About Me


My fondest memories as a young girl growing up in San Angelo, Texas are the long hours I spent at the writing and reading table my parents built for us four kids. Mom and Dad didn’t bother so much buying children’s books, but they had, what seemed to me, endless books with poems by e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, and Emily Dickenson. In the same breath, I would reach for books in Spanish. Buried in those pages were poems by Gabriela Mistral, Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. Speaking, reading, singing, and writing words, both in English and Spanish, became the pass-time of my childhood. From listening to Mexican radio novellas with my mother while she played solitaire, singing hymns from the Spanish hymnal while the congregation sang in English, listening to musica Mexicana like trios and mariachis, or memorizing poems like Walt Whitman’s “Oh Captain! My Captain!,” my upbringing, surrounded by a mix of cultures and languages, taught me about mestizaje.


Crossing Borders


For Christmas and summer vacations, my family would make the seven hour trek through the Texas desert, over the Guadalupe Mountains, and into El Paso, Texas to visit our grandmother, Ramona Gonzalez. Our first day in El Paso, we always made a trip to Juárez, Mexico. My mother would make a long list of Mexican food items not available in San Angelo in the late 70´s: canela or cinnamon sticks, chocolate Abuelita, piloncillo, cajeta, tamale husks, Mexican cheeses like Asadero, Anejo Enchilado. Me and my brothers ran freely around the mercado and walked the streets of Juárez, Mexico. At the time, the fear of drug cartels, kidnappings, and random shootings were not part society’s conscious. After a full day of shopping in Mexico, we returned to grandma’s house for a bountiful feast of tortillas, caldo, chile, and a tall, cold glass of Peñafiel.

In the evening, my grandmother would finish a game of solitaire and slide into the role of fortune teller, adivinando nuestros futuros through a regular deck of cards. Then she would take each of our young hands, turn them over, and read our futures again, tickling us as her fingernails marked our life lines, announcing, “Vivirás una vida muy larga!” She wanted all her grandchildren to live long, prosperous lives. After our fortunes were read, she would tell the family cuento, a bit different, it seemed, as a hundred times before of “La Bruja de Missouri Street.” The story filled our young minds with images of brujas and brujos floating down the streets of old El Paso.


College Years



I came to El Paso in 1990 to complete my undergraduate degree, and instead of living in the student dorms, I moved in with my 85 year old grandmother. The five years that I lived with her, she talked about how she wished she could have gone to college, about the time she spent as owner of a grocery store in El Paso during the depression, and about how she loved to read and write. She gave me a priceless gift, the literary publication of El Grito: chicanas en la literature y el arte, published by Quinto Sol Publications in Berkeley, California in 1973. Five of her works were published in that edition, “El tesoro enterrado,” “El conjuramiento,” “Cuando tienes comezón,” “La Talaca,” and “El camotero.” I never knew that she was a writer until my early 20’s, and more than anything, my grandmother’s gift of her words and writing would later influence me in my dissertation research.


Living on the Border


I have lived in El Paso, Texas for almost twenty years. Many people don’t like border towns because they say they’re dirty or too crowded, but I have loved living here. The people are genuine, and the culture is rich beyond compare. Crossing into Mexico for lunch or dinner, or enjoying a concert just over the border are just some of the perks of living along the border. But recently, the border has been plagued with violence. The killings are mostly across the border in Juárez, but if you live in the sister city, you feel the pain and suffering the people across the border are enduring.

Because I’ve been on the border for so long, I carry a unique understanding of living in two worlds, crossing physical, psychological, and philosophical borders. Living in two worlds has its upside, like enjoying and understanding people from different cultures. But it also has its dark and painful side with marked moments of not being accepted by either culture, and moments of defending one side, but enmeshed with the other. These moments, these sentiments have led me to my research and writing. No one, though, can explain these sentiments of being mestiza better than Gloria Anzaldúa. She says:

“As a mestiza I have no country, my homeland cast me out; yet all countries are mine because I am every women’s sister of potential lover. […] I am cultureless because, as a feminist, I challenge the collective cultural / religious male-derived beliefs of Indo-Hispanics and Anglos; yet I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet. Soy un amasamiento, I am an act of kneading, of uniting and joining…

We are the people who leap in the dark, we are the people on the knees of the gods. In our very flesh, (r)evolution works out the clash of cultures. It makes us crazy constantly, but if the center holds, we’ve made some kind of evolutionary step forward. Nuestra alma el trabajo, the opus, the great alchemical work; spiritual mestizaje, a “morphogenesis,” an inevitable unfolding. We have become the quickening serpent movement” (80 – 81).

Soy mestiza.

Pictures

(Click to enlarge)

West Texas - San Angelo on the outskirts
West Texas - San Angelo on the outskirts

Emily Dickenson
Emily Dickenson taken from www.davedfekt.com/school/

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz taken from http://people.westminstercollege.edu

Manuel and Ramona González by the Rio Grande
Manuel and Ramona González by the Rio Grande

Gonzalez Grocery - circa 1939
Gonzalez Grocery - circa 1939

El Grito: chicanas en la literature y el arte
El Grito: chicanas en la literature y el arte

Living on the border
Living on the border

View of colonias in Mexico from UTEP library parking lot
View of colonias in Mexico from UTEP library parking lot

Living on the border
Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project