The actual physical borderland that I’m dealing with in this book is the Texas-U.S Southwest/Mexican border. The psychological borderlands, the sexual boundaries and the spiritual borderlands are not particular to the Southwest.
I am a border woman. I grew up between two cultures, the Mexican (with a heavy Indian influence) and the Anglo (as a member of a colonized people in our own territory). I have been straddling that tejas-Mexican border, and others, all my life. It’s not a comfortable territory to live in, this place of contradictions. Hatred, anger and exploitation are the prominente features of this landscape.
However, there have been compensations for this mestiza, and certain joys.
Books saved my sanity, knowledge opened the locked places in me and thaught me first how to survive and the how to soar. La madre naturaleza succored me, allow me to grow roots that anchored me to the earth. My love of images – mesquite flowering, the wind, Ehécatl, whispering its secret knowledge, the fleeting images of the soul in fantasy – and words, my passion for the daily struggle to render them concrete in the world and on paper, to render them flesh, keeps me alive.
After each of my four bouts with death I’d catch glimpses of an otherworld Serpent. Once, in my bedroom, I saw a cobra the size of the room, her hood expanding over me. When I blinked she was gone. I realized she was, in my psyche, the mental picture and symbol of the instinctual in its collective impersonal, pre-human. She, the symbol of the dark sexual drive, the chthonic (underworld), the feminine, the serpentine movement of sexuality, of creativity, the basis of all energy and life.
Four years ago a red snake crossed my path as I walked through the woods. The direction of its movement, its place, its colors, the “mood” of the trees and the wind and the snake – they all “spoke” to me, told me things. I look for omens everywhere, everywhere catch glimpses of the patterns and cycles of my life. Stones “speak” to Luisah Teish, a Santera; trees whisper their secrets to Chrystos, a Native American. I remember listening to the voices of the wind as a child and understanding its messages. Los espíritus that ride the back of the south wind. I remember their exhalation blowing in through the slits in the door during those hot Texas afternoons. A gust of wind raising the linoleum under my feet, buffeting the house. Everything trembling.
We’re not supposed to remember such otherworldy events. We’re supposed to ignore, Forget, kill those fleeting images of the soul’s presence and of the spirit’s presence. We’ve been thought that the spirit is outside our bodies or above our heads somewhere up in the sky with God. We’re supposed to forget that every cell in our bodies, every bone and bird and worm has spirit in it.
(…) White anthropologists claim that Indians have “primitive” and therefore deficient minds, that we cannot think in the higher mode of consciousness – rationality. They are fascinated by what they cal the “magical” mind, the “savage” mind, the participation mystique of the mind that says the world of the imagination – the world of the soul – and of the spirit is just as real as physical reality. In trying to become “objective”, Western culture made “objects” of things and people when it distanced itself from them, thereby loosing “touch” with them. This dichotomy is the root of all violence.
So I grew up in the interface between trying not to give countenance to el mal aigre, evil non-human, non-corporeal entities riding the wind, that could come in through the window, through my nose with my breath. I was not supposed to believe in susto, a sudden shock or fall that frightens the soul of the body. And growing up between such opposing spiritualities how could I reconcile the two, the pagan and the Christian?
No matter to what use my people put the supranatural world, it is evident to me now that the spirit world, whose existence the whites are so adamant in denying, does in fact exist. This very minute I sense the rpesence of the spirits of my ancestors in my room. And I think la Jila is Cihuacoalt, Snake Woman; she is la Llorona, Daughter of Night, travelling the dark terrains of the unkown searching for the lost parts of herself. I remembre la Jila following me once, remembre her eerie lamente. I’d like to think that she was crying for her lost children, los Chicanos/mexicanos.