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…


Humans could fly on Saturn’s moon Titan

Imagine that…


P5_1 You can fly
flying on titan

H.Lerman, B.Irwin, P.Hicks

Many humans dream of flying like a bird. Although it is not possible on Earth, it is on Titan.
This paper explores the dimensions of a wingsuit allowing a human to easily take-off from the surface
of Titan.
It was calculated that the wing area would be approximately 4.7 m2 assuming an initial run up speed of 6m/s.
This value is larger than the average wingsuit wing area of 1.4 m2.
For this area the human will have to run at a speed of 11 m/s, which has only been reached by a small number of humans….
… Read more at https://physics.le.ac.uk/journals/index.php/pst/article/view/625/420

View original post

la sagrada muerte

I struggle to make sense of the great mystery’s hand in how or why events transpire with such pain. It’s humbling for a divinator and yet I must remember there is a reason truth does not always reveal itself. Not one human is all knowing for it will negate the power of great mystery. Still, in my human folly I continue to try to make sense of the painful void.

I am inclined to reaffirm my belief in the great mystery through the materialist guise of quantum physics. It is in this semi-credible paradigm where the existence of other realities is possible. Events could have had vastly different outcomes in a parallel universe. And maybe this is the heyokah medicine in a materialist view. The idea of understanding truth through it’s opposite. I am consoled in believing that our world, our fate and our reality as we believe it is not truly absolute without It’s negating force -the unknown, the other side.


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.

Son de Todos: Tradition and Community


“Hasta que el pueblo las canta
Las coplas coplas no son
Y cuando las canta el pueblo
Ya nadie sabe el autor
Procura tu que tus coplas
Vayan al pueblo a parar
Que al volcar el corazón
En el alma popular
Lo que se pierde de gloria
Se gana de eternidad”

The conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards and their “imports” of African slaves into the region shifted the overall material culture of Mexico. The colonial reality led to the mixtures of cultures known as mestizaje that is deeply rooted in Latin American history. Through this meztizaje, the traditions of various indigenous tribes have been regionally preserved and changed by the introduction of new cultures in those particular geographic locations. Son Jarocho is among these syncretic traditions still being practiced in Southern Veracruz, Mexico. The syncretism of Son Jarocho has yet to end. The music has migrated all the way from Veracruz to California, Illinois and New York. The music’s diffusion to the U.S. and its methods of learning have, however, presented questions for me of its possible misappropriation or regeneration in the shift from the context outside the fandangos in Southern Veracuz and into the urban landscape of Los Angeles.

I learned Son Jarocho when I lived in Davis. My friend Salvador who had taken many trips to Veracruz informed us well on the traditions of each song and the gatherings called Fandangos to the best of his ability. He described to me that “anything can happen in a fandango!” I have found that this is true; a fandango to me is a space much like a ceremony. It has definite conventions but I like to think of them as “agreements.” The first song played in a fandango is called Siqui Sirí. No one that I’ve talked to has been able to tell me what the word “Siqui Sirí” means, nonetheless, the purpose of the song is to begin the fandango by asking permission to begin. This is very much the Indigenous influence of Son Jarocho that informs us on how to begin ceremony. We always ask the relatives of this earth, the elements, the other jaraneros so that we may remain humble and remember our traditions –the Indigenous, African and Spanish-Moorish traditions.

The Instruments themselves serve their function in the fandango, the jaranas are largely used a percussive string instrument with the strumming and is what most musicians play in a fandango. The requinto is a kind of leader within the fandango because it marks the melody and starts each song traditionally. I found a good description of the two instruments in a book called Latin American Music that I think help visualize how these instruments look and their functions:

The most widespread typical instrumentation centers on […] a jarana (shallow-bodied guitar with eight strings in five courses), and a requinto (“guitarra de son,” a four-stringed, narrow-bodied guitar, plucked with a 7.5-centimeter plectrum fashioned from cow horn or a plastic comb). […] The jarana player employs a variety of patterns (maniqueos) to strum a rhythmic-chordal accompaniment appropriate to the metere, tempo, and character of the particular son. The requinto player (requintero) supplies an additional, largely improvisatory, melodic line […]” (Sheeshy 157)

The versada or the lyricism of the songs are largely of public dominion –no one can really say that verso is mine because as it is sung it becomes the property of everyone. Aperson in a fandango might remember the versos “con las que siente afinidad; si son ajenas, cuanta siempre con la libertad de cambiarlas a su convenencia.” That is to say that, if one has an affinity to the verso one sings it and has the liberty to also change it (Arredondo 10). The typical form of lyricism is the Spanish style octasílabas, literally translating to “eight syllabals” that used in each line. More advanced form of versada is the decimal, which is a ten-line verso with a rhyme scheme of A-B-B-A A-C C-D-D-C. This style of poetry was popular in Spain and diffused throughout the Americas during the 17 and 18 centuries (Sanabria xi). The zapateado is the percussive steps usually on a wooden platform called a tarima, which the musicians usually gather around. Jarochos consider the tarima, the heart of the son because no typical drum exists in son Jarocho. The percussion is conducted in the steps of the zapateado, and also in the strum of the jarana. There are many more instruments to describe but the ones explained are typically the one’s most widely used or at the least the basic ones.

Syncretism, in the case of any colonial paradigm and certainly in Colonial Mexico, is not “the combination of two or more different traditions” but developed under cultural coercion into accepting the dominant colonizing culture (Stewart 55). In being forced, colonized peoples creatively preserved their traditions in the guise of a newly formed tradition appealing to the dominant culture. The fandango is a sacred space in which indigenous and African cosmologies and communal gatherings are joined through Spanish musical and lyrical conventions. Fandangos are simply put musicians, dancers and singers oriented the tradition of creating a community of expression thus developing a musicianship inherently based on sacred traditions. In a conversation with Liche Oseguera, a Jaranero, requintero, leonero and composer of Son Jarocho music, and several LA jaraneros (that soon turned into an informal interview because of all the questions we had for him), Liche shared with us how he was raised in the tradition of huapangos wherein families gather in a given house and were family celebrations. He relayed to us the importance of the music for him, informing us that the music is cultural inheritance that he received from his family to share and preserve the traditions whose songs have deep spiritual significance that one must pay attention to.

However, in the ports of Veracruz, another dynamic exists within son Jarocho. When I went to Veracruz, Mexico 4 years ago, I remember a sociologist, whose name I forgot, read a paper to us in a defensive tone, explaining to us that the Marisqueros, the people who play Son Jarocho in the ports or in restaurants for money, do so out of necessity. She described that many of them are hurt that there is a definitive line that divides the two different groups of people: the jaraneros and the marisqueros. I remember her reading that one of the Marisqueros told her “no es chile pero arde” which translates to “it isn’t chili but it burns.” Participants of this seminar, also in a defensive tone, informed her that we are not to divorce ourselves from our politics, and that we understand the roots of this commercialization of the traditions is in the permeated capitalism that is centrally located in the ports.

I remember feeling an affinity to the music that people were defending is rooted in tradition as opposed to commercialization. As I reflect now, four years later, I realize that the context in which I learned and play Son Jarocho has not been in the ports or in the ranchos but was in the university in Davis and now in LA. My family is not from Veracruz, they are from Michoacán and Jalisco in Western Central Mexico. I have since then reflected on whether or not Jaraneros from California or specifically in LA are positioned as being of tradition or are we a type of marisqueros? What is it mean to play this music? Why did I care to learn? How would I be of tradition here in LA? These are the questions that inform my search to try to explain what it means to not just play this music here in LA but create a community of Jaraneros in LA rooted in parallel traditions that speak to our identity as uprooted people on this side of the frontera. I then realized that the question for us Chicanos is a complicated question of what we lack in our cultural context to search for identity and that may answer why we even picked up a jarana or get on the tarima:

Chicanos searched for mediums through which their cultural identity could be reaffirmed, promoted and preserved. Everywhere Chicano Campus organizations emerged that in some way reached back into the Mexican cultural heritage to take back what had been denied by the hegemonic forces in the U.S. – such as language, history and expressive forms of culture. Out of this fervor arose teatros, muralists, musicians and literature which became important symbols of “Mexicanness” (Najera).

Growing up semi-aware of being uprooted from Mexico, I attempted to reconcile my own identity and found two options: either succumbing to assimilation into perhaps the only culture we know or find mediums through which we can express our identity. Son Jarocho has become that medium for us Chicanos in LA because we become connected to our mother country when we physically strum, sing or dance and we build a community of people also oriented in that search and satisfaction of cultura. In the conversation with Liche, I asked him what he thinks about Chicanos who probably have no ties to Veracruz learning Son Jarocho. I was hesitant to hear his answer having seen how we conduct our fandangos and perhaps also our group dynamics but his answer was a confirmation to me. He said that if we are to learn that music to learn it well, to respect the traditions humbly and then he told us to define ourselves and our identity within this music.

It was hard at first to re-think how to still continue being part of tradition and at the same time create or generate music that is still speaking to my identity or reality as a Chicana. Then I considered the son buscapies. The name busca-pies translates into looking-for-feet but has the connotation of the devil, who is said to look for feet at night “te va jalar patas el diablo” my mom used to say if we left our feet bare at night. The versos in this song always strike me as versos that keep you on your toes and remind you of the evils of the world so that one takes care of oneself or family or community. Arcadio Hidalgo, a trovador, campesino and a soldier who fought in the Mexican revolution had described in the later years of his life describes laudero (maker of wooden instruments), Gilberto Gutierrez dancing on the tarima to buscapies with a woman when he realized that Gutierrez had “un pie de crisitano y una pata de gallo” (a Christian foot and a rooster’s foot). It was at that moment that he and others began to sing “versos a lo divino” to scare the devil away (Arredondo 129). Recently I had heard a recorded song of buscapies by a group called Soneros de Tesochoacan that was consistently about the economic change taking place in Mexico. One line in the song hit home for me: Ahora sí me voy pa’l norte, haber si como si quiera (Now I will go north to see if at least I can eat).

I spoke to some of the jaraneros after Liche was picked up so that he can go to bay area to sell some instruments and give workshops. I was a bit disheartened by the feeling that maybe we weren’t consciously of tradition because we still must define our own as Chicanos. Then in thinking of the son buscapies it was clear to me that the structure is there for each song in the use of syllables, the word is the message. It is then up to us to listen carefully and not just read versos from a book that sound nice but interpret our own meaning to our reality in the city or in just being uprooted from the mother country. We can sing in metaphors that already exist or we can create our own. We don’t necessarily need to create something new altogether but instead have a real analysis of our struggles as Chicanos and be able to connect that struggle with the jaraneros of Veracruz through the versada.

“Ya me voy de retiradas
Solo puedo asegurar
Que pronto he de regresar
Compartiendo mi versada
Es mas tengo la illusion
Que somos de tradicion
Que se escucha en mi tierra
Como tan lejos en la sierra
Dandole vida al son.”

Works Cited

Arredondo, Victor A. La Versada de Arcadio Hidalgo. Xalapa, Universidad Veracruzana: 1981

Najera Ramirez, Olga. “Social and Political Dimensions of Folklorico Dance: The Binational Dialectic of Residual and Emergent Culture.” Western Folklore, 48.1 (Jan 1989) 15-32

Oseguera, Liche. Personal Interview. 11 April 2008. Santa Barbara.

Sanabria, Alfonso and Irisaida Méndez. La Decima esta en tus Manos: Manual para la Composición de la Décima Espinela. Salinas: Fundación Leopoldo Sanabria, 2000.

Sheeshy, Daniel E. “Mexico” The Garland Handbook of Latin American Music. Eds. Dale A. Olsen and Daniel Sheeshy. 148-73. New York: Garland, 2000.

Stewart, Charles. “Syncretism and Its Synonyms: Reflections on Cultural Mixture.” Diacritics, 29.3 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 40-62.


[Written in 2008]

Santanesc Human Rights

[this post is an article written by Salvador G. Sarmiento originally written for a zine that was never officially launched titled Fuck That!* This article developed into a presentation and project headed by Salvador G. Sarmiento and deserves some readers to consider his vision of human rights in Santa Ana, CA]

Bad times

It’s not dramatic or pessimistic to say that we live in times of crisis. Children die of preventable diseases; youth are imprisoned for stupid reasons; families live in cardboard boxes; parents are deported; elders don’t have medical attention; etcetera. You know it; some of you have lived it. The point is this—when a great deal of this suffering is possible only because people don’t know (ignorance) or because people just don’t care (indifference), to do nothing isn’t only cruel, it’s f-ing ridiculous.

Modern times

Faced with these realities, peoples have been struggling for a long time to demand to be treated with a decent level of respect. It’s because of this work that whatever country you live in—you cannot be detained without reason, children must have free quality primary education, civilians must not be bombed, prisoners must not be tortured, and families must have descent housing, and the list goes on. The idea behind human rights is exactly that—to ensure that everyone is treated according to a standard of treatment that’s recognized around the world.

The idea has been around for centuries, but got some momentum after the second world war. After such widespread misery (caused by countries on both sides), people around the world took a strong stand in favor of an international standard of human treatment, and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights was established (UNDHR). Today, that’s the basic human rights standard that’s obligatory for every country that’s a member of the UN.

If everyone agreed to it, then why does so much suffering still exist… smartass?

Modern Times, Take 2

That’s right. We’ve passed a United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, an International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, another one on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, another one on Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination, a Convention Against Torture, one on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and another one on the Rights of the Child, and many, many others, so why do we see violations of these rights left and right?

First, the simple answer is that these treaties are not always legally binding on countries. Many countries (the US especially) undermine the force of these human rights efforts by not ratifying all of the supporting protocols (or rules) to each one, and often it’s the protocols that actually administer the realization of the rights. Many of the “world’s greatest democracies” haven’t done the “greatest” job of promoting human rights; and it’s actually been some of the poorest countries in the global south that have taken the lead.

Second, violations continue because laws alone don’t automatically change reality (whether it’s a local law or a treaty). Reality is in our economics, reality is in our culture, and reality is in our politics; but law is paper—simply a standard to follow—it needs to be administered, modified, improved. At some point, people need to use those standards to confront those practices that cause or encourage human rights violations in all aspects of our lives—political, cultural and economic. This means taking the battle to the guts of society—our schools, churches, jobs, newspapers, internet sites. For example, it means ensuring that the workers in Florida that pick Subway’s tomatoes are not paid slave wages; it means that no high school graduate should be denied a higher education because they weren’t born here; it means that a mother shouldn’t have to work two jobs and still not have enough to pay for a check-up. These are basics and they are internationally recognized.

The third and final reason we probably see so much suffering is that the actual causes of the violations are widespread and deep-seeded, and different countries have “preferred” different approaches to dealing with them. “Wealthier” northern countries (US and western Europe) have focused on political and civil (CP) rights that ensure your right to speak, to organize, to associate, but don’t provide the “means” to do so (they don’t give you the tools to do it). “Poorer” southern countries (practically everyone else) might not be crazy about free speech, but historically have been much more supportive of economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights—those necessary to meet basic human needs (food, shelter, education, health care, dignified work).

I am grouping together diverse countries, but the point is clear in an example about the cold war. During the cold war, the US (and its NATO allies) supported CP rights, while the USSR (and its WARSAW allies) supported ESC rights. Each supported the ones they preferred, and accused the other side of violating those selective rights. Ironically, both sides were pretty blatantly violating all sorts of human rights. Even today, the US recognizes only CP rights as obligatory international law, while declaring that ESC rights are only “aspirational” or just hopes.

CP and ESC Rights

Most big human rights organizations today recognize that both sets of rights—CP and ESC, are interdependent and together provide a more complete vision of human dignity. But, being in the US, it would be smart of us to understand the perspective of southern countries (most of the planet). As long as countless people face the immediate threat of ignorance, displacement, disease and starvation, prioritizing only civil and political rights falls short of the mark. The right to speak freely won’t be your priority as long as you don’t have food for your children.


That is a Santanesc approach to human rights: That all human rights are equally important and that they need to be realized in the different spheres of society. The ultimate goal is to contribute to creating spaces in our institutions and in our popular culture that can confront the human rights contradictions of our times. That’s how you make possible tomorrow what today may seem impossible.


*More about the fuck that! vision for context:

Fuck that! a Radical Student of Color Academic Journal

We say fuck that to the current academia -which keeps educators and students alienated from one another and community members and activists/organizers removed from the academia all together!

We say FUCK THAT to the racist, homophobic, sexist, capitalist ideologies and notions of hierarchy and privilege in the current academia!

and we put forward our critically minded visions of our current world and proposals for another type of world from a radical working class of color perspective! 

and by the way “radical simply means grasping things at the roots” (Angela Davis)

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.