I am Estephanie Martinez-Alfonzo. My maternal Grandmother, Soralya, is Venezuelan. My maternal Grandfather, Herman, is Venezuelan and Spanish. My paternal Grandmother, Carmen, is an indigenous woman of the Cumanagoto people of the Anzoategui territories in Venezuela, and my paternal Grandfather Raphael is an indigenous man from the Los Llanos; the plains of Venezuela.
So I am mixed, I am biracial, I am indigenous and a part of the Venezuelan diaspora.
I am queer and my pronouns are both she/her and they/them.
My path has wound from Venezuela to Boston to the unceded Penobscot territories of the Wabanaki Confederacy, what we call Maine, where I live now.
My Indigenous “Venezuelan” Ancestors were among the first people to encounter the violence that European colonization brought to these lands. As a trauma-coping and literal survival mechanism, my family consciously disassociates themselves from the ways of our ancestors. So I was raised with a perspective that is strongly shaped by the lenses of colonialism and Christianity. My experience is common. “Latin Americans,” who are Indigenous people, often have internalized the traumas of colonization to the point of strongly identifying with colonial values. My Grandmother Carmen’s tribe was actively displaced during her life, and she moved to a city and changed her name. When I ask her about this history, she say “It was shameful to be Indigenous. No one has ever asked. No one wanted to know.” [a translation of the spanish language]
It only takes one person within a family to keep a culture alive; to ask to make the traditional foods or play the traditional music. One request or invitation can draw people away from the distraction of the dominating culture and back into the kitchen. Our Indigenous ways are still very close, even if they are dusty, almost-forgotten seeds in the back of my Grandmother’s kitchen cabinet, waiting to be cleaned off and tended again. Those ways are alive in the stories of my Grandmother raising fawns in her house, in the familiar rhythms waiting in my Grandfather’s drums as he sits alone in the corner of the yard. Will anyone ask him to sing? Will anyone learn to carry those songs forward? It only takes one person to ask, and it only takes one generation to forget.
I share this from a place of deep gratitude for all my ancestors’ lives, resistance, and survival that brought me here. Healing the wounds they suffered within myself, my family, and my lineage is a large part of who I am. I’ve worked little by little to dust off and tend these seeds, and the culture that I hope to pass forward will be more supportive and stronger than what I have inherited.
My identity is rooted in re-membering my cultural traditions while sharing decolonization practices and cultivation of deep connection to nature. I’ve been in the process of excavating my own voice and power; uncovering myself from all the generations of dust and chains that colonization and oppression have put on me, so that I can become the thinker, advocate, and mentor that I am called to be. Connecting with our birthrights of close relationship to land is an intense healing process of personal empowerment and liberation. Part of my joy comes from helping others who have faced similar oppression and repression- those historically ripped from deep, personal relationships with the natural world within the history of the colonization of the land and people. Nature herself is our pedagogy. Deepening our connection to nature is an avenue for healing this great moral reckoning of our time.
I am blessed to be a convergence of many potent lineages of thought and analysis.
My greatest teacher is Mother Earth. She holds us up every day, and I do my best to ground every word and action in integrity with her.
I studied and taught at The Wildwood Path, and the teachings of that school shaped me deeply. The lineages that inform that program have informed me directly, and can be seen in more depth on their website.
My thinking is constantly evolving, and these days I have the blessing of being in contact with many beautiful beings, both locally and around the world whose work strongly influences me.
Here are a set of authors, educators, activists who have shaped and continue to shape my thinking:
Adrienne Maree Brown
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Sobonfu & Malidoma Some
Octavia E. Butler
I share so much gratitude for these brilliant people, and all the other influences in my life – my family, friends, the broader community, those unseen and whom I have not thought to name. Thank you.
Let’s Work Together
Unceded Penobscot Territory
Unity, ME 04988