Tag Archives: Indígenas en California

Reclaiming our Indian heritage in the classrooms, in California


Bertha Rodríguez Santos

  • “I think Indians are awesome,” says Angel after reading a poem about how Indians perceive themselves in contrast with the way they are seen by white people.

Written by Juanita Bell, a Pima poet, “Indian Children Speak” (http://www.angelfire.com/ia/poopsie16/indian.html), not only gives us pictures of silent Native American kids misinterpreted by others just because they are different; the poem also tells us what is inside these children.

Angel is a 20 year-old student who dropped out High School two years ago because he had to work, he said he completed 11tth grade, and now is taking adult classes. Angel was born in Los Angeles but his parents are from Mexico.

  • I think you are (one of them too), I remarked smiling and looking at his eyes.
  • Am I? He replied repeating the same question more than twice, as if a positive answer would mean a lot to him. His face lighted with a wide beam.
  • “I think so,” I said while glancing at the golden-brown color of this left arm.
  • “Most of us Mexicans are Indians or have some Indian blood,” I responded.
  • Really?! But how would I know which indigenous group I’m from?
  • “You can ask your parents or your grandparents,” I said matter-of-factly.
  • My mother is from Nayarit and my father is from Michoacán. So, I don’t really know…
  • You might have some Wixáritari blood. Huichol, as the Spanish speaking people call one of the indigenous groups that inhabit Nayarit, San Luis Potosí, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Durango, and Colima among other Mexican estates.
  • Wow! Who are they? What are they known for?,” Angel asked.
  • They are known because they do spiritual pilgrimages and ceremonies using the sacred plant of peyote and they are famous because they do amazing yarn paintings and beaded art.

The conversation was getting really interesting but we had to interrupt the chatting because the teacher started asking opinions about another poem entitled “Not Knowing, in Aztlán,” by Tino Villanueva:

the way they look at you

the schoolteachers

the way they look at you

the City Hall clerks

the way they look at you

the cops

the airport marshals

the way they look at you

you don’t know if it’s something you did

or something you are


“That was deep!,” exclaimed Angel.

The class discussion went on as some students stated that the poem resonated in them.

Next Monday, when I saw Angel after class, he called me to confide me something: “I know who I am. I’m a Cora,” he said smiling. “My grandma told me,” he still smiling as if that revelation meant that much to him.

Of course, it means a lot to us Indians to reclaim the roots that sustain us.


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Filed under Mexican Indians in California