Chicano to Chilango

For a few days last week, I was a Chilango. This is the term used to designate residents of Mexico City. As a Chicano (a Mexican in the United States), I've been removed from my real and mythical root/source of Mexico most of my life (hampered by imposed/supposed borders). However, when I return to Mexico City, the layers of Mexicanness I've had all these years -- including speaking Spanish and even Nahuatl at times -- surfaces again, and I'm home.

I realize that Chicanos continue to embody these layers -- we start with our indigenous roots, with Aztlan and Anahuac, drawing on the genetic memory in our bones. We also take in the long struggle of Mexicans to create a nation, a people, a country, constantly throwing off conquerors, oppressors, thieves, and exploiters (a struggle that continues til this day).

Even though I lived in the US since the age of two, I'm very close and knowledgeable of all these struggles. As a child, my parents inculcated me with Mexican Spanish and stories of our Raramuri (Tarahumara) indigenous roots -- even as the US schools tried to beat the Spanish out of me (they never did) and tried to obliterate our history and our heritage.

I visited Mexico at age 11 as a "pocho" (a bleached out Mexican), a term used to denigrate those Mexicans who ended up in the United States (regardless of the reason). But I struggled to hang on to my Mexicanismo despite the repression and other pressures to turn away from this in the United States.

As an adult, starting in my late 20s, I revisited Mexico to take part in indigenous uprisings in Oaxaca and campesino takeover of lands and Mixteco native struggles against slavery in Baja California. In the late 1990s, I also made it back to my Raramuri roots in Southern Chihuahua, in the Sierra Tarahumara, even sleeping in caves, along with the more than 80,000 traditional Raramuri natives that my mother's family is descended from.

I also carry the layers of living the highly oppressive environment in the United States -- of being in the "belly of the beast," as the saying goes, in dealing with a material-based, immediate-gratification, consumer-oriented, capitalist economic and social realities we have to endure in the most powerful, richest country in the world.

Even now as the US moves toward Empire (the beginning of the end for the "America" as we know it, as has happened to all empires), I continue to draw from the intense struggles for freedom, equality, cooperation that working class people, African Americans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans (and other people) have tirelessly waged in this country.

I carry it all. And I feel connected to both Mexico and the United States in those aspirations, dreams, and battles of los de abajo -- the people at "the bottom."


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