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BY Dr. Margarita Refugia Olivas University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Department of Communication Studies 315 Center for the Arts 1725 State Street La Crosse, WI 54601 (608) 785-6717 (Work) (608) 782-2191 (Home)

Submitted to La Raza Caucus, NCA, 2007 Convention, Chicago, IL

Like many academic professionals, my formal scholarly and teaching endeavors bear an intimate, complex and sometimes conflicting relation with the whole of my encounters with self, others, and the unfolding of life and world. As important as they may be, these facts of my professional life are only one part of the generative nexus that spawns this work. Without the struggles of everyday life, of place and possibility, of history and remembering, this work simply could never have come to be. (Martinez, 2000, p. 2) The history Martinez refers to above is that of (post)colonialism. As will become apparent through the writing of this autoethnography, the complexities and challenges I have faced throughout my life are largely manifestations of social interactions embedded in (post)colonial identity differences. All cultures are made up, in one form or another, of a collection of codes of conduct marked by signs and symbols, written or images, reflective of cultural group identities (Berger, 1984, pp. 166-168). Moreover, as noted by Berger (1984), these codes of conduct are themselves symbol systems. In my view, humans, as symbol-making/ using/misusing animals (Burke, 1973), socially construct cultural codes informing the ways in which they behave, view the world around them, and formulate perceptions of self and others, whether they are accepted or not by the self or others. Since identities are positioned within relationships of power, humans daily engage in identity politics. Consequently, identity construction evolves from the interplay of power and resistance. In fact, resistance constitutes power, just as power constitutes resistance (Foucault, 1979). Thus, to understand power, one must also understand resistance. Drawing from Foucaults conceptual framework of power as rooted in hegemonic ideology, institutional oppression, and human resistance, Best and Kellner (1991) conceptualize critical postmodern theory as combining micro/macro theory and politics to explore contemporary society with a view to radical social transformation (p. 298). From a Chicana feminist perspective, radical social transformation requires more than just the unmasking of the ways in which power constitutes 2

conformity and resistance. Such a perspective constitutes the movement from resistance to conceptual (epistemic) delinking (Mignolo, 2005, p. 138), as will be explicated in more detail later in this paper. When delinking is accomplished, empowerment is the result. To explore empowerment in this way is thus a move away from the discourses of victimization that historically have rendered U.S. minorities helpless, both as individuals and as groups. In so doing, such individuals and groups can also move toward promoting social transformation that fosters personal and professional growth. Collier (2003), notes, it is evident that a first step toward transformation is therefore to begin with a critical analysis of how dominance is being enacted and reinforced (p. 14). Best and Kellner (1991) suggest that a dialectical approach allows us through a study of identity negotiation to explore the constitutive forces and relations in a society that is not only capitalistic but also racist and sexist. [I]dentity, in my view, is a mediating concept between the external and internal, the individual and society, theory and practice. Identity is a convenient tool through which to try and understand many aspects personal, philosophical, political of our lives. (Sarup, 1996, p. 28) In working to meet the challenges I have faced while in higher education as an ex-field laborer, single mother, sister, daughter, student, Hispanic, Latina, Chicana, Indigena, and scholar, I have continuously employed identity negotiation as a tool through which to better understand the impact colonization and postcolonialism has had on various aspects of my identity construction. The purpose of this writing is to present the conflicts and challenges I encountered on my journey from graduate student to scholar as they relate to identity negotiation, I accomplish this goal through first presenting the theoretical underpinnings influencing my ability to engage reflexivity and, to ultimately, acquire la conciencia de la mestiza (Anzalda, 1987, p. 10). I then

turn to explicate the ways in which I have historically lived Chicana Theory (Trujillo, 1998). Claiming to be a Chicana feminist, istobeapartofagroupofwomenwhosharesociohistorical andsociopoliticalcollectivememoriesof(post)colonialism.Itisalsoalabelthathelpsto distinguishthelivedexperiencesofChicanasasdifferentfromotherfeministsandfromthere Chicanopeers(Flores,1996).In the process of explicating how I live Chicana theory, I provide insights of my evolving identity as a product of (post)colonialism through the use of Storytelling (Toyosakis, 2007). As is the case with Linda Martn Alcoff (2006), I understand that One of the major problems with using personal experiences or histories is that one has the tendency to make oneself the heroine or at least sympathetic in every narrative. Especially where identity matters are concerned, where the stakes are high and the misinterpretations are so frequent, this tendency is even stronger. (p. x) Unlike Martn Alcoff, there is a significant amount of what I write in the following pages that is personal. Yet, similar to Martn Alcoff, I have tried to combat this tendency [to make oneself the heroine or at least sympathetic in every narrative], no doubt with mixed success (p. x). I attempt to avoid this tendency via the interweaving of the first-person and the third-person narrative voices. These voices provide glimpses into particular motives, desires, and fears (Gergen & Gergen, 2002, p. 11) driving my identity negotiation. I utilize narrative because I believe it to be an important and powerful vehicle for the presentation of self and other (Shaw, 1997, p. 314). Critical Postmodernism and Chicana Feminism Since the early 1990s critical scholars have been diligently working to conceptualize critical studies within a postmodern world. For example, Best and Kellner (1991) do not use the phrase critical postmodernism in their development of critical social theory (CST); however, 4

they do describe a postmodern condition (Lyotard, 1993) situated somewhere between modernity and postmodernity. These scholars postmodern theorizing renounces grand narratives while also denouncing the extreme relativistic approach taken by many scholars conducting normal science within the postmodern paradigm. In short, Best and Kellner conceptualize CST on the border of modernism and postmodernism; hence CST is simultaneously neither and both. Furthermore, critical postmodernism is conceptualized as a manifestation of various shared paradigms (Kuhn, 1970, p. 278). As a hybrid form of theorizing, CST encompasses new theoretical articulations which draw on both [critical theory and postmodern theory] and other traditions of contemporary theory (p. 298). Drawing from various feminists and critical theorists (e.g. Foucault), often referred to as postmodern scholars, Mumby (1996) sets the goal of developing his perspective of affirmative postmodernism, showing the limitations of skeptic postmodernism. For Mumby, this middle ground lies in what he calls postmodern feminism. He proposes that postmodernity, like modernity, is multifaceted. His view on postmodernism is opposed to what might be called skeptical postmodernism, which does not allow for any one truth to be claimed as ultimate; any experience is as valid or as true as any other experience. This skeptical version of postmodernity resembles what Best and Kellner (1991) refer to as positive culturalists. Such scholars tend to place emphasis on difference, otherness, pleasure, novelty, and attack reason and hermeneutics (p. 15). Affirmative postmodernism (Mumby, 1996), on the other hand, is a more optimistic perspective than skeptical postmodernism as it allows for the exploration of collective resistance to forms of domination. Despite the differences between modern feminisms and postmodern feminisms, Mumby, citing Tong (1989), argues that postmodern feminism is not

necessarily in opposition to modernist feminist research: Instead, we [meaning feminists in general] have multiple voices at work that take various perspectives on issues of power, identity, meaning, emancipation, and so forth (pp. 162-163). Similarly, Best and Kellners (1991) goal is to advance a critical social theory drawing on the theories of the Frankfurt School, feminism, and postmodernism. Unfortunately, Best and Kellner appear to be aware of the work of feminists who reject aspects of modernist and postmodernist theoretical perspectives while drawing from both; however, their bibliography lacks works by such U.S. Third World feminists such as hooks (1989), Prez (1991), and Sandoval (1991). These scholars, like Best and Kellner, reject both universal truths and multiple subjectivities rendering all truths equal (Crdova, 1998). The consequence of Best and Kellners shortsightedness is their multidimensional, multi-perspective, and dialectical critical social theory resembles the critical epistemological matrix of many feminists of color. According to Sandoval (1998), U.S. Third World feminism is understood as critical apparatus, theory, and method (p. 353). Research from this standpoint allows for a better understanding about transformation and liberation through analysis of hegemony and the power relations which result in oppressing and marginalizing people of color (Crdova 1998, p. 30). Hence, Chicana feminism is not so much about exploring resistance as it is about exploring modes of liberation. Amongst Third World feminisms are a variety of Chicana feminisms. Sandoval (1991; 1998) has identified five different types of Chicana feminisms spanning the late 20th century: 1) Chicana liberalism, 2) Chicana insurgency, 3) cultural nationalism, 4) Chicana separatism, and 5) Chicana Mestizaje. Of these five, only Chicana Mestizaje has been recognized for its postmodern tendencies (e.g. in Denzin, 1997).

The most well known Chicana writer amongst this camp of feminists is Gloria Anzalda. Some feminists have described this postmodern approach as a cross-disciplinary and transnational politics of resistance that is increasingly theorized as border, diasporic, hybrid, or mestiza/o in nature (Sandoval, 1998, p. 353). For others (e.g. Denzin, 1997), Anzaldas postmodern approach lacks prescription for creating any type of social change. Antithetically, others see Anzaldas theoretical approach itself as an agent for change (e.g. Castillo, 1995; Sandoval, 1991; Martinez, 2000). For example, Sandoval (1991) writes: This borderlands feminism, many argue, calls up a syncretic form of consciousness made up of transversions and crossings; its recognition makes possible another kind of critical apparatus and political operation in which mestiza feminism comes to function as a working chiasmus (a mobile crossing) between races, genders, sexes, cultures, languages, and nations. Thus conceived, la conciencia de la mestiza makes visible the operation of another metaform of consciousness that insists upon polymodal forms of poetics, ethics, identities, and politics not only for Chicanas/os but for any constituency resisting the old and new hierarchies of the coming millennium. (p. 10) A more recent interpretation of Anzaldas (1987) conception of Chicana Mestizaje and borderland theorizing, one in line with my own interpretation of her writings, is explicated by Walter D. Mignolo (2005). In his view, [t]he radical move made by Anzalda (as well as by Indigenous and Afro people in continental South America and the Caribbean) is no longer of resistance but one of conceptual (epistemic) delinking; a radical shift in the geo-politics and body politics of knowledge. However, in order to delink and move forward, you need a new pair of shoes. If you do not invent a new pair of shoes you remain kicking around in the old ones. (p. 138) In short, the manifestation of conceptual (epistemic) delinking occurs through the process of reflexivity that eventually leads to la conciencia de la mestiza. Anzalda (1987) thus leaves the reader to use reflexivity to see ones own shortcomings and ones own path to liberation or emancipation from patriarchy, racism, sexism, and selfhatred. In short, she advocates a counterstance (p. 100) that links with liberation, and

liberation with action based on delinking and disengagement from the hegemonic system of beliefs in which the formative subjectivity is based (Mignolo, 2005, p. 139). Self-liberation is accomplished through a process of critically analyzing ones own lived experiences. Ultimately leading to individual transformation and, possibly, to social transformation, depending on the motives and desires of the individuals transformed. For Anzalda, individuals are not just reactive beings; instead, they are active agents who have choice. As such, individuals have the potential to transform their own and group identities. In so doing, they also have the potential to go out into their communities where they can begin to provide the kinds of support needed to assist in transforming the lives of others. I believe this is best accomplished through social interactions embedded in storytelling about ones own transformation. I credit my ability to engage in this critical and prescriptive self-reflexive approach to identity negotiation work to the writings of Gloria Anzalda and Carla Trujillo. I view both these writers as critical and postmodern scholars who often utilize an autoethnographic approach in their writing. Although such writing has historically been popular among Chicana feminists, within the communication discipline, the use of first-person narrative voice seems to have begun to gain acceptability in the 1990s (e.g. Allen, Orbe, and Olivas, 1999; Amodeo & Wentworth, 1995; Bochner & Elllis, 1995; Ellis, Kiesinger, & Tillman-Healy, 1997; Ronai, 1995). Relatively new to the communication discipline is the embracing of works by communication scholars writing in second- and/or third-person autoethnographic narrative voice. For example, in 2000 Pelias wrote The Critical Life, wherein he strives to enlighten readers of the conflicts and challenges he faces on a daily basis as a college professor through the use of second-person narrative voice (p. 1). Although Pelias work may not have started out as a pedagogical enterprise, Banks and Banks (2000) characterize Pelias work as one that is

sensitive to the need to connect experimental writing with teaching and learning in the communication discipline (p. 233). Another scholar, Satoshi Toyosakis (2007) article Communication Senseis Storytelling: Projecting Identity Into Critical Pedagogy, explicitly addresses the need to project identity into ones teaching utilizing both first- and third-person narrative voices. In so doing, he provides a work that occupies the space between a monologue and a dialogue (Goodall, 2000, p. 11). Like others who employ autoethnographer, I utilize this method for more than a telling of [my] experience; it is a critical looking outward at power relations in a cultural space that constrains the meanings available for understanding the writers (i.e., ones own) life and text. (Banks & Banks, 2000, p. 235) Ultimately, autoethnography frees the writer from traditional writing conventions, thus allowing for ones unique voice, complete with colloquialisms, reverberations from multiple relationships and emotional expressiveness (Gergen & Gergen, 2002, p. 14). The narratives utilized in this article are not intended as an alternative, scholarly mode of expression for theories and concepts (Hecht, 1998, p. 17), as much as they are intended to aid in the understanding of how one lives theory, in my case Chicana Theory. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting most of the Chicana feminist writers whose works I read, I feel I know them more than most of the people I interact with on a daily basis. One reason for feeling this close affiliation is a result of strongly identifying with their borderland theorizing. Thus, it should come to no surprise that Carla Trujillos book Living Chicana Theory (1998) would serve as the impetus for better understanding the ways in which I live my life. Please, reader, keep in mind that I do this from my own Chicana feminist perspective. Additionally, although I share much with other Chicana feminists, I caution the reader to view this autoethnographic work as

representing the lived experiences of but one woman not as the voice for all Latinos, Chicanas/os, and/or Hispanics, feminist or not. Living Chicana Theory For Chicana feminists, as is the case for the majority of feminists of color, postcolonial theorizing . . . encompasses bodies of knowledge and sets of institutional practices that actively grapple with the central questions facing groups of people differently placed in specific political, social, and historical contexts characterized by injustice. (Collins, 1998, p. xiv) As Collins further notes, such feminism is also about a commitment to social justice. Since Chicana feminist engage in identity politics through their lived experiences, Chicana feminisms are thus intrinsically tied to standpoint theory, just as Chicana feminisms are also intrinsically tied to critical theory. In line with critical theorists, I view race, gender, and class oppression as salient and enduring, yet changeable, practices within our society (Orbe & Harris, 2001; Worchel, 1999). The challenge is thus to work toward promoting the gradual change of the existing institutional, social, and political forces that perpetuate race, sex, gender, and class oppression, among other social ills. As a scholar and an activist, I also find it necessary to acknowledge the impact of my own identity negotiation or of my doing identity on the conduct of my research. Viewing identity negotiation from a Chicana feminist epistemological stance was extremely valuable to me when exploring my place in academia during graduate school. I found that my existence on the identity borderland meant I simultaneously, albeit temporarily, occupied a space in time and place where my identity was in limbo. At once I was a member of the intellegencia on the other, I was just Margarita, the grown up version of the little girl who worked in the fields every day after school, who helped her grandmother make tortillas for the


braceros (field-hands) after a day of hard work. In order to create a hybrid self where I could be comfortable with my new emerging identity as a graduate student in a very White world, I had to first recognize the socio-historical and socio-political oppressive discourses and experiences creating the borderland space that I occupied and continue to occupy in higher education. Undoubtedly, my interest in investigating the ways in which discourse embedded in power relations impacts ones identity is rooted in my own history. Coming to know who I am and the ways in which I have engaged in doing identity has been a very complex endeavor. This is because the process of doing identity is largely done without contemplation or consideration of the ways in which I daily and simultaneously communicate my multiple identities. In fact, it was not until I experienced a rupture with normalcy (Anzalda, 1987) or disequilibria (Habermas, 1971), that I began the process of engaging reflexivity as a means of understanding my past, present, and future identity. As noted by Mies (1984), it is [o]nly when there is a rupture in the normal life of a [person] . . . is there a chance for [him/her] to become conscious of [his/her] condition (p. 360) or of his/her becoming someone new. Such ruptures or disequilibria serve as vehicles toward what Burke (Gusfield, 1989) views as demystification of the normal within patriarchal (Mies, 1984), racist, sexist, and class relations. Through my studies, I have learned that when individuals experience a rupture with normalcy or disequilibria a search for selfhood results. Beginning in 1993, I embarked upon a journey that ruptured my normalcy, leading me to a search for selfhood and, eventually, to transformation of my epistemological and ontological condition. I view selfhood has evolving from [t]he thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that arise from the awareness of self as object and agent . . . think of the object aspect of self as concerned with being, and the agent aspect of self as concerned with doing. Being refers to descriptive features of the self such as identity and self-esteem. Whereas doing


refers to behaviors and ways of thinking aimed at asserting, protecting, or repairing identity or self-esteem. A principal force that contributes toeven necessitates--these experiences and activities is the uniquely human capacity for reasoned self-reflection. (Hoyle, Kernis, Leary, & Baldwin, 1999, p. 2, emphasis original) In the process of searching for selfhood, I came to understand the meaning of assimilating in a more positive sense than I had been accustomed to. Shortly after beginning my graduate program, I began to feel alienated and isolated. Although this was not the first time I had found myself at a predominately White institution of higher learning, it was the first time I found myself at a research institute where the majority of students where not only White, but relatively affluent as well. Having been reared in predominantly Chicano/a impoverished communities, I experienced culture shock when entering this university. I felt completely alone, alienated from others who physically resembled me, who were around my age, who spoke Spanish, who loved Mexican music, and who could feel in the depths of their souls the beats to cumbias and rancheras. Yes, there were other Chicanas/os who self-identified as such on campus. The problem was that the majority of them were much younger than I. So, socializing with them was rare and typically occurred during ethnic events, usually sponsored by ethnic minority students. In fact, at that time I knew of only one other graduate student who referred to himself as Chicano, one male faculty members who referred to himself as Chicano, and one female faculty member who referred to herself as Chicana. Unfortunately, these three were so wrapped in their studies, research, and teaching, they had little time for socializing, as was the case for myself. Additionally, they were located in building relatively far from where my department was housed. As I progressed through my graduate classes it seemed that no matter what I said or what I did, I could not feel comfortable among my graduate peers. This was especially the case in


classroom settings where I was the only minority student. I was exhausted from challenges arising from the fact that I was not the typical graduate student with whom my professors were accustomed to dealing. Like other Chicana feminists who have felt it challenging to find a comfortable space within academia, I was often perceived as an angry Mexican accusing everybody of racism (Castellano, 1992). This perception of me resulted from interactions wherein I, for a lack of a better word, defended minority groups and/or spoke out against what I perceived to be racist and sexist commentaries. I cannot say this perception of me was unfounded. For example, I distinctly remember one day when we were in a class exploring globalization. My peers and I were discussing the impact NAFTA was having on third world countries. One of my graduate student peers stated, Well, it wouldnt be such a problem if Mexicans would stop having kids they cant afford. I sat there in disbelief and thought to myself, No way, [my peer] didnt just say what I thought [my peer] said. Then my peer continued ranting about people creating their own reality by having these kids they cant afford. My head felt as if it were about to burst. I could feel myself control slipping away as my fingers trembled. I looked at my peer and attempted to keep my composure. But, to no avail, I have never been one to hide my emotions. The next thing I knew, I shouted out, And what the hell does having babies have to do with NAFTA! As a friend of mine once told me, I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Not only did my voice reveal my anger, so did my ridged hand gestures, frowned eyebrows, and the daggers, symbolically speaking, emanating from my glare. Desperately, albeit, angrily, I tired to get my peer to understand that it was wrong to blame people for their plight when in fact their current condition was a manifestation of (post)colonialism. But, the words that came out of my mouth were not what my mind was thinking. I could not formulate the words intellectually or


intelligibly. Everyone in class just stared at me. Not one person, not even our professor, said anything to counter my peers declaration and its implicit message of Latinas as baby-making machines who created their own place in an oppressive society, long supported through the actions of U.S. government policies and interventions. My peer sat there, with a grin as we continued to defend his position. Finally, our professor interrupted our argument and the class was dismissed. I walked out of the room and headed straight to the bathroom. I closed the door of one of the stalls behind me and fought back the tears welding in my eyes that eventually streamed down my cheeks. I recall thinking, I didnt come here for this, what the hell am I doing here! As I write these words, I think back and see that woman, that stranger sitting on the lid of the toilet seat, sobbing in silence, hoping no one would walk in and hear her. She feels confused, frightened, homesick, but most of all, betrayed, betrayed by her peer, her feminist friend, who she envision to be her ally. It would be several years after graduating before she would be told what she knew intuitively as to why her feminist friend did not speak up that day. Un Cuento: Confessions of a Feminist An Example of not Living Feminist Theory Years later on a visit back to the small town from where she eventually would receive her doctorate degree, Margarita had the pleasure of having lunch with a former graduate student colleague and alumni. During their lunch, the feminist scholar confessed a secret she had been guarding for many years. With some remorse, Margaritas friend announced that, while in graduate school, she often agreed with the disagreeable things Margarita would say in class. In fact, she claimed, at times she would be very upset with things that were said. However, she stated, I was afraid of what might happen if I aligned myself with you. In other words, Margaritas friend did not want to be ascribed the identity of being an angry or radical feminist.


This confession, although healthy for her friend, was as troubling to Margarita as was her friends silence on the day the graduate student boldly blamed the (post)colonial plight of Mexicans on their having too many babies they could not afford. The memory of that day rushed back into Margaritas mind as she relived the anguish she felt sitting in the bathroom stall. She knew then, as she knew now, that her friend was at the time a young and immature feminist. Looking at her friend, Margarita stated, Its okay, I do understand. Although Margarita understood the reason for the silence, she could not shake the hurt she felt that day. Undoubtedly, thought Margarita, her confession served only one purpose - to rid herself of the guilt of claiming to be a feminist while not living feminism. That evening Margarita contemplated more on the perceptions of her as an angry Chicana. She sat for hours engaging in reflexivity, putting together the pieces of her (post)colonial past. Slowly she began to reconstruct the story of her birth, her youth, and the effects of (post)colonialism on her identity. Otro Cuento: The Effects of (Post)colonialism: The Birth of the Angry Chicana Once upon a time, a little brown bundle of joy was born into a California migrant farm laborer family. Her father was born to Yaqui parents who trace their roots to Tucson, Arizona. As was the case with the Berlin Wall, after the 1840s Mexican-American War the newly formed U.S./Mexico border divided brothers, sisters, cousins, and even children and grandchildren from their parents and grandparents. Such was the case for Margarets fathers extended family that historically lived in what is now Tucson, Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. Margarets mother was third generation Mexican American and had only progressed to the 3rd grade, with about four of her mothers 12 siblings, the youngest ones, finishing high school. Shortly after her birth, Margarets mother became a single parent, so the infant girl


would grow without ever knowing her father or his family. For the next 16 years Margaret worked in the California fields along side her immediate and extended family picking various fruits and vegetables, while moving from migrant camp to migrant camp. As she grew into young womanhood, she often witnessed violence. Although well respected and loved by many, her maternal grandfather had physical, verbal, and emotional abuse tendencies, especially after a night of indulging heavily in Tequila. Often she would witness her grandfather physically abuse her grandmother. Consequently, the majority of his children were also physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive, including her mother. However, the most violent person of all was her stepfather. There was one particular incident that haunts her to this day. While living in Mexico her stepfather, an alcoholic, decided to take her little brother hunting. While in the mountains, her stepfather passed-out, leaving his 7 year-old-son to find his way home through the tears that blinded his path. In the distance, Magos mother could hear what she intuitively believed was the wailing of her beloved son. To make a long story short, Magos mother found her son wondering down the mountain path. Soon, her stepfathers relatives set out in search of Magos brothers father. They arrived a couple of hours later that morning, with the staggering man clinging to them. Immediately, her stepfather passed-out on the cool living room floor; the one the woman Margarita called abuelita sweep every morning and night. It was dinnertime when her stepfather awoke from his drunken slumber. Margaritas mother was in the kitchen peeling potatoes. Her mother was angry with her husband for having put their son in what could have been a deadly situation. Suddenly, Margaritas attention was drawn to the kitchen where she saw her stepfather lunging at her mother shouting out, ninguna mujer me hablara as (no woman will speak to


me that way)! Her hand with the knife in it went up to protect her face and Margarita watched in horror as the knife pierced through her stepfathers right forearm. The next few minutes seemed like hours as she and her brothers and sisters attempted to beg and pull at her stepfather and abuelta who punched, kicked, and dragging their mother by the hair along the ground like a rag doll. Margarita and her siblings shouted out for help to the neighbors who simply stood around as spectaculars. With her mother bruised beyond recognition, Margarita and her siblings dragged her under a table in the living room. Here, for the next two days, Margarita would care for her mother as she slowly regained her consciousness, her memory, and her strength. It is a well-known fact that the cycle of abuse is as, if not more, difficult to overcome as is the cycle of poverty. Hence, it should come to no surprise that the little bundle of joy grew to be a physically and verbally confrontational youth, resulting in her not having developed good interpersonal skills. The socialization she received in her in formative years is deeply embedded in her consciousness. Although she was no longer physically abusive, now and then the anger buried deep inside her manifested and blocked her ability to utilize her communication skills acquired threw higher education. In fact, recognizing her lack of communication skills was the reason for why she sought a communication studies PhD. Adelante: Engaging Reflexivity Through reflexivity, I came to understand that the anger I felt that day in the classroom discussion about NAFTA had much to do with my lived experiences and firsthand knowledge of the effects of (post)colonialism in the U.S., as well as in Mexico. The impact NAFTA, a product of postcolonialism, has had on third world countries, in particular Mexico, is not something I read about in books. In short, I knew that the poverty and oppression of Mexicans was not


simply because they had too many babies they could not afford. I also came to recognize that the perceptions of me as an angry Chicana were indeed justifiable to my peers, considering their own lived experiences. Now, when I think back on that day, I am somewhat grateful to my peer for saying the things that were said. Had they not been said, I probably would not have worked as hard as I did to learn how to formulate intellectual and intelligible arguments later in my graduate program. As the days turned into months and then years, I continued the challenge to complete courses wherein I often found myself rejecting what I believed to be insignificant works by dead White men. Similar to Black feminist writer Patricia Hill Collins (1998), I did not see the value of reading about communication and social theories developed from the ideas of selected theorists in elite groups. Moreover, it was difficult for me to grasp how my professors would defend findings from studies employing scientific theories and methods typically applied to the experiences of White populations and then generalize them. I also believed that the works I read were written for the benefit of impressing other scholars, hence limiting the audiences reading these materials. Additionally, as a single parent, let alone being the first of over 300 living relatives to attend college and graduate school, accomplishing graduate work was very challenging. Not only did my fellowship require I teach two sections of various courses, I also had two young children to care for. At times they would get sick and I would be up all night cooling down their fever or holding them as they bent over the toilet heaving bile. The next morning, I would have to find a friend to come and stay with them so I could attend class, all the while feeling guilty for leaving them. On these days, I would detach myself from Margaret and her haunting memory of a devastating past life event.


Orto Cuento: The Story of Little Jimmy I never thought I would outlive my child, was a saying foreign to Margaret. She heard this come out of the mouth of her best friend whose three-month-old baby-boy died of pneumonia. Three months later, Margarets little Jimmy was born, a happy perfect brown bundle of joy. The little boy grew to be a handsome young adolescent, one involved in soccer, basketball, baseball, and who had even won a few cross-country medals. Then one late November day, the boy awoke with a high fever. Margaret scrabbled to find someone to come and care for her son while she went off to work logging parts in and out of the aerospace company warehouse. She had become a single mother eight years earlier when big Jimmy was hit and killed by a car driven by a drunk-driver. Her sister agreed to come and stay with her son that day and the two days that followed. After a couple of visits to the hospital, little Jimmy was admitted due to dehydration. On the second evening of his hospital stay, little Jimmy complained to Margaret about his heart hurting. She worried, as despite the medication, he was not getting any better. She called the nurses and asked them to please call the doctor for further consultation. The doctor came and reassured Margaret her son would be fine. That night, on December 5, she awoke to her son gasping for air. She grabbed him and held him close, streaming for help at the top of her lungs. The nurses came charging in and pulled her away. She sat in the hall, curled up in a corner like a frightened mouse being chased by a cat with nowhere to run. She knew without being told, her son was dying. Soon she learned he died of a virus, Coxsackie B, which caused a massive heart attack. Now when asked how many children she has, she often finds herself saying, I never thought I would outlive my child. Adelante: Back to the Future The Drive to Succeed


Whether ill nor not, there were always things to do for my two little girls, both under 10 years old, whether it was PTA meetings, working on school projects, dentist visits, and the list goes on and on. Then, of course, there were other responsibilities not associated with family needs. Being the activist that I am, I did what most other minority scholars do when attending predominately White institutions. I served on nearly every committee that dealt with issues of race/ethnicity and gender. To complicate matters more, when it came to writing research papers I spent hours in the library trying to find articles within the communication discipline that could serve as models for researching race/ethnic minorities and the societal issues they faced from a feminist perspective. I just couldnt figure out how to apply existing theories to the population I was researching. All of these factors contributed to my inability, at times, to submit papers in a timely fashion, especially when I had been up for two or three nights taking care of sick children. Soon, I was labeled as not graduate student material by one specific professor. For this professor, being graduate student material meant conforming to the stereotypic prototype of most of my peers, despite the fact we had little in common other than our aspirations to acquire our academic and career goals. Thus, I began to speak out about the intolerance I saw in my department for anyone who was not a prototype of the ideal graduate student. My outspokenness and community activism only added to the ascription of me as an angry Chicana. I recall reading several articles cautioning about ethnographers going native. I remember thinking to myself, how can I not go native when I am already a native? Meaning I was a Latina researching the lived experiences of other Latinas/os. Hence, it is no wonder, that while conducting an ethnographic study among Latino youths at a local public school for a class


project, I found myself questioning whether or not [I] wanted to pursue an academic career, if being a researcher meant that what one did was observe rather than participate in improving situations (Merchant, 2001, p. 14). My belief was, and is, that [w]hen theory is not rooted in practice, it becomes prescriptive, exclusive, elitist (Christian 1990, cited in Crdova, 1998, p. 340). Nonetheless, in my efforts to conform, I found myself trying to stay neutral, a more modernist approach to research, while nurturing a burning desire to help those I felt were victimized by institutionalized racism and sexism. My research efforts were marked by perplexity, internal strife, and psychic restlessness resulting from the clash of voices and uncertainty as to which collectivity I should listen to (Martinez, 2000, p. 85). Each day I fought the turmoil wracking my soul as I became more and more disgruntled with my studies and research efforts. On the one hand, I wanted very much to finish my doctoral program. On the other hand, I missed my family and my friends. I particularly missed the expression of my culture and being among people who were like me. Often, I found myself saying, I just want to go home where I belong. Yet, while I had not wanted to assimilate to the ways of the White man, according to others back home, I had changed. While on a visit home during one summer of graduate school, my younger brother, Chico, called me a coconut. Meaning that in his eyes I was becoming White on the inside while brown on the outside. I contemplated that evening the disdainful words my bother had said to me. While sitting in my mothers living room, I noticed the photo albums sitting under the coffee table. Bored with the television, I pulled them out and began turning the pages. My mother was always very good at putting her pictures in order. As I moved through the years I began to notice the changes in my style of dress, my hair color, and even my eye color. I giggled at myself as I came across


a picture of myself with blond streaks in my hair and light brown contacts. It was as if I was looking at someone else. That girl in the picture, the one that went by the name Margo during that time in her life was now a stranger to me. Y Otro Cuento: A Rapture with Normalcy The thought of being called a coconut cut to her very soul. Her hurt turned to anger and then to self-questioning. Yes, it was true, she could not deny that Margaret had dressed and acted White when she was Margo. But, now, at this point of her life, how could her brother view her as a coconut, a sell-out to her racial/ethnic cultural community and a disgrace to her familia? Was she really a coconut? Were her experiences in higher education changing her to the point of not being recognized as a member of her community and even her familia? Who was she, really? The next evening, after having contemplated what had been said, the little brown bundle of joy - now a grown woman and mother - sat next to her mother who was recovering from bronchitis. Mamma, she beaconed, You once told me you named me after my tia Margarita, [her mothers younger sister who died shortly after she was born], but my name is Margaret, how come? Her mother responded, I named you after your tia. I did not name you Margaret. But then, why mamma, does my birth certificate say I am Margaret Ruth? asked she, waiting for an answer to a question she had never thought to ask before. Her mother, exhausted, shrugged her shoulders and replied, I dont know mijita. Ever since you first started school you have been Margaret. Adelante: In Search of Self-Hood Gaining More Knowledge About (Post)colonialism


Summer came to an end and I returned to my graduate studies and sought to engage more readings by Chicana/o scholars. It did not take long before I came across another term for coconut, tio taco. Maximino Plata (1996) explains this term as follows: Educated Mexican Americans are often forced to make decisions to reject their culture and their language in order to exert the necessary energy to succeed in their chosen professional career. On the other hand, their own community rebukes them because they are viewed as a tio taco (p. 106). Through deductive reasoning and reflexivity, I came to better understand the transformation I had experienced in my becoming an educated and independent woman. I no longer valued various aspects of my culture, in particular the subservient space afforded Chicanas/Latinas within our communities. On my visits home, I would often voice my feminist ideals and opinions, which angered my brother who had not yet grown out of this 1980s cholo, or as he is known in the community, gang-banger identity. He no longer saw me as the sister who emerged from the same lifestyle he refused to surrender. Instead, he simply relegated me to the status of an outsider within, since no matter what I will forever remain his sister. Like many other minority group members who seek to participate in mainstream society, the otherness in my identity [was] being constructed by [my] family members . . . as much as by Americans outside [my] famil[y] (Chen, 2000, p. 8). I had become an outsider within my own culture (Collins, 1998), while at the same time remaining an outsider in the ivory tower of academia (Allen, Orbe & Olivas, 1999). I was caught in the borderland resulting from the expectation that allying oneself with one group means distancing oneself from the other (Allen, Broome, Jones, Chen, & Collier, 2002; Allen, Orbe, & Olivas, 1999). Simply by being in graduate school I was no longer doing identity within my community, but was instead doing difference and thus becoming some abstract Other.


On the one hand, I was perceived as too White to be Brown. On the other hand, I was too Brown to be White. It was during this time that I realized an acute sense of dislocation and the equally acute challenge of having to invent a place (Sarup, 1996, p. 5) where I belonged. Therefore, I began to seek out other women facing similar challenges on campus and in the surrounding community. Within a year I had made several friends with White, Brown, and Black women; women who were near my age and who could appreciate all types of music, people, art, food, etc. In short, they were not only multiculturally competent communicators, but they also actively engaged in research, activities, and cultural events of those not solely of their racial/ethnic heritages. During this time I met a Chicana who would become my mentor, role model, and dear colleague. A few months after meeting her, she offered me an opportunity to teach a Chicana feminist course while she went on Sabbatical. Consequently, I read and taught the scholarly work by various Chicana and Chicano scholars. Soon, I came to full consciousness about my colonial history and the impact of (post)colonialism on my identity. In this space, I could sense my intellectual growth and my evolving conciencia. One of the most helpful books in illuminating the effects of (post)colonialism on my identity was a book by Ian Haney Lopez (1996); White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race. I remember after reading this book thinking back and imagining what life was like for my ancestors. My mind eventually wondered into more modern times, to the years leading up to the Civil Rights Movement and eventually the birth of Margaret. Y Un Cuento Mas: Assimilation Efforts and the Striping of an Identity As the story goes, prior to the Civil Rights Movement, Mexicans and/or Mexican Americans underwent a period of intense discrimination and assimilation efforts on the part of


Anglo society (Lopez, 1996). The assimilationist movement overtly and covertly sought to rid U.S. born Latinos of their cultural and racial identity markers; a practice reminiscent of the ways in which the Spaniards stripped Margarets indigenous ancestors of their culture and Nahuatl language, now considered a national language of Mexico (Sierra, 1995). Ironically today, Spanish is both a hegemonic language allowing for the subalternization of Amerindian languages [in Mexico] and a subaltern language of North Atlantic modernity (Mignolo, 2000, p. 268). A relatively common assimilationist practice during the mid 1900s included the sterilizing of Mexican women who were viewed similar to the way Margarets colleague viewed Mexicans - as having more children then they could afford. In short, upon entering U.S. hospitals to give birth, many Mexican and/or Mexican American women who could not adequately read or write English were asked to sign surgical consent forms that resulted in the removal of their reproductive organs. These consent forms would be written and explained in English. Thus, many Spanish-speaking women would often sign papers without realizing what they were signing. Another common assimilationist practice of the mid 20th century was the Anglozing of Spanish names. One example of this type of assimilation practice was perpetrated against Margaret, the infant girl born to two farm laborers, one Mexican American the other Yaqui. The infants birth certificate states her birth name was Margaret Ruth, despite the fact her mother gave her birth name as Margarita Refugia. The birth certificate also implies she was born to White parents, since both her parents racial identities are listed as White. During the assimilationist era of postcolonialism, the black/white paradigm, which operat[ed] to govern racial classifications and racial politics in the United States (Martn Alcoff, 2006, p. 248), was


the driving ideology. Hence, in various parts of the U.S., Latinos, as was the case with American Indians born in California and Montana (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1993), were classified on their birth certificates as White. Historically, the US, among other colonizing forces, has utilized languages as one of the foundations upon which to enact identity politics . . . . (Mignolo, 2000, p. 288). Stripping U.S. Latinos of Spanish was important because [l]anguage may be as disruptive a force as any culture marker (Coulmas, cited in Mignolo, 2000, p. 221). In short, taken together, the institutionalized assimilation practices described above were utilized in efforts toward creating a common cultural and national identity for U.S. racial/ethnic populations not classified as Black. Consequently, many Latinos with indigenous roots who were stripped of their identities, not once but, historically speaking, twice experience permanent scaring. Margarets experiences were prime examples of this assimilation effort. In fact, whenever she hears the name Margaret, she gets flash backs of her first grade teacher looking down at her, angrily slapping her ruler across her knuckles as she yelled out Margaret! . She can easily recall the confusion and humiliation, and anger that penetrated her soul as her hands stung and instantly began to swell beneath the heavy ruler. It did not take her long to realize what had occurred was considered just punishment by her teacher for not responding to her name. Prior to that day, the little girl had never been called Margaret. She was Mago, the nickname bestowed upon her by her abuelito, the one who spoke Spanish fluently, while also knowing some English, Nahuatl, Tagalog, and French. Her grandfather, like many Chicanos and Mexicanos, had a custom of giving his children and grandchildren nicknames that reflected elements of their personalities. Mago was named in honor of the three wise men, Los Tres Magos; since she was speaking full sentences (in Spanish) by the age of two. Of course, she was


also Margarita, a name usually only used by her mother when Mago would get into mischief. From that first day of school, Margaret was no longer allowed to speak Spanish in class. Eventually she was placed in a class for the retarded kids, which mostly consisted of students whose first language was Spanish, until she learned to read and speak English. Meanwhile, whenever she spoke Spanish, she could expect a ruler slapped across her knuckles, the paddling enforced by the principle, or a beating in the playground, the latter being a result of White kids thinking they were being negatively talked about, whether they were or not. Although she gave up speaking Spanish in school, she continued to speak the language at home with parents and grandparents, thus engaging in bilanguaging, the living-betweenlanguages (Mignolo, 2000, p. 264). However, for various reasons, once her children were born she chose not to teach them Spanish. The major reason for not teaching them Spanish was her desire not to have her children face language discrimination in school. Unfortunately, her choices have had residual effects as they have consequently led to the identity crises of her three, now grown, children who do not speak Spanish. She now worries about her grandchildren, the ones with dark hair, dark skin, and dark almond shaped eyes that are too White too be Brown and too Brown to be White. Will they also experience the residual effects of colonization? Yes, to varying degrees they will because Latinos/as or Hispanics of Spanish and Luso descent are all children of European colonialism and its system of education, from school to university, from the family to the church. But we [Latinos/as or Hispanics] belong to the Latin languages version of history and mode of being and, as Anzalda realized, we are all related closely to the Indigenous and Afro populations because we share in different ways the colonial wound (Mignolo, 2005, p. 155). Adelante: Developing la Conciencia de la Mestiza Living a Borderland Identity Throughmystudies,Irecognizedthattoengageinmestizajepraxisonemustbe consciousoftheconflictingcodes(borderlands)acrosswhichonestrugglescreativelyand 27

constructivelythatis,strugglesbycreatingnewinterpretationsandbuildingbridgesacross longseparatedspaces(lands)(Martinez,2000,p.19).Asnotedbyoneofmymentors,Ididnot havetogiveupwhoIwas.Instead,throughmystudiesofIwasaddingtowhoIwas. Inaddition,throughunderstandingmy(post)colonialpast,Ihaveabetterunderstanding ofthefluidityofmyidentity.Forexample,throughoutmylife,Ihaveneverusedthe racial/ethnicidentitymarkerHispanicwhenselflabelingmyracial/ethnicidentity.Yet,since PresidentRonaldReagonsadministrationthislabelhasbeenascribedtomebyothers,whether theotherwasofmyownracial/ethnicheritageornot.DependingonwhomIaminteracting with,Imayormaynotrequestthisidentitynotbeusedwhenreferringtome.If I am to use an overarching identity marker, I prefer the label Latina, which is indicative of the many cultural characteristics I share with those born and raised in Latin America, in particular those with indigenous roots. For me, to be referred to as a Hispanic, is to simultaneously negate my indigenous roots. Just because I speak Spanish, the tongue of the 18th century conquistadores and colonizers, does not mean my ancestors were from Hispania (Spain, or any other nation in the Iberian Peninsula). Yet, I do not fully identify as Latina, since the only thing Latin about my identity is the fact that some of my ancestors where colonized in what is now known as Latin America. Really, I am a Chicana, born and raised in the Southwestern U.S., as were some of my ancestors. Hence, I am also Indigena. Ultimately, I am a person who has come to accept the manifestation of contradictions embedded in racial/ethnic identity through developing la conciencia de la mestiza (Anzaldas, 1987, p. 10). In short, I have developed the consciousness of a woman who has


learned to live with not only her mixed race/ethnic and cultural identity, but also the contradictions embedded in that identity. Indeed,Iwasnotacoconut,asIcametorealizeIwas,instead,absorbingnewwaysof thinkingandknowingthatallowedmetobridgethegapsbetweenthecommunitiesIlivedin. Forexample,throughbridgingtheinteractiongapthathaddevelopedbetweenmybrotherandI (largelyasaresultofourhavinggrownapartaftermymovingawaytopursuehighereducation) IlearnedthathisascriptionofmeasacoconutwasnotbecauseIwasbecomingone,butbecause ofmyeducationalpursuits.Inhiseyes,IwasnolongertheMagoheknewduringhis formativeyears.Instead,heperceivedofmeasbuyingintotheWhitemansworld.Tobe educatedwasthusviewedbyhimasequivalenttosellingouttothedominantideologydriving thediscriminationandoppressioninherenttoacapitalisticsocietyfoundedviathecolonization ofourancestors. Throughfrequentinteractionswithmybrother,Ilearnedtobalancehavingonefoot,soto speak,intheBrownworldandtheotherintheWhiteworld.Intime,throughmyactionsandmy words,mybrothercametotherealizationthatmybecomingeducateddidnotmeanIhadlost aspectsofoursharedculturalidentity;language,religiousandfamilialtraditions,cultural values,musicalstyles,andcharacteristicsofcomportment(MartnAlcoff,2006,p.238). Additionally,thisrevelationhashelpedhimbemoreacceptingofdifferenceandofthoseinthe communitywholeavetopursuehighereducation.


Recognizing the ways in which I was living and continue to live Chicana theory also has assisted in my finally understanding the link between feminist theorizing and the theorizing of White scholars, including dead White men. In fact, through the writing of more recent living White men and women, I now better understand the connection between Anzaldas (1987) conceptualization of la conciencia de la mestiza and Habermas (1971) conceptualization of intersubjectivity as it relates to communicative action. Influenced by such scholars as Durkheim, Mead, and Schutz, Habermas views identity as constituted through communication with self and others. The goal of communicative action is to achieve intersubjective understanding of the validity of the others utterances (p. 189). The process of gaining intersubjective understanding requires engaging in interpretation of communicative acts at all levels. In so doing each persons self-understanding rises to a higher level, which, Habermas argues, can lead to undistorted and free communication. Similar to this Habermasian conceptualization of intersubjective understanding, Anzalda has conceptualized la consciencia de la Mestiza as manifesting itself throughout the process of breaking with normalcy, while engaging reflexivity that can lead to delinking and disengagement from the hegemonic system of beliefs in which the formative subjectivity is based (Mignolo, 2005, p. 139). This process should not be understood as occurring in isolation from the world. Martinez (2000) elaborates: [T]he process of understanding self . . . exists in a relationship to the world made possible by an intersubjective subjectivity of communicative praxis . . . Because consciousness does not exist separate from the social and cultural world, a reflexive interrogation of it necessarily involves the specification of the relationship between ones location and ones very apprehension of consciousness. (pp. 75-76) Through reflexivity, personal transformation can lead to a slow but steady transformation of others with whom we interact. Anzalda does not view self as fixed and universal; instead,


the self is open to transformation, thus identity formation is a process in relation to others and constantly evolving. Consequently, working as an active agent in ones own transformation can serve to destroy the intersubjective violence out of which an oppressed intrasubjectivity is born (Martinez, 2000, p. 90). Through personal transformation, community, group, and even societal transformation can be achieved, despite distorted communication. From Anzaldas writings, I also learned to appreciate the work of Freire, in particular his theory of oppression, self-victimization, and internalized self-hatred as explicated in his 1970 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Like other Chicana feminist scholars (e.g. Martinez, 2000, p. 93), I now know that in order to become empowered in a racist, classist, sexist, and homophobic culture, one must first rid oneself of internalized racism and self-hatred. In that place of selfhatred, the oppressed individual in time self-victimizes and/or begins to mirror the characteristics of the oppressor. This mirroring is frequently a consequence of assimilation. In fact, [t]he most common characteristic of being colonized is rejection of self and love, which is common to all candidates of assimilation. The love of the colonizer replaces the love of ourselves. Love of the colonizer is subtended by complex feelings ranging from shame to self-hate. Internalized colonialism is really shame: its self-hate. (Crdova, 1986, p. 39). Thus, to unmask, heal, and gain a sense of pride and self-love, the individual must first acquire consientizao (Freire, 1970). For Paulo Freire, a renowned Brazilian educator who espoused a pragmatic teaching philosophy for the masses, (Castillo, 1995, p. 9) consientizao was a raising of political consciousness, which would enable the Brazilian population, the majority of whom live in poverty, to become empowered by understanding their social condition. . . . Throughout the rest of Latin America it was translated to conscientizacin. (Castillo, 1995, p. 9) In the U.S. Chicana feminist scholars also refer to this process as conscientizacin (e.g. Anzalda, 1987; Castillo, 1995), while White feminist scholars translate the term to consciousness raising (e. g. Mies, 1983). Unlike the construct of consciousness raising, when


it comes to conscientizacin, [t]here is no single word equivalent for this verb turned noun (Castillo, 1995, p. 9). Conclusion Ultimately, Chicana feminism is about acquiring conscientizacin through a radical project of transformation (Anzalda, 1987). In coming to understand and accept the contradictions and complexity of my identity, I have learned to become more accepting of difference. Whatever the differences between Chicana and White versions of feminism, together the acquisition of conscientizacin among Chicana feminists and consciousness-raising among White feminists has laid the foundation for implementing social change via a collective voice. A consequence of gaining conscientizacin is my relatively newfound ability to learn and value feminists perspectives. Hence, I am now more open to new ways of perceiving human interaction. Furthermore, as a mestiza I am a hybrid, situated between cultures, languages, communities, and histories, with each foot set on conflicting and incompatible sides (Martinez, 2000, p. 85). Nonetheless, I am now a member of a third culture, one that is loosely situated on the borderland created through these conflicting and incompatible sides. Living with contradictions while embracing difference, I can relate to the lived experiences of other Chicana feminists as we share a history and memory of 500 years of conquest, a connection to our indigenous heritages, and a yearning for social justice. At the same time I interact more effectively with individuals and groups whose perspectives range from somewhat different to vastly different from mine. Within this borderland space, I see how researchers themselves constantly do identity, even as they conduct and report research.


As a Chicana feminist, I am not only doing identity or engaging in identity politics, but I am also living theory. To live Chicana theory is to live and write about what I study lived experiences that become the foci and topics of my research. It is also about applying what I study to the real world. I wholeheartedly agree with Trujillo when she claims that Chicana feminists (read: activists) do indeed pay a price for living Chicana theory. As I sought to validate my own voice and presence in the world, I became dismayed with the attitudes displayed toward me by those women and men whom I thought of as my colleagues. I was a Chicana activist, and that made me a troublemaker. I was a feminist, which designated me as difficult by those in power or as a sellout by those without it (p. 12). To live Chicana theory is to be a critical, affirmative, standpoint, and postmodern theorist. Living Chicana theory is also about acknowledging the role ones lived experiences play in research choices, methods, and analytic designs. I choose to write about my lived experiences and of other Latinos/as who might participate in my scholarship because I care about the plight of Chicanas/Latinas in U.S. society as a whole. I seek to help build unity among Chicanas/Latinos while also helping to build bridges linking people from all walks of life. But, before I could engage in the process of building bridges across long separated spaces, I had to learn about my (post)colonial past and how to live with the contradictions of my identity. In working toward learning to live with the contractions inherent to my identity as a U.S. born Chicana, I sought to take back a part of my identity once stolen. This I accomplished through legally changing my name back to my given birth name: Margarita Refugia Olivas, a woman whose identity is multidimensional and in constant flux. I now realize that labeling determines the persons relative position, just as the position of a pawn on a chessboard is considered safe or dangerous, powerful or weak, according to its relation to the other chess pieces (Alcoff, 1988). While in graduate school, I was my own


worst enemy as I had internalized self-hatred to the point of playing the victim. I achieved selfempowerment through reflexivity, through understanding I had the power to position myself on the chessboard, thus overcoming the role of victim. My lived experiences have lead me to believe that if so desired, anyone has the potential to individually and/or collectively work to overcome the hegemony of ideologies labeling selected people as inherently inferior or weak (Grossberg, 1986). Despite what it means to be an ethnic minority in this postcolonial country, the conceptualization of difference should not be a barrier to success (Anzalda, 1987; Davidson, 1996; hooks 1989, 1992; Rosaldo, 1989). A major goal for writing this article is to assist in helping others see that through the use of reflexivity one can become an active participate in society without having to give up their cultural values, ideals, beliefs, and practices. I add to my scholarship the use of first- and thirdperson voices in telling stories that reflect my (post)colonial history. This technique is not much different from historians. As noted by Shaw (citing Widdershoven, 1993), people who tell stories about their own lives are like historians who tell stories of the past (p. 302). In the process of storytelling, I provide an example of a different form of autoethnographic writing, as noted earlier, one situated between a monologue and a dialogue (Goodall, 2000, p. 11). My hope is that through the storytelling provided in this work, I have induced a sense of human connection, achievement, potential, personal loss, . . . pride, compassion, or uniqueness, among many other emotions (Goodall, 2000, p. 196) in readers, sufficient enough to bring a better understanding of a need for unity in moving our society toward equitable levels. Another of my goals is to provide educators, in particular those teaching graduate students, insights about the types of conflicts and challenges many students of color might face when seeking to acquire higher education. Unfortunately, the fear of the unknown, for example,


the fear or discomfort we all face from being different at one point or another, hence doing difference, serves to limit cross-cultural communication, whether in academic, political, social, or organizational settings. I strongly believe that through the stories told by others about self and about the other we can begin to move toward intersubjective understanding and, thus eventually, find common ground. I know this is an ambitious and overly optimistic view to hold, but, when it comes to making change we must, in the metaphorical words of my now deceased mother, reach for the stars.


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