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If we do not recognize our humanity in others, we shall not recognize it in ourselves.

~Carlos Fuentes 

Recently I have been identified as being diplomatic and idealistic, two adjectives that I would not have chosen for myself. I suppose I continue to have the same self-image I’ve had for some time, without taking into consideration the development my identity has experienced. Identity has always been an intriguing subject. The multicultural identity is fascinating and often overlooked. Why? Perhaps it is a misunderstanding? Perhaps it is easier to understand a clearer, more black and white definition? Or perhaps I am attempting to intellectualize a subject that cannot be understood completely through the intellect and better through instinctive knowledge. So, yes, I suppose that the desire to share the sensitive and cultural experiences of diverse people in a tactful and exploratory manner, with the goal to collectively appreciate all sundry cultures, would then make me an emissary with a tendency to experience life in the pursuance of the ideal global community.

A multicultural identity should be positively recognized, should be appreciated, and should not be denied. Earth is old enough, approximately 4.55 billion years old, and populated extensively, that ethnicities have intermixed and multicultural groups have evolved. Denying their identity and obligating such groups to choose one cultural over another could only cause harm, and has.

Saturday evening I attended the screening of a 1980s documentary, “…and the dead shall rise” produced by Carlos Aceves and Gabriel S. Gaytan from El Paso, Texas. Through film, these activists shared the effort of many Chicano activists in reconnecting with their indigenous ancestors and identity. They focused the film on the affirmations of an 80 year old native leader, Rafael Guerrero, a Yaqui veteran of the Mexican Revolution. Don Rafael prophesied the rebirth of the lost indigenous heritage and traditions in the native communities of the American Southwest and south through the Americas. Indeed, the native dead would rise to give light to the indigenous identity of Aztlán.  This declaration would be among his last dying words.

There were two impressions that have stayed with me since viewing this film. First, I was taken back to one of my graduate classes on Chicano literature and the anger I sensed from reading various Chicano poets and writers. I distinctly remember one author, Richard Rodriguez, and his first book, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, and how disturbing it was to read it. Disturbing in its claim that in order be a successful and contributing member of society, a bicultural individual is required to reject one of his cultural identities. The progression of choosing the prominent identity and denying the existence of any other lesser cultural identity is difficult and harmful but must be done, so claims Rodriguez. Eliminate culture, eliminate language, and eliminate history to fully prosper and succeed in another. Furthermore, Rodriguez goes on to claim that it is the parents’ responsibility to select the superior cultural identity for the children in order to spare them the anguish of a multicultural identity. Troubling, to say the least. I cannot accept that a multicultural identity is in any way harmful, less successful, or insignificant as a single cultural identity. In fact, I contend that a multicultural identity has an advantage over other single identities in that it can facilitate the liberated movement between the various cultures without shock, awkward adjustment, or living with that foreign feeling.

Subsequently, a disquieting belief was repeatedly voiced after the viewing of the film, by some panel and audience members. Again, I sensed anger and hatred. The fact that the white man invaded the Americas and raped the native women, giving life to our present day, had a negative resounding torment. A collective pain that made me uncomfortable and defensive. I certainly do not consent to, nor have forgotten, the merciless atrocities and inhumane treatment the native people received from the white man upon their encounter. However, to deny some of us that we are the product of that rape and ask us to repudiate our true multicultural heritage and compel us to choose a somehow better cultural ancestor is just as painful. I advocate for the understanding, the appreciation, and positive mestizaje culture that most of us share today. We have the joy and advantage of being one with many. I can identify with the indigenous as I can with the white man. I can connect with the traditions of the indigenous as I can with those of the white man. And I can certainly communicate with the indigenous as I can with the white man. Anger, I have none. Pain, I have none. Fear, I have none.