Versión en español.

Let’s Give Mestizo Consciousness a Chance

Over these last few weeks, as I try to come to terms with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, I keep returning to a conversation my students and I had during a graduate seminar last semester. We were discussing The Darker Side of Western Modernity, a book by Argentinian thinker Walter Mignolo, particularly his views on Gunter Rodolfo Kusch. Kusch was a theorist and the son of a German couple who moved to Argentina soon after WWI ended. Having grown up in Buenos Aires, Kusch refined the idea of a “mestizo consciousness” over multiple books. For Kusch, being mestizo “doesn’t have anything to do with biology, with mixed bloods, with the color of your skin.” Instead, it has to do with how the place where you grow up is shaped by various cultures.

Although Kusch acknowledged that an Argentinian of European descent, like himself, would experience life differently from one of Indigenous descent, he felt that they were still linked by “the common experience” of growing up in a country where Indigenous, African, and European cultures had shaped each other over centuries of conflict and attempts at reconciliation. In other words, if the culture you grow up in is a blend of multiple cultures, so are you—regardless of your genetic makeup.

For most of the students in the class, a full-blooded German claiming to be of mixed race was a stretch they weren’t comfortable with, but one of the students, who is from Puerto Rico, said that it made sense to her. Like me, and like Mignolo and Kusch, she’d grown up in Latin America and had experienced firsthand the mixing of cultures in food, music, traditions, and language. Beyond those aspects, though, mestizaje is a way of seeing ourselves and others as part of a mixed whole. Of course there’s racism in Latin America, but it takes a different shape than in the US because it’s harder to separate ourselves from those who may look differently from us. We know that, being shaped by the same mix of cultures, if we deny their humanity, we deny part of our own. This kind of thinking would likely take generations to foster in the US, but it seems like now may be a good time to start seeing this culture through the lens of a mestizo consciousness and to build a new vision for the US based on its history of bringing together cultures from around the world to shape who Americans become.

The Weeping Season Rough Cut Will Screen at Denton Black Film Festival Institute

still from The Weeping Season film rough cut, layered photos of woman and child
The Weeping Season’s has been invited to screen as a Work In Progress at the Denton Black Film Festival Institute this summer. Please stay tuned for the date of the screening. We will have a link to the film’s draft available on vimeo for 72 hours prior to the event for those who sign up. Then the film’s editor, Cristina Carrasco, and I will join audience members over a webinar to discuss our filmmaking process and solicit feedback from the audience. We are very excited by this opportunity and look forward to sharing the draft and discussing the film with those attending the event. We’ll announce the date and time here and on our social media accounts, so please stay tuned and join us in what is bound to be an exciting conversation.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

14-year-old Alex with her school class
I went to the same Caracas school, Colegio Emil Friedman, from the time I was five until I moved to the US at 16. For years after leaving my beloved school, I had dreams in which I’d try to enter the building where I spent my last years there and would be unable to find the door, spending hours in that stretchy dream time trying to return to a place and life unavailable to the adult I’ve become. I can’t imagine ever again opening my arms and making peace signs in a group photo as I did back in 1992. I’m glad, however, the 14-year-old-me felt comfortable enough at my school to do so while surrounded by childhood friends and early crushes.

In 2016 I returned to the Emil Friedman with my childhood friend Sofía (second from the right, second row from the bottom) and a film crew to film some scenes for The Weeping Season. I finally got to walk back into that building, filled now with different teenagers wearing the same uniform we once did. Nothing seemed to have changed besides the faces of the young humans running up and down the stairs with inexhaustible energy. While I was glad to no longer be one of them, I thought about the magnificent feat our school had pulled off by preparing Sofía and me to be happy women with satisfying careers who returned to this place as a kind of pilgrimage to the love our teachers put into shaping us. Some schools leave devastating memories behind. Others leave a wistful sense of nostalgia for the years spent under their care. As I watched my sons long for their teachers and classmates every day during the pandemic, I knew that their elementary school is managing a feat similar to mine. If schools can teach us to be secure in our ability to learn and be loved by our friends and mentors, they will help counter the prejudice that results in systemic racism. It’s not an easy task, I know, but some schools are managing it. Let’s hope we can learn from them.

Watch Black Women Director’s Work in Response to Police Brutality

Black Female filmmaker behind camera
Mimi Anagli, Kara Headley, and I wrote an article for agnès films, the online publication for women and feminist filmmakers of which I’m the editor-in-chief, recommending eight black women filmmakers whose work and trailblazing careers are crucial to countering racism in these devastating times. Check out “Black Women Filmmakers Who Never Let You Forget that #BlackLivesMatter” to learn about these women and their groundbreaking work.

Our Webinar on Creating Feminist Content to Change the World

Rethinking Sisterhood webinar zoom meeting
From May 7 to June 4, I collaborated with agnès films, Directed by Women, Equal Means Equal, Generation Ratify, Media Equity, and Women Occupy Hollywood to organize a webinar series titled “Rethinking Sisterhood: The Role of Media in Affirming the ERA” in which activists, politicians, and filmmakers discussed past and current efforts for passing the ERA. Rosie Couture, Ariel Dougherty, Barbara Ann O’Leary, and I were the speakers for the closing webinar titled “Approaching Filmmaking and Content Production from a Feminist Perspective to Create Change.” You can watch the webinar and read about it in Kara Headley’s article about the event, which also has links to the rest of the series.

Celebrate Pride Month With These Queer-Focused Films and TV Shows

agnès films conducted a Twitter poll with our readers about their favorite fiction films, TV shows, and documentaries that explore queer storylines. Check out the results for dozens of thrilling recommendations on this article that Kara Headley and I wrote about our readers’ favorite queer content.

Connect With Us on Social Media

Questions? Comments? Ideas?
Reply to this email.
Versión en español.
Community letter archive