My favorite method of communication is writing. I believe alternative media is not only essential for the survival of ourselves as mujeres but necessary. I prefer the written word over spoken conversations, because the synapses of my brain to my mouth are cut short-I fumble through languages, stutter what may seem incomplete thoughts to some and these fragile and angry, rooted and happy words are better contained on paper. My writing is a deeply personal; a fiery exhalation of love, motherhood, disappointments and legacy. I am dedicated to writing, to commit to paper and memory truths of our stories, for and as a healing process and to create change.
I grew up in the borderlands¹ known as Rio Grande Valley, birth place to Gloria Anzaldua, this bordered terrain of la migra, rinches, politicos, Winter Texans², colonias³ and paleteros. My creative work is framed with this background, striving to connect without stifling the anger in my writing, not silencing one part for the other, writing for the single mami Chicana/Boricua, the queer welfare mami, writing for the vegan earth mami who grew up on government cheese and in colonias, the high school drop out who went to live with her dad in Mexico, who told her not to read too much, or she’ll go crazy like her mom.
In the late 90s, I first became interested in zines, the alternative media outlet with radical views was something I couldn’t find in any college textbook. I saw the after effects of what the riot grrl phase left. Every zine I read, every zinester I exchanged letters with, had a different account of what this significant chapter in alt culture and feminism meant. Lauren Martin writes from a post riot grrl perspective in her essay It’s (not) a white world: looking for race in punk, published in Punk Planet, “Riot grrrl critically interrogated how power, and specifically sexism, organized punk” yet “Unfortunately, riot grrrl often reproduced structures of racism, classism, and (less so) heterosexism in privileging a generalized “we” that primarily described the condition of mostly white, mostly middle-class women and girls.”
I found Lauren Martin’s text heavy analytical zine Quantify, Sabrina Margarita Alcantara-Tan’sBamboo Girl, as well as Athena Tan’s Framing Historical Theft, the zine Sisu by Johanna, thought provoking Nosnowhere by Nadia Abou-Karr and How to Stage a Coup by Helen Luu. I immersed myself in their words and theories, gaining valuable insights and interacting in a form of learning without classes or professors. But there were no single mamis, no little brown girls writing in deep South Texas. In 2000 I published the first issue of my zine “Hermana, Resist.” The response was phenomena (to me)l. Since then, I have put out seven issues of Hermana, Resist, four issues of Aged, Noise, an issue of “Making of a Chicana” a collection of poetry printed in Hermana, Resist and an edited a zine entitled MAIZ: Mujeres Activistas Insurgentes y Zineras and Finding Gloria: Nos/otras.
Sometimes I feel because I came to zines after the climax, my
politics and revolutions have not changed, after the fact, rather zines have served as a learning tool for me, as a valuable form of outreach, support and networking which have been a major influence in how I identify myself today.
Since I first began writing and became involved in zines, I came to realize that it was not only important for me to continue to write, but to encourage otras mujeres in the Rio Grande Valley (y mas alla) to engage in alternative forms of media as a way of self-preservation and survival.
This lo-fi alternative media form still has potential and is especially valuable in the radical women of color activists and writers communities, in which I focus most of my work. Compilation zines such as Mimi Nguyen’s Evolution of a Race Riot and Race Riot, Letters from the War Years: Some Notes on Love and Struggle in Times of War, edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Lauren Martin’s Hard as Nails: the tough girl compilation zine were published and produced using the same ideas behind This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Collectives who formed The Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and writers who began publishing their own and other writers work such as Mango Productions, founded by Chicana poet Lorna Dee Cervantes, who published Red Dirt Literary Magazine and Mango Poetry Review, staining her fingers while she stirred frijoles, work on the same premise as Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ Brokenbeautiful Press and the compilation zines I edit, such as The MAIZ Chronicles and Finding Gloria: Nos/Otras, offering the same cultural resistance as our foremothers, producing, publishing and putting out work by women of color that mainstream publishing won’t touch and to further document our stories and lives.
REFRAME OUR STORIES AS A FORM OF RESISTANCE AND CRITIQUE.
¹A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, gloria anzaldua.
²Winter texans or snow birds take advantage of the weather, low costs, preferred treatment, their unchecked white racism and freely and seemly “right” to take advantage according to the hierarchical scheme of the United States society. Colonias can be found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, but Texas has both the largest number of colonias and the largest colonia population. Approximately 400,000 Texans live in colonias. Overall, the colonia population is predominately Hispanic; 64.4 percent of all colonia residents and 85 percent of those residents under 18 were born in the United States. There are more than 2,294 Texas colonias, located primarily along the state’s 1,248 mile border with Mexico.
How were colonias developed?
The development of Texas colonias dates back to at least the 1950s. Using agriculturally worthless land, land that lay in floodplains or other rural properties, developers created unincorporated subdivisions. They divided the land into small lots, put in little or no infrastructure, then sold them to low-income individuals seeking affordable housing.
Colonias are basically, from USA’s point of view, illegal subdivisions created by rural settlers and are found near the U.S. – Mexico border. The lack of clean water and proper plumbing infrastructure is due primarily to the fact that the settlements were established spontaneously without the approval or assistance of the proper government authorities. The population of a colonia will usually grow rapidly well before its infrastructure needs are realized by the closest established towns or government officials.
From Mexico’s point of view, however, a Colonia is a regular division inside every city, meaning suburbs or fraccionamientos sometimes, aside from economic and sociocultural development. Every Mexican City is divided in different Colonias for administrative purposes and sometimes a Colonia belongs to a single Postal Code.