Table Manners

TW: Racial violence

Growing up, my parents’ house rules for their daughter were: Don’t get married, don’t get pregnant, don’t drink & drive, and don’t call the Police. At the time, I understood these rules only insofar as they laid restrictions on my social life, not yet recognizing that, for each rule, there was a story to be told for its origin. For so many women in my family, our Ancestors’ mistakes serve as cautionary tales about what can happen to anyone with a uterus who puts their faith in the wrong officer, doctor or romantic partner. Although I would like to think that the stigma associated with a criminal record or having an abortion has faded, the tumultuous events of this year are a clear reminder that nobody is safe from their past.

Before ever learning about “the birds and the bees”, I was learning about the many ways in which it was possible for me to disrupt my career potential through an unplanned pregnancy or run-ins with the law. Although I don’t ever recall learning about the ins and outs of sexuality, I do remember countless conversations in which my parents encouraged me to reconsider my behavior or clothing choices in order to protect myself from the unwanted attention of men. Inherent to all these rules and expectations was the intergenerational fear of being found out. A fear which accompanies any mixed-race family in a conservative, South Texan culture where being native Mexicano is an invitation for harassment, violence and citizenship disputes. 

In so many subtle ways, my family pushed me to understand the world as one that was not made for me, but where I should make my own space. In their rules and platitudes, I was taught time and again that I needed to learn how to fold myself into shapes that highlighted my proximity to whiteness over our own cultural heritage. Even when my mother was a child, her parents and abuelos refused to pass on their Spanish language, always fearing that it would prevent she and her siblings from assimilating into white, American culture. In Texas, we walk a fine line between whiteness and Xicanismo, and are nearly always viewed as the former. 

I started Lizard Letter in March as a way to process my experience as part of a native Texan, Mexican family and as a queer human, never expecting the many ways it would affect my public identity and personal communities. As I’ve worked to process and move past old traumas, their manifestations in my work are an ever-present reminder that personal experiences of violence and trauma do not ever simply disappear, but rather take on new forms. My past experiences made me who I am and guide me in my future endeavors, just as my Ancestors do. Although I would like to think that I didn’t need an international pandemic nor the 2020 election to push me to the point of critical reflection, this year will forever mark a turning point in my personal politics. 

I am not unique in my experiences of intersectional grief and discrimination. These stories of intergenerational trauma are not unusual, and I find myself incredibly privileged on countless levels that I am able to speak so openly about my experiences. I have spent the last several months curating a space for myself where I can feel empowered and protected in my goal to spread awareness about Invisible Disabilities and the Indígena experience in South Texas, and I am honored to have such a platform.  This does not mean that I will always get it right, nor that my analysis of race and power in the American Southwest will reach all audiences, but rather that I am pushing myself to confront the many ways in which I have acted within the patriarchy and within institutionalized racism without an awareness of the greater impact I was having. 

I aim to reconnect with my grandparents’ legacy of Bexareños contributions to Texan history, and learn how to integrate my lived experience with the historical legacy of native Xicanismo in South Texas and beyond. The power of storytelling lies within all of our ability to open ourselves up to being changed by the stories and experiences of others, and in the familial bonds that can be made simply by opening up space for others to be heard. 

WHAT I’M THINKING ABOUT LATELY:

Glitch Feminism, by Legacy Russell

“How Do You Translate Non-Binary?”, a comic by Breena Nuñez

The Difference Between Being “Not Racist” and Antiracist, a TED Talk from Ibram X. Kendi

“Can We Remake a Broken Immigration System?”, by Mae Ngai

“The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico”, by Becky Little

“Native American tribes in Texas rally to increase voter turnout”, by Trinady Joslin

“Fighting Racism Is What Makes Us Universalists”, by Mame-Fatou Niang

“Aching for Abolition”, by Camonghne Felix

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