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Chicana/o Art | Mictlan | Nepantla Aesthetics
Nepantla
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The term, Nepantla is a Nahuatl (Aztec language) term connoting in between or a reference to the space of the middle. A number of contemporary scholars, writers, poets and artists have elaborated upon this concept, enhancing and/or adding on to the Nahua concept. (See Gloria Anzaldua, Pat Mora, Yreina Cervantez, Miguel Leon Portilla).

Most often the term is referencing endangered peoples, cultures, and/or gender, who due to invasion/conquest/marginalization or forced acculturation, engage in resistance strategies of survival. In this sense, this larger, cultural space of Nepantla becomes a postmodern paradigm or consciousness rooted in the creation of a new middle. Anzaldua calls this La Nueva Mestizaje, the intent of which is to heal from the open wound of colonial occupation. Sometimes, it is a reference to living in the borderlands or crossroads, and the process of creating alternative spaces in which to live, function or create. In other words, it is the process of developing political, cultural or psychological consciousness as a means of survival. For populations impacted by the historical trauma of colonialism and what some have termed spiritual conquest, one strategy of cultural survival, or decolonization is the process of transculturation, which in many ways is resisting the mainstream, while, reinterpreting and redefining cultural difference as a place of power.

How do Chicanas/os decolonize their minds? By entering the Coatlicue State, according to Gloria Anzaldua in Borderlands: La Frontera/The New Mestiza.

"Coatlicue is one of the powerful images, or 'archtypes,' that inhabits, or passes through my psyche. For me, la Coatlicue is the consuming internal whirlwind, the symbol of the underground aspects of the psyche. Coatlicue is the mountain, the Earth Mother who conceived all celestial beings out of her cavernous womb. Goddess of birth and death, Coatlicue gives and takes away life; she is the incarnation of cosmic processes." (Borderlands, p. 46)