Artist and scholar Cherríe Moraga, whose books, poems and plays have been especially influential in the Latina, feminist and queer community, spoke about her experiences as a Chicana lesbian on February 7.
Moraga began her lecture at USF speaking about a trip to Barcelona, Spain in which she became aware of her roots in the Spanish-colonized country of Mexico.
“Our identities have been forged by those 500 years of colonization,” Moraga said. Linking her heritage and the history of her country as a part of her identity, Moraga added, “I’m proud that we have built a culture for ourselves.”
Her latest book, A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings 2000-2010 (2011) which Moraga promoted at USF, features essays and poems about herself, her life as a feminist Chicana, and the political and social situation that permeated the first decade of the 21st century.
“We decided to bring Cherríe since she is a classical pioneer Chicana-Latina writer,” said professor Susana Kaiser, chair of the L atin American Studies department.
Moraga’s many works include the 1981 book “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color”, an anthology she co-edited with feminist writer Gloria Anzaldúa. The book criticized white, middle-class, Western thought in mainstream feminism seeking to give a voice to third world women. “Loving in the War Years: Lo Que Nunca Pasó Por Sus Lábios” (1983) and “The Last Generation” (1993) are books in which Moraga interweaves themes of politics, love, sexuality and cultural identity.
Her latest play, “New Fire”, a production about indigenous healing rituals, showed at the Mission district’s Brava Theater in January.
While reading the prologue from A Xicana Codex at USF, Moraga talked about traditions that emerged in Mexico post-colonialism. “This book follows in that tradition, reflecting a map of my own journey in the first decade of this new century, as writer, teacher, teatrista, mother, daughter, and lesbian lover,” she said.
Moraga also read a piece about her experience teaching theater to her son’s second and third grade class during her presentation.
In teaching theater to her eight year old son and his classmates, most of them African-American, Latina and Asian-American, Moraga said she hoped to instill lessons of oppression, and Chicano history and culture. “We came in with memory…Particularly working with young people of color who are artists, my commitment is to help people remember that”, said Moraga.
Moraga said storytelling was instilled in her home since childhood. “My mother was our contista, you know? She was a story teller,” said Moraga. Alzheimer’s disease, however, made it difficult for Moraga’s mother to remember stories, and she passed away in 2005.
The lecture concluded with Moraga reading part of an essay that explored issues of gay marriage and transgendered life.
“There is no critique of the normal without the queer. The beauty of the queer is that she/he requires society to question itself, its assumptions about desire, about masculinity and femininity, about power,” Moraga said.
When she transitioned to book signing, the audience quickly formed a long line.
“I read about her a lot since I’m a Latino-Chicano Studies Minor, but I also wanted to come for myself, because both my parents are from Mexico and I love Chicana feminist work and art,” said Senior Elizabeth Castro, who waited patiently for Moraga’s autograph.
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