This summer changed my view of what it means to be Mexicana, Latina, Chicana. This is the second of three columns about my growth in this sense over the past couple months. Read the first column here.
It’s Sept. 5. I left school early because I was sick and couldn’t focus on my classes. I came home and did some homework and went to sleep. When I woke up, my mom was home with junior Jacqueline Chao (for whom we are providing housing) and told me that she would be going to the Capitol to protest with my father. I asked her why. She told me that DACA had been rescinded.
It’s been less than one year since President Donald Trump took office. He hasn’t accomplished much since then. My dad says that Trump is hateful and intolerant but on the whole doesn’t do much.
We saw this coming from the beginning. In the days after he was elected, I wrote my first blog about this exact situation occurring. I wrote about how scared people would be. I wrote about how much hate there would be.
This summer I attended a conference in Sacramento called the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, or CLYLP for short. Nothing I have ever experienced has changed my view of the world or opened my eyes any more than that week at Sacramento State.
I have so much to say about this conference – so much to gush about, rant about – that I can’t say it all here. I hope you email me (at firstname.lastname@example.org) or talk to me in person with questions – I’d love to talk more about it.
For now, I’ll emphasize the pride I learned in my people, for who I am, for where I come from. I identify as Chicana – Latina and Americana – and I am proud of my roots. Chican@ is a term of empowerment. It’s also a term of resistance – resistance to the racism brown people have faced. It’s also a term of unity – not just Mexican-American, but also Salvadoran-American – not just brown power, but also black power and female power. I am proud to be Chicana.
I am also proud to be American. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I have always loved that the United States is the land of hope and dreams; it’s the land of the free, home of the brave. Unfortunately, when Trump was voted into office, I was less proud.
I was not so proud that when people thought of the United States, they thought of institutional racism – the easiest to mask, the easiest to hide behind. It’s a coward’s racism.
A few months ago I was in the car with my mom and we were listening to NPR. We were probably listening to Latino USA, and the podcast was about these churches in the Northeast that are harboring undocumented people and trying to get them across the Canadian border. I almost started bawling right there and then. America has always been the place to be; the fact that people were escaping to Canada was devastating.
Now DACA recipients are being told to flee. They gave their information to the government, and now they could be tracked down and deported.
So the day after Labor Day, Trump announced that he is taking away protections granted to children who came here by no fault of their own and who have been working and helping the economy for years. Most of these people don’t remember what their home country was like – the United States is their home, and it has been for their whole lives. Well, these people aren’t going quietly. Chican@s all over the country will not let them go quietly. Neither will I.
Here’s another tidbit from CLYLP: racism evolves. I have heard countless times that the United States is no longer racist, that racism doesn’t exist here anymore. Well, if racism means segregation of public school, if it means lynchings and disappearances, then, yes, it’s mostly gone.
But the fact is that racism looks different now than it did a century ago. Racism looks like people using the term “illegal alien.” A person cannot be illegal. The term “alien” is dehumanizing. By using the term “alien” you are demonizing, villainizing immigrants.
Racism looks like the United States voting a white supremacist into office, despite all the disgusting things he’s said about and done to women. That doesn’t reflect on Trump. That reflects on the society in which we live. That is the reality of the situation.
Trump’s decision to redact DACA – that’s his choice. How did his signature get so powerful? Look around. That was our choice.
This poem is not a positive one. I’m really angry. I didn’t write the poem today. At the moment I can’t remember when I wrote it. Some of this poem is in Spanish. I trust you, reader, to be able to handle that.
What is Aztlán? Aztlán is the legendary homeland of one sect of the Aztecs, the Mexica. Legend states that Aztlán was due north of Lake Texcoco, and many speculate that Aztlán was in the modern-day southwestern United States. Aztlán had a major place in the Chican@ Movement of the ’60s and ’70s, as Chican@s claimed this land as their ancestral homeland, and that they, therefore, had a right to be here.
They’re painting Aztlán.
Now it’s a pearly white.
It almost glows.
¿Como se creen?
Piensan que con pintar nuestra sociedad,
Esta es nuestra tierra –
Y estamos aquí para siempre,
Because we are here to stay.
Don’t let them whitewash our paradise.
No les dejes pintar Aztlán blanco.
—By Gabi Alvarado