Happy Native American Heritage/History Month!
This month I will be highlighting different Indigenous peoples of the Americas/Canada who I know personally or are just incredible people you should know about doing incredible things for their people and Mother Earth.
This weekend being Dia de los Muertos & the beginning of Native American Heritage/History Month I wanted to start off with someone who is very near and dear to my heart. His name is Gerardo Omar Marìn or Gera for short and he is amazing! How I first met this wonderful human was when I first came to my first Rooted In Community gathering in Ames, Iowa in 2012. I was new to the food sovereignty/justice and agriculture movement especially around the youth and I was told about this great network of youth and their adult allies who gathering ever summer for a week to do workshops, activism, learn about farming and what food sovereignty/justice means and looks like coming from a youth perspective. When I first got there I was so nerves meeting new people and being emeried into this world I was new to but Gera made me feel so comfortable and welcome to this space.
We bonded almost instantly and each year when I would see him I would always just get this warm feeling of seeing a long distance brother for the first time in a while. In 2013 he came to my organization at the time’s annual Gala and Winter Forum in DC and just is always uplifting me and making me feel as though I have value in the work I do and values me as the person that I am. He has the most loving heart and is he always spreading that love out through the world to all the beautiful souls he meets and does justice work, ceremony and mentorship with. I am so proud to be able to call Gera my older brother/mentor figure who means just so much to me and I’m so glad our paths connected when they did and we are able to work together when we can.
Gera is an Aztec traditional dancer as well as a musician, who plays a traditional Indigenous flute and drums. Gera also is a mentor and activist for youth around food sovereignty, around the prison system and around healing, music and art through activism and movement work for Indigenous & POC people & youth. He was perviously the co-director of the network of young people and adult allies called Rooted In Community. In 2015 he traveled to Paris for the COP 21 Climate Summit where met Xiuhtezcatl and his little brother of the Earth Guardians. In 2017 him and his partner Vanessa participated in the Peace and Dignity Journeys which are spiritual runs that embody the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor. This prophecy mandates that at this time all Indigenous Peoples in the Western Hemisphere shall be reunited in a spiritual way in order to heal our nations so we can begin to work towards a better future for our children and generations to come. Through the Journeys, participant runners and supporters work to accomplish this goal by helping each other reconnect to their respective spiritual practices and traditions; by helping each other relearn our role in the world as Indigenous Peoples; and by reminding each other of our responsibilities to Mother Earth, Father Sky, our communities, and ourselves. These runs happen ever four years. He know lives near his family and his partner Vanessa in San Antonio, TX where he does mentoring, activism and ceremonies with the Indigenous and POCs of the area.
This is his story of finding his Indigenous roots and reconnecting to that energy and spirit of his ancestors calling him back to the ancient ways.
Gerardo Omar Marìn: Mixed roots of the Chichimeca (Guachichil) Indigenous Nation from Northern Mexico, a little bit of the Moors, Spanish from the Northwest and some Sapharfic Jew
*The following was written by Gerardo Omar Marìn with slight edits by myself*
As a mixed heritage Nican Tlaca/Chicano/Latinx son of Tonantzin Mama Earth, I celebrate the brilliance, resilience, and wisdom of all indigenous peoples. I also emit light power to those working to wake up to their indigenous roots and ways of living in harmony with all life.
In El Paso, Texas, my brother and I were raised thinking that we were Mexicanos, and our families instilled a deep pride in us about our gente’s generosity, spirit, and work stamina. I also grew up thinking that many of my family members struggled with diet-related illnesses because they lacked certain competencies and interest in self-care.
I was the only one in my family fortunate enough to get to go to university out of state. When I began to participate in Zapatista solidarity work, my mentors helped shift my thinking to innerstand how the sophisticated systems of colonial oppression and the corrupt industrial food system were at the root of my families hardships. I was informed that the abrahamic religions and their myths were forced on my ancestors. As a result, much of my family was made afraid and confused about my Nana Delia’s, (my great-grandmother) traditional healing practice, even though she was also a registered nurse in Juarez, Mexico, in the sacred Chihuahua Desert, where my parents were raised.
In my early twenties I began to study how to heal and strengthen through plants and traditional farming. My family would kindly make fun of me saying I wore a nopal (prickly pair cactus pad) on my forehead. Many in my family said that I was going backwards and that we had evolved passed those days. As I begin to reflect with my mighty Mama, I asked her to help me reach out to my family in Mexico and learn more about our Indigenos roots. At the time, she seemed to have little energy for it and conveyed a sense of shame for that side of our heritage and for any indigenous practice that “stayed in the past” and did not modernize. Thanks to an adopted Big Brother Rafael, from Mexico City, who started the Grassroots bike Collective in Fort Collins, CO, I understood that my family had been severed from the medicines and Ways of my ancestors, traditions that could have helped us prevent much of the spiritual imbalance and illness in my family, including my own. I recall a few conversations where I was harsh and expressed my frustrations to my mother saying things along the lines of, “We have been so brainwashed by the church, even our own family, that we disregard the power and importance of our grandmas culture and wisdom.”
I soon apologized and as Mama accepted, we began an exploration together to get clarity on where the shame and confusion came from. We started to have more revealing dreams and she started to remember some of the beautiful moments and ways that my Nana shared her medicine and took care of people. She also remembers how people gossiped about her, and unfortunately Mama internalized it as shame. She began to reflect that she saw that like her, I had a natural inclination to bring the best out in people, to facilitate group rituals, and convene people to strengthen bonds. She encouraged me as I first learned some Chinese medicine and then started to go to Mexico to volunteer with Healers. Mama became a special type of advisor to me as I served in youth development programs and began facilitating healing circles with adolescent youth in detention centers (where I have healed and learned so much).
We begin to have daydreams of golden and white Eagles and our Visions started to be filled with images of us collaborating to build a family healing Retreat Center for Youth and Mother Earth Defenders.
Our family is a ruch combination of lineages that we continue to learn about ranging from the Chichimeca (Guachichil) nation, the Moors of the Southern Iberian Peninsula, Spanish from the northwest, (and I have some saphardic Jewish from my Papa’s side).
As a teenager I was energized by rock and roll, rap, reggae and jam music. I now feel like I’ve returned home in the heart of my ancestors, as I play and practice with traditional deer and buffalo skin drums, grass reed, clay, and wooden flutes (Tlapitzalis), and the spiritual balancing work that my Nana did. I enjoy working with plants, making medicine, and seeing people activate their medicine.
I’ve had to forgive whatever got in the way of me getting to know my Nana better, and learn directly from her, or from her son, my Tata (named after a great peacemaker “Jesus”, who before he passed away instructed me to learn the deer dances from our ancestors.
I feel more whole as I walk in reverence for sacred Mother Earth and the great mystery that we are co-creators with. I honor the indigenous roots of all of my lineages that trace back to places where my ancestors lived with respect for all life in harmony with their environment.
I am an urban dweller for now living the dream with my beloved duality Vanessa in Yanawana, (San Antonio, TX) the sacred lands cared for by the Coahuilteco and the Carrizo peoples for millennia, some whom I’m told were cousins with my family south of the Sacred Rio Grande. I am delighted when anyone says that I wear a Nopal on my forehead, when my family asks me to make them tea, or practice a sobada (massage) or practice a healing treatment. I know they are remembering who we are with every sip and every drum beat. We are working towards that family dream, and many connections are brewing, and I feel my Nanas and Tatas have everything to do with it.