Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (Xochimilco), or X, is an advocate, activist, and hip-hop artist. Recently named one of Time magazine’s Next 100, X been an activist since the age of 6. Before joining the panel for the Zócalo program “How Does Confronting Our History Build a Better Future?”—the final event of our Mellon Foundation-supported series “How Should Societies Remember Their Sins?”—X stopped by our green room and chatted about St. Louis-bred artist Jordan Ward, how he unplugs, and kinship between Indigenous peoples.
What's your most unpopular opinion, small or big?
Raisins are trash. Don’t ever, ever put a raisin in a cookie in my vicinity. I would look at you twice. Especially in a cookie. You bite into a cookie, and it has raisins in it? Blasphemous. Also, pulp. Why would you want to chew your juice?
Who’s an artist you’d love to collab on a song with?
Jordan Ward, an amazing artist from St. Louis. His sound, his vibe, the producers he works with, his fashion—he just did a Tiny Desk Concert.
You’ve given a lot of speeches and interviews over the years. Do you still get nervous?
I often get nervous … but I think it’s a skill I developed at an early age and got comfortable with. As I get older, my relationship to my platform has changed a lot, my voice has changed a lot. I like to take more time to be deliberate with how I present myself and what I’m contributing to these conversations, these spaces. I’m not showing up just to be seen, or to inflate my own platform. To me, that’s not helpful, it’s not contributing to the movements that I believe in. What can I bring to the collective that is of value? That takes more time, more preparation, more energy, more research, more forethought, more understanding of your audience. It’s an evolving process.
Who is your dream dinner guest and what would you serve them?
I’m not much of a cook myself but it’d be really cool to make homemade chilaquiles for Kendrick Lamar. I think he’s a real-ass person. Beneath the music and the public persona, I feel like he’s a real one who would appreciate the gesture of my grandmother’s chilaquiles.
What was the last thing that really inspired you?
Recently, I spoke at a college outside Minneapolis and there was some really beautiful dialogue about our Indigenous identity as people with Native lineage from south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Around how do we relate to our indigeneity in a moment where being Native is more culturally accepted and elevated and platformed. In popular culture and media, Native people are reclaiming a lot of space and being heard and taking space through art, music, and movies—reclaiming a lot of our own storytelling power. And how we relate to northern Native folk is really important because even though we are at various stages of our rediscovery and reconnection to our indigeneity, we are in fact on the homelands of different people, so we have a responsibility to not only do the work of relearning where we’re from, but how we could be good relatives to the people whose homelands we’re on now. That solidarity between Indigenous communities, the kinship, is really important. I think we gain more than we lose by talking to each other about it and having hard conversations.
What are three essential items you must have with you?
These goddamn glasses, I can’t see anything without them. They look fresh enough that people ask, “Are those real or just for show?” And I’m like, “No, no, they’re prescription, I promise.” I’m very blind.
Five pairs of earrings, I gotta have fresh earrings on me. It’s always either Native-owned business or aunties or homies who make them, for the most part. Always feels good representing some good protecting stones, some abalones, some turquoise, or jade.
This ring that I have, it’s of ajolote, it’s a sacred animal for our people. I got it in Mexico City, so it’s a little piece of home that I carry with me that stays on my body.
Where would we find you on a Saturday afternoon?
I try to unplug on the weekends. I’ll be in nature. I’ll be with the homies at the archery range. Literally just eating pancakes at the crib. I’m very much a homebody. I like being at home and I like being in nature. If I don’t have anything on my to-do list, I’m kicking it with the homies, running around, being with my people, or out on the land. I’m a foodie, too, so I’m always looking for something fresh.
What would you do if you had one more hour in your day?
There wouldn’t be time to see, like, my mom—she lives far away. My family all lives far away. I would just, peacefully, quietly get the best, yummiest food that was the closest to me and go be in nature. Just disappear into a forest. And I would just eat and watch the world.