BLESSED BE THE MOTHER – #ENDFAMILYSEPARATION

A poem in response to families separated at the Texas/Mexico border, separated on indigenous land, separated by walls, and separated by unjust travel bans.

**

On holy land, between a mesquite shrub
and a Mexican willow whose purple buds bow
in adoration, a mother sets out on a pilgrimage,
un peregrinaje en el camino de una santa tierra.

She carries her child on her hip
like women have always carried this world,
ganchado – between the sacred bosom of life
and the warrior thigh that crushes the serpent.

Her talones kick up dirt, a holy danza amid
a swirling, languid breeze on land
which has been stolen from her.

Chin held high, wings spread wide,
she is the resistance.

She knows what awaits her arrival
at the border el diablo anda suelto,
ready to rip the world from her hips,
but she knows where to hide the medicine,

tucked beneath her hijitas wings.

Cucurrucucú paloma
Cucurrucucú no llores

As hijitos and hijitas sit in manmade cages,
detentions they will call them, their wings carry
los antepasados like rayos de luz within.

And when the cage gets lonely, los antepasados
remind los hijitas and hijitos of the land they stand on.

And they will hear

Cucurrucucú paloma
Cucurrucucú no llores

A mother’s pilgrimage never ends.

She journeys the many separations
she’s endured since giving birth to the world.

On holy land, between a tent city in Tornillo
and the lurking eyes of government institutions,

she prays her rosary, beads she must recall by faith
since their confiscation at port of entry.

She remembers the medicine she hid in the wings
of her hijitos and hijitas. She sings to herself

Cucurrucucú paloma
Cucurrucucú no llores

Blessed be the mother who spreads her wings in resistance.
Blessed be the mother who reclaims her land.

Blessed be the mother who meets the devil nose to nose
until her hijitas and hijitos are returned to her.

On holy land, between a mesquite shrub
and a Mexican willow whose purple buds bow

in adoration, a mother sets out on a pilgrimage,
un peregrinaje en el camino de una santa tierra.

Bendita sea la madre quien espera el mundo
que regrese a sus manos otra vez.

**
Cucurrucucú Paloma is a cuauhpanco song, a Mexican folk song originally written by Tomás Méndez in 1954. Thereafter, it was made iconic by Lola Beltrán and Pedro Infante. Cuauhpanco is Nahuatl word meaning, “on top of wood,” which signified where the song was danced. After colonization, it was converted into the word huapango and is more widely used.

This poem was originally performed by me at San Antonio Mennonite Church for First Friday on the Lawn on July 6, 2018. The portion of the poem which contains the music lyrics was sung by Daisy Loren, a fourteen-year-old singer from the west side of San Antonio, Texas.

Side note: I am not fluent in Mayan languages. I am also not fluent in Arabic, therefore, those words are not found in the poem. I hope to one day incorporate that to more fully represent the injustices carried on by the American government.

God bless our mother(s).

8 COMMENTS I AM TEJANA

Mexico and Spain wage war under my medium brown skin as I brush against a Texas bull nettle. Tiny, white follicles attack my ankle and it nears eruption when my tongue lets loose in Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English. My right foot burns like a betrayal of the body and I fall into the dirt with my palms face down and my face upright lest la mala mujer grazes my face like a slap to the cheek.

My grandmother hears my verbal attack as it pierces the air, forming an arrowhead to her ear. She runs out of the back door, I assume, because we don’t use the front door all that often.

From the side stoop, she calls my name in Spanish, “Carolina!” It’s a mixture of frustration and worry. I know better than to play outside, in the dirt, without socks and shoes.

Cowering in pain, I limp toward her. She opens the door to let me in and grabs the calamine lotion which we always have handy for such a time as this. I squeeze my ankle when she reaches down to lather it in pink Pepto Bismol looking liquid, shooing my hands away like annoying gnats covering areas they are not supposed to.

She prays over my skin. I can feel her breath. She instructs me to lay down on the couch and to be careful not to get any on the cushions.

My grandmother is always prepared for unexpected company. I lay on the couch, forearms over my eyes. My face is a mixture of sweat, dirt, tears, and boogers. The pain is unbearable. A few hours later, I am walking with a minor rash, no longer swollen, and quickly forget the pain.

Tomorrow, I will venture outside, and for the rest of my life, I will recall la mala mujer, the Texas bullnettle, as I navigate spaces not meant for me to show up in without being properly prepared.

**

At the Festival of Faith and Writing a woman asks, “What does Tejana mean?”

After reading my lime green and pink business card, decorated with cactus nopales, she forms a sweet smile on her face. Her eyes beam at me and she touches her hand lightly to her chest. Her body language offers an invitation to answer. Her genuine approach in asking this question disarms me. She is interested in what that particular word means and what that all has to do with me.

I had never been asked this question. I’m from Texas; it’s a given.

I grew up on Tejano music, cumbias, and the best Tex-Mex food that money will ever buy. I mourned, along with the rest of my tenth-grade fifth-period class the afternoon Selena was murdered, and I distinctly remember when we stopped going to Mexico because instead of using our American accents to cross the border, Homeland Security now required a passport to visit my Abuela Esperanza.

The days of shouting,“I am an American citizen,” from the back seat of my mother’s white Pontiac Cutlass Supreme, with a red leather interior that stuck to the back of mine and my siblings’ legs in the sweltering border heat, no longer held any weight. We were brown Americans and we had to prove that. We continually have to prove that.

I answered the woman, “It means I’m from Texas and of Mexican heritage because when my great-grandparents were young, the border crossed them separating Mexico and Texas indefinitely. It is spelled with a ‘j’ because Tejas is a term in Nahuatl, an indigenous language of Mexico. It means ‘friendly.’”

I want to say, I am Tejana to accentuate that I am a south Texas native before the border grew rabid with hunger, establishing the separation of countries.

When the border grew hungry, it split the continent of my body in half, always reminding me that I am neither here nor there.

It reminds me that I am not Mexican and not American enough. It pierces my tongue like a serpent, always requiring me to choose between my Spanish and my English. The hunger of the border gentrified me before I ever knew that term existed.

**

I am no longer a kid playing in the dirt without shoes or socks. I am an educated brown woman who is first asked to be a history book before I’m ever asked about my essays or my poetry. This is what colonization looks like. Its effects are systemic and require those native to their own land to prove their worth on their own soil. When Spain colonized Mesoamerica, it gentrified the Aztec empire causing descendants to always question their roots, their heritage, and their worth.

Colonization empowers split identities.

Colonization lends permission to the colonizer to continue to gentrify the language, culture, and belief of a people.

I negate this permission simply by existing in spaces never meant for me to thrive in. As a Christian Latina, I bring with me all the ways Spain and Mexico have stolen dance from my native ancestors. I bring with me the crossing of borders because Mexico is too big to contain.

I bring with me the languages of those before and the grace of God on my tongue.

Where we were crucified on our own land, I find the war still alive in weeds like the Texas bull nettle. I find the glory of hope in the cactus nopal whose tuna blooms and bows in adoration. I find hope where Jesus wept in desert sands so similar to the land I stand on now. I navigate the in-between spaces of culture, language, and belief, what Gloria Anzaldúa calls nepantla because I am Tejana.

**

 

WELCOMING THE STRANGER – ESSAY AT RIVULET COLLECTIVE

Dear Friends,

I had the great pleasure of working with Kelly Carr when she was the editor at Lookout Magazine. I pitched to her twice before my article about burying marginalized bodies was accepted. Kelly is now the Curator and Editor at Rivulet Collective. I’m honored to work with her again as my body of work continues to evolve.

You can find my article on welcoming a stranger here: Welcoming the Stranger

Thank you for being a wonderful supporter. Come over!

Abrazotes,
Carolina

THE LANGUAGE OFDS AND ANCESTORS – PODCAST RECORDING AT SPAR BIRK MY MUSE THE LANGUAGE OF BIRDS AND ANCESTORS – PODCAST RECORDING AT SPARK MY MUSE

Friends,

I’m over at Spark My Muse hanging out with one of my favorite people, Lisa DeLay. Come over and hang with us. We talk about history and I read a bit of poetry for you.

The episode can be found here: Ep. 130, The Language of Birds and Ancestors: guest poet, Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros

Abrazotes,
Carolina

BEFORE THE RESURRECTION, THERE IS A SIMPLE MEAL – AN ESSAY FOR ON BEING

Friends,

The opportunity of a lifetime has come my way. I wrote a piece for On Being. This is surely one of my dream spots to publish in. I talk about capirotada, faith, and family. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come by.

You can find the article here: Before the Resurrection, There is a Simple Meal by Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros at On Being

Your support is always appreciated.

Abrazotes,
Carolina