I was taught to celebrate my killer

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately.

Holidays are impossible for me to celebrate. From Valentines Day, to Halloween, they all bring on so much nostalgia, for the times when I used to believe in things, that are now lost forever. Like losing faith in Santa Claus, I lost faith in the happiness that expensive holidays can bring you, I lost faith in the idea that celebrating will somehow make it all okay.

We can change Columbus Day, to Indigenous People’s day, but we cannot change history, nor the ongoing “discovering” of our culture. We can tear down every statue, but there will somehow always be one more. We can beat the South, and yet still have confederate flags, flying high.

We can “beat” racism, yet experience murders, at the highest rate in years.

And we can try to forget Columbus, try to move on, try to stride forward, but by choosing to forget him, we choose to also forget what he did to us. We choose to forget, and erase, the ongoing marginalization of our indigenous people, we choose to ignore the land that is STILL being stolen, STILL being desecrated.

I cannot forget him. I choose not to forgive him.

He is still killing us, in one way or another, his sword is still buried, deep into our people.

We must take the sword from him, and strike back.

FUERZA!

Invisibility, when faced with the invinsible

Last night, I attended Equality Utah’s Allies Dinner, themed “Queer New World”, on behalf of our organization, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.

While this organization is fairly new to Utah, the need for it’s existence IS NOT. Marginalization within queer movements is not a new thing, and white savourism ABOUNDS in Utah.

I am typing this, because I can no longer, WILL no longer be silent.

Last night, I arrived to this event, and was not surprised, yet saddened by the incredible lack of people of color in the building. At 150 dollars a ticket, I knew I would not see many familiar faces. The people that I did see, seemed to be enjoying the celebration. After all, it’s taken years for people to build up to the momentum that we now have, 2015 has been our year.

And, yet, for me 2015 was the year in which we saw MORE trans deaths, more than ever. This is the year that we saw race make it onto the papers, this was the year that our hermana Jennicet Gutierrez challenged Obama AND ALL GAY MOVEMENTS to look beyond the binary, and to address the ongoing history of white supremacy in the so-called-USA.

White liberals are often at home at these events, because THESE EVENTS ARE MADE FOR THEM, and yet, I tried, and sat eating quinoa, a sacred grain from my homeland, Peru. A grain, that my mother hasn’t been able to afford in years, due to it’s high rise in demand.

Even while trying to make the best of the evening, I couldn’t help but notice the little things; the amount of white award recipients, and the people of color PRESENTING the awards, the gendered bathrooms, and the firm line between the classes.

While this event was marketed to me, by friends, as an opportunity to network, when stuck away from “the powers that be”, networking is harder. Not only that, it becomes absurd. The people on the “poor side”, already knew me, the people in the VIP lounge, liked me, but only enough to have small talk with me. In between them all, were the people who had heard from me before, had seen my work, and yet were still firm in their belief that change would come “eventually”.

So called activists have already hailed this event, but as someone who rejects the “A” word, I for one, do not.

Like Columbus, YOU HAVE NOT DISCOVERED THIS QUEER NEW WORLD. This world is occupied, has been occupied, by beautiful people, people of color, people that transcend gender, and politics. We DO NOT have a political agenda, because the change that we need, goes beyond what politicians decide.

We do not recognize the borders of your queer new world, your flag is not our flag.

Instead, we see our traditions, and our people, and we wonder, when will your movement realize that without us, it’s NOT inclusive at all? You often talk of stonewall, yet forget that it was us who stood first. You talk about the movement, yet forget to mourn and to honor the fallen.

We see you. I see you. But, do you see me?

FUERZA!!

On cultural appropriation, and stolen truths, and migration

Once upon a time, there was a village.

This village, was more advanced than most. In technology, and soul work.
This village was smaller than most. Everyone knew everyone, and love was everywhere to be found.

All of their histories, their tales, their art, and their love songs, were held in a beautiful library, in the center of the town.

One night, a thief came to the village.

And, in an amazing feat, took every single book, every piece, every song, from the library.
And brought it back to bigger village.

Years would pass, and the thief’s children would deny these charges:
“Our people wouldn’t do that”
“It’s not in our history books””It’s not real”

And the small village’s children, distraught and confused began to believe these lies.

“Maybe our people were never that great”
“That was the past, it’s all over now”
“It’s not real”

Every once in a while, a page from the stolen books, would fly off. Soiled, torn and dirty, everyone in the small village would rejoice at these findings, as reassurance that their culture had once existed.

Every once in a while, a traveler from the bigger village would sell them a page, he had found, and enhanced.

With shinier drawings, and scribbles over their names.

Every single time, They bought it.

**********

I write this story, as I walk on yet another tourist shop, finding yet another sculpture. The tag, reads: MADE IN PERU. Even, here in Utah, where our desert rocks, and our river crystals , that draw crowds by the dozen, we still find it necessary not just to sell what is not rightfully ours, what is from this land, but what is from other lands as well.

It is because, in a land without it’s own culture, white people are OBSESSED WITH CULTURE, not their own, but that of others. These practices of white supremacy are usually dismissed with claims of a counter-obsession; we are a people obsessed in our grief

Shaming aside, I continue to find that as a migrant, I am obsessed.

Tears stream down my face, at every sculpture, every print, every reminder of our stolen truths. The fashion industry has become aware that I am not alone, in a country filled with children of migrants, and first-genners, Aztec and South American prints have become a trend.

My culture is now being sold, infinity scarf, and matching shoes included.

And, every single time, I buy it. Though, I realize that these prints will not bring them back, that these words are fake, that every dollar that I spend further contributes to this industry, I am but a lost child looking and finding pictures of a home that she never knew, of a culture that is intentionally forgotten. Thought these testaments will never heal the wound, they are like a drug to me, making the pain of the past shine through as the apology from the future. My people cannot afford their own culture, and yet it hangs from every gringo home, as yet another souvenir from a long forgotten massacre.

To bring this up, is to shame, after all, it is not their fault, right? They are merely descendants of the beast, they are merely offspring of the thieves, they are merely witnesses.

Yet, they are not. Every “trip to Peru” facebook album, is another reminder of the borders stopping me from seeing my family, I have missed funerals and birthdays. Weddings. And though an apology would be nice, instead, I would settle for an acknowledgement.

But to acknowledge our pain, would be to admit that it is real, just as they dismiss the too true claims that #BLACK LIVES MATTER, they will always dismiss that this is an intentional trend, meant to exploit not just our labor, but now our wallets.

Just, as they claim that #ALL LIVES MATTER (more than black ones, apparently), just as they claim that they “marketed these ideas”, just as they proudly announce that society has ALWAYS loved colors, and that we as a people must SHARE in our ART.

Cultural appropriation is not just a real practice, it is a disease, that holds my culture hostage.
The sooner that we acknowledge this, the sooner that we will all be able to start conversations, and dreams for a future. Until then, the intentional genocide of our art is left for profit. And the intentional silence towards it, makes descendants into thieves, all over again.

I don’t know what Spanish sounds like anymore

Cuando:

When I look in the mirror, and try to force my ERRES, my wannabe tongue, slips, and falls to the ground. This condition, is not a symptom of my “americanized” self, but yet another story. A story of a girl, who could never roll her R’s. A badge of honor, in this country, as it became more proof of how white I truly could be, if allowed.

Donde:

And, yet, I pull it off. My accent is still there, if not as strong, slipping, losing the fight. My accent pants, heaves, and moans, refusing to admit that it is not as strong as hundreds of years of colonization. It’s resilience is apparent, as it boycotts my most important speeches, my most impressive presentations, and my most passionate moans. It appears when I least expect it, like the thunderstorm you didn’t realize you needed, because you are blind to the drought.

Como:

And this is how, one day, I realized that I DO NOT KNOW WHAT SPANISH SOUNDS LIKE ANYMORE, this is how one day, I realized that by plucking, and prepping myself to become part of them, I lost myself. This is how
I realized that the words in my head were no longer those of my mother, but those of strangers. And this is how I’m trying to learn again, trying to reach for the runaway kite that I lost when I was young, this is how I leap, this is how I cry. Because my Spanish hasn’t been lost yet, my accent hasn’t left.
Because I’m still as afraid of the gringos as ever. Because I’m just as Peruvian as then.

Por que:

Today I am packing. Tomorrow, I teach my first big workshop, in Spanish, tomorrow I stand in a room full of strangers, speaking the words, that I tried to forget at twelve years old, but that I remembered at twenty-five. Tomorrow I fly out, my mother as always proud of the woman that I’ve become, coaches me through this and tells me in her Spanish in our Spanish.
That, this is our tongue. This is our first hellos, this is our last goodbyes. She reminds me of I love yous, te quieros, y todo lo demas.
Today I am nervous, because strangers will hear my broken Spanish, but will they hear my story?

Yo. No. Se.