Remembering Chavez

As the state of global and national politics becomes increasingly heart wrenching I reflect on my enthusiasm for change and my willingness to imagine another world. I was inspired by then having returned from the World Youth Festival in August 2005 themed “Against war and imperialism, We fight for peace and solidarity.” And the fight for peace and solidarity continues on… here was my report back originally published in La Palabra, UC Davis Associated Student Papers, fall 2005:

The World Youth Festival is a conference that takes place every four years in different countries that the Global Federation of Democratic Youth approves by consensus. The FMJD has general meetings that Anti-Imperialist organizations from 35 different countries participate and organize the World Youth Festival. So it is no surprise that the FMJD voted unanimously to hold this year’s festival in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with its new found people-first government.

The purpose of the festival is not only to educate organizers, activist and students alike in global issues affecting people of color but also to provide a motivation to organizers, especially in a setting like Venezuela where it is being proven that another world is possible –a world that puts people over profit.

Venezuela democratically elected a socialist president who transformed the country by proposing a new Bolivarian Constitution that was approved by the Venezuelan people.  This has allowed the President, Hugo Chavez, to put in place a humanitarian government that has developed a popular political consciousness. It is because of the Bolivarian government that Venezuela was able to house will hold their first World Youth Festival and their first World Social Forum in January 2006. In Fact, the president himself spoke at the Inauguration of the Festival against Imperialism on the 9th of August, which marked the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedy caused by imperialist acts.

The theme of the Conference was “Against war and imperialism, we fight for peace and solidarity.” Four stations were designated in Caracas. Fuerte Tiuna was one of the military bases that people went to when there was an attempted coup against Hugo Chavez. Throughout the festival workshops, seminars and forums there focused on Peace, War and Imperialism. The workshops held in the Bolivarian University of Venezuela focused on education, culture, science and technology –which fit the resources available in the university. Parque Central is the central commercial complex in the heart of the capital and their focus was on employment, economy and development. Finally, The Teresa Carreño Theatre held workshops on Democracy and Humyn Rights.

Although the workshop stations were in Caracas, people from all over the world were housed in different areas in Venezuela –sometimes even outside of the state that the conferences were held due to the amazing turn out. Some people of the United States Delegation, like me, were housed in Los Teques in the state of Miranda in a military base called Pan de Azucar. Like many others, I was hesitant to stay at a military base but we soon learned that the military of Venezuela has anti-imperialist outlook and have their own social programs for the people of Venezuela.

The Military has a symbiotic relationship with the people and serve as social agents that have a political and social consciousness. The Military of Venezuela has farmer markets, health care clinics and cultural events in rural or underserved communities. The Military also nationalizes citizens that have been neglected by previous governments. Nationalized people with identification cards have access to healthcare, education and food programs. Throughout the Festival military men and womyn served as security, organizers, hosts in the military bases, and facilitators in certain workshops.

Aside from the workshops, part of the festival was to visit the provinces and learn about social programs that Venezuela is working toward. I was fortunate enough to visit Puerto La Cruz in the state of Anzoatagui. We were housed in a hotel that used to be corporate owned and is now the government’s property for functions such as this one. The morning we arrived from our 5 hour trip from Los Teques, we were fed arepas and freshened up to see the Governor of Anzoategui, Tarek William Saab speak. Having no understanding of local or state politics of Venezuela, I was surprised to hear a public official speak about US intervention in Latin America –country after country with a hope for revolution and US president after US president that has intervened.  He emphasized the importance of solidarity from the people of the States as well as people of Latin America that were present.

During the trip we met people of different parts of the hemisphere as we visited the Military Academy of Anzoategui and some of the Missions. The Missions are social programs run by communities with resources available from the government. There are food stores that are similar to what we know as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) but are low price for everyone and free for people of low income. Misión Rivas and Robinson focus on the anti-illiteracy campaign and the accessibility of education by using Cuba’s educational model. The Healthcare Mission is also modeled after Cuba’s great health care system. In the past, Venezuela’s health care has concentrated on cosmetic surgery because of the Miss Universo pageants that have won time and time again and now Cuba is doing their part in training and sending doctors to focus on basic health care that was once absent from many underserved and impoverished areas. People are also sent to Cuba to get surgery on their cataracts and are operated at no cost.

After visiting Anzoategui, we returned to Caracas for the Anti-Imperialist Tribunal held in Poliedro, one of Venezuela’s large stadiums. It was at the Anti-Imperialist Tribunal that I became a Chavista.

Chavez spoke out against the atrocities that the United States government has committed against innocent people but made a clear distinction between the people of the United States and its government. In his testimony, he went into detail about the coup against him in 2002 that the United States corporations clearly took part in. The US government was the first nation to acknowledge the new president put in place. He told the delegates that in his defeat he walked the streets of Caracas when a womyn grabbed him by the arm and told him to follow her. She walked him to the very top of the impoverished hills of the city to find her house. He saw her children and husband gathered around a fire in the living room with no light because of the corporate strikes intended to decrease Chavez’ popularity. The womyn told him, “You see that wood that is cooking my food?”
”Yes,” he said intimidated. “That’s my bed, the last of my furniture. And I will burn this house down to feed my family…. But don’t you give up, carajo!” she said to him. He said it was then that he knew that he had to do everything in his power to restore quality of life for all people, starting with Venezuela.

After the Tribunal, someone asked me where I was from. “I am a Chicana from the United States,” I said. “From the United States? Let me ask you something. Why hasn’t there been a revolution in your country? Do you not know everything your country has done?” That question gnaws at my very conscious everyday to know that living in the States we have a social responsibility for the harm our government has done. Why hasn’t there been change in the States like in Venezuela?

a yearning for spirit rooted activism

I belong to a change-making community. I co-exist with co-creators and visionaries with the audacity of imagining other world of possibilities. Alternately, I have co-habited with people who treat dreamers like me with contempt.

I am often hurt by the frequented injustice that we experience both intimately and publicly. I am horrified by the ugliness and the pain that oppression breeds within us. I am confronted with poverty, violence and addiction in the place I call my community just as it has crept into my relationships and my own body.

Still. I hold on to the inspiration of change-making in the way art-making provides a medium to channel a thought/idea/feeling. I struggle with identifying my previous work as a community organizer. I could not live up to my title or meet my numbers in those instances when my oppression had not been reconciled and yet my position was to hold space for those I sought to be of service to. It isn’t a cheesy cliche to say change starts within.

My ego resisted that growth. I believed I was ready because my desire and analysis were on fire. But the unhealed parts of myself surfaced and inundated my being with tides and currents that swept me back into deep parts of my unconscious where I knew injustice in a different way -where a tight analysis could no longer protect me from feeling the pain of it.

The kind of organizing I idealized was methodical and structured. Not a space where healing and change making can unravel simultaneously in the way art making had served me. So I stepped away and dove in.. immersed into my whole self -including the parts of me that hurt and are flawed. In doing so, I churned out massive visions of change-making, art-making and healing in community spaces. My process naturally gravatated toward making lists, proposals and flow charts but this time had spirit in its center.

It’s clear to me that I had tapped into a collection of synergetic visions and the frameworks for actualizing these spaces, projects and campaigns have yet to be constructed.

Movement and change as we know it is not sustainable. The greatest power we have offered our oppressors is to institutuionalize the radical idea that we are human and we have power in our unity. Post civil rights movement and the attempted economic and racial integration in the states ushered in the era of modern globalization, addiction, and the loss of identity as a community. The birth of fractionalized corporate sponsored change. I don’t want make change in a paradigm of hierchy, where deliverables matter more over peoples stories and desires.

Let me be straight up: i want to occupy a space the idea of balance and respect between and among all genders is the norm. I want to live in a way that is not toxic -not emotionally or physically.. Not toxic to our bodies, the earth or its creatures and elements. I want organize in a way that honors spirit -where protocol isn’t prioritized over prayer -where spirit is the trustful knowing within and not what a book says -where all participants are equal in their position in the space -Where prayer can be a political action and spirituality is about creativity and where nature and our intuition converge.
It is possible. We had such spaces before. We can still. We have a morsel of knowledge about how our ancestors organized themselves. we can reclaim that knowledge and allow for the evolution and creativity to recreate such spaces.

Counsils of concentric circles of children, elders, women, men and artists, philosophers, scientists, leaders, engeneers, mathmeticians, representatives, healers, educators, divinators and astronomers and laborers workered together and were dependent on one another. Cooperation being the stronghold of a nations power and not competion.

Another world is still possible…

Crossroads of Choice


In the Codice Borgia there’s an image of a matron energy called Itzpapalotl, the obsidian butterfly, with her face torn off exposing her flesh. She is not evidence of savage sacrifice as it is easy for the western academics to point out. She’s more of a zombie with eagle talons for fingers and jaguar wrists. The symbolism suggests she exists in both worlds -spirit and flesh. She is a fierce care taker for unborn babies and stillborn infants in a place called Tamoanchan within the spirit world. She nurtures the spirit babies on a tree with thousands of nipples on its trunks and branches that feeds the unborn ancestors and prepares them for their flight to be born once more. Itzpapalotl is regarded as a mental energy we all have within to let go of ideas, visions, memories and thoughts that no longer serve us and transmute that energy into something that may give life once more. This is the creation story of of the uncreated. These are ancient stories of miscarriage, abortion and loss. This narrative relates to hope that normalizes loss and gives way to the loss opening a road to something new.

The question of abortion has been debated in terms of ethics or legalities creating discussions based on ideological and moral arguments of the state’s power over this situation. It is unethical and unequal on the part of the state to take a religious or ideological stance on the issue. The legal actions taken by a state to restrict or ban abortions is inherently rooted in sexual discrimination because it enacts laws that will be enforced specifically for pregnant women. (McDonagh). The state can only have policies that ensure the patient’s safety and confidentiality. While I entertain the legalities, it is critical for me to bring the discussion back to the essence of choice and what that means for the mother, the unborn and the community.

The dialectical forces on the issue of abortion are labeled as Pro-Choice and Pro-Life presents another issue. The popular discourse define “pro-choice” advocates as concerned with the rights of women and reproductive freedom. To be clear, “Pro does not mean pro-abortion, it means pro-choice. Many women who would not to choose to terminate a pregnancy of their own argue that every woman should have the right to choose when under the circumstances she will bear a child.” (Bishop, 39) In addition, a pro-choice stance does not solely speak to the issue of abortion but also to the range of choices women have in regard to their reproductive freedom. Caitlin Borgmann summarizes the stance of the pro-choice movement in “Abortion is Ethical” by stating, “We stand not only for the right to choose, but also for comprehensive sexuality education, effective contraceptive options, quality prenatal care and childbirth assistance, and trustworthy and affordable child care.” Feminists largely propelled the pro-choice movement in the early 1970s because of the importance of a woman’s autonomy to her own body. On the other hand, people who consider themselves “pro-life” are focused primarily on the rights of the fetus and the moral implications of abortion. They feel the state should intervene into the issue of abortion by banning abortion or creating restrictions such as costs, or counseling intended to influence women’s choice in keeping a child. Some states have passed restrictions for under-age girls such as parental consent laws and/or having the court grant permission. (Borgmann) The pro-life movement is associated with the political right and religious organizations. Nadean Bishop, a feminist writer describes the position of the pro-life movement:

Those opposed are more concerned with the ‘right to life’ than the ‘right to choose.’ They argue that life exists from conception and that ‘abortion forfeits the very basic right to life from which all other rights proceed.’ [1] Because this argument makes an as-yet- proved assumption about when life begins, it is basically a religious argument and is highly identified with religious forces. (Bishop, 40)

The polarization of pro-life and pro-choice does not capture my stance and no doubt the spectrum under which other people fall under. The argument of when life begins is the pro-life sound bite. And what if you believe life begins prior to conception when two people energetically and perhaps unconsciously are open to bringing life through their act of love? Um yes I believe this and yes I believe in a women’s right to  choose. Spirit world has its own law and its own protocols, which truly we can only speculate about. It is in this world that our choices are muddled with questions of support, economics, and simply considering the greater good. Feelings are transient that can have long standing impacts and we in the real world constantly are puzzled and given the task of resolving this. Getting grounded into making these choices and the material conditions that impact these choices is ultimately where the discussion should largely remain. That’s where the state role comes in.

The state’s role in everyone’s life is one that has power to regulate over the quality of life of its residents by providing socio-economic policies and programs. Meaning for women, that the choices to terminate or continue a pregnancy are made under material conditions that the state has power in. In this sense, the state’s role in the issue of women’s choice should be providing economic and social resources that may influence the choice of providing a nurturing and healthy environment for a child to be raised as well as proper medical resources for women who choose to terminate their pregnancy. Borgmann quotes a study that has determined ‘Pro- life states are less likely than pro-choice states to provide adequate care to poor and needy children. Their concern for the weak and vulnerable appears to stop at birth.’ (Borgmann, 5) It must not however, ban or restrict the choice of women not only because it is discriminatory but also will place the woman and child’s health and safety in jeopardy. In the words of Nadean Bishop, a feminist writer, “Society should never penalize [a woman] by forcing her to bear an unwanted child or to take the risk of an illegal abortion, which can usually be had only under medically unsafe conditions.” (39)

Debating over the legalities or ethics of abortion undermine the true issues at hand. That is, examining the conditions under which women choose to terminate a pregnancy and what resources could be offered to women so that they may make a decision of parenthood based on their reproductive freedom as opposed to economics or legalities. Say for example, a twenty- year-old woman is a student at a community college, on financial aid and living and depending on her parents, finds out she is pregnant and is not in a healthy nor supportive relationship. The woman is then presented with a very limited amount of possibilities based on her economic and social conditions. If she can afford an 800-dollar two-day surgical procedure to terminate the pregnancy or if she can afford the pre-natal care and entire change of lifestyle -meaning school, housing, marrying a potentially abusive partner and of course raising a child. For many women, an 800- dollar procedure is far from reach economically and they consequently become mothers before they are ready. The state must offer resources to women of low income because they “face what can be prohibitive costs in seeking abortions. Very few have private health insurance, and government- supported plans rarely pay for abortions.” (Borgmann) Fortunately, the county of Los Angeles offers Medi-Cal, a low-income health plan that is free to pregnant women who qualify. This program is a subsidized health plan, however, many people do not know that pregnant women who qualify for Medi-Cal, may also obtain a temporary Medi-Cal to pay for a Medical or Surgical Abortion primarily because it is up to the physician to offer it as resource.

Simply paying the cost of the procedure is an obstacle and low-income women not only need resources to pay for the procedure but also need resources to cope with the choice after the procedure. The idea that a woman can have a medical or surgical procedure to terminate a pregnancy and be fine with it and not need some sort of therapy or support system after the procedure is a myth. Many of the women I have met who have had such a procedure attempted to be fine with it but still needed to mourn the living being inside them as well as reflect on the choices made prior to choosing an abortion. It is a life changing experience for the many women I have known. In fact, one woman, let’s call her Susie, had an abortion in Cuba while on vacation and part of her procedure was mandatory counseling. The Cuban government must have an understanding of the silence that women have to endure after a pregnancy often missing work or school and attempting to function normally when clearly suppressing an emotional process is harmful.

Patricia Justine Tumang shared her abortion story in an essay titled “Nasaam ka anak ko? A Queer Filipina-American Feminist’s Tale of Abortion and Self-Recovery.” She describes a story that resonates with the many stories of women in my life who were not ready to bring life into this world. She was eight weeks pregnant and decided to have a medical abortion:055

RU-486 appealed to me then because it had an efficiency rate of 99 percent and was non-surgical. […] It was the same price as a surgical abortion and was advertised as ‘less traumatic.’ […] If I would have known how traumatic my experience with the pill would be, I would have opted for a surgical method. Not that it would have been less disturbing, but anything would have been better than the three weeks of horrendous bleeding and cramping I endured. (378)
Medical Abortions are a very lonely and traumatic experience for many women because it is a procedure away from the doctor’s office without any medical guidance. Women tend to pass a small embryo the size of a quarter along with heavy bleeding, diarrhea and nausea.

For Patricia Justine Tumang the healing process was a difficult one, “Almost a year after the abortion, the pain still visited me from time to time. For so long I tried to deny that I had undergone a shocking experience, and I entered into a period of self- punishment. I pretended to be recovered, but the pain pushed itself outward. Regret and guilt caused severe anxiety attacks that left me breathless, convulsing and faint.” (380) She found solace in women’s writings such as Alice Walker’s In Search of our Mother’s Gardens. She found that women of color in particular would need a different set of resources, “Since, my own abortion, I have realized that women of color need access to post-abortion therapy that is affordable and sensitive to different cultures and sexualities.” (380)

The problem with the way the nation discusses the issue of women’s choice is that it is seldom described in detail what the choice is if a woman opts not to have an abortion. That choice for many women is not filled with debates about what’s ethical but rather how the woman and her child are going to live and who is going to be support her in her choice. The reality is although the Right wants the state to intervene in a woman’s choice; the state does very little in terms of its economic and social policies/ programs to make the choice of having a baby realistic on a purely economic level. To force women to have children void of choice is irresponsible of the state regardless of the women’s choices that led to pregnancy.

Despite the illusion patriarchy wants us to internalize, women are powerful for so many reasons including their life giving power and the choice of when they birth, how they birth and if they birth at all. The fact that the politicians and advocates on either side have to argue semantics and statistics removes the essence of what matters in this crossroads of choice. The woman and the spirit of the unborn have a decision to make. I am a spiritual person, but contrary to what my Christian counterparts argue, I believe that no embryo or fetus wants to be birthed without the consent of the mother. In my logic, a spirit of an unborn baby in the mother’s womb desires its mother’s love. In fact, many studies show that the mother’s emotional state and the mother’s emotional support during pregnancy has a direct impact on the health and birth of the baby. Truthfully all legalities and ethics aside, unplanned or unwanted pregnancies present a sacrifice for the woman who had made a covenant with the universe unraveling her path. To choose walk a different path to give birth and sacrifice a covenant with the universe (such as answering a call to practice law or compete as a gymnast) or conversely choosing not to birth and sacrificing a covenant made in the spirit world when that energetic union had been made (when consent was willful of course).

In ancient times to the present, women hold wisdom of herbs and counsel. Using pure imagination, I can see that women made choices then and that choosing to birth or to abort was counseled by wiser women to honor the greater good. For some of us that had kinship with wise women, we are/were fortunate to know what teas would bring your menstruation when you were late and what teas to take after when that didn’t work. Deep in that knowing is a powerful string that ties us to a knowledge of women’s power -that power that is debated over, banned and regulated depending on what land you live in. In the greater scheme of creation, abortion debates and the shame that may come along with it, distracts from the real valuable moments of holding space for women to make the best choice and to do so with support so she may mourn, redirect her path and rejoice in life’s blessings.

papalotl sanctuary

Works Cited
Bishop, Nadean. “Abortion: The Controversial Choice.” Women: a Feminist
Perspective. 3rd ed. Ed. Joe Freeman. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1984. 39-53.
Borgmann, Caitlin. “Abortion Is Ethical.” Perspectives on Sexuality and
Reproductive Health, January/February 2003. Opposing Viewpoints: Problems of Death. David A. Becker. Detroit: GreenhavenPress, 2006. From Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Caitlin Borgmann, “Beyond the Apocalypse and Apology: A Moral Defense of Abortion,” Gale. Los Angeles City College Library. 13 Mar. 2008.

Brownback, Sam. “Abortion Is Not Ethical.” Opposing Viewpoints: Problems
of Death. David A. Becker. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. From Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Sam Brownback, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation Revisited,” Human Life Review, Summer 2004. Copyright Human Life Foundation, Incorporated 2004. Gale. Los Angeles City College Library. 13 Mar. 2008. .
De Vos, Karen. “What do women want?” North American Reference Encyclopedia
of Women’s Liberation. Vol. 1. 1972 McDonagh, Eileen. “The Next Step after Roe: Using fundamental rights, equal
protection Analysis to nullify restrictive state-level abortion legislation” Emory Law Journal 2007, 56- . Academic. Lexis-Nexis. Los Angeles City College Lib. 31 March 2008.
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Public Law 108-105. 5 Nov. 2003. S.
Schwenkler, John E., JD. “Abortion Law in the United States: An Overview.”
At Issue: The Ethics of Abortion. Ed. Jennifer A. Hurley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Los Angeles City College Library. 1 Apr. 2008. . Reprinted from “Overview,” found on the Abortion Law Homepage at
Tumong, Patricia Justine. “Nasaam ka anak ko? A Queer Filipina-American
Feminist’s Tale of Abortion and Self-Recovery” Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. Eds. Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman. Emeryville: Seal Press, 2002. 370-81.

[1] [Author’s Citation:] National Commission on the Observance of international Women’s Year, “To form a more perfect union”: Justice for American Women. (Washingtpn, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1976), 280.

the gift of tecpatl

flint is the result of grandfather rock hitting a rock to take form, to be sharp and useful. Mineral hitting mineral.. memory hitting memory.. Sparking an idea, an idea that became useful to humynity. This is the gift our ancestors gave us. This gift is the evidence of sought truth intended to sharpen our strategies for humyn evolution. This evolution is not to compete for survival but rather evolve from within and to serve all humynity as kin, to care enough for one another to create, to think creatively of how to deliver this purpose. These are the points of our evolution as two-leggeds not our ability to out-survive each other.

this is why the tecpatl; [the flint] is an evidence to the evolution, a gift our ancestors gave us because within its form it tells many stories but its true function is a tool, learnable and teachable, a skill for all humynity and even creatures like the ozomahtli to utilize in our advancement as peoples to survive as a whole at a higher scale. as was the invention of horticulture the understanding of how to cultivate earths gifts to better feed our kin.

and these abilities that the antepasados gave us: to analyze, to create solutions, to produce gifts to share on tlalticpac [earth] be it a painting, a dialogue or a child. This is what evolves us as spirits and produces the light that we can radiate here on tlalticpac.


survival mode co-existence is toxic to our spirits resulting in less of that light we can shine to all other kin creations + creatures. Ultimately, this lack of cooperative existence creates conditions for competition. false notions of superiority/inferiority do not cultivate conditions where humyns can create and give the gifts to humynity to increase joy, peace and prosperity to all people’s lives in a sustainable and cooperative way.

on the contrary, this sort of living based on competition that breeds false notion of winners and feeds/profits from stealing/extracting natural resources such as oil by murdering/ democratizing whole communities and attempting to break the spirit of their autonomy. meanwhile, this thinking back in the states, proves their greed and carelessness in protecting the very troth it feeds from. Taking cheap measures to pump oil from under the ocean resulting in the pollution of huiztocihuatl [wombyn of salt -our ocean] seemingly destroying an entire eco-system in the gulf of Mexico. violating a sacred element that sustains of living on this planet for all relations: atl/ water. The false winner murders a whole eco-system making whole communities hungry and sick for a whole way of living has just been polluted.

the outcome of such Darwinian social/ecological competition can not and has proven time and time again not to result in the betterment of humynity but rather its only outcome is to benefit a false winner whom desecrates it most sacred calli/home: earth/tlalticpac. this same thinking this frame of needing to win over others -their own kin and their own home and needing to compete over all others feeds the shadow self that a monstrous growth of which is toxic to our spiritual growth -this is the hegemonic framework in which we as humyns are viewed as some legitimate to walk, own and even defile this sacred land and make other kin humyns and care takers of these lands criminals and exploit their fear of capture, violating yet again the sacred homes of families and loved ones in the state sanctioned separations of kin folk relations. The creation of laws that enforce the negation of humynity is rooted in the false concept of white supremacy from checkpoints in LA to jim crow laws back in the day.


Emerging monarch

the purveying reason that people even consider leaving their homes and homelands is to find a better living because their lands have been appropriated by structural financial debt that also taxes their political-economic sovereignty -a designed function of national capture, built in after their false independence wherein the globe has become increasingly dependent on IMF, World Bank loans and trade agreements only after years of having been robbed, enslaved, violated, murdered upon the arrival of the false winner to most all sacred ancestral lands on this planet. meanwhile, people still need to eat and live their lives divine purpose seeking out at the very least self-evolution. for this hegemonic thinking is not sustainable to this planet nor it’s people and their dreams and desires.

we must resist such laws that violate our humynity + actions that violate all life forms as a whole on this planet. We must continue to cultivate love for ourselves, for our communities, to build strength + power to spiritually evolve as humyns and offer gifts to the future generations of humynity.

Toxcatl Massacre

On May 10, 1520, the people of Tenochtitlan were honoring the festival of Toxcatl –the time when things dry in May. Despite the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, peace was agreed upon in order to commence the festival, which was celebrated with dances and offerings to Tezcatlipoca –the Smoky Mirror. Often confused for a war god, Tezcatlipoca is the power of our unconscious, the shadow parts of us. In honoring Tezcatlipoca we honor the spiritual warrior within, to no longer look for external enemies but begin to fight the enemies within ourselves so that we may be of better service to our communities.

In hearing the warring drum beats and the agile movements that was inspired in the dancers, the Spanish saw that the most prepared and strongest warriors were central to the dances as conch blowers, singers, musicians, speakers and keepers of the ceremony. Pedro de Alvarado and the rest of the outnumbered conquistadores decided then to attack the Tenochcas in the absence of Hernan Cortez, who was returning with more men and ammunition. The Spanish came in the temple with their swords and shields and secured all entrances:
Immediately, they surrounded those who danced, then rushed to the place where the drums were played. They attacked the man who was drumming and cut off both his arms. Then they cut off his head [with such a force] that it flew off, falling far away.

At that moment, they then attacked all the people, stabbing them, spearing them, wounding them with their swords. They struck some from behind, who fell instantly to the ground with their entrails hanging out [of their bodies]. They cut off the heads of some and smashed the heads of others into little pieces.

They struck others in the shoulders and tore their arms from their bodies. They struck some in the thighs and some in the calves. They slashed others in the abdomen and their entrails fell to the earth.

Some tried to escape, but the Spaniards murdered them at the gates while they laughed.
The blood of the warriors ran like water as they fled, forming pools, which widened, as the smell of blood and entrails fouled the air.

Then a roar was heard, screams, people wailed, as they beat their palms against their lips. Quickly the captains assembled, as if planned in advance, and carried their spears and shields. Then the battle began. [Broken Spears, Miguel Leon Portilla]

This was one of the first acts of genocide by the western hemisphere that birthed white supremacy through cultural violence. They literally began by attacking and slaying our cultural practices, akin to other experiences of peoples that have resisted conquest and colonization. The celebration of people’s culture is a threat to white supremacy and in order to maintain the guise of white supremacy through patriotism, these perceived threats of cultural expressions and traditions become the target of annihilation. In attempting to erase the story telling of cultural histories, the construction of white supremacy then creates conditions that justify the civilizing of the perceived “uncivil” as today politicians debate about legalizing the perceived “illegal”. Borders did not exist then as we know today because these constructions are recent to these lands. Today in Arizona and every else in the US, cultural violence is practiced by the laws that legalize such hateful supremacy. Less than two days after Jan Brewer [the governor of Arizona] passed SB 1070, HB 2281 passed to prohibit ethnic studies, making the firing of teachers with “accents” legal and prohibiting curriculum that “advocates ethnic solidarity.” And just as laws and bans against our traditions were resisted by our ancestors, we will continue to come together in solidarity with all peoples who fight to create another reality possible by following our dreams.


SM, occupied aztlan, 2007

[Toxcatl Massacre was originally recited over danza mexicayotl at a community town hall in response to the state repression of undocumented peoples in Arizona in 2010]