We Get to Win

From a talk by Lorenzo Garcia, the International Liberation Reference Person for Chicanos/as, at a Latino/a workshop in New York, USA, December 2012

We are here to notice each other and to see all the dimensions of what it means to be Latinos/as. All our colors, shapes, sizes, and ways of speaking are good.

We are here to have a safe space with one another. When we are with white folks, what mostly happens is we “fade in” and “fade away” and don’t notice that there is a group of us in the room. The oppression forces us to try to not look like ourselves, to assimilate, to be someone we are not.

We are all mixed-heritage, and for many of us the pressure is intense to choose one or the other, to decide that we are this and not that. When we were small, we tried to figure out what it meant to be in our families—what our father’s family was like, what our mother’s family was like, which of our siblings we were like—as we figured out who we were.

All of us are good, completely good. We are all completely innocent. We are all completely intelligent—way beyond our wildest dreams. Even the smartest among us are just an approximation of what is possible for all of us. We are just as smart as all the people who have been ignored in most accounts of U.S. history, who have been eliminated from the textbooks.

Intelligence has nothing to do with what we were able or not able to do in school. The whole education system is designed not to validate who we are as people and what our minds are capable of. It is a big piece of our oppression. As far as I can tell,1 the big battle in social justice these days is in education. Any of you who are teachers or are in that system can see that it’s the front line of where most of us are getting smashed. A term that is gaining popularity in the mainstream media is the “school to prison pipeline.” What is happening, or not happening, in schools is forcing a lot of Latinos, and also Latinas, into the prison system.

OUR families

In many ways this workshop is a sanctuary. It is una mirada, a glimpse into reality. Here we are more able to distinguish what is real, what is true about us, what is possible in our lives. At the same time, we get to notice that most of what we have to contend with is the lies, misinformation, and oppression that show up in our families. How could our families not be dysfunctional, given what we have been through and what we are subjected to on a day-to-day basis?

This doesn’t look like a regular RC workshop. We have families here. We are being more intentional about bringing our families into Co-Counseling. One of the goals of the RC Community is to share Co-Counseling with the people in our lives. What do we have to step over—what fear, what terror, do we have to face—to share some of what has worked for us with the people who are more confused than we are, who have gotten more lost in some ways?

About three weeks ago, a few of us did an RC family workshop for my family—for my three children who are in their thirties now, my three children who are teenagers, and the two little ones who are four and six. I handpicked people from the Community that I thought could hang2 with us for the weekend. And I handpicked the leader and told her she could not be in charge, that everything she wanted to do had to go through me, because I didn’t want it to be weird. I wanted my family to have a chance to get the information without any weirdness. (Group laughter) My children were able to use the information and the time to discharge on things that were on their minds. It was an interesting experiment.

This weekend we are going to leverage some of the family relationships that are here. We are going to put together in sessions people who are in a relationship with each other. If a parent is with a child, the child will get to tell his or her life story first. Then the parent will get to tell the parent’s version of the child’s life story. We’ll have extra resource in the sessions—at least one or two other counselors.

Other issues

We face some other issues. One is related to being born in the United States or not being born in the United States. The way we put it with Chicanos/as is “those who feel closer to Mexico, and those who don’t feel so close to Mexico.”

There are a number of Jews here. That is part of who we are.

And there is our Indigenous heritage. Genocide recordings3 play out4 in all kinds of ways. Because of internalized hurts from genocide, most of our families did things we wouldn’t think of doing. (“I’ll be damned if I am going to do that.”) There wasn’t an understanding of all the oppressions that were beating down on us. We can begin to sort this out in our support groups and sessions.

Colonization: How many of us go around with internalized habits from having come from a colony? Almost all of us, if not all of us. What has that been like? Many Chicanos are killed by the police in Albuquerque (New Mexico, USA), where I live. And I don’t think that’s the only place it’s happening. In Guatemala, in 1951, the United States threatened to use nuclear weapons against the president of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz. Hardly anybody knows that history, but it’s true. It happened, and it was close. Some of the worst experiments of expanding colonialism have been carried out in our communities.

Skin color: All the different gradations of skin color here make a beautiful mosaic of who we are. We’ve each had different experiences based on our skin tones. My brother had a completely different experience from me, and a much harder life, because he can pass for black. (As far as I’m concerned, he is both black and Chicano.) We get to talk about stuff here that we don’t always talk about in a regular RC workshop.

Language: The way language oppression has affected me is that I mostly use English. It is what I learned to speak as a young person, although my parents spoke Spanish to each other. We have been hurt around language.

There is a lot to do here, a lot to discharge, so that we can continue to be intelligent and have very interesting, intentional lives. Many of us, whenever we have challenges in our lives, big or little, go around with the weight of the universe on our shoulders. It was a tragic event, and we carry it for years. We remember the uncle—that’s how he was, and this is what he did, and he drank. We hold grudges. The tragic events in our lives become life-killing events. But they don’t have to be. They can be interesting problems that we discharge about. And then we can move on. I am going to push us to not be stuck in the telenovela5 version of how we are supposed to end up.

We get to turn things around

We get to take things on6 with a different mindset. We get to choose a different point of view. Things are hard, yes, and tragedies happen in our lives, but that doesn’t get to stop us. We get to be happy, we get to be pleased with ourselves. We get to be pleased with each other and with the battle. Life is good, and we get to win—which is a new thought for many of us. The idea that we struggle and struggle and then we die, that somebody might remember us on a poster someplace—it doesn’t have to be that way. We get to win.

I am glad that you are here, and that we get to try this out with each other. We get to turn things around in a way that is going to be kind of fun. It’s kind of like running downhill. You can’t stop, and you keep running faster.

(Present Time 171, April 2013)


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Last modified: 2017-05-31 15:33:09-07