Mujeres Talk: Spilling the Beans – Mujeres Talk Can Be a Virtual Public Sphere

In the first two months of 2012, there are already major crises facing Latina/o and Chicana/o communities. From Alabama’s HB56, which makes all civic participation illegal for undocumented children and their parents, to Arizona’s recent “confiscating” of certain books from public schools, the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness in the U.S. is looking kind of bleak. If you have 35 minutes, you should listen to the first portion of the January 27, 2012 episode of This American Life, titled “Reap What You Sow.” They do an excellent job of talking about HB56 on the street level and frontlines of law enforcement.

On the MALCS listerv, we send out many emails updating each other on the status of certain legislation and movements against Latinas/os. We also update each other on general news from our campuses and professions, or ask for specific help on projects. But perhaps it’s Mujeres Talk –our blog—that can provide us with a virtual public sphere, a place that each of us may enter and speak with one another openly about many of the topics we raise in our emails. There are so many important circumstances we are facing in our schools, jobs, communities, and families. What is a major issue that you are currently facing? In 2012, what do you find to be the #1 crisis we need to confront?

For me, the next year will prove to be one of the most significant for the 21st century. We are in a political and mainstream cultural moment that will continue to push us farther away from our stories, the lives we live that make us tell them, and, as writer Wally Lamb entitled his second novel, from what we know is true. Theoretical frameworks that are not grounded in our narratives are ahistorical; and by “our narratives,” I mean the testimonios, poems, plays, fictions, and “autobioethnographies” (to use Norma Cantu’s term) that create our individual and collective memory. It is my opinion that one cannot understand Borderland Theory without knowledge of the 1845 and 1848 annexations of northern Mexico in to the U.S. Likewise, oppositional consciousness and the decolonial imaginary are also not possible without knowing the migrant chains of mujeres across geopolitical borders, historical revolutions, and tactics for survival under state policies of the twentieth- now twenty-first century. Theoretical frameworks not grounded in our narratives help create a reality that makes Shakespeare’s The Tempest a banned/confiscated text in Arizona and Helena Viramontes’s “The Moths” pornography. I am not undercutting the value of the theory and critical lenses we use to more clearly interpret our cultural production in relation to larger systems of power and the global economy. I am merely stating that theory and narrative aren’t mutually exclusive. We have to decide if, in addition to scholars, we are also story-tellers who listen, remember, and retell the stories that built the fields of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies. That is my biggest concern, and I would love to know what others think and if they agree or disagree. What is your #1 concern going forward into March 2012?

Ella Diaz is a Visiting Faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her Ph.D. in American Studies is from the College of William and Mary. Diaz is an At Large Representative of MALCS.