A Rebirth for Aztlan

NACCS-Logo-web1I was booked to perform for Cultural Night at the conference for National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS), held at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, April 2014.   I wrote this with two literary perspectives in mind: 1) documentary prose based on my participation in the conference; 2) a poetic call to action inspired by historical Chicano/Chicano poetry.  I am a Chicano artist and a teacher of Chicano Studies.  I am also outside the canon and institutions of Chicana/Chicano Studies and Ethnic Studies.  I almost always find myself at the intersections of identity and experience, refusing to conform to any particular scene or way of being.   This constant Insider/Outsider quality to all aspects of my identity complicates and enriches all that I do.  It makes me feel fractured, and it makes me feel whole. 

I completed this poem at 6AM the final morning of the conference.  I printed 125 copies at the UPS store around the corner of the hotel.  I passed copies out at random to the conference attendees (i.e. NACCSistas), before eating lunch at Red Iguana Mexican restaurant and boarding a plane back home to Denver, Colorado. 

Some scholars see Chicana and Chicano Studies as a dying academic field, being replaced by the broader and more politically correct “Latino Studies” or Latin-American Studies.  The theme of the 2014 national conference was: Fragmented Landscapes in Chicana and Chicano Studies: Deliberation, Innovation or Extinction?

 

A Rebirth for Aztlán
By Molina Speaks

I do not speak fluent Spanish, but

I had a dream I rode a burro under el Quinto Sol
all the way to la conferencia nacional
de Chicana y Chicano Studies

It was in el barrio under spring sun
in a struggling school
that sings jaded songs of blue hummingbirds
odes to the days
that once claimed Aztlan

All the fancy raza
in their fancy clothes
with their fancy degrees, J.D.s and Ph.D.s
me incluyo
gathered to breathe new life
into a decaying field of dinosaur bones

Black ink from far reaching hyphens and extravagant palabras
like “Institutionalization”
like the students of Sal Castro
walked off their white pages
out into the gray streets
as post-institutional post-sovereign post-conscious post-neocolonial
globalized fragmented representational transformational intersectional
Identity
crawled off the computer screen and out the banquet facilities
Live
into the community
of chavalitos, abuelitas, activistas, artistas, so on and so forth

The transnational corporate hotel chain had lost the year’s bid
and each NACCSista shared a dinner with a host familia
interested in reconnecting with their own
Chicano past, present and future

NACCS fees and moneys did not line the account books
of colonial hotel tycoons
Those tens of thousands of dollars                         
diverted
to la host escuela
to fund the reinstitution of arts and music for the youth

The barrio café that went green
to the mystification of gente at large
catered world class lunches and dinners with local produce
and the scholars drank organic fair trade Mexican coffee
roasted and brewed locally
catered also by the independistas of local commerce

There was more dialogue with strangers from strange schools
I witnessed extraordinary focus, inquiry and outcome driven activities
Sessions sat in circles not rows, less tribalism and invisible phones

Praxis through process-driven learning supplemented Power Point
as community graf writers and muralists collaborated with NACCSistas
to tell a new story
on an old wall
and NACCSistas created a hall                                  
of poetry
alive and evolving day one to day four

Youth scholars from all over la host ciudad came to “Cultural Night”
y los Chicanos Picassos del barrio were commissioned
to create live art throughout time and space
and there was no talk                                                   
of “Post-Chicano Art”

The city’s celebrated poetas were even bussed in on public transit
to pop bottle caps off cervezas
pull corks off botellas de vino
and mix drinks right there in the school commons
(porque why not, they gained propinas?)
Los profesionales did not miss their coveted happy hour
after long and grueling discussions of White Privilege
and everybody was happy
In a display of cross-cultural Intersectionality
the poets even read bilingual haiku
and with each pour of spirits
bled their souls from mouths to ears to glass
I must say the coin margaritas were of fine character
and the fiesta carried the roar of calaveras
dancing through the night

At the conclusion of la conferencia the village curandera
walked out into el parque with her sage y copal
to bless all the conference quetzalcoatls
for their long journeys “home”
The plenaries on spirituality and indigeneity came alive
as spirals of ancient smoke kissed La Virgin sky

Rudolfos Anaya y Acuna y Corky y Cesar nodded in approval
Huitzilopochli tipped his hat
Tezcatlipoca offered his toothy grin
and shook hands with Milagro and El Muerte
Tonanzin y Frida shared a sensual embrace
(Ana Castillo glanced sideways with a smirk and slight hint of jealousy)
Anzaldúa penned a poema to mark the occasion
Roberto y Patricia joined hands once more
raising them high up to the heavens
towards the great salt lake and the seven caves
and the ancient Chicano clap commenced

The spirits were quite pleased                
and I, like you, like them
disappeared into the sunset on mi burro
all the pinche wey                                       
back home
in and out of days
stopping for water                                      
only once

Perhaps it was only a dream
like it was 1968
but it was more like 2015
Beyond Fragmentation
Sneering aggressively                                
at the prospect of Extinction
A Rebirth for Aztlán.

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About Molina Speaks

Molina Speaks is a writer, poet, hip-hop artist, and event producer. Molina is the Performance Director and a Lead Instructor for Youth On Record. He is a TedX fellow and has been an Artist In Residence with the National Hispanic Heritage Center, Mizel Museum, Journey Through Our Heritage and Noel Community Arts School. He has worked on National Endowment for the Arts projects and has accepted invitations to speak and perform and dozens of universities, including Columbia University, University of California at Davis, UT Austin, CU Boulder, and the University of New Mexico. Molina Speaks has taught master artist classes at Boston Arts Academy and Colorado Academy. He has collaborated with the Denver Spirituals Project and was recognized as a keynote poet for Denver's Lalo Delgado Poetry Festival. Molina is the music supervisor for the documentary film Papers. He is a member of the Cafe Cultura artist collective. Molina has released over a dozen poetic and musical works, which have been recognized and critically acclaimed by the Denver Post, 5280 Magazine, Westword, Colorado Music Buzz and other publications.

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