Día de los Muertos

This was written 10-28-18 at a 500-word Snatch in Second Life. It was written in 30 min. I’m challenging myself to write more… it is working!

I was always under the impression that Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, was a Mexican Halloween. That was until I moved to the Frontera de Mexico, the border town of El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juárez being right across the Rio Grande River.

River isn’t an accurate description. It was mostly waist-high water, slick with oil and roiling with trash and human waste. In other places, it was gross puddles of muck that stuck to people’s legs as they crossed into the United States illegally.

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My clients, my midwifery clients, would wade through the Rio Grande to come to their prenatal appointments, or to us at the birth center in the throes of labor. We would shower and scrub them of the horrific leavings before putting them in their clean private room to have their American babies.

It was during long autumn labors that I learned what the real meaning of Día de los Muertos was. It has nothing to do with fear, scariness or the ravages of death. Instead, the holiday is a beautiful time of remembrance of the loved ones in their family that have since passed on. I learned about the ofrenda, the altar of marigolds and candles, holding the photos of the family tree, always standing guard over the spiritual health of the house’s inhabitants.

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My Spanish was still fairly new and primarily obstetric in nature, so the other, more fluent midwives, would translate the newer words for me. At that time, 99% of my days were in Spanish, it pervading even my dreams and sleep-talking. I love Spanish. I am thankful to be fluent finally. Except with engineering Spanish, that would be a challenge still.

Anyway, Día de los Muertos.

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As an atheist, I gave up the idea of a heaven and hell long ago, but an Afterlife? Now that is something different entirely.

I believed (still believe) that, after someone is gone, if they are remembered by anyone alive, they are in “The Afterlife.” It was challenging to articulate that for a very long time, but when Día de los Muertos came into my life, it became clear that I had not invented such a belief, but an entire culture had done the thought a million times better!

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And even though I am a Cuban American, not a cell of Mexican blood in me, I embrace the Day of the Dead holiday… belief… for my own. I have been told it is Cultural Appropriation, that I need to find the Cuban or Swedish holidays of my own DNA… but I sat at the feet of abuelas, the oldest women of the families, as they told me about their own families, the ofrendas of remembrance and I have been doused with Mexican blood, lots and lots of it, doesn’t that count for some alternative christening into the Mexican world?

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It’s my own head game I know. I know darn well it is Cultural Appropriation, but this is one I am clinging to.

Here’s to everyone’s beautiful afterlife. ¡A linda vida futura!

Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Intersectionality

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I am watching the Women’s March on Washington and while I had learned about Intersectional Feminism previously, seeing how women’s lives overlap with race, religion, genders, abilities, histories (jail, being on welfare, etc.) and more, live right in front of me, is profound.

And then, as I am writing this, I see that intersectionality itself has been a controversial part of the Women’s March! Well, the organizers made it clear, to me at least, that intersectionality is a major part of the event.

It did not come without conflict, even causing white women to stay away from the March after they felt left out of the planning and implementation of the event.

These reactions reflect an ongoing debate about intersectional feminism — the idea that many women are members of other marginalized groups, which affects their experiences — that is bigger than the march. The issue has especially heated up since social media has democratized and made public conversations about issues affecting women.

“Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood,” Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained. “And those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”

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So, reading about intersectionality in general and the March in particular, I am learning the history.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at both UCLA and Columbia, is credited with coining the term intersectionality. She did this in her 1989 paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.”

Crenshaw also pointed out that she came up with intersectionality to address a specific legal problem: As she put it, “To capture the applicability of black feminism to anti-discrimination law.” An example she frequently cites in explaining the need for intersectionality is the 1976 case Degraffenreid v. General Motors, in which five black women sued General Motors for both race and gender discrimination.

I know that understanding where intersectionality comes from gives me context from which to pull.

I Am Intersectional, Too

I have written about how I collect descriptive labels. Interestingly, many, many decry labels and refuse to inhibit their identities with them. But, how does one eschew labels yet embrace intersectionality? Is that possible?

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I was raised completely different than who I am now. As a young girl, I learned the ways of the white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and middle-class world. Yet  I am a super-fat mother & grandmother, a femme Dyke, Cubanx/Latinx (knowing virtually nothing about my culture), mentally ill, disabled, a-theist, sex worker, non-TERF feminist who loves a Muslim man and who learnt Spanish as an adult. I don’t know how I would figure out my intersections without all those labels… and the ones I forgot to list.

Watching the end of the March’s rally, I am incredibly happy to see the wide variety of women represented , many of whom do intersect with my identities.

I’m sure the arguments for and against the Women’s March on Washington are being formulated or written about even now, but I am extremely pleased… more than that… excited, energized, inspired… by the speakers, poets, musicians, singers and leaders who were on that stage today.

I wish I was there.

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Diabetic Discourse: Needles

I’ve been on insulin for a year now.

At first, I was on the kind you keep in the refrigerator and draw up in a syringe with a needle. Good lord, those are pain in the ass.

Not having one clue of all the options, my Insurance Liaison asked if I would rather have pens. I asked what the difference was and she said, “They don’t need to be refrigerated.”

SOLD!

Insulin Pens

I got the pens and loved them right away.

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I keep them in my top drawer with all my pens.

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See the insulin pens? Wayyyy at the bottom.

I am on both Lantus (long-acting insulin) and NovoLog (more immediate insulin), so poke myself 4 times a day.

Now, as a midwife, I know to draw up solutions with one needle, then change needles and use that new one for the injection. Pushing the needle through the rubber at the top of the vial flattens the tip slightly and when you put that in the leg or arm, it hurts more.

But when I use the lancet on my finger to test my blood glucose before giving myself insulin…

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… I (lazily) use and re-use them. They are annoying to change  (4-6 times a day), so it’s just easier to leave it in the mechanism each time. I know, I know… beyond the lazy factor, not too sanitary, either. Especially when I am supposed to be worrying about infections. (I hear you! CHANGE THE LANCETS!)

So when I got the needles for the pens, I thought, “I can be lazy with these needles, too.”

And I was.

Changing Needles

The one thing  with the pens that was different from the refrigerated insulin was the injections freakin’ hurt! It wasn’t unusual to bleed a little after the injection and I also got plenty of bruises.

I don’t recall the reasoning behind it, but a couple of weeks ago, I changed the needle after each injection. Was I experimenting? I have no idea. But let me tell you, when I began changing the needle each time…

… the pain upon injection vanished! The bleeding and bruises? Gone.

What a dork I was re-using the needles.

Clearly, with each stab into my flesh, it flattened those really thin needles enough to damage the skin and tissue.

My Take-Away

Don’t be lazy. Change the dang needle!

Recognizing Racism (Including My Own)

I had two experiences two days in a row that had me crying foul against what was coming out of someone’s mouth.

That I can recall, these are the first instances when I called out Racism in those around me.

I finally opened my mouth.

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Bishop Desmond Tutu said:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

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El Paso, Texas – Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

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El Paso in the foreground; Ciudad Juárez in the background

I was chatting with a girlfriend and the subject turned to the racial integration of the cities we had visited around the United States… a really great topic, actually. We talked about what cities were really White (Seattle & Portland, although there are many Asians in the Pacific Northwest), the way so many cities are segregated (Orlando and San Diego) and then I talked about El Paso being a place where there wasn’t anywhere I could go that I didn’t hear Spanish. As I was learning Spanish, it was nearly an immersion experience and I loved it.

My girlfriend, someone I consider incredibly enlightened with race issues being of a minority herself, said, “El Paso really is part of Mexico.” And she laughed. I was rather shocked, but gathered my wits and said, “I do not find that amusing and it is rather racist.” I continued that people flee Ciudad Juárez for El Paso. I have listened to Americans malign El Paso for decades and it pisses me off. El Paso is a magical place in the middle of the desert and for many, many Mexicans, living there can, quite literally, be life-saving.

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This is taken from US Interstate 10 in El Paso, looking into Ciudad Juárez.

My friend realized what she said immediately and apologized profusely, saying she didn’t even realize how racist that was thinking it.

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This offers a small glimpse into what is just on the other side of the Rio Grande, looking into Ciudad Juárez.

Confession of My Own

As we left the El Paso discussion, I felt safe enough to share one of my own Secret Shames.

I do not say or even think (obvious to me) racist thoughts in my day-to-day life. However, put me behind the wheel of a car and the racial epithets fly unbidden. Only in my head… never out of my mouth… but it is still incredibly disconcerting. And wrong. I’ve meditated on it many, many times over the years trying to purge it from my psyche. I’ve looked at it trying to figure out “Why?” All I can figure is it was how I learned stress relief in a car, hearing it growing up. I have learned in therapy that the younger imprints can be some of the hardest to delete from our habits.

I will not give up trying.

“Think Good Thoughts”

A beloved family member recounted a story of going to a Christmas Concert in a local park and seeing a young Black girl carrying a sign that said (to the best of her recollection), “As night falls, the guns come out.” My relative was quite upset seeing it and said she wanted to go talk to her and tell her to “think good thoughts,” to not think so negative.

I winced, took a deep breath and gently explained how that is a horrible racist-ly negating thing to say. I said that Blacks are told what and how to think all the time by Whites and they have every right to demonstrate the pain and anger they feel in public. And it is our duty to be quiet and listen.

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My relative was somewhat receptive… she is trying hard to move along with the times, but it is confusing for her in ways I cannot imagine, she having lived through the Civil Rights years.

Right after that discussion, she said one of the other Never-Say-to-Blacks (or People of Color) statements:

“I Don’t See Color”

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I took another deep breath and quietly said, “You do see color. You look in your closet and pick out clothes that match. Colors of people might not be in the forefront of your thinking, but saying you do not see color is not a compliment. It is an insult.

In Why I Hate The Phrase “I don’t see color,” Roni Faida says:

Tell me this, if you were walking down the street and saw a Black man with a hoodie on with his hands in his pockets walking toward you, you really think you wouldn’t notice his color? If your child was going on a date and you saw that the date was Black, you mean to tell me you wouldn’t notice that fact? Come on now, of course you would.

Maybe you are one of those people that really wouldn’t mind. Maybe you truly believe that you absolutely don’t care about the color of someone’s skin. But answer me this, how many people of a different color have been to your house to eat? How many times have you broken bread in the home of a person of color? When you reach for the phone to call one of your dearest friends, are any of them a different hue than you?

Exactly.

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I am ashamed of how racist I am seeing myself. I can’t even say the terribly racist statement, “I have a black friend,” because I don’t have any. That’s how racist I am. I represent the segregation of America. And it sickens me.

Obviously, I need to devise a plan to remedy this really negative oversight.

Pondering, pondering

Alllll that said, I am proud of myself for opening my mouth finally. I will keep doing it, too.

Don’t Call Me an Ally

The Word “Ally”

I have chosen not to call myself an ally… first, because I don’t believe I can name myself an ally, but that it is a word given… graced upon one from the main group itself.

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Gee Lowery of the Onyx Truth explains in brilliant detail why I know I am not anywhere near ally status at this point. They say, in “Dear White Allies, I’m Not Really Interested In Being An Ally With You“:

The day your so-called ally status can prevent a cop from developing irrational fears of Black people & prevent cops from going into itchy trigger finger mode is the day you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status you seek can get a cop sentenced to prison for taking the life of an unarmed Black person, you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status decides to vote to funnel necessary funds into these Black communities that have high levels of Black on Black crime to create economic & educational opportunities so that Black people in these communities won’t have to resort to a life of crime, you might actually be a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status walks up to a political figure with an agenda that is SPECIFICALLY catered towards BLACK PEOPLE that deals with OUR issues ONLY…not this “minority” double talk bullshit…you might actually become an ally.  The day your so-called ally status allows for you come up from behind that computer or smartphone to venture off into the Black community to spend your money in Black establishments as much as possible in order to further help the wheels of Black economic empowerment roll along, you might actually become a true ally.  Until you can actually do that, then what the hell are you actually good for?

My Challenges

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Even to me, I sound like I am making excuses for not being more active, but I know these are my very real limitations: my disabilities (including my size), my mental illness and my financial status.

I cannot physically go out and demonstrate without being in amazing pain as well as the logistical issue of being trapped or hurt if a confrontation with people or the police occurred. I would be a liability instead of a help. Just writing that makes me sad, but I have to soothe my Activist Self with I have marched for LGBT rights, rights for people of size, against the Iraq war and any number of other causes and issues over the last 30+ years.

What I Can Do

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I might forever remain on that bottom rung of the Ally ladder, the top being awarded the Ally Medal of Honor, but I can only do what I can do. (I keep repeating that to myself to assuage my feelings of inadequacy.)

  • I can write: Blog posts. Comments to other blog posts and articles. Tumblr posts. Tweets. Comments to both posts and Tweets.
  • I can give rides to those who need them to get them off the street and out of harm’s way.
  • I can get a tattoo that represents my support for different people and their fighting oppression. At the moment, the Safety Pin is the concept with an LGBTQIA+ rainbow, a Muslim flag…not sure what exactly yet, but something from Islam…, a peace sign, probably a rainbow one combining the two symbols… a #BLM and a flag for immigrants… probably Cuban because I am born of a Cuban Refugee even though they/we are not the Refugees of the Minute. I want a tattoo to show my support… a symbol of support that cannot be taken off like a safety pin. Hijabis, Blacks, People of Color, Disabled folks and many Gay or Transfolks cannot just take off the parts of themselves that bring, not just oppression, but (especially now), violence and death. And I have been looking deeply at my motivation for the tattoo. Is it to make me feel better with my White Guilt? Or is it really as a demonstration of solidarity. At this moment, I feel it is the latter. I have until December 6, 2016 to figure it out.

I don’t want anyone to feel alone, especially in this political climate.

I am here and I am not going away.

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Bipolar Diary: This Isn’t Good for My Depression

I am horrified to learn I live in a country with so many bigots, xenophobes and hate-filled people that they would elect a crazy man to lead our country.

But, I refuse to give up.

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I am scared; I stand up

I Will Not Be Bullied

I don’t know what or how yet… and the only thing I can physically or financially do is write… but I will write until my fingers bleed trying to share, in words that have not already been said a million times, the impact of this Hitlerian President on those around me. And on me, a mentally ill Latinx on Obamacare, a femme Lesbian, an extremely pro-choice sex worker in love with a Muslim (who I am also terrified for).

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Time for the work to begin.