Tag Archives: spirit

Freedom looks different to each person

9 Feb

“Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart and no one can take it away.” – Chinese Artist Ai Wei Wei

Across the world there is a multitude of confines that place limitations on our bodies and our expression bc of political, patriarchal, and/or corrupt reasons. I simply don’t want to talk about that right now. It is my responsibility to acknowledge that it exists. It is your responsibility to understand the many ways in which it happens everyday, almost everywhere.

I relate to Ai Wei Wei’s expression, not in a political sense, but in a spiritual sense. The first thing that came to mind when I heard this was the way in which i have felt the most free when I am out in nature. If you have the opportunity to leave the city and visit a forest, a mountain, a river, or a cliff overlooking the ocean, then you know that the fresh air you breath satisfies more than your lungs. There is calmness in the mind from a walk into a damp forest that crosses a creek whose running water makes that mellow melody of water over rocks and pebbles. That moment when you decide to take off your shoes and let your feet touch the cold water is freedom.


I have been fortunate to travel, backpack, snorkel, hike volcanoes, and make my own fires for warmth. I have tasted sweet, clear running water from rivers that fill as the sun melts the snow on the mountain i can point to. I’ve been tumbled and lifted, cradled and cleansed by ocean waves that make me feel weightless. I have felt powerful in my arrival to lost lakes and morning dawns after the pain and struggle of mile long uphill terrains. I have felt freedom this way.

Having found freedom in nature is the reason why my spirit always feels a sense of deprivation when my body resides in the city. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. When I was in high school i wouldn’t ditch to go smoke or drink at some kick back, i would jump fences and go boogie boarding at the beach. I would go swimming or visit the Friendship Bell in San Pedro and look out to Catalina Island. This innate necessity for freedom is probably what led me to go to college in Santa Cruz. I escaped South Central at 18 to fall in love with a redwood forest.

I’m going to leave this city… again and again. I really will. Im always planning my escape. When I finish grad school I am going to live some place tucked between hills and ocean. I will have trails and bike paths that cross rivers and hot springs. I am going to find my piece of freedom outside of this city.

Until then… I suppose i will “vacation” in far away lands, “retreat” to local mountain sides, and keep on hiking the local trails of Eaton Canyon and smog filled Griffith Park.

Forget your turkey, eat this!

28 Nov

I just finished watching this film. Its a good film and a sad story about Native children who were kidnapped and forced to live in boarding schools. The truth is still the truth. Enjoy your turkey all you want, but remember that part of what you may be thankful for, came at the cost of life and the sacrifice of others.


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

An Open Letter to Ms. Yates on Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

3 Oct

Dear Ms. Pamela Yates,

I went to the opening of Granito in Los Angeles.  I am thankful and I appreciate the work, time, and energy you have given to the people of Guatemala. When I went to see the film, I did not imagine that the story would be told in such a personal manner. Most journalists or film makers seem to take the back seat because they are so set on telling the story of others, but your personal accounts weave this story together beautifully.  I really appreciate the humanness you have shown through your film making.

There is something you said in your film describing your commitment and connection to Guatemala:

“Guatemala wrapped its arms around my soul and wouldn’t let it go…”

I get it. Through your film, you shared with us what you had witnessed and there’s no way your soul, your being, could not have been impacted so greatly during your time in Guatemala…

I have seen a number films about Guatemala, including Searching for Dominga, Killer’s Paradise, and La Limonada. The level of violence, suffering, and injustice is so extreme and heavy, that it never stops feeling like you can detach yourself from Guatemala. I want to share with you my connection with Guatemala…

I was born in 1982 in Los Angeles. The first in my family to not have been born in Guatemala. When i was a girl I would turn to the index pages of history books, hoping to find something on Guatemala. But hardly anything was ever accessible to me in that way. Before I turned 15, instead of having a quinceanera, I asked my mom to take me to Tikal, Peten. I haven’t stopped drawing pyramids since…

I was not witness to Guatemala in the 1980’s, the height of the repression, the massacres, the disappearances, the reflection of the devil upon earth. However, since I was a little girl, I knew something was wrong in my mother’s country. During my first visits to Guate as a 5, 7, & 9 yr old,  poverty became a concept i began to understand, i would question why my mom’s country was so poor, children my age were begging for food, why are people living so different??? I tried to comprehend the poverty, the alcoholism, and the oppression. I did not have the vocabulary, but i saw something that made me uncomfortable deep inside. When I went to college at UC Santa Cruz, I naturally fell into Latin American and Latino Studies. I had an intense need to learn about Guatemala and Latin America.  My mind has acquired a historical, economical, and political understanding of what went wrong in my ancestral land, but my spirit still mourns.

It saddens me, to know that so much potential for a more righteous and just Latin America was on the brink of existence during the 20th Century. Cuba was the kickoff, but the dreams of Chile, Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, etc.,  were over-taken by the CIA, military coups, and U.S. installed dictatorships. Through U.S. tax dollars, war has been funded countless times. And in the 1980’s, dollars manifested into Genocide and Femicide in Guatemala.

Where are we now? Where is Guatemala… how are people living and surviving? One look at the cover of La Prensa Libra will tell you the violence never stopped. And the trauma has not healed. My cousin, a 20 years old, was murdered in Huehuetenango during March of this year. He left behind his wife, a baby girl, and a grieving mother. His baby girl will grow up and find the story of his father in the newspaper, but the newspaper captured a lie. The town will tell her the truth, and she will be filled with fury to learn that men dressed in uniforms, murdered her father. I will tell her about the donuts his father and I use to eat when we were kids. But that is all I can offer…

Where are we now? I couldn’t answer it completely. It makes my stomach turn upside down. My entire family is in Guatemala. I hear lots of stories; good, bad, evil, miraculous… I will be in Guatemala in a few weeks. I will be spending time with my family. We will catch up, I will find my little cousins that are 5-10 inches taller than last year, the kids are becoming teenagers, and the family keeps growing. I look forward to the story telling, it’s always the best! I will share with my family for a moments worth, then i will fly away from that reality… but Guatemala also holds my heart and my spirit in its hands…

I’ve added a little granito here and there for Guatemala. There was a time when I produced a radio program for womyn that aired in Guatemala. I organized film screenings for two Guatemalan documentaries. I created a collective of womyn called Chapinas Unidas to raise awareness about the femicide in Guate. We participated in the women’s march in Los Angeles in 2008 and also held a conference with an all womyn panel of speakers who were survivors of violence in Guatemala. I still write about Guatemala and inform my friends about what I’ve learned and experienced. In the past couple of years, my granito turned inwards, and i began my own healing, including the healing of inherited traumas. I want to add more granitos de arena, if I can contribute to the next steps of the film, I am open to learning more. In the meantime, Ill encourage my friends to go watch the film!

Take care. Know that you are meant to be safe and protected on your journey. The helicopter falling captures that miracle, the access you were granted is of no coincidence. Everyone has a purpose to follow and I thank you for being a messenger of our people, sharing our stories through film,  and having the courage to act on a purpose bigger than yourself. 

Con Amor, Respeto, y Agradecimiento,

Ana Ruth Castillo

For friends who are reading this open letter, please add Granito thru your facebook: http://www.facebook.com/granitofilm and go catch the film at the Laemmle

Granito de Arena = a film and a humble expression of a collective process for change

how do you prove love?

9 Dec

“but ana, i dont get it, how do you prove love?”, asks my high school student as i was driving her home on the 110 freeway.

i answer the way people have said it before, “you just know. its a feeling. love comes from within…”

“but what does that mean, is it like having a soul?”

I thought about my spiritual path and i answered, “well i know i have a soul, my spirit, i can feel it and i connect with it. i cant see it or touch it, but i feel it. thats how love is, i feel it…i’ve loved before, but i have someone in my life right now, and we are in love with each other, and its never felt like this before…”

my student didn’t seem satisfied, she continued, “sometimes i wonder about couples in school. sometimes they look really happy together. and then the next month they don’t even talk to each other anymore. why does that happen ana?”

Why does teenage love last for a week or a month? I thought about my own high school relationships… “i think in high school you might not be mature enough to communicate and understand each other to the point where you work it out past one month”, i answered…

“but how do you prove love…?!?!”

All i could share with her is what I have learned thus far… “love is built on trust. trust is built on honesty and communication. love begins with a friendship. you can’t love someone and not trust them. you can’t love someone and not be able to communicate with them. love needs all these other things to truly exist …” 

she finally seemed satisfied with my answer, “that makes sense…hmmm…”

love doesn’t always make sense. we search for it in other people. hoping that it proves itself by itself. but in my experience, i had to learn who i was more, i’ve had to mature more. i had to learn what i want in another person, what works and what doesn’t. i had to learn how to ask questions and talk about so many unknowns. i’ve gone through relationships where the communication was tense, uncomfortable, and things were buried.

I’ve been trying to love better since my my college relationship. it ended so badly and painfully that i need to make sure to not repeat those mistakes. in the process, i had to also forgive myself. the hardest lesson was figuring out what healthy communication could feel and look like. when healthy, beautiful communication happens between two persons, it’s as if you are sharing your souls with each other. it is an exploration of what lies deep inside one another person. and you present it, bare and raw. it works out when the other person isnt afraid to share theyre ugly and their beautiful. and i’ve learned to be honest about my ugly and my beautiful. its been hard, but i finally found the me who is free to say and do what i want. and the person im in love with, loves my crazyness, my energy, my tears, my past, my future. i am sure ive been loved like this before. but still, something is different, and i can feel it, and it feels like love …

Searching for the Right Place to be …

10 May

“… the journey creates the warrior, not the destination…” – elder @ Bringing the Circle Together.

I realized something important to keep me going without feeling helpless or completely lost as I walk my journey called life.

Last night I headed in the general direction of a place where I wanted to be. In my search for a place to sit with the full moon and meditate with her I found many roads that went up, down, and ended. I had to reverse or turn around in tight corners and find other ways around. I could sense I was near, but it was such a challenge to find the right path that would take me to my destination.

And even after I had arrived, as much as I thought that’s where I wanted to be, I found out that it was no longer the right place.

Coyote at the midnight moonlit hour:

As I drove to a tree stump on the hills of Echo Park, across from Chavez Ravine, a coyote crossed my path. It was lost. I could sense it was frustrated and that it wanted to find a way back to what was safe and familiar. It did not want to be in the middle of the streets running in between parked or running cars. I stopped my car and coyote stood in front of my car. It continued running and I tried calling it back. But coyote had left quickly. He headed out in another direction. I only hope coyote is safe.

I kept driving up only to find four different dead ends. I noticed a helicopter intensely lighting the night sky above me, but I assumed it would leave. It was midnight by the time I found the road that would take me to the tree stump. On that road I drove past three different, creepy souls who walked with white blank faces.  The first one was a woman, she walked slowly and had long gray hair that extend out into the air. The next was a man was watering the bushes across form his house aimlessly. I drove on and parked. The third man, stumbled out of his driveway and zigzagged across the road. Instead of one helicopter, there were  now three scanning the hill across from me. It was not safe. Coyote had warned me. And it was time to follow my instinct and leave the ravine.

One more destination:

I tried one more destination, the cornfields, but I deciding to keep heading North towards the hills of Lincoln Heights. Once again, wrong rights, funny left turns, and more dead ends. But I could still see the place where I wanted to be and it was near. I few more tries and I finally made it. I parked, hiked up, and sat on a hill looking south at the sparkling jewel that is Los Angeles. I thanked my gramma moon, my mother earth, and my ancestors for the lesson they had provided…

The Lesson:

As I set my mind to manifesting my goals, I will come across wrong paths worth taking to learn it is not the way. I can always turn around, but I must be patient with my process, my mistakes, and try another way. I should not get angry, and instead keep hope, faith, and confidence on my side. As long as I have my eyes on the prize, as long as my heart is willing, the right road will always be near. When I finally arrive, my heart, mind, and spirit will know and rest easy with the deal I made with my destiny that has been reconnected.

When I arrived on that moonlit hill, a hawk flew closely above, gliding around in front of me, and with a blink of my eyes, it disappeared into the nights background…

Oil Painting by J. Naudette

Oil Painting by J. Aaudette (click on foto for website)

My Great Uncle’s Passing at 105 Years Old

5 Apr

imgp4760It was friday around 8:30PM when i received a text ” vos , que el tio reginaldo fallecio a las 8″. My great uncle, my grandmother’s brother, past on. 

I stopped. Re-read the text. And a wealth of signs i had witnessed for the past month zoomed thru my head signaling what was now fact. Deep inside, my spirit was already aware of this. I faced the fact and could do nothing else but cry. I had to sit and get some air. The friends who were with me could do nothing at the time, except give me some space to go thru my emotions.

They drove me home and i felt in a complete daze. My mind wandered everywhere. I made it home and zoned out in my room. I found my journal where i drew a portrait of him when I last saw him in August 2008. I knew back then that i needed to see him, his wife had just past and I knew he would soon follow. I found him and took pictures and film while my mom interviewed him for me. “Ubico!”, is what he kept mentioning. Ubico was a Guatemalan President/dictator that funded many infrastructure projects through out Guatemala. My great Uncle Reginaldo built roads, tunnels, buildings, and bridges in Xela.

There is a bridge in Xela that took many of the men’s lives while being constructed. The Goddess that protected that area needed sacrifices made to her if this bridge was to hold up. So she took them. This bridge my great uncle helped to build remains strong, through the earthquakes and hurricanes that have past by.

My great uncle, he lived a full life. He past at 105  years old, the oldest person in Xela. No one could have asked for more. I only wish I would have sat next to him and heard more stories. Before I left, me despedi as he sat in his rocking chair, the place where he decided to leave this reality. I kissed him and told him that when I asked for his blessing and wisdom I would pronounce his name in prayer.

I know he’s fine. He has joined his wife and my grandmother amongst my ancestors. I dreamt my grandmother a couple times before I left to Mexico City. She was so happy, skipping around, becoming younger, even her hair was darker. I saw her on a gloomy day, much like what Thursday looked like. We sat down to talk at a bench in front of a lake. Last Sunday I found my grandmothers corte after it was lost for over 3 years. I also found VHS tapes of my trips to Guate when I was a kid. On Thursday a flock of white doves flew over me.

I know he’s ok.

Mi Tio Reginaldo and his wife