Monday, July 21, 2008

Patzin: Wombs and Land

>Patzin: Wombs and Land
>By Patrisia Gonzales
>Column of the Americas (c) July 16, 2008; Patzin, "respect-worthy
>medicine" in Nahuatl, is a monthly feature on Indigenous medicine
>Miriam Aviles-Reyes was pulled over by Tucson police while driving
>brown, pregnant and without papers in December 2007. In this era
>where the border has been extended into city streets, the uterus of
>Indigenous women cannot escape militarization. Tucson police quickly
>called in the border patrol; Miriam went into labor. Instead of her
>husband by her side at the hospital, an immigration office kept watch,
>insisting that she hurry up and push. As her baby descended through
>the birth canal, she recalled, the officer persisted in his threats to
>deport her.
>Nez Perce-Chicana scholar Ines Hernandez-Avila has addressed how the
>reproducing bodies of Indigenous women are subject to state control
>because they threaten many nation states and occupying forces with
>their ability to reproduce and sustain distinct peoples. With a 4 to
>1 birth rate among young Latinas, Indigenous-rooted women pose various
>threats to those who fear the browning of this country. Their bodies
>and the acts of their bodies are challenges to notions of homeland.
>What threat could Miriam have posed for the immigration official to
>violate the most sacred moments of life? It is doubtful she would
>have attempted escape with a baby crowning. The officer potentially
>risked that child's life from the duress that Miriam experienced.
>Indigenous midwives say that when a pregnant woman experiences fright,
>or trauma, what is referred to as susto, it causes susto in both
>mother and child. Luckily, her son was born without major
>complications, but only with time will the family know what birth
>trauma was inflicted upon this small one's life. For many Indigenous
>peoples, the body is a land base and a sacred site and how we come
>into this world is certainly a right to life and intricately linked to
>self determination.
>Miriam, the mother of three U.S. citizens , originates from an old
>Nahua village on the road to Xochicalco, a Mesoamerican university in
>900 A.D. To be Mexican, even if her Indigeneity was not recognized,
>is still to be treated like an Indian during various attempts at
>Indian removal in this country. For many like Miriam, their brown skin
>and Indian faces do not allow for their Indianess to be physically
>invisible. Instead, official narratives surrounding labels such as
>"Mexican" and "immigrant" deny their aboriginal histories and claims
>and silence their original relationships to this continent. While in
>labor, Miriam did sign papers agreeing to leave this country.
> Around the same time, a grandmother in South Texas took on Michael
>Chertoff and the Department of Homeland Security in yet another
>defense by Apache peoples to protect their land base and traditional
>territories. Dr. Eloise Tamez and her daughter Margo are engaged in a
>historic struggle for refusing to allow the border wall to traverse
>the Tamez private property (part of a 1786 Spanish land grant) and
>impede their ancestral Native trails. Professor Tamez has been
>described as a Mexican American grandmother, and yet she and her
>family assert their Indigeneity as Nde' (Lipan and Jumano Apache) and
>Basque descendants. El Calaboz Rancheria in the Lower Rio Grande
>Valley, wrote Margo in a report to the United Nations, is located in
>traditional homelands which were recognized by other Indigenous
>peoples as "the place where the Lipan pray." The government has sued
>Tamez and she has countersued, while numerous elders have been
>harassed by "armed personnel of the government," according to Margo.
>Calaboz, she writes, refers to an earthen dug-out prison: "… the
>psychological warfare that the Spanish used against our ancestors to
>contain them in little prison holes within the ground when they
>resisted oppression and stood firm on dissidence against all power to
>destroy a people."
>The Tamez women are related to Esequiel Hernandez, the student who was
>shot by U.S. Marines while herding his goats along the border in
>Redford, Texas , in 1997. He was the first civilian killed by U.S.
>military or National Guard since Kent State. A recent documentary
>portrays how the marines, though charged with murder by the Texas
>Rangers, were never prosecuted after a grand jury declined to indict
>them. According to the Tucson-based Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, the
>four- man unit, part of Joint Task Force Six, was the first known
>joint domestic operation between the Departments of Justice and
>Defense, and a precursor to the Department of Homeland Security.
>Esequiel was Jumano Apache and doing what his ancestors have always
>done, walk their traditional lands. As a local historian noted in The
>Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez, they have walked those lands for 12,000
>years. But Esequiel wasn't "crossing the border." Its militarization
>has extended from the womb of one Indigenous mother to another. A
>2008 report by that human rights coalition documented 128 bodies
>recovered in the Arizona-Sonora border, including a miscarried fetus.
>That which was life in a woman's womb, child, tissue, blood, has
>become these militarized lands.
>(c) 2008 Column of the Americas
>Gonzales can be reached at:
>Column of the Americas - PO BOX 85476 - Tucson, AZ 85754

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