Mictlán En Vida

I’ve been quiet for a long time, but there is so much to say. Let me start then with the most important piece. 

I am like you. 

I was born to parents who had to leave everything behind in order to start anew. They paid for my education through the sweat of their brows and the shame they felt every time our large family was followed through a department store by a white woman with a tight smile. 

Like you, I was taught to hide everything that could tie me to a land that seemed both mythical and ancient. A place to be revered by those who knew it but mocked by those of us who never had the chance. 

Como una ingrata, I rejected the tight plaits woven by my mother’s skilled hands. I was ashamed of the thick leather shoes made by an unknown artisan in a place I didn’t want to know existed. 

Instead, I longed for what was familiar. What was right [white].

I wanted straight, fine hair that floated like dandelion seeds in the breeze. I needed blindingly white, faux leather shoes with bright colors and flashy logos. I didn’t want to wear frills or lace or skirts that showed off the socks my aunts had sent me from Michoacan. 

I needed to be like them.

And as I grew, I learned to hate myself more, despite knowing how much I was loved.

I learned to resent the accent that would sometimes creep into my English, learning to work hard to perfect it. I suffocated the e’s that would come before the s’s and drowned the g’s that would slither into my words. My English needed to be flawless so that I could wrap it around my tongue with greater ease than even the girls with blonde hair and blue eyes that made fun of me for being different.

I thought myself refined. An improvement.

I felt that I could conquer this new world to make my parents proud. I thought only of the money I could make and the prestige I could buy for them. I didn’t see how much of myself I had already cut away in a futile attempt to be more palatable to those who never wanted me here in the first place.

It is with shame that I acknowledge how wrong I was.

Time has taught me to see the missteps, but compassion has also allowed me to see that version of myself with kindness and understanding.

She is me and I was so very lost.

I know now that the vision I had of who I needed to be was never going to make me happy. I had too much pride sewn into those dresses. Too much love in the plaits in my hair. Too much coraje when I saw my people being ridiculed by those who didn’t know us. 

It is this version of myself that I say goodbye to. It is this caricature of a “good American” that I send to Mictlán. 

Como Mexicanos, we know that death is a part of life.

It’s something that academics often repeat as a trademark of our culture. We’re told that as Mexicans have a ‘strange relationship’ with death because we do not fear it as we ought to. 

What they don’t understand is that we don’t fear it because we have been forced to live with it every day of our lives. 

How can you fear something when you experience it as soon as you’re born? 

I saw the death of my parents’ dream to return to their homeland every time they spoke about visiting. I felt our culture slipping away when my siblings and I started to choose English over Spanish at home, the youngest struggling with words we had all taken for granted. I learned to live with the death of people who were dear to me without ever having been able to hold them in my arms. And I felt a part of me die every time someone would look at me and point out a part of me that needed to be hidden in order to make them comfortable. 

When you hold death so close, it isn’t as frightening. Instead, you come to see it for what it truly is. A transition. Nothing more, or less.

As the child of inmigrantes, I have lived my life in a liminal space. Ni de aqui, ni de alla.  A ghost of a culture living on the fringes of another. 

As a creature of this transitory space, I have come to view death as a portal that can be seen appearing again and again throughout our lives. La Muerte doesn’t just show up when our skin is wrinkled and our time on this plane is done. No, death is with us throughout this life, showing up when change is needed, whether we can see the transition occurring or not. 

As a woman nearing her fortieth year, I now have the privilege of seeing the presence of death in my life as the blessing it can be. I have died and been reborn several times and each time I have emerged as the version of myself that I needed to be in that moment in order to survive… and reach the next rebirth. 

Have I reached some unattainable nirvana where I am so enlightened I have nothing left to learn? No, far from it. I have simply opened my eyes to death’s role in life. El Mictlán en vida.

It’s also important to say that I don’t want to glamorize this process, death is never easy. 

Death, in any form, will knock you on your ass and send you back to your mamá crying. You will be humbled and broken until your only choice is to pick yourself up and fashion a new version of yourself from the pieces.

I simply want to ask you, who are like me, to look at yourself with the same kindness and compassion I have come to know. How many times in this life have you died? How do you look upon that person you used to be? Do you thank them for helping you survive or do you blame them for doing things you wouldn’t do now? Did you know any better? 

If you have been holding that past niñx in contempt, I ask you to reconsider. We have all been fed the lies of a white supremacist patriarchy for so long that it is only now that we are starting to open our eyes to the truth. In this time of transition and mass awakening, as the world asks us to help save her from a very real death, we must examine our relationship with Her and with each other. We were never broken and death is not a stranger to fear. Our beauty lies in our differences and our ancestors wait for us on the other side of a veil that is thinner than a butterfly’s wing. We need only to open our hearts and look, without fear.

Abstract- Tell us about your idea for a submission.:

Death is with us throughout life, guiding us, helping us grow. Despite colonial conditioning, we needn’t fear this portal for change.

Full name as you want it displayed in the magazine:

Norma Rubalcava Wence

Short Bio of 2-3 sentence as you would want it displayed in the Magazine, include any links or IG handles:

Writer, artist, queer brujx healer reclaiming her ancestral magic. Middle child of seven, she dedicates her work to her family and husband. Known on IG as @lasirenamaldita

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