Sunday, October 11, 2015

On the Deep Roots of our Indigenous, especially Mexica, Identities and Inheritances

If you scroll down the blog a bit and read today's post titled, "Academia Cuauhtli: Our First Day of Saturday School, Austin, Texas, I cannot help but contemplate on the deep root structure for Mexican Americans of not only our indigenous, but especially our Mexica (Aztec) identities.  When I think about the symbol that we chose for our Saturday Cuauhtli Academy, namely, the Aztec eagle, it is noteworthy that Mexican Americans' struggle for equal rights and dignity historically accorded great importance to indigenous symbols and concepts that harken back to Mesoamerican times. The eagle /águila (in Spanish)/ cuauhtli (in Nahuatl), in particular, is the very symbol that appears on the flag for the United Farm Workers Union.

For Mexican Americans active in political and collective struggles, these symbols have historically reinforced a sense of collective identity.  But where does this come from?  I maintain that this comes from any number of sources not the least of which is a deep root structure of identity that has survived across the generations despite wars, poverty, and subtractive cultural and linguistic assimilation policies and projects.

We learned somewhere from some abuela or abuelo (grandmother or grandfather) that we are to never forget our origins and that we should always derive a sense of pride and strength from this.  Another reason that these symbols continue to inspire may have to do with the facile and sometimes, everyday images that have historically appeared in our households...on bedspreads, wall calendars, and what some may call "ethnic art"—also highly visible on body tattoos.  A quite profound statement I heard spoken once by an elder regarding the importance of knowing our indigenous histories, cultures, and holding onto this memory is its emancipatory perspective of a time that pre-dates borders, as well as our long, modern history of dispossession, displacement, and uprootedness.

To be sure, archival, as well as culture and language revitalization, projects like Academia Cuauhtli across the generations have also made an enormous difference.  And perhaps most importantly, the Mexica and Nahuatl language is present in both Mexico and the U.S. and remains today one of the largest indigenous groups on the continent.  We at Cuauhtli, for example, enjoy the presence and participation of Grupo Xochipilli—from the Austin and San Antonio areas—that actually engages in the teaching of Danza Mexica to our children in the Academia.  So this is hardly a distant, abstract sense of indigeneity, but rather, a lived experience and vibrant reality.

All of this is to say that I was very happy yesterday to attend the 2015 Latino Summit at the Texas State Capitol after our first day of Saturday school and see "cuauhtli" represented again, albeit in an entirely different setting in the form of publication materials as follows:

I smiled to myself the whole time as I thought that hundreds of Mexican Americans and allies attended a statewide legislative, "Cuauhtli Summit 2015" that provides evidence to my claim of this deep root structure of our indigenous identities and inheritances.  There is a lot to know and learn, by the way, about "cuauhtli," but I'll save that for another time.

Angela Valenzuela

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