August 21, 2012

Puta Mother for Queer Hijos de la Chingada

Consider this an exercise in put@esthetics working toward new epistemologies in jotería theological perspectives. The idea of put@ readings in jotería and theological studies has been an on-going discussion between myself and others, so consider this a rehearsal of the put@ performance jot(e)ología that I hope to continue unpacking through future posts.

Where do we locate same-sex desire in the postcolony? We are considered in many ways el otro entre los otros, negotiating this liminal space between race and sexuality that traps us into a space where our experiences remain silent and our existence remains invisible—deviant bodies on all accounts because our embodied realities resist normative trajectories of queerness and Latinidad.

Mexicans have an expression to describe those we consider the "others" and the deviants that resist what's normative: they are hijos de la chingada. They are strangers, enemies, rivals, and bad Mexicans. And these "others" are not defined other than just being sons of a mother as vague and indeterminate as themselves. It is a category of erasure that eliminates the existence of all the invisibles and incompatibles.

Who is la Chingada? She is the Mother. A mythical figure in Mexican culture that has been forgotten and erased almost just as much as the name implies. Chingar has many meanings in Mexico, it's sort of a catch-all phrase depending on the context. The word, most importantly, is loaded with sexual meaning: to fuck. The chingón is the macho and he rips open the chingada. The chingada is passive, penetrated, and open. The power dynamics associated with being la chingada reflect the masculinist impulses in place that make being la jotería a death-dealing category. Homosexuality in Latin America is based on sexual positionality, thus the only 'gay one' is the receptive anal partner. However, through the development of jotería studies we push back against the dichotomy of activo/pasivo and claim a sexual identity on our own terms. But in normative contexts, we remain to be the fucked.

La Chingada in it's mythical form, however, refers to La Malinche, the Mayan translator for Hernán Cortés, who has become one of the most condemned figures in Chicano culture. Although she is a historical figure, historians know little about the details of Malinche’s life. Instead, as her story has been mythologized, her name has come to stand primarily for the betrayal of the Mexican race and the danger of female sexuality. In his seminal essay on Malinche, Octavio Paz articulates what has become the most common interpretation of Malinche: "Her passivity is abject: she does not resist violence, but is an inert heap of bones, blood and dust. Her taint is constitutional and resides... in her sex. This passivity, open to the outside world, causes her to lose her identity: she is the Chingada. She loses her name; she is no one; she disappears into nothing-ness; she is Nothingness. And yet she is the cruel incarnation of the feminine condition."

I would consider Malinche to be a deeply queer figure through the ways in which she has been marginalized, erased, and how her sexualized body is a negative image. She is called La Chingada, but she also carries the label of a 'puta'—the whore, bitch, libertine, but also a verb to signal fucking. Put@ also refers to anyone whose sexual activities and gender performance transgresses normative trajectories. As la jotería we share in this liminal space with Malinche. She is a transitional being that brings us into an ideological communitas.

As my friend at "THE-OLOGIES" describes, "'Put@,' not unlike 'woman,' is a category that, politically mobilized, can only performatively identify in the presence of difference." These are deeply sexualized differences and markers of identity and it is this sexualization that cannot be overlooked. As sexual minorities and deviants, la jotería inherits the put@ marker of Malinche. We inherit the same erasure due to our sexual transgressions. I, however, call us to take ownership of that transgression in our theological development.

Through the performance of my queerness in academia and my cultural celebration of it, I believe that I engaging something deeply political, which some find to be very disturbing. But there is a power in that disturbance that shouldn't go overlooked. The crossing of sexual borders makes us the writers of our theologies. Marcella Althaus-Reid writes that, "Transgressions have always been with us. Sexual theologies are the opposite of idealistic processes. They are materialist theologies which have their starting points in people’s actions, or sexual acts without polarising the social from the symbolic. It is from human sexuality that theology starts to search and understand the sacred, and not vice versa. Indecent theologies are sexual theologies without pages cut from the books of our sexual experiences."

I believe that through engaging our sexualized histories, and the legacy Malinche passes onto us, we can begin to uncover something inherently sacred about our experiences. We create beauty and sacred meaning out of a put@/jot@ identity that has already been assigned to us, but no longer is that label a death sentence, it is my hope that it can function as a life-giving category.

Paintings: “Malinche: Lost in Translation” by Gilbert Reyes and "Cortés y la Malinche" by José Clemente Orozco

August 19, 2012

Spirit of Culture: "Hecho en México"

Spirituality is woven into the cultural fabric of Latin America. The cosmovision and ceremonial centers of Mesoamerican religious histories, practices, and theologies are very much a part of Latin American cultural production and is something that cannot be overlooked in our discussions. Davíd Carrasco, writes, "It is a special gift of the religious imagination that allows a people, after five hundred years of colonialism, dependency, oppression, and resistance, to turn to the ancient Mesoamerican past for symbols of a cosmovision to help make a world meaningful, give it a standing center, and provide for a social and spiritual renewal." So in what ways can we draw on a history already given to us to find a space to describe and untangle the complexities of being la jotería.

"La espiritualidad está por encima de la religión. La religión nos separa, la espiritualidad nos une."

This new and upcoming film, Hecho en México, looks into multiplicity of Mexican identity, culture, and history. I can't help but notice the immense amount religious imagery and themes. Spirituality remains engrained in our culture. In that sense I think it's important to theorize and imagine race within the context of religion, but also religion within the context race, considering and understanding how both inform one another.

August 18, 2012

Jotería and the Postcolonial

How do we categorize same-sex desire in the postcolony? Where do we locate it? What vocabulary are we to use when talking about same-sex desire in contexts where 'homosexuality' is an invisible institution? It is through these questions that I approach this blog, that is, a blog interested in examining how we complicate and wrestle over these questions through queer, feminist, Chicana/o, Latina/o, postcolonial, and theological perspectives.

As a Chicano activist-theologian, I am frustrated by the lack of attention to theological conversations around racialized queerness. I find the same neglect in ethnic studies in engaging theology as a way of understanding the embodied experiences of queer people of color. Accordingly, I am interested in producing a conversation at the intersections of all of these areas. In doing so, I employ and claim the ideologies of jotería as an identity and way of thought. Looking into my own contexts where the term 'homosexuality' simply cannot exist in language, I push back against the derogative nature of the term and instead embrace the identity already given to me and think about how to further extend and complicate the idea within the frameworks of cultural studies, literature, theology, etc.

Gloria Anzaldúa writes, "Chicanos need to acknowledge the political and artistic contributions of their queer. People listen to what your jotería is saying." It is in this spirit that I approach this project, to draw attention to what we do say, experience, and embody as la jotería and to bring in my own background in theology and question how this all operates on a spiritual and theological level.

Why theology? Because I believe that these discourses deal with ultimate questions about how we understand and interpret the world around us, which I believe to be fundamentally religious. I am interested in what a jotería theology does for queer and liberation theologies, and what it does for cultural studies. I use all these categories aware of their histories, tensions with one another, and power dynamics. But it is through these areas that I am interested in countering hegemonic pedagogies and instead construct pedagogies that deal with oppositional circumstances.

Why postcolonial? I recognize the ways in which queer studies and ethnic studies remain to be under the stricture of power dynamics informed by normative identities. The reality is, we have all been touched by the colonial project at one point or another in our lives and experiences, and it is thus the goal of my discussion to go at the class that's interested in keeping the colonized exactly where they are.

It is my intent to engage the intersectionality, intertextuality, intersexuality, and multiplicities that this new category of identity and thought introduces. I look forward to discussion that emerges on my part and through those willing to contribute.