Friday, March 21, 2008

A Tribute to Laura Ann Villegas, 1953 - 1992:

[Left image is from a 1978 Talking Leaf newspaper clipping & right image shows Laura in 1984 on one of her non-stop Solidarity Building efforts for Big Mountain Dineh Resistance.]

A Tribute to Laura Ann Villegas, 1953 - 1992:
“The Xicano Warrior Woman, Mother / Walker of LW78, & Sister to the Black Mesa Struggle”

Laura was born in 1953 in East Los Angeles at a time the Chicano communities were struggling to be accepted within the white dominant societies of LA’s suburbs. Her family was one of those that got caught up in abandoning their Xicano roots and assimilating into the mainstream Hispanic world. Eventually, Laura’s parents were impacted intensely from the conflicts of identity as her father, Ernesto, felt he was still an Indigena from Mexico’s province of Vera Cruz. Her mom, Carmen, came from a familia that moved to LA from the U.S. state of Tejas, and Carmen also tried to battle the American forces to change identity. In Laura’s own words in 1980, “My parents became separated because of this assimilation process of Hispanization. To be more accepted as ‘Caucasians,’ it was ideal for Xicanos back then to move to South Pasadena, and my father couldn’t accept that and he wanted to stay in the los barrios of east LA.”

Laura was attending Garfield High School in east LA when the Chicano Moratorium was taking place which was a nationwide protest to the U.S. racist and slavery policies implemented on the United Farm Workers and all others of Mexican descend. She chose at this time to believe in what is right and that was to stand with la lucha de pueblos. She became an organizer for human rights when there were “walk outs” organized in protest, being a youth volunteer and being present when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, collaborating with the Brown Berets, and eventually building solidarity between the Xicano struggle and the American Indian Movement. Laura once recalled, “Everyone that I knew in this city wanted to leave the city and live in the country, and if some of us were lucky, we would end up living with nature the way the traditional natives do like on Black Mesa. I, too, had committed myself to leave this city back then.”

A small group organized to work with and support the issues of traditional, indigenous peoples was run by Felix and Stella Montoya during the 1970s. Laura coordinated fund raising and sponsorship of mainly Hopi elders to come to testify at the Los Angeles Water & Power headquarters. Traditional Hopis were very concerned for the fate of Black Mesa’s natural pristine environment because of what their prophecy outlined and because Peabody coal company had contracted to solve southern California’s energy needs. Laura and the Montoyas finally visited Hopi country and New Mexico. These travel experiences reinforced Laura’s commitment that she must get out of the city. Her unexpected way of leaving the city came in 1979 when she helped a Big Mountain elder’s visit to LA and when she met the father-to-be of her daughter, her third and last child.

Big Mountain’s traditional Dineh (Navajo) needed a more affective coordinator and organizer, and Laura took up this major task. With in two years and with Laura’s great peaceful energy, Big Mountain elders were networking with the world and forming stronger alliances with other Indian nations. Non-Indian support groups grew and the first Lakota Sun Dance in Dineh country took place by 1983. Laura was that bright problem-solver that came among Big Mountain’s traditional matriarch society and nearly began to build a nation. Her city life beginnings became the past as she meditated and sat in the ceremonial circles of the Indigenous world. Unfortunately, the human toll still existed even far away from the city as her personal life encountered much hardship.

By 1992, she wanted to continue what she always loved to do and that was to help in organizing a spiritual Walk across the country in celebration for the 500 years of Indigenous survival to European colonialism. She was again happy and felt rejuvenated but at the same time she expressed to her former companion, “I know that Great Spirit will call on me someday. Remember that whenever that happens; don’t let (them) take me back to the city. I want You to make sure that I am laid to rest out here on these lands.” Then she began to wear sunglasses all the time saying, “This is my mask. I don’t want my face seen too much.” One afternoon while working as an organizer for the spiritual walk, her driver fell asleep as she was napping from fatigue and their car crashed head on, and Laura’s duty as a warrior, in this world, ended.

- © Sheep Dog Nations Rocks on behalf of Laura’s daughter, 2008