An unwritten story


Sometimes choosing what makes it into a story and what doesn’t is hard.

It’s like standing on the ol’ playground in elementary school trying to pick the next player on your team. You have an odd number of potential players. Sadly, it seems like someone always gets left out.

For a story I wrote at the Institute, on Chicanos and Native Americans returning to the ceremony of the sweat lodge, I had a lot of great notes and perspectives that didn’t make the cut. One source whose story didn’t make it into my article was that of the Los Angeles rapper 2Mex.

(Note: To learn what exactly a sweat lodge is, read my story here.)

In 2003 2Mex released an album titled Sweat Lodge Infinite. Since I was doing a story on sweat lodges, I figured, Why not call this guy up? He might know a thing or two.

The LP, which I highly recommend, isn’t entirely about sweat lodges, but it is a great example of Chicanos making their Native American roots a part of their everyday life.

Nearly all the people I spoke with were finding themselves by finding their native traditions, and 2Mex was no different. He said that since about the time he’d gotten out of high school, he had been speaking with, reading and learning from any resource he could find on native culture. In his travels across the United States and to other countries, 2Mex has spent time with the Hopi, the Lakota, the Pima and countless other native peoples.

Taking part in a few sweat lodges, 2Mex said the most important things the ceremony gave him were a moment for pause in his busy day and a chance to speak with elders.

He brought up the point that there aren’t many lines forming around old people waiting to hear what they have to say. But at the sweats he took part in, everyone there was present in part to take time and listen to the elder. He asked, When do most Americans — especially those in cities — take the time to sit down and learn from their elders and the lives they have lived and the lessons they have learned?

He had a good point. We, the United States and the world, need a better sense of history.

As a journalist, my job is to talk to people. I’m here to listen and to pass on information. Yet often, for students and journalists, there is little time for the pause the sweat provides. For some, meditation is the answer. Others get their pause through yoga.

Right now, the only time I find pause is generally after midnight, just before bed, listening to jazz records (I prefer real vinyl 12s). After speaking with 2Mex, I think I need to create more time to speak with my elders — before they’re gone and their knowledge is lost.

— Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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