SOME|WHERE | Maria Isabel Martinez

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Living as a child of immigrants rooted in the Colombian diaspora, I have made a habit of examining the history I am born out of, and attempting to interrupt a cycle of harm. To migrate is to embrace the potential for loss, with a deep hope that what awaits is fertile. My family chose to leave Colombia for respite and prosperity and, although Canada has not been as generous as it promised, our citizenship and (relative) belonging offer a haven and a tangible sense of privilege. As someone who exists as a citizen in a settler-colonial nation like Canada, I feel compelled to use this power I have acquired to not reproduce violent, unjust conditions; to not reproduce the conditions that urged my people to leave their homes. I want to honour this power rather than sit and allow this settler society to swallow me into its project. For settler-colonial nations like Canada, the fruitfulness they promise immigrants rests upon what they deny their Indigenous people. This is precisely what I wish to interrogate in my own experience as a person of diaspora. I aim to examine the history of migration, honour the contexts that provoke movement, and still resist further violence in the places we choose to relocate, with the hope that we leave these spaces transformed. This intention is demanding, it requires us to prioritize caring for marginalized communities and specifically Indigenous sovereignty—both in the land we leave and the places we move.

I have been considering the various ways to examine diaspora, whether it be a racial, religious or nation-based diaspora. Though racial diasporas are the most visible and most expansive, the signifiers of how I understand my personal diaspora are not physical. Colombians, and Latinx folks more broadly, are of all races, despite the misconception that we are all brown mestizxs. Mestizaje in Latin America denotes the mixing of Indigenous, Black, and European peoples to form the ideal mestizx; blanqueamiento points to racial “cleansing” towards a white ideal. I, like so many others, am the fruit of colonialism in Latin America and blanqueamiento. My ancestry is muddled, and yet these categories for identification feel insufficient to contain my experience. I can hardly discern other Colombians while out in the world if it were not for their Spanish, their specific accent, or how they bear the flag. I, too, sometimes go undetected. The Colombian diaspora holds many diasporas within it, and the Colombians who have left have often done so to escape civil and political conflict.





I, like so many others, am the fruit of colonialism in Latin America and blanqueamiento.
My ancestry is muddled, and yet these categories for identification feel insufficient to contain my experience.




At the risk of reproducing harmful stereotypes and racist narratives, it is true that most Colombians have fled from domestic terrorism, like the violence perpetrated by drug cartels. It is also true that American and Canadian imperialisms, among many others, have indirectly fueled this violence, and charmed Colombians with fictions of the utopia that awaits them in the Western world. If Colombians manage to leave, they enter new contexts where language becomes a barrier and a bullseye; their skin tones and features are rendered no longer invisible; Afro-Colombians, for example, transition into the context of Blackness in North America. Immigrants are often concerned with acclimatizing to injustices; it is a traumatic adaptation, and an experience I only know through the stories I was privileged to learn.

Still, among this experience of loss and the splitting of identity, the immigrant/settler is not absolved from harm; I know that as a person of a diaspora, I also risk engaging in the ongoing displacement of Indigenous peoples, especially when arriving in a place such as Canada. In the new land, the emigrant may carry their culture and their language forward, but assimilation and learning a new language is adopted as an act of survival. The diasporic identity is a liminal one, where one’s cultural identity is in a precarious state, under the threat of elimination by the culture which hosts you. To remember and reproduce one’s sense of home through language and culture is key to maintaining a sense of self against the threat of obliteration. This threat appears in moments of racism and xenophobia, microaggressions where, oftentimes, Eurocentric modes of being are privileged. The diasporic person may choose to keep their cultural self hidden or disguised, for safety and success in this new land. It germinates in private—in dishes, in music, in communities created like hubs for sanctuary.

The experience of a diaspora and its migrants are often painful, alienating, a violent passage, and yet one’s successful settlement and assimilation can propagate colonial desires. Movement is not apolitical. We must always be cognizant of the circumstances that drove, and continue to drive, people to leave their homes—never to be reproduced elsewhere. How might people of a diaspora also engage in practices that facilitate the elimination of Indigenous peoples? A diaspora is inextricable from history, and history is ridden with blood.

In “Decolonizing Antiracism” Enakshi Dua shares the recognition of her complicity in the ongoing colonization of Indigenous lands as an Indian woman:



“My complicity is complex. First, as an inhabitant of Canada, I live in and own land that has been appropriated from Aboriginal peoples. As a citizen of Canada, I have rights and privileges that are denied to Aboriginal peoples collectively, and that are deployed to deny Aboriginal rights to self-government. Second, as someone involved in anti-racist and progressive struggles, I wonder about the ways in which the bodies of knowledge that I have worked to build have been framed so as to contribute to the active colonization of Aboriginal peoples.”
Lawrence, Bonita and Enakshi Dua. "Decolonizing Antiracism." Social Justice, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2005, 120-143.





I share Dua’s concerns and reflections, and recognize my own complicity and responsibility. Often, reflecting on our experiences of diaspora and migration occludes the communities who are undoubtedly affected by our arrival and, similarly, erases those whose marginalization precludes our migration. I know Indigenous peoples in Colombia are also resisting their own settler-colonial occupation; I know the conflict my family has fled has also directly impacted Indigenous communities and their ways of life. Diaspora is a web, connecting peoples and histories, many of which encompass colonial violence. If we look, we may find that the conditions being resisted here in Canada can be spotted elsewhere. Colonial powers rely on their colonial subjects to thrive.

These considerations arrive from a place of care and hope. I offer meditations on the work left to do, and I recognize the complexities and nuances of every diasporic experience. Diaspora is not a simple category to examine. I understand that the answers to the questions I have posed are destinations, and reaching answers will be strenuous and unsettling for many. It begins with having the diasporic person, and everyone who has arrived in a settler-colonial society, reconsider their position, listen to needs and demands, and reflect deeply. It will be necessary to surrender an investment in the fictions of nation-states like Canada. Instead I propose a new investment in transformative praxis, in love, empathy and justice.


Living as a child of immigrants rooted in the Colombian diaspora, I have made a habit of examining the history I am born out of, and attempting to interrupt a cycle of harm. To migrate is to embrace the potential for loss, with a deep hope that what awaits is fertile. My family chose to leave Colombia for respite and prosperity and, although Canada has not been as generous as it promised, our citizenship and (relative) belonging offer a haven and a tangible sense of privilege. As someone who exists as a citizen in a settler-colonial nation like Canada, I feel compelled to use this power I have acquired to not reproduce violent, unjust conditions; to not reproduce the conditions that urged my people to leave their homes. I want to honour this power rather than sit and allow this settler society to swallow me into its project. For settler-colonial nations like Canada, the fruitfulness they promise immigrants rests upon what they deny their Indigenous people. This is precisely what I wish to interrogate in my own experience as a person of diaspora. I aim to examine the history of migration, honour the contexts that provoke movement, and still resist further violence in the places we choose to relocate, with the hope that we leave these spaces transformed. This intention is demanding, it requires us to prioritize caring for marginalized communities and specifically Indigenous sovereignty—both in the land we leave and the places we move.

I have been considering the various ways to examine diaspora, whether it be a racial, religious or nation-based diaspora. Though racial diasporas are the most visible and most expansive, the signifiers of how I understand my personal diaspora are not physical. Colombians, and Latinx folks more broadly, are of all races, despite the misconception that we are all brown mestizxs. Mestizaje in Latin America denotes the mixing of Indigenous, Black, and European peoples to form the ideal mestizx; blanqueamiento points to racial “cleansing” towards a white ideal. I, like so many others, am the fruit of colonialism in Latin America and blanqueamiento. My ancestry is muddled, and yet these categories for identification feel insufficient to contain my experience. I can hardly discern other Colombians while out in the world if it were not for their Spanish, their specific accent, or how they bear the flag. I, too, sometimes go undetected. The Colombian diaspora holds many diasporas within it, and the Colombians who have left have often done so to escape civil and political conflict.





I, like so many others, am the fruit of colonialism in Latin America and blanqueamiento. My ancestry is muddled, and yet these categories for identification feel insufficient to contain my experience.




At the risk of reproducing harmful stereotypes and racist narratives, it is true that most Colombians have fled from domestic terrorism, like the violence perpetrated by drug cartels. It is also true that American and Canadian imperialisms, among many others, have indirectly fueled this violence, and charmed Colombians with fictions of the utopia that awaits them in the Western world. If Colombians manage to leave, they enter new contexts where language becomes a barrier and a bullseye; their skin tones and features are rendered no longer invisible; Afro-Colombians, for example, transition into the context of Blackness in North America. Immigrants are often concerned with acclimatizing to injustices; it is a traumatic adaptation, and an experience I only know through the stories I was privileged to learn.

Still, among this experience of loss and the splitting of identity, the immigrant/settler is not absolved from harm; I know that as a person of a diaspora, I also risk engaging in the ongoing displacement of Indigenous peoples, especially when arriving in a place such as Canada. In the new land, the emigrant may carry their culture and their language forward, but assimilation and learning a new language is adopted as an act of survival. The diasporic identity is a liminal one, where one’s cultural identity is in a precarious state, under the threat of elimination by the culture which hosts you. To remember and reproduce one’s sense of home through language and culture is key to maintaining a sense of self against the threat of obliteration. This threat appears in moments of racism and xenophobia, microaggressions where, oftentimes, Eurocentric modes of being are privileged. The diasporic person may choose to keep their cultural self hidden or disguised, for safety and success in this new land. It germinates in private—in dishes, in music, in communities created like hubs for sanctuary.

The experience of a diaspora and its migrants are often painful, alienating, a violent passage, and yet one’s successful settlement and assimilation can propagate colonial desires. Movement is not apolitical. We must always be cognizant of the circumstances that drove, and continue to drive, people to leave their homes—never to be reproduced elsewhere. How might people of a diaspora also engage in practices that facilitate the elimination of Indigenous peoples? A diaspora is inextricable from history, and history is ridden with blood.

In “Decolonizing Antiracism” Enakshi Dua shares the recognition of her complicity in the ongoing colonization of Indigenous lands as an Indian woman:



“My complicity is complex. First, as an inhabitant of Canada, I live in and own land that has been appropriated from Aboriginal peoples. As a citizen of Canada, I have rights and privileges that are denied to Aboriginal peoples collectively, and that are deployed to deny Aboriginal rights to self-government. Second, as someone involved in anti-racist and progressive struggles, I wonder about the ways in which the bodies of knowledge that I have worked to build have been framed so as to contribute to the active colonization of Aboriginal peoples.”
Lawrence, Bonita and Enakshi Dua. "Decolonizing Antiracism." Social Justice, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2005, 120-143.



I share Dua’s concerns and reflections, and recognize my own complicity and responsibility. Often, reflecting on our experiences of diaspora and migration occludes the communities who are undoubtedly affected by our arrival and, similarly, erases those whose marginalization precludes our migration. I know Indigenous peoples in Colombia are also resisting their own settler-colonial occupation; I know the conflict my family has fled has also directly impacted Indigenous communities and their ways of life. Diaspora is a web, connecting peoples and histories, many of which encompass colonial violence. If we look, we may find that the conditions being resisted here in Canada can be spotted elsewhere. Colonial powers rely on their colonial subjects to thrive.

These considerations arrive from a place of care and hope. I offer meditations on the work left to do, and I recognize the complexities and nuances of every diasporic experience. Diaspora is not a simple category to examine. I understand that the answers to the questions I have posed are destinations, and reaching answers will be strenuous and unsettling for many. It begins with having the diasporic person, and everyone who has arrived in a settler-colonial society, reconsider their position, listen to needs and demands, and reflect deeply. It will be necessary to surrender an investment in the fictions of nation-states like Canada. Instead I propose a new investment in transformative praxis, in love, empathy and justice.


MARIA ISABEL MARTINEZ | Maria is a Toronto-based writer. Her work presently deals with identity and explores transformative politics. She sees her writing as care work. You can find her previous writing in Ephemera Magazine, cléo journal, and Noisey.
MARIA ISABEL MARTINEZ | Maria is a Toronto-based writer. Her work presently deals with identity and explores transformative politics. She sees her writing as care work. You can find her previous writing in Ephemera Magazine, cléo journal, and Noisey.

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