• October 4th, 2023
  • Wednesday, 01:49:38 PM

A War with an Invisible Enemy

Ramón Del Castillo, PhD


There is an ole cliché, All is Fair in Love and War, with a premise that there are no rules that can’t be violated when human beings engage in conflict and amorous interaction—knowing that violations are without reprisal. War is destruction to humankind. Love is its antidote—in fact, it is a healing force. Only after war ends, do human beings realize the many losses they have incurred. With the current dynamics of the Coronavirus COVID-19 War, a term used by the president of the United State of America to describe this pandemic, human beings will have to process the cost once balance with Mother Earth has been reached.

Some of the safety precautions that have been designed at all levels of the governance structure to bring a halt and/or control over this pandemonium may unknowingly destroy cultural rituals and rites that bind human beings together. Countries throughout the world are beginning to recognize the death of revered rituals and ceremonies such a handshake, a hug, or the kissing of a relative on one or both cheeks—cultural rituals that symbolize human meaning and significance.  I am quite sure that there are other cultural rituals that are being confronted and stand to become obliterated.

El abrazo is a reminder that only through perseverance can we hold onto those near and dear elements of our culture that have helped us survive other types of pandemics—decolonization and the usurpation of our culture and history.

Fighting an invisible enemy with a tyrant at the helm can become even more chilling. This countries’ leader may inadvertently destroy the cultural essence of La Raza far beyond his comprehension. No war respects the sacredness of the human condition nor the spirituality that captivates humans seeking refuge and solace.

El Abrazo is on the chopping block—this ritual symbolizes a link to our ancestral past— our relationship between Mother earth and all living things, with a specific purpose of binding us together. When we share an abrazo, we embrace one of our relatives, forming a sacred circle—reminding each other that “you are my other me,” an ancient ritual and now un dicho given to us by our Mayan ancestors. The meaning of the aforementioned phrase is affiliated with the Mayan definition of the human being, which they called “huinik’lil” or “vibrant being.” In this regard, we are all part of the same universe and its melodic vibrations—energy that protects, soothes and heals the soul. In the Mayan language, it is referred to as In Lak-ech.


In Lak’ech

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

Me amo y respeto yo.

I love and respect myself.


El circulo also has mystical meaning in Indigenous cultures. It is an everlasting symbol that represents the sun, the moon, the cycles of the seasons, and the cycle of life to death then to rebirth. Native Americans sit in circles to symbolize the sharing of culture through sacrosanct ceremonies. Talking and healing circles represent ceremonies designed to work out issues and problems through the gift of communication.  It reminds us of the relationship we have with all other human beings, mother earth and all living matter. In response to the overarching trauma that remains, our healing circles are not based on overpathologizing ourselves, they are about telling stories where inklings of historical trauma pervade and soul wound remains.

El circulo de la familia, both nuclear and extended, is under attack—the invisible enemy doesn’t care. Its’ ineffable strength penetrates our beings at both conscious and unconscious levels—aimed at destroying our spiritual strength. It is within el circulo de la familia that we have survived the onslaught of racial, historical and intergenerational traumas.  We are acutely aware of how previous sociocultural rituals were abolished, for example, el Velorio—a time when human bodies were brought into the home and the community so that proper grieving rituals could be performed, were taken from us. They were never replaced but can be reclaimed.

As the policies for social distancing come to fruition, Americans are being asked to respect the space between and among our neighbors.  Human touch, which is one of the fundamental aspects of our humanity is being threatened. Policies that separate us cause anxiety, loss, grief and mourning. The torturous human life that our communities are losing and the many rites and rituals that we practice are in hiatus. The many abrazos that are shared during the rites of passage, mourning, grieving and death rituals will be unable to be practiced. In some sense our communities are reliving old forms of colonization that deculturated us in the 15th century for the first time and again following the annexation of the Southwest to the United States of América. During those two historical periods, nuestra gente suffered the tremendous effects of cultural loss. What is at stake is maintaining the repertoire of healing remedios such as despedidas, prayers, incantations, dichos, and ceremonies that keep us balanced with the universe.

El abrazo is a reminder that only through perseverance can we hold onto those near and dear elements of our culture that have helped us survive other types of pandemics—decolonization and the usurpation of our culture and history. Our current enemy is invisible, but it is controlled by the same visible arm of a terrorist whose motivations can be traced back over 500 years ago when oppressive acculturation caused soul wound.

Be safe. Practice social distancing, and when the time arrives revert back to those cultural elements that are our saving grace and our cultural medicine.


Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © 5/25/2020 Ramón Del Castillo.


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