Journal of Transnational American Studies
"¡Todos Somos Indios!" Revolutionary Imagination, Alternative Modernity, and Transnational Organizing in the Work of Silko, Tamez, and Anzaldúa
- Author(s): Adamson, Joni
- et al.
This essay builds on Shari Huhndorf’s analysis of the “significant implications” of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead for Indigenous Studies by setting the novel into the context of María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo’s analysis of how Zapatista organizing activities in Chiapas, Mexico, reshaped the “revolutionary imagination in the Americas” and helped to construct an “alternative modernity” that disrupts the empty signifier of “authentic” indigenous identity. The essay juxtaposes Silko’s novel with the work of emerging Lipan-Jumano Apache poet, scholar, and activist Margo Tamez, who is currently leading an effort to retribalize the Lipan Apache in the militarized US–Mexico borderlands of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Adamson explores how Tamez and her mother are part of a growing indigenous movement to build capacity among transnational indigenous groups, groups who self-identify as “native” even though they may not be formally recognized by a nation-state, and nonnative groups whose interests in social justice and environmental protection overlap. Adamson explores how this movement is shifting the focus in Native American and American Studies away from debates about “authenticity” and cultural nationalism toward a renewed attention to hemispheric and global struggles for civil, human, and environmental rights. She also argues that, when Silko and Tamez are read together, their work suggests new avenues of interpretation for Borderlands/La Frontera and calls on scholars to reread/rethink Gloria Anzaldúa’s concept of mestizaje, not as mere adherence to mythological tropes, but as suggestive of the experiences of persons of indigenous descent living in communities that fall outside the category of “nation.” The experiences of Tamez and Anzaldúa with illness and toxins, and their writing about it, also challenge readers to imagine a coalition politics that is not exactly “post-identity” but no longer invested in the boundaries of identity. “Another world is possible,” but achieving this goal—Silko, Tamez, and Anzaldúa suggest—will require alliance-making and capacity-building to strengthen local, regional, and global abilities to meet the challenge.