Ofrendando del Corazón: Queer Xicana Indígena Root Work
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Ofrendando del Corazón: Queer Xicana Indígena Root Work

IN THE 2020 article, “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization,” I footnoted a working definition of “queer Xicana Indígena root work,” suggesting that this “root work or trabajo of decolonizing reaches for an unknown futurity, where the path is created as we are intentionally and consciously taking steps to reroot” (238). At the center of this spiritual trabajo is the wisdom passed on from elders and ancestors—the sabiduría that in our every step we are connected and held by the earth, the four directions, and the cosmos: “Central to queer Xicana Indígena root work is a deep decolonial remembering, activating of ancestral memory to see one’s lineages in everyday practices and experiences, rather than adhering to external colonial logics that accuse communities of appropriating. The process of decolonization occurs over a lifetime as a path is created, paso por paso” (238).  

Speaking to the theme of this inaugural issue, my intention is to walk in rooted alignment every day with clarity of my sacred purpose. That is my trabajo de cada día, my work every day, to remember why I am on this Earth at this historical time, to cause no harm to any being, and if do, to be accountable, self-aware, and consistent with my own inner healing work so I can sustain spaces full of love and creativity for our peoples, in particular, as we move through intense grief and anger as BIPOC.

In many ways, this queer Xicana Indígena root work is based on the practice of activating sacred tools as needed on the camino, the path, and is rooted in acknowledging our interconnectedness. A key component is remembering that we are worthy of the love and nourishment offered by la Madre Tierra and the divine guidance offered by the cosmos. Holding sacred or honoring the elements of water, fire, earth, and air in our spirit practices allows us to feel open and ready to receive.

For me, this looks like making time to slow down—to pause, reflect, breathe deeply, go to my altar, release tears, cleanse, light my candle, drum, burn medicine, pray with copal, offer tobacco, greet the Sun, pray with the Moon, have a relationship with plants based on permiso, hike or walk, and be present with Madre Naturaleza, offer canto to the ocean, acknowledge the original peoples of the land with a clear heart, give thanks for the enseñanzas, the teachings, and my maestras, comadres, sistars, tías, relatives, and elders who have taken the time to create ceremonies and spaces of learning so I and our peoples can remember and walk in balance with the Earth and cosmos. My practice shifts and grows daily; however, at the core is the energy of ofrendando del corazón, offering from the center of my heart, my yollotl, while aligning and re-aligning again with a vision of transformation towards justice, and while simultaneously being open to receiving blessings.

I REMEMBER VIVIDLY a time of significant turmoil in my life, when I was encouraged by my hermano de la Luz to attend a nine-day workshop in Temixco, Mexico, with Estela Román, a temazkalera. Estela, who is the author of the book Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma, is a philosopher of peace studies and a lawyer of human rights in Mexico; she became my first maestra of los 13 aires, including tristesa (sadness), susto (trauma), coraje (anger), and vergüenza (shame). Walking in her vibrant garden full of medicinal plants that summer of 2007, I started to tap into the mystery and whispers of sanación, of healing, as well as the toxic energies I had been holding since I was little brujx girl next to the intergenerational trauma my body-mind-spirit absorbed. These traumas had inflicted intense barriers to expressing my own voice, intellect, sexuality, wisdom, and overall sense of self in a confident, rooted, and healthy way as a queer mujer.

During those nine days, a door was opened for me to ancestral language, sabiduría, and a spirit praxis that offered medicina para el alma, medicine for the soul. Entering the temazcal (sweat lodge, or "hot house") with Estela’s blessed guidance, canto, and rezos brought me to another level of consciousness and connection. Respira, she would say. Breathe. She encouraged us to feel deeply the gift of the breath and to find peace in our own embodied life force.

Through Estela’s guidance, I started building a relationship with Tlazolteotl, la energía que recoje, or as Estela refers to her, “The Cleansing Mother” (Román, 2019, 189). Tlazolteotl was painted in bright colors on the outside of her temazcal. Through this visual representation and prayer, I felt the embrace of unconditional love that received my deep grief and sorrow with no judgment. The energetic exchange for this spiritual trabajo was clear: I was to rise to my purpose on Earth, believe in myself, and walk in my truth in a humble, rooted manner, with the goal of letting go of my fears daily so I could live out my dreams, the prayers planted by ancestors. No easy feat, yet it is life shifting every time I surrender to this root work.

Photo of an original painting of Tlazolteotl, by Lilia Ramirez, Liliflor Art, 2015. Photo courtesy of the author.

As I developed my relationship with Estela over time and traveled with her to sacred sites, she would consistently emphasize the giving of ofrendas to the Earth, spirit guardians, and land we were currently walking on, sitting on, or praying with. A powerful enseñanza (lesson) I learned from her, and keep relearning, is that we are visitors on Earth and have no right to own Madre Tierra, Mother Earth, or tlalli, sacred land. Estela would consistently emphasize that Madre Tierra is our first mother and we, her children. I was always struck when, in prayer, Estela would ask for forgiveness for the way we mistreat our Mother Earth.

This lesson feels so significant as we face our current climate crisis and see the destruction that has manifested on the Earth due to greed, unequal distribution of resources, and global capitalism. This trabajo of giving ofrendas to the Earth, walking respectfully with all relations always, and never claiming individual ownership over what is meant for everyone, is central to queer Xicana Indígena root work. I ask: who taught us to disrespect our mother? How did we internalize the disregard for divine feminine energía of la madre, the energy of the mother? How do we unlearn the habit of feeling unworthy? How do we unlearn hierarchies of inequalities to restore the unconditional, abundant love Madre Naturaleza has for every being on Earth?

Enjoying Ofrenda?

CHICANA HISTORIAN AND elder Yolanda Chávez Leyva ends her 2002 short essay “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii” with a wise statement: “Chicana/o historians have taken the first crucial steps of uncovering, recovering, and documenting our histories. Those histories have provided the basis for political organizing, cultural revitalization, and community building. It is time for Chicana/o scholars to go beyond writing and teaching Chicana/o history. It is time for us to confront the profound consequences of that history in the lives of our students and our communities and to find the ways to heal that pain” (6).

Almost twenty years later, Chávez Leyva’s words feel more urgent than ever. As important as it is to learn complex histories of colonization, forced migration and removal from land, de-indigenization, hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality, for example, it is time to activate the intention of providing tools to heal from those ancestral wounds and historical traumas that we carry, particularly in thinking about next generations. As a professor and practitioner of traditional medicine, I feel the need to create spaces that can hold tensions, conflicting feelings, disillusionments while simultaneously creating an environment for truth telling, connection to ancestors, and sacred tools for healing.

For my closing palabras, I offer these: this camino, this path of queer Xicana Indígena root work is part of a humble prayer for my search, my journey; it is my tracing the liberation that would allow me to feel at home, even in my discomfort from new knowledge that shifts me, my fragmentation that reminds me of the moon and her phases, finally coming home to the consciousness and contradictions of my whole being. It is realizing that my liberation means accountability to all my relations—knowing that my cells, blood, and bones hold more memory than my mind ever could. My politics and ways of being have been based on my remembering, whether I have consciously realized this or not.

We remember that at every moment we are embodied. Even when we are in flight or traveling through time, we come home to our bodies. I am a body. My body, blood, and flesh are my sacred home in this lifetime. I must remember to get back in my body even when I feel afraid, when los aires of susto or tristesa get the best of me.

Remembering the teachings of my ancestors and learning from maestras de la limpeza, las curanderas, I burn copal, using hierbitas, like romero and albacar; through my llanto, and with the sound of my sonaja, I call my spirit home. Susita, come home. Regresa; return. Susy, este es tu hogar; this is your home. Aqui está bonito, en tu cuerpo sagrado. It’s beautiful here, in your sacred body. Regresa, Susy. Regresa. With the cleansing love of Tlazoteotl, my spirit returns brighter than ever—una luz illuminada—having shed what no longer serves me, especially the toxicity and violence that I absorb as I walk my path, the red road. I am no longer the same. I am transformed each time. Remembering that just like love and joy are contagious, so are fear and doubt, so I must aim to be clear and keep myself balanced so I can project clarity and healing.

Ometeotl.

Works Cited

Chávez Leyva, Yolanda. “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii.” La Voz de Esperanza. October 2002, Vol 15, Issue 8: 4-6.

Román, Estela. Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma. Palibrio, 2012.

Román, Estela. “El Temazkal, a Place for Rest and Purification,” in Voices from the Ancestors: Xicanx and Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices, Eds. Lara Medina and Martha Gonzales. University of Arizona Press, 2019, pp. 188-190.

Zepeda, Susy. “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. Spring 2020, Vol 45, No 1: 225-241.

Ofrendando del Corazón: Queer Xicana Indígena Root Work

IN THE 2020 article, “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization,” I footnoted a working definition of “queer Xicana Indígena root work,” suggesting that this “root work or trabajo of decolonizing reaches for an unknown futurity, where the path is created as we are intentionally and consciously taking steps to reroot” (238). At the center of this spiritual trabajo is the wisdom passed on from elders and ancestors—the sabiduría that in our every step we are connected and held by the earth, the four directions, and the cosmos: “Central to queer Xicana Indígena root work is a deep decolonial remembering, activating of ancestral memory to see one’s lineages in everyday practices and experiences, rather than adhering to external colonial logics that accuse communities of appropriating. The process of decolonization occurs over a lifetime as a path is created, paso por paso” (238).  

Speaking to the theme of this inaugural issue, my intention is to walk in rooted alignment every day with clarity of my sacred purpose. That is my trabajo de cada día, my work every day, to remember why I am on this Earth at this historical time, to cause no harm to any being, and if do, to be accountable, self-aware, and consistent with my own inner healing work so I can sustain spaces full of love and creativity for our peoples, in particular, as we move through intense grief and anger as BIPOC.

In many ways, this queer Xicana Indígena root work is based on the practice of activating sacred tools as needed on the camino, the path, and is rooted in acknowledging our interconnectedness. A key component is remembering that we are worthy of the love and nourishment offered by la Madre Tierra and the divine guidance offered by the cosmos. Holding sacred or honoring the elements of water, fire, earth, and air in our spirit practices allows us to feel open and ready to receive.

For me, this looks like making time to slow down—to pause, reflect, breathe deeply, go to my altar, release tears, cleanse, light my candle, drum, burn medicine, pray with copal, offer tobacco, greet the Sun, pray with the Moon, have a relationship with plants based on permiso, hike or walk, and be present with Madre Naturaleza, offer canto to the ocean, acknowledge the original peoples of the land with a clear heart, give thanks for the enseñanzas, the teachings, and my maestras, comadres, sistars, tías, relatives, and elders who have taken the time to create ceremonies and spaces of learning so I and our peoples can remember and walk in balance with the Earth and cosmos. My practice shifts and grows daily; however, at the core is the energy of ofrendando del corazón, offering from the center of my heart, my yollotl, while aligning and re-aligning again with a vision of transformation towards justice, and while simultaneously being open to receiving blessings.

I REMEMBER VIVIDLY a time of significant turmoil in my life, when I was encouraged by my hermano de la Luz to attend a nine-day workshop in Temixco, Mexico, with Estela Román, a temazkalera. Estela, who is the author of the book Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma, is a philosopher of peace studies and a lawyer of human rights in Mexico; she became my first maestra of los 13 aires, including tristesa (sadness), susto (trauma), coraje (anger), and vergüenza (shame). Walking in her vibrant garden full of medicinal plants that summer of 2007, I started to tap into the mystery and whispers of sanación, of healing, as well as the toxic energies I had been holding since I was little brujx girl next to the intergenerational trauma my body-mind-spirit absorbed. These traumas had inflicted intense barriers to expressing my own voice, intellect, sexuality, wisdom, and overall sense of self in a confident, rooted, and healthy way as a queer mujer.

During those nine days, a door was opened for me to ancestral language, sabiduría, and a spirit praxis that offered medicina para el alma, medicine for the soul. Entering the temazcal (sweat lodge, or "hot house") with Estela’s blessed guidance, canto, and rezos brought me to another level of consciousness and connection. Respira, she would say. Breathe. She encouraged us to feel deeply the gift of the breath and to find peace in our own embodied life force.

Through Estela’s guidance, I started building a relationship with Tlazolteotl, la energía que recoje, or as Estela refers to her, “The Cleansing Mother” (Román, 2019, 189). Tlazolteotl was painted in bright colors on the outside of her temazcal. Through this visual representation and prayer, I felt the embrace of unconditional love that received my deep grief and sorrow with no judgment. The energetic exchange for this spiritual trabajo was clear: I was to rise to my purpose on Earth, believe in myself, and walk in my truth in a humble, rooted manner, with the goal of letting go of my fears daily so I could live out my dreams, the prayers planted by ancestors. No easy feat, yet it is life shifting every time I surrender to this root work.

Photo of an original painting of Tlazolteotl, by Lilia Ramirez, Liliflor Art, 2015. Photo courtesy of the author.

As I developed my relationship with Estela over time and traveled with her to sacred sites, she would consistently emphasize the giving of ofrendas to the Earth, spirit guardians, and land we were currently walking on, sitting on, or praying with. A powerful enseñanza (lesson) I learned from her, and keep relearning, is that we are visitors on Earth and have no right to own Madre Tierra, Mother Earth, or tlalli, sacred land. Estela would consistently emphasize that Madre Tierra is our first mother and we, her children. I was always struck when, in prayer, Estela would ask for forgiveness for the way we mistreat our Mother Earth.

This lesson feels so significant as we face our current climate crisis and see the destruction that has manifested on the Earth due to greed, unequal distribution of resources, and global capitalism. This trabajo of giving ofrendas to the Earth, walking respectfully with all relations always, and never claiming individual ownership over what is meant for everyone, is central to queer Xicana Indígena root work. I ask: who taught us to disrespect our mother? How did we internalize the disregard for divine feminine energía of la madre, the energy of the mother? How do we unlearn the habit of feeling unworthy? How do we unlearn hierarchies of inequalities to restore the unconditional, abundant love Madre Naturaleza has for every being on Earth?

Enjoying Ofrenda?

CHICANA HISTORIAN AND elder Yolanda Chávez Leyva ends her 2002 short essay “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii” with a wise statement: “Chicana/o historians have taken the first crucial steps of uncovering, recovering, and documenting our histories. Those histories have provided the basis for political organizing, cultural revitalization, and community building. It is time for Chicana/o scholars to go beyond writing and teaching Chicana/o history. It is time for us to confront the profound consequences of that history in the lives of our students and our communities and to find the ways to heal that pain” (6).

Almost twenty years later, Chávez Leyva’s words feel more urgent than ever. As important as it is to learn complex histories of colonization, forced migration and removal from land, de-indigenization, hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality, for example, it is time to activate the intention of providing tools to heal from those ancestral wounds and historical traumas that we carry, particularly in thinking about next generations. As a professor and practitioner of traditional medicine, I feel the need to create spaces that can hold tensions, conflicting feelings, disillusionments while simultaneously creating an environment for truth telling, connection to ancestors, and sacred tools for healing.

For my closing palabras, I offer these: this camino, this path of queer Xicana Indígena root work is part of a humble prayer for my search, my journey; it is my tracing the liberation that would allow me to feel at home, even in my discomfort from new knowledge that shifts me, my fragmentation that reminds me of the moon and her phases, finally coming home to the consciousness and contradictions of my whole being. It is realizing that my liberation means accountability to all my relations—knowing that my cells, blood, and bones hold more memory than my mind ever could. My politics and ways of being have been based on my remembering, whether I have consciously realized this or not.

We remember that at every moment we are embodied. Even when we are in flight or traveling through time, we come home to our bodies. I am a body. My body, blood, and flesh are my sacred home in this lifetime. I must remember to get back in my body even when I feel afraid, when los aires of susto or tristesa get the best of me.

Remembering the teachings of my ancestors and learning from maestras de la limpeza, las curanderas, I burn copal, using hierbitas, like romero and albacar; through my llanto, and with the sound of my sonaja, I call my spirit home. Susita, come home. Regresa; return. Susy, este es tu hogar; this is your home. Aqui está bonito, en tu cuerpo sagrado. It’s beautiful here, in your sacred body. Regresa, Susy. Regresa. With the cleansing love of Tlazoteotl, my spirit returns brighter than ever—una luz illuminada—having shed what no longer serves me, especially the toxicity and violence that I absorb as I walk my path, the red road. I am no longer the same. I am transformed each time. Remembering that just like love and joy are contagious, so are fear and doubt, so I must aim to be clear and keep myself balanced so I can project clarity and healing.

Ometeotl.

Ofrendando del Corazón: Queer Xicana Indígena Root Work

IN THE 2020 article, “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization,” I footnoted a working definition of “queer Xicana Indígena root work,” suggesting that this “root work or trabajo of decolonizing reaches for an unknown futurity, where the path is created as we are intentionally and consciously taking steps to reroot” (238). At the center of this spiritual trabajo is the wisdom passed on from elders and ancestors—the sabiduría that in our every step we are connected and held by the earth, the four directions, and the cosmos: “Central to queer Xicana Indígena root work is a deep decolonial remembering, activating of ancestral memory to see one’s lineages in everyday practices and experiences, rather than adhering to external colonial logics that accuse communities of appropriating. The process of decolonization occurs over a lifetime as a path is created, paso por paso” (238).  

Speaking to the theme of this inaugural issue, my intention is to walk in rooted alignment every day with clarity of my sacred purpose. That is my trabajo de cada día, my work every day, to remember why I am on this Earth at this historical time, to cause no harm to any being, and if do, to be accountable, self-aware, and consistent with my own inner healing work so I can sustain spaces full of love and creativity for our peoples, in particular, as we move through intense grief and anger as BIPOC.

In many ways, this queer Xicana Indígena root work is based on the practice of activating sacred tools as needed on the camino, the path, and is rooted in acknowledging our interconnectedness. A key component is remembering that we are worthy of the love and nourishment offered by la Madre Tierra and the divine guidance offered by the cosmos. Holding sacred or honoring the elements of water, fire, earth, and air in our spirit practices allows us to feel open and ready to receive.

For me, this looks like making time to slow down—to pause, reflect, breathe deeply, go to my altar, release tears, cleanse, light my candle, drum, burn medicine, pray with copal, offer tobacco, greet the Sun, pray with the Moon, have a relationship with plants based on permiso, hike or walk, and be present with Madre Naturaleza, offer canto to the ocean, acknowledge the original peoples of the land with a clear heart, give thanks for the enseñanzas, the teachings, and my maestras, comadres, sistars, tías, relatives, and elders who have taken the time to create ceremonies and spaces of learning so I and our peoples can remember and walk in balance with the Earth and cosmos. My practice shifts and grows daily; however, at the core is the energy of ofrendando del corazón, offering from the center of my heart, my yollotl, while aligning and re-aligning again with a vision of transformation towards justice, and while simultaneously being open to receiving blessings.

I REMEMBER VIVIDLY a time of significant turmoil in my life, when I was encouraged by my hermano de la Luz to attend a nine-day workshop in Temixco, Mexico, with Estela Román, a temazkalera. Estela, who is the author of the book Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma, is a philosopher of peace studies and a lawyer of human rights in Mexico; she became my first maestra of los 13 aires, including tristesa (sadness), susto (trauma), coraje (anger), and vergüenza (shame). Walking in her vibrant garden full of medicinal plants that summer of 2007, I started to tap into the mystery and whispers of sanación, of healing, as well as the toxic energies I had been holding since I was little brujx girl next to the intergenerational trauma my body-mind-spirit absorbed. These traumas had inflicted intense barriers to expressing my own voice, intellect, sexuality, wisdom, and overall sense of self in a confident, rooted, and healthy way as a queer mujer.

During those nine days, a door was opened for me to ancestral language, sabiduría, and a spirit praxis that offered medicina para el alma, medicine for the soul. Entering the temazcal (sweat lodge, or "hot house") with Estela’s blessed guidance, canto, and rezos brought me to another level of consciousness and connection. Respira, she would say. Breathe. She encouraged us to feel deeply the gift of the breath and to find peace in our own embodied life force.

Through Estela’s guidance, I started building a relationship with Tlazolteotl, la energía que recoje, or as Estela refers to her, “The Cleansing Mother” (Román, 2019, 189). Tlazolteotl was painted in bright colors on the outside of her temazcal. Through this visual representation and prayer, I felt the embrace of unconditional love that received my deep grief and sorrow with no judgment. The energetic exchange for this spiritual trabajo was clear: I was to rise to my purpose on Earth, believe in myself, and walk in my truth in a humble, rooted manner, with the goal of letting go of my fears daily so I could live out my dreams, the prayers planted by ancestors. No easy feat, yet it is life shifting every time I surrender to this root work.

Photo of an original painting of Tlazolteotl, by Lilia Ramirez, Liliflor Art, 2015. Photo courtesy of the author.

As I developed my relationship with Estela over time and traveled with her to sacred sites, she would consistently emphasize the giving of ofrendas to the Earth, spirit guardians, and land we were currently walking on, sitting on, or praying with. A powerful enseñanza (lesson) I learned from her, and keep relearning, is that we are visitors on Earth and have no right to own Madre Tierra, Mother Earth, or tlalli, sacred land. Estela would consistently emphasize that Madre Tierra is our first mother and we, her children. I was always struck when, in prayer, Estela would ask for forgiveness for the way we mistreat our Mother Earth.

This lesson feels so significant as we face our current climate crisis and see the destruction that has manifested on the Earth due to greed, unequal distribution of resources, and global capitalism. This trabajo of giving ofrendas to the Earth, walking respectfully with all relations always, and never claiming individual ownership over what is meant for everyone, is central to queer Xicana Indígena root work. I ask: who taught us to disrespect our mother? How did we internalize the disregard for divine feminine energía of la madre, the energy of the mother? How do we unlearn the habit of feeling unworthy? How do we unlearn hierarchies of inequalities to restore the unconditional, abundant love Madre Naturaleza has for every being on Earth?

Enjoying Ofrenda?

CHICANA HISTORIAN AND elder Yolanda Chávez Leyva ends her 2002 short essay “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii” with a wise statement: “Chicana/o historians have taken the first crucial steps of uncovering, recovering, and documenting our histories. Those histories have provided the basis for political organizing, cultural revitalization, and community building. It is time for Chicana/o scholars to go beyond writing and teaching Chicana/o history. It is time for us to confront the profound consequences of that history in the lives of our students and our communities and to find the ways to heal that pain” (6).

Almost twenty years later, Chávez Leyva’s words feel more urgent than ever. As important as it is to learn complex histories of colonization, forced migration and removal from land, de-indigenization, hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality, for example, it is time to activate the intention of providing tools to heal from those ancestral wounds and historical traumas that we carry, particularly in thinking about next generations. As a professor and practitioner of traditional medicine, I feel the need to create spaces that can hold tensions, conflicting feelings, disillusionments while simultaneously creating an environment for truth telling, connection to ancestors, and sacred tools for healing.

For my closing palabras, I offer these: this camino, this path of queer Xicana Indígena root work is part of a humble prayer for my search, my journey; it is my tracing the liberation that would allow me to feel at home, even in my discomfort from new knowledge that shifts me, my fragmentation that reminds me of the moon and her phases, finally coming home to the consciousness and contradictions of my whole being. It is realizing that my liberation means accountability to all my relations—knowing that my cells, blood, and bones hold more memory than my mind ever could. My politics and ways of being have been based on my remembering, whether I have consciously realized this or not.

We remember that at every moment we are embodied. Even when we are in flight or traveling through time, we come home to our bodies. I am a body. My body, blood, and flesh are my sacred home in this lifetime. I must remember to get back in my body even when I feel afraid, when los aires of susto or tristesa get the best of me.

Remembering the teachings of my ancestors and learning from maestras de la limpeza, las curanderas, I burn copal, using hierbitas, like romero and albacar; through my llanto, and with the sound of my sonaja, I call my spirit home. Susita, come home. Regresa; return. Susy, este es tu hogar; this is your home. Aqui está bonito, en tu cuerpo sagrado. It’s beautiful here, in your sacred body. Regresa, Susy. Regresa. With the cleansing love of Tlazoteotl, my spirit returns brighter than ever—una luz illuminada—having shed what no longer serves me, especially the toxicity and violence that I absorb as I walk my path, the red road. I am no longer the same. I am transformed each time. Remembering that just like love and joy are contagious, so are fear and doubt, so I must aim to be clear and keep myself balanced so I can project clarity and healing.

Ometeotl.

Ofrendando del Corazón: Queer Xicana Indígena Root Work

IN THE 2020 article, “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization,” I footnoted a working definition of “queer Xicana Indígena root work,” suggesting that this “root work or trabajo of decolonizing reaches for an unknown futurity, where the path is created as we are intentionally and consciously taking steps to reroot” (238). At the center of this spiritual trabajo is the wisdom passed on from elders and ancestors—the sabiduría that in our every step we are connected and held by the earth, the four directions, and the cosmos: “Central to queer Xicana Indígena root work is a deep decolonial remembering, activating of ancestral memory to see one’s lineages in everyday practices and experiences, rather than adhering to external colonial logics that accuse communities of appropriating. The process of decolonization occurs over a lifetime as a path is created, paso por paso” (238).  

Speaking to the theme of this inaugural issue, my intention is to walk in rooted alignment every day with clarity of my sacred purpose. That is my trabajo de cada día, my work every day, to remember why I am on this Earth at this historical time, to cause no harm to any being, and if do, to be accountable, self-aware, and consistent with my own inner healing work so I can sustain spaces full of love and creativity for our peoples, in particular, as we move through intense grief and anger as BIPOC.

In many ways, this queer Xicana Indígena root work is based on the practice of activating sacred tools as needed on the camino, the path, and is rooted in acknowledging our interconnectedness. A key component is remembering that we are worthy of the love and nourishment offered by la Madre Tierra and the divine guidance offered by the cosmos. Holding sacred or honoring the elements of water, fire, earth, and air in our spirit practices allows us to feel open and ready to receive.

For me, this looks like making time to slow down—to pause, reflect, breathe deeply, go to my altar, release tears, cleanse, light my candle, drum, burn medicine, pray with copal, offer tobacco, greet the Sun, pray with the Moon, have a relationship with plants based on permiso, hike or walk, and be present with Madre Naturaleza, offer canto to the ocean, acknowledge the original peoples of the land with a clear heart, give thanks for the enseñanzas, the teachings, and my maestras, comadres, sistars, tías, relatives, and elders who have taken the time to create ceremonies and spaces of learning so I and our peoples can remember and walk in balance with the Earth and cosmos. My practice shifts and grows daily; however, at the core is the energy of ofrendando del corazón, offering from the center of my heart, my yollotl, while aligning and re-aligning again with a vision of transformation towards justice, and while simultaneously being open to receiving blessings.

I REMEMBER VIVIDLY a time of significant turmoil in my life, when I was encouraged by my hermano de la Luz to attend a nine-day workshop in Temixco, Mexico, with Estela Román, a temazkalera. Estela, who is the author of the book Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma, is a philosopher of peace studies and a lawyer of human rights in Mexico; she became my first maestra of los 13 aires, including tristesa (sadness), susto (trauma), coraje (anger), and vergüenza (shame). Walking in her vibrant garden full of medicinal plants that summer of 2007, I started to tap into the mystery and whispers of sanación, of healing, as well as the toxic energies I had been holding since I was little brujx girl next to the intergenerational trauma my body-mind-spirit absorbed. These traumas had inflicted intense barriers to expressing my own voice, intellect, sexuality, wisdom, and overall sense of self in a confident, rooted, and healthy way as a queer mujer.

During those nine days, a door was opened for me to ancestral language, sabiduría, and a spirit praxis that offered medicina para el alma, medicine for the soul. Entering the temazcal (sweat lodge, or "hot house") with Estela’s blessed guidance, canto, and rezos brought me to another level of consciousness and connection. Respira, she would say. Breathe. She encouraged us to feel deeply the gift of the breath and to find peace in our own embodied life force.

Through Estela’s guidance, I started building a relationship with Tlazolteotl, la energía que recoje, or as Estela refers to her, “The Cleansing Mother” (Román, 2019, 189). Tlazolteotl was painted in bright colors on the outside of her temazcal. Through this visual representation and prayer, I felt the embrace of unconditional love that received my deep grief and sorrow with no judgment. The energetic exchange for this spiritual trabajo was clear: I was to rise to my purpose on Earth, believe in myself, and walk in my truth in a humble, rooted manner, with the goal of letting go of my fears daily so I could live out my dreams, the prayers planted by ancestors. No easy feat, yet it is life shifting every time I surrender to this root work.

Photo of an original painting of Tlazolteotl, by Lilia Ramirez, Liliflor Art, 2015. Photo courtesy of the author.

As I developed my relationship with Estela over time and traveled with her to sacred sites, she would consistently emphasize the giving of ofrendas to the Earth, spirit guardians, and land we were currently walking on, sitting on, or praying with. A powerful enseñanza (lesson) I learned from her, and keep relearning, is that we are visitors on Earth and have no right to own Madre Tierra, Mother Earth, or tlalli, sacred land. Estela would consistently emphasize that Madre Tierra is our first mother and we, her children. I was always struck when, in prayer, Estela would ask for forgiveness for the way we mistreat our Mother Earth.

This lesson feels so significant as we face our current climate crisis and see the destruction that has manifested on the Earth due to greed, unequal distribution of resources, and global capitalism. This trabajo of giving ofrendas to the Earth, walking respectfully with all relations always, and never claiming individual ownership over what is meant for everyone, is central to queer Xicana Indígena root work. I ask: who taught us to disrespect our mother? How did we internalize the disregard for divine feminine energía of la madre, the energy of the mother? How do we unlearn the habit of feeling unworthy? How do we unlearn hierarchies of inequalities to restore the unconditional, abundant love Madre Naturaleza has for every being on Earth?

Enjoying Ofrenda?

CHICANA HISTORIAN AND elder Yolanda Chávez Leyva ends her 2002 short essay “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii” with a wise statement: “Chicana/o historians have taken the first crucial steps of uncovering, recovering, and documenting our histories. Those histories have provided the basis for political organizing, cultural revitalization, and community building. It is time for Chicana/o scholars to go beyond writing and teaching Chicana/o history. It is time for us to confront the profound consequences of that history in the lives of our students and our communities and to find the ways to heal that pain” (6).

Almost twenty years later, Chávez Leyva’s words feel more urgent than ever. As important as it is to learn complex histories of colonization, forced migration and removal from land, de-indigenization, hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality, for example, it is time to activate the intention of providing tools to heal from those ancestral wounds and historical traumas that we carry, particularly in thinking about next generations. As a professor and practitioner of traditional medicine, I feel the need to create spaces that can hold tensions, conflicting feelings, disillusionments while simultaneously creating an environment for truth telling, connection to ancestors, and sacred tools for healing.

For my closing palabras, I offer these: this camino, this path of queer Xicana Indígena root work is part of a humble prayer for my search, my journey; it is my tracing the liberation that would allow me to feel at home, even in my discomfort from new knowledge that shifts me, my fragmentation that reminds me of the moon and her phases, finally coming home to the consciousness and contradictions of my whole being. It is realizing that my liberation means accountability to all my relations—knowing that my cells, blood, and bones hold more memory than my mind ever could. My politics and ways of being have been based on my remembering, whether I have consciously realized this or not.

We remember that at every moment we are embodied. Even when we are in flight or traveling through time, we come home to our bodies. I am a body. My body, blood, and flesh are my sacred home in this lifetime. I must remember to get back in my body even when I feel afraid, when los aires of susto or tristesa get the best of me.

Remembering the teachings of my ancestors and learning from maestras de la limpeza, las curanderas, I burn copal, using hierbitas, like romero and albacar; through my llanto, and with the sound of my sonaja, I call my spirit home. Susita, come home. Regresa; return. Susy, este es tu hogar; this is your home. Aqui está bonito, en tu cuerpo sagrado. It’s beautiful here, in your sacred body. Regresa, Susy. Regresa. With the cleansing love of Tlazoteotl, my spirit returns brighter than ever—una luz illuminada—having shed what no longer serves me, especially the toxicity and violence that I absorb as I walk my path, the red road. I am no longer the same. I am transformed each time. Remembering that just like love and joy are contagious, so are fear and doubt, so I must aim to be clear and keep myself balanced so I can project clarity and healing.

Ometeotl.

Works Cited

Chávez Leyva, Yolanda. “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii.” La Voz de Esperanza. October 2002, Vol 15, Issue 8: 4-6.

Román, Estela. Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma. Palibrio, 2012.

Román, Estela. “El Temazkal, a Place for Rest and Purification,” in Voices from the Ancestors: Xicanx and Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices, Eds. Lara Medina and Martha Gonzales. University of Arizona Press, 2019, pp. 188-190.

Zepeda, Susy. “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. Spring 2020, Vol 45, No 1: 225-241.

Ofrendando del Corazón: Queer Xicana Indígena Root Work

IN THE 2020 article, “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization,” I footnoted a working definition of “queer Xicana Indígena root work,” suggesting that this “root work or trabajo of decolonizing reaches for an unknown futurity, where the path is created as we are intentionally and consciously taking steps to reroot” (238). At the center of this spiritual trabajo is the wisdom passed on from elders and ancestors—the sabiduría that in our every step we are connected and held by the earth, the four directions, and the cosmos: “Central to queer Xicana Indígena root work is a deep decolonial remembering, activating of ancestral memory to see one’s lineages in everyday practices and experiences, rather than adhering to external colonial logics that accuse communities of appropriating. The process of decolonization occurs over a lifetime as a path is created, paso por paso” (238).  

Speaking to the theme of this inaugural issue, my intention is to walk in rooted alignment every day with clarity of my sacred purpose. That is my trabajo de cada día, my work every day, to remember why I am on this Earth at this historical time, to cause no harm to any being, and if do, to be accountable, self-aware, and consistent with my own inner healing work so I can sustain spaces full of love and creativity for our peoples, in particular, as we move through intense grief and anger as BIPOC.

In many ways, this queer Xicana Indígena root work is based on the practice of activating sacred tools as needed on the camino, the path, and is rooted in acknowledging our interconnectedness. A key component is remembering that we are worthy of the love and nourishment offered by la Madre Tierra and the divine guidance offered by the cosmos. Holding sacred or honoring the elements of water, fire, earth, and air in our spirit practices allows us to feel open and ready to receive.

For me, this looks like making time to slow down—to pause, reflect, breathe deeply, go to my altar, release tears, cleanse, light my candle, drum, burn medicine, pray with copal, offer tobacco, greet the Sun, pray with the Moon, have a relationship with plants based on permiso, hike or walk, and be present with Madre Naturaleza, offer canto to the ocean, acknowledge the original peoples of the land with a clear heart, give thanks for the enseñanzas, the teachings, and my maestras, comadres, sistars, tías, relatives, and elders who have taken the time to create ceremonies and spaces of learning so I and our peoples can remember and walk in balance with the Earth and cosmos. My practice shifts and grows daily; however, at the core is the energy of ofrendando del corazón, offering from the center of my heart, my yollotl, while aligning and re-aligning again with a vision of transformation towards justice, and while simultaneously being open to receiving blessings.

I REMEMBER VIVIDLY a time of significant turmoil in my life, when I was encouraged by my hermano de la Luz to attend a nine-day workshop in Temixco, Mexico, with Estela Román, a temazkalera. Estela, who is the author of the book Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma, is a philosopher of peace studies and a lawyer of human rights in Mexico; she became my first maestra of los 13 aires, including tristesa (sadness), susto (trauma), coraje (anger), and vergüenza (shame). Walking in her vibrant garden full of medicinal plants that summer of 2007, I started to tap into the mystery and whispers of sanación, of healing, as well as the toxic energies I had been holding since I was little brujx girl next to the intergenerational trauma my body-mind-spirit absorbed. These traumas had inflicted intense barriers to expressing my own voice, intellect, sexuality, wisdom, and overall sense of self in a confident, rooted, and healthy way as a queer mujer.

During those nine days, a door was opened for me to ancestral language, sabiduría, and a spirit praxis that offered medicina para el alma, medicine for the soul. Entering the temazcal (sweat lodge, or "hot house") with Estela’s blessed guidance, canto, and rezos brought me to another level of consciousness and connection. Respira, she would say. Breathe. She encouraged us to feel deeply the gift of the breath and to find peace in our own embodied life force.

Through Estela’s guidance, I started building a relationship with Tlazolteotl, la energía que recoje, or as Estela refers to her, “The Cleansing Mother” (Román, 2019, 189). Tlazolteotl was painted in bright colors on the outside of her temazcal. Through this visual representation and prayer, I felt the embrace of unconditional love that received my deep grief and sorrow with no judgment. The energetic exchange for this spiritual trabajo was clear: I was to rise to my purpose on Earth, believe in myself, and walk in my truth in a humble, rooted manner, with the goal of letting go of my fears daily so I could live out my dreams, the prayers planted by ancestors. No easy feat, yet it is life shifting every time I surrender to this root work.

Photo of an original painting of Tlazolteotl, by Lilia Ramirez, Liliflor Art, 2015. Photo courtesy of the author.

As I developed my relationship with Estela over time and traveled with her to sacred sites, she would consistently emphasize the giving of ofrendas to the Earth, spirit guardians, and land we were currently walking on, sitting on, or praying with. A powerful enseñanza (lesson) I learned from her, and keep relearning, is that we are visitors on Earth and have no right to own Madre Tierra, Mother Earth, or tlalli, sacred land. Estela would consistently emphasize that Madre Tierra is our first mother and we, her children. I was always struck when, in prayer, Estela would ask for forgiveness for the way we mistreat our Mother Earth.

This lesson feels so significant as we face our current climate crisis and see the destruction that has manifested on the Earth due to greed, unequal distribution of resources, and global capitalism. This trabajo of giving ofrendas to the Earth, walking respectfully with all relations always, and never claiming individual ownership over what is meant for everyone, is central to queer Xicana Indígena root work. I ask: who taught us to disrespect our mother? How did we internalize the disregard for divine feminine energía of la madre, the energy of the mother? How do we unlearn the habit of feeling unworthy? How do we unlearn hierarchies of inequalities to restore the unconditional, abundant love Madre Naturaleza has for every being on Earth?

Enjoying Ofrenda?

CHICANA HISTORIAN AND elder Yolanda Chávez Leyva ends her 2002 short essay “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii” with a wise statement: “Chicana/o historians have taken the first crucial steps of uncovering, recovering, and documenting our histories. Those histories have provided the basis for political organizing, cultural revitalization, and community building. It is time for Chicana/o scholars to go beyond writing and teaching Chicana/o history. It is time for us to confront the profound consequences of that history in the lives of our students and our communities and to find the ways to heal that pain” (6).

Almost twenty years later, Chávez Leyva’s words feel more urgent than ever. As important as it is to learn complex histories of colonization, forced migration and removal from land, de-indigenization, hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality, for example, it is time to activate the intention of providing tools to heal from those ancestral wounds and historical traumas that we carry, particularly in thinking about next generations. As a professor and practitioner of traditional medicine, I feel the need to create spaces that can hold tensions, conflicting feelings, disillusionments while simultaneously creating an environment for truth telling, connection to ancestors, and sacred tools for healing.

For my closing palabras, I offer these: this camino, this path of queer Xicana Indígena root work is part of a humble prayer for my search, my journey; it is my tracing the liberation that would allow me to feel at home, even in my discomfort from new knowledge that shifts me, my fragmentation that reminds me of the moon and her phases, finally coming home to the consciousness and contradictions of my whole being. It is realizing that my liberation means accountability to all my relations—knowing that my cells, blood, and bones hold more memory than my mind ever could. My politics and ways of being have been based on my remembering, whether I have consciously realized this or not.

We remember that at every moment we are embodied. Even when we are in flight or traveling through time, we come home to our bodies. I am a body. My body, blood, and flesh are my sacred home in this lifetime. I must remember to get back in my body even when I feel afraid, when los aires of susto or tristesa get the best of me.

Remembering the teachings of my ancestors and learning from maestras de la limpeza, las curanderas, I burn copal, using hierbitas, like romero and albacar; through my llanto, and with the sound of my sonaja, I call my spirit home. Susita, come home. Regresa; return. Susy, este es tu hogar; this is your home. Aqui está bonito, en tu cuerpo sagrado. It’s beautiful here, in your sacred body. Regresa, Susy. Regresa. With the cleansing love of Tlazoteotl, my spirit returns brighter than ever—una luz illuminada—having shed what no longer serves me, especially the toxicity and violence that I absorb as I walk my path, the red road. I am no longer the same. I am transformed each time. Remembering that just like love and joy are contagious, so are fear and doubt, so I must aim to be clear and keep myself balanced so I can project clarity and healing.

Ometeotl.

Works Cited

Chávez Leyva, Yolanda. “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii.” La Voz de Esperanza. October 2002, Vol 15, Issue 8: 4-6.

Román, Estela. Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma. Palibrio, 2012.

Román, Estela. “El Temazkal, a Place for Rest and Purification,” in Voices from the Ancestors: Xicanx and Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices, Eds. Lara Medina and Martha Gonzales. University of Arizona Press, 2019, pp. 188-190.

Zepeda, Susy. “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. Spring 2020, Vol 45, No 1: 225-241.

Ofrendando del Corazón: Queer Xicana Indígena Root Work

IN THE 2020 article, “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization,” I footnoted a working definition of “queer Xicana Indígena root work,” suggesting that this “root work or trabajo of decolonizing reaches for an unknown futurity, where the path is created as we are intentionally and consciously taking steps to reroot” (238). At the center of this spiritual trabajo is the wisdom passed on from elders and ancestors—the sabiduría that in our every step we are connected and held by the earth, the four directions, and the cosmos: “Central to queer Xicana Indígena root work is a deep decolonial remembering, activating of ancestral memory to see one’s lineages in everyday practices and experiences, rather than adhering to external colonial logics that accuse communities of appropriating. The process of decolonization occurs over a lifetime as a path is created, paso por paso” (238).  

Speaking to the theme of this inaugural issue, my intention is to walk in rooted alignment every day with clarity of my sacred purpose. That is my trabajo de cada día, my work every day, to remember why I am on this Earth at this historical time, to cause no harm to any being, and if do, to be accountable, self-aware, and consistent with my own inner healing work so I can sustain spaces full of love and creativity for our peoples, in particular, as we move through intense grief and anger as BIPOC.

In many ways, this queer Xicana Indígena root work is based on the practice of activating sacred tools as needed on the camino, the path, and is rooted in acknowledging our interconnectedness. A key component is remembering that we are worthy of the love and nourishment offered by la Madre Tierra and the divine guidance offered by the cosmos. Holding sacred or honoring the elements of water, fire, earth, and air in our spirit practices allows us to feel open and ready to receive.

For me, this looks like making time to slow down—to pause, reflect, breathe deeply, go to my altar, release tears, cleanse, light my candle, drum, burn medicine, pray with copal, offer tobacco, greet the Sun, pray with the Moon, have a relationship with plants based on permiso, hike or walk, and be present with Madre Naturaleza, offer canto to the ocean, acknowledge the original peoples of the land with a clear heart, give thanks for the enseñanzas, the teachings, and my maestras, comadres, sistars, tías, relatives, and elders who have taken the time to create ceremonies and spaces of learning so I and our peoples can remember and walk in balance with the Earth and cosmos. My practice shifts and grows daily; however, at the core is the energy of ofrendando del corazón, offering from the center of my heart, my yollotl, while aligning and re-aligning again with a vision of transformation towards justice, and while simultaneously being open to receiving blessings.

I REMEMBER VIVIDLY a time of significant turmoil in my life, when I was encouraged by my hermano de la Luz to attend a nine-day workshop in Temixco, Mexico, with Estela Román, a temazkalera. Estela, who is the author of the book Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma, is a philosopher of peace studies and a lawyer of human rights in Mexico; she became my first maestra of los 13 aires, including tristesa (sadness), susto (trauma), coraje (anger), and vergüenza (shame). Walking in her vibrant garden full of medicinal plants that summer of 2007, I started to tap into the mystery and whispers of sanación, of healing, as well as the toxic energies I had been holding since I was little brujx girl next to the intergenerational trauma my body-mind-spirit absorbed. These traumas had inflicted intense barriers to expressing my own voice, intellect, sexuality, wisdom, and overall sense of self in a confident, rooted, and healthy way as a queer mujer.

During those nine days, a door was opened for me to ancestral language, sabiduría, and a spirit praxis that offered medicina para el alma, medicine for the soul. Entering the temazcal (sweat lodge, or "hot house") with Estela’s blessed guidance, canto, and rezos brought me to another level of consciousness and connection. Respira, she would say. Breathe. She encouraged us to feel deeply the gift of the breath and to find peace in our own embodied life force.

Through Estela’s guidance, I started building a relationship with Tlazolteotl, la energía que recoje, or as Estela refers to her, “The Cleansing Mother” (Román, 2019, 189). Tlazolteotl was painted in bright colors on the outside of her temazcal. Through this visual representation and prayer, I felt the embrace of unconditional love that received my deep grief and sorrow with no judgment. The energetic exchange for this spiritual trabajo was clear: I was to rise to my purpose on Earth, believe in myself, and walk in my truth in a humble, rooted manner, with the goal of letting go of my fears daily so I could live out my dreams, the prayers planted by ancestors. No easy feat, yet it is life shifting every time I surrender to this root work.

Photo of an original painting of Tlazolteotl, by Lilia Ramirez, Liliflor Art, 2015. Photo courtesy of the author.

As I developed my relationship with Estela over time and traveled with her to sacred sites, she would consistently emphasize the giving of ofrendas to the Earth, spirit guardians, and land we were currently walking on, sitting on, or praying with. A powerful enseñanza (lesson) I learned from her, and keep relearning, is that we are visitors on Earth and have no right to own Madre Tierra, Mother Earth, or tlalli, sacred land. Estela would consistently emphasize that Madre Tierra is our first mother and we, her children. I was always struck when, in prayer, Estela would ask for forgiveness for the way we mistreat our Mother Earth.

This lesson feels so significant as we face our current climate crisis and see the destruction that has manifested on the Earth due to greed, unequal distribution of resources, and global capitalism. This trabajo of giving ofrendas to the Earth, walking respectfully with all relations always, and never claiming individual ownership over what is meant for everyone, is central to queer Xicana Indígena root work. I ask: who taught us to disrespect our mother? How did we internalize the disregard for divine feminine energía of la madre, the energy of the mother? How do we unlearn the habit of feeling unworthy? How do we unlearn hierarchies of inequalities to restore the unconditional, abundant love Madre Naturaleza has for every being on Earth?

Works Cited

Chávez Leyva, Yolanda. “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii.” La Voz de Esperanza. October 2002, Vol 15, Issue 8: 4-6.

Román, Estela. Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma. Palibrio, 2012.

Román, Estela. “El Temazkal, a Place for Rest and Purification,” in Voices from the Ancestors: Xicanx and Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices, Eds. Lara Medina and Martha Gonzales. University of Arizona Press, 2019, pp. 188-190.

Zepeda, Susy. “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. Spring 2020, Vol 45, No 1: 225-241.

CHICANA HISTORIAN AND elder Yolanda Chávez Leyva ends her 2002 short essay “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii” with a wise statement: “Chicana/o historians have taken the first crucial steps of uncovering, recovering, and documenting our histories. Those histories have provided the basis for political organizing, cultural revitalization, and community building. It is time for Chicana/o scholars to go beyond writing and teaching Chicana/o history. It is time for us to confront the profound consequences of that history in the lives of our students and our communities and to find the ways to heal that pain” (6).

Almost twenty years later, Chávez Leyva’s words feel more urgent than ever. As important as it is to learn complex histories of colonization, forced migration and removal from land, de-indigenization, hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality, for example, it is time to activate the intention of providing tools to heal from those ancestral wounds and historical traumas that we carry, particularly in thinking about next generations. As a professor and practitioner of traditional medicine, I feel the need to create spaces that can hold tensions, conflicting feelings, disillusionments while simultaneously creating an environment for truth telling, connection to ancestors, and sacred tools for healing.

For my closing palabras, I offer these: this camino, this path of queer Xicana Indígena root work is part of a humble prayer for my search, my journey; it is my tracing the liberation that would allow me to feel at home, even in my discomfort from new knowledge that shifts me, my fragmentation that reminds me of the moon and her phases, finally coming home to the consciousness and contradictions of my whole being. It is realizing that my liberation means accountability to all my relations—knowing that my cells, blood, and bones hold more memory than my mind ever could. My politics and ways of being have been based on my remembering, whether I have consciously realized this or not.

We remember that at every moment we are embodied. Even when we are in flight or traveling through time, we come home to our bodies. I am a body. My body, blood, and flesh are my sacred home in this lifetime. I must remember to get back in my body even when I feel afraid, when los aires of susto or tristesa get the best of me.

Remembering the teachings of my ancestors and learning from maestras de la limpeza, las curanderas, I burn copal, using hierbitas, like romero and albacar; through my llanto, and with the sound of my sonaja, I call my spirit home. Susita, come home. Regresa; return. Susy, este es tu hogar; this is your home. Aqui está bonito, en tu cuerpo sagrado. It’s beautiful here, in your sacred body. Regresa, Susy. Regresa. With the cleansing love of Tlazoteotl, my spirit returns brighter than ever—una luz illuminada—having shed what no longer serves me, especially the toxicity and violence that I absorb as I walk my path, the red road. I am no longer the same. I am transformed each time. Remembering that just like love and joy are contagious, so are fear and doubt, so I must aim to be clear and keep myself balanced so I can project clarity and healing.

Ometeotl.

Ofrendando del Corazón: Queer Xicana Indígena Root Work

IN THE 2020 article, “Decolonizing Xicana/x Studies: Healing the Susto of De-indigenization,” I footnoted a working definition of “queer Xicana Indígena root work,” suggesting that this “root work or trabajo of decolonizing reaches for an unknown futurity, where the path is created as we are intentionally and consciously taking steps to reroot” (238). At the center of this spiritual trabajo is the wisdom passed on from elders and ancestors—the sabiduría that in our every step we are connected and held by the earth, the four directions, and the cosmos: “Central to queer Xicana Indígena root work is a deep decolonial remembering, activating of ancestral memory to see one’s lineages in everyday practices and experiences, rather than adhering to external colonial logics that accuse communities of appropriating. The process of decolonization occurs over a lifetime as a path is created, paso por paso” (238).  

Speaking to the theme of this inaugural issue, my intention is to walk in rooted alignment every day with clarity of my sacred purpose. That is my trabajo de cada día, my work every day, to remember why I am on this Earth at this historical time, to cause no harm to any being, and if do, to be accountable, self-aware, and consistent with my own inner healing work so I can sustain spaces full of love and creativity for our peoples, in particular, as we move through intense grief and anger as BIPOC.

In many ways, this queer Xicana Indígena root work is based on the practice of activating sacred tools as needed on the camino, the path, and is rooted in acknowledging our interconnectedness. A key component is remembering that we are worthy of the love and nourishment offered by la Madre Tierra and the divine guidance offered by the cosmos. Holding sacred or honoring the elements of water, fire, earth, and air in our spirit practices allows us to feel open and ready to receive.

For me, this looks like making time to slow down—to pause, reflect, breathe deeply, go to my altar, release tears, cleanse, light my candle, drum, burn medicine, pray with copal, offer tobacco, greet the Sun, pray with the Moon, have a relationship with plants based on permiso, hike or walk, and be present with Madre Naturaleza, offer canto to the ocean, acknowledge the original peoples of the land with a clear heart, give thanks for the enseñanzas, the teachings, and my maestras, comadres, sistars, tías, relatives, and elders who have taken the time to create ceremonies and spaces of learning so I and our peoples can remember and walk in balance with the Earth and cosmos. My practice shifts and grows daily; however, at the core is the energy of ofrendando del corazón, offering from the center of my heart, my yollotl, while aligning and re-aligning again with a vision of transformation towards justice, and while simultaneously being open to receiving blessings.

I REMEMBER VIVIDLY a time of significant turmoil in my life, when I was encouraged by my hermano de la Luz to attend a nine-day workshop in Temixco, Mexico, with Estela Román, a temazkalera. Estela, who is the author of the book Nuestra Medicina: De Los Remedios para el Aire y Los Remedios para el Alma, is a philosopher of peace studies and a lawyer of human rights in Mexico; she became my first maestra of los 13 aires, including tristesa (sadness), susto (trauma), coraje (anger), and vergüenza (shame). Walking in her vibrant garden full of medicinal plants that summer of 2007, I started to tap into the mystery and whispers of sanación, of healing, as well as the toxic energies I had been holding since I was little brujx girl next to the intergenerational trauma my body-mind-spirit absorbed. These traumas had inflicted intense barriers to expressing my own voice, intellect, sexuality, wisdom, and overall sense of self in a confident, rooted, and healthy way as a queer mujer.

During those nine days, a door was opened for me to ancestral language, sabiduría, and a spirit praxis that offered medicina para el alma, medicine for the soul. Entering the temazcal (sweat lodge, or "hot house") with Estela’s blessed guidance, canto, and rezos brought me to another level of consciousness and connection. Respira, she would say. Breathe. She encouraged us to feel deeply the gift of the breath and to find peace in our own embodied life force.

Through Estela’s guidance, I started building a relationship with Tlazolteotl, la energía que recoje, or as Estela refers to her, “The Cleansing Mother” (Román, 2019, 189). Tlazolteotl was painted in bright colors on the outside of her temazcal. Through this visual representation and prayer, I felt the embrace of unconditional love that received my deep grief and sorrow with no judgment. The energetic exchange for this spiritual trabajo was clear: I was to rise to my purpose on Earth, believe in myself, and walk in my truth in a humble, rooted manner, with the goal of letting go of my fears daily so I could live out my dreams, the prayers planted by ancestors. No easy feat, yet it is life shifting every time I surrender to this root work.

Photo of an original painting of Tlazolteotl, by Lilia Ramirez, Liliflor Art, 2015. Photo courtesy of the author.

As I developed my relationship with Estela over time and traveled with her to sacred sites, she would consistently emphasize the giving of ofrendas to the Earth, spirit guardians, and land we were currently walking on, sitting on, or praying with. A powerful enseñanza (lesson) I learned from her, and keep relearning, is that we are visitors on Earth and have no right to own Madre Tierra, Mother Earth, or tlalli, sacred land. Estela would consistently emphasize that Madre Tierra is our first mother and we, her children. I was always struck when, in prayer, Estela would ask for forgiveness for the way we mistreat our Mother Earth.

This lesson feels so significant as we face our current climate crisis and see the destruction that has manifested on the Earth due to greed, unequal distribution of resources, and global capitalism. This trabajo of giving ofrendas to the Earth, walking respectfully with all relations always, and never claiming individual ownership over what is meant for everyone, is central to queer Xicana Indígena root work. I ask: who taught us to disrespect our mother? How did we internalize the disregard for divine feminine energía of la madre, the energy of the mother? How do we unlearn the habit of feeling unworthy? How do we unlearn hierarchies of inequalities to restore the unconditional, abundant love Madre Naturaleza has for every being on Earth?

The Practice of Intention

1

If possible, play music that inspires you to be calm. This is the time to look inward. Turn off any external distractions; silence your phone.

2

Close your eyes, taking a moment to “feel” how different and peaceful it is to have the eyes closed.

3

Take three very slow and deep breaths, trying to fill out the bottom of your lungs. Inhale and exhale slowly.

4

With either hand, take a little bit of tobacco or some dry herbs—like lavender, sage, rosemary, basil, rose petals, a combination of all of them, or imagine them, if you don’t have any. In the Curanderismo tradition, it is believed that these plants have energy that can help us communicate more deeply with the spirit realm, and focus with concentration and a sense of calm.

5

Place your hand with the herbs at the center of your chest. That is the area known as the heart chakra. Take another deep and slow breath.

6

Very slowly, start directing your attention to one or more of the emotions mentioned before: love, gratitude, happiness, and peace.

7

Then, also very slowly, start your prayer, being careful that you genuinely mean what you are saying. If you are reciting a prayer in another language, make sure you say it first in your native language and then in the other language.

8

At the end of each sentence from your prayer, add a vibration of any of the emotions. Once you feel the emotions, move them throughout your body until it is vibrating. This is a very important step because this vibration is creating electromagnetic energy that will help you manifest what you are asking for.

9

Carry on with your prayer until you are done. Remember not to rush. By the end, your body should be vibrating, and from there you are going to send gratitude to the Universe, to the spirits, to your ancestors, to everyone for hearing your prayer and making it happen.

10

If you are conducting a ceremony or ritual, empowering a place or a spiritual tool, asking for healing, or something similar, you can cup your hands and transfer all of these beautiful energies into your hands and into the mixture of herbs. Then you can offer these herbs by placing them on your altar (if you have one), placing your hands on the part of the body that you want to heal, or offering the herbs to Mother Earth.

11

Finish by staying still for a moment, just feeling this beautiful energy that you have created.

CHICANA HISTORIAN AND elder Yolanda Chávez Leyva ends her 2002 short essay “The Revisioning of History es Un Gran Limpia: Teaching and Historical Trauma in Chicana/o History, part ii” with a wise statement: “Chicana/o historians have taken the first crucial steps of uncovering, recovering, and documenting our histories. Those histories have provided the basis for political organizing, cultural revitalization, and community building. It is time for Chicana/o scholars to go beyond writing and teaching Chicana/o history. It is time for us to confront the profound consequences of that history in the lives of our students and our communities and to find the ways to heal that pain” (6).

Almost twenty years later, Chávez Leyva’s words feel more urgent than ever. As important as it is to learn complex histories of colonization, forced migration and removal from land, de-indigenization, hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality, for example, it is time to activate the intention of providing tools to heal from those ancestral wounds and historical traumas that we carry, particularly in thinking about next generations. As a professor and practitioner of traditional medicine, I feel the need to create spaces that can hold tensions, conflicting feelings, disillusionments while simultaneously creating an environment for truth telling, connection to ancestors, and sacred tools for healing.

For my closing palabras, I offer these: this camino, this path of queer Xicana Indígena root work is part of a humble prayer for my search, my journey; it is my tracing the liberation that would allow me to feel at home, even in my discomfort from new knowledge that shifts me, my fragmentation that reminds me of the moon and her phases, finally coming home to the consciousness and contradictions of my whole being. It is realizing that my liberation means accountability to all my relations—knowing that my cells, blood, and bones hold more memory than my mind ever could. My politics and ways of being have been based on my remembering, whether I have consciously realized this or not.

We remember that at every moment we are embodied. Even when we are in flight or traveling through time, we come home to our bodies. I am a body. My body, blood, and flesh are my sacred home in this lifetime. I must remember to get back in my body even when I feel afraid, when los aires of susto or tristesa get the best of me.

Remembering the teachings of my ancestors and learning from maestras de la limpeza, las curanderas, I burn copal, using hierbitas, like romero and albacar; through my llanto, and with the sound of my sonaja, I call my spirit home. Susita, come home. Regresa; return. Susy, este es tu hogar; this is your home. Aqui está bonito, en tu cuerpo sagrado. It’s beautiful here, in your sacred body. Regresa, Susy. Regresa. With the cleansing love of Tlazoteotl, my spirit returns brighter than ever—una luz illuminada—having shed what no longer serves me, especially the toxicity and violence that I absorb as I walk my path, the red road. I am no longer the same. I am transformed each time. Remembering that just like love and joy are contagious, so are fear and doubt, so I must aim to be clear and keep myself balanced so I can project clarity and healing.

Ometeotl.

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