• Brooke López

Anahí Ponce: Expanding the Xicanx identity

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

​Anahí Ponce is an El Paso-based Xicana activist. Living in la frontera, or border community, Anahí embraces the fluidity that makes up Xicanx culture between Mexico and Texas. She founded Chicas de Chuco, a non-profit based organization in El Paso that brings leadership resources and organizing opportunities to womxn in the community. Even though she was born and raised in a predominantly Chicanx community, Anahí has been criticized by fellow Chicanx folks for not speaking Spanish fluently. It is a dilemma prominent for many Chicanx folks who were raised by grandparents or parents who were oppressed during an era of newly integrated schools in Texas. But Anahí is determined to expand the Chicanx identity—not limited by language. 

Anahí was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, a city located on the western border of Texas and Mexico. Growing up in la frontera, Anahí vividly remembers travelling back and forth between Ciudad Juarez and her hometown. She never felt that she was living on a “border” but rather living in a central community enveloped in culture. In fact, she believes this shaped her positive political perspective toward immigration policies.

Aside from being raised in the ground-zero for immigration policy, Anahí also believes her mother and grandmother helped shape her political perspective as her first role models. Anahí’s grandmother immigrated to the United States at a young age. Soon after, she ended an abusive marriage and decided to go back to school where she received her Bachelors and Masters in Social Work. Anahí’s mother also went back to school when Anahí and her brother were young. Anahí’s grandmother and mother felt it was important to acquire education as a form of agency over one’s life.

With machismo culture present in the Latinx community (a term used to describe toxic masculinity), Anahí recognizes why her mother and grandmother pushed her into higher education. Anahí attended (and recently graduated) from the University of Texas at El Paso where she earned her Bachelors in English and American Literature. She plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin to pursue the PhD program in Mexican-American and Latinx studies—a journey that will take five to six years. This trajectory was far different from her original plan to pursue a law degree. Anahí underwent a transformative set of experiences that pushed her into Chicanx studies.

Anahí attended NEW Leadership Texas in 2018, a program that pushes college-aged women into the political arena. There, she realized she could be an activist in her community without going through the channel towards a law degree specifically. “There is no one clear path to take,” she says. It was at NEW Leadership that Anahí began to formulate the concept for Chicas de Chuco.

Chicas de Chuco is a non-profit focused on sharing organizing opportunities with womxn in the El Paso area (“El Chuco” being a nickname for the El Paso area). Anahí found a need for Chicas when she realized that she often only knew about certain opportunities, because she had been privileged enough to have connections to folks who were able to point her in the right direction. She interned with former Congressman Beto O’Rourke and afterwards was inspired to become involved in a number of different organizing spaces and has similarly worked to promote civic engagement in her community. Anahí believes that everyone should have those opportunities without necessarily having to have those connections. As a result, Chicas de Chuco works to advertise nonpartisan opportunities or events with local organizations. Her goal was to play a central role in turning out engagement for the many entities already making an impact in her area. Now that Anahí plans to move to Austin for her doctoral program, she has brought on a team of folks who are helping her run this organization.

Growing up in El Paso, Anahí says she was not in a position where she personally faced blatant discrimination. However, she has faced a few microaggressions from all fronts because of her Latinx identity (a term used to describe indirect or subtle discrimination). On one front, Anahí has been asked to nickname herself Anna to make her name “easier” for people to pronounce. On another front, Anahí has been judged for not speaking Spanish fluently. Historically during the era of integration, Spanish-speaking communities were shunned from speaking or writing in their native language. As a result, the children and grandchildren of this era do not speak Spanish fluently or comfortably because of the oppression faced by earlier generations. As a Xicana who does not speak Spanish fluently, she has been told she is not “Xicana” enough or that she cannot belong to the Chicanx organizing movement. However, Anahí is combatting this flawed concept through advocacy of an expanded Chicanx identity. “Being Xicana is not a definitive identity,” she says, “[i]dentity is not meant to be a box to check off like you fit all the parameters.” Anahí looks forward to speaking more about this issue of language barriers, as well as classist/economic barriers, that are present in the Latinx or Chicanx organizing movements in her research in graduate school.

To learn more about Anahí’s work with Chicas de Chuco, visit their Facebook page here:https://www.facebook.com/ChicasDeChuco/

Do you have questions about the terminology used in this article? Feel free to email your questions to the author Brooke López at brooke@lonestarparityproject.org.

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