Accomplice to the Revolution
ÁNGELA VICTORIA MANZANARES

 

     
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I propose to myself that I should allow Fidel Castro to become enchanted with me--because it is not unlikely; because it is a very romantic thought; and because then I would not be the only one to know I was somebody, but so would the rest of the world.

 

Between study sessions, a friend of mine and I drink coffee at a nearby cafe. In order not to talk about our projects from school (she is working on building adobe houses, and I am pretending to write a thesis), I tell her about an upcoming trip I am taking to Cuba. I have never known very much about Cuba except, of course, that Fidel Castro is a dictator, a communist and a revolutionary. My Cuban friends tell me that he would describe himself exactly the same. As I am very interested in the history of the Carribean Islands, I am going to go on this trip to Cuba, and peer at the sands of the island to see if I can hear the songs and see the dancers who lived there before the Spaniards came and colonized. Although I do not know Cuba and her people, I feel an affinity with her, and all of Indo-Afro-lbero America, because I, too, have felt and feel colonized. Maybe if I see with my own eyes that she has survived and in some ways kept her songs and dances and spirit, I too will believe that mine are still in my heart, yet to be danced and sung. From a nice little farm girl from San Luis, I have become a revolutionary, and I am fighting a war.

The first time I ever realized this was when I came to the university. I felt like a noticeably dark-skinned, dark-haired, "exotic" looking tortilla girl with not enough money to belong here. This is my own description. I labeled myself. When I first started school, I hated the feeling of being alien to the environment. So I learned how to fight. I learned to speak with what I thought was no accent that would give my Hispana ethnicity away. I learned to dress like girls at this university dress. I studied myself crazy, postured like crazy, and tried to learn how, through this, I could protect and honor the beautiful tortilla girl inside me.

I learned to speak and write articulately. I was convinced that my vocabulary would save me, the better and larger it became. I studied Spanish also; if I was going to make the English language my weapon for war, then the Spanish language would be my home, my place to rest, and my own personal symbol of identity. It is ironic to me now that I should pretend to have a home in a country that I had yet to visit: I did not know how to speak Spanish when I first came to school. My parents would not teach it to me, nor to my brother and sisters, because they said we should first learn to speak English and speak it well. That would be the way to survive and succeed in America. But I wanted to reclaim my heritage.

I attended classes. I always sought to be very polite, courteous, well-spoken, and thoughtful with my comments. I loved to see how surprised and often intimidated others were when I voiced an opinion with lucidity and intelligence. At first, I played it safe and said nice things to people. Now, after five years, all the posturing and pretending has tired me, and my skill at knifing people with careful words has all but disappeared. It has grown tiresome and hateful to me; I have grown tired and hateful of myself.

I am tired of trying to prove to everyone that I couldn't be any more intelligent, articulate, or charming if I were white and rich. I have lived a double life here. When I go home to San Luis, this is not an issue. I am who I am. But, when I get to the university, it all begins again: the war, the sadness, feeling lost and not knowing who I am or where I belong begins again: the war, the sadness, feeling lost and not knowing who I am or where I belong here.

I have felt powerless, invisible, and erased. I have felt violated and colonized--the "interior colonization" has come, settled and rooted right in la tierra fertíl de mi conocimiento. I am amazed to find out that, in many ways, I hold the responsibility for this happening. I have given up parts of my identity in order to fit in and receive approval from both my family and academia. I am still not sure why.

Because I no longer have the energy to support all this hatred and weariness, I have decided to revolt, to wage war. My weapon in the past has been the English language--being able to politely tell white people I hate their culture and my own assimilation and co-optation of it. All this without letting them know it--always flaunting my Chicana status in their faces--claiming it as a reason to be able to say anything I want, often injuring them and myself in the process. I cannot accept this mode of battle any longer. I've found that when I'm all done fighting, I remain literally unable to speak anything at all for days. Even the simplest thoughts and ideas escape me, and whatever songs or dances I hold in my heart are stilled by my own violence.

I am going to join up with the revolutionaries. I am going after the ideologue, politician, dictator, and colonizer inside me. I am going after the parasite, the slave, the colonized and the victim in my own self. I am going after the revolutionary in me, to find and then to tell the truth. I will find my own voice, my own strength and my own power. I will no longer compromise my identity.

My life in the university is incidental to this. If I continue to study, it will be with an eye toward the hypocrite I am capable of being: I will no longer allow myself to lie, to lose my identity and my way. I have discovered the enemy and will no longer allow her to silence me.

I dream of dancing, singing, and making love not with a vengeance, nor with some political agenda in mind, but free, liberated from hate and too many words--something that would be truly enchanting to the revolution of my own heart and the revolutionary in my own spirit.

I will no longer allow myself to desire affiliation with those who might justify my existence; nor will I invent stories of people who will or can legitimate me. No one famous, important nor powerful will be my leader. I will no longer desire to enchant Fidel Castro nor other public figures, whatever their politics or position. I will be and am my own self.

 

Soy hermana de la paloma y el aguila
hermana de la espuma y del sol
con el alma primorosa
y la cancíon y vida de mi calor.
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 "Accomplice to the Revolution" © 1992, 1995 by Ángela Victoria Manzanares
 
     
 

 Original Graphic Images © 1995 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal
 


 

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