Sometime in 2009 I decided to become part of a growing social media “movement” by opening a Twitter account. My experience was short-lived and within a couple of months I had deleted the account.
Truth be told, I didn’t care to read about celebrity sightings or yearned for up-to-the-minute accounts of their every move. Apparently, I was following so-called “news” sources who were reporting celebrity announcements as “BREAKING NEWS.”
However, I was also turned off by the fact that in my initial short stay on the micro-blogging service, I didn’t see much of what you might call a #Chican@Twitter presence.
Perhaps, my Twitter inexperienced showed itself. Who knows? At the time, being on Twitter wasn’t even a distraction or addicting, at least to me. I actually found it hilarious and tragic that people would post online their every moment of their lives from what they ate to what their significant other did or didn’t do.
Around 2010 I decided to give Twitter another try. Again, I realized that there still wasn’t a Chicana/o presence even though there were a lot of Chicanas/o “tweeting” about their daily life, and whatever entertainment story was worth discussing. The fact was that in 2010 very few Chicanas/os took up a progressive, leftist political orientation with their tweets.
My early Twitter experience reminded me that in the early years of the World Wide Web (the 1990s), there was a strong Chicana/o presence and even “unity” albeit tenuous at times. But by 2010, it seemed like the Internet of the 1990s had never happened.
It wasn’t until the second time around that I realized the full potential of Twitter, as a technological medium for political “dissent” that could potentially alter the dynamics of society, but then again you’d have to have access to a social media gadget and create an account in order to witness or participate in this so-called technological “revolution.”
Sadly, I also realized that Twitter was being manipulated and shaped into a garbage disposal for the public consumption of corporate products as brands were easily dumped onto our community by Wall Street and other marketers in the form of #LATISM with the click of a button.
Product consumption fiercely challenged political dissent on Twitter. In what would become readily apparent to all those participating in some form of political Twitter: Today’s political dissent quickly became tomorrow’s forgotten tweet as it never failed that an entertainment story quickly eclipsed any hope of societal “revolutionary” change.
Finding Y(our) Chican@ Soul
In the first couple of years, finding y(our) Chican@ Soul (an idea better explained by Chicano photographer Art Meza aka @Chicano_Soul of Lowriting fame) was challenging, to say the least. And this is where, to me anyway, the potential of Twitter could be found in the possibility of connecting with Chicanas/os at the local, national, and international level.
But then again, I was reminded about how Chicanas/os in the 1960s and 1970s were connecting without the availability of social media. Perhaps I couldn’t get beyond the “is the glass half empty or half full?”
Yet, at this point, I predict that we are a few years away from making #ChicanaTwitter and #ChicanoTwitter a reality. And this is mostly because #LATISM and all its tentacles have been challenged by a small group of Chicanas/os who are demanding that Hispanics and Latinos stop their cultural terrorism against our people online. This has been written about previously, and deserves a revisit in a future post.
Notwithstanding some of the limitations inherent in social media, some of the connections I made through Twitter would give birth to Aztlán Reads in 2011, which although it went dark in late 2014, was a space where Chicanas/os could submit their literary work for publication. (Note: Aztlán Reads is slated for a return later this year or early next year).
In the ensuing years, I’ve been privileged enough to have personally met and become friends with many Chicanas/os on Twitter from places as far off as Texas, Illinois, Arizona, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and even Florida.
I have been quite fortunate to have met Chicanas/os doing work independent of the system, such as @POCHO_CHOLO who is at the helm of MuyCreative.com, a graphic design company which has lent its expertise to creating content for several Chicana/o literary projects.
I am looking forward to reading ¡FUCK CANCER! by @foxflores whom I met through Twitter. This new Chicana/o text slated for release sometime this year will chronicle not only Flores’ battle with cancer, but most importantly, his perseverance in overcoming this dreadful disease. His journey will inspire us to never give up. Make sure you make room in your bookshelf for ¡FUCK CANCER! as there is nothing out there like this right now. I am honored to call him my friend.
I have learned so much from my friend, a proud Houstonian, and Chicana/o feminist @mexicanwoman who is doing amazing work in addressing the institutional nature of domestic violence in and out of our communities.
All credit goes to Chicana/o Studies professor @anneperez for encouraging me to make my large Chicana/o Studies book collection accessible for the social media community by creating a list of sorts after she noticed I was recommending titles to my followers. This eventually led to the name Aztlán Reads and the idea of facilitating a space for Chicanas/os to share their love for books and to promote literacy in our community.
More often than not, Twitter platicas lead to tweet-ups and long-lasting friendships. @foxflores puts it perfectly when he says: “To many it must seem maybe a little odd that we have gone the extra step to actually meet up or is it tweet up. This all might be the tip of the organizational iceberg.”
Most recently, this was the case when CSULA hosted a two-day Mesoamerican symposium, and I had the honor of finally meeting @puzzleshifter at CSULA after dozens of platicas on social media. @puzzleshifter is an amazing muXer whose work is centered on decolonizing our conception and practice of health.
It was at this same conference that @AngryChicana, a PhD candidate in Chicana/o Studies, presented her work on the decipherment of the tree pages of the Nahua-Mixteca Borgia Codex. Although I missed her presentation, @AngryChicana is an emerging scholar-activist focused on Mexica and Mayan cultures. She is truly an expert in this area. Her Indigenous, community-centered approach to Chicana/o Studies is a rarity these days.
There are so many more Chicanas/os on Twitter doing amazing work that it needs its own list and would take up more space than I already have. But this is a great start to finding y(our) Chicana/o Soul on social media. We are out here you just have to look for us.
Of course, you already know about @Chicano_Soul and @SJRivera. So go check them out.
In the last couple of years, I have been part of some great projects that would not have been possible without Twitter. For instance, I had an essay published by Broken Swords Publications in the compilation ¡Ban This! The BSP Anthology of Xican@ Literature (2013), which was a response to the dismantling of the Mexican American Studies program and the banning of Chicana/o texts in the Tucson Unified School District.
Most recently, I was part of an academic and community panel entitled, Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul (2014) at Cal State L.A., UCLA and Un Solo Sol Kitchen in Boyle Heights. Lowriting captures the aesthetic beauty of Chicana/o lowriding from the perspective of those who have participated and experienced the historic, cultural, familial, and community phenomenon. This is not your typical anthropological or sociological study on lowriders.
By the way, Lowriting is based on the photography of Art Meza. Art puts his work into perspective: “I’m fortunate that photography has given me a way to help preserve and strengthen our culture while at the same time finding my Chicano Soul. I thank you all for supporting me while I go.”
One of the biggest supporters of Lowriting has been @Jaylu. She is a long-time community worker and activist who has helped open doors for Lowriting in Northern California. @Jaylu was pivotal in initiating the Eastside Story and Chicano Soul exhibit at the MCCLA Galleries in San Francisco.
Get yourself a copy of Lowriting if you haven’t already done so, or even better get an extra copy or two for a family member and friend.
Thanks to the great work of independent Xicano author and publisher Santino Rivera, I will be occasionally participating in The X Webcast on Sunday evenings. This is new terrain for the Chicana/o community doing social media. The X Webcast will discuss current events from an unapologetic Chicana/o perspective. I hope all of #Chican@Twitter eventually joins in and shares their knowledge and experience in this new webcast.
As of now, the #ChicanaTwitter and #ChicanoTwitter community is small but it is vibrant and alive. It is rooted in a legacy of defiance and resistance as we are the heirs of the Chicano Movement, yet it is also rooted in simple story-telling. WE CAN SPEAK FOR OURSELVES.
We don’t need outsiders speaking on our behalf nor do we need permission to speak.
We are claiming our digital space and raising our voices (“tweets”?) to challenge erasure and historical falsehoods that are spread about our people on social media by both White Supremacy and Hispanic/Latino marketers.
We are connecting with our sisters and brothers across Eurocentric created borders and creating a unified front, albeit on social media. Nuestra palabra has endured conquest, war, and genocide. We will continue to tell our stories. A Pueblo Sin Fronteras is also now a Digital Pueblo Sin Fronteras. Aqui Estamos y No Nos Vamos y Si Nos Hechan Nos Regresamos.
Editor’s note: Unless otherwise noted, only Twitter “handles” were used for identification purposes. All Twitter accounts are highly recommended.
— by D. Cid