La indigena: Risky Identity Politics and Decolonial Agency as Indigenous Consciousness.

Author:Ruiz, Iris Deana

I am Coatlicue

Yo soy Tonantzin

I possess the strength of Dos Amades

I teach Nahua ollin, I am Maria Josefia Zozaya

Y como el arbol, nunca nos falta

Do you know me?

As a student of color in graduate school, I had an epiphany. Something had been taken from me. In grad school, I learned my people had a history that was different from the history that was written in the hard-back, thick-spine books I was presented with, but neglected, in school. Through the critical historical education I gained in grad school, I realized that traditional public education was a mechanism for control--for jamming European-centered knowledge into my native Latina brain in an attempt to erase my Latinidad and my indigenous past. It was then that I realized that, although my education was meant to colonize my memory and erase my native past, my color would stick with me wherever I went. I became a Latina with a double-consciousness (after reading W. E. B. Dubois and Gloria Anzaldua), and I knew that I had to adopt a subject position that would empower me despite the lack of fellow Latina students of color. I don't mean a Latina that assimilates into the academy with no real sense of history or purpose, I mean a Chicanx in the 'real" sense--I mean a down-and-dirty, all-out proclaiming Chicanisma, Malinche-infected, Spanish-speaking, and Mestiza-minded Chicanx--one that adopts a stance of resistance in an academy, which attempted to sterilize my mind and make me ivory in the Ivory Tower. Ironically, my skin is light; I should not be considered "colored," but my graduate education showed me day-by-day that my skin color did not matter. I've checked my light-skin privilege at the doors of critique.

Being a person of color is a constructed position--one that was created hundreds of years ago and, as I learned, has only minimally to do with one's actual skin color. I learned that my last name, like la Chingada, would follow me wherever I went. I would forever be a person of color, and learned that I had to fight to free my consciousness from colonial erasures that I and many of my Latina sisters have been subjected to in our public school systems. Finally, I learned, twenty years later, as an educator of color that students of color encounter frequent microaggressions while being forced to negotiate a myriad of imposed and desired subjectivities. This negotiation has its extremes and is undoubtedly affected by colonial processes of dispossession and expansion at the cost of destroying peoples' homelands.

Those who are "illegal" are often also a certain color; they also carry the burden of being a nonperson/citizen, while at the same time work in the U.S., pay taxes, and contribute to the backbone of our agricultural economy by working back-breaking jobs that provide sustenance for our nation. When they are fortunate enough to become college students, they are still assumed to be illegal immigrants always treading on the margins, on the edge of opportunity, chance, and, even, death. They are the targets of current anti-immigrant policies such as SB 1070. Illegal students of color are often silenced.

Coloniality has influenced the way we believe, think about the world, and think about ourselves; not only has coloniality influenced our minds, it has also influenced what we ingest into our physical bodies. Colonialism has been unnatural and it, therefore, has made the colonized sick. The sickness I would like to address here today is the disease of singularity and static epistemologies. So, first off, I am shedding that notion, here and now, and delve into that space that allows me to entertain a pluriversal and decolonial consciousness.

As an indigena/Chicanx in higher education, to claim my indigenous roots, linked to the serpent goddess associated with Coatlicue and Tonantzin, is to engage an extremely subversive stance. It is risky identity politics. It is a stance that rejects Westernized, Eurocentric terms altogether, such as Latina, Mexicana, Mexican American, Mexican (unless I pronounce it Meshica), Hispanic, or Chicana. Let one not forget, however, that the trope of Chicanidad embodies the indigena's indigenous consciousness, which seeks to revisit and revitalize the knowledges or (iximachocayotl, which is pronounced esheemachocayotl and signifies "consciousness" in Nahuatl) and cultural practices of Pre Columbian indigenous peoples in MesoAmerica. Peoples such as the Aztecs of Tenochititlan--now Mexico City--annihilated by want of land, riches and power, however, left behind priceless, even metaphysical, remnants for those of us here in the U.S. who seek decoloniality of the mind, decolonial agency, and a decolonial consciousness. These terms call upon those of us who claim to be conscious Chicanas to understand the implications of Audre Lorde's quote:

For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us to...

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