Hola a todxs, this spring semester I will be studying abroad in Merida, MX. I am Chicana from San Jose, CA there I was raised by my mother where I had the fortune to learn and know the smells, tastes, mexicanisms in sum I was raised with the culture and the Spanish language. In the U.S I am identified as Mexican but in my visits to Mexico I am looked as a estadounidense not as Mexican. I live in the crossroads of my identity. This is why I am so excited, emotional and ready for Mexico. Being able to study in Mexico the land were my ancestors come from means the world to me. My goals while in Mexico are to become more centered with this part of my identity. In order to make this happen I aspire to learn more about Mexican politics, its history and also learn about local issues, practices and identifiers. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me every step of the way up to this phase in my life.
This week has been very stressful! By the end of April, I have to turn in five essays and submit a grant proposal that will support me through my thesis project. Being at home with my family is nice as it gives me an opportunity to spend more time with my siblings and my mother. Nonetheless, the constant instabilities that my family lives with make it very difficult to focus and maintain the same level of dedication to my studies. I play a huge role in problem solving at home whether it be filling out important document, job applications or seeking out resources for family support I am never only worried about meeting school deadlines. I am so grateful that I have an amazing boyfriend, great friends and the best mom to support each other during these times. Since my return home I have felt emotionally, mentally and physically drained. This week I went on less runs than the usual but took my siblings which was nice. I also chose to do work outside since it has begun to get super-hot and sunny. This was a nice change of scenery. My family and I also got our face masks this week.
The highlight of my week was having long conversations with my mom. It made me feel as if time had never changed and I was still living with my mom. This is the longest time I have spent at home since I left to Brandeis three years ago. I love being able to hug my mom whenever I want to. I read this great post that said “there is nothing more stronger than a woman whose ancestors were abused, erased, carved and stoned living all through her now” @poetagoddess. I shared this with my closest friends and my mom. It is beautiful and it reminds me of the strength that the womxn in my family carry and raised me with and I love to think back and honor the womxn who are no longer with us. I also, like to remind myself of the freedom that I have gained through these womxn specifically my mother. I am so free but not entirely. I sometimes feel so much anger and frustration about the way that serious issues such as this pandemic affect families like my own differently than those who are filled with privileges.
This week went by so fast! I tried focusing on getting homework and other important things done. I planned for next week’s productivity, had calls with friends and spent quality time with family watching movies and eating ice cream. I had two big zoom calls this week one for my fellowship called the Eli Segal Fellowship and the second one was with La Loba Loca they gave a webinar class titled “Sprouting Gardeners: DIY Plant and Garden Tending for the apocalypse.
For the Segal Fellows meeting, we talked about potential internship opportunities being virtual for this summer. I thought the most important takeaway from the meeting was talking about self-advocacy when in our internships. I think it’s a life skill that should be used in all settings not just in the workspace. Advocating for yourself does not only have to happen during extreme situations it could be for anything. I have been advocating for myself for so long it feels normal to me. Some peers shared about the importance of self-awareness such as knowing what you need or feel. I added being selfish in your decision making. I think they go hand-in-hand because sometimes folks make decisions thinking about how they will affect others and put themselves last. This could have a big toll on the body/soul. I am aware that there are folks or situations in which advocating for oneself is impossible and there are different methods for situations like those.
The webinar course with La Loba Loca Sprouting Gardeners: DIY Plant and Garden Tending for the Apocalypse was amazing! I did not think I would be able to join since they were charging for the course and I do not have the money to spend on fun things like this. However, there were so many great local community orgs that were giving out scholarships for folks to participate. The worm farm collective in LA (find them on Instagram @lawormfarmcollective) gave me scholarship money to cover the course. I love Loba and their work they are a queer person of color with a strong voice and as a public figure, they have a huge platform and followers that listen to their wisdom and I hope folks apply what Loba shares. During this course, they were very clear in explaining their non-colonial resourceful gardening work. They advised on different types of gardening indoors and outdoors. They spoke about soil facts such as different types of soils, the importance of its pH levels and much more for proper care of plants. Most importantly they spoke about the connection one builds with the plant/s they grow. I plan on taking on their advice in considering garden planning and looking back at my family lineage and our connection to the earth/gardening.
I am very grateful for the knowledge and the space both of these zoom calls gave for me to grow and learn more about myself. I look forward to sharing with my loved ones.
This week it has been very difficult for me to be productive. I have begun to question whether or not I should be meeting all of the expectations that academia and my future place on my body. I am very astonished at the lack of consideration, empathy, and training that the institutions and organizations I am a part of now have towards minority students. The education I have received through them regarding intersectionality, oppression, and communion seems to not be something they apply to their work.
I know of and have friends who do not have the comfort of a stable home, let alone access to WIFI, to be placed at the same standards and expectations that they work with when on campus. I include myself in this group of people. I, fortunately, have housing and food stability but there are constant insecurities living with an unemployed single parent. I decided to study at Brandeis because of the support they offer me while on campus which includes: support with tuition, meals, housing, my academics even advising. When at home that support is nonexistent. Focusing and meeting deadlines are sometimes impossible. I do not think home is a space where I can give my all to my academics. To top it all of my study abroad classes are not continuing through video calls. Instead, my professors adjusted the semester’s syllabus and have assigned more work and deadlines that are coming up very fast. I just hope that the world is better prepared for pandemics like these or any type of emergency like this in the future.
Regardless of my dismay and lack of motivation I continue to attempt to be productive and meet deadlines. I have advocated for myself and communicated with my advisors and my loved ones about my worries. I am very active and try to be as creative as possible. I have gone on long runs every day, I journal, paint and knit. I help my mother cook, with chores around the house or anything she needs my help with. I Have long conversations with my loved ones. I try to do work on calls with friends. There are days where I feel perfectly fine and happy with my productivity but then there are days where I am worried and become extremely overwhelmed with the stress of potentially failing the semester for my lack of work commitment. Sadly, I have come to feel fulfillment and peace through the completion of work assigned and grades received. We do live in an individualistic society.
Although I am a minority I still consider myself to be privilege in parts of my identity and what I am capable of doing with it during times like these. I have tried to be productive through social media organizing this week. Since most of my professors have not reached out to me or my peers yet regarding class syllabus changes filling my time by supporting my peers and organizations in need of help is fulfilling.
As a member of the grassroots organization Cosecha, Mass I decided to reach out to folks in old chats and friends who I knew are leading support groups at the moment to ask if I could be of any help. I was very happy to join zoom calls and offer my bilingual skills for support in translating documents or interpreting during calls. Not long after this, I was asked to join a zoom call to help interpret Spanish-English. I did not think this would be difficult. But it was! The zoom call was almost two hours and it at least had 10 folks participating and sharing their thoughts. For every person that spoke I had to type on the chat the translation. If the person spoke in English I would type it in Spanish and if they spoke in Spanish I would type it in English. I had not imagined it to be so fast and so much work. I have translated and interpreted in many spaces in the past but having been gone an entire school year abroad it was a bit difficult to jump back on it. I am glad folks were so nice and friendly. It felts great to help.
Additionally, as a member of the Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC) club while on campus I am very active on any movement or issue the club is working on. The club has a really good relationship with campus workers and is currently working with them and their union to meet their demands during this pandemic. Because dining and other outsourced workers at Brandeis have been laid off with no pay in the midst of this global pandemic we as students have been organizing to make sure their demands are met. If this crisis has made one thing clear, it’s that our community’s health and safety is deeply tied to its individual members’ well-being. Brandeis has left dining and outsourced workers with no financial security in these difficult times, which strongly contradicts its core values of social justice. Recently, MIT, Harvard, and Tufts University agreed to guarantee full wages and benefits to their dining workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The club organized through social media creating flyers, interactive posts and zoom calls all in which we asked for support in asking demanding Brandeis to commit to compensating its dining and outsourced workers with full wages and benefits for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. I did my part by calling all lines that we were asked to call and make these demands and I also send out emails to campus directors and joined zoom call meetings with BLC.
If I am not directly working with these support systems I try my hardest to be supportive to my friends that are working nonstop. I am so lucky to have friends who are part of the lucha and are constantly working and adapting to new forms of social movement action and support.
My host parents and I on my last night in Merida
This week Francisco and I participated in the local peaceful womxn’s march and also decided to be spontaneous adventurous!
These past months there has been a lot of uprising from angry communities all over Latin America regarding femicides and the abuse of womxn. Participating in the march was extremely empowering. Although Francisco could not walk along our side since it was only for women he was there on the sidelines supporting at a respectful distance. I walked alongside my friend Eliza and we held hands as we chanted, marched, danced and screamed with anger. It was awe-inspiring to see so many strong womxn that looked like the womxn in my family, that looked like me fighting, taking the streets and demanding change. I have participated in so many protests in the USA with similar demands and ideals but never see my reflection in the folks on the streets. It is usually privilege folks who are willing to risk and take the streets. It has been very difficult for my mother to cope with the fact that I am in Mexico as she constantly worries about my safety as a small woman. As someone who has suffered from assault and lives with generational trauma around assault constantly worrying for my safety in the different spaces I am in is overwhelming. These times are important, and I hope and pray that the patriarchal sexist system that we all uphold is destroyed/ brought down soon.
Right after the long morning Francisco and I headed home and decided to go to Cancun! We planned our three-day visit in an hour and headed home to pack and leave to the bus station. Fortunately, we did not stay in the luxurious resort area means for tourists. I think this really impacted our visit as we got a non-traditional view of the city. We were staying in la Colonia Alfredo V. Bonfil about 15 minutes outside of the downtown area. This meant we bused into the city with locals who were heading to work in the early morning. We walked through a few Mercado’s and ate a lot of good food on the first day. The day we headed to the touristy area of the city we realized we did not really enjoy the vibes. I met Francisco’s friend from home and we all played volleyball with a group of people we met on the beach. Francisco and I talked to folks working as vendors, taxi and bus drivers. They communicated with us about the difficulties of their job and the different levels of oppression due to low wages and the tourist setting.
Also, our host moms and friends from Merida advised on being extra cautious explaining to us that the city was super dangerous. We did not feel unsafe in any of the spaces we were in, fortunately. I really enjoyed the trip because Francisco and I got to spend a lot of time alone exploring and having long invigorating conversations. Overall it was a fun and empowering and exhausting week!
Hi folks, the week of 24/02-29/01 I rested and readjusted to my school schedule since we had just returned from a long weekend from our visit to CDMX. Nonetheless, on our arrival back to Merida I unpacked, ate a good lunch and then relaxed before heading out with Francisco and his dad to explore Uxmal and the town of Muna.
It was Francisco’s and my second time visiting the pyramids in Uxmal, but it was again breathtaking. We had about 45 minutes to walk around and climb the pyramids. We climbed one and enjoyed the view. We talked about how much there still is to be discovered in the massive forest surrounding the big space we were in.
Right outside of the archeological site we visited the chocolate museum called Choco-Story! We learned so much about the richness of the cocoa bean and the way that it was capitalized upon by settler-colonial powers and how that impacted the Mayan lifestyle. In the many sections of the museum, we got to feed spider-monkeys, touch and taste traditional recipes of cocoa water and looked at deer and a jaguar. These animals were all rescued and taken care of by the museum. We walked through beautiful jungle-like scenery and to end the tour, we bought delicious chocolate at the shop.
After an amazing time walking around the archeological site and learning about the cocoa bean we drove up to a small town called Muna to eat dinner. There we found a good torta place in the center of the town. After our meal, we walked around and walked into a public library. It was so small, and a lot of the books were super dusty. It was amazing to look through all of the books. I found a book titled Jose Clemente Orozco: Una Vida Para el Arte by Raquel Tibol. I was extremely excited because Orozco is an amazing artist and inside the book, there was a note signed by Jose Clemente Orozco. We asked the folks sitting at the front desk if it was real. We checked everything. We concluded that it most likely was a copy of a signed book but that there is also a possibility that it could be the original.
To end the long and breath-taking day we drove back to Merida in the pitch-dark high way and we stopped to look at the sky full of stars. From our visit to Uxmal to Muna, there were drastic differences in the way that the pueblos care for local architecture and what is considered historical and worthy of upkeeping for tourists’ attractions. The library seemed to be very old and looked like it could use renovations just like many other buildings surrounding the town. I think that the local tourist economy is very good for the Yucatan region overall; however, it creates a huge disparity within towns and communities and it seems to go overlooked by local government entities. Nonetheless, it was a perfect day and I am super thankful that Francisco asked me to spend the day with his dad and him.