Running With Our Hummingbird Named Consuelo

There’s nobody that I know that doesn’t like a hummingbird. That is especially true in Tucson. For many of us, the hummingbird signifies Consuelo Aguilar. For some, she is but a memory. For others, not even that. And yet, in Tucson, we run for her. We run with her. And on April 5th, we will run and walk for and with her again.

She represents all of what was right with Tucson several years ago. All that was good. And yet, something went wrong… She was our soaring eagle… who prematurely transformed into our hummingbird… at least she remains with us… always, especially when we run.

Since she passed on Feb. 17, 2009, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Actually, don’t know if this water metaphor works in Arizona. There’s no water here.

Several years ago, this community was under siege virtually every day and every night and during that time, our community united. Our bodies were being attacked. Our tongues. Our skin color. Our minds, bodies and spirits. Our very presence. Our very existence. Seems like it was Consuelo that united one and all. Then and now. Don’t really know why, other than she had a very special and beautiful spirit. She was a fighter. A luchona. A Xingona.

And yet, those days are long gone… not of being attacked, but of being united. Our community badly splintered internally as a result of the constant external attacks. Seems like no one talks to anyone anymore. There are some things that continue to unite us… Dolores Huerta, for one, is someone that will always be admired in Arizona. So too the memory of Cesar Chavez. Because of Consuelo, many of the artists from California lent early support in our struggles here in Arizona, even before the passage of the racial profiling SB 1070 and the anti-Ethnic Studies HB 2281 legislation.

Perhaps there are others who we all admire… but none is akin to Consuelo.

In part, to know Consuelo is to know the youths of this past generation. It is they who have led the major battles whether when speaking of immigration or education or ethnic studies issues. Whether when speaking of DREAMERS, immigrant rights activists or Indigenous leaders… All of them looked up to Consuelo. They were all in high school and middle school when she passed. Now many of them are undergraduates and some are in graduate school.

While everyone seemingly fights separately nowadays, she is the one common denominator for this community. Her memory is what unites us.

She is not paradise lost. Tucson was never paradise. If anything, it has been simply been the site of heroic struggle of eagle and jaguar warriors, but more importantly, it is she who represents the hummingbirds. More than peaceful warriors, she represents creation. She is the consummate embodiment of the concept of creation-resistance. She always created, while she resisted.

Running is special in our community of Tlamanalco/Tucson. We would not have been able to fight against those who see us as their enemies here in Arizona if we didn’t have the spiritual strength that we attain when we run. And yet, when we run in Tucson, it is never done in reaction. We don’t run against villains, of which there are plenty in Arizona. Instead, we run to spiritually cleanse ourselves and to spiritually cleanse our barrios.

On this occasion, we will run and walk not simply in her memory, but also to carry out her last wishes. At the tender age of 26, she died of cancer and one of her last wishes was that we educate our community about cancer, especially the Spanish-speaking community.

Through the run and walk, we will be doing just that. The run we do for her is not a typical run… it will follow the pattern of the barrio runs we do here in Tucson; they are not races, competitions or protests. If anything, they are acts of creation. It is when we leave our footprints. The run is both to honor her memory, but also, it is to raise scholarship monies in her name, administered by the University of Arizona’s Mexican American Studies Department. That was her home department at the U of A. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from our department. On top of that, she was central to the Raza Studies department at TUSD. Make no mistake, she was central to the Raza Studies struggle, especially she was mentor to many of the student leaders that waged the historic defense of Raza Studies over the past several years. That was also her last place of employment.

So that we honor her, yes, that is appropriate.

Come run with us, come walk with us this April 5. She will be with us. She will be represented by one of the three staffs of the Calpolli Teoxicalli that will lead the run/walk. She is the hummingbird that guides us.