• June 14th, 2024
  • Friday, 04:52:30 AM

Capturing the Latino/Chicano Soul

Ramón Del Castillo, PhD


Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden wants to “reclaim the American soul.” Speeches and usual pomp and circumstance during this year’s Democratic Convention were reframed because of the pandemic that has significantly changed American political life. The many gatherings organized for his campaign may be future medicine for the American soul; but for Indigenous\Chicano\ Latino souls, nourishment is culturally different. El alma is our Chicano and Indigenous essence for existence, the energy that flows in our bodies creating the love that binds us together. That is our ancestral medicine. To restore the wounded soul in Chicano and Indigenous communities, the collective espíritu (spirit), which has absconded needs to be recaptured and brought back into communion with its body (community) through culturally specific rituals, rites, and ceremonies.

What would be a proper cultural ceremony, under the deteriorating conditions that are tearing away at the moral fiber of American society in general and the Chicano/Latino communities in particular?

Why has Nuestra Alma fled?  When the collective conscience, something that psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote about—a mysterious part of the unconscious where we inherit our past knowledge–and the spirit have been traumatized (asustado), there is a propensity to escape from the castle, frightened as the spirit regresses, seeking safety and comfort.  Perhaps, it retreats to its origins—a Temazcal (sweat lodge used for reflection and introspection), a place somewhere in Mesoamerica—perhaps, the pyramid in Teotihuacan, or some oblique crevice in Tenochititlán (current México City), seeking refuge from the pandemic, and intergenerational violence, and brutality bestowed upon la gente

The function of ceremonies, rites, and rituals is to summon El Alma (the soul) back to where it belongs—a return to what Maestro Jerry Tello calls “our sacredness.” Sometimes limpias (cleansings) are performed to align individuals and groups with what is natural, cultural starting points as rituals, “provide coherence between nature and culture—powerful spiritual and emotional relief.” Perhaps, a ceremony filled with hope for the future of this country can be developed—something that becomes a magnet, drawing la gente back together into a healing circle. A calling to return to our sacredness.

What might be the frightening collective experiences that has caused the soul to abandon its sacred castle?

The economy is in shambles, with the exception of the wealthy who continue to grow their marginal profits from the president’s tax policies that favor the rich — causing the rich to become richer as the poor get poorer. The privilege associated with wealth places the wealthy in a position of power — as they sit in front of computers in the comfort of a home; while many Americans struggle in unsafe spaces on jobs that endanger their lives. Many working-class Chicanos and Latinos don’t have that luxury.

ICE and its nefarious actions mandated by the President to pull children from their parents on the border and place them in cages — treatment usually given to wild animals — has become common practice — an intense frightening experience where children and families feel abandoned, with no control over their futures. Latino communities have been under attack for the last decade during the barbaric raids in packing houses and other industries where immigrants have become essential workers—good enough to work, but not good enough to become citizens. When one child is mistreated in an Indigenous community, the total community suffers. No different than what Martin Luther King espoused, when he said, “An injustice in one community is an injustice to all communities.” Perceived abandonment destroys the bonding process between mother and child resulting in long term psychological problems. Children who suffered from this tragedy have a long healing road in front of them.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) paints a “harrowing picture of how conditions in detention centers made specifically for immigrants have deteriorated in a for profit system that has grown substantially in recent years…the Trump Administration has opened more than 40 new detention centers…operated by private companies.”  Cultures of fear are pervasive as coronavirus seeps into filthy prison jails—placing all who come into contact with it in danger.

Getting wealthy off the misery of others is not the American way. The long lines of Americans—with their hands stretched out, begging for assistance, is degrading. The Welfare System, developed in the early part of the 19th century, was a temporary relief for families in dire need of the basics—food, shelter, and clothing. How humiliating this must be for family bread winners to be shamed in front of the nation. People filling the welfare lines were once successful, middle class citizens who had pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, now suffering, with no end in sight. For Brown people, there is hesitancy to get in line as the fear of deportation lingers in the consciousness of these essential workers.  There is never any certainty that la migra isn’t hanging around the corner, keeping an eye on them.

Immigrants and People of Color (POC) have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. Many Latinos/os, essential workers in the fields, in the packing houses and in hotels, live in fear of contracting the spirit of the coronavirus. They test positive for the coronavirus at rates higher than would be expected for their share of the population. Most jobs that employ POC receive lower wages, have less access to paid sick leave and paid leave for childcare that white workers are accustomed to.   Many working-class people lack insurance, are being evicted from rental properties, managed by insensitive slum lords.

A history of police brutality has never been addressed until recently, but as an aftermath. The many physical, psychological and spiritual wounds that our children and families have experienced has never healed. The scars are deep and the soul has suffered at the hands of the “man.”  Many spirits have escaped from these horrible experiences through magical flight.

Chicana/o elderly have also been disproportionately affected by the spirit of the coronavirus. Ancianos with pre-existing conditions are prone to attract coronavirus. As wisdom keepers of family systems that provide guidance, nurturance, storytelling, and cultural rites of passage—an opportunity to reflect and release family and community wounds and connect with a more positive genetic memory, a passage into the authentic teachings of our ethnic traditions, has led to spiritual destruction of la familia.

What would be a proper cultural ceremony, under the deteriorating conditions that are tearing away at the moral fiber of American society in general and the Chicano/Latino communities in particular?

Voting, would be an ingenious ceremony to remind us that we live in one of the greatest countries in the world—even in the midst of chaos and disruption—voting can be shaped into a healing ceremony that will retrieve our collective soul, our ancestral knowledge and help restore our hope for a better tomorrow. The positive energy that guides life needs to be amassed. Voting will restore our humanity, a return to civility that lies on the streets of urban América like shards from a broken glass. The trip to the voting machine or a location to drop off your ballot should be a sacred journey — a ceremony to restore hope and faith, heal soul wound and restore the balance that is a natural part of life, reminding us of our responsibility that we are the caretakers of Mother Earth, protected by the Great Mystery and creators of our own destinies. On the way to the voting booth or to the mailbox, fill out a census form. That would be the chili picante that would bring spiritual joy to our communities. It reminds us of the resilience we possess—gifts passed down from nuestras antepasados. We are keenly aware that food feeds the soul. A tamalada with hot chocolate might be in order to terminate the ceremony.

Each vote aligns with the collective energy that is needed to reclaim our collective spirit and alma. As esoteric as this sounds, ceremony will culminate in a more just and democratic society.

It is our hour of deliverance.


Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © 8-14-2020 Ramón Del Castillo.


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