Plan II (History and Mexican American Studies IE Pre-Grad Intern) Senior Liliana Edith Barrios
My name is Liliana Barrios and this is my fourth year as a UT Plan II major and my third semester as a UT Plan II/Spanish major. I had the fortune of learning about the Pre-Graduate School Internship Program thanks to a great professor who is dearest to me, Dr. McKiernan-Gonzalez. I took his course on the History of the Mexican-American people this past spring semester and it greatly changed and redefined my way of thinking about the significance of my identity and my need to recover it. It was not till I took his course that I really began to reflect just how much of history is and will always be distorted by those who are in control, those who write it. It was therefore clear to me that the history which is closest and most personal to me has been presented to me by authors who may/or may not have deliberately degraded my experience and the experiences of those who've raised me. Facing yet another identity crisis I saw this as an opportunity to look within me, and explore works by authors whom I could relate to in the realm of experienced as opposed to the realm of humanity.
Thus, I agreed to join the internship not because I was trying to determine whether I wanted to go to graduate school (this has always been an aspiration of mine), but because I wished to learn more about myself and my true personal desires apart from anything that has been socialized into me. What better way of achieving this than with the help of an amazing mentor, Christina Garca, who understands my anxieties and has been more than willing to help me every step of the way and the knowledge that there is an amazing professor, Dr. McKiernan-Gonzalez who believes in me? Even though I was going to explore perilous grounds I was confident in that I was not going to be left alone to die.
This has definitely been an appropriate semester to partake in the program because, whereas last semester was one in which I learned that I have been suppressing my identity, this semester has been the one in which I am trying to rediscover my identity and (in doing so) finally being able to flourish as an artist and individual free of repressions and free of cognitive-censorship. I want to be an honest artist not one that subjugates her works to the parameters that have been set by the dominant culture so that they may be able to fit in. My works are like my children and as a good mother would, I'll allow them to "be as [they] wast wont to be; see as [they] wast wont to see" (A Midsummer Night's Dream). But in order to do this I must star off my embracing everything I am and feel.
Identity is probably not the correct word to use when referring to my heritage and that realm of emotions and passion which can only be cogitated and expressed through my manifesting my native language Espaol; unfortunately, I cannot summon a word that solely encompasses all of this. What I do know is this: that throughout my college career (and most of my life) I have been too preoccupied with studying the human condition that is found in Shakespeare and The Classics (Euripides, Homer, Sophocles, Ovid, Hesiod) instead of looking within me to find the answers or even a clue. It is as if I have been trying to validate my existence by demonstrating that I too am capable of understanding (and appreciating) such marvelous works. It is as if I do not truly love what I've assured I love at all. Could it be true? Or was I just questioning myself, yet again? Am I this insecure?
Last spring I realized this was so because I did not believe my experiences were valid, nor that I had a voice worth hearing. After all, I am only a Mexican girl who has been raised in the U.S. and most refer to me as an alien. To the American society I don't even exist-I cannot vote much less become someone who speaks to people, who touches them or simply makes them smile with a story. To make matters worse, within those who share my culture, background, or even nationality, I have "educated myself out of a husband" (my mentor's mom). I don't even like to listen to myself sometimes because I wish I had something more joyful to say. And so it is that the real stories and events in my works are veiled under analogies and inanimate objects. I cannot just "say it like it is", I have to make my experiences artistic and beautiful to counter their inherent despair.
Realizing this made me feel naked, and I was faced with the dreadful questions: Have I conditioned myself to loving Shakespeare and The Classics because I want intellectual and human validation? What do I really want for myself? Validation: It was far more easy dealing with it when I was a green little girl because it was physical: "Genesis explains why it is women who often need to offer their bodies to any male gaze that will legitimize them Women tend to worry about physical perfection in a way men seldom do because Genesis says that all men are created perfect, whereas woman began as an inanimate piece of meat; malleable, unsculpted, unauthorized, raw-imperfect" (Naomi Wolf: The Beauty Myth). I was anorexic. But now that the issue of validation arises again it hurts because I have chosen who I am, my genes chose my body. I am to blame.
One semester later I have made substantial progress. Thanks to the advice and moral/personal support that my Graduate Student mentor Christina Garca has given me, I am now more confident in myself and more confident in my passions. It took a nasty heart-break to find myself running back to my men (Shakespeare, Euripides, Wilde and most recently Cervantes, Bcquer, and Lorca) for shelter, for nurturing, for beauty, and most importantly for understanding and love. These are the men that will never fail me, these are the mean to who I am loyal always and many more will come.
Needless to say, I do love what I love, I know not how I even came to doubt this. It was this process of questioning and doubting, however, that has allowed me to expose my subconscious intentions in order to put them into perspective. I plan to continue this process so that I can improve as an artist for artists must know themselves truly and freely. Thanks to this program I have taken the first step.