Monday, May 5, 2014

In Honor of Vincente Ximenes Legacy, Melisa Garcia (2014 Ximenes Scholar)

To begin, it is important to take a few moments of silence to honor the legacy that Vincent Ximenes has left for the future of Mexican American Civil Rights. Although, I only heard about Ximenes in Professor Kells Chicano Ecology class, and now a Ximenes scholar, I am humbled to represent a huge legacy of progress and equal rights. The first time I heard about Ximenes I Googled his name, and learned more about what he contributed to New Mexico and nationally. After learning about Ximenes death, while reading the Albuquerque Journal online, there was something in particular that was heartwarming, strong willed about this man that resonated within me. This specifically were the words that Ximenes shared with his daughter, “You have to fight back and stand up for yourself.” This in many ways, have been the same words that roam in the banks of my memory when I think about my father. Just from this simple phrase, I am sure that Ximenes was an exemplary father.

It is not often that a person is recognized for their efforts, and Ximenes deserves more than recognition. As a poet, I can say that words are like actions, and that although I never met Ximenes, his actions in my eyes, and for ears are poetry. This desire within to take action against those things that matter most to us. The dedication that Vicente Ximenes had in supporting underrepresented populations is a value that I myself seek as a first generation of Central American parents. I believe that this is crucial for individuals from a generation of Salvadoran and Guatemalan descendants to be given the opportunity to distinguish themselves through a dialogue about the political, social climates of these countries. In my work I focus on creating a dialogue of my parents’ experiences in these countries. As well to give voice to them, to the country, and of course to stories that haven’t been told. I am building my own oral history, then providing a civic literacy within academia, with the goal of creating a representation for future generations. Many of my poems aim to do this so the stories won’t remain within my parents, friends, neighbors, but outside of California, and now thankfully in New Mexico.

This is important, and has been important to me because my family’s history is founded on the struggle of defying displacement of the mind, body, and spirit. Like Ximenes, supplying this space for others to express themselves happens in my mind through poetry. Through Professor Kells Chicano Ecology class, I have rediscovered what displacement means, what land ownership provides for its inhabitants, and the most difficult concept to explain or even digest—exile. Through Professor Kells class I am learning more about this through a personal project I started in undergrad about the testimony of a woman named Rufina Amaya from El Salvador. She was the sole survivor of a massacre in El Mozote, Moraz├ín. She told her story of survival, a film was made, then Mark Danner transcribed her testimony, but the Truth Commission did not believe her testimony was valid. In my eyes, this testimony is a form of civic literacy that has been denied and forgotten. This in many ways, frustrates me, it wants me to create a dialogue about her testimony, and to attest to it. This is not just a representation of a woman of El Salvador, or of just the generation of Salvadoran woman but of all woman that deserve a voice. So in retrospect, I am thinking about myself as a representation of my mother, her country, my father and his journey, and my journey will be.
This I hope, will create a great integral space to continue attesting to my interpretation of civic literacy through my poetry, and the ongoing desire to tell the stories of those that are silenced and not represented.

Vicente Ximenes life, spirit, courage will live on. Some may come to learn his name like I did, then look around and notice that change is attainable. Through the Ximenes scholarship many have access to expressing their civic duties, and I am in-debt to a man I never knew, but yet feel like I did. Thank you Vicente Ximenes.

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