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