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A Conversation with Hank Herrera

One of my favorite conversations in this class was lead and facilitated by Hank Herrera. He began the conversation by reminding us that we were on Ohlone land and welcoming us to the space. He proceeded to talk about a variety of topics including the importance of Ohlone narratives, the Mexican hegemony with respect to indigeneity, and food justice as indigenous resistance. He even shared with us his thoughts on the UC Gill Tract Community Farm and cross-cultural solidarity.

Hank Herrera’s lecture was amazing! His words reminded me to continue to check myself and to ask myself how I participate in systems of oppression. In particular, I was grateful and honored to hear him speak about the way that the Mexican hegemony is destructive and dangerous. The lecturer said that growing up, he identified as Mexican—not because he had any connection to Mexico—but because it was his family told him to identify with (presumably, for his safety) and it was the identity that was assigned to him by his peers. However, he noted, even as a child, the lecturer grew up consuming foods associated with Ohlone food ways. Food was his connection to his culture, despite being told that he was not indigenous. His words made me reflect on the treatment of people who are not Mexican, but are “Mexican-passing”/are identified as Mexican. In California, people who are “Mexican-passing” have their histories and narratives erased by Mexican narratives. It made me think about all the identities that are erased by the Mexican hegemony. In my own community in Southeast Los Angeles, Mexicans and other non-Central American people erase the narratives of Central Americans. Often, Central Americans will adopt a Mexican identity for their own safety in such Mexican-dominated spaces. I began to think about the ways that I might be contributing to such injustices and how I could be participating in the hegemonic culture that is destroying so many other cultures. To clarify, I am not conflating the issues: the erasure of Central Americans and the erasure of Ohlone people are two separate issues and should be treated as such, but I think it was important for me to see how this lesson was applicable at home. While on the farm, I constantly reflected on his words considering the ways that I was contributing to inequity. I am glad to have had such necessary reminders and hope I can take what I learned in this class, especially in this conversation with Hank Herrera, back home.

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