“Where did you come from?” In 2018, Alejandra Tlalli-Miles experienced what she describes as a calling from her ancestors that led to a spiritual awakening and an interest in learning more about her family lineage.
She felt a need to know who her ancestors were, what they did, and how they lived. With so many questions and zero answers, she began her search. Alejandra was determined to learn more about those who came before her, and they shaped the person she is today.
“Experiencing a heightened sense of intuition, my waking life became more vivid, and I became more connected to the natural world and my sensitivity to physical, emotional and energetic stimuli was amplified,” she said.
On the paper trail her ancestors left behind, Alejandra was able to piece together some of the family history dating back to 1650.
“Answering the calling from my ancestors, I received my Indigenous name, further embracing my Indigenous identity. I began learning Náhuatl, the original language of the Mexica (Aztecs), and started learning Mexica culture and teachings from elders.
On her search, Alejandra discovered things both fascinating, but also heartbreaking.
“One interesting finding was that my great-grandmother was given a different name at birth, and our family had no idea until I made the discovery in 2021,” she said. “One tragic discovery was that records of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people were kept in separate books, which emphasized the underlying racism practiced by those who kept the books. Contained within the story, I learned of a history that includes teenage pregnancies, infant mortality, racism, intentional erasure of Indigenous identity and political opposition.”
Reflecting on her findings, one of the most rewarding parts was seeing how far her family has come and the strides they have made to get to where they are today.
“Our family story is a testament to the strength and resilience of both my ancestors and my present family,” she said. “Words cannot express how grateful I am to my ancestors for all that they endured. I could not be here today without them.”
Her journey to uncovering her family history led her to author a book. In it, she shares her ancestry with the world and encourages others to do the same.
“The primary takeaway is that the information is out there, and you can begin a search even with minimal information,” she said. “Initially, my book was intended to be a family memoir, but as I researched more about Mexican and Native American families, I realized we are greatly underrepresented in literature. That realization fueled me to publish my book and share the story of my family, provide examples of the type of information one can locate and ultimately inspire others to embark on their own journey and publish more books about underrepresented families.”
Alejandra’s book, “Finding Familia and Ancestors”, which can be found in a Spanish, English and bilingual version, was featured in “Californian Magazine.”
“Being featured in the ‘Californian Magazine’ was a huge honor for me,” she said. “The opportunity emerged after receiving an invitation and participating in a meeting with the LatinX Empowerment mentorship program at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. Our conversation dealt with so many aspects of identity and it resonated so much with the students in the mentorship program.”
Alejandra’s books were published shortly after obtaining both her bachelor’s and master’s degree from CSU.
“My coursework for both my bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and my MBA was extremely helpful in preparing me to be a better writer and I was able to apply many of the research methods that I learned at CSU to my books.”
After earning her degrees, Alejandra was able to obtain several mid-management and executive positions within the organization she works for.
“As a development officer for the City of San Jose, I have the opportunity to work with a small group of dedicated individuals to provide services and address the needs of some of the most vulnerable residents in our city, the unhoused,” she said. “Additionally, I have the opportunity to work on various initiatives to advance racial equity and inclusion within the housing department, the city as an organization and the community at large.”
Alejandra family story speaks to the human experience of love, celebration, struggle, survival and life. If she could say anything to her ancestors today, it would be a simple, heartfelt thank you.
“Thank you for existing, resisting and surviving,” she said. “Our family continues and thrives because of the work and sacrifices you made. I am eternally grateful, and I felt your presence with me during this journey.”
“I’m excited about all the future holds, not only for me, but for my sons and my extended family,” she said. “Knowing more about where our family roots started and where we are today is extremely rewarding and invaluable.”
To learn more about Alejandra’s book, visit Amazon.com.
CSU is proud to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month which recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans and their influence to history, culture and achievement for the United States.
Disclaimer: These testimonials may not reflect the experience of all CSU students.
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