Life + Culture

Born into a Family of Fighters

Papi grew up in the streets of Chalatenango, El Salvador;
photo cred: Papi, April 2015
Please welcome back guest writer Drea Chicas, learner, artist, youth educator and community activist now working in full time urban ministry in Seattle, WA.

I was born into a family of fighters. Papi and his family were raised fighting injustice during the Salvadoran civil war. My brother learned to confront adversity with rage both in the street and at home. My sister used her voice and fists to protect herself. I actively threw left hooks of silence and Mami fought on her knees. Still, we descended from lineages of revolutionary warriors.

So when the youth of Baltimore rise and fight back with slogans of justice and closed fits, it makes sense to me. My spirit remembers my two uncles and aunty who fought to shift the locus of power in their land. The oligarchy known as "The Fourteen families,” owned the majority of El Salvador and brutally oppressed the field-workers. By the 1980s, these inequities inspired revolt across the land, led mainly by youth. Among them was Tia V, who armed herself and organized her pueblo. My two uncles, Jesus Chicas Cartagena and Norberto Chicas Cartagena, followed suit, and joined the uprising as guerilla soldiers. By the time the war "ended" in the early 1990s, the Salvadoran government had murdered and memorialized my uncles. And Tia V reluctantly fled as one of the few surviving luchadoras from her village.

Strapped with this legacy, my father and two of his sisters immigrated to the US carrying invisible knapsacks; heavy with stories of their traumatic yet heroic past. But trauma always has its aftermath; and growing up in the crossfire, with two murdered brothers, weighed Papi down. While survivors of violence need an outlet to heal and process the past, there was no healthy escape for my father. So the home became ground zero. As children, we learned from Papi to stand up to the weapons that came for us. I was born and bred to fight.

"Prayer in action is love, love in action is service. Mother Teresa"When cities like Baltimore rise up, my rebellious spirit activates. Under this climate, the urge to fight and defend resonates with me. I too want to grab my armor of rage and join others in this growing revolution; to fight alongside the masses, who are sick and tired of the inhumane racist practices that aim to destroy us.

Yet, before I walk out the door, girded and ready, I remember to use another weapon, prayer. I remember, Mami fought too. On bended-knee, Mami showed that prayer and meditation were powerful weapons that yielded results.

Others used influence, superiority and charged power, to face oppressive forces. But God’s strategies are different: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6) To a fighter, every weapon counts, especially if it's effective.

While Baltimore makes sense to me, I ask the Great Spirit to shift something in me--to assuage the rage I feel for this beloved country. Because this rage can equally destroy me. With the hope of becoming a strategic fighter, I read more scripture: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor. 10:4) Armed with these sacred reminders, I am left with no other option but to continue fighting.
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