Several days ago, I posted an entry entitled “We Are Maiz” about the importance of decolonizing our food staples and diets while rooting them back to our traditional Indigenous ways. Most of us don’t consider how food has been used to collectively malnourish, colonize, and oppress our people. We also don’t tend to associate the foods we eat with the high risk of acquiring a chronic disease.
It should also be noted that the socioeconomic status (SES) of Chicana/o communities plays a pivotal role in whether or not families will have the means to purchase and consume quality foods with high nutritional content.
There is also a dearth of supermarket chains within Chicana/o communities that make it difficult to access quality foods. Furthermore, Chicana/o communities are saturated with a multitude of fast-food restaurants whose foods are known to cause obesity and lead to several types of diabetes.
Dr. Catriona Rueda Esquibel and Dr. Luz Calvo in Decolonize Your Diet: A Manifesto, eloquently argue that “we cannot fight for our people and our culture if we are sick and sluggish. It is time to reclaim our cultural inheritance and wean our bodies from sugary drinks, fast food, and donuts. Cooking a pot of beans from scratch is a micro-revolutionary act that honors our ancestors and the generations to come.”
Rueda Esquibel and Calvo invite us to decolonize our diets with a radical call to action that embraces our ancestral knowledges through a food sovereignty movement. A “food sovereignty movement would bring access to the healthy and sustainable foods our ancestors ate.” It is clear that the Standard American Diet is a threat to our very existence.
A Xicana friend from the Midwest recently sent me an informative weblink to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website that is dedicated to protecting families from pesticides.
EWG created a shopper’s guide to pesticides found in produce to reduce our exposure as much as possible to contaminants. The shopper’s guide is divided into two categories: Dirty Dozen Plus and the Clean Fifteen.
The Dirty Dozen Plus are crops that have been contaminated with pesticides and the Clean Fifteen are crops that have the least amount of pesticides:
Having these conversations with my friend about the struggle to decolonize our diets and to be more cognizant of the foods we eat, reminded me of Adela de la Torre’s and Angie Chabram-Dernersesian’s edited work Speaking From The Body: Latinas on Health and Culture.
It is important to recognize that poor food choices and the inaccessibility to purchase and eat quality foods has a direct impact on our health, which will lead to various chronic diseases. Severe illness affects more than an individual as it also impacts family and community, especially since Chicana/o communities also lack access to affordable quality health care.
I found Speaking from the Body as an important step towards reclaiming our health. Chabram-Dernersesian and De La Torre work towards bridging health and culture through several health narratives that examine the “health rituals and commitments to la salud – to maintaining health independence in spite of a variety of health challenges, some routine, others chronic” of Chicanas.
Speaking from the Body is an insightful look into the dynamics of Chicana health experiences, the varying degrees of how ethnic and cultural identity permeates the health landscape, as well as the varied responses to illness issues in the family and community.
Through thirteen testimonios, Chabram-Dernersesian and De La Torre show how Chicanas become their own form of agency by acknowledging their personal “aches and pains, fears and hopes, cultural rituals and productions, illnesses and remedies, health care, and barrio care.”
Within these powerful testimonios, Chicanas share their experiences in coping with illness in order to better understand the cultural particulars of health issues that normally go unnoticed by traditional medical paradigms. Chicanas challenge the medical profession to provide culturally relevant health care that meets the needs of the community.
Chabram-Dernersesian and De La Torre pinpoint the social inequalities that are congruent with the lack of equitable access to health care programs and facilities within the Chicana/o community.
Thus, the link between the social inequalities inherent in food access is a determinant in the lack of adequate healthcare that our community will eventually receive for treating chronic disease as a result of poor quality food access.
While Speaking From the Body focuses on health narratives, it is important to create what Concha Delgado Gaitan calls a “language for healing.” Delgado Gaitan states that healing is a sacred language that is the best medicine for not only building the immune system, but in building families and communities. Healing requires learning new healthy habits while unlearning unhealthy habits.
Therefore, its important to connect the dots if we are to advocate for one another so that we may begin healing from the traumatic effects of over 500 years of colonization.
Some of these struggles cannot be measured in terms of medical data because the emotional and physical stress that lingers and is passed on to the family can never be generated as a statistic.
It is time we begin “speaking from the body” to collectively engage in our own self-determination.
Our body is our sacred temple and so let us begin to reclaim it and be more cautious as to what we put into it. Our very existence is at stake.