In college, I began to discover that my entire history is a lie. I read Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa, and a lot of work from other Latinxs who were angry about colonialism. Some authors even changed their names to indigenous names as a means of reclaiming what was stolen from us.
In my process of decolonizing my brown body, I started with my names. I began to resent my last names the most. After I saw a documentary about a Guatemalan president who recited his 50 last names leading him all the way to Spain, I knew I wanted nothing of that history. This man was so proud that he belonged to a “civilized” people. Our attempts at legitimization has manifested itself in many ways; we have and continue to reject any “sangre india.” The way my grandfather says indio is like the word is a disease that cannot stay in his mouth too long without infecting him.
Still, in my country my dad’s family name is known by old-school Nicas. I felt guilty relinquishing that connection to a lineage of men who were proud musicians. So I realized I could not and would not reject my last name. Living in the USA it was my marker of my connection to mi raza. In grad school whenever I saw a Latinx last name on a class roster or heard a Latinx last name I knew I had someone who got me. I found solace in our Latinx last names, despite the very harsh and awful history of colonialism.
I have indigenous features. I have brown skin, brown eyes, a flat face, high cheekbones, a wider set nose, and straight black/brown hair. People have always referred to me dismissively as “la india.” That was an insult in many Latinx contexts. Outsiders call Nicaraguans “tira flechas” (bow throwers) and I only affirmed that to my light-skinned Latinx “friends” growing up. After learning of this disgusting history of rape and forced Christianization, I had every right to reclaim my indigenous background. I have suffered the discrimination of colorism my entire life due to my indigenous features. Yet meeting actual indigenous people, I realized that I couldn’t claim something that I only partially experience. I was born in the capital of my country and speak Spanish fluently. I have the colonizers mannerisms and language privilege. The Latin American governments do not dismiss me like they dismiss the indigenous folks en las selvas and in the mountains.
To call myself indigenous is to disregard the actual struggles of indigenous people living in our countries, and migrating seasonally to the USA, who need translators for basic medical needs. To call myself indigenous is to disregard the actual needs of the indigenous people who are being erased and pushed out of their lands by various governments. To call myself indigenous is to claim a struggle that has never been mine. I have mestiza privilege because I speak Spanish; I also have a name privilege that legitimizes me through a Hispanic lineage, despite my own resentments about the fact. Finally, I have geographical privilege because I was born in the capital and had access to things like cleaner water.
What I do actively participate in is making people say my last names, both of them, so as to not dismiss my female line. What I do actively participate in is not calling myself mestizo because this label was created to disassociate us from our indigenous ancestors. I refuse to counter that beautiful background with some half-assed attempt as disassociating myself from them by claiming mestiza as my identifier, especially knowing the history of eugenics. What I do actively participate in is not prioritizing either colonizer language, so I do not italicize any of my Spanish when I write in English.
I am a product of colonization, and I will not accommodate anyone because we were not accommodated by anyone when all this happened to our ancestors.
I am not indigenous. I am not.