Friday, February 08, 2008

Reclaiming La Chola

BrownFemiPower has a post explaining why she re-named her Radical Women of Color blog to La Chola. It was pretty interesting to me to hear about the sort of responses that she's received since then. Some have questioned whether she's actually tough enough to deserve(?) to call herself a chola. Others have insinuated that she's not--I don't know, culturally authentic?--enough to call herself that. It's really quite baffling. I have to wonder, how much did these self-appointed judges really know her in the first place?

It's been a bajillion years since she and I first conversed but, if anything, I'd say that she has become LESS tame over the years than when she first started out blogging. The Brownfemipower that I knew was passionate and smart and inquisitive but I don't think she had found her true voice, at least not to the extent that she has now. I think that if I spoke to her now the way that I did then, I'd get checked quicker than a food stamp balance on the first of the month. Seriously.

When we first exchanged e-mails, it was to discuss some really disappointing drama between women in the people of color blogosphere. I've held on to those messages that we sent back and forth to each other and I went back and read them again tonight. The difference between that BFP and the one on La Chola is like night and day. Her tremendously-caring heart is apparent in both but her strength is so much more apparent on her blog now; she used to keep it so damned reserved! I'm just glad that the entire world now gets to see the warrior woman that has always been there smoldering between the lines of her posts. I mean, I was really surprised when I re-read those messages we exchanged and I saw this e-mail from her dated February 14, 2006:

ps I was also wondering about your comment that people think you got cancer because of "x"--usually some thing to do with your behavior.

I don't agree with that sentiment at all, but I have been exploring the idea of state created disability...that is the children who have been exposed to agent orange, the children exposed to nuclear waste, the children exposed to dioxins, waste, poison and other enviornmental filth that the state specifically creates or edorses the creation of.

do you think that the disability movement has the potential to create an alliance between disabled folks and those suing for reperations (in the case of agent orange?)

And how can the fine line be drawn between valuing disability while at the same time recognizing that the state has an instrumental role in creating disability?

Yeah, that was almost exactly TWO YEARS AGO. Now check out this post I wrote the other day:

February 3, 2008

Society really is creating a disability class. It's kind of difficult for me to articulate the difference between the disability community and the disability class. I don't have a problem with an expanding disability community. In fact, I really want it to expand because I think that a lot of people could benefit by becoming a part of our community. However, what I do not want is for people to become a part of the class of individuals who are disabled by society because they were subjected to inhumane conditions.

After that, I thought about how there's all this talk about how much "illegals" are supposedly costing "us" (because, of course, they are not a part of "us" even though they live and work and die here, too) in health care benefits. Still, there's nary a mention of how much the exploitation of workers is causing many of these people to have to seek medical care in our health system. Who's going to calculate that?
Even though La Chola does not identify herself as a person with disabilities, she was able to think critically about issues that, in spite of being disabled for many years, I am just starting to be able to consider. And what was it that made me think about this a few days ago? Take a guess! It was one of her posts. Yeah, so anyway, my point is, if you're one of the people who's surprised about the name-change, it's probably because you just didn't know her as well as you assumed you did.

Now, while we're talking about cholas...

I remember when I kicked it in L.A. (not La., where I am from) for awhile back in the day. My very best friend/hostess/roommate was a chola to her heart.

We first met when she had moved down to New Orleans for a little while to stay with her grandparents. She decided that we would be friends. She used to hang out with my brothers and their friends, so I'd seen her around a few times but we never really kicked it or held any memorable conversations with each other. One day she came over to my house (she worked down the street from where I lived) and told me that she and I were going to be friends.

This was shortly after VanGoghGirl was born and I was homebound at the time; I wasn't really healthy enough to be able to get out and do things like hanging out and going to the movies or parties or anything like that. That meant that I was always left out when the kids in our social sphere got together to have some fun. She changed that. She'd come and hang out with me on the weekends and, when she and the other kids went out, she'd drag them all over to my house afterwards to hang out until the morning hours. If it hadn't been for her, I'd have been so isolated from everyone my age. She made sure that didn't happen.

On the night when I had to be hospitalized in the middle of the night because of my bad reaction to Prednisone, she was the first person who realized that something was wrong and she had already hitched a ride to my house before my mom and brothers figured out that I really did need to get checked out. She rode with me and my family to Charity hospital and sat there with me for the hours that it took before they processed me.

She is one of the fiercest women I've ever met. She taught me all sorts of things like how to carry a razor between my tongue and the roof of my mouth* and how to shave off my eyebrows (and then draw them back in with a make-up pencil) and where to buy the perfect shade of "red-black-red" lipstick. She took me to the mall to get my nose pierced and almost talked me into getting my first tattoo. She wasn't a part of a gang but you couldn't pay her to wear ANYTHING red. She drank and smoked and cussed like a sailor and she even taught my toddler-aged daughter to tell people to kiss her butt.

By the time I moved back to Louisiana, I was wearing my flip-flops with socks and my muscle shirts with no bra. Hell, I still wear my muscle shirts without a bra to this day. It just doesn't feel right any other way.

La Chola is powerful.
La Chola is untamed.
La Chola laughs out loud.
La Chola says, "Fuck capitalism!"
La Chola has no need for a marriage license to sanction her relationships.
La Chola believes in a lot of things but doesn't really bother with churches.
La Chola is hella smart.
La Chola has been to jail but she did what was needed to care for her family.
La Chola's kids can understand Spanish even though they go to a g├╝ero daycare center.
La Chola has always had my back.
La Chola doesn't wait for introductions.
La Chola is proud.
La Chola loves la raza.
La Chola has already been reclaimed.

*If you're going to try this, make sure you use the single-side blades that are really cheap because they are more flexible than the more expensive ones. Be sure to face the blade in the opposite direction of your throat. Better yet, just don't try this or try not to be any place where you might feel like you need to try it.


Renegade Evolution said...

not that my opinion on the matter matters, but I think BfP is tough enough to call herself whatever she wants!

Anonymous said...

hermana--te amo.
::wipes away tears::


y, Ren--of course your opinion is everything!!! :-)

mami gonna knock you OUT! POW! lol.

bint alshamsa said...


Girl, you know I'm still willing to turn into an attack dog if I find someone is trying to eff with you!

That's just how us ghetto friends and barrio buddies get down, right?