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Cihuatlatokan: Indigenous Women Building Community

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  • LAWolfe@xxx.xxx
    From: XColumn@aol.com To: AlbqX@aol.com Subject: Cihuatlatokan: Indigenous Women Building Community FROM UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE FOR RELEASE: WEEK OF JUNE 4,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 11, 1999
      From: XColumn@...
      To: AlbqX@...
      Subject: Cihuatlatokan: Indigenous Women Building Community

      FROM UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE
      FOR RELEASE: WEEK OF JUNE 4, 1999
      COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS by Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez
      INDIGENOUS WOMEN BUILDING COMMUNITY

      In indigenous societies, women are regarded as the transmitters of culture.
      Without an indigenous perspective, noted Sara Mendoza, community organizer
      and a
      student of ceremonial "danza Azteca," many women of Mexican origin do not
      believe they have a right to be in the United States, and they pass this on to
      their families. It becomes a legacy of oppression.

      She recently helped organize the four-day "Cihuatlatokan in Aztlan"
      gathering in a forest in Southern California. Its purpose: "is to build a
      newtwork of Indigenous Xicana women and to discuss issues affecting our
      barrios from
      an indigenous perspective."

      The work of the Cihutlatokan is to create a collective voice on issues
      affecting our communities and barrios locally and globally. The women that
      Mendoza, 25,
      works with -- whether with the collective or with elders discovering their
      indigenous roots -- "fight for sovereignty, with love of the Creator," she
      added.

      Native people from North, South and Central America are today no longer
      responding to attacks against them defensively. Instead, they are creating a
      consciousness within these communities of their connectedness to the land.
      "That's the foundation for organizing," Mendoza said. "It builds a spirit of
      righteousness." In the indigenous Mexican/Aztec language of Nahuatl, Cihua
      means
      woman, Tlatokan means place of dialogue, and Aztlan refers to their northern
      homeland.

      At last month's Cihuatlatokan gathering, a group of women, from elders to
      teen-agers, explored how to build their communities as strong indigenous
      women.
      Approximately 70 women gathered from Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador, and
      of course, "Chicanas from Aztlan," said Mendoza. "We broke down borders of
      exclusion."

      It was also an attempt to understand the process of globalization. "Economic
      globalization is a form of control over nature, people and culture," she said.

      At the gathering, they agreed, said Mendoza, that Cihuatlatokan will be "a
      network/union of free pueblos (peoples), communities and organizations." The
      Cihuatlatokan gathering was also a prelude to the third international
      conference
      of indigenous women in Panama in August. The collective will be sending 7
      delegates to attend and represent the cihuatlatokan and present a human
      rights report regarding Xicana Indigenous women in Aztlan. "Through the
      Cihuatlatokan, we're trying to be human beings again," she said.

      Intense political scapegoating this past decade against these communities
      has dehumanized and thrown these populations off balance. Only by building
      community, by reintroducing them to their original cultures can they heal and
      regain their spiritual balance, Mendoza believes.

      Despite hundreds of years of cultural colonialism, many of the people from
      these communities do indeed yearn for what was once theirs, said Mendoza. This
      past year, Mendoza helped bring back the Aztec tradition to one of Los
      Angeles's
      historic Eastside neighborhoods, the Aliso-Pico housing complex. There,
      seniors
      and children learned the dance tradition of their ancestors, culminating with
      a
      community-wide ceremony on December 11 and 12. "The community asked to be
      taught the danza," she said, noting that they each created their own Aztec
      ceremonial dress.

      Mendoza points out that her work "is to listen and to work to give 'palabra'
      (voice) to her community. That's the key to community work -- understanding
      that
      knowledge is already in people. The objective is simply to bring it out.

      "When you bring women together," she continued, "they share their strengths
      and begin to heal. The culture of a woman is defined by interconnectedness.
      When
      we taught danza to them, you never had a woman dance alone; they brought their
      children. We're all interconnected. That's the indigenous view. We reject
      individualism. We believe that sovereignty is within every individual and that
      our spirits are sovereign."

      In explaining the importance and relevance of ancient indigenous ceremonies,
      Mendoza related: "In the struggle to bring new life into our communities, we
      reflect upon the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors to guide our journey."

      All this is done with love, she said. And for her, the highest form of love
      is transmitting her knowledge to her 4-year-old daughter Kelatztli. "The
      Cihuatlatokan and all the other ceremonies I attend are for all the babies in
      our community. We are laying a foundation for them to grow from. We are
      redefining what a community is for us, since we have lost much of that basic
      knowledge.

      "One day my daughter will continue to redefine the Cihuatlatokan for her
      generation and as an indigenous woman take a little more of our Aztlan back."

      COPYRIGHT 1999 UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

      This is our prayer and honoring song for the women of Cihuatlatokan. We
      encourage readers to support their most important efforts, particularly as
      they prepare to travel to Panama. To be part of the collective,
      Xicana/Indigenous women are encouraged to contact them at: SMTeenLC@...

      Gonzales & Rodriguez can be reached at 505-242-7282 or XColumn@...
      Gonzales can be reached directly at 505-248-0092 or PatiGonzaJ@...
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