This past February, I was invited by the MEChA students at Knox College to speak on my comics, Chola culture, and art as activism. I put together a presentation entitled "Identity as Resistance" that discussed the history of pachucas and their evolution into chola community and then dove into my own reality as a young Latina/Chicana growing up in the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. The title of the presentation came from my desire to emphasize the overarching point that poor youth for generations have fought against the white establishment's imposed expectations on our existence.
By creating a name for themselves, Pachucas and Cholas and Chicanas have shown an awareness of the oppression of their communities and have stood up to them. Black and Brown communities have suffered greatly at the hands of exploitative employers, discriminatory school systems, and the police. Their name carried resistance, their attire carried resistance, and their commitment to protect their gente carried mass resistance against imposed institutional violence on their communities. A key theme of the discussion was to explore how working class Chicanx and Latinx youth have fought against these unjust conditions and to draw parallels to how working class youth have continued the fight today.
Talking about myself and lived realities that marked my youth has never been easy but I've been able to ease into it by way of the stories in my comics. Growing up, everyone around me from a very young age was telling me to toughen up. From the girls who pulled me into the bathroom to "teach me how to fight" (it was a weak fight lesson), to the boys who were sexually harassing me in the middle of class, to my own father stumbling home drunk on weeknights, the world seemed to just tell me to "toughen up and deal with it". I dealt with it by busting my butt in school to get the hell out the hood but many of my friends weren't given that opportunity. I got into a good university, left home, but was then left alone to deal with the consequences of always being "tough". Anger was my emotional default but in excess it developed into bouts of depression and anxiety that hit harder than I'm willing to publish here. Throughout the years, activism provided a healthy outlet for my anger and art has provided a healthy medium for my emotional growth.
I haven't dove this deep into ScholaR as a character, but this is the reality from which her stories are born. "The chola in scholar" started as a humorous saying. As I developed stories to ScholaR, however, I realized that I was telling the stories of many youth of color born into a cycle of poverty that told them to grow up too quickly and with little emotional guidance. I hope to continue the series always keeping this in mind.
All of this and more was discussed with Knox students and faculty. I am very thankful to them for inviting me to speak, I greatly appreciated their contributions to the discussion, and I hope to do visits to other universities in the future.