For a country girl who never heard the word Chicano until her second decade of life, imagining something like Mijente, a new political home for Latinx and Chicanx people, never would have occurred to me as a possibility . I didn’t grow up down for La Raza, shouting Brown power, or reading about Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. What I did have was an unhealthy obsession with Selena and singing Blue Moon over and over again with my sisters. I had hoop earrings, soda-pop bangs, and ponytails slicked back with limón. I had chicarrones, tamales and Jarritos on the side of dusty fútbol fields. I had my father’s deep belting renditions of rancheras on Sunday mornings. I had a fear of the police taking away those I loved, of bosses withholding pay, of white children taunting us with their racist jeers.
Like many Lantixs and Chicanxs of the 90s, I grew up in the corners and cracks of America in the fields and one stop towns that lie between every major metropolitan area in this country. We lived in trailers provided by farm bosses with too many kids to a bedroom and sleepily watched our parents drop us off with tías and madrinas before heading to poultry factories and apple orchards. Pre-internet, the only other Lantinx we knew were related to us by blood or perhaps from the same hometowns as our familias. Often we taught them English and often they encouraged us to speak only in English to “better ourselves” and to survive in places dominated by white people. We were as much the children of NAFTA and the global South as of our padres.
It would not have occurred to a 10-year old me that I was a part of a people, that I was part of mi gente. Had I known this, I, perhaps, would have been sad to have not felt a part of it by default of being tucked away in the valleys of Virginia. I, most certainly, would have better understood the circumstances of my life. I would have longed and desired for so much of what I searched for most of my twenties: a sense of home, a sense of place, a sense of belonging to something that was bigger than myself and that accepted me for every part of my spirit from the punk rock adolescent, to the feminist, to the queer.
This weekend, I found myself at #lánzate, the kick off convening of Mijente. On several occasions I mused on a room full of 200 or so Latinx kin sharing pozole and champurrado, dancing with strangers next to them, and discussing the finer points of political platforms and campaign strategies. Each of these times I looked around me in silent contemplation, deep joy, and heavy thought about what it might mean that we were all gathering in space together for a concentrated period of time in a city known for its history of Chicano organizing. I knew that, at the least, it meant my imagination was unlocked to the possibilities my childhood self could never dream. More than that, I wanted to think of what it would mean to the American political machine and to our lives, collectively as a people, as a gente.
What would it mean to present a united front of Latinx people embedded in the work of Black liberation, reproductive justice, trans and queer liberation, the death of capitalism and the defense of the Earth? What would it mean to the billions of election dollars used to buy and con us, right wing and Democrats alike? What would it mean for a people, por mi gente, to say noto the talking heads who claim to represent us but have no problem selling the most gender transgressive, the least papered, the blackest, the poorest, the most incarcerated among us down the proverbial river?
We are in crucial times in this country. The 21st century has brought Latinx and Chicanx in the United States the lure of white supremacy and we are actively being baited, as many times in history, to stand on the side of whiteness. The tragedy of a racial caste system plagues our people in the service of maintaining whiteness, in the service of denying our many Diasporas of their Blackness and indigenousness. As the Earth warms at a rapid pace, we are being told to ignore it and to forget that we are children del maíz, del mar, del sol. We are peddled the nonsense of forgetting our matriarchal lineages, our third, fourth, and fifth genders in the name of controlling property, denying bodily autonomy, and excusing violence.
Mijente stands in contradiction to estas mentiras. And, in my view, that is what Mijente is for: to redefine, evolve, and claim Lantixdad and Chicanixdad as an identity, a politic, a movement, and a praxis rooted in a history of freedom struggles across the globe, towards building a national vision for dignity and justice, and grounded in a shared hope for the future of nuestra gente. This new political home is right on time. It is an awakening of our people built on the legacy of long-standing resistance, la lucha, and organizing. What becomes of it and our work together is up to us. Where we are headed is not entirely clear, but the horizon, el camino, is as exciting as ever.
– Hermelinda Cortes is a working class country Xicana mestiza queer mama working, writing, cooking, loving, and organizing in the South towards liberation and dignidad @sapogonia
Originally posted on Medium.