Talking Back From Lo Profundo: Unraveling The Shamanistic Writer

Designed by Rosalba Lopez Ramirez

Designed by Rosalba Lopez Ramirez

This excerpt uses the work of feminist theorists (Anzaldúa 2011 & 2007, hooks 1991, Lorde 2007, Watson-Gegeo 2005), to examine how writing has become a “shamanistic” (Anzaldúa, 2009: 121); a transformative healing act for young mujeres Oaxaqueñas, it illustrates this by their personal quotes and poetry. This piece has been edited, from its original chapter format titled Young Mujer Oaxaqueña-A Self Reclamation from Rosalba’s masters thesis Deep Culture: With Wings On the Roots (2014).


“Being from Oaxaca is Beautiful”


To transform, and turn upside down the realities that shape our world is possible. We must grab and shape our own imagination. We must find our own voice. We must learn how to speak differently, and speak with endearment.

To speak with genuineness, is “seeing through the membrane of the past superimposed on the present, in looking at our shadows and dealing with them” (Anzaldúa, 2009:138).

In Audre Lorde’s (2007) essay The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action she declares that transformation emerges from the place we’re most vulnerable,

And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me strength. (40)

And so we must begin from lo profoundo. Lo profundo lies deep in the heart and it is a form of knowing. I became conciente (conscious) of the importance of lo profundo during a decolonizing workshop, attended by predominately Oaxaqueñas/os[1] in Fresno, where one activity led us to discuss our understanding of words, such as Indio/a. In a large group, the facilitator asked why we chose to not identify with being Indio/a. In a heartfelt voice a Oaxaqueña woman, stated “Tiene implicaciones profundas que llegan hasta el corazón”[2] (“It [India/os] has profound implications that reach deep in the heart) (Anonymous, Personal Communication, Feb 7, 2012). Her words touched me, as they came from the place that bleeds, and that we hide. The place that we have not allowed to be transformed into a scar. In lo profoundo, we have been “trapped”. In lo profundo our strength lies. Lo profundo is an education of our heart. And so we must speak, write and act from lo profundo.

“Tiene implicaciones profundas
que llegan hasta el corazón”

Teaching from lo profundo is not easy. It is a process that pushes the borders, in which we reveal ourselves and unveil our “Nakedness,” as Anzaldúa (2009) put it (33). We show our scars, our imperfections, hablamos de lo que no se habla (we speak of the unspoken), and by doing so we are engaging in an act of transformation. We are practicing what Anzaldúa (2009) refers to as the shaman aesthetics, which is using writing and images to replace metaphors that are self-defeating with metaphors que nos sanan (heal us) and liberate us (121). Enacting, in the act of writing has this possibility to not only transform us, but also its audience. In the words of Anzaldúa (2007)

The ability of story (prose and poetry) to transform the storyteller and the listener into something or someone is shamanistic. The writer, as shape-changer, is a nahual, a shaman. (88)

A shaman uses his hands para curarar (to heal). At first it eases in slowly. It touches the untouched. It caresses donde duele (the source of pain). It allows the pain to reveal itself. It offers the profundo to speak. As it listens carefully, it searches for the words to name what has remained silent. In painful and bold acts the shaman begins to put the words on paper.


… drawing the “skeleton” of the past
and at the same time
laying the foundation for our futures.

The paper offers power. For us young mujeres Oaxaqueñas it offers an alternate order. Pen in hand. It means, drawing the “skeleton” of the past and at the same time laying the foundation for our futures. So I ask Grisanti why she writes.

[R] Why do you write poetry?

[G] Just talking to people, yeah, you can make that connection, but when you have it in writing, when you have it in a poem. Because it [referring to the poem] has so much emotion in there. And since […] each poet reads their poetry in a certain way where it causes this emotion for other people to connect to. You know? I think that is why I choose to do it, in marches, rallies […]

[R] What can emotion do to people?

[G] It can move people.

(Grisanti, Personal Communication, August 2013)

In a stroke of a pen, the writer transforms the silence into words. Pen in hand. We write our truths. Make a self-reclamation. An inner-outer transformation unravels. We transform. We transform you.


NO LONGER UNDERGROUND. We cringe at the idea of remaining underground, complacent and SILENT.

We replace the silence. We push the borders. CRUZAMOS La FRONTERA

Us being together […] is a big protest to what basically society has being teaching us all of our lives: We’re not worth the time of day. “You are not really a person: you are “Indio”. […] ‘You are below’. So us protesting that […]. Protesting what is beauty. Protesting […] our identities. […]


[1] Oaxaqueños (Spanish), people with origins in the state of Oaxaca in the Mexican Republic

[2] Workshop was titled Decolonization hosted by Autonomos a group of Oaxaqueño youth in Fresno, California and facilitated by Dr. Gaspar Rivera a researcher/professor from UCLA

This Other Southerner:

Rosalba Ramirez

Rosalba Lopez Ramirez

Rosalba is a South Bronx based artist raised in the agricultural fields of Madera, California. She is a trained ethnographer, self taught artist, educator and community organizer who integrates indigenous epistemology and her own experience as “borderland woman” as part of her methodology to write.

© Copyright Rosalba Lopez Ramirez 2015

2015 New Years Resolution: Be Myself at 5

Happy New Year!

This post came out of me a bit unexpectedly. It is an invitation.  I offer it to you to hold myself accountable to our vision of Broadly Speaking as space for authentic story telling, which requires that I regularly make myself vulnerable. And I offer it so that maybe you will also offer your story. Let’s show-and-tell a bit.

First a question,

How is person you want to be the child you have already been?

Like many, during the holiday season and New Year I reflect and look forward. My birthday is at the end of December, so around this time I have a very strong sense of the completion of a cycle and the beginning of the next one.

I have a number of rituals and methods to guide this season of reflecting and visioning. They happen in varied and haphazard ways, and sometimes include:

  • Naming my year – A few years ago my friends and I started naming our years, choosing themes we want to embody and live out over specific resolutions. We gather in person or virtually to share and help each other name our years.
  • Reading my horoscope. Multiple times. From multiple different sites. (Chani Nicholas is my favorite!)
  • Sometimes a beautiful friend holds space for a ceremony of release and embrace. (Thanks Laurel!)
  • Journaling and putting my visions into writing, naming what I want to see manifested.
  • Making a wish and blowing out my birthday candles

Ultimately, through all of these practices, I ask myself the question, “Who do I want to be?” I think about the ways I am being that person and the ways I want to get closer to it.

Usually, the focus is on being more than what I am – braver, bolder, more creative, more compassionate, etc.

This year, I unintentionally added a new element to my New Year ritual. While I was home in North Carolina I decided it was time to really deal with the massive amount of papers and stuff I have collected over my 25 years. I carry my family’s hoarding gene, so I have a hard time getting rid of things. And then suddenly I’ll decide I want to purge EVERYTHING in a fit of anxiety about my future life trapped beneath piles of papers and clothing that I don’t like/doesn’t fit but that might come back in style/has a lot of sentimental value/reminds me of that one time we were all together in that place/etc….

A mixture of that panic and a desire to dig into my personal archive propelled me to get organized. I let go of unnecessary papers and notes and carefully filed and organized the ones I want to keep. This meant I got to spend a good amount of time reviewing reports, notes, school projects, etc. from kindergarten through college and the present.

I want to offer this practice of digging into our childhood archive during times of visioning and intention setting because I found it incredibly helpful.

These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about where I come from (as this blog is evidence), and often I think of the forces that shape and make me as being external factors that such as my ancestors, my home town, my culture, my family. I also spend a good deal of timing thinking about who and how I want to be in the world. This can also manifest in a sense of what-I-am-not-yet.

During the past few years I have begun to think about “asset mapping” in relation to personal development and awareness. The term is a principle of community development and organizing. It means that all work in a community begins by naming and celebrating the resources – historical, spiritual, social, people, natural, economic, etc – that a community already has. I think it’s important, especially for those of us invested in community work, to remember to apply this tool in our personal lives.

My autobiographical archive dive helped me realize that the person I want to be in 2015, is really the person I was at 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 ….. (also probably 1, 2, and 3 but I honestly don’t remember her so I can’t say I know her – a concept I am very interesting in exploring more in another post…)

Around 13 was when things got a bit sticky. I started hearing a voice inside my head that told me I wasn’t good enough. And I listened to it.

Before that, I was AWESOME!

I created and made. In my end of year report, my 3rd grade teacher wrote, “Alison has amassed a substantial body of written work, one characterized by imagination and flights of fancy, but also a firm grasp on reality.” I want to hang out with that author! (And find that “body of work”….. do we think I could use it now as part of my artistic portfolio?)

I danced on the regular. I disappeared into the woods.  I listened because I knew I had so much to learn. I trusted what I knew “for sure.”I didn’t hide from pain or hurt. I felt a LOT. Feelings were serious business. I understood their power and the need to *pause* and feel them fully. .

This year, I want to continue to remember that part of where I come from is the previous versions of myself who still live in me. Now, at 25, there are extra layers of baggage and blockage as well as wisdom, lessons and maturity gained. I don’t want to “revert” back nor offer an uncritical romanticization of my personal or our collective past (unfortunately, the South offers many examples of the dangers of doing that).

Part of collective and personal healing means acknowledging our demons and difficult histories. The past is not all butterflies, fairy homes, and sweet tea.  But I also want to critique the idea of progress as always being forward motion and improvement always coming from the outside.

Simply, I want to remember that being my best me does always not require striving to be someone new. A big part of it means giving the child who I have already been the chance to come into the present with me. The child who’s waiting to come out and play.

As a practice of inviting this child into today, I will be a bit more like the younger Alison who would proudly say,

Here is a poem I wrote and I want to share it with you. And I would love if you shared with me. How could you as a child be a part of your life today?

5 and three quarters

I can do anything

I am a poet, a dancer, an author
I start writing novels
I create everyday
I write without fear
(or cares about spelling)

Moss is fascinating
Creeks are worlds to explore

I listen to folktales
I know they are important

I live in possibility
In power
In the constant unfolding of the world
And me unfolding and stretching with it

I say “Yes!” more than “No.”
I live in questions
I love the search for answers

I revel in attention from others – in conversation and performance
I feel it is deserved, because I am in fact, the most interesting thing I have ever encountered
I give my attention to ants and dogs and horses – real and imaginary

I put my foot down when I want to
And ask to be carried when I need to

I read and read and read and read
I get lost in books
I have no to do list
I read and read and read and read. And I love it. And I am praised for it.
I do it more

I sing.
In the shower, alone, with others
I imitate songs I know.
I make up my own
I sing even when it might bother others

I know I am good

Sometimes, I want to be a boy, and that is ok
I wear no shirts and have my hair cut short
The hairdresser sometimes buzzes the hair on my neck, the finishing touch to my bowl cut, and I feel so cool
Others confuse me for a boy
Some people are worried
I am not

I run and sweat and get dirty

I start to realize pain happens and I want to hold it for everyone
And I want someone to hold mine
I cry when I am sad
I cuddle with my parents
I trust they will protect me

They talk to me like I have something important to say

I imagine.

* Giving credit where credit is due, I want to shine some light on an awesome woman who helped me through this process.  Through my work with Elizabeth Traina as a coach and at meditation I was able to access and process this inner child experience. Check her out!
Elizabeth Traina is a working artist, award winning muralist, life-coach and energy healer. She has lived and contributed to programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, New Orleans and Brooklyn. Early in Elizabeth’s career she rooted in a civic-engaged public practice, utilizing art as a vehicle to support movements for social change. As an art-educator and community leader, Elizabeth’s curriculum and facilitation is grounded in the belief that all people are inherently creative – to be an artist is to discover, cultivate and share your unique gifts with yourself and others. This core-value is a cornerstone of her work; communicated throughout her community oriented public art projects, art workshops and trainings to hundreds of participants nation wide. In addition to her formal art training in New York, Vermont and Italy, over the past fifteen years, Elizabeth has worked closely with master healers, attended various workshop and trainings in the healing arts. This commitment to education and self-betterment has informed and seasoned her natural talents and integrated into her community based endeavors, current private healing practice and personal art making. In 2011 Elizabeth returned home to NYC and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY where she maintains an active studio practice, works as a consultant for Education community-based programs.  In addition, Elizabeth engages private clients and groups an integrated life-coach and energy healer. and

to cook.conjure.create

When we cook, we nurture. We feed ourselves, our souls, our families, our communities, our histories. We re-member our ancestors. They come to us scents and tastes. Guide our hands as we stir. We travel to new places. We make ourselves full. We make ourselves whole.

Cooking is conjuring. It is transforming. Making something from nothing. It is alchemy. The transmutation of properties in complex spiritual and chemical reactions that serve to sustain life.

Cooking is time travel. It takes me back to the kitchen of my childhood. To the roots of where I come from. To places that bring me comfort and joy. To places I might never physically go.

Cooking is community. As I chop, my mother and grandmother’s hands guide me (as well as the various cooking show hosts I learned from on the Food Network during ages 8-16 years old). They join me in my New York apartment thousands of miles away from where they are. Their warmth fills the kitchen as the oven heats up.

Cooking is soothingly satisfying. It is tangible. Tasks are completed, ingredients combined, and something is made. We live in a time where I can work a full day without producing one physical thing. I need to get my hands into the elements. In water and fire. Feel heat and wet. Hot cold gooey sticky sharp rough. The motions put me at ease and always result in a tangible thing that I can touch, look at, share, and consume.

I’ve recently had a very strong desire to cook. An urge to get in the kitchen. I couldn’t really put a finger on what exactly I had such a strong desire to bake an apple pie. To make pumpkin bread from scratch. This was particularly curious because I was in the midst of a period of general lethargy and lack of motivation about everything else in my life. And then I of course decided that I “wasn’t allowed” to make an apple pie, because I “should” be doing all of these other “productive” – professional, artistic, etc – things.

It took me a while to recognize that I was craving healing. Healing through my own hands.

Ways with Food is a place to stir up, marinate and serve up our questions, reflections and stories about food.