"No one is going to allow Chicanos to be Indian; no one has allowed American Indians to remain tribally identified. To think so is to adhere to a romantic notion of what it means to survive the consistent attacks on our selves, our lands, and our prayers. Just as the mestizo meets the Indio, the Indian meets the mestizo. Many North and Meso-American people conflate Spanish Language speakers with Spanish origin people, just as many Meso-American people conflate English Language speakers with "Anglo" origin peoples. (Think about the whole discourse around pochos y agringadas). Within this, concepts of the People get lost, and, in the north, Congressional and judicial discourse on Indianness become the authoritative points of view from which all Indian identity and authenticity is judged."
--Reid Gómez (Diné-Xicana), "They Killed the Word" (2004)
For the last fifty years, Xican@s as an Indigenous population have become one of the most contested demographics within the United States’ (US) settler colonial territories. This is chiefly due to the disavowal and rejection of Xican@s as Indigenous peoples to Abya Yala. These clashes of political identity are highly charged discussions among scholarly-academic and community-based spaces throughout the US and beyond. Akin to discourses of Métis and Genízaro Indigeneity, Xican@s—although not the same to their Métis and Genízaro relatives—are placed in a state-sanctioned limbo of contested claims to their Indigenous identity. Xican@s are also challenged by their Indigenous relatives within and outside of the US and not only by nation-state regulation. Xican@ as a term is in itself a heterogeneously defined word that has, over time, articulated itself differently across space, i.e. it has different signification in various regions. That being said, Xican@ is not a monolithic signifier that identifies a homogenous group of peoples. Yet, as it is generally designated in the US, it denotes a population of “Mexican-descent” persons. This overgeneralization is a common and publicly used definition that demands more scrutiny. Instead, here in this paper Xican@ denotes something more than an assemblage of people who embrace this identity and its philosophical underpinnings. Beyond all this, Xican@ remains a term that has and is continuously changing by those who identify with Xican@. Remarkably, more and more Xican@s are identifying themselves as Indigenous people contrary to other self-definitions, such as mestizo, hispanic, and Latinx. Yet, this paper is not concerned with identity politics; rather, it is apprehensive with the ways Xican@s articulate themselves as Indigenous people of Abya Yala. This brief paper will unpack the question of Xican@ Indigeneity—or Indigeneities—and will consequently attempt to give a fleshed-out picture of who these people are in relation to land and peoplehood, through Indigenous diet, Aztlan, and ceremony.
The incarnation of Chicanos is a vague one that is muddled with conflicting perspectives and viewpoints that usually point to the 1960s as the starting point. But, the beginning of Chicano people begins before the twentieth century, before 1848, and before 1521: it begins with Maíz and the various creation stories powerfully emerging from this continent (Rodríguez, 2014). The creation and emergence of sentli/maíz/corn is traced back 7,000 years ago, that also coincides with the many creation stories of Mesoamerican people and other Indigenous groups in north Abya Yala (Rodríguez, 2014). The starting point of maíz for Chicanos is crucial for understandings Xican@ Indigeneity. It is crucial because, contrary to much of the literature on Chicanos, maíz and Indigenous foods and diet are central to Chicanos, among Mexicans and Central American in general (Rodríguez, 2014). As Xicano scholar Roberto Rodríguez (2014) posits, maíz representations by Chicanos demonstrates a relationship to Indigeneity that transgresses the popular notion of Chicanos as non-Indigenous. Maíz being a point of emergence for Chicanos places emphasis that, being of mixed-ancestry or not, Chicanos are Indigenous to Abya Yala. Chicano identification to maíz that Rodríguez (2014) makes apparent is central to the belonging Chicanos feel to the lands of Abya Yala, more specifically Aztlanahuac. Challenging other starting points made in Chican@ Studies, maíz creates a complex relationship of Chicanos to the land that also considers cultural continuities. Xican@ peoplehood is thus an assemblage of people who eat from the land as an Indigenous practice. This knowledge of food and diet—i.e. maíz, among other Indigenous sustenance like etl/frijoles/beans and chilli/chile—for Xican@ Indigeneity demands an imperative to rethink Indigenous notions of belonging to land.
When discussing topics of land in relation to Xican@s, one must consider how Chicanos have historically understood land. The prolific and legendary poem written by Alurista, titled El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan, was an emblematic spiritual call for Chicanos to recognize their ancestral, Indigenous ties to Aztlan (Miner, 2014). Yet, this wasn’t so much as a claim to land as territory rather than a sense of belonging to land. Métis scholar Dylan Miner (2014) shows us that Aztlan was not merely a declaration of erecting a new Chicano nation-state, rather, that underneath those extreme propositions there is a spiritual connection to land. I would argue, although many maintained Aztlan as a territory for Chicano sovereignty in the US Southwest, that many understood Aztlan in a spiritual sense and through an Indigenous notion of land, connection, and emergence. Lenape-Delaware historian Jack Forbes (1973) also iterates this position as he proposes that Xican@s faced an immense ambiguity toward belonging on Abya Yala. Forbes (1973) also makes an important point to note that Xican@s have this ambiguity due to the many facets of historical colonization that have unrooted Xican@s to their ancestral lands. For Chicanos to perceive Aztlan as their spiritual homeland—whether or not a Chicano is of Azteka-descent—is a means of connecting one’s self to the land and to understand their Indigeneity. Aztlan is a site of Azteka emergence; for Chicanos to connect to this ancestral homeland and the migration story to Mexco-Tenochtitlan is to know that their ancestors (not all) once inhabited the northern lands. For Xican@s, Aztlan does not negate other Indigenous sovereignties nor erases their traditional territories, but it does negotiate a historical connection that dismantles current nation-state borders.
In interrogation with foods and connections to land and how they relate to Xican@ Indigeneity, we must now consider how many Xican@s are detribalized yet practice Indigenous ceremony. According to Mexican anthropologist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (1992), de-Indianization is “a historical process through which populations that originally possessed a particular and distinctive identity, based upon their own culture, are forced to renounce that identity, with all the consequent changes in their social organization and culture” (pg. 17). In lieu of this definition of de-Indianization, we must also consider the definition of de-Indigenization by Rodríguez (2014). For Rodríguez (2014), de-Indigenization “describes peoples who are not tribal and who are not consciously connected to a traditional pueblo or Indigenous nation, language or culture” (pg. 200). These two separate terms and their definitions point to the same experience: being denied one’s Indigenous identity and Indigeneity resultant from the processes of coloniality, assimilation, and state nationalism. The detribalization practices that derived from the coloniality of Indigenous peoples affected the ways Indigenous peoples viewed themselves, their lifeways, and their worldviews. Xican@s, many who are of Mexican origin, unfortunately have undergone these negative practices that removed their Indigenous identities in turn for mestizo and Mexican. Yet, this should not be the measure to reject and deny a peoples’ Indigeneity. Many Xican@s, who recognize these historical practices that unrooted them are seeking ways to re-root themselves. This has meant a turn toward Indigenous ceremony such as Danza Mexica (Colín, 2014) and ceremonial running (Hernández, 2005). Xican@s who embrace Danza Mexica as an inter-tribal ceremony has its roots since its inception as a changing and continuous form of ceremony that has traditions in Mexicayotl, Conchero, and Chichimeca (Tezozomoc, 1997). Xican@s have also been heavily involved in the Peace and Dignity Runs that is a ceremonial prayer that takes place every four years since 1992 and the commitment to the Eagle and Condor prophecy (Hernández, 2005). In these ways, Xican@s are attempting to reconnect to Indigenous epistemologies through ceremony. Although many Xican@s are detribalized, they are seeking means to recover and reclaim their Indigenous connections and notions of identity.
Reflecting on the points on food, Aztlan, and ceremony, this brief paper has attempted to shed light upon Xican@ Indigeneity—or Indigeneities—in relation to land and peoplehood. This aim was not a light one and requires more examination and rigorous study: among all the literature on Xican@ peoples, there is no concrete study that holistically unpacks Xican@ Indigeneity within the US. Here I make an important thought: Xican@s self-identify and belong to the Indigenous nation called the Xican@ Nation. This Xican@ Nation is decentralized and consists of various detribalized/tribal pueblos throughout the US and possibly across Abya Yala. “Xican@” thus appropriately points towards Indigeneities and not a single definition of Indigeneity. In my own experience, I have seen mestizo Mexicanos identify as Xican@; I have seen Mixtecos and Zapatecos identify as Xican@; I have seen Pueblo Indians, Diné, Yoeme, and Tongva identify as Xican@; I have seen P’urhépecha and Mazahua identify as Xican@; I have seen many across Abya Yala identify with Xican@. This was never because they thought themselves as Mexican people but identified themselves with a struggle and a diverse nation of Indigenous peoples who seek political and psychological liberation from coloniality. Xican@ people are an inter-tribal People articulating an experience within the US and beyond, one that names the structures of power that create imperialism, colonialism, and deceptive nationalisms. Xican@s are participating in Indigenous resurgence on Abya Yala: and their spirit carries the voice and presence of their ancestors. In my experiences, Xican@s have been misunderstood and rejected completely, that not only reinforces their intergenerational susto, but also shuns many away from Indigenous spaces and organizing. We mustn't reject our Xican@ relatives as we are all learning how to heal from the colonial wounds inflicted on our peoples across Abya Yala. Our Xican@ Indigenous resurgence will be a testament to survivance and revitalization.
In writing this paper, I found great difficulty understanding a question that was complex and riddled with loaded challenges in itself. To think about Xican@ Indigeneity is to unpack the continuities and discontinuities of all Indigenous peoples. It is to unpack the appropriations, adaptations, and transformations that Indigenous peoples endured over time after European contact. It is to understand the racialization processes and systems that were created to divide, assimilate, and acculturate Indigenous peoples into new state nationalisms. It is to analyze the created image and conditions of the/el Indian/indio in all contexts and how this distinguishes an us versus them mentality. This discussion is not an easy one, that many scholars in my experience gloss over and reject in their scholarship. Many academics declare the complete loss of one's Indigeneity, of one's relationship to land, language, and ceremony. These perspective stances are too simple to take serious. We must all think more rigorously on this question without doing harm to those who have historically and contemporarily feel the burden of being identified as Indigenous, but also sensitive to the issue of detribalization, urbanization, and in many cases the mestizo-ization of Indigenous peoples that have denied them a collective identity. We must all free ourselves from the neoliberal project of compartmentalization and the poison of capitalist, imperialist thinking. We must dismantle and heal from coloniality: our future generations depend on it.
Batalla, G. B. (1996). México profundo: reclaiming a civilization (P. A. Dennis, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Forbes, Jack D. (1973). Aztecas del norte; the Chicanos of Aztlan. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications.
Hernandez, R. (2005). “Running for Peace and Dignity: From Traditionally Radical Chicanos/as to Radically Traditional Xicanas/os.” In Latin@s in the World System: Decolonization Struggles in the 21st Century U.S. Empire, ed. by Ramon Grosfoguel, Nelson Maldonado Torres and Jose David Saldivar. Herndon, VA: Paradigm Publishers, pg. 123-138.
Rodríguez, R. (2014). Our sacred maíz is our mother = nin tonantzin non centeotl: indigeneity and belonging in the Americas. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.
Tezozomoc. (1997). Revernacularizing Classical Nahuatl through Danza (Dance) Azteca-Chichimeca. Teaching Indigenous Languages.
Author's note: This paper was written for a final examination essay that was edited and revised to present here. The course was titled Xican@ Indigeneity, under Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCLA, and taught by Dr. Reynaldo Flores Macías.
Kristian Emiliano Vasquez
 Three central scholars that challenge Xican@ Indigeneity are: Laura Pulido (2017); Saldaña-Portillo (2015); Lourdes Alberto (2017); and Maylei Blackwell (2017).
 For the purposes of this paper, I will refer to the “American” continent as Abya Yala. This is to re-center an Indigenous epistemology and worldview while disrupting western notions of land, space, and language. Abya Yala refers to the entire hemisphere/continent and is derived from the Kuna peoples of Panama and parts of Colombia that means “lands of full maturity.”
 The Métis peoples are various Indigenous Nations composed of mixed-ancestry peoples Indigenous within the nation-state of Canada. There does not exist one Métis Nation but various Métis Nations within Canada with no uniform political base. They are the Indigenous-François mixed peoples of the lands of Canada equivalent to the “Mestizo” of Indigenous-Castellano mixed-ancestry of México.
 The Genízaro peoples are detribalized Indigenous people of various Indigenous ancestry/ancestries that may or may have not been mixed with persons of Spanish-descent. Their Indigenous heritage is mostly Plains Indian, who historically were enslaved and forced to move to the state of New México where they were identified as Genízaro.
 I will only reference “Chicanos” when referring to the times of El Movimiento and the Chicano Renaissance of the 1960s to the early 1980s. Although many still utilize “Chicano” today, I make an intellectual break in the 1980s and 1990s to use “Xican@” as the more popular term of the time continuing until today. I acknowledge that both terms are not entirely different and are interchangeable, but I make them separate to designate a split difference of worldview: between class-based politics and decolonial Indigenous struggle. This is also not to say that it is that simple, but rather to discuss plainly a difference of strategy, ideology, and consciousness.
 1848 is the year the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. Consequently, the US annexed one-third of Mexican colonial territories. I point to this date because for many in Chican@ Studies this is a starting point and inception of Chicano peoples. The 1848-Chicano is one that is both Mexican and American Indian, possibly mixed also with Spanish.
 1521 is the year Mexco-Tenochtitlan was overturned to Spanish hegemony. For many Chicana feminist scholars this is the point of Chicano emergence—when “la chingada,” mestizaje began and created a new peoples/race: mestizo Chicanos.
 Aztlanahuac is a term that is coined by persons unknown but is used by Rodríguez (2014) where he elaborates as a fusion of Aztlan (homeland of the Azteka Nation) and Anahuac (the lands of México).
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