By Alejandra Alarcon
Maria Elena Ramirez and Felicitas Nuñez, Chicana activists and artists, recently shared their talents and unique perspectives with young people at an event sponsored by Culturas and Raices in Coachella.
Ramirez is an activist/performer who captivates her audience with the untold history of indigenous people, mainly women. At the end of her theatrical performance, I was left with a tingling sensation on my fingertips. Ready to touch the world. Ready to reach to the sky.
I was intrigued and entertained by her performance from start to finish, especially with her rap numbers. Most importantly, I felt awakened. Ramirez gave a history lesson on the roles of women before the conquistadores invaded Mexico and “cut us up like a tree.”
“They took our branches and cut the trunk, but they didn’t take our roots,” she said.
Cultura and appreciation of our natural resources is something we always have to take with us, wherever we go. My culture is what makes me unique, and I have been inspired to learn more about maintaining balance between all living things. I learned about the power women had within their tribes in the pre-conquistador times, and the respect everyone had for one another and for Mother Earth.
Back then, women chose the chiefs in their tribes. Why is there a lack of females in politics or the corporate world today? I also learned that women were doctors and were truly admired for being able to give the gift of life. Ramirez’s performance was moving and spiritual. She told us about the importance of our spirits and forefathers and foremothers. She also emphasized the importance of education for women because knowledge makes a person stronger intellectually.
Felicitas Nuñez is also social activist working on a Chicano movement with Maria Elena Ramirez since 1960. Nuñez is the author of Teatro Chicana: A Collective Memoir and Selected Plays. Nuñez described her work as a group of young women, herself included, establishing their own theater group in the 1970s in order to cast women in roles other than mothers and prostitutes.
I felt empowered by these women that pursued their dreams to end society’s oppression of Chicanos and have never given up.