The following pages are a glimpse into my teaching and journey over the last 5 years. I would first like to note that my personal story is deeply embedded with my professional journey. I was born in Chile and came to Canada as a five-year-old refugee. I lived my childhood and early adulthood between Chile and Ontario, Canada. Today I respectfully acknowledge that I live, work and play on unceded Coast Salish Territory, the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
Two important learning opportunities arose when I arrived in British Columbia (BC) in my mid-thirties. First, people I met in BC would ask me what ‘nation’ I was from. I had never been asked this question. My dark hair and brown skin had meant something else in Ontario. I start to question my identity as an ‘immigrant’ woman and became curious about my own Indigenous ancestry. My role in terms of decolonization is deeply influenced by being both a descendant of European settlers (mostly Spanish and Portuguese) and of those colonized in the south. I recognize I am a settler in British Columbia, as well as a Mestiza women of colour from the south.
My maternal great-grandmother, Ester, was Mapuche, indigenous inhabitants that live in south-central Chile and south-western Argentina. Centuries of oppression made it difficult for the Mapuche Peoples to retain land, language and culture. Although they have resisted, there is a lack of documentation, and therefore there is a lot I do not know about my Abuela Ester and her history.
Recently I discovered that my father’s descendants in the very north of Chile were once a family of Afro-Bolivian slaves, and of the ancient Diaguita peoples. I do not have any ‘factual’ evidence of this history other than what I have read…but I do have the stories that one of my great uncles has narrated to my brother. We know that the Diaguita Peoples faced the most brutal and inhumane conditions working in the mines. There is so much unknown, and abundant suffering and loss. Yet, there is also survival, resilience, diversity of dialects, and rich culture including music and the arts.