Monday, February 28, 2011

Calligraphy Under the Cover of Night: Conversations

Calligraphy Under the Cover of Night

Of God you ask me?
Oh jaan I thought you knew by now.
Anarchy begins in the loins
they say:
I clamp palms in an unholy embrace
with men sculpted from shattered mirrors and
torn sheets of music.
If gluttony is sin, then I guess I am going to Hell
because I am shrouded by their veils
of rolled back eyes, taut skin, and twisted fingers
I have written psalms
to the waves of his breath with my smeared mascara
if God is your verse, then I sink into skin.
Would you still want me then?

You scribed psalms in the
neon ink of mascara,
a mascara of infinite sand his wavy breath trod upon,
sand that like chamber music flows out of
my hand,
this room,
and symphonic coronation.
Or did you trace into the sand?
The poetry of anarchy begins in the flower,
some miles away from the

that intersection of lines, that could be you or me
infinite variations on geometry called adam, hebrew for
first man,
add an ah of surprise for earth, dirt, almost
dust before springtime,
be my knife and peel for monosyllabic blood
dom is silence, and when we stand still for the dead.
Etymology’s poem forgot Eve in the beginning,
left to evolutionary silence,
until this eve:
pick a nocturnal flower.

Forgive me
but a jungle bear is in no need
of holy words
folded into יברעמה לתוכה
I watch you on your knees
pilgrimage to an oasis
called Jerusalem
whispers whispers
I watch your childhood
bent over your Abba’s withering
books. Fingers trace stories
of people who read grains of sand
and could tell you where to look for water.
I could never draw your words in sand
but I beg for answers instead:
where are those verdant lands
your God promised you?
How could you believe
when I am here
sitting in dried weeds
and burnt out cigarettes
waiting for the words
I love you
to tumble from his lips
didn’t your God create the world
in six days? Six days:
the days of a woman’s cycle
my lips are sealed as I dream
iron red dreams
blood damned between thighs
I have found your nocturnal flower
tucked in the folds of my sister’s blanket.
Tia Eva, yo llora para usted.

Six days. And on the seventh he dreamed,
if a god can dream:
be buried under laughter
and colors he’d never imagined.
If gods can imagine.
On the first day a grain of sand created God,
who looked in the mirror—a grain of sand—
and created all the other grains of sand.
On the second day a grain of sand created God,
who looked in the mirror—glass rubbed from sand—
and created all the other grains of sand.

On the third day...
You ask where is the milk and honey,
and the twinkle in my eye when I catch a springtime orchard,
under quivering, revolutionary colors of peels?
Arched within a sandy wind, somewhere,
perhaps still in Egypt.

Will you spend your afternoons pacing the Sahara
in pursuit of Paradise?

The anatomy of Paradise will reveal itself in echoes
as passing thunders chart gods,
the valley rewords the tambourines of women
on their way,
and women
passing under the clean cloth of sky,
corners upheld by four erect spines, from which
flutter outward the white pages.

woman veiled,
man sings
woman unveiled,

shattered glass ribs reveal black ink below,

(and all that comes after)
Now a window
sees a garden,
on the sill whistle outward pale pages called
ink nears,
dove rises to the roof:
the house a voice box in soprano.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

THe Post-Colonial Dilemma: Introduction


It is what has led to confusion of identity all over the world. Often post-colonial societies wonder how to preserve pre-colonial themes without being ashamed of being considered primitive and be able to compete in the globalized economy. There is so much shamed wrapped up in the dilemma of post-colonial issues. For example in several cultures, women were the cross-roads and the integral part of communication between White/ colonial members of society and native people who were being colonized. For example, La Malinche was the communicator between The Aztecs and the Spanish. Comfort women in India were the communicators and interpreters for the British officers so they understood Indian culture and its complexities. Sacajawea helped Lewis and Clark see the vastness of Western America. The reason I say shame is because it is often a lusty relationship. The indigenous woman is not just an interpreter(by indigenous, I mean in the context of colonialism. It was her place of birth and culture before Western influence of colonialism), she is also a lover. Fascinating isn't it that it is the woman, not the man who brings in the Western influence and diffusion of innovations in the contexts of colonialism? Why is this so? Many poets like Octavio Paz, would say the land itself is like a sweet virgin and the moment another culture with the attention of domination comes in, this exogenous culture is the chingado or the violator. Sex and gender plays an integral part to conquest because it is carnal, says the scholar. In fact, when I was listening to J. Ann Tickner speak earlier this year at American University about post colonial feminist issues, she described how old maps were designed. Countries like England were portrayed as White women sitting on swans, dressed in soft white place seated on a swan while Africa and Latin America were portrayed as naked women with large breasts, dark and supple seated on a wild animal.

See the difference?

I want to explore what it means to conquer, its process, what identity means both as a dominant culture and as a not as dominant, aggressive culture like colonial pressure, and then what that means to post-colonial society. Why study it? Well where do places like Africa and Asia and Occidental nation-states go from here when they were constructed from a colonial construct? What does it mean to be a post-colonial society? It matters because if we understand this sentiment, we can understand development and how to help distressed nations facing genocide fueled by tensions from colonial constructs. We can also see if conquest is inevitable or not. And if it is, how do we minimize damage? If it isn't how is it preventable? Should it even be preventable? This is part one to a several part series on cross-culture communication in terms of post colonial cultures and how they cope with inflicting identity and where they go from here. I know it is going to be an emotion, convoluted, and interesting journey. But I think it needs to be addressed.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I will forever be indebted with my high school. I have learned so much. It has made me who I am. Tell me which school lets a high school senior travel the world and not attend classes to understand what it means to be empowered as a woman? India, Spain, and Chiapas would have been a mere dream. Especially Chiapas. I was able to be a rebel with a cause and come to terms that it is perfectly fine to be agitated. But in a school in which I was able to explore post-colonial issues at my leisure in the library between classes, our institution was shrouded in the image of the INDIAN. Shady Side has a strong sports tradition. The symbol of the Indian is coveted, but during my junior year, the forum was opened so that students could voice their opinion on the Indian. This is what they said:

-We are paying tribute to Native people all over the United States. We re acknowledging their bravery and strength. They are commendable, strong people. We value them. That is why they are our mascot.

-it is a shady side tradition. We should not change it if it never was a concern. we have such pride in the symbol. it isnt Indian. Its Shady Side.

-Who cares?
This is what I Think as well as other students:

-For several years, the United States had genocide over genocide, exterminating and moving indigenous families around America. Native populations have been reduced to small numbers. In fact, Native peoples are not one people. They are several people. They are nations with different languages and dances and movements and religions. In the late 20th century, Native people united to reconstruct an identity that was a reaction to the years of colonialism of Native tribes. A Sioux Indian has very little in common with an Iroquois Indian or a Cherokee Indian yet they are lumped together. The mascot does not allow for any acknowledgement of the sovereignty of different Indian nations/tribes. Also, when schools has the INDIAN as the mascot, the symbol is always a Native Indian in Great Plains garb. It gives the illusion that all natives are the same and their culture is marked by long feathered head dresses and fringed suits. It is an incorrect description.

-The mascot does not really pay tribute to the Indian. It is a mockery to the Indian. Other teams in the leagues are wild cats and predatory fish such as the sharks. Placing a people in that category makes the Native look as though the group is part of the flora and fauna. It makes them sound as though they are wild and primitive and animalistic.

-We should be looking at a historical perspective. We should keep in mind history and compare and contrast to today. There are Native Americans around today. They do not look like the romantic image that is splayed across Shady Side banners. There is sorrow but hope in the reservations. There is a history of deceit. The image of the Indian on athletic ware gives the illusion that A. A native population is dead and we are honoring their ghosts. and B. that those who are in reservations are not "true" indians because they are not wearing headdresses. We have painted images as to what Native people are supposed to be like and those who do not fit those images are illegitimate.

-I understand that this is a tradition but keep in mind that traditions can change. We are constantly evolving. We acknowledge that we should not discriminate because of race, socio-economic status, gender, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation yet we have a Native American mascot? Something is not consistent hear but we can learn. And it is a concern because we are bringing up. Students voiced these concerns. People do care. That is why the discussion continues. The mascot is a mockery to indigenous people.

Does this look appropriate?

Contrast this video to a traditional pow-wow. See the difference? No war paint in the second video.

I hope we could change the mascot in my school. It is disappointing to see that the administration is not really taking strides to change the mascot. Their fear is the loss of funding. But I think we need to take that hit to illustrate that our school is conscious about social issues and is sensitive to issues. This is a battle for Native people because it is a small step of acceptance and acknowledgement for indigenous rights and legitimacy. I hope for the best.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why India Won't Be Having a Revolution Soon... Bollywood.

Tunisia. Yemen. Egypt. Bahrain. Libya. Every minute, my phone is buzzing with twitter updates about the pro-democratic marches from all over the Middle East. As this wave erupts, engulfing the Arab world, will it reach India? I pray but I know it will not happen.

First of all, why do I think India needs a revolution:

India is a diverse and huge nation-state. But what makes India diverse? The number of languages in India exceed anything seen anywhere else on Earth. More than 100 languages are spoken in India and I am not talking dialects. There are more than 1000 of those in my nation. These communities who speak these languages form microcultures but there are shared languages: English and Hindi are examples of this. India has several religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Budhism, Sikhism, and tribal religions. Under Hinduism, India suffers from the caste system. Although 80.5% of the nation is Hindu, Indian society itself suffers from the caste system. People are left to the streets with little care. Also as India expands on the global stage as a leading economy (5th largest economy in the world to be exact), the gap between the wealthy and the not so wealthy will grow and grow, stratifying its people. Now nothing is wrong with diversity. In fact is India's asset. It makes the country full of color and flavor. But due to the diversity, micro-cultures get caught up in itself. Especially on the bureaucratic level. Each province has a full-fledged government. But India has a multi party system so prominent parties in the area must have a voice in even the province level. So nothing really happens on a micro and macro scale in India. Why? Because of all the power struggles in all domains in India. Let me break it down for you. Even on the province level, a party tries to take control of the province. But because there are so many parties present: both state and national, its hard to have one group having a presiding voice. So politicians use tactics that are not so ethical: money laundering, corrupt ways of getting money for the organization and for personal gain. So why does India need a revolution. Simple: corruption. How is there corrution and what does it mean? Well if there is no electricity on a street for example, the state gives money to the Province. The province pockets that money until its officials are bribed by the citizens of the street and then fix the issues. On a micro scale there is corruption like what I described. And on a macro scale, money from the government does not really line up. Public construction projects are never completed because the government says they do not have any money. Example: The Commonwealth games. Why would India propose being the host if they did not have the money? They did have the money but because of money laundering and pocketing money, the Indian government 'lost' the money reserved for construction for the games. In the Indian, India looked bad for not completing construction on time. But why is this an issue if corruption seems to be everywhere? Well its because this corruption occurs in the cross-roads of India. The money laundering occurs everywhere but because of such interest within ones own community, a person in Andhra, South India is not aware of the issues in New Delhi, the capitol. India needs a revolution to reunite the country. India is such a prosperring place. It is so full of bright minds, but those bright minds are leaving our country. We need to keep those people in India to help the country and fix the corruption issues to money can be utilized in education reform and benefits for the poor, the widows, the children. We need to reunite India.

But This is why India will not a Revolution:

1. The differences between us is just so overwhelming where would we begin?

2. Bollywood. (I promise to explain)

1. How do we begin a revolution when languages are not shared. Neither are customs or religions or traditions or what makes a strong government. Where do we begin?

2. Interest. If we look at India, there are images of the West berrated all over the country. The best way: Bollywood. Now Bollywood is India's pride and joy. India cranks out the most number of films in the entire world. The musical numbers make India the global center of entertainment. But its backfiring on India. Why? Well first of all the films are never really made in India or they have large scenes and references to Europe of the US. These films almost never address the poverty issues in India or the way women are often treated as second hand citizens in the rural areas of India. The films are full of sultry women in tight pants strolling around the streets of London and fall in love with a Desi lad. The films illustrate the face of prosperity. Never what the caste system does to the community. Never what rape does to the community. Never what corruption does for the community. The films illustrate that life is happy go lucky in Europe and the US. Don't get me wrong. The films are very Indian in the fact that they describe virtues of Indians such as dignity and family. But they are often in the contexts of European and American cultures. You can be Indian any where else in the world. But you are somewhere else because the country itself is riddled with problems. This mentality is found everywhere in India. Schools in India are madly competitive and the curriculum is set up in such a way so that when the student graduates, he is gifted with knowledge about the US and Europe and how to function in those cultures. The skills he learn are so proned to Western society. He becomes a foreigner in his own country due to the education he recieves. Look at my own father. Similar to many Indians around the world. My dad came from a village. He had no electricity. He studied and read. But one day he saw a black and white film about Indians in California and how beautiful and prosperous life was across the sea but he could still be proud to be indian as he saw in the films. He studied in governmental schools that were all taught in English and he had lessons on how to use spoons and forks and learned idioms for his new life in the US. He now lives here in "Amreeka" with fellow Indians who set up communities here. He has no interest to live in India. He has his little India here. This little India has no caste issues. No poverty. No gender stratification. Yet in his home country, all of these are present. The brain drain, fueled by images of prosperity, made my dad come here and be even prouder to be Indian. And this is why I say Bollywood is the problem. Because it manifestated an ideal that Indians can be anywhere and still be proud of their heritage while the country suffers. It is the perfect manegerial tool! The government officials can do what it wants to because the intelligent people have left and are not really questioning. But a couple days ago Prime Minister Singh said that he will crack down on corruption. These are promises. But they were states so the bright Indians across the sea will say: see we do not need to worry about India. But I worry about my country. I want to go back and help my nation.
India needs a revolution. Because it is divided. Because money is being lost and utilized for indecent purposes and is not being invested in the communities. But we can only do this. We can change the mentality of India by having dialogues with those who were part of diasporas. Here on campus we have an Indian organization that does NOTHING but watch Bollywood. THis is the perfect forum to talk about the truth with India. Why are we not doing this? We can. We must. This is the only way. If we can understand our country from across the ocean, we can help India much more. We must be engaged and see that India has a lot to offer. We can only do this by not paying attention to popular media. We need to stop believing films that everything is fine and dandy. We need to open our eyes and see the issues on the streets. In our homes. In us. Jai Hind. Jai Hind. We can only bring splendor to India.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I love chocolate. I worship it. The butter in the seeds make it melt on your tongue. It is the most sensual food on the planet and has been for centuries. On Sunday I went to the National Museum of the Native American and celebrated the history and wonders of chocolate. I learned about how it is harvested along the delecate neck of Meso America. But what fascinated and agitated me was listening to Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro, one of the geneologists at the Mars company who developed a type of cocao tree that instead of producing the original 450 kg per hector, his GMO can produce 1700 kg per hector. Sounds wonderful. Sounds like more chocolate. But Shapiro makes the claim, producing more chocolate will enable native people in West Africa and Latin America to stop cutting trees in the rain forest to plant more cocao trees. It will also ease up child labor and kids will go to school because the more the family is making, the more the less they need kids to work in the fields because the productivity is so high that families can start focussing on other aspects of life such as education. And sanitation. But will this lead to a great impact? One for possitive change? Perhaps. But not really.

Why? Well just because 4.5 billion people that grow the cocoa on 2-3 hectors of land in the world can produce more cocoa does not mean that they will make sure their children attend school or stop cutting trees in the rainforest. I think the GMOs are a great start. But progress for the elimination of child labor and more attendence in schools and the preserving of biodiversity in rain forests will not occur is native governments do not instill legislation in their country to make illegal for children to work and not attend school or legislation that protects rain forests from any more damage. Now when I asked Shapiro if his company had the authority to address issues about sustainability and child labor laws to the governments they are trading with. Shapiro said no. That they were buying from chocolate brokers. But then I asked him, then sir, wouldn't that make you the consumer? Don't you have all the power in this industry and are the most empowered by choice? And as the largest consumer of raw cocoa in the world, don't you have the authority to reject a country's supply of cocao unless they complied to some guidelines the industry set up? He was silent.
But there are great steps the organization is making. For example Mars Inc. is working with the Rainforest Alliance to certify chocolate as sustainable. More yields mean less chance of disease in the plants. Also the chocolate is sustainable if the farmers are not cutting any more trees. What guarantees that the farmers are not clearing any more land for private property. But as I have read it it does not really ensure that new farmers will stop cutting down trees. The sutainable label is applicable for farmers right now who have 3 hectors of land on average each. But what if more people want to farm because it is a lucrative business? Its a label for individual farmers but does not concern how rapid the agribusiness is growing. Nevertheless, its a good step and brings awarness to these issues. Hopefully the industry will keep redrafting its policies.

I wish Mars would do what one of their competitors, Cadbury, is doing and build schools and community centers for their workers in West Africa. Invest in the communities! This is what development is all about! To develop a region one must invest in the schools not just in the economic sector! Its like economic sustainability. Or communal sustainability! When I asked him about education programs supported by Mars, he responded "this is not a charity". Sometimes I wonder...

Don't forget where your chocolate comes from. Remember it comes from a terra cotta pod that is fecund and tight with bitter fruit that is dried and fermented and handled in a tradition that has not changed much from century to century. Remember that the chocolate that melts on your tongue is often once passed by the bean by a little boy in Ghana to his father in a 3 hector farm. Remember as the consumer we can be the change we want to see.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Was Machiavelli Right?

Was Machiavelli right in his theory? In THE PRINCE Machiavelli describes a regimen on how a prince should behave when it comes to leadership. Alliances are weak he says. Never be in an alliance unless you have the upper hand or you will always have to be answering to someone else. He also said that instilling fear is important or the opposing party will not respect you or overthrow you. My favorite quote in The Prince is "you should seem to be compassionate, trustworthy, sympathetic, honest, religious, and indeed, be all these things; but at the same time you should be constantly prepared, so that, if these become liabilities, you are trained and ready to be their opposites". Sounds like what the Pilgrims did. They were able to be flexible. Is this similar to the paradigm of Todorov we explored earlier? In this situation, is colonialism about deceit in order to survive?
The feast of Thanksgiving is not your happy Hallmark card. It is a story of betrayal, of bloodshed. So what is the real story? Why does it matter? What does it mean in the realms of IR theory? Well when the Pilgrims first came to the "New World", after the first winter, 1/2 of their population passed away. 50 people are so remained. The Wampanoag people who lived in the area saw how the pilgrims were interacting. They realized that the pilgrims were not so much of a threat. Why? Because they were dying off, were starving, and had brought along women in children. From a cross cultural perspective, the natives believed women and children should not be involved in warfare. It was exogenous to their customs so they did not see the immigrants as malicious. Massasoy, the tribal leader of the Wompanoag believed that they should make an alliance with the pilgrims because they saw how strong their weaponry was. Massasoy was afraid that other tribes in the Massachusetts area would harm his tribe because of the dwindling numbers of Wompanoag in the region due to an epidemic. He needed support. He was able to make a strong alliance with the pilgrims. They were in need. A treaty was negociated in which the English settlers would protect Massasoy's tribe while the Wampanoag must teach the colony how to farm and live off the land. The alliance was strong and peaceful. Massasoy and his tribe were under the protection of the English and the English learned the skills of the land. There was a mutual respect and gratification. They began to adapt each others way of living to their own. Indian language, furs, and cooking methods were used by the Pilgrims while the Wampanoag had guns and steel for daggers.

But more and more settlers started coming in! And land was being taken from the Indians Massasoy and his people were being cheated. Endemics due to exogenous pathogens killed the native population. Puritans believed this was a message from their god that they had the right of ownership to Indian land. If we play off the Sapir-Wharf linguistic theory that language shapes perception, the word for 'my earth' to the natives is 'natakwey' which means the earth is me and I am the earth. It does not translate to I own the Earth. Native populations didnt understand why the English wanted to own land for status because in their own culture, everyone was entitled to land because they were a fragmant of the earth. Natives were cheated. After Massasoy passed away, his son Phillip came to power. Phillip was sick of being treated like a second class citizen. The pilgrims attempted to take his guns, his religion, his corn, his land, and his livelihood. There was only one thing to do. And that was to lash out. But soon the battle was lost. The English butchered Indian villages and took the land for good. There was nothing left but vacant land for the settlers to build on.

I am not sure that they the Pilgrims had to be deceiving in order to survive. Something tells me there is more to this story. Let us explore. Was it all about power struggle? From this example it seems so. The Indians were cheated out. They did not have suffient weaponry. They were not strong enough. And by strong I mean cunning and powerful at the same time. Machiavelian tactics were utilized in this chapter of New England history. I think conquest is inevitable here. The end result was going to happen. You have a people who live on land and worship it with organic objects for defence while an exogenous determined people with steel guns want the very land the native population is on, you know what is going to happen. But the time it took and the stallings are variable. Now wer reflect and feel bad. That is why documentaries are made about these events. So we can watch and shake our heads in disbelief. But 100-200 years ago, that sentiment would not be there. Machiavelli's theory is inevitable. But that does not make it right. People are still people. Even if there are such differences. But to the colonies, Indians were not people. They were savage. They needed to be tamed. Egocentrism was the fuel to the fire.

Sin Bullshit: History From the Ground Up

Imagine two cars collide: and and them. Two cars in the middle of the street. Metal strewn around the street, your arms ache as your head throbs from sirens. A police officer gets out of his car, blue and red lights glinting everything in site. You watch the sheriff approach the other car and lean into the window, inquiring about what happened for his report. The questions are done. You watch the police officer walk back to his car, switch of the lights, and drive away. No one ever asked for your story. That is what it feels like during every incident, every moment of history for those who are marginalized. Their stories are never heard. History is a series of car crashes. Whose side do you listen to?

As a student, I read texts. I read books that have been written often with one voice. Often one prespective. Imagine our elementary school days when we read about the great Indians who roamed the plains. Did they ever mention the gangs in Lakota reservations in which frustrated youth beat each other up for sport? How how about the environmental degradation occurring on land that is supposed to protecting by the US government for Native Communities. How is this not taught? Why are we not speaking of genocide when we acknowledge the American past? Language is so very important. According to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, our language affects our perceptions. If we do not utilize the rhetoric and say what our history really is, we will never be able to understand what happened in this country 100-200 years ago. We will not understand that slavery was the pulling of people, forced diaspora of other people. If we do not use the proper language, we will continue to behave unjustly as a society and force diasporas on individuals because we have not learned from our mistakes.

We must listen. This is why anthropology is so important. This is why ethnographies are so important. We must read from the ground up. Put a face to the issue. If we do not, we will continue to commit the same crimes towards humanity: the manipulation of truth and forced displacement of other people.Be a critical listener. It is time to listen. It is time to hear the other side of things. It is time. Our journey begins here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Preface: Nastolgia. Where do I go?

Growing up, I loved visiting the museum. Especially the Native American I was fascinated by the embroidered cloth that draped the great warrior. His sculpted face drew me into his powerful warrior eyes. But I could never find his flesh twin. Where are the Indians? I could never find these 'noble savages' walking among us. I connected the dots while reading about the genocide that occured 100-200 years ago. The fact we do not use this terminology illustrates that people do not really understand what has happened. They just... dissapeared. Convinient for history. Why are they featured in the NATURAL history museum. It gives me the impression that Native nations were once a part of the flora and fauna of the land. As is they are as fascinating and curious as the very buffolo the Sioux hunted. Also, if we are talking about this history of a people, why then aren't there exhibitions about German Americans who came to this country due to diaspora and their integration? Why not the farming techniques of the Dutch who tilled American land? Why not the history of people who have made America? Why the savage in the headress in every museum?

The Native communities today do not have members strutting around in headresses all day. There are Native Americans. They are not the the romantic images of our past. I wonder if they really were. In a book I am reading called EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE INDIAN IS WRONG by Paul Chaat Smith, Smith comes to this conclusion:

Indians have been erased from the master of narrative and repleaced by the cartoon images that all of us know and most of believe. At different times the narrative has said we didn't exist and the land was empty; then it was mostely empty and populated by fearsome savages; then populated by noble savages who couldn't get with the progra; and on and on. Today the equation is Indian = spiritualism and environmentalism. In 20 years it will be something else. It is everything but it does not make us fully human (20).

This quote confuses me because I sometimes romantically describe Chiapas, full of nastolgia. I hope more than anything that I describe them with respect. I want more than anything to connect with a displaced people because it must be done. Why? We are human. This is our story. All I know is that I am frustrated with the constant cheating and lying from the administration of Indian Affairs and the history of theft. Justice must be served. I do not know how. Tribes desire sovereignty. Can the United States provide the Lakota sovereignty over the area of Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming? Probably not. But something must come. There must be change. Why? Because what is happening not just. I am frustrated about the situation and I want to come to more closure about the issue. How? Well, I think like this: the more we study the symbols in our daily rituals, the more we dig into anthropology. The more we dig into anthropology, the more we can understand humanity. The more we understand humanity, the more we can understand the relations that build this world, tame this world, and set fire to this world. Maybe. That is why I study. To understand. This is the beginning. I hope. Maybe I am being to Panglossian: thinking that I can come to terms with this struggle. But how would I know if I do not try. And so I begin this journey to come to terms with what it means to be marginalized and the allegory of the 'noble savage'.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Voy Caminando: And I keep Walking

The man who finds his country sweet is only a raw beginner; the man for whom each country is as his own is already strong; but only the man for whom the whole world is as a foreign country is perfect

-Tzetan Todorov.

Is this a quote about the global nomad? Is this the ultimate sense of universality? That we need to treat all people the same and not get tied down to these imagined communities that are wrapped up in sovereignties and national pride? The term global nomad is not about universality. Its about the individual. Its an attitude. Saying that you are a global nomad is a reflection on the self and not as the collective because the global nomad, if we follow Todrov's logic, is not tied down to a nation. He or she can pick him or herself up and drift.
And this is where we come to La Malinche.
Why is it that every tableau of the native female describes a woman who is her so called ambassador for her people. It is not just some professional diplomatic self to her people. She also does it because of love. And when I say love, I mean lust. She is entrapped or she entraps him the blankito and releases her secrets of her people. Is she the global nomad? Is it about self interest? I mean power struggle is constant. So do we try to win in a hopeless situation? Is that the global nomad? Well in my opinion, the global nomad is an attitude that would not just be one person in society. The reason La Malinche is held to this standard of "betrayer" is because she understood the fluidity of bounderies. Her love and sex life became public for future generations forever because of the diplomatic position she had among her people. She was a global nomad because she was neither tied to her Aztec people of Spanairds. Regardless of what people tell you. Why else would she have acted in those ways? She did not answer to one world power over the other at the end of the day. I think we should all be like La Malinche. We should be global nomads. What is a sovereignty? IR theories of realism and liberalism often leave out a major structure of sovereignty: CULTURE. Why is it that the Zapatistas wanted their own region? They shared a "struggle" and mode of living. If we can understand the fluidity of culture, we can understand the imagined communities that are nations. Too much national pride adds to even more convolusion.

When it comes to me, I consider myself a global nomad because I have been raised by my Indian nationalist parents on US soil and became a woman in Mexico. I have no place to call home. And I am happy with that because I realize that I will have an open mind. I will be able to walk through doors and look behind only to dream of memories but I will not be too sad over the loss of a "home country". I use the system. I have an American passport. I have American opportunities and rights. But do I really have a burning love for this nation? No. I guess I am your La Malinche. Using your nation so that I can keep walking.

La Malinche: The Mother of Crucified Woman

In Chavela Vargas' song La Llorona, she sings "yo soy como el chili verde, llorona, picante, pero sabroso"
I am like a green chilli: spicy, but delicious.
I think this is the mantra of La Malinche and every intelligent woman who is in the midst of duty and pleasure.

What fascinates me is representation of these women. She is both the mother and the raped or the chingona. She was violated. Some people say that La Llorona did not have a choice in the matter. She was weak. The name La Llorona signifies this sentiment. But at the same time, she is strong, she is the suductress. Those lips, those eyes, the fiercity in her tongue. She is the mother of a bastardized land. Did she abandon her people? Was she selfish? To me, La Malinche will not be one or the other: weak or whorish. She is strength to me. Strong women find themselves fighthing themselves at the end. They are glorified for their intelligence and prized for their beauty like a jewel. But they are judged as possession. That is the mistake. They are not treated as women. If they refuse a man, she is a harlot. If she sleeps with him, she is a harlot. This is the ascribed identity of a La Malinche. And trust me, there are several of these mujeres walking amogst us: Cleopatra, Frida, Ms. Monroe, our mothers, even you.

But what we need to realize is that these women were women. Not gods. Not monsters. Women. They were full of life. Full of determination, love, lust, youth. Women who defy the norm are automatically categorized. But we are not weak. We are not La Llorona. We are La Malinche. Women of our own destiny. Choices we make are not for any man. In my mind, La Malinche, although lost her name, stole Cortes'. She became the face as he became the raper. I am not glorifiying La Malinche. I am paying homage. To me, La Malinche is not just a mother or a weeper. She is strength. She is intelligence. She had a duty to herself and no civilization and no man. How dare empire after empire puts her on trial. Trials in which men stand up and point the finger at a woman with hair thicker then huipiles. As my mother always says men will always point fingers, but it is up to us to hang our heads in shame or hold our backs tall and take the arrow with pride. But must we lose at the end? Have we? Have we coquetas lost everything? No. We are the winners at the end of the day. We live in songs, poetry, cantina songs in bars tucked in verdant Chiapaneca hills. That is where we live. We live between heaven and hell. We are Las Malinches de La Tierra. The Malinches of the Earth.

Todrov in part 2 of THE CONQUEST OF AMERICA makes the argument that the Spaniards were able to conquer the Aztecs successively because they were able to communicate in the forums of interhuman communications. In fact, Todrov said on page 104, that "Communication among the Aztecs is above all a communication with the world". It was too holistic and left room for Spanaird manipulation.

I agree with him from a cultural anthropoligal persepective but what needs to be added is the fact that the Spaniards were able to manipulate the fact that Aztecs did not hold so much of an importance on interhuman communication as the Spanairds did in retrospect to other forms of communication such as communication with the Glods. The identities ascribed in Aztec societies were beyond the human domain. Gods could walk and Earth and were political actors in Aztec society. Everything was read into. Todrov describes the Aztec documentation of the sizes of fish or the swallowing of a fisherman by an aligator (p. 94). Omens were everywhere to the Aztecs. In fact, there were men who were trained to read these omens and decipher what it meant (p. 79). There was a cultural hierarchy with several systems. The Aztecs looked at history cyclically. So when Cortez came, Moctezuma was terrified that Cortez was a god who was once a Toltec, the civilization the Aztecs conquered. Moctezuma was not confident because he was afraid of exogenous attacks because it
was mentioned in history and in legends that the Gods would take action.

Now the Spaniards on the other hand had a great resource. La Malinche. A woman who will be forever be revered and hated in Mexican history. She was the intelligent interpreter who was the lover of Cortez who was able to narrate to Cortez the stories and attitudes of the Aztec people. So not much was a priori to the Spanairds. They were able to focus on interhuman connections with Malinche and other Indians who were on the fringes of Aztec society. They were the minorities that were marginalized by the powerful state of the Aztecs. The Spanairds were able to decifer signs that the Aztecs decifered thanks to internal connections to the Aztecs. But since they had that knowledge they were able to manipulate it. The best example is when Moctezuma and Cortez are climbing the stares of the palace and Moctezuma is tired. Cortez knows that the Gods never feel pain in the Aztec religion so he says that he is not tired. He is ascribing the identity of GOD with his action. He is duping Moctezuma because he is making himself look like the divine (114).

Of course Cortez had guns, germs, and steel on his side to conquest the Aztecs. But the manipulation of the knowledge of signs led them to the position to assert the 3(GGS) in the first place.