WHM: Amalia Ortiz

I think it is important while highlighting women in feminism(s) that we move between past and present, amongst those we have lost, the elders that remain, and those who represent the hope and promise of a new future. As I think about Latina feminism(s) on this day, I could not help but think about the promise of feminist activist, poet, performers like amaliagirlAmalia Ortiz.

Amalia’s work addresses issues of women’s rights, class, race, etc. with insight, humor, and a keen eye for characterization. She has written and starred in several multi-media plays including: Otra Esa on the Public Transit, Women of Ill Repute: Refute!, and co-authored Fear of a Brown Planet. Each of these plays represented a different way of addressing Chicana (& Tejana) existence – Otra Esa was a one woman play where Amalia embodied multiple characters whose lives intertwine on a bus ride. It highlighted issues of race, class, and gender, and the dailiness of oppression, passion, and living. Women of Ill Repute was an all-female cast questioning the images and treatment of women and celebrating their lives in San Antonio. Fear of a Brown Planet in which 3 Chican@ archetypes wake up to find themselves interned for unknown reasons and work through fear and displacement in order to find enlightenment. The play once again delves into the meaning of culture, gender and raced oppression, and the place of Latinas in the N. American imaginary as well as their own.

She has also starred in plays by accomplished Chicana feminists like Maria Ibarra and activist theater plays throughout the American Southwest and West Coast. Her humorous turn in the independent film Speeder Kills always reminds me of the celebrations of colonialism turned “Hispanic pride festivals” in my area of the world. It has become an important teachable film for discussing how colonialism gets rewritten through elitism, the female body, and the erasure of accountability.

Amalia is also an accomplished poet. She has toured the country with Def Poetry Jam and the Slam American National Bus Tour. She was the first Latina to make it to the slam finals and took second place in the national poetry slam. She co-formed the all female, multi-cultural, poetry group Diva Diction with fellow poets Bassey and Ishle Park. Their hope was to bring a new feminist vision and voice to college campuses and poetry venues alike. She has been featured on multiple poetry CDs including her own. She also performed her poems at NAACP Image Awards and for the First Lady. Her moving poem on the Women of Juarez also reminds us of the connections between women who by nature of gender, as well as race, class, status, etc. live in the borderlands where physical and sexual violence are always options to control or erase us.amaliacharacter

Her work is not only part of a growing movement to address Xicanisma in both new and tried ways but also represents her commitment to social justice. Amalia’s performances have often been tied to women’s funding raising against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Rape Awareness, and Women’s Health. She has consistently done workshops and performances for Women’s and Cultural Centers around the country. And she centers women’s experiences and empowerment in her written/spoken work as well as the mentorship of others. She currently works as part of an artist mentorship collective that not only produces plays and poetry in collaboration with Chican@ youth but encourages them to find their own voices. The very human way in which she interacts with her audience and invites them to be participants is part of her appeal and her contribution to feminist and cultural consciousness raising in a world where it is still sorely needed.

Her poem about the women of Juarez is one that I often start my classes on femicide with. I turn the recording on and do not have to ask my students to draw still, they do it on their own. After we listen, I pass out the words and ask them to read it in small groups, thinking back to the recent somatic experience of hearing it. While they talk, I write the definition of femicide on the board. It is one of the most powerful exercises we do in class. And I love turning to my students and telling them, Amelia Ortiz is a young feminist like them. You should see their minds explode with the recognition of the potential of their own voices.

15 thoughts on “WHM: Amalia Ortiz

  1. I have never heard of Amalia Ortiz. I am going to keep my eye on her though. She’s witty, political, and beautiful.I love that whole “Fiesta Sucks” concept. I’m not from Texas, but I used to work for a non-profit that brought awareness to the marketing of alcohol in these “Hispanic Festivals” or “5 de Mayo” celebrations. Basically, the liquor companies underwrite so much of these events to continue promoting their brand loyalty. It is no wonder that all of the “Bud girls” paraded around at these events passing out club and bar flyers are stunning Latinas.

  2. kismet – welcome to the blog. de nadaadriana – I was thinking more about things like “Fiesta” that are directly tied to the defeat of Mexico by colonials or elites; the kinds of celebrations that recreate certain myths about origin, class, and ultimately race but are still somehow marketed and celebrated as part of a “hispanic” tradition. You know exactly which families will be running their daughters for princess, who will be officiating, what events will be closed to the public, etc. because their names go back to that real historical moment when Mexico was defeated, when the U.S. granted limited access to whiteness to certain groups of brown people to maintain their stronghold on certain states, and where entrenched colonial minorities began to actively petition for new settlers and shift their own definitions of whiteness to shore up their power. There is some really good historical work being done on this right now by Guzman.At the same time, I can see how broadening the critique through the lens of who sponsors and who gains would open the door for also considering Cinco de Mayo as coopted celebration. I think these issues might also be regional. Once you leave the Southwest the Fiesta type celebrations don’t happen because there is no historical anchor.As always you raise some interesting issues.

  3. Profb,I see where you were going w/ the “Fiestas.” True, these events reinforce those myths about class and race.The clever marketing of liquor to Latinos at these same events reinforces the historical oppression or mitigates the historical significance to numb our minds further. It is interesting to see how our own realities impact the way we view these “celebrations.” Since 5 de Mayo and Juneteenth are coming up, I urge you to look at the marketing involved.

  4. Adriana – I wasn’t negating your point, I was trying to do two things: 1. make sure the point about “fiestas” as annual reinforces of colonial mythmaking wasn’t lost, as that was where my head was at in the post, and 2. I was actually saying it is an interesting extension of the point of the film and the idea of who profits from such celebrations. I was in fact musing over the idea of alcohol marketing at 5 de May when your comment came in as there is quite a lot of it in the area I am currently hanging my hat while on sabbatical. What I was saying about regionalism was also related to what I saw you raising, ie that in my experience 5 de Mayo celebrations tend to be much more prevalent in areas that do not have other “fiestas”; 5 de Mayo celebrations happen in towns with no brown people in them. I was wondering about the character of these celebrations as we move from region to region. And what I was actually thinking about when your comment came in was the absence of large scale liquor subsidies in towns with an equal absence of diversity and how that may play into the underlining issue of *why* alcohol is marketed, which I think you spell out quite clearly in your second comment. I don’t know that all of these things hold true for everywhere, but they are certainly things worth thinking about. I hope that is clearer.When I say something is interesting or valid or worth thinking about, I do actually mean it.

  5. I didn’t think you were negating my comment. 🙂 It’s all good. I think we are on the same page here just coming from slightly different angles. This is why I like coming here. You expound upon some of these thoughts even further and incorporate your reader’s comments. It would be interesting to travel through the Southwest to sample some of these events and observe the marketing, how well they incorporate local people with historical ties to the events, how much they perpetuate racist and classist myths, etc.

  6. yes it would be an interesting project. And I do think you are right about coming at it from a different perspective. I’ve never lives anywhere where Juneteenth was sponsored by or saturated with liquor companies & their ads. Again I think it probably has to do with region and numerical significance.

  7. welcome to the blog. to cite: online use a link back. it is also nice to say “as prof bw says” or “got to woc phd for more” or something that puts the blog or blog author in your text but that is not required as long as you link back and do not copy an entire post. offline use standard parantheticals (blog name, date accessed) and footnote/endnote author name. blog name. URL. date accessed. standard format varies by discipline check your discipline style guide for more specific guidelines.

  8. to echo Noralis’ citation question, it’s difficult to cite a source with no name. there are several pseudonyms here. “prof bw,” “profbwoman,” “woc phd,” or “an academic and a social justice worker” (the closest thing to a name on the “about” page). i understand the value of anonymity, especially for these topics. but the reality is, anonymous blogs don’t translate well into scholarly citations. must we wait for profbw’s ideas to be appropriated in “reputable” offline journals? probably.anyway, i really enjoy your posts, always something worthwhile. a good counter-commentary on academia. (haters be damned, don’t throw in the towel.)

  9. welcome to the blog kip. even canonized authors have used pseudonyms. internet sources are ubiquitous enough that all style guides have the citation formats for internet sources in them all you have to do is find one for your discipline. As for (mis)appropriation that is the beauty of blogging, time-date stamps and archive dating (if you belong to a data source firm) ensure that copyrights are easy to enforce. Don’t let the nom de plume fool you, I am still an academic and my intellectual property is still mine.

  10. Hey, this post is fantastic. I really think you should write more like this. I’ll be back to check out your next post. Thanks a lot, have a great day!

  11. I?ve been following your blogs for a while now and this is honestly one of the best I?ve read. Its a simple and organised blog. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  12. It’s nice to see people writing such informative articles. So many people think this is the worst time ever and it’s not. This day offers more opportunity than any other in most of our lifetimes. You just have to go our there and make it happen. Keep up the good work!

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