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FW: [SACC-L] Cihuatlatokan: Indigenous Women Building Community

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    ... From: LAWolfe@aol.com [SMTP:LAWolfe@aol.com] Sent: Friday, June 11, 1999 8:44 PM To:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 12, 1999
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: LAWolfe@... <mailto:LAWolfe@...> [SMTP:LAWolfe@...]
      Sent: Friday, June 11, 1999 8:44 PM
      To: SACC-L@onelist.com <mailto:SACC-L@onelist.com>
      Subject: [SACC-L] Cihuatlatokan: Indigenous Women Building Community
      From: LAWolfe@... <mailto:LAWolfe@...>

      From: XColumn@... <mailto:XColumn@...>
      To: AlbqX@... <mailto:AlbqX@...>
      Subject: Cihuatlatokan: Indigenous Women Building Community

      COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS by Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez
      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
      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
      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
      "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
      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
      "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
      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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