A Historical Moment of Dream Remembering: Returning Education to Rootedness
Itzel Guadalupe Garcia
In the midst of the 2020 COVID19 pandemic, I return to the border to be with my family after they were violently sacked from our home in Ejido San Francisco, an agricultural community in Tamaulipas, Mexico. This is my historical moment as the U.S. is also impacted by the virus, by climate change, government, police and structural racist violence. Returning to Tamaulipas and being able to help my family after criminal violence returns me to my purpose as an educator, writer and healer.
I define historical moment as dualistic and holistic. Dualistic because it brings both death and creation. And holistic because it is frozen in time, collectively felt, experienced, perceived, analyzed, and processed by everyone and is thusly, irrevocable, altering the course of history.
In its life-creating phase, a historical moment has the power to influence the patterns of an era. It is historical because it exists in the Future; that is we have the capacity to accept change and let it shape the future in powerful ways. History is given a human status of remembering within the collective stories we are repeating to each other every day, they affect not only the core values of a society and groups of people, but also manifestations, creations by the individual and collective. The intentions are monumental. History is the creation of a collective dream.
So what dream are we dreaming? But one of Death. A dream where George Floyd is murdered, where Breonna Taylor is not only murdered but completely deceived from justice even after death, where immigrant women experience hysterectomies in the hands of ICE, a dream where the system is no longer sustainable emotionally, environmentally, financially, or psychologically. In its “deathening” phases, destruction—facing up to loss and a virus that is a reminiscent of the continuous relationship to ego and fear we experience in a capitalistic community, and social-institutional structures. At this point, element and individual have bounded with all that is public and political: environment and politics, both falling, both incinerating.
Despite this, within her own creation of life, death leads to rebirth, to creativity, and to life. This essay argues the potential to shift the historical paradigm through redefining our own historical moment, our roots, home and personal history.
I grew up in the elements, in la tierra, la siembra, el rio y el sol. Every morning, we would get up at sunrise. The sun would rise by our bedroom window where I slept with my grandmother and grandfather and set in our garden. The Moon would make her journey contrary to the Sun, starting from our garden and ending in our sleep. I knew the changes of the seasons meant different cycles for la siembra, for the crops, for the labor, where my great-grandfather and my grandfather would grow maiz, sorgo and calabazas. This was the wisdom that surrounded and educated who I was, Itzel.
As a young girl empath, I loved my community and the rhythms of nature and nurturing my community was teaching me. But within my community, I observed a need, which developed into a dream. I saw my community needed to resources and therefore needed a good school. There was a school. And I loved it in theory. I loved my teachers and wrote them letters. I occupied the first place in my class, and often held the Mexican flag when we practiced la escolta. I remember playing teacher under my grandmother’s orange trees.
But I wasn’t interested in math, and history seemed unsatisfactory. I was interested in creating stories, drawing paper goddesses and revealing in the imaginary senses. I realized that a school where children could be free and happy would radically transform my community.
With time and through oppression, I forgot my dream. It remained hidden from me until adulthood. My desires had transformed as I moved through an American capitalist-education. I went from loving my community school, to a gringo fourth-grade class where I felt different from other children, inferior for not speaking English. I didn’t belong; so I competed twice as hard.
Until I found myself in Austin, studying journalism because I was discouraged from everything that gave me pleasure: Literature, Law, Justice. I graduated without pleasure, I didn’t even attend my own graduation. I was aware I was the first person and woman from my family who had graduated from a university, but I did not care. I was busy pursuing a romantic relationship that broke all of my senses, my mind, my spirit.
It wasn’t until 2016, that I applied for a position as a teaching artist with Creative Action, an after-school, non-profit organization. I didn’t know what else to do with my diploma. And this was like giving myself permission to learn what it is I had forgotten. That I loved school and childhood and creativity. It also didn’t matter that I had a diploma. I didn’t want to be anything in the world—but a teaching artist. I didn’t know what a teaching artist needed to be.
Teaching Artist was the first evolution of my childhood dream, but I would quickly move into further understanding of myself with Academia Cuauhtli. In the beginning of 2020, I was hired as program coordinator for Academia Cuauhtli—this was the official start of my historical moment.
Cuauhtli would teach me that the roles of teachers, families, academics, community leaders, children and indigenous elders could all bloom every Saturday, a grand ritual being passed down. Every Saturday a historical moment for me. Every Saturday, the Sun rising to noon, the Eagle flying, gaining perspective, the ancestor returning with memories and gifts of the past, of what could be brought back from the dead.
This idea—that the dead, children and memory were intercepted had appeared in one of my dreams. In my dream, I was a teacher for a group of students. One of them asked me, “Ms. Itzel, why do you teach us so much about the dead?” And I replied that children were the bridge between the dead and the living. They are the many histories transmuting, remembering, planting seeds and intentions for the future of the ancestors, of the world. I was teaching children how to recover their ancestral memory by communicating with the dead/ dead energies.
At a time, where COVID19 has killed millions of people all over the world, and affected families, communities, nations, things I’m not even accounting for, but especially the way COVID19 has affected the Earth and the ancestors, too—there is a need that will become a dream. The need to grief, to learn to change, to learn that death can be symbol for outer and inner death.
Cuauhtli has especially taught me the tools of empowerment that can be replicated to foster space and nurturing to our past ancestors: radical and conscious education. Not just for children—but for the community. The role of the teacher becomes overburdened if the parents/family/society of the child are teaching the opposite values and opinions. Similarly, school becomes oppressive when it is not expressing the familial and cultural values of the student. When these two forces contradict each other, when education no longer services the Future, it has lost its path.
In the year 2020, returning home is both holistic and dualistic, between the inner self and our outer environment, community and political structure. I offer these childhood dreams and ideas that have remained dormant within me for years. There is hope in transforming education to service not only the minds of children, but the past and history through the homes and families of our children. I don’t just think this is symbolism, but the radical notion that life may exist for 500 years more and what will survive should be the best of us so that it has the most hopeful potential of thriving.