Tag Archives: feminism

From preschool to healing

25 Apr

I find my self continuously analyzing myself  because I am currently enrolled in three psychology courses. During lectures I  diagnose my moods and my family members “disorders” … its kind of silly. In my developmental psych class i have been reading and reflecting on attachment. In the context of newborns and parents, attachment is important for the child’s positive development.  A new born begins to feel a sense of safety and assurance if the parents are consistently and continuously attentive to the baby’s wants and needs.  Such attentiveness does not spoil the child, rather it helps them trust the world they are growing up in. This positive reassurance transforms to a sense of security, self worth, and self esteem for the child.

In my case, it was kinda the opposite.  In my very early years, i was growing up with violence in the home. There was verbal and emotional abuse and probably some depression thrown in there. We moved homes a lot when i was a kid, and my fathers aggression and abuse was internalized. I feared him and had nightmares of him. I have learned that indeed my parents tried their best, they have their own traumas and they acted the only way they knew how.

I was confronted with isolation when I went to pre-school. I was deeply saddened and afraid when i was left alone at school. I was the kid that cried endlessly when getting dropped off. According to my mother and older sister… it went on for weeks. I also have memory of this. There was a huge window that faced the street and i would run to it after i was forced to stay. I would watch my mother get into her green car and drive away to work. My mom has told me how much it would break her heart to see me go through this pain.

Eventually i adapted to this thing called school. I learned to swing, tie my shoes, count apples, identify shapes and my pinkie… Children can surpass baby traumas, there is still an opportunity for resilience to develop. I spent most of my childhood alone when I was at school. I was a pretty independent child. I entertained myself and still played handball or foursquare. I just wasnt part of a group of friends. I didnt bother to make any friends. Maybe it was too much effort, maybe i was afraid of rejection. Maybe i accepted my isolation, but i didnt feel alone. I felt like a normal child… except I told other children to leave me alone. True story, i had a friend in high school tell me of her first impression of me. She came up to me while i was in line for foursquare.  She mentioned she was in my class and told me her name. Apparently i didn’t care, and i told her to leave me alone. That was in the 4th grade.

I did eventually make friends of course. Sometime around 6th grade i began to make friends. Today I have many beautiful friends in my life. In my journey called life, I have found different ways to heal from my past. Some of those ways have been through conversations with friends. Traditional ceremonies that have survived such as Temezcali/sweat lodge and Teepee ceremonies have been incredibly healing and powerful to my spirit and my heart. My ancestors and my willingness to be a better person have been my guide. I am so grateful for the communities that invite me to heal through meditation, counsel, art making, dancing…

A few months ago I was in my room cleaning and i heard a couple fighting outside my window. The guy was calling his gf a “hoe”. He was shaming her and making her feel worthless. He called her a bitch and a hoe and told her he was not ashamed to call her that. When i heard the verbal abuse i looked out the window. The couple was a high school boy and girl. She still had her backpack on and she was crying. He was pulling her hair and calling her names. I walked outside and tried to intervene. I was filled with anger, and i tried asking the girl if she needed any help. He didnt let me talk to her and told me to leave them alone, he didnt get into my business, so i had no right getting in their business. Apparently he was “old enough” to know what he was doing… Yes, he was old enough to be an abuser. It was that week that I began to train at Peace over Violence. An organization that provides services to victims of violence. I am now a volunteer as a Violent Prevention Specialist (still in practice) and had my first presentation at a middle school last week. I wrote down the address and took off to find the middle school.

In my presentation we were going to talk about teen dating violence and learn to identify the cycle of abuse. It was also important for me to talk about what healthy relationships look like, so I had an activity in mind for them. , and have activities that engaged a group of twenty 8th grade girls to have a conversation about what healthy relationships look like and how to identify teen dating violence.

The school was in Gardena, the town i went to school in when i wasnt moving around. When i arrived at the address, I couldnt believe my eyes and my gut. I parked in front of what use to be my old preschool. I starred at the building and the huge window was no longer there.  The swings were taken out. And a bunch of middle school kids were hanging out behind the school gate talking and playing around. My preschool was remodeled and turned into a charter middle school. It had only opened a few weeks prior to my arrival.

I acteen p&c wheelcepted the moment and went inside. I met about 20 girls who seemed shy at first. I asked them to write down words on a piece of paper identifying what they would want a healthy relationship to look like and they scribbled words like trust, open mindedness, and kindness. We had positives to work with, and then we identified power and control. We finished by writing down “the relationship bill of rights”. One of my favorite rights someone shared was, “I have the right to make mistakes and its ok”. 

I finished the presentation, walked out, got in my car, and drove away. I cried. I gave thanks. I felt blessed. It was magical to have the universe tell me i was exactly where i was suppose to be. A journey almost 3 decades long that took me in so many different directions and brought me to a place i had begun. A place where I replaced my trauma with a new memory for hope. I am thankful. And i pray. I pray for the power of young men and womyn to practive healthy, mature, beautiful ways of loving and living.

Definition of Feminism

8 Mar

I wrote this 10 years ago during my freshman year in college…

“My Definition of Feminism”

A feminist is a woman who seeks knowledge on all or most subjects. Challenges herself and the norm. Speaks her mind when treated unfairly and asks for respect. Makes choices about her body and keeps her body healthy. A woman who can love her body for every curve there exists. It is a woman with self-esteem, confidence, and strength. She will not depend on a male or anyone else. If in a bad relationship whether with a man or a woman, she knows when to get out and move on. A woman who is not afraid to step out of what is expected of her so that she can make herself happy. A woman who helps other women and men to recognize the value of women.

Thats about it. Pretty simple. But pretty heartfelt.


Here’s how I’m celebrating tonight!

AF3IRM LA: Celebrating the Working Womyn 

in collaboration with

Mujeres de Maiz & Ovarian Cycles

Feminista de Corazon

7 Dec

Inauguracion: El Centro Historico de Bogota, Colombia recibio a mas de 1,200 mujeres para el XII Encuentro Feminista de Latino America y del Caribe.

What happens when 1,200 feminist women in Latin America gather? An abundance of love, laughter, and a critical analysis on the state of humanity occurs. On November 23rd through the 26th of 2011, Bogota, Colombia hosted the XII Encuentro Feminsta de Latino America y del Caribe. The first official gathering happened in Colombia 30 years ago with 189 women present. Since then the Encuentro has taken place in Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, and other Latin American countries while growing tremendously in the number of participants.

The theme, “Desatar, Desnudar, y Reanudar”/ “Untie, Uncover, and Renew”, set the platform for discussing feminism in the context of power, politics, religion, identity, sexuality, human rights, war, violence, economics, self-care, culture and art. Every greeting, every workshop, presentation and discussion came with the perspective of a woman first and foremost. This way of talking, thinking, and being created a sense of empowerment and self-worth for every woman present. The gathering gave a safe space for our stories to unfold.

Mujeres Bolivianas: Five percent of the women in attendance identified themselves as indigenous.

At the Encuentro, every woman has a voice, whether that woman is indigenous or afro-descendent, urban or rural, an elder or a teenager, lower or working class. During the gathering some women are questioning their feminist identity and others are remembering they were born a feminist. With so much talk about feminism how do women in Latin America define feminism? It turns out that the gathering does not define feminism because to define it is to limit the movement and essentially that would contradict the fight against the limitations set upon us.

Instead, let me be a proponent of feminist manifestations according to what I witnessed during this 12th gathering; Feminism is the woman who shares her testimony about the eight year incarceration and sexual violations she survived during the Fujimori dictatorship. Feminists are the Quechua indigenous women who documented over 300,000 forced sterilizations in Peru who will not remain silenced. Feminism is about the woman born in a man’s body reclaiming her gender and identity. Feminism is about sex education to prevent pregnancy, access to contraceptives in order to not face abortions, and the demand for safe, legal, and free abortions so that women do not die. Feminism is also about the courage my mother had to cross borders in order to survive the 21st century.

Many women no longer identify themselves as feminist from fear of judgments or the lack of connection to feminist movements.  Many women are indeed feminist in their practice as organizers, artists, care-givers, and workers but have stayed away from the title. As for me, it is interesting to note that at the age of nine I was vowing to never marry or depend on a man. My feminism had already begun.

My feminism has also transformed since age nine. As an adult woman who has healed from her fears and inherited traumas of violence, I now believe that love and freedom can coexist between male and female relationships. And since my first Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Gathering in Mexico City in 2009, I have reclaimed my feminist identity from a place of love for humanity.

Ritual de Apertura: Women encircle a mandala representing the four directions, the elements, and the vagina during the opening ceremony to the conference.

What is felt during the Encuentro Feminista is excitement, respect, and inspiration. What is seen are hundreds of women from the margins of war-torn countries, impunity driven justice systems, and catechist run countries lifting their voices in unison as feminists. What I understand about the feminist movement in Latin America is that it exists because women refuse to remain silent and suffer at the hands of the state, the church, or their partners. As one feminist related, “La politica del feminismo es la politica de la desobedencia / the politics of feminism, is the politics of disobedience!” In other words, to obey “tradition” has meant that women have had to give up their thoughts, their opinion, even their own bodies. These experiences where women have felt a loss of power, freedom, and safety have driven women to disobey, unite, and take action for humanity. Feminism exists because it believes that every human being has the right to live a free and dignified life.

The next Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Gathering will happen in 2013 in Peru, South America. Currently there is a contingent of first generation women from New York, which includes representatives from AF3IRM, who will be attending the next gathering. Is there a Los Angeles feminist contingent out there? It is encouraged to reclaim our feminist identity and feel it from a place of love, liberation and justice. Vamos!

For a full photo-essay on the conference go here or www.af3irm.org, all photographs(c) taken by Lei Lani Montes (AF3IRM NY Coordinator)

For official information on this year’s gathering go to: www.12encuentrofeminista.org.

This piece will be published on December’s issue of Brooklyn and Boyle. 

Witness to a feminist movement in Guatemala

25 Oct

I made it! To Guatemala. The plane ride sucked. I left LAX at 2am and woke up from time to time on the plane. When the sunrise showed thru the window, it was absolutely beautiful. A thin orange and red glow outlined the top of mountains and the navy darkness covered the rest of the open sky. 

On Monday I went to check out my friend Kimberly Bautista’s film, Justice For My Sister. This film is about a womyn and her relentless efforts to fight impunity and convict the murderer of her sister. Even though her family is threatened, she continues to fight head on for her sister. In the struggle for her sister, she opens a fight larger than herself. It is a fight where a whole nation of womyn are seeking justice and an end to impunity. It was shown at a gathering of organizers preparing themselves to take on a nation wide campaign to help womyn against violence. My cousin, my mom and sister went with me. I’m so glad that they went. 

I had not seen the film in LA. But I am glad I saw it in Guatemala. The discussion after the film was so raw and truthful.   Every womyn that spoke yesterday has a personal story to share about how patriarchy and machismo has hurt them in their lives. One womyn shared how she hid her pregnancy until the day after she graduated from school. She was afraid her father would not let her finish her education. There is an ever growing urgency by womyn to demand an end to a culture that has allowed womyn to be mistreated, under-educated, raped, and killed. 

Violence against womyn happens at so many levels in Guatemala and around the world. But i sense a movement that is only growing bolder, stronger, and louder. This movement is telling boys and men to help womyn take care of the home. It is pleading with men to stop hitting their partners and instead learn to communicate and create harmony at home. It is telling men to take responsibility within their fatherhood. It’s telling society to respect single mothers. That a womyn’s body belongs her and not to a man or the state. This movement has recognized that their is war on womyn’s bodies and it needs to end. 

Silence is ending. Today i went to a womyn’s art festival, El Festival Ixchel. It is a 2 week long series of events organized by womyn. They have created spaces for womyn to showcase their art, sculpture, photography, graffiti, film, poetry, and music. Tonight i saw a series of short films made by Guatemalan womyn. Each film is dynamic, taking on multiple issues that affect womyn. One of my favorite short films was done by a collective of Indigenous womyn from Solola named Asociación Centro de mujeres comunicadora mayas “Nutzij”. You can check here and here to learn about them.

I am witnessing a feminist movement in my mother’s homeland. It is not a new movement, but it is colorful. It makes sense, Guatemala is very colorful! 

Me Voy

21 Oct

Im leaving again. This time its not for youth work or to escape. Im going to Guatemala to spend time with my family. Then I am hopping over to Panama. Ive never been to Panama and im so happy that I get to see this part of Central America. One of my goals in life is to visit every Latin American country. So far I’ve been to Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, & Guatemala. During this trip im checking off Panama and Colombia on my list!

While in Colombia I will be attending the 12th Latin American Feminist Conference, aka: El Encuentro Feminista. I attended the conference in Mexico City in 2009 and I was in full bliss to sit among 1,600 self-proclaimed feminist. Since then i have reclaimed my identity as a proud feminist womyn. I’ve chosen to define my feminism. One that encompasses compassion, healing, & self-care. One that talks back when disrespected. One that builds with womyn. And also

one that builds with men bc they are our fathers, brothers, cousins, friends, and sometimes our partners.  I do art, work with youth, walk my spiritual path, and it all fits within my feminist identity.

I will return in December. My birthday month! So i”ll see you then and trust! we are gonna celebrate the Sagitarius reign when i get back! 

Below are two videos inviting womyn from all walks of life to the feminist gathering. Even if you think you’re not a feminist, most likely you are… check it out! 



more videos herehttp://www.12encuentrofeminista.org/pagina.php?p_a=26&d=videos-encuentros-feministas-latinoamericanos-y-del-caribe

Cindi Santana and the Ovarian Psycos

14 Oct

Memorial for Cindi Santana @ Coyolxauqui Plaza | Oct. 12, 2011

The October Luna Ride:

And so it happened, the full moon showed up from the northeast and i left my house on my bike. I took the train to union station and biked to Hollenbeck Park, the meeting grounds for this month’s Luna Ride. The Luna Rides are called together by the lovely and beautiful Ovarian Psycos, aka the Ovas! Representing Womyn’s independence, sacredness and wildness at full speed, i joined these ladies to ride with the warm October wind.

As we left the park i counted 28 of us and took up a whole car lane. With the full moon on our east side in full bloom, i thought to myself, “we exchanged brooms for bikes but not our spirits”. Our bike route that night would take us to the Moon Goddess, Coyolxauqui, literally. A  replica of the Moon Goddess Monument that was excavated from Templo Mayor, sits in City Terrace, East LA. Here we would gather for ceremony to honor and remember Cindi Santana and the victims/survivors of domestic violence. Cindi Santana lived to be 17years old, a senior high school student in South Gate, CA that was beaten and stabbed by her ex-boyfriend. Youth dating violence is not new, its older than the time my mother was first hit by her partner 40 years ago. And it is more wide-spread than we could ever imagine:  “One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.” (1)

Domestic violence is a truth that has lingered in my life since before me (my gramma ancestors survived rape and pillage from Europeans, the church, and eventually her partners). When i was in the womb i was already aware of domestic violence, as my mom survived, so did I… Along with 1 out of every 4 womyn. (2)

As we remembered Cindi, we told stories to heal ourselves from pasts that sometimes we bury in shame. Many prayers  and offerings were shared during our ceremony. I want to re-write some of those prayers and share them with you: 

Prayer for children who are surviving domestic violence with their mothers

Prayers for sisters, cousins, mothers, and friends who have survived domestic violence.

Prayers for sisters, cousins, mothers, and friends who have been murdered by their partner. 

Prayer for the mother of Cindi Santana

Prayer for men

Prayer for womyn to speak up if they are in a violent relationship.

Prayer for womyn to walk away from violent relationships.

Prayer for womyn’s eyes to see their own worth and value.

Prayer for womyn’s heart, womb, and mind. 

I wouldn’t usually share sacred prayers said in ceremony, but bc we need to talk about violence in our homes and in our relationships, i have to let people know why we do what we do. I have to share why as a womyn, wefind ourselves in ancient ceremonies as helicopters, cars, and flashing lights fill our urban lifetime. Our realities may not always be understood, but its time for a change in how we love, respect, and honor our womb and our womyn. If your partner is a womyn, take the time to reflect in the ways you love and honor her. And if you dont do this to the best of your ability, humble yourself to change, learn from her, and be a better person. 

If you’re a womyn who finds herself in an fucked up, whack ass, messed up, fearful, emotionally tolling, stressful, worry-some, and/or trapped situation, speak up. Get help. There is help. Start with asking your mom, she knows more than anyone about survivorship. Tell a sister, a friend, a cousin. Call a toll-free number. Listen to your spirit and fight for your freedom. We have to be free! We have to! 

Infinite Fuerza by Ajtun, 2008 (c)

(1) Information found at LoveisRespect.Org 

(2) Information found at Domestic Violence Resource Center

Some thoughts on Sculpture

14 Sep

In my sculpture class I was asked, “what is sculpture?”. this is not my best answer but an answer that is developing….

Being of Mayan decent, I have seen monumental sculptures all my life. I have seen small sculptures created in front of me by vendors and artists selling on the streets in Guatemala. I have been to Tikal, Peten and I have seen  pyramids and12 ft sculptures. When the question was first posed in class, I was confused about how to answer it. But the Siquieros exhibition made me remember my own ancestry.  I can see further now, about what sculpture has been throughout time and throughout the world. Sculptures have told stories of kingdoms, villages, and tribes. They have been used to record and document our understandings of the universe mathematically, physically, and spiritually. Tribes that carved out totem poles created masterpieces representing power and spirit. If I can acknowledge what sculpture has been in the past it is easier to talk about what it is in 2010.

Art, including sculpture, seems to be a lot more focused on creating a conceptual meaning and understanding to it. There is a series of work that is created by an artists with an over arching theme or concept attached to it. It seems driven through academia and theory. And then again, I haven’t been part of that art world. Seeing the work of Siquieros, he did not need to write a huge paper as to the conceptual meaning and theory that drove his work. It was simply explained in one sentence or word that was used as the title of his murals and sculptures, i.e. Man the Master and Not the Slave of Technology or Portrait of the Bourgeoise.

Art is dynamic and exponentially challenging critics as to what is considered art. Is graffiti and wheat pasting art or vandalism? I ran into a book that talks about street art as art that serves humanity, much like public art is talked about. Except one is funded by contractors, transit authorities or government offices, and the other is funded by broke artists pushing society to reconsider their environments and social standings.

Where do sculptures fit? More of it will make sense through out my process in this class. I have experienced installations and sculptures in ways that deeply impact my mind. I saw an installation at the beginning of the summer by a Cal Arts MFA graduate. She recreated a life size model of a toy called “The Victim”:

She layed the sculpture  on the floor and as soon as I approached it I thought it looked like a woman getting raped. I began to study the installation and I found out why this sculpture existed. The artist provided examples of places where this toy was sold and a history of feminist women’s groups asking toy stores to remove this item from their shelves. Even more interesting was a video installation that recorded the responses by cyber writers to a film involving a rape scene. The responses talked about masturbating to the scene, other’s who did not feel it was wrong to recreate scenes like that in the movies, other people who said they had seen “better” rape scenes” Nothing else was provided but my friend and I figured that some of the comments, which were grotesque, were made that way because of the anonymity that exists in cyber space. We began to analyze patriarchal culture in the mainstream and how this toy allows for women to be constantly be portrayed/become victims of violence. This sculpture installation involved a typed history, a video, a comic book, the actual toy, and brought in the world wide web.

Sculpture and installations can be powerful when a strong message is intended to be delivered during its creation process. Sculptures can be wacky. Art is art and it why is it constantly being defined, and who has the right or the “authority” to say what it is, and what it is not. Art critics are annoying, but slowly I am becoming one myself.  I just wish people weren’t so snooty when talking about art. Art should simply be open to interpretation. Siquieros says, “Art is for the people”.