El Anglo con cara de inocente

“El anglo con cara de inocente” as originally posted on Hermana Resist.

This is how Gloria Anzaldua described the college professors of the then Pan American College in Edinburg, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley in the1960s. My writing mother tells me, no te rajes Chicanita,and I don’t.

Because of capitalism, my dad became a bracero in the 1940s and left his home in Nuevo Leon, Mexico and travelled to Illinois when he was a teen. The first barrio historian I ever knew, I would follow his footsteps of learning via reading and gathering stories and oral traditions though he never talks about the bracero experience.

My mother was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and because of imperialism and colonialism left la isla to Chicago when she was five with her grandmother, mom, siblings and tias. In Chicago schools, she would be labeled a black immigrant, fresh off the boat. When I was born, I was an ‘illegal’ twice over.

My dad tells me before there were borders, his family went back and forth what is now the Texas-Mexico borderline, what is now Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.  He took care of the family’s goats and my tias tell stories of how he’d get in trouble because he’d get lost reading and the goats would wonder off.

La familia de mi mama-worked the fields and land en Puerto Rico, made music, steamed food in deep pits covered in Earth, were known as slaves and they were cultural workers at a time when culture was a barbed wire.

We are a living Pan-Indio border* and I come from many homelands. I find myself at home in South Texas. Soy de aqui.

The Rio Grande Valley has a long history of producing cultural workers by means of writers, artists, poetas, musicians and non-traditional teachers. We have been nurturing healers and radical change makers outside the walls of academia in community accessible ways. When I created Mujerfest, the first queer friendly Mujer centric (women of color and Latina led) festival years ago, it was the community that showed up, both labor wise and audience wise. It was not theory being created in a vacuum or tested in small numbers in a classroom, but it was an accessible community-led effort.

In early February a young Chicanx wrote a manifesto on social media because they were at odds with the local Mexican American Studies department being co-directed by a white person and another white person with Mexican lineage somewhere down the line but with definite white privilege. More importantly, the student put the white professors on blast by implying they were victims of racism in the valley, as they were not in the majority.

With no clear goals set or objectives, I nevertheless applauded the honesty and didn’t question their choice in deliverance-for we know that asking for appropriate avenues of discourse is terminology used to silence and oppress by those in power. I gave the student a virtual nod and let the students do their thing, chiming in when I noticed young men of color misapplying what racism was and not understanding what institutional racism was or the history of institutional racism at the now UTRGV. Several grad students of this very department didn’t or wouldn’t comprehend that being critical of how they were being taught cultural studies was an important formation of autonomous thought troubled me.

I thought nothing more of it and wondered how we could do better. If the communities on the streets are learning the critical thinking skills and learning how to be gentle with each other and our ever-evolving identities, why isn’t the local academia?

A few days later I was made aware that the two white professors reported the young student both to the police and to the dean. A short version of the police report appeared in the local university newspaper.


I was sick and disgusted. We live in an area that has been called a militarized border area with an overwhelming immigrant community. Across the country, violence is committed against the bodies of Black, Mexican and Indigenous young people. Young people, families are deported without due process, sent to their deaths. This is not rhetoric.

When the acting director of Mexican American Studies Department and half of the reporting duo took it upon herself to socially castigate me and other local Chicana cultural workers for supporting this student without any intent to dialogue, I was at first taken aback and I will admit, angry. Because sometimes you get tired of being the bridge. I had been cordial and had played the nice “Latina” poet by visiting her classroom to talk about poetry, had attending a few events that the department sponsored in hopes that local students be made aware of alternative media, zines, poetry and how those can be connected to local history-my passions.

I joked with friends– she didn’t even buy my book. And while it’s true and it can be argued that my poetry doesn’t belong in the ivory tower or deemed important by a white feminist professor of American literature or what have you, I can’t help but draw comparisons to how geographically the worth of our Chicana cultural workers-those that produce art, poetry, music, food and carry our culture from one generation to the next, who have produced radical scholarship in writing and art and in new art forms continue to be under appreciated and go unnoticed or even worse, compared in racist ways. Notice how cultural worker, valley artist, community member and internationally recognized artist Celeste De Luna recounts her experiences here and here and here:




Gloria left the valley before it could kill her. The white establishment that would continue to drive out countless of our poetas and musicians, those that didn’t adhere to a strict learned Euro-language or wouldn’t go with the patriarchal Euro white-centric standards would leave the valley to write screenplays, poems and verses in more accepting atmospheres. Others simply shut that part off.

A few years ago when the MAS department was approved, I had my reservations but generally felt it would work out. But it was my error to believe any sort of conocimiento can be had at an institution that insists on not educating its students, our kids, on the fundamentals of power and privilege and institutional racism.   I worry about the sociopolitical implications of students of color defending white professors who don’t realize history is repeating itself. Being witness to this display of silencing and cultural genocide is painful yet, oddly and paradoxically, appropriate as we live on these borderlands, the metaphor of home is always in flux. The diaspora experience means we are constantly forging points of intersections, we belong to the future as much as to the past. We continue to create poems for our people and lands while departments continue to set up rules and tests to keep us out.

Poets and artists continue to create.

*From Divided Border: Essays on Puerto Rican Identity, Juan Flores. P 202.

For more thoughts on the caribbean and Gloria Anzaldua, see Negrón-Muntaner, Frances. “Bridging Islands: Gloria Anzaldúa and the Caribbean”. PMLA 121.1 (2006): 272–278.


Noemi Martinez is a Xicana/Puerto Rican writer, poet and non-traditional teacher living in the texas/mexico borderlands, birthplace of Gloria Anzaldua. She is interested in alt.media, diy, edupunk, indigenous issues, queer theory and reclamation, mestiza identity, borderland studies, women of color in alt media, raising brown boys, invisible disabilities, Mexican American/[email protected] history, Texas/mexico border history, raising spitfire chicanas & single parenting in alt cultures. Some of her work has recently appeared in The Perch, Make/Shift and Asylum Magazine. http://www.hermanresist.com

*Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.
-Audre Lorde

We need to create poetry, art, research, and books that cannot be assimilated, but is accessible. -Gloria Anzaldúa


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One thought on “El Anglo con cara de inocente”

  1. You have a very beautiful way of expressing yourself. My grandfather was also involved in the Bracero worker project. It worked for him because he could work in the United States without relinquishing his Mexican citizenship. He was very proud of being Mexican. He was a patriot. As a result of he and my grandmother traveling back and forth across the border, all but one of their children ended up being born in the United States and American citizens by virtue of their being born in the US.They attended school in both Mexico and the US and were bilingual because of that schooling. My father believes it gave him a unique perspective on how Mexicans were viewed in the United States as opposed to the way they were treated in Mexico. Which brings me to your comments concerning the Caucasian women who were co-Directors of the Mexican American Studies Dept. I describe them both as Caucasian because you describe one as a White person and the other as White person of Mexican linage.somewhere down the line but with definite White privilege. I feel a need here to differentiate between Race and Nationality. Nationality is the country of which you are a citizen of, where Race is your ethnic DNA footprint of sorts. One can be of the Caucasian Race while being a citizen Somalia in Africa. I agree with the notion that someone who has lived their life with White Privilege is in no position to teach or be a Director of a Mexican American Studies Department. If one is of a different ethnicity than those that the Mexican American Studies course is supposedly focusing on, there is no basis of identification or common experiences to relate to or empathize with. I have been married to a Caucasian woman for over forty years now and can attest to the fact that they have not a clue what’s it like to be anything but White (Caucasian). Imagine what it would be like if one or more of us of Indigenous Native American Ancestry were to teach or co-direct a studies class on European American Studies? Part One: How the Europeans invaded our Ancestral Homeland and initiated a Genocide against an innocent people who were living in relative peace before the invasion and mass murdering of unarmed elderly men, women and children to say nothing of the many diseases the Europeans brought to the Americas resulting in thousands of deaths for which we had no defense. Part 2: How the Euro-American brought the inhumane practice of Institutional Slavery and how America is still suffering from the racism brought to America by the Europeans. Ones perspective can differ radically from another’s simply because of our personal experiences and the personal relationships we’ve encountered in our life time. Unless you are of Mexican decent, you have no idea how hurtful it can be when a person of Alien European ancestry yells, “Go back to Mexico wetback !!! while you are standing on the land your people have cultivated and respected for thousands of years.

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