Critical conversations: 21st century MeXicanx maternity experiences

Critical conversations: 21st century MeXicanx maternity experiences

Our rights as womyn and mothers to assert jurisdiction over our own bodies and lives are being deconstructed at an alarming rate – dare I say as alarming as the miles of ice cracking and melting off the poles of our Mother Earth.

With no more lands to conquer on the U.S. mainland, the personal landscape has become a frontier.  The 21st century geography of colonization and population control: the body of womyn and in particular, womyn from marginalized communities.

It is true that legislated dominion over native peoples bodies has gone on for over 500 years.  But generations of wasichu methodologies in law and capitalist structures have reached a point of refinement that demands our attention because of its power to creep so deeply into the personal, affecting our realities and influencing if not outright controlling our sacred personal decisions.  The State of Texas is of particular reference and leads the attack but it is certainly not the only one.  The current situation is inextricably intertwined with colonization, thus impacting native womyn across borders.

But within the context of the U.S., this imposition of state control over a womyn’s body manifests in the forms of womyns right to choose, access to healthcare (including mental health services), access to assistance programs, womyns right to (and access to) choose the form of maternity medical care, womyns right to (and access to) determine the birth experience, family law legislation, domestic violence, litigious abuse, access for non-citizens and mothers/kids in FAMILY PRISONS to obtain birth certificates for U.S.-born children, trans and LGBTQ rights, and in other ways with intersections too numerous to describe.

And of particular importance is that at every single crossing point between the State and marginalized communities  – and in particular womyn  – from the greater MeXicanx community, there appears increasing forms of legislation imposed upon the living geographies and landscapes of the brown female bodies in ways which overtly and covertly carve pathways to unjustly deny access and exercise of our human rights.  The system seems be in a rush to find ways to justify taking power at any moment over our bodies, quickly legislating definitions/layers of illegalities and constructing legal, economic, and geographic barriers that directly work against us to obstruct our ability to exercise our human rights, our health/well-being, our families, and our life experience on this planet as we know it.

Perhaps this article is only a drop in a bucket, but there is simply no other way to deconstruct and decolonize this mechanism without having a few critical conversations.  And today’s topic is no exception: the right to choose (and access to) maternity care, asserting jurisdiction over the self in determining the birth experience, and working with pregnant womyn and mothers from marginalized communities.

Our featured guests include yaocihuame (warrior womyn/community leaders) and come from Houston, El Paso, Austin, San Antonio, and Guadalajara, Mexico.  We are honored to have with us:

Maribel Valdez Gonzalez, Educator, San Antonio, Texas  Donate
Gisela Sarellano, Danzante, El Paso, Texas  Donate
Marisela Orozco-Herrera, Danzante and educator, Houston, Texas  
Emerita Citlalli Ramírez Grande, Danzante and culture worker, Guadalajara, Jalisco  
Rachel Caballero, Student midwife at Mama Sana clinic in East Austin, Texas
Nana Yvette Mendez, Elder, San Antonio, Texas

You are invited to read and listen to their stories, they are critical and important.  You are also personally invited to counter the systemic attack and effect change NOW through donating to the fund drives for these hermanas.

Author’s note: I can personally testify to the fact that online donations towards the birth of children really DO make a direct impact at a time when pregnant womyn, and in this case community leaders, need it the most.  Thank you.

[su_spoiler title=”Maribel Valdez Gonzalez” anchor=”Accordion-1″]

​What is your name? How do you ID? Where are you at/from?
My name is Maribel Valdez Gonzalez. My family is from La Laguna Grande, Zacatecas, Mexico. My mom, brother, sister, and I are living in San Antonio, Tejaztlan for the first time, together. Many of my extended family members still remain in Zacatecas, while others have migrated to other cities in Texas, Illinois, Georgia, and California. I identify as Mexican, Xicana, and part of an alterNATIVE peoples residing on this side of the arbitrary, but enforced southern border of the United States. I am indigenous, colonized, and different from white America. Relatively speaking, I am light-skinned, but not white passing. I am in a strong cishetero-appearing companionship with Antonio Manuel Castillo Gonzalez. The foundation of our companionship is based on our relationship with our closest relative, the land.

What community movements are you involved in?
I am an educator. I teach 7th grade English Language Arts in a historically looted community. I teach at a school that is homogeneously brown. Being a teacher in a public school is extremely difficult because I have to reconcile being an oppressor (if I want to keep my job) with doing my best to help students love themselves. I believe in teaching culturally-relevant curriculum, social emotional skills that deviate from white supremacist norms, and encouraging my students to express themselves with informed opinions. My humble purpose in life is to be an example for others. I am honored to be in the presence of youth and I take that responsibility very seriously. At this time, I have taken a break from getting involved in movements beyond my school community, so I can focus on my home altar. I am currently 30 weeks pregnant and very much focused on my spirituality and faith to ground our family in a good way before our baby, Aztlaneci, enters this world.

What type of birth experience are you choosing to have and why?
I am choosing to have the birth ceremony in the comfort of our home. I have a doula, who is my ceremonial sister, and a midwife who will assist in the ceremony. The birth ceremony is the first ceremony. I consider it a ceremony because it is a way to demonstrate honor for the ritual, gratitude, humility, and strength. I have no fear because I understand my womb to be my connection to the earth, my ancestors, the dreamworld, and the life force that will give us our child. I have faith. It will be a sacred experience that will not be tainted by the traumas that many womxn of color experience in hospitals. We will be singing prayer songs and there will be medicines present. It will be an answer to a prayer. I want to be in the presence of folks who want to help me give birth to my child. I do not want to be controlled, or forgotten. By having the ceremony at home, my family and I will be given the autonomy to demonstrate our responsibility to our child, future generations, ancestors, and community as a unified commitment.

What other birthing experiences have you had?
My companion and I had a daughter by the name of Ayotzintli Valdez Gonzalez. She remains an ancestor after I miscarried at 3 months. We remember and honor her on a daily basis. She is with us always.

Does politics and/or economic play a role in this decision? How?
As a Xicana, woman of color, and mama-to-be in the United States, every choice I make is political. My decision to have a home birth was informed by my spiritual beliefs and the fear I carry as a young Xicana in institutions such as hospitals. In those spaces, my body is objectified in ways that take away my dignity and the sacredness of the birth ceremony. My body and my home are sacred ceremonial sites.

How can folks support you?
I am asking for folks to help with donations to cover the costs of midwifery services. We believe that having access to midwifery services is birth justice. With every $50 or more donation, we are giving away a WE THE PEOPLE Defend Dignity 24×36 lithoprint signed by the photographer, Arlene Mejorado, and myself. We will also ship 4 stickers of the same print. While my likeness is used for the prints that were seen all over the world, my family and I are not getting compensated for any of it. We are very fortunate to be able to share some of the prints with those who support our campaign as an incentive. We are deeply grateful for those who choose to support us.

What is the link to your fundraiser?

[su_spoiler title=”Gisela Sarellano” anchor=”Accordion-2″]

What is your name? How do you ID? Where are you at/from?
Gisela Sarellano, Mexica, El Paso, TX

What community movements are you involved in?
I have been entrusted with the responsibility of danza Azteca Omecoatl and serve them as their capitana. Additionally, I am a minister of Native American Church Teokalli Tlauizkalpantekutli Ketzalkoatl.

What type of birth experience are you choosing to have and why?
I chose to birth at home with the help of a midwife. Although I respect everyone’s personal preference, I believe that birthing with a midwife is the closest to how it was intended. Going through the experience and actually being an active participant in said experience is very important to me. In my opinion, I believe it is the most natural way and the best way for both mother and child.

What other birthing experiences have you had?
My 9 year old son, Xicahua, was born in a hospital with an obstetrician. This was far from ideal as the doctor induced my delivery to fit her schedule instead of waiting for my baby to come on his terms and on his time. Though it was nonetheless life changing and unforgettable, I truly felt robbed of the birthing experience.

Does politics and/or economic play a role in this decision? How?
The fact that home birth is not covered by Medicaid or traditional insurance absolutely factored into my decision. Instead of simply being able to enjoy and celebrate the fact that I was being blessed with another child I had to try to figure out how I would be able to afford to birth at home. Thankfully, there is a midwife in our traditional community who first offered to greatly discount her services then changed her mind and offered me her services free of charge in appreciation for the service work I do within the community.

How can folks support you?
Thanks to the generosity of my midwife I do not assistance in paying for her services, however my danza circle has started a fundraiser so that I may have some bonding time with my child. I work for an attorney who is allowing me to take as much time off as I need, however he is unfortunately unable to provide me with paid maternity leave. Without financial assistance, I will only be able to take two weeks off, if that.

What is the link to your fundraiser?

Anything else would you would like to share?
Thankfully my pregnancy had been rather uneventful and without complications, until now. My baby has refused to turn and, at 39 weeks, is still in a breech position. We have tried all traditional and non-traditional methods we can think of, but she will not budge. Bearing that in mind, my wonderful midwife has suggested that birthing in a hospital is the safest thing for the baby. This is far from what I had in mind and most certainly not what I planned. It has, however, been a great lesson in surrender, and accepting that my child and Creation, have other plans, and that is ok too. Sadly, if we have to go through with a C-section, it entails a much longer recovery period for which I am not financially prepared.

UPDATE: The Xica Nation family would like to welcome the arrival of Matlalihuitl, who arrived on May 18th.  Congratulations, Gisela!

[su_spoiler title=”Rachel Caballero” anchor=”Accordion-3″]

What is your name? How do you ID? Where are you at/from?

My name is Rachel Caballero. I am AfroLatina. I honor my African and Indigenous ancestors. I am currently in Austin, TX. I am from the US Mexico Borderlands/ El Paso- Cd Jz.

What community work are you involved in?

The former Mama Sana mural in East Austin, which was recently painted over by gentrifiers.

I am currently a student midwife involved in an organization called Mama Sana Vibrant Woman. MSVW is a community organization that works to facilitate access to culturally appropriate, quality, prenatal and postnatal care for women of color in Austin/Travis County based in Austin, TX. We exist to provide culturally respectfully and reflective reproductive health and wellness for Latina and Black women. According to the CDC, Centers for Disease Control data showed that for Black women, maternal mortality was 40.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births between 2011 and 2013. This is compared to 12.1 for white women and 16.4 for women of other racesOur focus is prenatal support. Currently birth outcomes and maternal health are worse for Black mothers in the U.S. we exist to change that. For Latina mothers issues around language and cultural respect come into play. For all women access to home birth is an issue. In Texas currently medicaid does not pay for home birth. The process for midwives to become medicaid providers is long and duly, midwives who are self employed and many have low volume practices, becoming a medicaid provider is not possible.

MSVW Our organization is a collectively ran non profit made up of Latina and Black women. My work with the organization is to provide birth support as a doula, and lead our birth companion program. Our Birth Companion program provides free one on one birth support. It is a goal of mine to create a community of birth workers of color who reclaim the practices of their cultures and ancestors and bring them to birth work and healing work. We trained 27 birth companions this past year in our first year of funded work. We connected 5 women to home births at no cost.

What services does your organization provide and what population do you serve?
Currently our organization provides holistic full spectrum support including weekly groups, birth companion support during all stages of pregnancy, quick access to prenatal care, and access to network of midwives. During the Pregnancy and Birthing Circles Program which is our weekly prenatal support group, mothers choose topics they want to learn about as well as going over more traditional pregnancy related information, participate in free yoga + movement, community meal, meat birth companions, receive a prenatal check from a midwife. On occasion we invite holistic practicioners to provide massage and acupuncture. The care given within the PBC Program is informed by the principles and practices of midwifery.

We provide Free Childbirth Prep Classes in English and Spanish. We provide monthly socials and events including Mama Spa Day, Kandake Circle by and for self identifying Black Women.
As a person on the front line of maternity care in Texas, in what ways do you believe politics and/or economics play a role in decision-making around maternity care and the birthing experience for WOC?

I think when it comes to health care in general politics always play a role in decision making. For many women of color our politics inform our choices about the way we live, what we eat and wear etc. In my experience as a doula/birth companion in maternity care decision making before or during the labor room comes down to two questions – Is it safe for my baby? Is it safe for me so I can care for my child? more so than politics or economics.

In my work I have known and supported many different women from different belief systems. Part of my work as a birth worker/student partera is that I listen and support all women in their choices. Regardless of politics or how much money they have they have the power to decide for themselves what they want and need. Being on the “front lines” of maternity care means upholding that wherever we are, hospital or home. I am “with woman” on her path. I walk alongside her during her journey.

Currently the political climate in Texas has made it clear that our bodies as woc do not matter. Genocide continues and we are here living within it all. The medical system in the U.S. is violent. For this reason the role of the birth companion and partera is even more important. It is a calling- and necessary role during these times. I have seen time and time again entering the hospital supporting a WOC she is dismissed or ignored, talked down to, or poked and prodded unnecesarily. There is little dignity. Specifically when I have supported Black Mothers birthing in hospitals there is alot of racism and I have witnessed many painful and traumatic experiences in the hospitals towards Black Mothers.

More mothers should have the option of having baby at home or a safeplace that is not the hospital. Decisions around maternity care are connected to economics in that a WOC who is homeless, has violence at home, not enough room, may not want to or be able to have a “home birth” not all women have “homes” in the physical sense, so they have no choice but go to hospital. And less so not able to even consider home birth since she will have to pay out of pocket.

As WOC our choices are already cut short in the U.S. and especially in Texas. We don’t have real choices. We are seeking to change that.

How can folks support this project?

In order to provide support and more homebirth we must continue to fundraise.
People can donate to our pay pal or mail checks. People can volunteer their time or expertise. People can refer more women of color needing support by visiting , [email protected], 512-710-5729


[su_spoiler title=”Emerita Citlalli Ramírez Grande” anchor=”Accordion-4″]

Como te llamas?  Como te identificas?  De donde eres/estas?
Emerita Citlalli Ramírez Grande. Me identifico con la naturaleza, con todo lo relaciónado al cuidado, conservación y resguardo del medio ambiente y cultura. Mi familia es de Jala Nayarit- Jomulco. Estoy viviendo en Guadalajara.

A cuales movimientos o circulos sociales te integras?
Grupos de danza Mexica y de conocimiento de calendario Mexica.

Que tipo de expereiencia de nacimiento desean tener?  Pueden tener?  No pueden tener?  
Tipo de nacimiento/ el mas natural acorde con lo tiempos naturales posibles y queria una experiencia en agua. / pueden tener; puedo tener el del seguro del ISSTE por el trabajo y otro llamado MetLIfe que es el que intentare a ver si me aprueban en los papeles para que juan pueda estar conmigo por que en el seguro no dejarian a nadie conocido mio a que me acompañe en mi parto, además de que en el seguro, hay muchos prácticantes de medicina, cualquiera puede intervenir o decidir si se va a sesarea el parto, y meterte la mano para ellos prácticar las medidas en tu vagina de las dilataciónes. además que te están precionando para decidir para la implantación de un metodo anticonceptivo implantado al final del parto. Y POR ESO NO QUIERO EN ISSTE.

De que manera influye el dinero y/o la politica en esta decision?  Como?
Por politica de trabajo tengo ISSTE eso si puedo acceder, y económicamente no puedo tenerlo con la que yo queria para que me apoyara en parto en agua, puesto que ella cobra $ 15,000 para recibir al bebe, más $ 4,000 para pagar la duola y $ 3,800 un curso prepedeutico y el hospital donde te permitan tener la tina $5,000 esto sale un costo de más de $20,000. No lo tenemos, yo gano $5000 a la quincena, contrapenas tendria unos tresmil sueltos para pagar uno privado y no tener que acudir al ISSTE. me es más barato en un hospital privado chico por el parto con un medico común que cobrarian entre $5000 a $10000, que un parto natural que está por arriba de los $20,000. La Duola Maricela que está trabajando en una asociación de Duolas para poder incertar una politica de que en el ISSTE se tenga el derecho de una duola (están en esa lucha ellas) me platica que en Jalisco (Norma caracola) es de las más baratas, que las demás parteras o parteros naturales cobran de $20,000 para arriba.

Como puede el publico apoyarte?  Tienes un enlace para donaciones o Paypal?
Con tan solo el hecho de leer lo que vayas a escribir (me es suficiente), para documentar la experiencia que a mi pensar se está lucrando con lo natural, al bolerse en estos tiempos venderse como moda como slogans de be natural- organic y por lo tanto triplican los precios, que yo que trabajo en una dependencia gubernamental =/ NO PUEDO PAGAR LO MÁS BE NATURALMENTE POSIBLE =(

Algo mas que gustas compartir?
Las raices que deverian estar accesibles al publico, se están convirtiendo en un medio mercantil para cobrar o obtener ganancias mayores, sin olvidar, que solo poca gente podria pagarlo.


[su_spoiler title=”Marisela Orozco-Herrera” anchor=”Accordion-5″]

What is your name?  How do you ID?  Where are you at/from?
My full name is Marisela Orozco-Herrera. I didn’t mind adding on my duality’s last name but I’m pretty attached to my own so I made sure to keep it. At work I still go by Ms. Orozco. I was born and raised in Houston, TX. I identify as native, xicana, and indigena aunque mi sangre es de todas partes de este mundo, soy de estas tierras.

What community movements are you involved in?
I have been involved in la danza Azteca  for the past 11 years. I’m currently a part of a a Houston based group, Danza Azteca Taxcayolotl. Many of us are educators. I currently work as the librarian for a charter school where I bring in many of the Mexica teachings into the curriculum, the kids really connect to it. I’m also working with a group of like minded people to create a better learning environment… a type of school for our children and community. This past year I was also fortunate enough to be involved in the Peace and Dignity Journeys as a runner down the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Houston. The prayer for the seeds was very powerful and means so much for us in the way of maintaining pure and healthy foods, coming together from many indigenous groups as one, sharing our knowledge of the seeds… the process of planting, harvesting, and continuing that knowledge through shared time together. Not only as physical planting seeds but as the seeds of humanity, as people healing ourselves, our families, and communities in order to continue life in a more trauma free existence where we can continue to nourish one another through our culture and traditions. We are the medicine that our ancestors left us, it’s embedded in us, we just have to continue to plant, harvest, and share this knowledge.

What type of birth experience are you choosing to have and why? What other birthing experiences have you had?
This is my first pregnancy so I haven’t had any other birthing experiences. I’m not one to easily rush to the doctor or reach for an aspirin bottle when I don’t feel good. My grandmother was a curandera so she was always our family doctor. It only felt natural for me to seek out other knowledgable women to help guide me in the task of bringing new life into this world. We are currently going to a neighborhood birth center that is located right down the street. I’m planning on giving birth to our little one in water there with the help and support of two midwives y mi dualidad. I feel more comfortable in their hands than at any hospital so I just pray everything goes well throughout my pregnancy and during labor so that I don’t have to step foot into a hospital. They’re all about making me feel at home and bringing in our own medicine such as our sahumador, copal, hand drum, guitar, and any other element we may want to bring in. I know that our baby won’t be rushed away from me after birthing, he’ll be in my arms and will remain in the same room with us at all times. I don’t like the idea of being drugged up or plugged into machines while going through the experience of bringing life into the world, I don’t think that this should be the norm. Much of what we experience in our day to day lives such as getting an education, finding work, deciding where to live, and attaining medical care is political in a way or to some extent. There are standards on what is considered to be appropriate for specific people when it comes to all of the above.
Does politics and/or economic play a role in this decision?  How?
One thing my husband and I have had to deal with is the limited access to care that our insurance has to offer. They will not cover any percentage of my care at a birth center so we must pay everything out of pocket. Even having to obtain an ultrasound has been a bit of a struggle since many imaging centers that are covered by our insurance refuse to work with midwives. I’ve expressed this frustration with our midwives. I’m sure they have already felt this emotion in dealing with these types of institutions and the way that they are viewed in this profession compared to doctors. Still, they don’t even flinch. They keep a very positive outlook and work with us on adjusting our payment plan to better suit our needs. Their support is incredible!
How can folks support you? 
We haven’t created any fundraisers for our expenses


[su_spoiler title=”Yvette Mendez, Elder” anchor=”Accordion-6″]

The following is an oral herstory via phone with Yvette Mendez, elder from San Antonio, Texas



Iris Rodriguez

Iris Rodriguez is a Network Producer / Digital Strategist / Musical Artist / Author at Xica Media. If you enjoy the work we do, please donate to sponsor/support Xica Nation and Xica Media networks:

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