Reconnecting to My Indigenous Roots as a Latina

Reconnecting to My Indigenous Roots as a Latina

The Impacts of Colonization on Our Indigenous Roots

Being Mexican in the U.S. can feel challenging and confusing. If we’re born in the U.S., our community doesn’t fully recognize us as Mexican. Even for those born in Mexico but brought to the U.S. as children – we’re not considered Mexican enough in our community. There’s a saying I grew up with, “no eres ni de aquí ó de allá,” which translates to, “ you are neither from here nor from there.” Many Mexicans and Latinos face this struggle daily. When we move to the U.S., we must learn to assimilate to survive. In doing this, we give up parts of our identity and culture as Mexicans and Latinos. In the eyes of our community, this makes us less Latinos. This country still does not fully accept us, no matter what we do. These struggles create an identity crisis that makes it difficult to know who we are and how to navigate the world. The identity crisis is much deeper than most people realize.

Our identity crisis didn’t start here in the U.S. Our identity crisis has strong roots that go back to colonization. It is well known that most Latinos are at least 50% indigenous. Yet, due to colonization’s impacts, most of us didn’t grow up learning about and embracing our indigenous roots. To add to this, the impacts of colorism have made it challenging for many of us to want to reconnect. We live in a system that teaches us that the more indigenous you look, the less value you have as a human being. Historically, the invading Europeans brought about this phenomenon. As a result, we feel ashamed of who we are, so we assimilate for a sense of belonging. Our sense of personal identity and self-esteem is negatively affected as we assimilate to look and act more Caucasian.

The Process Of Embracing My Indigenous Roots As
A Latina

My life has taught me these harsh lessons. As a child, I was made fun of for my brown skin by other white Latino and Caucasian kids. My brown skin is one feature that connects me to my indigenous ancestors. But my feelings of shame made me unconsciously assimilate into the Caucasian culture. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t like the indigenous features I had. They didn’t make me feel pretty.

It wasn’t until I started to do the healing work that I felt a strong pull to learn more about my indigenous roots. I even took an Ancestral Lineage Healing class with Dr. Daniel Foor to help me reconnect to my indigenous roots. During my reconnection process, I realized that many of the qualities I possess as a woman and a human being were qualities and gifts passed down to me by my indigenous ancestors. Here are a few:

  • As a child, I felt very different from everyone else in my family because I was spiritually oriented. It wasn’t until I reconnected to my indigenous roots that I realized I was this way because of my indigenous ancestors. Being spiritual was natural to them and part of their culture.
  • In my family, I was the creative one. I was so creative that my family and Latino community made fun of me as a teenager because I would express my creativity in various art forms. They labeled me as the weird one. During my ancestral healing work, I learned my creativity was a gift passed down to me by my indigenous ancestors too.
  • I have also questioned the world and wondered why things were the way they were since childhood. I saw the suffering in the world, and it was difficult for me to comprehend why people would hurt one another. I believed that life could be different and that we could be kinder to each other if we wanted to. It made me feel like an alien trapped in an unfamiliar world. During my reconnection process, I learned that my indigenous ancestors felt similarly. They saw the world and humanity form a holistic and kinder place and acted accordingly.
  • I also realized that my indigenous ancestors looked like me! I felt a sense of belonging once I recognized this. I realized, for the first time in my life, that the features on my face resemble those of my indigenous ancestors. It made me feel beautiful and proud of who I am.

Going through this healing process helped me feel a real sense of identity. It helped me understand how connected I was to my indigenous ancestors and how deep my roots were to them and this land. I remember one day, as I was taking a stroll in the park, feeling proud of who I was. I realized I no longer had to be ashamed of who I was or where I come from.

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The Power Of Owning Our Indigenous Roots As Latinos

The most peculiar thing also started to happen. For the first time in my life, when I looked at Caucasian folks, I recognized them as immigrants. They were born into privilege, and I saw how colonization affected this privilege. I was taught subconsciously as a child that their lives were easier because they were better than mine. The reality is, their lives were easier because that’s the way the system was set up. Many of them would not get very far if they had to go through the struggles I have gone through as a Mexican, brown, and indigenous woman. Recognizing this also helped me see how courageous and strong I am. I learned I possessed my courage and resilience because of my indigenous ancestors. It’s who they are. They are who I am.

I strongly encourage all Latinos with indigenous roots to reconnect with them respectfully. When you do, you will feel a true sense of identity and belonging in this world. We can heal the harm colonization has caused our indigenous ancestors and ourselves by reclaiming our power. It’s possible to transform the racist system through this process to address more than 500 years of oppression. We’ll no longer have to try to assimilate to be respected and valued as human beings. There is true power when you know yourself and show up in the world as your true self. Connecting to our true selves means removing all the garbage the world has imposed on us about ourselves. We can truly free ourselves if we decolonize our minds and reconnect with our indigenous roots.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on February 27, 2023

Latina Healing Journey: Why They Leave When You Heal

Latina Healing Journey: Why They Leave When You Heal

The Latina Healing Journey and Its Impacts

As a Latina, when you start to do the deeper work to process trauma, it’s most likely that some people in your life will begin to leave your life when you heal. This is completely normal in the Latina healing journey and is not talked about enough in our community. As a Latina, a trauma survivor, a cycle breaker, and a Trauma Coach, I felt inspired to share why this happens.

Trauma creates distortions of how you see others and yourself. Many times it prevents you from recognizing unhealthy and toxic people. Unhealthy behavior becomes normalized. As Latinas, we can see this happening with the machismo phenomenon. This generational trauma is a behavior where Latinas are taught that men are superior to us, so we must make ourselves small and do everything they want – even though that often comes at the expense of our well-being and self-respect. Being raised in a culture that normalizes this makes it normal for us to be treated poorly, to have low self-esteem, and to lower our standards for how we should be treated in the world.

Once you start your healing journey of processing trauma, your eyes will become open to the harm that you experienced and what you’ve become accustomed to. You’ll start to see and own your value as a human being and a woman. You’ll also start to see toxic people for who they are: toxic. As you begin to heal, you’ll also start to set healthy boundaries with others. Doing this will trigger those who took advantage of you and were benefiting from your staying in your trauma. If you challenge their toxic behaviors, they’ll leave your life more easily.

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Breaking the Cycle of People Pleasing

As a trauma survivor, this is something I experienced myself. I also see it in my clients. Before I healed from my traumas, I was a people pleaser. I had difficulty stating my needs or even knowing what they were and setting boundaries. I was afraid that if I spoke up, people would leave me, triggering abandonment trauma. So often I was afraid to say something, and people would get away with their harmful behavior.

As I started to heal from trauma, I started to assert myself and my needs. Close friends started to get upset and stopped talking to me. It was a painful experience to realize that those I thought I was close to were in fact not truly there for me. It was also a lonely time in my life because it took time to start making new friends that were more supportive of who I was becoming. Because I work with trauma, I also understood this was normal. When I had sessions with clients, they also shared that after they started to heal and set boundaries with others – some people would stop talking to them. They felt confused by this.

Here’s the reality. Only because you’re healing, setting boundaries, and respecting yourself doesn’t mean that others will be supportive. Again, Latinas who have experienced trauma have become used to being treated poorly. Predators and people who are abusive or toxic many times consciously or unconsciously seek others they can control or take advantage of. They benefit from those people staying in their trauma. When you start to heal, they can no longer take advantage of you, so they have no option but to leave. This is a good thing and shows that the work you’re doing to heal from your trauma is working.

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Discerning Between Healthy and Unhealthy People As A Latina

As you continue to heal you’ll learn how to better discern between healthy and unhealthy people as you move forward in your journey. You’ll also learn which people are safe to open up to and which you should keep at a distance. These conscious decisions will support you in selecting friends, partners, and even family members that genuinely care about you and are supportive of your healing.

After a while, I started to make new friends with people who were not only supportive of my healing journey but inspired by it. When I set boundaries and stated my needs, they didn’t lash out at me or tried to shame me. Instead, they listened, and we found win-win solutions. This is healthy. Because of the healing I’ve done, I’ve also become super selective of who I allow in my space. Us Latinas who are trauma survivors and cycle breakers have been through a lot. With our history of trauma, it’s easy for unhealed people to use our past and vulnerabilities against us. Thankfully by healing from trauma, we can better discern between those people and not allow them in our lives.

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How To Cope When People Are Leaving Your Life When You Heal From Trauma

So then the question becomes, what do you do in the in-between? How do you cope when people are leaving your life when you’re healing from trauma, especially if they were close to you? Here are four tips that worked well for me:

  1. Create your support system: Whether it’s your therapist, a coach, or both, make sure you have one. They will be super supportive and help you work through all the changes. They’re people you can share your deepest feelings and thoughts without being judged or harmed.
  2. New healthier people will come into your life: As you’re healing, you’re also developing life skills that will help you be more discerning of others. Use these skills to find other Latinas like you who are also working on themselves and understand what you’re going through.
  3. Develop self-compassion: Remember that you’ve been through a lot, and this transition is completely normal. Only because old friends, partners, and family members are leaving your life, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. You’re removing unhealthy people from your life to make room for those who can fill your cup. Remembering this and embracing self-compassion for yourself will be vital during this huge transition.
  4. Explore your passions: Use this time to reconnect with your passions and even discover new ones. Having this alone time is a blessing in disguise that can help you master other talents and areas of your life.

After reading this, I hope you have gained more clarity about what you’re going through, how to navigate it, and how to create the support you need.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on January 30th, 2023

How Mexican Culture is Influenced by Our Indigenous Roots

How Mexican Culture is Influenced by Our Indigenous Roots

As an Indigenous Mexican woman – reconnecting to my Indigenous roots has become very important in my life. During my journey of reconnecting, I have done ancestral healing work and gotten more educated about my roots and how they are connected to our Mexican culture. One book that changed everything for me was, From Indians to Chicanos, by James Diego Vigil.

In this book, I learned many things about my Aztec (Mexica) ancestors I didn’t know before! Mexico has a long history of colonization. So there are few Indigenous people in the country who continue to hold the wisdom and teaching of our ancestors. This is why so many of us have found it challenging to embrace our Indigenous roots and that way of life. As I was reading this book, one thing became clear: many aspects of the Mexican culture have always been part of our Indigenous culture, but we don’t know it.

If you’re Latina but not Mexican, I invite you to take what I share here and see how this could relate to your culture. Notice if there are any similarities. It’s also important to understand that Mexico comprises different Indigenous people, not the Aztecs alone. The book I’m referencing here mainly focuses on the Aztecs. To keep things simple, I’ll focus on the Aztecs for this example.

If you have roots to other Indigenous tribes, it’s important you learn more about them and see if there are any similarities between how they lived then and their influence on your culture now. In this article, I’m not speaking for all Latinas with Indigenous roots. Instead, I’m sharing my experience and education to inspire you to become curious about your Indigenous roots.

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The Aztec Culture and Survival Evolved Around Agriculture

During the times of the Aztecs before colonization, everything about their culture evolved around the land. The Aztecs lived in communities and operated in this way. Everything about the culture was about the whole and not just one individual person. Agriculture was important because the more land they had, the more crops they could grow, which meant they could feed and take care of the community. They also had a strong sense of democracy.

The Aztecs worked the land with the mindset of what was best for the greater good. Working the land was not seen as something only “poor” people did. As a community, the Aztecs understood that every part of the culture was important to the community. Instead, they saw growing food as a joyful thing and a way to be connected to the land and each other.

Interestingly enough, if you look at Mexican culture now, you’ll see agriculture is still a critical aspect of the culture. Working the land is something that many Mexicans are still doing over 500 years after.

Sadly, it wasn’t until the colonizers stole the land that working the land became a negative thing. It became a way to enslave the Aztecs and other Indigenous people. This is why some Mexicans no longer see agriculture and working the land as positive or joyful. It’s no longer about the local community but about being used for cheap labor and feeding millions or even billions of people that are not part of their culture. They’re also working the land that was stolen from them. All of these factors contribute to the oppression of many Mexican people who have Indigenous roots.

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The Aztecs Were Spiritual People

Another essential aspect of the Aztec people is they were highly spiritual. Their connection to the land strongly influenced their spirituality. They used the land to give purpose to their lives and their existence. If you look at Mexican culture today, you can still see this strong spiritual influence. Even though a lot of spirituality changed to Catholicism due to the impacts of colonization, many of the Mexican spiritual ceremonies and events today are traced back to their Indigenous roots. For example, the Day of the Dead is originally Indigenous. La Virgen de Guadalupe is linked to the Aztec goddess, Tonantzin. Their spirituality also inspired them to create the Aztec Calendar, which is a guide to their way of life.

There are many more examples! You have to look beneath the surface to find traces of Indigenous spiritual practices and beliefs.

The Aztecs Were Great Builders

History has shown that the Aztecs were expert builders. They built a whole city (what is now Mexico City) on top of a swamp. In addition, they also built pyramids and giant structures. Their ability to build also inspired them to create a sophisticated mathematics system as well as creating an advanced form of astronomy for the times.

It’s no wonder many Mexicans naturally gravitate to working in construction and building beautiful buildings, and they are great at it! It’s something they have been doing for over 500 years!

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The Aztecs Were Highly Creative

Finally, creativity is another huge aspect that was important to the Aztecs. Their connection to the land inspired them to create music, art, pottery, clothes, jewelry, and dances that honored the land and spirituality – just to name a few. Most women in the Aztec communities were encouraged to be creative. Creativity was a natural ability for them. If you look at Mexican culture today, you can see strong influences of this everywhere. It makes sense why Mexicans are naturally creative and love music and dancing.

These are a few examples of how the Mexican culture today has strong roots in our Indigenous past. Although the Spanish tried to erase these roots, they were not thoroughly successful. Mexico is an Indigenous country no matter how many European countries have tried to colonize it.

With this information, I invite you to look at your own Latino culture and become curious about the various aspects that make it unique. You might be surprised at what parts of your culture are Indigenous too. The challenge then becomes removing the elements that the colonizers forced on us so we can reconnect to the true essence of who we have always been.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on November 28, 2022