Decolonize your mind

The roots and power of Xicanisma

     I discovered Ana Castillo when I was thirteen years old while perusing the bookshelves at my local library.  I devoured her poetry, short stories and novels.  When I was seventeen, my oldest sister acquired a book of her essays entitled, Massacre of the Dreamers:  Essays on Xicanisma.  In this book Castillo examines Xicanisma, a term she created to refer to Chicana Feminism. 

Castillo chose the term Xicanisma not because she wanted to exclude those that are not Mexican American but to include the activist/political ideology of Chicana/o.  She deliberately uses the ‘x’ in the spelling to pay homage to her indigenous roots by incorporating the Nahuatl language of the Mexica and their usage of ‘x’ in their language.  This idea is very important to Castillo who says, “It is our task as Xicanistas, to not only reclaim our indigenismo-but also to reinsert the forsaken feminine into our consciousness.”   

Feminism is the belief that men and women are equal and therefore deserve the same rights.  Beyond that there are many different theories and philosophies but social, political, and economic equality are the main goals.  However, in the second wave of feminism in the 1960’s and 1970’s, white feminists largely ignored the issues that affected women of color.  According to Dr. Dolores Delgado Bernal who teaches Chicana Feminist Theory at the University of Utah, “A woman’s sexuality, a woman’s class, a woman’s ethnicity, race, immigration status, all can play into her social identities and so how she gets impacted by particular issues is very, very different [from white women].  Chicana Feminists really are in tune to the idea that we have to look into concerns for working class women or lesbian women, for there is many different ways of being woman.”

Chicana Feminism works to gain equality for all peoples, whereas Feminism focused mainly on white middle class women and left the rest of us out.  That is why many Chicanas decided they needed their own feminist theories separate from Feminism.  Delgado Bernal explains, “Xicanisma is a framework that helps us think about issues that are grounded in social justice and women have been centered in that movement.  The movement itself is really about social justice for communities and so women’s issues really are community issues, are family issues, are issues for our sons, our daughters, our mothers.  I think that is really key and I think feminists of color very much brought that to feminist thought more so than white feminists in the 2nd wave movement.”

Chicana Feminism, or Xicanisma, looks at the many dimensions of La Chicana and particularly her role in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement that began in the late 1960s to the mid 1970s.  Although Chicanas have always been involved in el Movimiento their contributions have not always been recognized.  Many theorize that Machismo often got in the way of Chicana issues.  Castillo explores the foundation of Machismo in our culture, tying it back to the influence of the Catholic Church and its ideologies.  Castillo discusses the idea that women are subjugated because of Eve’s fateful decision to eat an apple from the tree of knowledge.  Ultimately women are being punished for their quest for knowledge.

Castillo says, “A crucial distinction between labels we have been given by officials of the state and our own self-naming process is that only doing the latter serves us.  The very act of self-definition is a rejection of colonization.”  So whether one identifies as Xicanista, Muxerista, Feminista, Xicana, it is an important declaration to start releasing ourselves from the bonds of oppression.