Amplifying BIPOC Voices: Ximena Itan Dehui Reyes Torres

A Story to Listen to. A Story to Share.

This is another installation of my Amplifying BIPOC Voices series. The series shares BIPOC stories onto my platform as a way to get their true, authentic voice out to the world. These stories are NOT written by me, only published and curated by me to amplify these underrepresented voices using my platform. This story is written by Ximena Itan Dehui Reyes Torres.

My name is Ximena Itan Dehui Reyes Torres. I am Mexicana to the bone and although my name has changed after moving to the United States to only Ximena, or Zimena, or X-mena, not to mention other bizarre variations, both parts of my name are the anchor that keep me rooted to my culture and my indigenous lineage. In the Mayan language, “Itan Dehui” means flor del cielo, flower of the sky. Ximena is a Spanish name written with a Mexican X instead of the traditional J. Both parts of my name represent the blending of two cultures, two histories, and two languages: Indigena y Español, that came together to form la raza Mexicana. Both parts of my name are also a blatant reminder that while imperialism and white supremacy attempted to erase my nativeness, I am proof that it never will succeed.

I was born in Atenco, México but spent most of my infant years in the historic pueblo of San Juan Teotihuacan. Growing up I remember Teotihuacán being called one of the most touristic places in central México, with foreigners from every corner of the globe flooding the streets of the Mercado del Centro and La Avenida de Los Muertos. In this pueblo de encantos, I witnessed the setting of the red, fiery sun behind the prehistoric Aztec pyramids of the sun and moon every evening. The pyramids and the surrounding historic sites were one of the few remaining emblems of the Aztec Empire, a reminder that they withstood the full weight of Spanish imperialism. Tragically, I did not understand the full historic and cultural significance of my town and the remaining prehispanic archaeological treasures within it until I was forced to leave them behind. Even more tragically, as a naive child, I could not comprehend the layers of systemic abuse, corruption, imperialist and capitalist exploitation, and violence that forced my family to escape our own country. And so with that, I experienced the linguistic and cultural metamorphosis that so many Latinx immigrants painfully undergo when they leave behind everything they know and cherish in search for a more politically and economically stable environment.

Now, I know many Fox and Friends viewers out there are wondering if I came to the U.S “legally.” Yes I did, because my family and I were privileged enough to pay thousands of dollars for visas, work authorization cards, travel permits, and passports. But the truth is, my family and I have also waited over sixteen years (and are still waiting) to receive a permanent residency from the U.S government which over the past four years has explicitly branded people from my country as rapists, drug dealers, and criminals. My parents have taken out over $50,000 dollars in loans to cover the costs of the application process, the medical screenings, and immigration lawyers all while paying taxes and receiving close to zero government benefits. Despite the hardship, I am grateful for the immense support of the Latinx community which nurtured, taught, and provided scholarships for me during my academic journey and which supported and continues to support my parent’s business.

As a current political science major and a research assistant studying the intersection between politics and the business environment at the University of Rochester, I have had the paradoxical experience of deeply learning about the political and economic machinery of this nation while siloed from any participation in elections or political campaigns because of my immigration status. Attending a predominantly White university which branded itself as a “global village” has struck me with the realization that higher education institutions often view diversity as a checkbox. “Diversity” somehow means 9% of your student body is Black and Latinx. “Inclusion” somehow means that as a Latinx woman, I am stereotyped and hypersexualized by my peers and faced with comments like, “your skin is so exotic”, “you don’t look Mexican”, “I wish I was tan like you” or “call me papi”.

As an NCAA collegiate athlete in a predominantly White sport I have heard my name butchered and altered over the loudspeaker at championship races and award ceremonies. Officials have renamed me or decided to chop off one of my two last names because Reyes Torres is “un-American”. At a cross country meet in upstate New York my name was skipped altogether during an award ceremony because “Ximena Reyes Torres” was too much of ethnic name to even bother asking someone how it is pronounced. And so my name carries both a story and a reminder. It is the story of a native people trying to preserve the indigenous knowledge, culture, language, food, and traditions of their ancestors while grappling with the undercurrents of white supremacy and imperialism that has economically ravaged our lands, legally defined our humanity, and attempts to strip us of our dignity every single day. It is also a reminder that whether people approve of it or not, that name, its cultural significance, its history, and the person who it belongs to is here to stay.

This is another installation of my Amplifying BIPOC Voices series. The series shares BIPOC stories onto my platform as a way to get their true, authentic voice out to the world. These stories are NOT written by me, only published and curated by me to amplify these underrepresented voices using my platform. This story is written by Ximena Itan Dehui Reyes Torres