My name is Dulce and I am an expert guide in helping others chart their own course because I am a psychologist.
My journey started in a working-class suburb of Chicago, a middle child of Mexican immigrant parents. My parents left the beet and lettuce fields of California and Texas to work in the factories of Chicago. A choice made, they later told me, to give their children a better life; a life not filled with calluses and back-breaking work, but a life filled with more opportunities than they could never dream of for themselves.
My mother loves to use dichos; sayings that are common in my family as in many Mexican families; they are manifestations of a family's values, a reflection of familial cultural mores. One of my mother's favorite dichos is: "Cada cabeza es un mundo". This simple idiom literally means that each mind is a world in itself. As a psychologist I am compelled to look closer at this expression. It asks fundamental questions: Who am I? Is a person a product of the environment he/she inhabits? How is a person defined? I looked for answers from a variety of places; books, music, art, social activism, relationships. As an undergraduate, my interest in how social, cultural, biological variables intersected was sparked by Gloria Anzaldúa's book “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza”. In this seminal work on culture and identity, she articulated my experience living in a world of ambiguity. Being a child of immigrants, I occupy a world that is tinted by shades of belonging. I am an American who is not quite an American, a Mexican who is not quite a Mexican—a hybrid.
Being a Chicana lesbian, I occupy a world that is molded by rigid gender and racial identities. I am woman who doesn’t conform to traditional gender or cultural roles. So I created my own world. Mi mundo is filled with people who can quote Derrida while eating tacos de carne quisada , who dance between worlds, cultures, genders; who deny the existence of God but pray to la Virgen . I am a lesbian who was raised by a wild pack of jotos, who enjoys the politics of drag and gender illusion. My world is a place where my compañera and I live sin vergüenza of living a life of multiple identities. I am also a feminist who understands the impact of the dominant culture's influence on personal identity. In order for feminism to survive, it must be a hybrid, a place where we move away from the binary and into a place in which we build bridges between communities/ identities/spiritualties. Feminism must be a place where we live “sin fronteras/be a crossroads”.
Dulce Benavides is Chicago born and bred; Tejana Chicana Washingtonian who will receive her doctorate in Psychology this fall and you can find her at http://flavors.me/dcdulce
Summer of Feminista 2011 is a project where Latinas are sharing their thoughts on Latinas as Public Intellectuals. Liberal. Conservative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.