Panocha Platicas

I have been wanting to post this for a while, I have just been preoccupied. In December of 2006 myself and three other Chicanas came together to form a group panel to present at the Sistersong ( 2007 conference in Chicago. Our idea came together from Irene Para, Ph.D.’s vision of hosting a workshop of sorts on “healing sex and sexuality in community,” that is creating a space for women of color to come together and dialogue about how our sex and sexuality, and how our bodies have been wounded and how they need healing. In order to prepare ourselves as facilitators, we needed to engage and participate in the ritual of healing as well. Begin: Panocha Platicas. Our group has been meeting off and on every month since January. It has changed my life. I never realized how wounded my panocha actually was until I thought critically about those concepts, that is, concepts of assault and wounding stemming beyond mainstream representations of those terms. I never knew that my panocha could be psychologically wounded in addition to physically. This is as close to therapy as a person can get, and it’s done homemade style, from the lint in our pockets to the sweetness in the pomegranates we eat, our shit is home made, revolutionary, and stands in protest of western ideas around healing work.

We produced a zine for the conference and in May of 2007 we came together with 25 other women of color from across the U.S. and engaged, all 29 of us, in a panocha platica. Here is the introduction to our zine.

Entering Panocha

by Sophia Arredondo, Jessica Far, Irene Lara, Ph.D, Eneri Arauz

What is “panocha”? Panocha is a sweet dessert, a cone of brown sugar shaped like a passageway. It’s a delicacy, indulgence, sustenance, wetness, sweetness, spice, blood, pain, life, pleasure, joy, and empowerment. Panocha means vagina and/or vulva and holds a cultural resonance for many who grew up with the word or have come into it through Chicana feminist writings. Panocha conveys an embracing of our whole selves–bodymindspirits–in a way that the proper scientific terms vagina and vulva do not.* We join others in speaking panocha because it’s homemade- a way for us to express sensuality and eroticism, on our own terms.

As women with roots in the Americas, we love that “panocha” may be related to panoltia, a Nahuatl word. Panoltia means “to pass, convey something [or] someone from one place to another.”** From this perspective, the panocha encompasses birthing, dando la luz/giving light, the wetness of desire, the bleeding of menstruation, the vibrations of pleasure, and the movement of energy. The panocha is a borderlands passageway, evoking images of connection, negotiation, bridging, travel, transformation.

We reclaim panocha, brown sugar, transforming this racialized word that at times has been used against us as women of color. This is a way to claim ourselves, our sexuality, our bodies, our being, and a way to resist how our histories have been denied and silenced. We resist the histories of slavery, colonialism, militarization, and imperialism that have kept us from owning our own panochas. We resist those times when our panochas were used against us—whether in hushed tones by our families telling us we were dirty and shameful or by the media that continues to stigmatize us as Chiquita Banana Ladies, Hottentot Venuses, Geisha Girls, Harem Girls, Squaw Princesses, Virgin Mamas, Welfare Queens, Jezebels, Sapphires, Dragon Ladies, Lotus Blossoms, Veiled Victims, Hot Tamales, Mammies. Once a word spoken with disdain, we reclaim panocha and shout it loud and proud with smiles across our lips.

We have been forced to close our legs and open our legs. Our panochas have been wounded in our attempts to set our sexuality free, in our attempt to liberate ourselves from systems of ownership, occupation and violence. They have been trampled on, spit on. Although, we welcome spit during foreplay, and sometimes our panochas like to spit back. Our panochas have been conditioned to never recognize desire, fluidity, and wellness. Now we are calling out with our legs wide open for what we yearn.

Plática, a chat, a dialogue, suggests a heart-to-heart intimate conversation in which healing is implicit or explicit. Panocha pláticas deliberately create healing in community in direct defiance to those who say this kind of talk is better suited for the confines of a therapist’s office. This plática not only takes place amongst the women of our group but also brews between ourselves and our own panochas. We prioritize our panochas, we pay attention to them, we listen to them, we explore them, and we worry about them. Heart-to-heart, panocha-to-panocha, panocha-to-heart. We view our pláticas as a great big bed—a space we look forward to for comfort, warmth, laughter, and deep connection. Intimacy here includes an understanding that we are expressing love and caring for our selves and each other. We strive to practice supportive listening and speaking without judgment while maintaining awareness of how our own histories impact our thoughts and behaviors.

Panocha pláticas are a path for remembering. Remembering our stories, the stories of our blood and created ancestors and re-membering our bodymindspirits in defiance of the colonizing splits we are continuously subjected to. We continue on the wings of our ancestor’s storytelling traditions even as we fly to our own rhythms, our ebbs and flows. And as we speak and listen we fly, leaving new traces, painting new codices/scrolls/ancient books/carved stories/woven tales. Traces on and to our panochas, our embodied panochas, our mindful panochas, our spirited panochas.

We continue this ritual as homage to our mothers, grandmothers and strong mujeres, women in our ancestral lineages who spent lifetimes and eternities en platicas and storytelling in the kitchen making rice and beans, shelling shrimp in the factories, in long lines for the bathroom, under hair dryers at the beauty salon, at the playground, in the drum circles, in the back of the church, in the bedrooms, in the breakrooms, behind peepshow glass, at the bars, at the markets, in the office. We carry this ritual among each other and to younger generations as a movement to keep our herstories alive. These oral traditions persist in our songs, our call and responses, the carvings on our ancient ruins, the marks on our bodies, the art tattooed onto our flesh, the spoken word over bonfires honoring the full moon. These oral traditions are kept alive by our plática, by our panochas rejoicing in healing and collective memory.

It is a revolutionary act to love and respect panochas such as our own. Having a panocha plática is a big “fuck you” to a society that has continuously attempted to use and abuse our panochas, our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. We think about the unthinkable and we speak about the unspeakable. We challenge sexist mindsets that claim panochas are powerless objects. We challenge racist views that teach us darkness is something to be feared, controlled, tamed. We challenge classist views that claim our panochas reproduce like rabbits just to be part of a welfare system that doesn’t care about our well-being. We challenge homophobic views that push our panochas into closets where we’re supposed to wait until heterosexual marriage sets us free. We challenge patriarchal religions that silence our desires and conceptualize pregnancy as a one-woman act. We challenge able-bodied views that assume disabled women’s panochas are incapable of sexuality. We challenge ageist views that insist wrinkles and sagging breasts need to be fixed. We challenge body image views that tell us fat women aren’t beautiful. We challenge rigid views of gender that restrict boys from wearing pink hot pants and crying, and girls from sporting buzz cuts and kicking ass. We are warriors, healers, curanderas, brujas, witches, alchemists, poets, lovers. As we challenge and transgress these views, we transform—through plática, in plática, from plática.

It takes time to platicar—a resource we do not all have in equal amounts. But we strive to prioritize heart to hearts as a way of creating well-being. We desire to inspire radical plática practices that are infused with the yearning to speak, listen, be spoken to and listened to with care and respect across our similarities and differences. Panocha plática is a practice that we can take with us everywhere as a decolonizing tool for justice and social change, for making love polyamourously.***


*“the canal leading from the vulva to the uterus” and “the external genital organs of the female, including the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris and entrance to the vagina”

**Nahuatl is the language spoken by many indigenous Mexicans), also source for definition of panoltia

*** ethical, honest non-monogamy.



31 Responses to “Panocha Platicas”

  1. matthew jackalinsky Says:

    this language is so beautiful and inspirational. I haven’t read this in a while and it’s so nice to read again. yall are indeed poets of the moment. Thank you for sharing all this. also, i love all the language about home madeness. funny all the intersections…. you are so rad. lerv

  2. amazing and beautiful. are you going to post more of these?

    the writing in this piece really is amazing. the detail, the sense of wetness really comes through, as well as the strong radical strength and feeling of connection. it sounds like you’re having a really fantastic process and i can’t wait to hear more about it. the intentionality and mutual caring sounds so powerful.

    we had some great discussions early on in sharing is sexy, and i’d love to get back to some of those conversations now that we’re much farther along the process. we talked at the last meeting, also, about wanting to include more writing as part of the project and i’m looking forward to that and have some ideas for pieces…

    when i first saw this i had been reading Lacan and other psychoanalysis books and its so, so good to be reminded that any real healing takes place on so many other levels of communion. i’ve always felt that psychoanalysis just makes people more ill, in a way.

    also, i love these ideas of the curandera, of the poet as witch. while i’m still trying to reconcile my own reservations about fuzzy spirituality with these ideas, they have a lot of resonance for me. i wonder if thinking about the connections between two-spirit people and queer people being shamans and spiritual guides and creators is just romantic, but i still feel such a pull from those ideas and have since i was little. one of my earliest memories of writing poetry is from when i was in 2nd grade, looking at the grass waving in the wind and imagining something about the force from star wars, which is ridiculous, but even the memory has this spiritual feeling for me.

    you’re amazing. keep it coming on this blog!

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