefoot and pregnant. However, there is much evidence and much more inferences that we can make about what the life of a Nican Tlaca woman, especially Mexica, that lead us to realize a much more inclusive society that is not as oppressive as we have been taught. Along with racist views, comes the ignorant acceptance of certain myths that have been constructed from this very Eurocentric base.


We as a people, tend to assume that our men have always been machistas” and that our women had always been oppressed and in need for equality. We find this myth in the music that we listen to. In the novelas that we watch and in everyday jokes. It’s hard to not buy into this myth that is shoved down our throat constantly by the media. Once we scratch the surface of this colonial imposition of our gender roles, it is clear to trace machismo to Europe. Since the European model of culture is deemed superior it is necessary to zoom into European culture regarding to women pertaining to the time frame in which such judgments are made of our culture. We are made to believe that it is our men who are detrimental to the well-being of women because of the stigma that machismo has on our men. We have a fairy tale notion that Europe has been in a permanent progressive role and leads the world in the realm of justice and equality. Let’s take a closer look at the treatment that Europe had of its own women. When we study European culture and gender roles we find that it was not just oppressive but fatal. To offer a better comparison we need to look at how Europeans treated their own women prior to invading us and imposing their sexist ideologies on our people. As to European women in the fields of medicine and education, we see that they were persecuted because they threatened the machista feudal system of Europe, this was known as the “witch-craze” era.

 

“The age of witch-hunting spanned more than four centuries ( from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century) in its sweep…[it] took different forms at different times and places, but never lost its essential character: that of a ruling class campaign of terror directed against the female peasant population. Witches represented a political, religious, and sexual threat to the Protestant and Catholic churches alike, as well as to the state”
p.5, Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich, 1973


During the witch-craze thousands of European women were executed, mainly by being burnt at steak, simply for their knowledge and practice of medicine. Education was not an option for the average woman unless you belonged to the royal family. While at the same time, here on these lands we had mandatory education for males and females of all ranks in society. Compulsory education was seen as a system necessary to have the society working at its fullest potential. In the Florentine Codex, the participation of women in the fields of medicine, education, and theology is greatly documented. Although the information gathered had the sole purpose of recording the knowledge and traditions of the Mexica only as a means to be able to infiltrate and better colonize them, Sahagun slips descriptions of what women did. Even when it came to priesthood, Sahagun documents how “Women were by no means excluded from priesthood. Some twenty or forty days after her birth, a girl might be brought to the temple by her mother.“ (Daily Life of the Aztecs, Jacques Soustelle p 54) This began the education of the girl to be a priest.



To best demonstrate our Nican Tlaca view of women we are to glimpse into the theological world view that our ancestors had. In that view women are constantly portrayed as representations of the female equal half of our Creator as a duality. Keep in mind that our ancestors did not consider “The Creator” to be male nor female. We understood the Creator to be a duality of balanced elements male and female represented that balance in the universe. The Creator is self-created. No human category can ever grasp the sacredness of Our Creator. We see female representations in famous sculptures like Coatlicue, Coyolxuahqui, Chalchitlicue, and OmeCihauatl. These were all just different ways of writing the names and the ideas of the manifestations of Our Creator in sculpture.

Women were an equal part of the sacred world. This is a huge distinction from Christianity where women are almost invisible and/or belittled as secondary to sacredness. We do not intend to elaborate much on the theological importance, but to simply make an invitation to you to further your research for a more in depth understanding of women’s roles in Anahuac prior to the invasion of Europeans as reflected in our Anahuac theology.

Women of Anahuac were participating in our societies in roles that European women only now are enjoying thanks to their awakening to feminism with the suffragist movement. Our participation dates back to the very beginning of our culture. The oldest example that we have of high positions date to the very beginning of our defined culture with the oldest Anahuac civilization: The Olmec. The Olmec, by far, are the oldest carbon-dated civilization found in the Anahuac cultural area (“North America“). There is a stela found in La Venta that shows a woman ruler standing just as the other male rulers. Given that the Olmec have been carbon-dated as far back as 2300 B.C.E. we can safely state that Nican Tlaca women have been involved in some sort of equality since our early beginnings. “Although generally referred to as El Rey (The King), this figure should be called La Reina (The Queen) because she is wearing women’s clothing…certainly highly ranked women, as well as men, were concerned with sociopolitics at Chalcatzingo” p.227, Women of Ancient America, Stothert, 1999.

"La Reyna" Olmec female sculpture


“Women rulers of complex chiefdoms or primitive states appeared very early in Mesoamerica.” WiAA, pg. 227. The best documented Anahuac cities that demonstrate women as leaders is found in Palenque. Through the extensive examples of ruler-ship that we see in the hieroglyphs we are offered a very politically involved women’s presence in government.

Nican Tlaca Women Resisting Colonialism Since 1492


After discussing the gender dynamics and roles that were found throughout Anahuac, it is hard to imagine that our people ever had such an embracing attitude towards women. It seems as though it was some far away people. It is difficult for us because we lack knowledge of what our societies were like PRIOR to 1492. We have nothing to compare our current situation with.


We as Nican Tlaca women have been resisting colonialism along with our men since 1492. We have not been the willing victims of rape as the Pocahontas Disney fairy tale cartoon displays. There is a lot of documentation that exposes our role as defender of our lands, our people, and our bodies.

“Women were frequent participants in and even, on occasion, leader of colonial rebellions. William B. Taylor has written,

Militiamen called in by the Spanish authorities were likely to encounterNasty mobs of hundreds of women brandishing spears and kitchen knives or cradling rocks in their skirts, and young children and old people carrying or throwing whatever they could manage, we well as better armed groups of adult men…In atleast one-fourth of the cases, women led the attacks and were visibly aggressive, insulting, and rebellious in their behavior towards outside authorities.”

(p.141 Indian Women In Early Mexico, Schroeder and Wood)


We have to understand that we as women have been the objects of colonial rule. Europeans used sexualized violence as a way to demonstrate their false sense of superiority over our people and as a way to belittle our men. Our sex has been used against us as a way to remind us of our inferiority according to the European colonizer logic. During the initial invasion of 1492 mass rapes were committed against us as a way to rape the humanity out of our bodies, just as they did with culture and heritage.

In American Holocaust, David E. Stannard draws from various original sources, that depict the treatment of Nican Tlaca women at the hands of Europeans.:

“If an India attempted to resist, she was whipped or tortured or burned alive…Indian woman was burned to death in her hut by a Spaniard who tried to rape her…” (p. 85 Stannard)


The continuous sexualized portrayal of Nican Tlaca women can be easily seen in cartoons such as Pocahontas and Road To El Dorado. Both cartoons depicting a highly sexualized relationship between a European man and a Nican Tlaca woman. Perhaps this myth is constructed to blatantly white-wash the violent reality that Nican Tlaca women faced when dealing with the Europeans. This is another myth that needs to be shattered and stopped. We as Nican Tlaca women, have been impacted by colonialism in a far more damaging way than contemporary sexism exhibits.


The invasion and ongoing occupation of our lands has destroyed the roles that all of our people played. Our culture has been destroyed and we have been lowered into slavery. It is a comfortable slavery because we have certain freedoms and can wear cute clothes while our minds are indoctrinated by media tactics and a colonizing education system. Our leaders, doctors, scientists, philosophers, warriors, etc., were killed. The impact that this colonial and genocidal experience has left in our psyche has been an distorted our understanding of what it is to be a free nation.

After so many years of being taught to institutionally hate ourselves, some of us seek justice reacting against our own culture and waving the flag of European culture as supreme. We embrace the flag of surrender. We embrace genocide. Some of us give up and join the enemy. We join the crowd of white supremacy. Instead of fighting colonialism we justify it by saying that things changed for the better. It is with this perspective, that I present a criticism on feminism.; more specifically, “Chicana Feminism.” Intentionally or not, our Chicana feminist writers are contributing to the ongoing colonialism of our people. Why create something new when our heritage and identity scream for life? We need a reconstruction and resurrection of our culture and heritage. We need a liberation and a return to being a free people. We don’t need to create a new identity of self-centered philosophies or a false and perverted notion of our Nican Tlaca history and identity.

As women of Anahuac, we must see ourselves as a collective force that has deep- rooted practices in relation to the social constructions of gender and power. One of the biggest obstacles in over-coming ignorance of our heritage is to remove the “mestizo” farce mentality that we have been infected with. This pseudo identity is used to justify the mass rape of our people. This concept celebrates the “mixture” of our Nican Tlaca people and Spaniards. It draws of fairy tale of Nican Tlaca women falling crazy in love with Europeans and than having tons of children and bam! Magically we as Mexicans and Central Americans are a new race. That is a lie given to hide the pain and genocide brought upon us by the European invasion of 1492. It allows for a comfortable history lesson plan in elementary school that makes Europeans feel guilt-less when reviewing their historical impact on our people.

The concept of being a new race, was developed by Jose Vasconcelos who was the prime minister of Education of Mexico in the early 20’s following the Mexican revolution. Vasconcelos was a Mexican who sought to unite all non-white cultures under the Spanish European culture of language and Catholic religion which he deemed supreme. What some have considered to be a very inclusive terms, Raza and Mestizo, in reality are a white supremacist celebration of our defeat. They claim to be a melting pot of cultures in Mexico but in reality it is a culture of defeat. He even went as far as to talk about the population control of non-white peoples and the increase in a White population in Mexico. In a debate held in Chicago he suggested that Black, Asian, and Nican Tlaca peoples reproduction be regulated. The debate was documented in the published book Aspects of Mexican Civilization :

“If we do not wish to be over-whelmed by the wave of the Negro, of the Indian, or of the Asiatic, we shall have to see that the Negro, the Indian, and the Asiatic are raised to the higher standards of life, where reproduction becomes regulated and quality predominates over numbers.”
P. 100-101

The concept of mestizaje is practically stemmed from the core idea that Mexicans are a bunch of halfbreeds who needed the Spanish culture as the essence to this existence. The concept along with the idea of us being a “new race” or “nueva raza” was birthed from the Eurocentricity of Jose Vasconcelos, who wrote “The Cosmic Race” as a way to theorize what he saw as the meshing of races, but all united under the Spanish language and European culture. The complete colonization of a people can be deemed successful when “the colonizers were able to convince the colonized of their own inferiority,’ and once the population stopped considering itself Indian, then de-Indianization was complete.” (22 and 46 Batalla). Our people, who were stripped of our Indigenous identity could never truly be considered European, they were labeled mestizos as a way of killing their identity in a form of identity genocide. Drawing from Guillermo Bonfil-Batalla’s great work in Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming A Civlization we can point out how our Nican Tlaca (Indigenous) heritage is shunned out of our consciousness and we are systematically left to embrace an oppressive and colonizing view of identity as a way to keep us in shame and submissive to European culture. Batalla calls this stripping of Nican Tlaca identity and culture “de-indianization.” Batalla defines it as “a historical process through which populations that originally possessed a particular and distinctive identity, based upon their own culture, are forced to renounce that identity with all the consequent changes in their social organization and culture” (p 17).

How can we as a people embrace our heritage and identity when we have been systematically kept from the richness of our culture and history? We are given the false reasoning that because we have been “mixed” which is a euphemism for rape, that we cannot fully embrace our Nican Tlaca identity. This is completely false. All we need to do is look at how other peoples have dealt with the issues of rape and we will learn that they have not been deterred in their grasp of their heritage. i.e., Jews, Turks, Italians, etc., We need to clear our mind from crippling bogus arguments that justify our colonial condition and begin confronting those lies by deconstructing the imposed ideologies that oppress and limit our understanding of our worth and the uniqueness of our collective identity as Nican Tlaca people. In this process of deconstruction we need to deconstruct the solutions that we have used as a way to liberate ourselves. Much of the time solutions for the colonizer’s problems cannot be used by us, the colonized.

Let us make this very clear, that this is not an attack against feminism because it has played a positive role in the lives of many of our women. We can see how there has been a positive affect on our communities. It has helped our women out of abusive relationships; helped us hold our heads up high and not let anyone talk down on us because we are women. It is what we know. It is what uplifts us out of this male centered colonialism. It gives us confidence and a stronger grasp on the declaration of our rights and right to be treated equal. But there has been a huge gap in this effect: The lack of a liberating approach to our womens condition. When we look at the bigger colonial matrix picture we find that that the Feminist demand of equality does so while we exist within European domination. We as women cannot and should not separate ourselves from our men simply because of our improved condition within feminism and the improvement of white women’s rights. We have the right to express our concern and voice out the inequality among us Nican Tlaca women and men but not letting go of our over-all goal for complete liberation. How can we fight for our rights as women, if we as a people have no rights to our lands, our culture, our future? We cannot divide the treatment we get as women from the rest of our people. Furthermore, "feminism creates separatism and elitism based in gender and/or sexual preference, plus it often upholds a false vanguardism (the idea that women are more "human" or more progressive simply because they are women and/or gay)…"http://www.uniondelbarrio.org/cmpm/articles/pg01.html


Feminism has been formed into something that is more relative to our women in the form of Chicana feminism. Feminism has been embraced by many of our women who have developed what we know today as “Chicana feminism.” This offshoot of white feminism exploded in the late 60's as a reactionary group of mainly women of Mexican descent who had been discriminated against by the WHITE FEMINISTS. Our women shared in the oppression that white women experienced under white male privilege. Our women joined the white feminist movement for what they hoped would solve their problems and offer a platform through which they could also voice their concerns about their own experiences. They later became victims of the racism that our people as a whole suffered from. Many of our women became writers denouncing the racism and hypocrisy that white feminists displayed in their organizations and in the over-all mentality against brown and black women. "By and large, we did not identify with the white woman's movement and therefore received no intellectual verification of the injustice we felt as women." Massacre of the Dreamers; Ana Castillo 94. The outright racism against women of color is what birthed a separate group of women who not only dealt with the issues of gender equality but now were fully aware that they also had to fight for equality with white women.


Chicana Feminism Promotes White Supremacy

Sandra Cisneros


A lot of us once admired such Chicana feminist writers and poets. We felt that we could relate to them because they were from my own background. They inspired us to fight sexism. We read their books throughout high school. They had names like ours and wrote in Spanish. They talked about common experiences. We could relate. But once given the opportunity to learn our history; we are able to remove the blinders of division among our people and understood that we needed more then feminism to liberate our people. Once we learned how colonialism still affects us to this day we were able to see how passive and Eurocentric Chicana feminism had been. This new awareness came to me with the great discussions that I had with Olin Tezcatlipoca, founder and director of the Mexica Movement. Learning the approach that the Mexica Movement takes as a stand against colonialism, we can start thinking in a very collective liberation way. Once we learn how colonialism molds our thinking and make us accept the colonizer, it was clear that the notion of Chicana feminism was tainted with very Euro-centric and Vasconcelos-like interpretations of our women before 1492 and our women now. When we have a clear grasp of our place and time in history before the European invasion, we begin to ask ourselves as women in the liberation struggle of our people? What role are we playing in the process of nation-building? Sadly, when asking ourselves, as Nican Tlaca women what we had learned from Chicana Feminism, it is easy to understand that they do a great job of explaining how we as women suffer from being victims of machismo but they do a poor job by excluding the awareness of exposing us to the pain that our men suffer from the same destructive attitude. Chicana Feminism does not confront colonialism. It accepts it and in some cases embraces and promotes it (“Latina,“ Hispanic,“ Mestiza”)

In learning our history from the standpoint of a Nican Tlaca woman, and in a conscious effort to learn our history in an active decolonizing way, we grasp the fact that our own men suffer from their own colonialist behavior. We can then begin to be more critical of how the terms "Chicana" were mis-used and what issues they were focusing on. The big realization comes to us that Chicana feminism was a mat on which other issues (Marxism, gay-lesbian) were prioritized and that our peoples liberation was not even considered. At that point my mindset found direction and guidance. And to top it off, the colonial terms “latina,” “mestiza,” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably when addressing our women of Mexican, Central American, and Native American descent. That is criminal. That is racist. That is pro-colonial. We submit to colonialism when we allow ourselves to be defined by the colonizer.


Once we as young Nican Tlaca women are given the opportunity or seek the opportunity to learn our history, we begin to see deeper than gender and the oppression that infuriates us in regards to women’s issues. We see the pain of our men as well. We are then able to see the bigger picture. Once we start reading the works of the most prominent Chicana feminists though the eyes of a colonized Nican Tlaca person aware of her people's history, we experience a bitter awakening that the concept of "Chicana" feminism ultimately, passively accepts the colonization of our people and only calls us to be equal slaves under the white masters. Furthermore, we now begin to question why these “Chicana Feminists” view our Nican Tlaca (Indigenous culture) with a certain degree of Euro-centricity yet did not hesitate to use Nican Tlaca words or concepts.

It is very difficult to find encouragement to learn more about our culture in their writings. We find no inspiration in their work to further educate ourselves on our history. If anything their negative portrayal of our Nican Tlaca heritage is very discouraging. They may be very creative fictional writers, great speakers, but when they speak on our history, they must be held accountable for making very Eurocentric, very racist statements. Speaking on a personal level, at the time that I was reading their books I was also educating myself on our true history that dates back to the Olmec. With the awareness of the Euro-centric and colonial mindset I read books of my history as an Indigenous woman who knew exactly what Europeans were trying to do. I was aware that their descriptions of our people’s culture, specifically women, were diluting the impact that women played in our society prior to the invasion of our lands of 1492. My readings and their work did not match anymore. I needed more. More direction. More knowledge and more clarity. I learned that our men also are victims of such oppression. I learned that we could become the strong, educated, women that our ancestors were and could use our own societies as examples of equality and social justice. Most importantly, I learned that our strength had been carried by over 500 years of resistance by both men and women who desire to end the European colonization of our people once and for all. We have not always suffered from such VIOLENT and AGGRESSIVE SEXISM. I learned that Machismo did not belong to Mexico or “Central America.” Our men should be defined by OUR SOCIETY and not by the imposed DESTRUCTIVE SEXIST MACHISMO MENTALITY. At the same time, MEXICAN, CENTRAL AMERICAN, and NATIVE AMERICAN women have a long history of achievements in all aspects of society and lived in great cities and towns throughout our continent. This new knowledge was very inspiring and liberating. In the liberation activities and organizing we have no room for machismo nor feminismo. We have to approach organizing and liberation in an inclusive manner, it is here where we need to shed the sexist mindsets, so that it does not take part in our future. We have the responsibility to make sure that we correct the mindsets that we have been socialized with and understand that it is our duty to bring awareness to our people and the rest of the world on what will and not be acceptable.

Our focus is on the long-term goal of liberation. This does not mean that we ignore the obvious sexism that does exist, we understand that it must be dismantled together. We are doing our best to study our NICAN TLACA (Indigenous) societies for models of justice and equality.

But first we must understand the road blocks to liberation. One of the most noted and read books encompassing Chicana Feminism is This Bridge Called My back (1981) It was written "…out of the experience at a 1979 women's retreat during which Anzaldua was made to feel she was being labeled -----tokenized as a "third world-woman" and as an outsider…" Feminism now had shown its true colors. White colors. But the grasp Chicana feminists had of our culture was not deep enough, because the women who once stood up to such feminist racism are now reinforcing colonialism and promoting White Supremacy in an apologetic acceptance of our colonial condition. Whether or not these writers do it intentionally or not, their focus on their rhetoric of self-centered revelations about our culture, are a disservice to our people and to our liberation struggle.

It is unfortunate that our women writers are contributing to the ongoing colonialism by promoting ideas of assimilation and passive acceptance of being an occupied people. They are very talented and write excellent novels, however when they refer to our history and make bogus claims that further contribute to our negative view of our history, their influence becomes harmful to our understanding of our history and identity. As a new generation of young Nican Tlaca women, we must question what has been accepted as normal in this society, and not normalize the colonial experience. We have a responsibility to dismantle euro-centricity and any remnants of self-hate in writings, especially in those works that are considered “representative” of our people.

 

The passive acceptance of white supremacy and colonialism can be seen in the Gloria Anzaldua’s statement in an interview where she states“…The white culture has been internalized in my head. I have a white man in here, I have a white woman in here. And they have me in their heads, even if it is just a guilty little nudge sometimes.” Gloria Anzaldua states in an interview in Race, Rhetoric and the Post-Colonial, p.52 1999. This is a very revealing look into her mind and understanding of her relationship to people of European descent. Furthermore she states “I cannot disown the White tradition, the Euro-American tradition, any more than I can disown the Mexican, the Latino or the Native, because they are all in me.” (RRPC, p 52) Here we see the acceptance of whiteness, without any resistance. The question is why does she not disown it, what has it done for her? White people, Euro-Americans disown any connection to us as a people and here we have a “Chicana Writer” whose writings are used extensively in literature courses all over the “United States” and she is promoting a loving relationship with Europeans and colonialism. The consciousness that we have of the “white man” in our heads is called colonialism. This is not a reciprocal reality. The “white” presence that we have in our minds of White people, is a colonizing, oppressive relationship. The presence that White people have of us is a reassuring colonizer awareness. We don’t both give and take in this relationship. White people steal and take, we are killed and robbed. Anzaldua’s acceptance of this “White presence” is the rhetoric of the assimilationist. Her acceptance and articulation of accepting the colonizer is not changing our people’s condition. One can wonder if her work is being heavily promoted in academia as a way of using a brown woman to reinforce white supremacy. Anzaldua has no problem flaunting her self hate in Borderlands, “Not me sold out my people but they me.” In this declaration of truth she asserts that there has been some selling out done but in her eyes she is the one who got sold by her people. I would like to know what is the definition of her people and what did the sale consist of? Why are we at fault for her suffering? How is it that her people oppress her but she feels no obligation to speak out against the real enemy: white supremacy.

Ana Castillo, who is given credit for coining the term Xicanisma, wrote a very impacting book in which she offers great statistical information but a very confusing and almost painfully schizophrenic take on identity. She asserts, "If Xicanisma is not a nationalist politic, then what is it? Xicanisma is an ever present consciousness of our interdependency specifically rooted in our culture and history" (p.226 Ana Castillo Massacre of The Dreamers). The concept of Xicanisma seems to be rooted in a mental stage that never really seeks any reality outside the realm of the intellectual. It is almost a psychological school of thought that promotes a contemplation about self relevance and self awareness. Castillo also take huge liberties in Massacre of the Dreamers when describing the Mexica culture by stating that :

“…I certainly would not argue that the Mexica males’ dominance was less oppressive of women than that imposed by the Spaniards. There is little point in debating which is the lesser of the evils.” p. 64

Such claims can quickly be proven false by books such as Indian Women of Early Mexico in which we learn that Mexica roles of women were decreased with the imposition of Spanish culture and Spanish gender organization.

“The imposition of colonial rule had a powerful influence on women’s experiences and gender as an organizing principle among the Mexica. Many of the complex Mexica concepts of gender did not survive this transition, and women’s activities and lives became more circumscribed and controlled. Yet they still held enough power and authority to play significant roles in Indian protests and uprisings against colonial rule throughout central Mexico.”
p.142

There is plenty to debate over this issue and much information that Castillo may not have had access to. However, the damage is being done, by equating that Mexica women were just as bad off in Mexica times than under the Spaniards. As a young Nican Tlaca woman, reading this can completely discourage you from looking further into your history.

To make such a statement shows her ignorance of the various roles that Mexica women played in Mexica culture. There is an obvious omission of mentioning that Mexica women were doctors, priestesses, writers etc., I do not claim that the there was the 100% equality that many women wish upon cultures, but the Mexica definitely had a clearer representation of women in their socio-political roles. She further states:

“We are reluctant to acknowledge male supremacist practices of the Mexica (Aztecs) because of our own romantic ideas of pre-Conquest society, nationalist bias, or lack of information.” (p 14)

I don’t remember that last time that the Mexica were glamorized. Anytime we hear of the Mexica it is usually the same story that they were barbaric, blood-thirsty, savages. It is only very recently that we begin to hear a more humane view of the Mexica. Her claim is unrealistic and disgusting.

In criticizing these two very well-known Chicana writers, we are not trying to belittle them or their work, however we understand that they have a very influential position in the education of our people and the rest of the world when it comes to a telling of our history. We understand that not all Chicana writers, have the exact same tendencies, but we must ring the alarm on these claims and hopefully bring awareness of a more just view of who we are.

Their novels and poetry are tinted with passive acceptance of the colonial condition of our people and a schizophrenic stand on identity. The tone is frozen into an emotional contemplation within their individuality and what they consider to be "our culture." Their position stands on “me, myself, and I” and rarely call upon sources other than personal information and experiences.

None of the so-called Chicana feminist denounce the colonial labels of "Hispanic" and "latino." They do the opposite. They promote colonial terms mestiza, latina, Hispanic, and don’t confront them. They mesh in Nahuatl terms, impress the reader with Nican Tlaca terms and then stamp it with colonialist ideas. The main message is a call for us to lash out at "patriarchal domination". A lot of these messages of sexual freedom and feminism build our esteem and make us feel stronger and motivate us to be more outspoken. It gives us esteem because it is the only positive message that we have been exposed to thus far. The message is clear. DEMAND YOUR EQUALITY AND STAND UP FOR WOMEN. Although the message we are being sent is in the most sincere intent a positive one if we are talking about denouncing the sexism, domestic violence, and unfair wages that we receive; but when dealing with our people, it is not destroying the colonizer's tools. This approach as an uplifting of the women of Mexican, "Central American," and "Native American" descent will only do so in order for us to exist within the European model of colonialism and mental slavery.

Most of these essays ignore the most violent factor of our oppression as women and over-all of us as a Nican Tlaca people.: COLONIALISM! We are NOT encouraged to study our history prior to our invasion. We are NOT moved to lash out at colonialism and free all of our people. We are not asked to think of the collective oppression and need for the well-being of our people. We are asked to be individuals and critique our culture. We are asked to betray our people and critique our men and invent new identities that are soaked in Euro-centricity. My question is: Have you fully grasped our identity and history as a people? Have you searched within our history and culture for cultural sustenance? Have you attempted to reconstruct what has been hidden and suppressed in our people?

There is nothing wrong with pointing out the harmful things of the culture in which we live in. But we must acknowledge that our culture has been infiltrated with the white supremacist colonialist models of justice and logic. We have to shake ourselves out of thinking that the colonial mentality imposed on us, belongs to us. We are not inherently self-hating, we are not inherently sexist. The mind of the “chicana feminist” now “Latina” is numb to the shrieking reality of colonialism.

We must remember that as of today, the majority of our people are ignorant of our 4,300 year history and oblivious to our colonized condition. Our victimization encompasses all levels of oppression. Without knowing our colonial condition and the 500 and plus years of genocide, rape and acculturation. We try to find solutions to the splinters of our oppression. You can find many of our people fighting to end gangs, to end sweatshops, to end the inequality amongst social classes, and many of our women fighting for equality with men. The reasons for our involvement are legitimate and sincere but the outcome will be minimal and temporary. The outcome will be progress within a colonial structure. Our activism in such groups is indicative of a desire for change and to demand justice but the actions taken are against the effects on colonialism and not colonialism itself.

Colonialism is our enemy and it manifests itself in every aspect of our lives. When we fight those “good issues” we must recognize that we are fighting the result of a 500 year project that is alive and well in our oppression.

We as a people are too occupied working in the Euro-american maze of capitalism and trying to accomplish the "American" dream that our thoughts never wonder what the future of our people will be nor are we curious to know the past. Even those of our people who claim to have a deeper awareness of problems existing in our communities shutter at the thought of our people rising up for our rights as Indigenous people on our stolen continent: Anahuac. The liberation of our people seems like a bad-joke that is rarely told. We have a lot of work to do in destroying the institutionalized colonizing agendas that are so well-embedded into our consciousness. Issues such as sexism must be given their proper attention and recognized as yet another form of division amongst our people.


When speaking of liberation we must address the confusing factors that damage our progress and blocks our path towards a deep understanding of our present colonial condition. Chicana feminism does not answer to liberation. It has become part of the mainstream cliché women’s voice. We must build from within our perspective and look out for our own interests when we are working to change our people’s future. So how does Chicana feminism play into our liberation? It doesn't.

There is a definite need to address the destructive mindset of machismo and address the issues of inequality among men and women. There is no doubt about that. We must never allow such a divisive attitude to exist amongst us. Machismo will not be part of our liberation. The focus on just women (feminism) will not take the lead role in our liberation struggle. Any mentality that was imposed on us or given to us by European will not be incorporated into our vision. We will come up with our own solutions. We can address the inequality of our people by fighting for our liberation.

As young Nican Tlaca woman, we are outreached by the "Chicana Feminist" who tell us about the writings of Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, and Gloria Anzaldua. Those of us who had been lacking any type of direction from our people can relate to most of their writings. But when we study our history and culture in a complete and non Euro-centric way, we start to realize that their writings are not addressing the issues that we suffer from AS A PEOPLE. We need stories and poems that tell us who we are as a people. Breathe life back into our pride, that fight for us as a people. We need permanent solutions. We must revise our stand and embrace the great deal of knowledge that we now have on our history, heritage, and identity.

Many women claim that they cannot focus on the liberation of our people because their experience as women is far more important than what we suffer as a people. There is even a sticker "Being a woman is revolutionary." It is quite saddening to see it on the bumpers of our women and especially European women. Actually being revolutionary means that you will fight for the liberation of your people, by representing your strength and dedication as a woman to the over-all freedom that belongs to us. Our biological function as women does not immunize us from true actions of courage and vision. Having the genitalia of a female is not definitive of a more “progressive” or revolutionary attitude. What defines our character are the actions that we take and the philosophies that we live by. I have met plenty of vendidas (sell-outs). Our sex does not immune us from being an apologetic colonized woman. Nor does it equate to being a revolutionary. Being a revolutionary takes dedication, discipline, and courage to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals. Be a revolutionary woman. Fight for your people. All of your people. Get involved. Study your history. We need to take control over what defined being Nican Tlaca. We must keep resisting colonialism, along with our brothers. As women, the equal respect and rights that should belong to us, must exist in our culture now. We are creating a culture of awareness and dedication. We must implement our assertive demands for justice as we seek the liberation of our people. We have our culture and our heritage as examples of concepts that we can recreate and polish for our use today. This message is not new. Other Nican Tlaca women have also voiced their concern over the Euro-centric approach of feminism:

“It seems to me the feminist agenda is basically one of rearranging social relations within the society which is occupying our land and utilizing our resources for its own benefit. Nothing I’ve encountered in feminist theory addresses the fact of our colonization, or the wrongness of white women’s stake in it…I can only conclude that, like Marxism, which arrives at the same outcome through class rather than gender theory, feminism is essentially a Euro-supremacist ideology and is therefore quite imperialist in its implications.”

Pam Colorado, Oneida Scholar quoted in The State of Native America

The White man alone should not be given credit or blame for colonialism separated from the White woman. They both have shared in the profits of our genocide and theft. As the white man pillages and rapes our people, white women happily embrace the fruits of their partners crimes and even participate in their genocidal activities. We cannot incorporate the white woman solution to our reality as colonized Nican Tlaca women in constant battle to decolonize our people. We cannot blindly accept any sex-based liberation philosophy or any other divisive agenda as a guide for the recipe for our complete liberation. We are women living in an occupied nation. We have a country. We have a place in this world and we will define it with the soul of our heritage and the fierceness of our warriors (men and woman united). We will reconstruct ourselves by modeling our future with our own ancestor’s concepts of justice, theology, and language. It is an honor to participate in the making of a liberated future of a people who carry the interests of their liberation in their heart. We will not be distracted or allowed to be even further divided by the racist Euro-centric universalization of women’s politics. We as an occupied nation are men and women who will unite for equality amongst humanity and not use European norms of justice to dictate the validity of our liberation struggle.

 

by Citlalli Citlalmina Anahuac

Anahuac Women Fight


A project of the Mexica Movement

This work is copyrighted to the author. Any replication must be approved by the author.

 

Anahuac Women Fight Video Presentation of Essay

 

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End notes:

This essay began in 2004. The need to challenge the Eurocentricity in Chicana Feminism stems from our need to challenge our own colonial mentalities. It is unfortunate that we have to ring the alarm on the existing Eurocentrism that exists in the very writing of our people who claim to be looking out for the interests of our community. As unfortunate as it is, it is also necessary to reflect on our own understanding of our colonial condition and seek a total liberation. We cannot accept colonialism nor can we euphamize our occupation.

I would like to thank my two Anahuac sisters, Arlene Valdez-Pinedo for her constant support and input as well as Veronica Agustin for her insights. This has turned into a collective project, with their analysis well included.

I especially want to thank my long time mentor and friend Olin Tezcatlipoca for his conitnuing support and guidance. It is because of him that i am awake, it is because of him that i am breaking free from the matrix. He has provided many insights and suggestions along the way since the beginning of this project.

The goal of this essay is to share the experience that we have as Nican Tlaca women when studying our specific roles in history, before and after the invasion of our lands. We want to share this research with other young Nican Tlaca women who are in search for themselves and their role in liberation.

This is by no means a finished project. It will continue to be revised and expanded.
I welcome all thoughts, suggestions, corrections.

Thank  you for reading,
Citlalli Citlalmina Anahuac

QUOTES ON PRO-COLONIALIST "Chicana" writers:

Quotes:
Massacre of the Dreamers
Ana Castillo
1994

“We are reluctant to acknowledge male supremacist practices of the Mexicas (Aztecs) because of our own romantic ideas of pre-Conquest society, nationalist bias, or lackof information byt mostly because European culturicide has rendered Mexica practices ineffective to our lives.” p.14


“…I certainly would not argue that the Mexica males’ dominance was less oppressive of women than that imposed by the Spaniards. There is little point in debating which is the lesser of the evils.” p. 64
“…the fundamental basis of nationalism is rooted in a divisive, aggressive, and destructive desire for material power. When we speak of machismo, we immediately refer to division of power between make and female, between a world power and colonized nations.” p. 82


“…the Mexica, the most powerful people in Mesoamerica at the time of the Spanish Conquest had already entered the systematic process of subjugating women inherent in imperialism.” p. 205


“Our Spanish heritage and its ongoing dynamic in our lives, not only connects us with the Eurocentric ideology of dominant society of all the Americas, but as mestizas, it serves to grant us a sophisticated and complex perception of dominant society.” p. 220



Gloria Anzaldua
Borderlands
1987
“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 serviture with marriage, bludgeoned for 300years, 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).” p. 45


“As a mestiza I have no country, my homeland cast me out, yet all countries are mine because I am every woman’s siter or potential lover. (As a lesbian I have no race, my own people disclaim me; but I am all races because ther is the queer fof me in all races.) I am cultureless because , as a feminist, I challenge the collective cultural/religious male-derived beliefs of Indo-Hispanics and Anglos; …” p. 103



Race, Rhetoric, and The Postcolonial
Edited by Gary A. Olson and Lynn Worsham
1999
State University of New York Press
“I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue__ my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will over-come the tradition of silence.”
P43: from her writings


In her responses to the interview:
“Now I think that “us” and “them” are interchangeable. Now there is no such thing as “other.” The other is in you, the other is in me. This white culture has been internalized in my head. I have a white man in here; I have a white woman in here. And they have me in their heads, even if it is just a guilty little nudge sometimes.” p. 52


“Both of these traditions are internalized just by being alive. Both of these traditions are inherent in me. I cannot disown the white tradition, the Euro-American-tradition, any more than I can disown the Mexican, the Latino or the Native, because they are all in me. “p52