chapter  1
26 Pages

What Is Indigenous About Being Indigenous? The Mestiza/o Experience

WithJOSEPH M. CERVANTES

The rise in immigrant populations over the past ten years has caused an increase in awareness of the differences in values, beliefs, health style patterns, religions, and spiritualities of several distinct ethnic and cultural groups (Carmarota, 2001; U.S. Census Bureau, 2000; Yeh, Hunter, Madan-Bahel, Chiang & Arora, 2004). Incorporated within these differences is a growing familiarity with the term indigenous. The term indigenous is a reference to those populations who, by historical origin, were the original inhabitants of a designated land or nation. As such, indigenous healing is defined as those beliefs, traditions, and strategies that originate within a culture or society and are designated for treating members of a given cultural group (Helms & Cook, 1999). In addition, indigenous will refer to a state of consciousness and personal awareness that views life as cyclical, interconnected, and interlingual. Consequently, this recognition and/or development of an indigenous attitude suggest that life events evolve and transform yet maintain a critical relationship to one another (Bezanson, Foster, & James, 2005). In addition, these life events have particular meaning and a communication pattern that respects human spirit and elemental forces (earth, water, fire, air; see Cohen, 1998; Kremer, 1997; Torrey, 1972; Yeh, Hunter, Madan-Bahel, Chiang & Arora, 2004). Among Latinas/os, (in particular, Mexicans and Mexican Americans) ancestral histories are embedded in the mestiza/o experience-namely,

the forging of several different racial and ethnic backgrounds that have contributed to their unique identity (Cervantes & Ramirez, 1992; Morones & Mikawa, 1992). The mestiza/o experience and the indigenous backdrop are interrelated, and consequently form an essential basis toward a critical identity for many Mexican and Mexican-American groups.