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People, Land & Ancestors: Ending Colonial Violence and Building Relationships at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Fri, November 3, 12:00 to 1:40pm, Le Centre Sheraton Montreal, Salon 2 (Level 2)

Session Submission Type: Paper Session


This panel brings together scholar-activists and artists to share instances of art, activism, language, culture and research born from the resilience of Indigenous and Xicana/Latina people, land and ancestors at the U.S.-Mexico border. The panel offers multiple practices of love and solidarity which inherently resist on-going colonial violence. We highlight specific instances of relationship building and alliance in the borderlands, as well as model solidarity through the process of building the panel itself. The border was famously described as “una herida abierta” (an open wound) by Gloria Anzaldúa because of the violence it inflicts. We believe collaboration, respect and relationship between all peoples, including other-than-human beings, and the land is foundational to healing that wound and to resisting the colonial violence that permeates outward from the border.

Christina Leza, linguistic anthropologist and Yoeme-Chicana activist scholar, addresses the obstacles to Indigenous lifeways and community solidarity posed by the enforcement of the U.S.-Mexico border and how Indigenous peoples’ love for their lands and lifeways allows them to form solidarities to combat these obstacles. She discusses her community organizing and ethnographic research work with Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras / Indigenous Alliance Without Borders (AISF), the oldest Indigenous rights organization on the U.S.-Mexico border. Patrisia Gonzales (Kickapoo/Comanche and Macehual) is co-director of AISF and teaches about Indigenous medicine and Indigenous knowledge at the University of Arizona. She addresses the complicated relationship between academic institutions and community-based organizations like AISF. She discusses the rights of mobility, passage and protection for Indigenous migrants, particularly the organic process of developing the Indigenous Anatomy Manual.

Judy Rohrer, who identifies as a settler scholar-activist, shares how studying the U.S.-Mexico border wall reveals the inherent instability and impermanence of settler colonialism. Building on the work of Indigenous Studies scholars such as Audra Simpson, Nick Estes, Eve Tuck, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, she discusses the multiple ways human and other-than-human actors resist the wall. Karla García and Eliana Miranda materialize this analysis by discussing their artistic and community-based resistance to colonial violence.

Karla and Eliana are co-founders of Nuestra Artist Collective in Dallas, Texas, a platform for women artists to support and empower the often-excluded voices of Xicana and Latina people through exhibitions and community events. Eliana will discuss how the collective’s first project, Fronteriza, features artworks exploring themes about Xicana identity, climate-based migration, relationship to the border landscape (spiritual, political, social, civic), labor, and physical/psychological boundaries. She describes how the collective connects and supports local communities and human rights organizations. Karla, a Mexican-born American artist, highlights her binational exhibition titled La Línea Imaginaria (The Imaginary Line), that explores the impact of cactus sculptures placed next to the Juárez/El Paso border wall and how they resist symbols of division.

As the militarized border extends into the interior of the United States, we demonstrate through our art, activism and research that knowing how to be in relationship across intersecting interests and implications is fundamental to working within and across alliances.

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