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Fleshing the Spirit

Spirituality and Activism in Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous Women’s Lives

Edited by Elisa Facio and Irene Lara

Publication Year: 2014

Fleshing the Spirit brings together established and new writers exploring the relationships between the physical body, the spirit and spirituality, and social justice activism. Examining the complex and dynamic connections among these concepts, the writers emphasize the value of “flesh and blood experience” as a site of knowledge. They argue that spirituality—something quite different from institutional religious practice—can heal the mind/body split and set the stage for social change. Spirituality, they argue, is a necessary component of an alternative political agenda focused on equitable social and ecological change.

The anthology incorporates different genres of writing—such as poetry, testimonials, critical essays, and historical analysis—and stimulates the reader to engage spirituality in a critical, personal, and creative way. This interdisciplinary work is the first that attempts to theorize the radical interconnection between women of color, spirituality, and social activism. Before transformative political work can be done, the authors say in multiple ways, we must recognize that our spiritual need is a desire to more fully understand our relations with others. Conflict experienced on many levels sometimes severs those relations, separating us from others along racial, class, gender, sexual, national, or other socially constructed lines.

Fleshing the Spirit offers a spiritual journey of healing, health, and human revolution. The book’s open invitation to engage in critical dialogue and social activism—with the spirit and spirituality at the forefront—illuminates the way to social change and the ability to live in harmony with life’s universal energies.


Volume Editors
Elisa Facio
Irene Lara
Chapter Authors
Angelita Borbón
Norma E. Cantú
Berenice Dimas
C. Alejandra Elenes
Alicia Enciso Litschi
Oliva M. Espín
Maria Figueroa
Patrisia Gonzales
Inés Hernández- Avila
Rosa María Hernández Juárez
Cinthya Martinez
Lara Medina
Felicia Montes
Sarahi Nuñez- Mejia
Laura E. Pérez
Brenda Sendejo
Inés Talamantez
Michelle Téllez
Beatriz Villegas


Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-x

A Mindful Invitation / Una invitación consiente - Inés Talamantez

Inés Talamantez

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pp. xi-xii

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Foreword: A Meditation

Inés Hernández- Avila

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pp. xiii-xx

I am deeply honored to have been asked to write the foreword for this book. As I write, I pay my respects first to the Patwin people, who are the original peoples of this land where I live. May they always be blessed. I give thanks for this day of life, for all the lessons I have learned, and all the...

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pp. xxi-2

As with any long- term labor of love, many people have helped this anthology come to fruition. Thank you to all of the contributors and additional supporters who have believed in the project throughout the years. Thank you also to our audiences at MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social)...

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Introduction: Fleshing the Spirit, Spiriting the Flesh - Irene Lara and Elisa Facio

Irene Lara and Elisa Facio

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pp. 3-18

This anthology foregrounds scholarly, activist, and creative reflections on spirit, spirituality, and “spiritual activism” (Anzaldúa 2002a) from the perspectives of Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous women.1 We, the coeditors Elisa Facio and Irene Lara, have been studying Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous...

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Part 1. The East: New Beginnings

We begin with the East, the place of the sun, associated with new beginnings and vision. Critical engagement with dominant modern- colonial and ancient, dynamic, spiritual ideas, as well as the related desire for spaces that legitimate spirituality as a way of knowing and being within academia and our daily lives...

The East

Cinthya Martinez

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pp. 21-22

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Writing with Crooked Lines

Laura E. Pérez

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pp. 23-33

My friend Father Eddie Fernandez, a Jesuit doctor of theology, once said to me in response to my worries about the possible errors and confusion that writing about hybrid spiritualities could cause, “God writes with crooked lines.” This is so, Father Eddie explained, because “Dios es bueno.” God is good...

Toward a Spiritual Pedagogy along the Borderlands

Maria Figueroa

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pp. 34-42

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Spiritual Roots of Chicana Feminist Borderland Pedagogies: A Spiritual Journey with Tonantzin/Guadalupe

C. Alejandra Elenes

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pp. 43-58

Spirituality, for me, is the way I understand my position in the world in relation to larger existential questions about the meaning of life and death. Through spirituality one is connected with the world, with one’s ancestors and descendants, and one’s contemporary relations. My spirituality has evolved...

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Spirit Journey: “Home” as a Site for Healing and Transformation

Elisa Facio

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pp. 59-72

Spirit journeys generally entail a search for explanations, understandings, and fulfillment. In my own spirit journey, some lessons, even those that were dubious, rendered healing, catharsis, and transformation. And there were others that left me confused, betrayed, and wounded, but also more inquisitive about...

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Part 2. The West: Feminine Energies

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pp. 73-75

Next we turn to the West, the place of water, associated with feminine energy and endings or the completion of a cycle. A three- part poetic narrative sets the tone for the following essays, which document the authors’ spiritual journeys while offering methodological and pedagogical tools grounded in the...


Berenice Dimas

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pp. 76-80

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Methodologies of the Spirit: Reclaiming Our Lady of Guadalupe and Discovering Tonantzin Within and Beyond the Nepantla of Academia

Brenda Sendejo

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pp. 81-101

My current spiritual journey began several years ago, in my late teens and early twenties, with the independence that came with leaving home and entering the world of the university in Austin, Texas. I was adamantly and in some ways defiantly redefining myself and my place in the world, as I navigated...

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Saints in the Cuban Heat

Oliva M. Espín

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pp. 102-112

When I was a girl of eight or nine, during another hot and humid Christmas season in Havana, los Tres Reyes Magos— the Three Kings or Wise Men who bring presents to children on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, in many Catholic countries— brought me a small book: Niños Santos. I was already an...

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Sensing the Serpent in the Mother, Dando a Luz la Madre Serpiente: Chicana Spirituality, Sexuality, and Mamihood

Irene Lara

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pp. 113-134

With the aim of thriving as a whole erotic being, my bodymindspirit always in the process of being in or moving toward harmony, beauty, and “conocimiento” (Anzaldúa 2000, 2002a), in graduate school I began to think about my writing as a prayer for social justice, healing, and the greater good. Inspired...

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Part 3. The North: The Direction of the Elders

We turn to the North, the place of the wind, associated with elders and the energy of maturity. It is the direction we often turn to for guidance from the ancestors. The North also powerfully supports our practices of introspection and reflection. As previously noted in the Introduction, some texts may reflect...


Felicia Montes

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pp. 137

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Chicana in the Zendo: Love and Power on the Spiritual Path

Alicia Enciso Litschi

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pp. 138-149

I left my last Buddhist teacher in 2007. At the time, my departure did not feel like a happy ending. I had been a full- time training resident at my teacher’s Zen center and was slated for ordination as a priest. Leaving was a complicated endeavor, and I was haunted by the desire to tell my story— feeling that...

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“Pero tu no crees en dios”: Negotiating Spirituality, Family, and Community

Michelle Téllez

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pp. 150-156

I am reminded of one of my most lucid memories of Sunday morning Mass when I was nine or ten years old. I was wearing a blue flowered dress and pale blue tights. As we sang the hymn “Our Father,” I stood tall between my parents and held their hands tight as we raised our arms up high. My voice was...

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Healing Introspections: Reaching Inside and Reconstructing Myself

Rosa María Hernández Juárez

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pp. 157-166

In spring 2003, I became very ill. At first, I thought it was a bad case of the fl u. After feeling very sick at work, I left for the day hoping to get better at home. I went to a drugstore to get some flu medicine. I distinctly remember standing in an aisle, looking for the difference between product A and product...

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Nepantla Spirituality: My Path to the Source(s) of Healing

Lara Medina

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pp. 167-186

I write with the element of air, the wind, in my consciousness. The air teaches us to be fluid, to be flexible so that our strength and our stability do not become too rigid. We must be able to adapt when necessary, to fl ow like the wind, to be open to change, to be flexible with our plans, to be able to cleanse...

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Part 4. The South: The Direction of Youth

Finally, we turn to the South, the place of the earth and the direction associated with children and youth. A number of contributors in this section write about their childhood memories and reflect on their experiences as youth from the vantage point of adulthood. They, like other contributors, remind us...

The Woman Within

Sarahi Nuñez-Mejia

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pp. 189-190

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Creosote and Lavender

Angelita Borbón

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pp. 191-194

Creosote and lavender grow in my garden. I planted the lavender when my mother died. The creosote bush has been here since the Original People walked this desert and smelled her perfume after the rain. It is an ancient memory and this morning as I water my grandson’s squash plant, I smell the...

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Coming Full Circle

Beatriz Villegas/Ilhuicatlahuili-Bea

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pp. 195-201

I do not like Wednesdays. I will never forget the terrifying experiences of every Wednesday night at my grandmother’s house where I lived from the ages of three to seven; I would be in the middle of my bed holding my one-year-old brother Joel, waiting for my uncle Fernando. He would come into the...

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Living La Vida Santa: My Chicana Spirituality and Activist Scholarship

Norma E. Cantú

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pp. 202-217

On December 17, 2010, I began walking the ancient pilgrimage route, el Camino de Santiago, or el camino francés, as that route is known, from Saint- Jean- Pied- de- Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.1 The ancient pilgrimage route winds its way to one of the most visited holy...

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Anatomy of Learning: Yauhtli, Peyotzin, Tobacco, and Maguey

Patrisia Gonzales

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pp. 218-240

The word has spread in the village. A partera is coming. My maestra, doña Filomena Cedillo Parra, comes to the village where I am staying with one of the tatas (elders) who is her compadre de medicina. These elders who have trained me represent that male- female balance so prevalent among traditional...


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pp. 241-256


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pp. 257-262

Artist’s Statement

Linda Vallejo

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pp. 263-264


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pp. 265-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780816598915
E-ISBN-10: 0816598916
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530977
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530971

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Spiritual life.
  • Spirituality.
  • Indian women -- Religious life.
  • Hispanic American women -- Religious life.
  • Social justice.
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