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  • Angélica De Jesús

la tlahtolli: notes on language, pleasure, and culture

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

Today I am grateful for those moments that propel me from reflection to action.

For la tlatolli, a digital (me)search[1] archive, that moment came in the form of a Groundswell Practitioner Support Network web conference call.

On the call were folks working at the intersection of oral history, social and language justice, people across the country engaged in collecting and sharing stories and creating multilingual spaces with Native, QTGNC, immigrant, undocumented and youth communities.

We discussed challenges encountered in doing interviews across languages and the strategies employed to address these challenges. For example, the challenge of creating spaces where folks can feel comfortable expressing themselves in their language, gender, and sexuality. As queer daughter of Caribeña (Borinquen) and Xicanx diaspora, this resonated with me. It’s one of the reasons why I love telling folks about Julia Wallace and Alexis Pauline Gumb’s Mobile Homecoming project- “an innovative and loving response to a deep craving for intergenerational connection” for black queer communities in the south.

We also talked about the differences between being bicultural and being bilingual and practical shit like working around resource and budget constraints. It was incredible to be able to address, albeit briefly, these nuances of our work.

After this call, I was electric. Like, 4 year old level curiosity electric.

I became curious about all the conversations and experiences I’ve have about language and went into a deep period of reflection.

I thought about how my relationship to language has shaped the ways I mark myself (and others) as Latinx/Indigenous and queer. I thought about the ways language impacts my relationship to Indigineity diaspora, and what language I have access to in order to practice and share decolonial work. I thought about the tension between authenticity and hybridity, two elements that play strong roles in my life and I thought about how, for me, language and culture are integral to healing trauma.

And I documented these thoughts. Some manifested as poems, visuals, sound and/or movement, all forms which I share here in this digital space.

Visually, the layered way I engage with language/culture can be encapsulated by the image of “tlatolli”, a Nahuatl word that is translated to mean ‘lengua’ in Spanish and ‘language’ in English. 'Lengua' also translates to tongue. Mhmm.

My lengua/ tongue allows me to experience and give pleasure, it is representative of the process of sharing stories, and my tongue allows me to experience the beautiful nuances of the foodlanguage of my/our people.

This blog is an extension of my tongue, a muscle that holds an abundance of feelings and memory.

I aim to use this space to archive the process(es) of flexing my decolonial muscle as a queer womyn of color. It is one way for me to chronicle the changing landscape of Latinidad and how it relates to Indigeniety in an era of web conference calls, you tube tutorials and Indigenous language-learning apps.

Here you will find the art & texts that emerge from this journey full of questions as well as work from other folks flexing their creative, cultural and decolonial muscles on the road towards change.

[1] Shout-out to fellow Chicarícua Prof. Delia Fernandez for introducing me to the phrase/ approach to independent research.

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