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Chicano students are strengthening their identities and learning more about their indigenous backgrounds by studying the culture and traditions of their ancestors.
Ethnic studies Professor Elisa Facio said the terms “Chicano” and “Chicana” are political terms that grew out of the Chicano civil rights movements in the late 1960s.
“It refers to an individual committed to social change,” Facio said. “It’s a self-identifying term, not born into. It is mainly individuals of a certain generation who chose to self identify to reflect their indigenous as opposed to European ancestry.”
Facio said Catholicism in Latin America is very different from that in Europe because the religion was forced on indigenous people of Latin America through colonization.
“Catholicism became an ideological weapon of colonization to the Americas,” Facio said.
Chicano spirituality is a combination of both European and indigenous beliefs.
Melina Somoza, a junior ethnic studies major, added that the word “Chicana” is a Mexican word used through immigration.
“It was a way to identify the people in their form of activism and self-identify,” Somoza said. “Now it’s a term for people’s families that is from the southwest and has been for generations. Our spirituality is a hybrid because it is the combining of two terms, indigenous and Catholicism. They don’t clash; they complement each other.”
One of the spiritual figures worshiped is La Virgen de Guadalupe, a figure that means something different from the European Virgin Mary.
“Virgen de Guadalupe, known as La Virgen Morena in Mexico, is a mestiza, which is a woman with the combination of European and indigenous blood,” Somoza said. “The majority of Latin American women are mestizas.”
Somoza added that Latin American people do not use the term Hispanic because it is not how they identify themselves. Somoza said the term was created by the Nixon administration to define Spanish-speaking people for the census.
Tachara Salazar, a junior ethnic studies major, is half Native American and half Chicana but was raised mostly by her mother’s Native American beliefs.
“I am technically Catholic because I was baptized and confirmed but I don’t really follow all the moral things,” Salazar said. “I embrace my indigenous culture and beliefs more than Catholicism.”
The indigenous cultures focused on living with the harmony of mother earth instead of against it.
“We try not to manipulate things and just let things be natural,” Salazar said. “That is something I try to do in my everyday life. I believe in karma and that we should live our life the way you want things to come back to you.”
Facio added that the indigenous people lived with male and female energies. They respected water, wind and the father sun, which was a very different world view than the Catholic perspective that Europeans introduced them to.
“I pray on my own, I don’t need an actual place, I just need to think by myself,” Salazar said. “I also work out because health is very important to me.”
Salazar said she believes in positive and negative energy and that her friends and family heal her when she is in need. She said she believes that the presence of positive people around her will outweigh negative energy.
“I feel stronger by following my indigenous ways instead of what was imposed on me and I feel I am a better person by surrounding myself with positive energy,” Salazar said.
Contact Campus Staff Writer Katelyn Bell at Katelyn.firstname.lastname@example.org.