Culture

I Started Yearly Trips To Mexico With My White Husband So We Could Better Understand Each Other

Courtesy of Araceli Cruz

Do you know how long it takes to drive from Southern California to Nayarit, Mexico? Approximately a day and a half. I know this because when I was a kid my family took that trip every year. I have such strong memories of those vacations; leaving our house around 4 a.m.; my mother packing up the car with an immense about of food; Los Bukis’ classics blasting on the radio; getting car sick and devouring Sal de Uvas. Most of all, it was just being together with my family, with no other choice but to remain a unit for the entire car ride until we arrived in my parent’s hometown of Jalcocotan. Now, we’re all grown adults, and those family trips are a thing of yesteryear. That’s why I have started taking my husband to Mexico every year to celebrate my culture, family and home country.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been slowly finding my way back to those memorable ventures by creating a whole new tradition — with my white husband.

Mexico has changed since I was a child. For as long as I could remember, the region where my family is from — Jalcocotan and Tepic — rarely experienced any kind of violence. Around 2009, however, a surge of shootings and murders occurred in the area and the increase in violence kept me away from my home country. Now that things seem to have gone back to normal, I’ve begun to go back and reignite the tradition once again.

I suppose, at the core of it, I miss that closeness I used to have with my family while we visited Mexico.

My siblings and I rarely fought, and neither did my parents. We just seemed to always get along and have so much fun while we vacationed. It’s like our day-to-day problems didn’t matter and simply faded away. So bringing my husband, Aaron, to Mexico, helps me get back to that place of nostalgia and a culture that I adore.

This time around I’m revisiting places I haven’t been to since I was a kid and seeing them in a whole new light, through my husband’s lens.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Araceli Cruz

I’m also discovering new beaches and towns that I never even know existed. It’s quite thrilling to experience memories as an adult and even more bizarre to share them with someone who is completely new to all of it.

The trips back are becoming a yearly occurrence again and this Christmas will be our third consecutive trip. For me, visiting my home country at the holidays is always so special.

Aaron knows a lot about my Mexican traditions like celebrating Day of the Dead and doing a bunch of crazy rituals on New Year’s Eve. He’s the tallest person at our family gatherings, so he was once asked to hold the piñata for all my nieces and nephews to hit. But that was in L.A. Celebrating Christmas in Mexico is going to be way different than anything we could do in the U.S.

There’s nothing quite like Noche Buena — Christmas Eve.

CREDIT: Instagram/@aliciadrc

I’m really looking forward to sharing our Mexican Christmas traditions with him such as drinking champurrado (perhaps spiked with tequila!), singing posadas, breaking piñatas, eating tamales and buñuelos, dancing all night and of course honoring el Niño Jesús.

Although I’m very proud my Mexican culture, I’ve also learned to incorporate Aaron’s traditions into my life as well.

He’s of German descent, born in eastern Iowa and raised in St. Louis. Suffice to say, our cultures aren’t the same. Aaron and I, have lived in North Carolina, and now we’re in Savannah, Georgia. So we’ve added some delightful Southern culinary traditions into our celebrations. For example, this past Thanksgiving we smoked our turkey. Sounds insane, right? But I’m here to tell you that Oprah did it too, so I don’t feel so weird now. Aaron’s family also has a Thanksgiving tradition of reading from William Bradford’s diary before they start the meal. This year we read Abraham Lincoln’s “Thanksgiving Proclamation” in which he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. Not what I’m used to, but this cultural sharing has to go both ways or it doesn’t work.

To get us ready for our trip, I’ve created a really incredible playlist full of retro ’80s songs.

You’re invited to listen to it too! Enjoy!


READ: Latinos Are Some Of The Most Festive People And These Traditions Prove It

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Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Culture

Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day! After a war that lasted over 11 years, Mexico achieved independence from Spanish rule and would begin a path toward self-determination. On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence. Yes, decolonize! 

To celebrate Mexican history, we’ll be focusing on one hero today, not of the Mexican War of Independence but of the Mexican Revolution. Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is recognized as the first trans soldier in the Mexican military’s history. A decorated colonel, Ávila lived as a man from the age of roughly 22 or 24 until the day he died at 95 years old. 

While some believe it was Ávila’s wealthy family that allowed him to live life as his truest self, it certainly may have helped, but his courage in battle and in life must be honored and celebrated. Ávila’s identity was not always met with kindness, but the soldier was well-equipped to deal with challenges to his gender. The pistol-whipping colonel was a ladies man, skilled marksmen, and hero. This is the story of Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila. 

Amelio Robles Ávila

Amelio Robles Ávila was born to a wealthy family on November 3, 1889, in Xochipala, Guerrero. In his youth, Ávila attended a Catholic school for little girls where he was taught to cook, clean, and sew. However, at a young age, he began to express his gender identity. He showed an aptitude for things that were, at the time perceived to be, masculine like handling weapons, taming horses, and marksmanship. 

Perhaps, it was a natural response, if not the only response, to being pressured to conform to a gender identity that isn’t yours —  Ávila was perceived as stubborn, rebellious, and too much to handle for the school nuns. But it would be his tenacity and obstinance that served him in the long run. 

In 1911, when Ávila was arranged to be married to a man, he enlisted as a revolutionary instead. 

Not a woman dressed as a man, just a man.

To force the resignation of President Porfirio Dîaz and later, to ensure a social justice-centered government, Mexico needed to engage much of its population in warfare. This meant that eventually women were welcomed with many limitations. Soldaderas were able to tend to wounded soldiers or provide food for the militia but were prohibited from combat and could not have official titles. 

Ávila legally changed his first name from Amelia to Amelio, cut his hair, and became one of Mexico’s most valuable and regarded revolutionaries. 

“To appear physically male, Robles Ávila deliberately chose shirts with large chest pockets, common in rural areas, and assumed the mannerisms common among men at the time,” according to History.com

While he was not the only person assigned female to adopt a male persona to join the war, unlike many others Ávila kept his name and lived as a man until the day he died. 

“After the war was over, their part in it was dissolved along with whatever rank they held during the fight, and they were expected to return to subservient roles. Some did,” writes Alex Velasquez of Into. “Others, like Amelio Robles Ávila, lived the rest of their lives under the male identities they had adopted during the war.”

You come at the king, you best not miss.

Ávila fought courageously in the war until its end. Becoming a Colonel with his own command, he was decorated with three stars by revolutionary general Emiliano Zapata. He led and won multiple pivotal battles where his identity and contributions were respected. 

However, that respect was sometimes earned through empathy other times through the whip of his pistol. Ávila was a man and anyone who chose to ignore this fact would be taught by force. On one occasion, when a group of men tried to “expose” him by tearing off his clothes, Ávila shot and killed two of the men in self-defense. 

Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila

Unsurprisingly, Ávila was a bit of a ladies man, though he finally settled down with Angela Torres and together they adopted their daughter Regula Robles Torres. In 1970, he was recognized by the Mexican Secretary of National Defense as a veterano as opposed to a veterana of the Mexican Revolution, thus Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is considered the first trans soldier documented in Mexican military history. The swag is infinite! 

After the war, Ávila was able to live comfortably as a man where he devoted his life to agriculture. He lived a life, that still for so many trans people around the world seems unfathomable. Colonel Ávila lived to be 95 years old and the rest  — no all of it — is history. 

Emiliano Zapata Was A Champion Of Indigenous Rights And He Knew How To Work A Look

Culture

Emiliano Zapata Was A Champion Of Indigenous Rights And He Knew How To Work A Look

As Mexico celebrates its independence from colonial Spain, many are reminded of the nation’s tumultuous yet rich history. From Mexico’s independence from Spain, to war with France and the US, to America’s only monarchy, Mexico has a long and varied history. 

Perhaps no other period in Mexican history was as consequential as la revolución — or the Mexican Civil War. It transformed Mexican society and culture and, in the process, created many of Mexico’s greatest and most well-known icons and political figures. 

Few are more well known and respected in Mexico than the revolutionary leader, Emilano Zapato. This mustachioed handsome general fought the revolution on behalf of Mexico’s farmers and working class as well as the Indigenous communities of the south, all of whom were all too often forgotten by leaders in the capital. 

Zapata is an iconic Mexican figure who championed the struggles of both the peasant class and Mexico’s Indigenous communities.

Zapata, who was 39 when he died, arguably ranks just behind Che Guevara on the list of iconic Latin American revolutionaries.

As a young man, he worked on a ranch that belonged to the son-in-law of Mexico’s then-dictator, Porfirio Diaz, where he got an up-close look at the extreme inequality dividing the country.

Politically active from an early age, Zapata emerged as a key leader of Mexico’s farmers when the anti-Diaz revolution broke out.

Along with Pancho Villa, he was among the most radical of the revolutionaries, calling for the large-scale redistribution of land to the country’s poor and indigenous farmers.

His name was invoked in El Grito de Dolores, the country’s major celebration on Dia de la Independencia.

Early in the morning on September 16, 1810, it’s said that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bell of his church and made the call to arms to rise up against colonial Spain, which started Mexico’s War of Independence. 

Since 1812, nearly every Mexican leader has commemorated the historical moment by delivering their own version of “El Grito.” And this year, delivered by AMLO, Zapatista received his own chants of viva

He also had one hell of a mustache and fashion sense...

Credit: Klimbim / Instagram

Images of Zapata with a broad sombrero, thick mustache and bandoleer rival Che Guevara as icons of both romantic rebellion and capitalist entrepreneurialism. Zapata’s descendants recently applied to trademark his name and envisage earning royalties on merchandise ranging from T-shirts to tequila.

Although Zapata fought many battles in life, many say his legacy was cemented with his death.

They say Zapata never died that April 10th. That he lived and fled to the Arabian Peninsula and would return when most needed. They said something about his dead body wasn’t right. That a scar was different, that a mole was missing, that the body had all ten fingers, when the real Zapata was missing a finger.

“We all laughed when we saw the cadaver,” one of Zapata’s soldiers said decades later. “We elbowed each other because the jefe was smarter than the government.” They say Zapata knew about Guajardo’s impending trick and that Jesús Delgado — a spitting image of Zapata, who traveled with the general as a body double —was the man killed. Others say it was another man, Agustín Cortés, or Joaquín Cortés, or Jesús Capistrán, or, as Zapata’s son put it, “some pendejo…from Tepoztlán.” Whoever it was, the name didn’t even matter. The important thing was that, according to these stories, Zapata lived and would eventually return.

But in today’s Mexico, the country is divided on the revolutionary’s legacy. 

Credit: DazzlingCoins.com

Protests erupted Wednesday at commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, underlining how divisive the mustachioed peasant leader remains a century later.

He’s a figure that AMLO has tried to embrace, with varying degrees of success. 

Credit: @lopezobrador_ / Twitter

Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has expressed admiration for Zapata, pledged to revive Mexico’s rural economy, and declared 2019 the year of Emiliano Zapata.

But in the revolutionary leader’s home region of Morelos, a battle has broken out over his legacy, as López Obrador pushes for the completion of a power plant and pipeline that have faced strong opposition from the local community.

“It’s a mockery – declaring 2019 the year of Gen Emiliano Zapata and then commemorating it by handing over the water from farmers in his birthplace to multinationals,” Zapata González said.

Zapata, whether you see his picture as a young man or were among those who claimed to have seen him in old age, has come to symbolize whatever noble cause the Mexican Revolution stood for.

Today, a century after Zapata’s death, across Mexico and other parts of the world, the living—and perhaps even the dead—continue their fight inspired by Emiliano Zapata.