On a corner adjacent to a cantina, across the street from a home full of barefoot children running through open doorways, and a few houses down from a paleteria y fruteria in San Antonio, Texas, sits a bright white house dressed up in orange trimmings – Casa Coatlicue. Before you walk through the gate you notice a raised bed of herbs, a garden, a large collection of potted succulents, and a metate on the ground. Walking inside you can’t help but smell the sage, copal, and other herbs and incense that have left their smoky traces on the walls of the living room, the kitchen, and then the bedroom. As the house begins to introduce itself, you notice altars in corners and crevices of each room. Your curiosity begins to churn as you notice pictures and canvasses on the walls of ancient and present day cultural symbols, including one poster that reads “This land was Mexican once, and indigenous always,” and a large picture of Selena Quintanilla that captures her warm smile and beautiful black hair. As soon as you begin to take in the colors and ancient smells, the house is introduced to you by name, Casa Coatlicue, the home of four queer young healers, dreamers, lovers, artists, scholars, and spiritual activists who are reclaiming the life-giving traditions of their ancestors.
Earlier this year, I was invited to a curanderismo workshop hosted at Casa Coatlicue. The word curanderismo had an air of secrecy, power, and nostalgia of home for me. I understood curanderismo as the medicine and magic of our grandmothers, and increasingly the forgotten inheritance of our communities. As I spoke with the residents of Casa Coatlicue, we began to identify the chronic erasure and appropriation of brown folks’ spiritual traditions, food, art, and customs by predominantly white, new age culture. Saddened by the loss and the historical disconnect of our people, we collectively affirmed the urgency and importance of relearning and reclaiming our own spiritual traditions not only to tap back into our cultural identity as native and mestizo people but also to tap into a powerful tool for the transformation of our current realities. In the midst of historic and present day manifestations of systemic violence against us – young brown bodies being gunned down in our streets, whole communities being persecuted, incarcerated, and displaced, as well as forced sterilization and assimilation- there is a critical need to tap into radical and sustainable ways to not only resist but to heal.
Consequently, I attended the workshop with great eagerness and was amazed to find myself sitting in a room filled mostly with queer folk and women under the age of 35 who, like me, were committed to learning more about spiritual and healing practices that honor who we are as indigenous mestizo people. We sat in a circle and told stories of our relationship to the land, to particular plants and herbal remedies that we heard in our homes growing up, and to the words used mostly by women elders to name and explain the land and its healing properties. These indigenous remedies, words, and expressions hummed in us as we smiled and affirmed shared memories and experiences of our mothers, tias, and other caretakers. The personal stories we shared included our awareness of herbs, tonics, foods, and, more readily, the sacredness of the feminine spirits that connect us back to the life-giving role of our planet and our universe. For some, including myself, this was the first time we’d come into this kind of sharing without shame or embarrassment.
The space at Casa Coatlicue was a space of rediscovery, reimagining, and reclaiming for ourselves an inheritance of spirit, healing, and agency. Through our stories and our intentional learning of spiritual ritual and healing practices that connected us back to the cosmology of our ancestors, we recognize and understand that our conditions as native people has been framed by a narrative of religious shame and colonial erasure. Yet our presence at Casa Coatlicue was a testament of our commitment to heal and reconcile the inherited wounds that history and present day reality has inflicted. Part of the radical transformation that was happening in this place was our respectful acknowledgment of what has survived in our violent journeys and indeed how powerful these gifts continue to be in our lives when we dare to make them relevant. For me personally, being able to share this space of learning with my woman-identified partner affirmed that there is room for me to be queer in a spiritual and culturally relevant community when I choose to participate in the sacred work of decolonizing myself while reimagining old frameworks. I have increasingly found that this creative work is not only important but also necessary for our survival.
I am not sure where the lives of its residents will take them or how the identity of Casa Coatlicue will grow, but I know for sure that this space is life giving and a powerful example of how a new generation of spiritual healers and leaders of color, many of us women, some of us queer, are choosing to survive. Our violent realities force us to look back and seek the guidance of our mothers and our ancestors. We are not running from our wounds and our complex history. We are not buying into the numbing condition of mass assimilation and voyeuristic consumption within the frameworks of white male privilege. We are not allowing our selves to be fragmented for the convenience of oppression and violence. We are less and less willing to hand over our autonomy and agency to systems and institutions that do not recognize the sacredness of our traditions and our stories. In the midst of labor pains and rebirth, we are becoming into that which the great creative spirit has called us to be. Tlazokamati.
 Coatlicue is the Nahuatl name for a Meso American goddess of the earth also known as the serpent skirted mother of the gods. Her story is used by Gloria Anzaldua to describe the Coatlicue state, a state of powerful contradiction and transformation in between life and death.
 The metate is a traditional Native American tool used to grind maiz or other organic materials during medicinal or food preparation.
Erica Granados De La Rosa, also known as Erica GDLR, and more recently as Edyka Chilomé on social media, is a queer woman of color spoken word poet, writer, MC, community activist, and scholar of Latina American indigenous descent. Erica holds a B.A. in social and political philosophy from Loyola University Chicago and an M.A. in Women’s Studies from Texas Women’s University. She has been invited to share her spoken word poetry and speak on social justice issues around the country including The Dallas Museum of Art, The Prindle Institute for Ethics, Boston University School of Theology, The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, The United Methodist General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, TEDx, and National Public Radio. Erica was born in Baltimore Maryland and grew up all over the United States. She currently lives in Denton Texas with her partner and her cat. You can follow more of her work at ericagdlr.blogspot.com and follow her own twitter at @ericagdlr.
8 thoughts on “Casa Coatlicue by Erica Granados De La Rosa”
Beautiful and stirring post. Maeve Rhuad (narrative character of my novels) just sent you a friend request.
Thank you for letting me know!
First of all, I like that you call yourself “queer,” instead of “gay,” but I’m not sure why. Secondly, along with protest, I wonder if we could give more blog space here to support structures already in place, and which affirm our lives and our rights. For instance, the feeling today of being uplifted, thanks, Erica — we need more of this sort of blog, with its magical, magnificent and artfully crafted celebration of Casa Coatlicue:
“The space at Casa Coatlicue was a space of rediscovery, reimagining, and reclaiming for ourselves an inheritance of spirit, healing, and agency.”
Hey Meg! Thanks for your comment! I prefer the term queer because I, like my preferred lovers, partners, and chosen family don’t often fit neatly in the binaries of gender and sexuality. Many of us are gender fluid, trans, poly or simply do not feel connection to the Gay/Straight binary that use words such as lesibian, gay, or bi. I have noticed as a younger generation this is more common a narrative.
Thank you so much Meg for the feedback I appreciate it. :) May you continue to find magic and artfully crafted celebration around you and within you as you walk.
Thank you for this. It gave me a lot to reflect on as a Palestinian and a person who can relate to a lot of what you described and the colonial past/present. Yes, we need to work on decolonizing ourselves as well…
Thank you Hanadi. Blessings in your process.
A stirring post! I’m excited for you and for all the other folks who pass through Casa Coatlicue. What does Tlazokamati mean? Creative?
Thank you Nancy. Tlazokamati is the Nahuatl term for thank you. :)