"...Vivo en este estado liminal entre mundos, entre realidades, entre sistemas de conocimiento, entre sistemas de simbología.' Este terreno fronterizo al umbral de la conciencia, o pasaje, esta entretela, es lo que yo llamo 'nepantla.'"

"'...I live in this liminal state between worlds, between realities, between systems of knowledge, between symbology systems.' This liminal borderland terrain, or passageway, this interface, is what I call 'nepantla.'"

--Gloria Anzaldúa, Interviews, p. 268

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Alma and I just got back from the Tercera Semana de Cultura Lesbiana Feminista hosted by Prensa Editorial LesVoz in Mexico City, which was celebrating its 17th anniversary.  We were invited to present on our work at the event, and then they invited us to participate in the introductory section of the mini-encuentro of other lesbian feminist organizations in Mexico that was convened for the purpose of solidarity and to establish a "red" or network of "movimientos autonomos" (which I think means grassroots and not related to lesbian academic networks in Mexico) that would help all of the orgs feel less isolated in their respective communities. There were orgs from DF, Zacatecas, Chiapas, Morelos, Guadalajara, and Puebla. At the mini-encuentro, Yan Maria Castro (whose artwork graces the cover of the second edition of Chicana Lesbians) presented a history of Mexican feminism since the 1960s and showed how that movement has become co-opted by the "queer," "gay," and "trans" movements, which in Mexico have totally absorbed and invisibilized the grassroots lesbian feminist movement. Part of the problem she outlined was that the main theory being read in Mexico by lesbian academics is the white Anglo and Euro feminist theory of Judith Butler, Monique Wittig,Diana Fuss, et al, because apparently this is the only material being translated into Spanish. Judith Butler seems to be the reigning lesbian theorist in Mexico!! 

Some of the women at the mini-encuentro were familiar with the name, Gloria Anzaldua, and with her work in This Bridge Called My Back (which is the only one of Gloria's books available in Spanish) but not with her theories, much less with Emma's or Norma's or Chela's or Deena's or any other Chicana lesbian/feminist theories and texts. As I was sitting there, trying to explain "mestiza consciousness," "nepantlismo," "oppostional consciousness" and "sitios y lenguas" to them,  it occurred to me that we, Chicana lesbians and feminists, might be able to translate some of this work for them, in both language and art. I talked about it with Alma and then and there, Alma and I decided to form a "taller" or writer's and artist's collective, to help bring Chicana feminist and Chicana lesbian theory to Mexican lesbians. It's just wrong that their only reading is white women's theory and that grassroots lesbian organizations don't have access (because they don't read English) to the kind of theory that would really speak to their lives. Right now, Alma is busy developing a website that will function like an eCodex of words and images that will record and document the existence of our theories in Spanish.

I am, therefore, writing to invite you to join our taller, which we have named CODEX NEPANTLA (Nepanta here alluding to both Anzaldúa's concept and Sor Juana's birthplace at the foot of the volcanoes in Mexico), and to help us do the work of bringing Chicana lesbian/feminist theory to Mexican grassroots (many of them indigenista) lesbian feminist activists.

I'm not suggesting we translate full texts per se, but rather the concepts from these texts that have so impacted and empowered us, not to mention changed the minds and directions of a whole generation of new scholars, artists, and activists. It's a good way to establish a cross-border network between ourselves and Mexican lesbofeministas (as the grassroots Mexican lesbians prefer to be called, since they absolutely detest the word "queer" and don't want to be confused for what they call the "gay lesbians" or the heterofeministas of the academy), and it's also a good way for us to practice our Spanish. I know that translating my own presentation into Spanish helped me tremendously to navigate a Spanish-only discussion of my three novels and it helped Alma do the same for her presentation on her Guadalupe Revolucionaria. And we found a very interested audience who was thirsty for this kind of "conocimiento."

Note to Writing Crew:
What we have in mind is 1000-word mini-essays in Spanish explaining a specific concept or set of concepts. For some of you, these concepts will be original (meaning you wrote them), for others, they will be concepts we know well and use in our work, our teaching, and our scholarship. I, for example, will explain my own theory of "alter-Nativity" but I'm also keen on translating Anzaldúa's seven steps of mestiza consciousness, but I'm going to need help translating concepts that pertain to each of those steps, such as the Shadow Beast, the Coatlicue State, la facultad, etc. One alternative would be to hire a graduate student to help out with these translations, something that I plan to do as soon as school starts at UCLA. Once we know who's in the group, we can draw up a list of concepts/ideas/theories and begin to work on our translations. After being reviewed by our Spanish editors, these pieces will get uploaded to the eCodex, which can be accessed directly by our Mexicana compañeras.

Note to Visual Crew:
We've chosen the five of you--Ester, Yolanda, Yreina, Liliana and Celia--to join Alma in creating visual engagements with Chicana lesbian feminist ideas. Ester's "Karate Lupe" or Yolanda's "Marathon Guadalupe," for example, is each a good way of communicating the ideas of the early Chicana feminists in el Movimiento. Yreina's piece "Mujer de Mucha Enagua" perfectly speaks to our Chicana legacy of MeXicana feminist resistance from Sor Juana to the Zapatista women. So many of Liliana Wilson's pieces (as I have shown in essay I wrote on her work) are visual representations of Anzaldúa's process of concimiento. Alma's work on "Our Lady" disidentifies the Virgin of Guadalupe from its religious context and reinscribes her with a new "sitio y lengua" as an indigenous/mestiza revolutionary. In other words, artists, your contribution to the Codex Nepantla will be visual, accompanied by a very short paragraph in Spanish about how the work represents your own Chicana lesbian and/or Chicana feminist vision. Alma will follow up with more specific info for the artists.

I've written out our taller's mission statement. Please take a look and decide if you would like to be a part of this collective. If it sounds like something you'd like to contribute to, please send me an email to that effect, which includes a short bio in Spanish and maybe an idea of which theory/concept you would like to focus on for your written or visual contribution to the Codex.

I know none of us needs one more thing to do, but I think this is really important and necessary work, and you can contribute as much or as little as your time and energy allow. Unfortunately, we do have a deadline, which is "el fin del mundo," that is, the next Marcha Lesbica in March 2012 that is being billed "La Marcha Lesbica Al Fin Del Mundo" to mark the transition into the sexto sol. Ideally, we would like to construct the eCodex between October 1 and February 1.  This will give us four months of virtual contact with our Mexicana compañeras, during which time they can be reading the material, studying the artwork, conversing with us via the blog that will accompany the eCodex, and preparing for la Marcha. Alma and I plan to join the Marcha with a banner for Codex Nepantla. From this eCodex project, we hope to build toward a binational lesbian/feminist encuentro in Mexico City.

There is no publication in mind for this eCodex (at least not in the immediate future). This is purely a service that we want to provide to Mexican lesbofeministas who sorely need to read our work. Our reward is creating access to the work, the exercise it will provide for our own bifurcated tongues (some of us more so than others), and the potential for a cross-border alliance between Chicana and Mexicana lesbian feminists.

Si se animan, let us know as soon as possible. The deadline for your confirmation and bio is September 16, día de la Independencia.

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