Excerpts from the essay
She suddenly realizes she must shed her clothes, her masks, her layers, peel off the professor, mother, grandmother, cultural worker, woman, Nimipu (Nez Perce) woman from the north, India MexicanaTejana from the south, friend, lover, wife, human being, all of them, even though they are all her. As she peels, she weeps softly at the releasing, and she hears the drums beat, her heart beat, she hears a voice singing in the distance, calling her, and her tears well up the world. Tears of recognition, for her spirit, the spirit of all life, the spirit of love for the universe. The voice she hears singing is her own.
What does her spirit have to say?
Ancestors, the good ancestors from the beginning of time to the present, the ones who've gone ahead, the ones who were consumed in violence not of their making, in sickness often passed on through the generations, the children who passed on too early, the ones who had the chance to love and lead full lives, in the Spirit world, they are the light(ness) we need to see and feel. Theirs are the voices we need to hear with the ears of the heart. Theirs are the messages we should welcome with our intuition's blessing, and they are the ones who illuminate our work within and between our respective communities.
The women gather at the moment nestled between the night of full moon and the new morning. The colors of the embracing sky speak of the brilliance to come and the soft wind whispers caresses. In the stillness there is the sense of birth, of rebirthing. The women care for a fire they have made. This fire is the bond between them all, the joining of Heart of the Earth with Heart of the Sky. They stand or sit in silence, sharing the fullness of consciousness with each other and with the cosmos, allowing their spirits to listen to each other's language of the heart, allowing themselves to travel to new places in a myriad of combinations with each other, the stars, the clouds, the night, with all of them as one, with the world of spirits accompanying each woman. There is no need for words. There have already been many, many words. Powerful words, outraged words, liberating words.
We know the story. We've lived it, named it, told it to each other, screamed it, worried over it, taken it upon our shoulders and into our wombs for such a long long time, for centuries. It's a story that's been put upon us, slashed onto our bodies, branded into our hearts, nailed into our minds, causing us to despise our own spirits, viciously assaulting us so many times we've gone mad, or numb, and dumb, our spirits knocked out of our bodies and left for broken. The more rebellious we've been, the more mad we've been called, the more freakish, the more dirty, the more unacceptable, the more outcast. For many of us grief has become so familiar we've made a home for it in our lives, we tend to it, we serve it, we give ourselves over to it. For some of us the grief has turned into creative rage, to awesome deliberate coraje, for others grief has become a bitterness so deeply immobilizing it's hard to have faith in anything much less ourselves.
But it is an old story, a shabby mean-spirited script, not the kind to keep, not the kind that nourishes, or insures continuance. It is a lie. Not the violence, the violence is concretely manifest in us, in our communities, in the earth. It could not be more real. Those memories are etched each time more deeply, but we are much faster now in finding the sources of the pain, and by naming it, doctoring the wound(s). The old story that is a lie, the hechicer’a of the worst kind, is that we will never recover from the violence, or that we will recover only slowly, painfully. If our recovery is slow, it gives those in power more time to reap the benefits of their profane materialist consuming vampirish fortunes and privileges. But, here is the miracle. We have been recovering from the moment we began to question, know and understand. From the instant we began to look for language to name. Otherwise our outrage would not be so powerful. The world would not have shaken, the earth would not have moved with us, through us, as she continues to do, because hers is the longest memory. She is the greatest witness.
This essay appears in This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation, eds., Gloria E. Anzaldua and Analouise Keating (New York: Routledge, 2002), 530-538.
© 2003 Inés Hernández-Ávila
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