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Final Paper: Identity through Testimonio I was at a point in my life were I had a very low self-esteem that almost cost me my path to success I did not know what] was trying to be or who I really was, In my first year of college I came across Rigoberta Menchu‘s book I Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala She helped me understand the concept of a testimonio and I soon realized that my diary was in a way my testimonio Understanding what a testimonio was and even writing short testimonies for my classes became an enjoyable task I have never considered myself a good writer However, writing to myself about my identity and struggles made me realize that I am not that bad as a writer Just as Menchu, I was inspired by many other authors to keep writing for myself even if it was just one paragraph, Something that I look back now and think “why would I say this about myself“ is my identity and body image.
I always had a conflict of how people identify me and how their way made me see myself as how they portrayed me, My knowledge of testimonio soon became my process of conocimiento.
I gained consciousness about who I was and how I identified myself Conocimiento is also an ideology that I learned from one of my favorite writers, Gloria Anzaldua. She explains the path of conocimiento through seven stages. “Tu camino de conocimiento requires that you encounter your shadow side and confront what you’ve programmed yourself (and have been programmed by your cultures) to avoid (desconocer), to confront traits and habits distorting how you see reality and inhibiting the full use of your facultades” (Anzaldua 540), I took this as a way that I need to be myself rather than trying to fit in with everyone else.
I was always the “nerd” in schoolt I had many bad influences in my childhood and whenever I went against the habits they would begin judging me, I remember a time in middle school where everyone would act so disrespectful towards the art teachert I became a bully that day when everyone treated her horribly, I will not forget the day that I felt so bad for making my teacher cry because I was trying to avoid being a “nerd“.
That is just how my so called friends identify me as. I think that I always felt bad in a way for trying to be a good student when everyone was doing so badly. But I soon realized that maybe being an outcast was better than trying to join something that was just making me feel guilty, I think this is where I entered stage two of conocimiento. “In nepantla you are exposed, open to other perspectives, more readily to access knowledge derived from inner feelings, imaginal states, and outer events, and to ‘see through‘ them with a mindful, holistic awareness” (Anzaldua 544). I entered the second stage when I realized that school was actually something beneficial that was going to help me be successful in the future, I stopped ignoring the name tags placed upon me and continued to do great in school But not only had the name tags contributed with my struggle to my identity I took the name tag placed upon me and used it as a way to create my identity, Entering stage five of conocimiento I used my experiences in the past to re-create my own reality The reality that was perfect for me, Somewhere I had the ability to be happy and not judged. I scripted a new story with those terms that people identify me with. I began accepting who I was from how people identified me, To people I was poor, a Mexican, catholic and I was even fat, These terms made me create a world in which I was a cool poor Mexican who practiced Catholicism and enjoyed eating I pretended that those terms did not hurt me as much, but in reality I was dying inside because of how people portrayed me. However, now I think about how I let these terms affect my self-esteem the way they did. I would have been happy if I did not let them affect me. But as Anzaldua writes in her short piece, “La Prieta”, who should we blame; we cannot blame anyone but ourselves I think that at the end of the day we hurt one by overthinking about stuff.
Nonetheless, this idea of identity is only affected by all this categories that we are placed upon. Going through the sixth space I took my story out into the world. I portrayed myself for who I really was. When I arrived to Davis and people asked me from where I was they began acting weird after I told them I was from South Central. They would say things like, “Oh I’m not messing with you because you’re probably a chola” or “damn really?” or “isn’t that place ghetto”. All these statements from where I was, made me change my way of thinking. I felt out of place because people would keep mentioning that my city was “ghetto“. I remember introducing myself to some person and when she asked where I was from Ijust said I was from LA. When she asked what part of LA I said Pasadena. Neglecting my city felt so painful. However, I did not want to be asked about how many gangs there was in my city or if I was part of the trap life. The sixth space helped me accept myself for where I came from. I felt like a badass for being from South Central and making it out to Davis. Soon I became very hold when people would say things about my city. I would tell them that it may be portrayed in one way through media but is not terrible as it looks. “For the politically correct stance we let color, class, and gender separate us from those who would be kindred spirits” (Anzaldua 206). Coming from a city that is classified as one of the most dangerous, separated me. Being Mexican and lower class only put me in the minority group. I have always been a minority. At least that is how society sees me. But all these categories are not affecting my self-esteem anymore. Now I understand that in this world we live placed upon categories. And these categories are just affecting our society as a whole. “In the seventh, the critical turning point of transformation, you shift realities, develop an ethical, compassionate strategy with which to negotiate conflict and difference within self and between others, and find common ground by forming holistic alliances.
You include these practices in your daily life, act on your vision-enacting spiritual activism” (Anzaldua 545)‘, I think that taking this course was my entrance to the seventh stage. This is where I began to realize that I had to love myself for who I was and value myself more Struggling with my identity terrorized me. Not being able to know how to identify myself because of where I grew up I identified the conflict and found a way to find peace within myself, Realized that I was not the problem, the problem was the thoughts that people had about my city. And that is what confused me more about how I saw myself, I would think that I was an ugly human being for living in a city that is surrounded by drugs, violence and minorities, Through taking CHI courses I have understood my reality I have understood that where I come from is not a dangerous place and that my community has to get educated about our oppression Specially this course has expanded my knowledge and has helped me understand the significance of theory Also how theory has changed my perspective of the world. Through conocimineto l was able to find my reality and accept it. The idea of using testimonio as a path through my conocimiento was a form of liberation for me, I found a way that I was capable of expressing myselfi Overall I feel that many of the authors that are read in CHI courses are very inspiring Another inspiring author that has helped me get through the last stage of conocimiento is Virginia Grise. In her work, “The Panza Monologues” she speaks about the panza, These monologues have also helped me learn how to identify myself. It was very interesting to see how the panza can be a way to bring awareness about a different situation other than body image “When people of both sexes and a wide variety of genders talked to us about their panza, they inevitably created linkages that exposed the interconnections of race, culture, socioeconomic history, material and political realities and adaptation, and their bodies”.
Seeing the panza in a different form taught me that body image affects ones identity both physically and mentally. This is based on what the person is surrounded by and how her/his surroundings affect her/him, For example, going back to my hometown, I always see overweight people and it’s not because they are unhealthy but because we live surrounded by fast food places. “The Panza Monologues” was very eye opening as well. I was able to understand that body shaming is not healthy. My panza is a symbol of my identity. My panza has a story behind itjust like my testimonio My experience as an undergrad has honestly been very eye opening I never thought that I would change career paths. This was because I was determined to study biology and make a career out of it However, when I began learning more about my culture, I fell in love and inspired. Gloria Anzaldua has influenced me to think about my identity. In her piece work Borderlands she talks about being the first one to leave home She says, “But I didn’t leave all the parts of me: I kept the ground of my own being. On it I walked away, taking with me the land, the Valley, Texas“ (Anzaldua 16) This has helped me understand the last stage of conocimiento. Through this testimonio I would like to say that I feel more confident about my identity. Leaving home to get an education at a top university could not make me any happier. I do not regret being who I was as a child. Being name tagged and judged for being “smart” got me to where I am today. And I am proud to be from South Central because my hard work and dedication to school led me here. My community needs help and I am determined to be a good influence for those in my community who want to be successful. When I decided to move to Davis I also brought my hometown, just like Moraga, I brought South LA with me It has been a bumpy road to finally say that I am happy for who I am. I identify myself as a very determined Chicana, Mexican-American, feminist and beautiful women.
This class has been a positive influence in my life and I am thankful that I keep coming across people whom inspire me every day. All the readings have kept me thinking about the most important part of my identity, What it means to be Chicana? Is a question that I have learned to process and I am still learning to develop. Angie Chabram‘s book The Chicana Cultural Studies m quotes Fregoso, “for me cultural studies is not just about studying culture, it’s about studying culture in a particular historical context” (Fregoso 20). This is why I decided to change my career path because I felt inspired by authors like Fregosor Who challenge me mentally and get me thinking of why I identify myself as Chicana. My testimonio has honestly been a great mind exercise because I have a new perspective on my identity And I have learned so much from different authors that influence my perspective on my major, Chicana/o Studies.
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