Hemispheric Colonialism and Counter-Narratives

We started class with a quote from Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother on Instagram with students in class leaving some comments.

As students read from this passage on page 61 of the book, I also reminded folks that for next class we would be hearing from Victoria Bouloubasis about her work in North Carolina. There was some movement between folks typing on their phones, to eyes on the projected screen with Instagram-captured book-photo text. There was me too, using my words–all of this bombarding students. That’s what’s it’s been and become at this point in the semester, packing it all in, but also returning many of the themes we’ve covered in class. This quote, and Victoria’s visit on Friday, these have been and will be some of the highlights.

So back to the quote. I read the page aloud, this time I wanted to read the passage, have them follow me. I don’t do this often: usually I ask for a volunteer and call on a student to read. This time, though, I wanted to read. I don’t usually feel like I want to, but with this passage, with so much history and layered arguments, I wanted to go slow, share how the words sounded in my mind, and give an example of close reading with the jovenes.

I let the students know the marks in the book were my own, from my experience of reading then re-reading this libro. These were notes I made knowing I wanted to read this passage aloud with them, and then leading me to think about how we could use Instagram to do some shared reading and responding. In taco literacy earlier in the semester after we started reading Taco USA, we made a timeline of the history of Mexican food in the United States. Our timeline started with 1848. But that timeline, in the story that Profe Cintli tells is much longer, and one that goes back well before the European conquest.

The history he tells, rather, is a counter-narrative to the European “master” narrative. This is the story he tells of corn, of folks whose axis-mundi, their central framework for understanding the world, their place in it, and for their lived experiences are rooted in the land, seasons, and cultivation of corn. It’s also a counter-story that disrupts master narratives that intend to dehumanize Indigenous people, their history, and their languages.

Some great responses from the students thinking through these important words, and, of course, we tagged the Profe on IG. From this passage, we cruised through the libro with some more stops, doing some reading, and pointing out connections to dissent and critical ways of using denied knowledge for social justice. We turned to a passage in the book when Profe Cintli speaks about the importance of uncovering these counter-narratives in history in order to cultivate a critical consciousness. In education, we can imagine how this politicized type of consciousness can be both transformative collectively, but also potentially dangerous for empires. Profe Cintli also mentions his involvement in the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson. The documentary Previous Knowledge speaks to how this type of critical thinking becomes deemed unlawful in schools, or, rather, forbidden knowledge that allegedly sews un-American dissent.

We ended class by starting to read the introduction to Tortillas: A Cultural History. The book goes in the most detail about power dynamics among gendered experiences related to food among all our readings this semester. The portion we read in class gave some insight about how food production and division of labor among the sexes.

Finally, we ended class with a quick discussion of Robert’s visit last class.  The students reflected on some of Robert’s wisdom about food, and also his energy for speaking about food. Some of the students were enlightened about how he approach “culinary tourism” and hybridity. His thoughts about remaining respectful to cultures is the key, and something we had heard before. For me, it rang very much with what Beatris said several weeks back when she visited class.


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