As this is my first blog post as a Managing Partner for ISP (or ever), it feels appropriate to share of my self-identity and familial history, with a focus on how these narratives inform my approach to psychological and systemic frameworks. In her book Borderlands: La Frontera, The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldua refers to the US-Mexican border as una herida abierta- an open wound where two worlds merge to form a third state, a border culture. This border culture is marked by vagueness; it is an undetermined place, instantiated by the emotional residue of arbitrary and unnatural boundaries. This concept of borderlands and border culture resonates for me as I myself am a child of borders.
My maternal great grandparents were born in Mexico’s Puerto de Luna. Due to la Sale de la Mesilla, or the Gadsden Purchase, my great grandparents became foreigners overnight. As my mother tells the history, my family awoke one morning to be told, “This is your flag,” and “You will speak English.” My grandfather enrolled in the local school as Desidario “Yeyo” Chavez, but was informed by his teachers that his name would now be David. This loss of name, language, and national identity marked the beginning of my family’s experience of historical loss—a loss of land, culture, way of being, and way of knowing.
My father was born in present-day Pakistan, what was then British India. When the colony attained independence, new national boundaries were delineated by colonial entities based on religious majority areas; this was the Butwara or Partition. Thousands of families, including that of my father, were forced to migrate as their communities were no longer considered safe. While texts on the Butwara tell of mass displacement, murder, looting, arson, rape, and honor killings, the private stories told and retold among surviving South Asians illuminate the divisions and contradictions that continue to exist in everyday life.
The roots of my identity are firmly anchored in my family’s legacies. From their narratives of resilience, I extend my own branches. As a multiracial female psychologist, I have wrestled with my own notion of identity, of being culturally other, and how this impacts my engagement with the world around me. Such exploration led me to recognize and draw strength from my family’s ability to resist the identities placed on us from our historical and regional contexts. Processes of introspection and questioning have empowered me to reconnect with the ways of being and ways of knowing from my family’s heritage, facilitating a continual integration of this cosmology with my own identity as a Westerner. I have come to learn that those that live and breathe border culture must live sin fronteras, sarhado ke bina, without borders. While this leaves me at a perpetual cross roads, it also necessitates that I look inside myself to find my psychological sense of home. This home is secured in family histories and continues to grow while merging with my own lived experiences, relationships, and aspirations. It is perhaps my greatest attribute, and one that translates into my clinical work as the base from which I can provide clients with warmth and gentle strength as they explore their own narratives and sense-of-self. To understand more about how my familial history and personal identity have shaped my approach to systemic partnerships and international work, return to our blog next week.