28 March 2012

I Looked Up One Day (1973)

I looked up one day
and began
to see.

I looked up and began
to see
where I was
where I fit.

I began to suspect
that what I was doing
and what I wanted to do
to develop me
more completely

And I began
to watch,
to listen,
to observe
all those activities that stifled
this growth.

And I became more particular
how I spent my time
who I spent it with.

Rose Marie Roybal, "I Looked Up One Day," quoted in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings (Alma García, editor), p.233

13 March 2012

Rosario De Leon

I can't be a mother. Not now. Maybe never. Not for me to choose, like I didn't choose being female. Like I didn't choose being artist--it isn't something you choose. It's something you are, only I can't explain it.

I don't want to be a mother.

I wouldn't mind being a father. At least a father could still be artist, could love something instead of someone, and no one would call that selfish.

I leave my braid here and thank you for believing what I do is important. Though no one else in my family, no other woman, neither friend nor relative, no one I know, not even the heroine in the telenovelas, no woman wants to live alone.

I do.

Virgencita de Guadalupe. For a long time I wouldn't let you in my house. I couldn't see you without seeing my ma each time my father came home drunk and yelling, blaming everything that ever went wrong in his life on her.

I couldn't look at your folded hands without seeing my abuela mumbling, "My son, my son, my son..." Couldn't look at you without blaming you for all the pain my mother and her mother and all our mothers' mothers have put up with in the name of God. Couldn't let you in my house.

I wanted you bare-breasted, snakes in your hands. I wanted you leaping and somersaulting the backs of bulls. I wanted you swallowing raw hearts and rattling volcanic ash. I wasn't going to be my mother or my grandma. All that self-sacrifice, all that silent suffering. Hell no. Not here. Not me.

Don't think it was easy going without you. Don't think I didn't get my share of it from everyone. Heretic. Atheist. Malinchista. Hocicona. But I wouldn't shut my yap. My mouth always getting me in trouble. Is that what they teach you at the university? Miss High-and-Mighty. Miss Thinks-She's-Too-Good-For-Us. Acting like a bolilla, a white girl. Malinche. Don't think it didn't hurt being called a traitor. Trying to explain to my ma, to my abuela, why I didn't want to be like them.

I don't know how it all fell in place. How I finally understood who you are. No longer Mary the mild, but our mother Tonantzín. Your church at Tepeyac built on the site of her temple. Sacred ground no matter whose goddess claims it.

That you could have the power to rally a people when a country was born, and again during civil war, and during a farmworkers' strike in California made me think maybe there is power in my mother's patience, strength in my grandmother's endurance. Because those who suffer have a special power, don't they? The power of understanding someone else's pain. And understanding is the beginning of healing.

When I learned your real name is Coatlaxopeuh, She Who Has Dominion Over Serpents, when I recognized you as Tonantzín, and learned your names are Teteoinnan, Toci, Xochiquetzal, Tlazolteotl, Coatlicue, Chalchiuhtlicue, Coyolxauhqui, Huixtocihuatl, Chicomecoatl, Cihuacoatl, when I could see you as Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Sorrows, I wasn't ashamed, then, to be my mother's daughter, my grandmother's granddaughter, my ancestors' child.

When I could see you in all your facets, all at once the Buddha, the Tao, the true Messiah, Yahweh, Allah, the Heart of the Sky, the Heart of the Earth, the Lord of the Near and Far, the Spirit, the Light, the Universe, I could love you, and, finally, learn to love me.

Mighty Guadalupana Coatlaxopeuh Tonantzín,

What "little miracle" could I pin here? Braid of hair in its place and know that I thank you.

Rosario (Chayo) De Leon
Austin, Tejas

Sandra Cisneros, "Little Miracles, Kept Promises," in Woman Hollering Creek and other stories, pp.127-129

10 March 2012

The Brotherhood of Lizards

A typical Brotherhood of Lizards session would involve lots of swearing and cursing about leads not working. It also involved a lot of cycling. Nelson and I lived a few miles away from each other and we both liked cycling a lot. Sessions were fairly laid-back and involved a lot of laughter. There was an old bantam chicken in my garden and she used to get a bit miserable if it was cold and rainy so we'd let her sit in the recording room while we worked sometimes. Other times, the rabbit or one of the cats would be up scrabbling around under our feet while we were putting vocals down. It was all a bit rural with us Lizards. When we finished a session, we'd have a pint or two of home-brewed beer if I had a barrel on, or we'd wander round the twisty streets of my village to a pub. By late summer we had an lp and Andy McQueen said, "I don't suppose there's any chance you'll tour is there?"

I replied, "Yes. But only by bicycle." At first the record company thought we were joking but I'd already drawn up a plan. I'd worked out that with full busking-kit and rucksack frames converted to hold guitars, we could average thirty-five miles a day, hit a small town, do a radio station, a busking session, talk to the local press and maybe do a gig as well.

Thanks to a very bright and hard working pr woman called Caron Malcolm, the Green Tour was born. In early October we commenced our cycle tour around the southern part of Britain. Unknown to us, Britain and its media were on the brink of an uncharacteristic wave of eco-conscience. The press and t.v. seized upon us like hungry wolves. We had so much publicity we didn't believe it. Of course there was some cynicism. Were we really as Green as we looked? The answer was yes. We were both long-time vegetarians and lifetime bicyclists, so we came up squeaky green.

We were out on the road for a month and kept meeting t.v. crews. Because we were always on the move, we didn't realize how much attention we'd gathered until the end of the tour. We were lucky with the weather too--apart from the wind which resolutely turned against us whichever direction we cycled in. By the time we finished the tour, a large chunk of Britain knew who we were. At one point Eurythmics' Dave Stewart rang up our record company to ask, "Are those two lunatics on bikes anything to do with you?"

Martin Newell, liner notes to Lizardland by The Brotherhood of Lizards

las femenistas

If the focus of the Chicano male-dominated movement with regard to women had to do with family issues, the feminista zeroed in on the very core of what those issues meant. For instance, the feministas believed that women would make use of birth control and abortion clinics if in fact they felt safe going for these services; that is, if they were community controlled. Birth control and abortion are pertinent issues for all women, but they were particularly significant to the Chicana who had always been at the mercy of Anglo controlled institutions and policies.

Nonconsenting sterilizations of women--poor white, Spanish speaking, welfare recipients, poor women of color--women in prison among them--during the 1970s were being conducted and sponsored by the U.S. government. One third of the female population of Puerto Rico was sterilized during that period. The case of ten Chicanas (Madrigal v. Quilligan) against the Los Angeles County Hospital who were sterilized without their consent led to activism demanding release of the Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) guidelines for sterilizations. During that period, HEW was financing up to 100,000 sterilizations a year.

Ana Castillo, Massacre of the Dreamers, quoted in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings (Alma García, editor), p.311

Cherríe Moraga

A writer will write with or without a movement; but at the same time, for Chicano, lesbian, gay, and feminist writers--anybody writing against the grain of Anglo misogynist culture--political movements are what have allowed our writing to surface from the secret places in our notebooks into the public sphere. In 1990, Chicanos, gay men, and women are no better off than we were in 1970. We have an ever-expanding list of physical and social diseases affecting us: AIDS, breast cancer, police brutality. Censorship is becoming increasingly institutionalized, not only through government programs, but through transnational corporate ownership of publishing houses, record companies, etc. Without a movement to foster and sustain our writing, we risk being swallowed up into the "Decade of the Hispanic" that never happened. The fact that a few of us have "made it" and are doing better than we imagined has not altered the nature of the beast. He remains blue-eyed and male and prefers profit over people.

Like most artists, we Chicano artists would like our work to be seen as "universal" in scope and meaning and reach as large an audience as possible. Ironically, the most "universal" work--writing capable of reaching the hearts of the greatest number of people--is the most culturally specific. The European-American writer understands this because it is his version of cultural specificity that is deemed "universal" by the literary establishment. In the same manner, universality in the Chicana writer requires the most Mexican and the most female images we are capable of producing. Our task is to write what no one is prepared to hear, for what has been said so far in barely a decade of consistent production is a mere bocadito. Chicana writers are still learning the art of transcription, but what we will be capable of producing in the decades to come, if we have the cultural/political movements to support us, could make a profound contribution to the social transformation of these Américas. The retort, however, is to remain as culturally specific and culturally complex as possible, even in the face of mainstream seduction to do otherwise.

Cherríe Moraga, The Last Generation, quoted in Chicana Feminist Thought, p.291