Los Condenados de Las Américas: Going Beyond Nations and Radiating Outward
Queremos un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.
―Palabras del Ejército Zapatista para la Liberación Nacional
I wanted to share my thoughts on an ongoing conversation that takes place in both Native spaces and spaces that are filled with people who experience dispossessed Indigeneity. As a Xicano, I have had the privilege to be affirmed by many Native people (mostly American Indians) as an Indigenous person regardless of my own conditions and social location on this continent. Still, this never came easy or was an assumed idea of who I was. These conversations about Indigeneity were difficult, trialing, and many times created conflict. I’ve heard it all in my time in Native spaces, Xican@ spaces, and in American Indian Studies classes. From Lumbees feeling ostracized, Mexican Indigenous students questioned about who they are, or Genízaros being denied as Indigenous. The list can go on and on and remains a serious question as to what makes a person or community Indigenous; how then recognized Indigenous people regulate, manage, and many times police those ideas, not out of power trips but because of the aftermath and embedded fabric of coloniality and strategies for survivance. I want to be able to articulate and enunciate the conditions, positions, and responsibility of los condenados de las américas (the wretched of the americas), people I will define and locate in this writing. I want to think in a generative way about possibilities in the twenty-first century.
Many rejected, disavowed, and condemned Indigenous people of the Americas are marked by socio-political and structural processes that are rooted in colonial regulation, racist categorical hierarchies, and politics of recognition. It goes without saying that many Indigenous people are natally alienated through multifaceted structures that are brought upon them through their racial mixture, forced disconnection (e.g. dislocation, assimilation or removal), and/or colonial management of their cultural citizenship (or political affiliation) to a community. The methods to alienate one from their Indigenous nation (people and cultural identity) and natal origin (place of emergence) is devastating as much as it is systemic. From mestizo, Metis, mixed-race (-blooded), urban, non-traditional, not from the rez, not from the pueblo, halfbreed, disconnected, nationally assimilated, dispossessed, to the impacts of capitalist racialization, Indigenous people endure and inherit these colonial and western logic systems. Los condenados de las américas are the unwanted Indigenous people who do not fit the mold, who are inauthentic, who defy the Indian, and who are not recognized because of history and projects to reduce Original People.
What then becomes of los condenados de las américas? They are citizens of nation-states, they live in the cities, they are called outsiders, they are known to be racist toward Indians (many times from their own self-hatred), they might look anglo, spanish, or french (i.e. white, light-skinned, and European); they might look “Indian,” Brown and dark-skinned, and they live. They live because they have survived. They have survived genocide, hatred, death, violence, discrimination. They are breathing, eating, participating, and, in the bodies of their ancestors, do not always navigate a white supremacist world easily. They are los condenados de las américas. They do not fit properly on your census, they do not look like the Indian, they do not recognize themselves because they are told not to (out of hatred or survival), and they forget who they are generation after generation till they are what coloniality designed them to be: not Indigenous. Yet, they get called Indian by white settlers. They are still the wretched of the earth who will never be fully human in westernized societies, in white settler imaginaries. They are los condenados de las américas. Undesirables.
Many people like me, of Mexican origin, are Indigenous and casta descendants. If we are to follow our genealogy we find a complex Indigenous past and a complicated Indigenous present. So what are we to make of our Indigenous futures? This is especially timely when the only validated Indigenous people are those who have authentic sites of continuity and recognition. Many Mexicanos, for instance, practice Indigenous cultures, worldviews, and relationality, yet are undergoing processes to assimilate as mestizo and toward the Mexican nationality. Our world is constructed by coloniality, of the remnants and presence of anti-Indigenous power and desire. We reproduce it, we build it. It would be naive to say that we all resist it. It would be controversial to say that we all participate in it. Our truths, like our bodies, our customs, our very being, are also constructed and designed by structures of schooling and colonial, liberal media. Many people like me are produced by systems of power.
How do we understand our very moment in time? What are we to study in the vast and transforming world constructed by the changing faces of capitalism? What are tangible methods and praxes that we employ to resist as los condenados de las américas? What logic, knowledge, reason, rationality, and analytics are we thinking through and about that reproduces and re-constitutes the western world as truth and real? I cannot pretend that my own investigations are “decolonized” and offer anything substantially “decolonial.” Yet, los condenados de las américas, as many Third World, Black, Indigenous, poor, Queer, Global South, and radical intellectuals have theorized, have their own sites of resistance. Our collective responsibility is to locate those sites in our current conditions and discover ways to resist and build another world together as interdependent people.
I have thought about and contemplated the ideas of Indigeneity as it pertains to los condenados de las américas. I have no conclusion (and I do not think there ever will be one), but I believe that we as los condenados de las américas must sustain our interrogations of it while also maintaining a critique of it. Indigeneity has its problematics. Organizing spaces, academia, and radical thinking have become entrenched with a discussion of Indigeneity that many times places the original people of the land as the owners of that specific territory one inhabits by settlement, migration, and displacement. The frame, in turn, works toward a binary analysis of settler and Indigenous, of occupier and original inhabitant. This formulation reifies western, European logic of othering that seeks to decenter the non-Indigenous of the discussed territory. Analysis in this frame finds itself in the oeuvre of settler colonial studies and the emergent critical Indigenous studies. While the utility of the analytic is powerful and is intentional to disrupt white settler power, temporality, and space, its use to delineate the position of People of Color (as settlers of color) is a disservice to their existence on Indigenous lands.
This extends to los condenados de las américas as many scholars are attempting to locate them in the realm of settlement, settler identity, and enacting settler logic/common sense. The controversy and heated debates start here. But I find solace and refuge in the writings of decolonial scholar Daphne Taylor-Garcia. Their work illuminates for me the framing of los condenados de las américas as she interrogates the phenomenology of mixed-race people of Latinized America, colonial geography that is expansive in its temporality. Whereas mixed-raced people (casta-descent people) of the Americas endure the burden of purity politics, notions of belonging and kin are constantly questioned and disavowed. I want to push the work of Taylor-Garcia in The Existence of the Mixed Race Damnés: Decolonialism, Class, Gender, Race (2019) toward directions to suggest that los condenados de las américas, an umbrella to the mixed-race damnés, is a hemispheric condition. While Mixed-Race Studies is a meaningful point of departure in Taylor-Garcia’s investigation and philosophizing, I point to how we can transgress this continental colonial landscape to understand a continental condition I have laid bare. The mixed-race subject in Latinized America faces legacies of Spanish colonialism, yet British colonialism proper places a frame of los condenados de las américas in an interesting position in relation to broader European domination and power systems.
People of color of the damnés is a radical portrait that Taylor-Garcia suggests is the mode of organizing that combats bad faith in decolonial horizons. I propose we take seriously this position and perspective, to also open it up to los condenados de las américas and how we can begin those continental dialogues that also allow a global discourse that has been in formation since 1492, to the resurgences of 1968 and 1994.
For these questions, I turn now to the work of community scholar Linda Quiquivix, whose political work is at the intersection of justice in Palestine and the Americas in the context of the afterlives of 1492. Quiquivix has challenged me to do the work of re-visiting European epistemology and worldviews in light of transits of capitalism over time and space. Her challenge is for us to re-think what the world of 1492 has brought upon our people and our relationship to the world. Following the philosophy of Frantz Fanon and Zapatismo, Quiquivix urges us to examine how the afterlives of 1492 are structured through empires of cartography in their forthcoming book, Palestine and the Wretched of Empire: Race, Cartography, and the Afterlives of 1492.
A key proposal that Quiquivix offers us is the Fanonian notion of radiating outward. In the spirit of Fanon and the Zapatistas, we as a community have the imperative to think beyond the western binaries imposed on us and to begin thinking about alternative societies. Many across the continent and the world have started this work, but its dissemination is slow and intentional. Quiquivix reminds us of the power of community and self-determination that radiates outward, thus leaving the structures of coloniality in order to create a new world.
Los condenados de las américas are part and parcel to this decolonial project. Yet, one westernized idea of society must also be left behind, that of nation-state nationalism. We must tear the shell of nation-state nationalism from our organizing practices, from our intellectual engagements, and abolish the borders that give nation-state power legitimacy. This type of nationalism is what hinders our solidarities and imaginations for a world free from borders. Los condenados de las américas have no ancient nor contemporary tie to nation-state nationalism that is inherently prescribed. Our condition is much deeper than that, much like the Indigenous communities across the Americas that have a tribal/pueblo connection.
Palestinians have mapped their way back to فلسطي (Palestine) where they will return to their homeland, albeit also contemplating the difficult conversation of leaving behind the home and belonging on other peoples’ lands that they cultivated. Where do we find home as detribalized and deterritorialized Chicanxs, as los condenados de las américas? What homeland do we lay claim to? As people with a difficult tie and relationship to home, what are we if not only the "settlers" that academics make and shape us into? As Maestra Celia Herrera Rodríquez suggests, our home is the road, el camino rojo. We are not fixed into a singular position but navigate a multiplicity of landscapes that are (un)known to us. Our emergent kin is what connects us and what will continue to lead us toward our decolonial futures. Our territoriality is unmappable and our futures on this continent does not subscribe to (colonial) settlement.
Among all of us, we need a politics of radical responsibility that is not one-sided, that is interdependent and centers always collective freedom where justice is indivisible, i.e. doing away with the assumption that intersectionality is oppression olympics. We need a return to the thriving of life where we abolish the systems of death. It might not be enough to say that los condenados de las américas are a post-contact people that negotiate Indigenous belonging to this continent. Los condenados de las américas have much work to do that they have not already done, but the same goes for “living” Indigenous people who also participate in policing others, though not intentionally a destructive desire on their part. Going beyond nations and radiating outward is what Quiquivix identifies as the “Exit.” This exit is a departure of the world created by 1492. In other words, we have the imperative to build a world where many worlds fit, a proposal by Zapatista freedom fighters in the autonomous zones of Chiapas, Mexico. As los condenados de las américas, we have work to do to realize that an alternative world can be created that dislodges and makes obsolete nation-state governance, capitalism, and the total death-driven systems we currently navigate.
I cannot give a picture of what this alternative can and will look like, but it happens in the everyday life and survivance struggles of los condenados de las américas.
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