Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Book Review of Women Warriors of the Afro Latina Diaspora by Christopher Rodriguez
"Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora" by Christopher Rodriguez History teaches us that when humanity reaches a spiritual crossroads, some will morph into beings who either seek a greater truth by walking the path of "The Warrior" while others will follow the path of least resistance. The path of the modern warrior is arduous, it requires self-discipline and periods of self-denial from the trappings of a modern world. It is almost impossible to go through a day without seeing TV commercials peddling luxury cars with a sexy female model strewn across the automobile's leather seats. Capitalist marketing is grounded on making people feel psychologically inferior for lack of material possessions. This consumer strategy is protected by an unbridled global military system and an ideology of white racial superiority. It is imposed under the guise of bringing "civilization and democracy" to billions of people of color throughout the planet. The White European standards of a consumer civilization has been systematically imposed as the economic model for the rest of the non-white world to follow. Social and racial justice encounters deaf ears in a system that demands increased consumer consumption to ensure its own economic survival. However, these contradictions can only be masked for so long before restorative justice takes its proper place on the world stage. A perfect storm has occurred where fourteen Women Warriors, daughters of the African Diaspora in the Americas, have locked arms to wage war against this global ideology. The book "Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora" are personal accounts of African descendant women who created their own space, a "palenque" so to speak, a physical and psychological refuge, to redefine their place in both Hispanic and Anglo-American patriarchal cultures. These women are spiritually and historically connected to those "cimarrones," or individuals who risked their lives in early colonial times to escape the shackles of slavery and build autonomous communities throughout the Americas. The publisher placed on the book cover the image of a Woman Warrior with a "Machete." It clearly is the symbolic tool to clear away the weeds of ignorance and poverty as the African ancestors did to clear the sugar cane fields of the Americas. A common thread that immediately stood out in the biographies of these Women was how they were raised and spiritually nurtured in a culture of extended families where there are no words in the English language to describe this African cultural legacy of family protection. The African world view hardly differentiates the past from the present since the ancestors remain actively involved in community life. Although the ancestors reside in a spiritual world, they are active players in our space and time. They are part of an extended family that plays an active role in their children's upbringing to ensure their safety and survival. Throughout their metamorphosis, these women warriors were cocooned and allowed to blossom and exercise their maximum human potential with a foundation of self love and self respect. This foundation is the source of strength for what these women will encounter in their later years. Tragically, they must undergo a process of great solitude and rejection of being Afro-Latina when they leave the security and protection of their families to travel to the U.S. There was no place for them in the U.S. Black/White racial conversation to reflect their cultural and racial experience. This solitude ignited a process of great introspection to study the history and culture of the Afro-Latina diaspora. The experience of being the "stranger in the strange land" offers a unique Afro-Latina immigrant perspective on how they negotiated power and race within the U.S. and assumed leadership within institutions which transcend national borders. The experience of endo-racism amongst their own people whether they hailed from Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela, or Panama always lurked in the shadows. They endured the daily indignities in societies that as Afro-Latinas they were not "Latina" enough. However, this opened the door for them to rise above provincial thinking and redefine the role of women universally. Their global consciousness allows them to transcend national borders to bear witness to each others struggle. Through their advocacy work, women warriors throughout the Americas are now developing a web of international networks that provides them the opportunity to speak on behalf of their communities and present a common front at international forums. Afro Latina Warriors are tackling the impossible task of undoing the 500 year legacy of Spanish and North American colonialism in order to create communities that will thrive and eventually re-integrate the ancestors in our everyday lives. These women carry the legacy of countless thousands of African men or women who despite the horrors of slavery and colonialism maintained a vision that one day they will demand their rightful place at the table of humanity. I salute Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, Marinieves Alba and Yvette Modestin and the contributing authors of "Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora" for their continuing work to uplift the vision of those mighty warriors in the past who fought for freedom and liberation.