Category Archives: History

12/12/12: This Time Is Our Time

December 12, 2012

DSCN0026By Inés Hernández-Ávila

Compañeras, hermanas, hijas, nietas, abuelas, madres, madres, madres, todos somos madres, de una manera u otra, porque todas tenemos la profunda capacidad de crear:

Hoy es un dia muy importante, today is an important day, 12/12/12, there will not be another one in our lifetimes, we must give ourselves a moment in our lives to stop our ordinary activity and feel, see, touch, taste, smell, be with the Earth, the Mother of Us All, y darle Grácias. This is the day that tells us that it is time to be the way we want to be, without reservation, unconditionally, to realize ourselves con firmeza, con coraje, con Amor, to remember who we are, as mujeres, as guerreras, as voces, as thinking hearts.[1] Today is a llamamiento to our very innermost beings to stand up and be counted on behalf of the Earth, on behalf of all of Life, on behalf of toda la naturaleza, todos los seres inocentes que comparten esta planeta con nosotras. De nosotras dependen, quién sino nosotras? Humans are not the only peoples on this Earth. Si va a ver Justicia, que sea para todos los seres que vivimos en la Tierra. Interestingly, the U.N. designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day (I knew it was called Earth Day, I just learned it is officially Mother Earth Day). Día 12 is the Mexican Mother Earth Day. Perhaps not all peregrinos, devotos, would see it this way—for many of them, la Virgen de Guadalupe es, en términos estrictamente Católicos, la Madre de Diós, la Madre de Jesucristo, la interlocutora mas alta que hay para llegar a Diós. Mis respetos a todos ellos.

But for those of us who have been reflecting on her being, thinking about our (dis)connections to Catholicism, thinking about Chicana/indigenous spiritualities, envisioning “transnational feminist spiritual communities,”[2] coming to terms with the idea of Spirit in our lives, we know that La Virgen is much more than how she is defined by the Catholic Church. We know her differently. As our beloved Gloria Anzaldua said, “I’ve always been aware that there is a greater power than the conscious I.  That power is my inner self, the entity that is the sum total of all my reincarnations, the godwoman in me I call Antigua, mi Diosa, the divine within, Coatlicue-Cihuacoatl-Tlazolteotl-Tonantzin-Coatlalopeuh-Guadalupe—they are one.”[3] This is immense knowledge. La Virgen se manifiesta como imagen Católica, some say she was an invention of the missionization campaign, a tool of the imperial project, pero de todas maneras, we have triumphantly (re)indigenized her, claimed her as our own, and she has become an activist on behalf of the people, for so many who know her this way.  If she was an invention of missionization, the invention traicionó al proyecto colonial, because the foundational elements of her being are here, in this hemisphere, in the Land. She is the Land. She is the Earth. Punto.

Today is 12/12/12, but we should see the date as a marker of the momentum of transformation that is happening all around us.  The latter part of the month, some say 12/21/12, will mark the entrance, completed, of the next age, the New Sun. My colleague Victor Montjeo, Jakaltek Maya, from Guatemala, tells us that this is a time of world renewal, not world destruction. In the Conchero Dance tradition, I was told that we are moving from Nahui Ollin, 5 Movement, the age we have been in since before the invaders arrived, to the New Sun, Nahui Coatl, 5 Serpent, and that this New Sun will manifest more predominantly as female, and her symbol will be the Venado, the Deer. For at least two decades, the elders of this dance tradition have indicated that the New Sun has been arriving, coming in behind the present one, dancing. I remember dancing at the Basilica de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Mexico City, one December 12th, and suddenly as I was dancing, I felt the earth move beneath my feet, gently, almost unnoticeably, but it was certain, the Earth Mother was dancing with us, happy that we were dancing for her. She is so alive, she sings, she dances, she witnesses, she grieves, she disrupts, she balances, she suffers, she loves.

During this time (during all of our time on this earth in this life), we should walk, as the Yoeme say of saila maaso, the little brother deer, leaving flowers wherever we step.  Tenderly, gracefully, attentively, with abundant awareness of our surroundings, not only our academic or work surroundings, that, too, but our homes, our yards, our jardines (if we are lucky enough to have them), the spaces where we choose to spend time. Spend time, such a Western concept. Even time is cast in monetary, acquisitive terms. Spend time. Take time. Waste time. Don’t waste time. The spaces, circles, spheres where we love to be.

We know we are always in Nepantla (grácias a los antiguos Nahuas por este concepto). Somos Nepantleras (grácias a Gloria por la contemporización del concepto). As Nepantleras, in this time of great transformation, change, shape-shifting, we are ready for whatever comes our way. We must keep our senses, have our wits about us, trust our intuition, and constantly fine-tune it, remember humility, and know deeply that our Spirits are present, always. My Spirit guides me, my Spirit has the answers, my Spirit protects me. This I must remember. This we must remember. And my Spirit helps me see the signs of this new time that has come. Our spirits are ready. This time is our time.

Inés Hernández-Ávila is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Native American Studies at UC-Davis. She is a member of the Mujeres Talk Editorial Collective. 

[1] The term “thinking heart” is from Kathryn Shanley, Nakota scholar of Native American Studies.

[2] Theresa Delgadillo, Spiritual Mestizaje: Religion, Gender, Race, and Nation in Contemporary Chicana Narrative, p. 94.

[3] Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, p. 50.

Carrie Castañeda-Sound    December 12, 2012 at 3:22 PM

With all the end-of-semester chaos, commercialism, and high expectations from family and friends, I found this blog very grounding. Thank you for that gift!

Recent Raza Unida Party Commemorations: Chicanas Claiming a History of Progressive and Grassroots Organizing

October 15, 2012

Panel on "Raza Unida Party Legacy"

Panel on “Raza Unida Party Legacy”

By Dionne Espinoza

Over the last three years there have been a spate of “reunion” and “commemoration” gatherings around major moments in the Chicano movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This past summer I attended two such gatherings in Texas, one in Austin and one in El Paso organized by raza in each place to reflect upon the historic third party effort to organize as La Raza Unida Party. RUP was founded in Texas to increase the political representation of Chicanas and Chicanos in elected offices and to assert the political voice of the raza community. For me, attending these events was part of my continuing research on women in the Chicano movement and a chance to listen to the veteranas and veteranos about their experiences. I am fortunate to do research that reflects my passion and personal commitment to know this history and to continue to learn about it and from it.

I have to admit that I do sometimes idealize el movimiento to some extent even as my studies have provided me with a strong sense of its limitations, particular with respect to mujeres. While the movement demonstrated limitations, it still stands as a powerful example of a Chicana/o progressive political culture that was forged through grassroots and community based organizing. (Certainly to be credited for the existence of, among other things, Departments of Chicano Studies, like the one where I make my academic home).  My interviews with RUP women and studies of the archive have given me a stronger appreciation of the possibilities of working through the electoral process. Listening to the activists at these conferences was inspiring especially for someone like me who had been rather cynical about electoral politics due to my experience living through the long conservative era (Reagan, Bush, and Bush)—so much so that, while I voted in the 2008 Presidential election, I felt rather distanced from the process.

Of course, we must be specific about the political culture of Texas at the time of Raza Unida’s founding, a state where Governors had been mostly Democratic party candidates since 1874. During the 1970s, the work of RUP was not only to assert a third party option as a challenge to the two party system (famously described by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales as “like a monster with two heads feeding out of the same trough”), but also to send a message to the Democratic party of Texas which still reflected pretty deep traces of the race politics of the post Reconstruction-era Southern political culture of exclusion and disenfranchisement including the existence of poll taxes. Poll taxes were in place until the Black Civil Rights Movement called attention to the various forms of disenfranchisement enacted at the polls and subsequent legislation made poll taxes unconstitutional. (For a current debate on a “poll tax by any other name” see,0,6684651.story)  Additionally, in a city like San Antonio, the existence of “at large” elections served to reproduce practices of exclusionary representation on the city council until district based elections were instituted in 1977 (an issue that the Committee for Barrio Betterment–an early form of Raza Unida–raised when it ran candidates, including Rosie Castro and Mario Compean, in the early 1970s).

At the Austin event, there was a sense of the past in the present when it came to gender politics—as was the case in the 1960s & 1970s, it appeared to be mostly mujeres who set up the logistics and worked behind the scenes to help pull the event together. These included many who had been among the most committed RUP activists of the time running for elected office, serving as Precinct Chairs, and, even as the Chair of the Party such as Martha Cotera, Maria Elena Martinez, Lindo Del Toro and Alma Valdez. Then and now, these women can always be counted on to follow through, a sign of a true activista. While women were working the tables (many comadres of the above named women), they were also on stage: Luz Bazan Gutiérrez, the first Chair of RUP in Zavala County, served as an MC and there was at least one woman on each panel (where before there were usually none unless Chicanas called out the lack of representation). I was especially struck by the words of Maria Jiménez, who had been involved in RUP in Houston and had run for State Representative against Ben Reyes (who ran on the Democratic ticket). She reflected upon the legacy of RUP (and I paraphrase from my notes), “electoral politics is seen as reformist but the process was radical.” Her words underscored the massive grassroots character of the RUP effort in Texas, a process that required the construction of a state-wide  infrastructure to gain party recognition, not to mention voter education and identification of candidates willing to undertake the hard work of campaigning.

The Raza Unida concept, which had been circulating in the national movimiento by the late 1960s, brought hope to the movement and in short order RUP’s crystallized in California, Arizona, Colorado, and included Midwest states such as Michigan. It was this national conversation that brought activists to El Paso, Texas during Labor Day weekend in 1972 to create a national party. Forty years later in 2012 a panel at this conference entitled, “Prospects for Reviving RUP or Creating a New Partido” moderated by Armando Navarro and featuring Herman Baca, Ernesto Vigil, Maria Jiménez, José Angel Gutiérrez and Juan Jose Peña, sought to evaluate our present moment and possible next steps. I found the panel riveting as the speakers, each of whom commands a wealth of knowledge from activist work and movement history as key actors in those times, presented their thoughts in elegant, concise and powerful words. While there were some differences among the speakers, what they held in common was a call to “educate, politicize, and organize our people” (Baca) and for the “creation of critical consciousness” (Vigil). Other speakers underscored the importance of the grassroots and “social movement strategies” and cited the work of the Dreamers and the immigrant rights movement as offering recent examples of the ongoing viability of mass movements (Jiménez), the need for more use of social media such as the internet (Gutiérrez) and a communication network (Peña). While there was some optimism voiced by the panelists, it was slightly muted as the enormity of reviving a movement became quite clear–there was not a large attendance although the panel was on a Friday afternoon in a community space and, as one panelist pointed out, he was very tired and quite ready to hand the torch over.

Despite the historiographic creation of “four horseman” and the actual history of male dominance in the leadership of RUP at its higher levels, the organizers of this conference worked hard to make space for Chicana voices. A panel beautifully titled, “Raza Unida Party Legacy” by its organizer, Martha Cotera, featured an intergenerational range of women’s voices –Cotera herself, who stated that Raza Unida provides a “political framework;” Linda Garcia Merchant, a filmmaker whose work has begun to share previously unheard stories of Chicana involvement in the movement; Lydia Hernandez, a school board member in Phoenix now running for State Representative in Arizona; Maria Cotera, a university professor who is not only doing the academic work of documenting Chicana lives but involving her students in the work; Avina Gutiérrez, whose mother and father founded the party and is now involved in grassroots politics in Austin; and, Mary Gonzalez, recently elected as a State Representative for El Paso and also proudly identifying as “pansexual,” pointing to a new context in which LGBT perspectives are included in notions of Chicano electoral politics. Across these voices, it is clear that the RUP legacy continues for Chicanas, who played an equal role in building the party in Texas in the past, and are making their presence known not only in current electoral activism but also in a number of projects that carry out the legacy.

It is important to honor and to remember significant projects and events of the movimiento—perhaps more than anything else to share these projects with new generations that are facing trying times politically and economically in the US. There is a need to convey the continuity of struggles by Chicanos and by Latinos in the US that provide models, lessons, and reservoirs of hope that link into current day issues (and are in the process of being updated and revised, especially around gender and sexuality). The immigrant rights marches of 2006 recalled both Chicano movement marchas and Latin American traditions of social protest manifesting this kind of continuity while also intersecting with the changes in demographics including the pan-Latino constructs that have emerged. Ultimately what I walked away with left me with a sense that the consensus, at least among those who attended both El Paso and in Austin, lies firmly with a commitment to the grassroots—and this to me, is the strength of the Chicana/o political culture manifested in Raza Unida Party, the Chicano movement, and ideally, Chicana/o Studies. This is the emphasis that will keep us relevant beyond 2012.

Maybe we can see hope in new generations of elected officials such as the Castro brothers, Lydia Hernandez, and Mary González (all in Texas, interestingly enough) who are asserting the legacy of a Chicana/o progressive political culture. During the Austin gathering Rosie Castro arrived with her two sons, Julian and Joaquin, named as “rising stars” in the Texas and national Democratic party, a symbol, in my view, of the party’s longer term legacy (even if, ultimately, most of the electoral successes of that time were at the local rather than statewide level.)  (See historian Cynthia Orozco’s brilliant commentary on the Castro’s: Maybe I have to put aside my cynicism about electoral politics but, as was affirmed at the events, elected officials can only be the voice of the people when there are grassroots efforts and social movements that not only support them but also assert and reflect the needs of the people.

Dionne Espinoza, Ph.D. is on the faculty of California State University, where she teaches Chicano Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Brenda Sendejo  October 15, 2012 at 12:58 PM

Dionne, thank you for this wonderful reflection on the Raza Unida commemorations and the legacy of Chicana participation and activism. I so enjoyed reading it and will most definitely share it with my students. Mil gracias for your work!

Corrido de Norma Cantú

By Rita Urquijo-Ruiz and David Garcia Video by Larissa Mercado-Lopez August 31, 2012, is the last day that renowned Chicana, feminist scholar Dr. Norma E. Cantú will be at the University of Texas, San Antonio’s English Department. To honor her work, Dr. Larissa Mercado-López (one of her former students) led a group of volunteers who organized an amazing mini-symposium on the life and work of Dr. Cantú. Other Chicana scholars and some of Dr. Cantú’s former students presented papers highlighting the multi-faceted aspects of Cantú’s work. As part of the panel on “Chicana Literary Expressions,” David F. García, and Dr. Rita E. Urquijo-Ruiz collaborated by writing her a corrido entitled “Destino al andar.” The day closed with an after party at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center co-organized by another one of Dr. Cantú’s former students, Dr. V. June Pedraza, and Dr. Antonia I. Castañeda, Dr. Elsa Cantú Ruiz and another group of volunteers. People visited from all over the country to honor and thank Dr. Norma E. Cantú for all the work, passion and love that she has shared with thousands of people in her communities. This corrido is just a little “regalito” for her. Mil gracias, Norma! De todo corazón.

Written and performed by Rita E. Urquijo-Ruiz and David Garcia at UT San Antonio on Friday, August 24.  Video by conference organizer Larissa Mercado-Lopez.

Al empezar a cantar
Pedimos permiso ahora
Para rendir homenaje
A una ilustre doctora.Ella es de la frontera
En los dos Laredos criada
Chicana de tal carrera
Por todos muy apreciada

Norma Cantú es su nombre
Y le vengo a saludar
Le brindo mi canto alegre
Un regalo musical

Es persona de renombre
Con buen don de la palabra
Maestra en todo sentido
En cualquier lengua que habla.

Esta doctora sí cura
Con esa pluma en la mano
Escribe de la cultura
De chicanas y chicanos

Para ayudar a estudiantes
Nunca nadie la mejora
Todos ellos son brillantes
Es la ideal profesora

Escribe nuevas historias
Que hablan del feminismo.
Y con una pluma zurda
De un pájaro fronterizo

Brindamos a la maestro
En el lindo San Antonio
Por la cultura tejana
Sigue dando testimonio

Al andar se hace el destino
Por donde no hubo ni huella
Peregrina de caminos
Yo le saludo, ¡Ultreya!

Vuela, vuela golondrina
Por el cielo tan azul
Protege a nuestra madrina
La profesora Cantú

¡Viva la Dra. Norma Cantú!

As we begin singing
We now ask for your permission
To pay tribute
To an illustrious doctorShe is from the border
Raised in the two Laredos
A Chicana with such a career
Respected by everyone

Norma Cantú is her name
And I come here to salute her
I offer her my happy song
A musical gift

She is a renowned person
Gifted with words
Knowledgeable in every sense
In any language she speaks

This doctor does cure
With her pen in her hand
She writes about
Chicana and Chicano cultures

At working with students
No one can be better
They are all brilliant
Because she’s the ideal professor

She writes about new (hi)stories
That speak of feminisms
And with the left-handed plume
From a borderlands bird

We toast our teacher
In our beautiful San Antonio
She continues to give testimony
On Chicana/o culture

Destiny is created as we walk
Where there wasn’t a footprint
Pilgrim of the roads
I salute you, “-Go forth!

Fly, fly away, swallow
Throughout the deep blue sky
Protect our godmother
Professor Cantú

¡Viva la Dra. Norma Cantú!

Dr. Rita E. Urquijo-Ruiz is a professor of Spanish and Transnational Mexican Popular Cultures at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. Her book entitled Wild Tongues: Transnational Mexican Popular Culture was published in July 2012 in the UT Press Chicana Matters Series.   David Garcia is a musician/composer of Chicano/Mexican music from northern New Mexico. He is a Queer Xicano/Manito anthropologist who studies popular culture, foodways and the production of public space. Garcia is currently a Ph.D. student in the in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“This Is Us”: A Legacy of Mentorship and Scholarship con Corazón

April 2, 2012

By Brenda Sendejo

On March 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, the 2012 Tejas Foco Regional Conference of The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) convened at Texas State University, San Marcos.  Scholars, writers, artists and community members gathered to recognize and celebrate scholarship, art and knowledge of nuestra cultura. Over 200 conference participants attended more than 60 panel sessions with a rich array of topics. I participated in an intergenerational panel of Chicanas with two students from our university and feminist scholar and historian, Martha P. Cotera. Through testimonio, personal narrative and historical analysis, panelists showed how Our Lady of Guadalupe-Tonantzin has acted as a symbol of Chicana identity and catalyst for social change over three generations. The perspectives on the intersection of spirituality and social justice spoke to the conference theme, “This Is Us: Cómo Nos Ven, Cómo Nos Vemos / Changing Chican@ Identity in the 21st Century.” Our respective lenses on our relationships to La Virgen reflected who we are Chicanas today, and how we have developed politically, spiritually and intellectually over the decades. But our experience at the 2012 Tejas Foco also served to show how, as a Chicana/o community we believe in and are committed to mentoring and producing scholarship con corazón.

I invited Susi and Melissa to participate on the panel because I had seen how deeply Chicana feminist scholarship has impacted them and resonated with their lived experiences. I suspected attending their first Chicana/o Studies conference could be a powerful experience for the students, and this proved to be true. Being with them at the Foco took me back to my first MALCS conference several years ago, where I found a space of validation and community where discussions around integrating our scholarship and teaching with activism were central. I continue to be inspired by mujeres whose paths I have crossed through MALCS and by those in the NACCS community. Through these communities I’ve learned that intellect has little meaning, unless it is passed down to future generations used to make a difference in the world. And, importantly, that it must be motivated by corazón. This year’s Tejas Foco was my first opportunity as an educator to see how the impact of this on my students.

I recognized Susi and Melissa’s starry-eyed looks upon meeting Martha and later, other scholars whose work had impacted them so, as to this day I still get that same look in my eyes. I watched as the students’ eyes lit up upon walking into the ballroom and hearing mariachis playing the familiar, “Volver.” They were in a space where they were in the majority, rather than the norm of being in the minority on our campus. These first generation college students have been involved in various struggles and social justice work over their lives and at our predominantly white liberal arts college. Therefore, entering the conference, a space of acceptance where they, their stories, cultural heritage, and histories were embraced and validated, was a moving experience for them, and for me to witness. Our panel presentation would prove to be a similar experience.

The panel audience of approximately 12 attendees was comprised of scholars, including MALCSistas, Profesora Norma Cantú and conference organizer, Profesora Ana Juárez, students, community members, and two members of our campus community. The panel itself represented a legacy of Chicana feminist scholarship and mentorship. We explored the ways that the historical and cultural legacy of Guadalupe-Tonantzin has manifested in the social activism and spiritual identities of generations of Chicanas since the movimiento. Martha discussed how La Virgen saved second wave feminism, Susi presented on how La Virgen aids her in moments of choque as a Chicana activist, and Melissa discussed how she invokes her mother and her teachings of La Virgen in persevering as an activist. I discussed teaching about Guadalupe-Tonantzin to Chicana/o students through a spiritual activist pedagogy that informs our understanding of Chicana identity.

Sharing their personal narratives for the first time in public elicited, as one would expect, strong emotions from both Melissa and Susi. As others and I have done when talking about the difficult and empowering moments in our lives, the women shed tears. I recall the saying, “Tears are not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you have been strong for too long.” These women epitomize this kind of strength, and it was apparent that the audience could feel this as well. One of the students, overcome with emotion, was having difficulty continuing on with her paper. Dr. Emilio Zamora assured her from the audience that she was doing just fine, and would later tell her that her tears were a sign of maturity. I watched as more such moments of support unfolded, as in a tender moment where Martha told a joke about a statue of La Virgen in Crystal City that lightened the mood and almost brought us all to tears of laughter. In the Q & A Dr. Cantú assured one student self conscious about her writing not to worry, that she was fine and that she can just get a good editor, for the ideas, the feeling, the intellect, the corazón were there. Following the presentation they received well-deserved accolades for their presentations.

My heart grew full witnessing this outpouring of communal support for Susi and Melissa and their work and lives, and I am truly grateful for a wonderful Tejas Foco Conference whose organizers and attendees embraced student research and growth. Melissa and Susi will carry this experience with them always, as will I. Moments like these and working with students like them help keep my spirit in tact in the academy; they are healing for me, and, I hope for them as well. Our panel on Guadalupe-Tonantzin’s continuity as a symbol of Chicana strength, perseverance, ability to overcome adversity, and as a catalyst for social justice was in itself a symbol of these things. This legacy of mentoring and doing scholarship con corazón characterizes us as a Chicana/o community. This is us.

Brenda Sendejo is on the Faculty of Southwestern University.


  1. Anonymous  April 10, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Bren  May 3, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Thank you so much, Deena! This means a great deal from you, someone who has modeled the kind of mentoring and scholarship development of which I wrote. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this comunidad.

  3. Anonymous  May 15, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    So beautifully expressed, Brenda; and such amazing things you are doing for SU students…This is what anthropology should look like; indeed scholarship and the academic world in general should model itself on this kind of integration of community, reflection and activism ….You rock! Your SU colleague, Mel

  4. Anonymous  June 2, 2012 at 6:50 AM
    From Deena Gonzalez on April 10, 2012 7:36 AM
    Thank you, Brenda, for sharing this information and in this format; so many faculty, students, and staff of MALCS continue this tradition, enacting the two things consistently at once, mentoring awarenesses and developing scholarship. They go hand and hand as MALCS and NACCS have shown over the decades. There is a lot of work and strength going on in Texas and it is great to learn about it! Saludos, Deena Gonzalez (CA, Loyola Marymount University)