Decolonizing Views on Indigenous Spirituality Among Latinxs

To actively decolonize your ancestral spirituality is to take on the role of an educator

Decolonizing Spirituality

Photos courtesy of Esoteric Esa

Has Latinidad capitalism made it trendy to identify with our Indigenous spiritual roots? Browse through Instagram, and you’ll easily encounter users discussing the significance of reconnecting with our Indigenous spirituality across the digital Latinx diaspora. There’s been a rise over the last three years in Latinx mainstream media to center the online Latinx movement of reclaiming spiritual Indigeneity amid the growing popularity of the decolonizing narrative within the U.S. 

But, how much of an impact is it really making within the culture? There are still a considerable number of American Latinx Millennials who deeply believe that the roots of our Indigenous spiritual embodiment is evil, dark and capable of summoning the devil. Misconceptions they’ve pledged their allegiance to so firmly backed by their lack of anti-racism awareness or decolonial activism within the spiritual context. 

As much as you might want to believe decolonizing our spirituality within the Latinx culture is widely accepted, think twice. The privilege in this space exists online in niche micro communities. Online dialogue isn’t always a safe space either. We all know what it’s been like to come across an occasional religious troll in the comments section who’s self-assigned social media missionary work requires soliciting the word of their lord and savior in order to hopefully save one rebellious soul at a time. 

Centering my ancestral practices as a creative entrepreneur, bruja writer and dedicated decolonial spiritualist, has been an active form of embracing my authentic self. It’s apparent we’ve made strides in individualistic capacities as an effort toward cultivating ancestral healing, yet simultaneously, we have more to deconstruct.  As a collective, in order to continue dismantling the internalized racism and religious colonial indoctrination within the diaspora, it requires actively calling in unaware elders and peer Latinx non-believers toward their anti-Indigeneity. Most especially for those of us who are mixed race with the colonizer’s blood. 

To this day, I am met with resistance from family and friends who want to cast judgment against our very own ancestral origins. Over the last five years I’ve been personally celebrating dia de los muertos and building an altar for the dead, which isn’t a strange custom in my Mexican or Peruvian heritage. I thought it would finally be a great time to open this personal ritual of mine to my extended family in hopes of them partaking in honoring our muertos. I wanted to organize a picnic at a park — somewhere that felt safe for even the most unacquainted — and all the women in our family would gather to talk about the memories of the women who came before us.

I assumed by now, talking about the dead and honoring our deceased loved ones during this time of year was mainstream enough to convert even the most conservative of my relatives. Instead, I was met with hesitation and some fear from family members who weren’t comfortable enough with the idea of gathering together, and talking about the legacy of our passed on elders. I was told that some family members misperceived the invite as some sort of event where I would resurrect the dead from their peaceful resting place from the other side.

That it was negative and they’d pass because they don’t want to summon spirits. The thought was too witchy, and formulated off a biased judgment on their end. My immediate thought process, okay, I understand the precaution. But I was saddened by the response. Honestly, selfishly, I wish I had such presumed ability so I could see my abuelos one more time. I didn’t take it personally, when I was told this information. It’s interesting how the negative stigma that colonized religion has smeared traditional Indigenous spirituality with gives it so much power through fear. This sort of reaction is something I’ll likely have to deal with for the rest of my lifetime.  

When actively decolonizing your mind, body and spirit, you come to a conclusion that there will be individuals who are adamant about not wanting to understand the years of harm Catholic indoctrination has caused to their very own soul and people. Like a bad Catholic, it’s time to divorce spiritual colonial terrorism. Catholicism has historically deemed Indigenous spiritual work as evil and gave it a “black magic” stigma. A perspective also rooted in spiritual racism.

Fear is a powerful vehicle used quite often to submit others into harmful tactics. The Catholic church claimed any spiritual theology outside of its own as demonic. In other words, a control tactic to convert the lands of Spanish colonial occupation to weaponize religion against our ancestors. Christian conversion from ancestrally rooted spiritual formats was by force and not by choice. Basically evolving into religious terrorism. Catholicism’s domination thrived off spiritual Indigenous erasure – a form of genocide.  

How else can Latinx show up for the reclamation of pro-Indigeneity? We have to have these hard confrontations within ourselves as Latinx. Especially in moments like now when we truly want to show support for peoples of genocide like Palestinians. But that takes a certain brutal honesty within yourself to address the internalized settler colonialism that has banished our own ancestral teachings and culture, and how we might be bypassing when we want to claim to be anti-colonial oppression, but won’t stand up against global injustices. 

As a Latina with Indigenous Mexican-Peruvian lineage, it’s important for me to denounce the enmeshment of oppressive colonial systems that have spiritually harmed my ancestors by separating them from their Indigenous theology, and in result, identifying its pivotal role in my intergenerational trauma.

 I grew up witnessing this from a firsthand account in relation to my maternal grandmother who lived a very spiritual, witchy and unconventional life. She was a palm reader, psychic, and tarot reader. My earliest memories are of me watching her read tarot for others who seeked her out for consejos through tarot. Since she lived a taboo lifestyle that wasn’t blessed by Catholic standards, she was ostracized by her own siblings. In turn, that included my mother and myself to be guilty by association.

My abuela and her descendents were negatively perceived as the “troubled” and outlawed “bad eggs” of the family due the lack of decolonial programming from extended family. It fractured our family and created three generational cycles of toxic familismo. When my bruja abuela passed away, hardly any of my maternal family showed up thanks to their superpower ability to hold onto conflict as if it was the air they needed to breathe.

 In that moment, it was reflected to me that not even death can bring around a “good Catholic” to forgive or repent. What a joke of a religion, I thought, and my family was a prime example of how religion doesn’t magically eradicate the hate or evil that can live within one’s heart. A recognition of perpetual harm that I have personally vowed to sever because this intergenerational trauma ends with me. How so? By reclaiming taboo misconceptions within Latinx spirituality such as working with energy healing, practicing brujería, or advocating for sex magic, being pro-BIPOC liberation from colonization, and anything else that will make your abuela recite a Hail Mary prayer in extreme discomfort because of internalized colonized views of spiritual work.

To actively decolonize your ancestral spirituality is to take on the role of an educator. Educating self, continuously, and rigid fear-mongering Latinxs. It’s an exhaustive role to fill by explaining to Latinx non-believers who are judgmental toward these teachings that they are upholding White supremacist religious rhetoric through their adversarial stances when condemning our ancestral spiritual roots. Deep within, these judgmental naysayers know that such unconventional anti-religious views disrupt patriarchal authority. Myself, coming from a lineage where three generations of women who have chosen to honor our Indigenous spirituality has allowed us to speak up within our family and against family members who are upholding these white supremacist systems taught by colonized religion. Catholicism has taught us to feel shame when we speak up against oppressive authority or harm perpetuated even by our own family.

It’s taught us culturally to find comfort in secrecy and to behave through complacency in order to be rewarded or accepted. My abuela was a guerrera. Her personal bravery disrupted the toxic marianismo within our own lineage. She, a woman born in the 1940s, spoke up unfavorably against rape within her own family. In doing so, others tried to silence her truth because it brought on too much discomfort and disrupted the Catholic order of “calladita te ves más bonita.” She was an early educator in my family whether my elders recognized it or not. I learned how to be bold, brave and bruja from my abuela. 

This holiday season when you gather with your non-believer Latinx family members who are anti-decolonized spiritual liberation, and everyday moving forward in this journey of  spiritual liberation for all, advocate for the protection and respect of ancestral spirituality, its teachings, and Indigenous communities. When you are met with people who want to further assert the colonial mindset of harm through their violent destruction of Indigenous knowledge, speak up. The spiritual labor of our ancestors’ sacrifice to assimilate and survive stops with us. In order to amplify spiritual decolonization, you must advocate for the protection of Indigenous people globally, and within Latinidad. Punto. Period. Remember, your ancestors have your back. And so it is.

Jasmin Alejandrez-Prasad aka Esoteric Esa is an astrologer, psychic tarot reader, and bruja and founder of Souliminati

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