11 April 2014

SouthWesting: Way South (for me)

Currently, we are driving down the 469 from Logan to SanJon, New Mexico.  The flat, wide open spaces are covered with brush and maybe former grasslands.   As we’ve been driving, we’ve suddenly come upon surprising canyons with rivers as well as come out to great views.  It’s surprising to me that we are not on sea level when cruising these plains.  Today we are heading to Oklahoma via Palo Duro Canyon in Texas (near Amarillo). 

After spending a solid 5 days at the family ranch, Rancho Escondido, in Golondrinas, this excursion is quite refreshing even though I miss the cool weather in the high desert with the cliffs on either side of our dwelling by the Mora River.  Although a good chunk of time was spent there, we didn’t really get to explore but for a couple days.  Over the weekend, I was as sick as I’ve been in a long time.  My family really took care of me and fed me all kinds of New Mexican feasts!  We arrived with dear friends from California – Jill and family – and that afternoon we wandered to the cave and around the land.  I had mostly told Jill the ranch stories in our decade long correspondence, and I think for both of us, it was like seeing a storybook of good friends on magic land become reality.  After Jill’s departure, I just let myself sleep, and the snowy weather seemed to support this decision.  Eventually, I made my way out of the house, and in the last couple days, we bicycled around Golondrinas and then explored Vegas, high point having a beer at the Plaza Hotel that my family used to own. 

Although it felt good to write in big letters “sick day” on the calendar, I also felt the pressure to complete the small tasks I’ve put off in the last month while editing my dissertation.  Today marks almost two weeks since that last deadline, and in these two weeks, I’ve really been able to get some things accomplished.  This morning I wrote a list:

-          MALCS cfpapers for presentation
-          Decolonial Love As Us cfpoetry
-          SSGA cfpapers for publication
            FilAm celebration in downtown L.A. cf art!
-          Paying my tech review (Holy Moly!)
-          Keeping up with my TA work with Ana Castillo
-          NWSA WoCLeadership Project application
-          Testimonial to my program for their website

A good deal of creative and enjoyable short pieces. 

 Additionally, I found out that another of my poems, “Tita Tells Me,” has been accepted for publication in a lovely Filipina anthology on intergenerational Fil-Ams.

Altogether, I’ve been writing creatively and water-coloring and really, I guess, marketing my work to different groups out there that connect with my themes and purposes.  I’ve written a couple different short bios and artistic intentions.  Perhaps the one I will share on this blog are from the school testimonial.

Before entering the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS, Cristina was a writing teacher at CSU, Long Beach.  Along with teaching at CSULB, she also worked as an interfaith chaplain and helped to coordinate, at the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) on campus, a project to end violence towards women students. 

She had studied English Women’s Literature for her BA and MA, and she was trying to figure out the next step for herself.  Decreasing funds for teachers and project coordinators on campus were forcing many of her colleagues to leave California, and Cristina thought it was probably a good time to go back to school.   Her own personal life circumstances also encouraged her to make a change with her life. 

“Being a lover of literature, I escaped into books and pretended that the traumas of life didn’t exist.  I didn’t know how to live in reality, and after being trained as a sexual assault crisis counselor with the WRC, I realized I had been living in a rape culture all along.  I realized violence was normal in my daily life, and I decided I had had enough.”

One of Cristina’s mentors at the WRC told her about the PhD program in Women’s Spirituality at CIIS.  At the same time, Cristina was invited to co-coordinate a farm community with four other women.  She decided to enter the WSE program as a semi-distance student.

“It was perfect. I worked on the farm all day – weeding and harvesting – and then I worked on my papers on ecofeminist thought!  Before entering the PhD program,  I had no idea that women and the Earth were an integral part of women’s spirituality! That year turned out all kinds of synergy.”

Finishing her first year and writing, in that, a paper on her motherline, Cristina decided it was time to explore her Xicana and Filipina ancestral lineage.  While completing her coursework, she traveled to New Mexico and the Philippines.  She was able to meet and learn from her personal role models, including Leny Strobel, Cherrie Moraga, and Ana Castillo.   And through WSE, she worked as Ana Castillo’s Teaching Assistant.   Cristina connected with scholars in the fields of mestiza discourse, pedagogies of the sacred, and indigenous Filipina epistemologies. 

“Suddenly I was writing a dissertation that brought together my love of literature as well as acknowledged the painful experiences in myself, my ancestors, and my communities due to racism and colonization as well as sexism and patriarchy.”

As Cristina wrote her dissertation, she also developed her creative writing and has had a few of her pieces published in anthologies such as Mujeres de Maiz: Ofrendas of the Flesh and Verses Typhoon Yolanda: A Storm of Filipino Poets.  

Cristina is currently working to complete her dissertation.   Check out her progress at cristyroses.blogspot.com.