Truth and Reconciliation
A unique pair of sandals landed on my feet over a decade ago at the most challenging time of my adjustment as a single mother and a newcomer to Canada.
I had never seen a pair of sandals like these. They are known as chappals or guru sandals, made by Swamisz, certified fair trade. A cross between flip flops and sandals. They are very sturdy, made of rubber, with flat soles, a black strap across the middle of the foot and a large black knob between the big and the second toes. The black uppers make a gorgeous contrast to the fuchsia of the soles. Breaking them in was extremely uncomfortable, but we have been walking a rough journey together. It feels that they have come to symbolize the new me.
I emigrated to Canada over two decades ago, seeking a safe place to start a new chapter and recover from childhood wounds and hardships as a survivor of a huge earthquake in Mexico City. I have been living with an invisible disability.
Growing up as a mestiza woman in Texcoco, a pre-Hispanic Aztec City, was overwhelming. My family of origin is a caring and traditional one. My extended family is exceptionally large and complicated, victims perhaps of the vicarious traumas of colonialism.
I was taught to be proud of my colonial Spanish roots and hide my Indigenous roots. I kept thinking, how can I believe in and be proud of those colonial roots that represent murder, shame, violence, diseases, dispossession from land and suppression of language, culture, and identity? They have destroyed the most amazing identities and civilizations of what Indigenous peoples call the Turtle Island, and I felt that included me.
I chose to honour my Indigenous roots. I became very verbal about the brutality of colonialism. By doing this, I felt rejected by my very own community. I got the courage to run away, and all alone, managed to graduate and work as a head nurse. I gained a great sense of autonomy.
However, the shame and anger of those colonial roots just got hidden more deeply within. I knew that I needed to uproot them and find the promised land where I could feel a sense of belonging and nourish healthier roots for myself—and my own family.
The irony of my arrival in Canada is that I had fled my native land seeking validation of my Indigenous heritage. And here I found the First Nations peoples are on their own quest to regain their identity and land, demanding to be acknowledged and validated for all their struggles under colonialism.
Knowing about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave me the strength to go on with my own healing journey and self-validation. Learning English was a powerful way to start, as I saw my Spanish language as part of the wounds imposed by colonialism.
My guru sandals were the first gift of the Moksha Yoga Studio, the yoga of liberation where I volunteered and practised yoga regularly. I have attained a great sense of wellbeing and belonging in my new community—as if I have finally arrived in my true homeland.
Now as an older woman, I am creating peace and self-compassion from the inside out towards something much better, the strength to stand more strongly on my bare feet, using my own body, mind, and breath to love and be proud of who I am.
I have truly reconciled with all aspects of the intersectionality of my Mexican Canadian identity. I believe that my guru sandals and I are quite similar: unique, simple, reliant and beautiful. They make me feel so comfortable in my own skin, finally able to put my best foot forward.