August 14, 2022

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How a Journey to Guatemala Introduced Me Therapeutic By Connecting With My Indigenous Roots

I used to be lounging round my condo when my mother referred to as. I had simply resigned from my job, so I figured she was checking in. Regardless that I had dedicated one of many worst issues a daughter of immigrants might do — stop a great job, not to mention a $100K+ dream job — I nonetheless had her full assist. However I used to be mistaken. As an alternative, the following few hours felt like a blur. I all of a sudden discovered myself on a airplane returning to Guatemala for the primary time in 25 years, with my thoughts racing and a heartbroken mami — my abuelita had unexpectedly handed away.

Abuelita Julia was a guerrera and the matriarch of my mom’s household, spanning 5 generations. At 19, Mami left her residence not essentially in search of prosperity however with the hope to easily reside. Transferring to the US was her sueño dorado. Like many immigrant households, we by no means misplaced contact with Abuelita, and by some means Mami managed to instill immense Guatemalan delight in all her kids. This was no straightforward feat in a rustic that’s continuously pushing immigrants to assimilate — particularly these with ties to a wealthy Indigenous tradition. It is a tradition that was current all all through my life, from searching down the most effective chuchitos in LA to understanding wellness rooted in Mayan traditions. Abuelita possessed unbreakable intergenerational power; she was indisputably our chapina cultural gatekeeper.

As quickly as we landed, we mourned Abuelita across the clock for 2 nights — a lot of prayers, meals, flowers, and neighborhood. On the day of her burial, we carried her coffin by means of the streets of El Gallito as reside music performed loudly by means of the crying and wailing of my tias. All the things intensified as we acquired nearer to the cemetery. A member of the family handed out on account of warmth exhaustion, and one other was so overcome with feelings that they needed to depart completely. All of the whereas, I used to be assembly dozens of cousins and household buddies. Everybody wished to greet Mami’s daughter from the US.

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Overwhelmed however grateful to breathe Guatemalan air and stroll on Guatemalan soil alongside my treasured mami and household, we continued to honor Abuelita. “Nena, la sangre llama,” Tia Blanca has all the time mentioned (the blood calls), and he or she’s proper; I used to be at residence. The pure fantastic thing about the land and the plush panorama all add to the glory of Guatemala. However the place the actual magic lies is inside the individuals — Indigenous individuals like my household, who gas the thriving Mayan traditions everyday. In my time there, I ate pepián and caldo de gallina in my Tia Flori’s comedor on the native mercado, listened to household anecdotes — tales that can stick with me endlessly — loved conventional marimba, and relied on the magic of my Tia Ingrid’s té de pericó once I wanted it. However what actually served as a robust expertise was strolling the identical streets the place my lovely mom grew up. To really feel her pleasure, pleasure, and ache was one thing I might have by no means ready for.

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Naturally, the approaching weeks could be life-changing as I immersed myself within the tradition of my ancestors and opened myself to therapeutic. Rising up a Guatemalan American in LA had its challenges. Figuring out as chapina in any means usually labeled me as “different” and gave individuals a motive to query my Mexican heritage on my dad’s facet. The fact is, US Latinxs are multicultural and ambicultural, however because of the lack of illustration in primarily all elements of US American life, some individuals do not even know Central People exist.

Within the media, Guatemala is commonly minimized to a easy immigration dialog. In Hollywood, our narratives are stereotyped and dehumanized — overlooking the wonder within the complexity of our current and historical past.

Within the media, Guatemala is commonly minimized to a easy immigration dialog. In Hollywood, our narratives are stereotyped and dehumanized — overlooking the wonder within the complexity of our current and historical past. There’s numerous racism towards Indigenous cultures (even inside the Latinx neighborhood), however there are additionally change-makers, individuals like me who’re captivated with amplifying genuine and optimistic narratives and whose work facilitates dialogue that sparks motion and dialog.

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Then again, curiosity in touring to Guatemala has skyrocketed. Whereas it brings me happiness to see my motherland celebrated, I query who’s actually benefiting from this financial progress? Everyone knows who. So if you end up visiting Guatemala and falling in love with the tradition, a means you can provide again is by donating to native organizations just like the MAIA Affect Faculty, the primary college in Central America led by Indigenous girls for Indigenous ladies that provides a holistic training.

Mercado Municipal de Ciudad Quetzal

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The timing of my grandmother’s loss of life was uncanny. I used to be carrying a lot stress from my life again residence, however someplace between grief and pleasure, actuality grounded me in my Indigenous roots. It opened the door to actually understanding who my mom is. I’ve all the time been conscious of the sacrifices made by Mami for me to pursue my goals freely, however what I undoubtedly discovered is that my mom was an agent of change for her household aqui y alla.

Sharing this expertise hasn’t been straightforward: being first-gen is sophisticated. However I consider within the energy of vulnerability, and I select to proudly have a good time my cultural heritage, honor my abuelita, and embrace all of me.

Picture Supply: Maritza Medina Melgar