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Any One Chicana Identity
My hysterical presence as la Coatlicue
My hysterical presence as la CoatlicueI have always known the definition of Chicana as an ideology, a political, historical, cultural definition "[with] roots in the development of Indian and Spanish culture and history," as suggested by Martha Cotera in The Chicana Feminist.I searched and searched for a definition of Chicana that made sense to me. I kept failing. This is not an excuse--it is a liberation and a challenge. I am challenged to define what I live and breathe as a fluid being. I don't skip from definition to definition--I am in constant definition, befitting the moment, the movement, the circumstance, the action of revelation.
I cannot define Chicana--to do so means to stop a progression, a creation that is an elusive and escapist self. To define Chicana requires staking the ground, owning the words offered, in an order, to make sentences that will produce boundaries. If I am bound, I am dead. If I am free, I am alive with an identity that has a, as Martha Cotera describes it, "historical--or hysterical--presence" Sentences become sticks, holding flags on a deceased landscape--killed by the static structure required of grammar. A Chicana is, was and will be--at the same time, yesterday, and tomorrow, how the world shapes her to act. She has roots in Mexico, the U.S., France, Spain, and Africa that also shape her to act.
At 4, I knew rose gardens were grown for love, with dirt and water and care. Roses would teach me how to add, subtract, multiply y que rosas eran para cortar y hacer bonita la mesa cuando senamos (roses were cut to make the table smell and look beautiful for dinner).
At 11, I was fighting mi abuelito for the right to build a clubhouse because girls don't do things like that, when I knew this Chicana could and did.
At 19, commenting on my college advisors German Irish ancestry and how great it was that he had lost his accent in response to his amazement that I had lost mine. We got along fine after that.
At 23, fighting for my life from an illness that claimed the use of my body with a vague and unsure prognosis of some recovery--my Chicana body said no, there will be a full reclamation of this body. This identity in its physical form had seemingly failed its owner--this Chicana mind said no, and got better. Yemaya and Oya, as wind and whirlwind, pushed and shoved this Chicana in many healing directions.
At 40, I smelled the dirt that grew the tomatoes, clematis and honeysuckle. I could feel mi abuelita's manos en mis manos, lifting the dirt to my face to know the smell of a healthy life force--Yemaya in the gentle wind, Oya in the driving rain testing stalk and branch to give fruit, firm in the healthy ground to see another day. On my knees, listening for Oya to say, ya manana, vas a conocer las repuestas for living is how this life gets definition.
At 45, taking a deep breath before explaining to a (self proclaimed) third wave feminist attorney what exactly a Chicana is, knowing full well the "it's an ideology specific to some Latinas, usually Mexican and Mexican American women" approach has as much meaning to the young, blonde, lawyer from California, as an explanation that defines "Catholic" as "an ideology specific to people who believe in Jesus." She smiles, I smile, we move on.