Damien Montano on “Rants and Raves about Indigeneity” braiding Queer, Indigenous, and Cholo Cultural Strands into a TrEnsa of strength and Durability:
Territory– What is it, and how do we protect it? I am a seed of citrus trees planted deeply in the depths of this space and place called “La Naranja”. Orange County is the suburbs-home to elite, affluent, straight up the rich, the barrio-cultural spaces and hotspots, the tribal grounds of a placed and displaced rainbow of nations all in one. Territory has many connotations and meanings which can be extracted it. Territory implies ownership of a particular space, in this instance land. Indigenous people, varying from what one tribe says to another, never felt that anyone could “own” a piece of earth the way that the white mentality perceived “ownership” to be. Land, for Chican@ peoples as well as our Indigenous counterparts, has historically been revered and respected-even worshipped. Land has always been the space where communities reside and roam free feeling the wind on their faces as they face rising suns. Part of America’s goal to acquire land was through the Deterritorialization of Indigenous peoples.
What it came down to was the willingness to clear that Indian land “by any means necessary”. In these heartless and masochistic moves America gained much territory to make way for better things such as progress and modernity, right? We as Indian People of course move around and migrate, yet we are tied to our land. We are born there and we die there. The way of dealing with Native people was to be shoved onto a reservation-out of your space-out of your element. With the Indigenous “out of the way” Land was now an economic entity-a capitalist endeavor. Our earth was something that was sold, broken up and divided. It was cleared, trees and people uprooted-whole communities displaced, pushed onto reservations and Barrio spaces neglected and forgotten by the dominant society. The spaces that we were confined to are where we have remained and resided into today. The lands that we were given is what we defended; we have always been defending ourselves to “mainstream society”.
We defend our sexuality and gender to the communities we belong to, religion to the churches, our Native culture to non-Indigenous cultures, and our traditions to society. We as Xican@ people will defend anything that is ours, down to a handful of dirt, if it is threatened to be unjustly acquired. Sherman Alexie in his book “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” clearly expresses how today’s Orange County Chol@s defend their barrios: “Indians fight their way to the end, holding on to the last good thing, because our whole lives have to do with survival.” (p.32) Here Chican@s as indigenous people see our roots of oppression lie in our indigenous past. Life in the Barrio as a Cholo involved in gang lifestyle is all about survival. Chol@s identify with their indigenous heritage because today they suffer many of the same injustices which their ancestors (of not so long ago) were/are dealing with.
What can we conclude from this? Yes. Chol@s are territorial. Cholos and Cholas are the modern day warriors riding war ponies into battle with Street cops representing government forces. Chol@s are defending our lands, the only ones they have ever known, the ones that they feel tied to against invading forces of progress. Cholos (synonymous to Indians) are monitored by Police (govern-mental BIA cronies), plucked from the Barrio (synonymous to ancestral land), and placed in Prisons (synonymous to reservation). Think. People. Think.