Thursday, April 21, 2022

Chicanonautica: Sci-Fi Self Portraits and the Chicano Imagination

by Ernest Hogan

As things often do these days, this started with an email. Alex Hernandez, one of the editors of Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology, invited me to a Zoom event: Latinx Visions Workshop: Mutants, Monstrose, y Migrants. It would feature artists creating science fiction versions of themselves.

It would also be another opportunity to commit self-promotion in public. I said yes.

Unfortunately, it was scheduled to take place when I was at work. We decided that I could do something in advance, and make a quick, fashionably late appearance if I could get home in time.

It would also get me back into drawing. Writing has been eating up most of my time lately, not to mention knocking my brain into safe mode. One of my goals for the near future is to make drawing, and spontaneous cartooning and surrealism, part of my life again.

An idea hit me immediately. Since my imagination is my superpower, I had my skull bubbled out, and my hypothalamus bursting forth as a third eye. I did a thumbnail in my on-the-run sketchbook, then sat down at my neglected drawing board . . .

Alex liked it, and asked for a few sentences explaining how it relates to my “Latino/Chicano” identity.

I obliged: 

I'm amazed that the Latino/Chicano imagination isn't recognized as a superpower or a deadly weapon. It's like I can shoot rays out of that invisible hypothalamus/third eye and cause reality to warp. Or maybe it's my Aztec nose? Just a bit of ancient Chicano wisdom.

Then I got to thinking. The imagination of those of us in the Latinoid continuum is a definite phenomenon in all of the arts. I never thought about why. It’s always there, in my head, and no matter where I go.

The reason is because of our mestizaje— the fact that we come from a complicated, volatile mix of cultures, going way back to the Muslim occupation of Spain and recomboculture of Teotihuacán, and maybe even the controversial possibility of an Olmec/African connection, or the yet to be discovered lost civilizations of the Amazon Basin that probably genetically engineered the banana.

And it’s not just a done deal in the past, we keep adding to our rasquache— cultural appropriation of a different kind. When we find ourselves in a new place, encountering new cultures and languages, we make use of them and add our own stuff, making it our own. We don’t just seek out new life and new civilizations, we are new life and new civilizations.

When the day came, I did manage to get on the tail end of the workshop. Alex has shown my picture and read my statement. Students were inspired. They drew their own science fiction versions of themselves, creating and defining their own identities; encouraging to see in this age when pre-packaged identities and lifestyles are being peddled by corporations all across the interwebs.

Don’t just consume, create. Your lives, and the future, will be better for it. Another bit of  ancient Chicano wisdom.

Ernest Hogan is the Father of Chicano Science Fiction. He has a story in Speculative Fiction for Dreamers, and a preface and story in El Porviner, ¡Ya! Citlalzazanilli Mexicatl.

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