Luis Alberto Urrea
Tonantzin in El Paso
I first became aware of Gris during my many visits to El Paso related first to my books about The Saint of Cabora. My tia, Teresita. I hung out with the Byrds, of Cinco Punto Press, and my friend Benjamin Saenz. Crawled cemeteries and Segundo Barrio. Shopped for curandera herbs in Juarez. Then came back to write about the town for various publications.
At the height of the narco depredations across the river, Gris appeared in my inbox.
Having come up amidst the Chicano revolutionary days, a time when we were all seemingly a familia, we all worked on mad projects and world-saving Quixotadas, and nobody was ever formal with each other, I fell right in with her. Esta Gris seemed to believe, like I still do, that it is 1977 and we are all together saving the Raza and the country. She reminded me of all the homies and warriors I knew then
–Alurista, Angela de Hoyos, Ricardo Sanchez, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Rudy Anaya. You can fill in the blanks: pick any santa or santo who stood up and cried out for us.
Although she was discreet about her output, I slowly became aware of her writing, and of her dreams. And I was thrilled when the many words she was crafting and sharing in anthologies and journals coalesced into this first book. It is a vivid, wind-swept thing, this ritual. Multi-lingual, woven with faiths that are ancient and various and somehow one. Feminist, ancient, sophisticated and fervent. Gris moves from poetry to prose and back again. Like so many great Chicana scriptures laid down in our pasts, this is an announcement of arrival and a crie de coeur.
But let us never forget it is also a crie de guerre.
This is the border, cabrones, the mero desierto. This is Apache blood in the veins. This is a dancer and a poet and a healer talking. A rock and roll curandera with a syncretistic religious heart. Tossing off chains as she goes.
I soon started to recognize Gris. I started to see the same spirit that moved in Teresita, La Santa. And the medicine women who taught me their secrets so I could write my books. That’s when I started calling her Tonantzin.
So happy this immense journey has begun. May many travel with you, hermanita.