The LatIndia and Mestizajes : Of Cultures, Conquests, and LatCritical Feminism

Author:Berta Esperanza Hernández-Truyol
Position:Visiting Professor of Law, University of Florida, Levin College of Law

I. Introduction.II. Cultures.A. Latinas as Normativas: Familia y Comunidad.B. Losing Normativity: Latina en los Estados Unidos.C. Mi Descolonización.III. Dlscovering The Latlndia-A Brief Hlstory Of Conquests. A. La Poblacion Indocubana.B. A BriefHistory of Indians and Human Rights.IV. LatCritical Feminism.V. Conclusion


    See Margaret E. Montoya, Mascaras, Trenzas, y Grenas: Un/Masking the Self While Un/Braiding Latina Stories and Legal Discourse, 17 Harv. Women' sL.J.185,220(1 994) (translating mestizaje as transculturation, a process that has as desired by-products "[t]he disruption of hegemonic tranquility, the ambiguity of discursive variability, the cacophony of polyglot voices, the chaos of radical pluralism," and noting that because it emphasizes "our histories, our ancestries and our past experiences [it] can give us renewed appreciation for who we are as well as a clearer sense of who we can become"); see generally Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987). Professor Montoya has explained the origins oi mestizaje:

Colonization in the Americas proceeded not only from New England westward but also from Mexico into the Southwest. The racialization practices of European colonists differed in their nature of the interactions with the indigenous peoples. For example, the Spanish, unlike the English, arrived in the Americas without women and took indigenous women as sexual partners, resulting in a mestizo[/a] population.

Margaret E. Montoya, Of "Subtle Prejudices," White Supremacy, andAffirmative Action: A Reply to Paul Butler, 68 U. COLO. L. Rev. 891, 901 n.34 (1997) (citation omitted) [hereinafter Montoya, A Reply to Butler].

    Berta Esperanza Hernández-Truyol. Visiting Professor of Law, University of Florida, Levin College of Law. Professor of Law, St. John's University, School of Law. Many thanks to all the organizers of this program for their indefatigable work. The students have done a tremendous job and deserve our warm and well-deserved gratitude. Of course, appreciation is also due the advisors-Adrien Wing, Pat Cain, Jean Love, Enrique Carrasco, Marcella David-whose behind the scenes work is plain to those of us who know them by the footprints they have left all over the program. Thanks to the Dean and administration without whose fiscal and other less obvious support this type of exciting and transformative event would not occur. I want to say mil gracias to my valued colleagues Elvia Arriola, Karen Knopp, Guadalupe Luna, and Francisco Valdes for their invaluable comments on earlier drafts. I must thank Miranda Dominguez and Amy Kyle Parker (SJU Law '99) who are much more than research assistants, although they do that stupendously, and without whose energy, hard work, and friendship this work would not have become a reality. Finally, gracias a Jennifer Joynt Sánchez (UFL '01) for her helpful assistance with the final drafts. Of course, any errors are solely my own.

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"Who is your mother?" is an important question...Failure to know

your mother, that is, your position and its attendant traditions, history, and place in the scheme of things, is failure to remember your significance, your reality, your right relationship to earth and society. It is the same as being lost...1

La historia del pueblo cubano, a pesar de que la presencia del hombre es muy antigua en Cuba, comienza con el descubrimiento y ocupacion de la Isla por los espanoles.2

Indians think it is important to remember, while Americans believe it is important to forget.3

I Introduction

In this journey, I want to engage in critical race feminism praxis by searching for the answer to Paula Gunn Allen's important question: "Who is your mother?" The requisite interrogation, however, is not the facially evident one-I know and adore my mami. Rather, the journey on which I want to embark is the one mapped by Professor Gunn Alien, one that requires the plaiting of a broader, deeper, more complicated routing than "that woman whose womb formed and released you,"4 although that, too, is a path fundamental to our being. Professor Gunn Alien is talking about a different, larger layer of creation: the cultural, social, political, communitarian, historical passages that constitute a peoples. She is contemplating the sources of production of knowledges that will provide context, history, culture, spirituality, meaning, and direction to our multidimensional lives.

This enterprise of locating our madres is, to be sure, a daunting task. The space from which to deploy and in which to center such an endeavor is a necessarily complex landscape that can accommodate and sustain the architecture of our multiple and complex histories, our multilingualism, our diverse cultures and experiences, our mestizajes,5 our hybridity.6 Critical RacePage 65Feminism (CRF) is a movement committed to exploring the reality of the Uves of women of color in order to end their subordination and to ensure their full citizenship in all geographies.7 LatCrit is a closely related theoretical movement premised on an anti-subordination agenda and committed to building community among all peoples and to interrogating the politics of identity through the necessarily pan-ethnic lens of Latinas/os.8

Combined, a LatCritical Race Feminist (LCRF) project that embraces our hybridity facilitates an interrogation of the present order, its history and varied power locations, and their impact on socio-economic and psycho-social consequences. LCRF is grounded on the richness endemic to the multiplicity, similarities, and disparateness of our histories. It knows our daily existence within our own, unfamiliar, and foreign communities. Thus, LCRF is a safe, though not quiet, anchor from which to deploy the interrogation of the multiple meanings of feminism, human rights, personhood, and identity. Such a project allows a reconstruction of society that is committed to a principie of social justice, developed from and embracing of all aspects of our identities.

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Women of color are world travelers9 who routinely trespass border crossings across fronteras of race, sex, class, ethnicity, nationality, color, sexuality, and language. To locate or identify our forebearers we must travel this intricate, elaborate, and tangled expanse. In the process, we need nuevas teorias10 that recognize our hybridity/multidimentionality. As an ideology, LCRF offers an appropriate location from which to launch our search for our mothers.

One of LCRF's tools integral to this exploration is its deconstructive function. It pro vides a methodology to debunk the majority's "liberal" social, political, economic, historie, and legal construction of universal truth, singular reality, and history. The subjective (and narrow) majoritarian fabrications have become embedded as objective truths in the discursive dominance of the "master narrative."11 This master narrative predefines and preordains-effectively constitutes-normativity,12 which becomes the assumed proper content and context of all of our world travelling.13

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However, the textbook versions of history and politics, conquest and colonization, discovery and decimation, war and peace, seduction and surrender, male and female, sexuality and gender, spirituality and religion, domination and inequality, civilization and savagery are not all of our truths. The reality of women of color, because of their multidimensionality-their multiple and varied deviations from the norm-is worlds apart-worlds of sex, race, ethnicity, class, language, sexuality-from the designated normative reality. In order to become full citizens and engage in LatCritical race feminist practice, we must discover, reveal, define, and own our contexts, our stories. We must give birth to, re/member,14 and preserve our histories, experiences, passions, fears, and lived realities.

We can successfully dismantle the master narrative and offer constructive alterations only if we learn about and embrace all of our locations-our hybridity. All women, and in particular women of color, have to understand, peacefully and productively negotiate the immense differences, and bridge the substantial gulfs, between and among us-our histories, our cultures, our experiences. The task for LatCritical race feminists is to build coalitions in which those differences enrich rather than impoverish our work, unite rather than tear apart our communities. In this difficult anti-subordination, coalition-building project it is useful to remember that many of us have shared, though not identical, experiences. We routinelyjourney through borderlands of color, race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, language, and nationality. Essentialist15Page 68 approaches that deny differences will weaken the undertaking, but strategic coalitions centering on commonalities and open arms willing to embrace differences will advance the aspiration of knowing our mothers. There is not one story, not one feminism, that can accurately re/present all of our realities, all of our conditions, all of the time, the LCRF challenge and promise depends on weaving narratives of multiple, non-essentialist feminisms.

To be sure, it is now beyond peradventure that the persistent single axis framework that drives estado unidense legal analysis is fatally flawed with respect to women of color.16 In the context of women of color, this dominant paradigm is simply incoherent.17 We should strive to create nuevas teorias18, which, rather than vivisect and atomize us, present us as we are in everyday travels, recognize our identities as multidimensional,19 and acknowledge our multiple classifications as indivisible and interdependent.20 These teorias would understand, penetrate, define, and elucidate the context, content, and meaning of our multidimensional identities and develop, expand and transform constructs-legal, social, historical, familial-so that they reflect, incorporate, reflect, and...

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