What is Chancla Culture? How does it relate to Adverse Childhood Effects (ACEs), and why is it so important that we acknowledge this harm so that our communities can find healing?
Chancla Culture is the totality of punitive, violence-based, authoritarian dynamics that are expressed in various ways in Latinx homes and families, beginning with the way we relate to ourselves and our children. These dynamics have been passed down through generations primarily via the parent-child relationship, but also through public and private institutions like schools, church and religion, and needs-based welfare services that families come into contact with that reinforce these dynamics. The relationships that children have with these can create trauma and adversity throughout their lives and can deeply harm their potential to grow into thriving individuals. Though these dynamics are not specific to Latinx culture and can be found throughout the world, especially in countries impacted by colonization in the last few centuries, there exist distinctive and common experiences that create a thread of woundedness to communities of Latinx people and families.
When you look around at cities where there are many families below the poverty line, it’s hard to ignore the countless hardships that our communities, Black and Brown families namely, are facing which makes it difficult to raise children in general, much less attempt to raise children with the kind of intentionality we might be asking for in their parenting. Every ACE intersects with cultural, historical, social, economic, and political factors that cannot be divorced from that experience. Chancla Culture exists as the intersection of these and speaks to how they manifest in the growing Latinx child, individual, and family. Acknowledging the harm at the individual level requires us to look at the greater systemic factors that have long had an impact on our families. ACEs offer us insight into not just those experiences, but invites us to look deeper into the conditions that lead to them and abolish the systems that allowed for those conditions.
As a parent working to uplift, decolonize, and heal our communities, what favorite lessons have your own children taught you that have brought healing to your own inner child?
In my workshops, I introduce my teachers and mentors before I go into any content because it is important to honor their teachings and the work they’ve put into our collective movements. I name my children as these teachers, not because they have “done” anything intentionally to teach me, but they are the ones that teach me things like humility, wonder, and accountability. These lessons are hard but necessary for me to be aligned with nonviolence and liberation practices, practices that I intend to share with other parents as necessary for community healing. When it comes to the healing my inner niña has experienced as a result of allowing my children to be my teachers: they have taught me how to be in joy and authenticity. They literally pull me into play and when I allow for that to happen, I remember the beauty of being imaginative and creative, qualities I feel that I partially lost when I “grew up too fast” as a result of experiencing a series of ACES in my early adolescence. This feels soothing and right, admittedly, though initially feels uncomfortable because I feel another pull to be “doing”, rather than just “being”. My children remind me that it’s still in me to just “be” without the learned expectations and prejudices I’ve acquired from Capitalism against just “being”. This tension is important to notice, because it’s my Inner Niña trying to make herself known. I’ve learned to soothe her in the same ways I’ve learned to soothe my three children when they’re experiencing discomfort and inner turmoil: by staying with those feelings, acknowledging them, naming the sensations I’m experiencing, and discerning what would feel loving in that moment.
This isn’t a pretty process most of the time, but there’s also nothing wrong with it being messy so long as I go back to reflect on what happened and recommit myself to offering safety to my Inner Niña, the way I do with my children. Being human is complex, and being a healing human on top of being a parent requires a lot of intentional grounding practices like mindfulness and somatic awareness. My children are mindfulness experts, as most children are and as we were in childhood, because they are connected to their emotions and their bodies in ways that as adults we have to re-learn from having those emotions shut down or not valued for what they offered. Our Inner Niñes are being invited to re-engage in emotions in a different and healthier way, from the safety offered by our Inner Parent. Our children are often the catalyst for this invitation, and my children have certainly been that catalyst for me.
What is your advice for parents who are still working to understand their own traumas? What is a good first step on this journey to heal and raise healthier and happier children?
The first step I offer parents is to reconnect with their Inner Niñes by having something concrete remind them of that version of themselves. This could look like having a photo of the younger version of ourselves somewhere in our bedrooms that we can look at daily. Additionally, this needs to go hand in hand with understanding that healing is often not a cognitive process. This means that we will not always have the “understanding” about where our traumas come from and accepting this is part of healing. It is okay not to know, because you’re still in your body experiencing sensations and it’s still necessary to work through those sensations with any tool at your disposal that feels right and appropriate for the time in which those sensations are most alive in your body. It’s okay to get out of our heads sometimes and back into our hearts, back into our bodies. The other thing I’d like to remind parents of is that we are not a burden for asking for our needs to be met. We are not wrong for feeling grief about our perceived lack of community. We are not flawed because we make mistakes. We are as sacred as the day we were born. The healing process is not binary or linear, and it’s a lifetime endeavor that will carry into other lifetimes for our descendants. We are not breaking away from our culture or our families when we decide to raise our children differently. We are simply untangling the threads of our histories and weaving them again, intentionally and together, in a tapestry of healing that is supported by our ancestors and our community. This takes patience, so much patience.
What practices, healthy boundaries, tools, and resources do you use to keep you grounded or centered when life and parenting get tough?
There are so many. I’ve been able to put a lot of tools in my toolbox that have been taught to me by my teachers in Reparenting and Curanderismo. For example, I go to my physical altar and reconnect with the temple that is my body. Movement, time outside in wonder of the natural world, dancing, singing, writing, and allowing others to be my container when I am flooded and need to pour some expression out verbally. Crying. I do a lot of crying. I want to say, though, that I don’t feel ungrounded when I’m crying. I’ve not mastered this but I have noticed that in the last decade I’ve become better about knowing that crying can be purposeful. I will sometimes turn on movies or media that will allow me to get to the point of catharsis so that the tears can flow. When activated by other adults in my life, which happens to all of us sometimes daily, I do my best to engage in behaviors that feel protective but not thorny.
I recently had to set very firm and kind boundaries with a friend because I reached a threshold where I no longer had the capacity or ability to hold, guide and advise her. I reached the end of a road and it’s not for me to try and make anyone act different or be different. I am only in control of my own responses and the ways I communicate my own process. I was transparent about this experience with my 11-year-old, who herself has also been learning how to set boundaries when something feels out of alignment. I related to her that this friend was making me feel a tightness in my chest and stomach when we would interact, and that this was a sign for me that something needed to shift and that I had the ability and language to make that shift happen. It’s important for us to share with our children what our tools are and what their purpose is so that they can begin to practice utilizing some of those same tools as early as possible. Too many of us don’t start to fill our toolbox until we are well into adulthood and realizing that we are too uncomfortable and sometimes too unhappy. Those feelings can lead to things like depression, risky behaviors, or various kinds of violence, internalized and externalized. These are the things we want to prevent for our children in the ways that we parent and offer those tools which again, is intertwined with the reparenting of ourselves and embodying what we want to pass down.