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.
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?