A brief history of la Virgen de Guadalupe

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When Spanish forces under the command of Hernando Cortes first set foot on the eastern coast of Mexico on April 22, 1519, they christened the site of their landing Veracruz, “the true cross” (Cortes et al. 2001:4). Within five years of Cortes’ arrival, a group of Franciscan missionaries arrived in Mexico, tasked with converting the previously unknown indigenous people to Christianity. These missionaries brought with them a worldview forged in the apocalyptic and millenarian ideas that had become characteristic of Spanish Franciscanism.

Driving this project of missionization was what J. L. Phelan described as “the millennial kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World” (Phelan 1970). In this essay, I explore the millennialist roots of these early Franciscan missionaries and argue that their apocalyptic beliefs not only influenced the emergent Mexican identity but directly resulted in what is easily Mexico’s most recognizable national symbol: the Virgin of Guadalupe. …


Today I want to talk about the word “jicara,” one of my favorite words in the Nawatl language. But before we get into that, I would like to briefly touch on some basic Nawatl pronunciation. In particular, the pronunciation of the letter X. This sound tends to get mispronounced a lot, especially by Spanish speakers because there isn’t really a sound in Spanish that approximates the correct sound. In Nawatl, the X is pronounced as an SH sound, like in “shoe.”

The X in Nawatl gives us words like Xochitl, Xoloitzkwintli, and Xochimilko. There is a tendency to mispronounce Xochitl as “So-Cheet” and I’ve also heard “so-chill” (please don’t do that). A good example of the mispronunciation of the X is the word Mexico, which should be pronounced Meshiko. So if you live in the state of New Mexico, take pride in the fact that our state has a Nawatl name, not Spanish. Another way of mispronouncing the X in Nawatl is to make it an H sound, like in the Spanish pronunciation of Mexico. …


What’s up, everybody? It’s your boy Kurly Tlapoyawa, the hardcore archaeologist, and I’m writing this from deep inside occupied Pueblo territory in the beautiful state of New Mexico, sitting in the shadow of Oku Pin (Also known as the Sandia Mountains). This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. And that is a series of short segments on the Nawatl (or Nahuatl) language that I call Café con Nawatl.

Now, I should make it clear that this isn’t a language class. What I want to do is touch upon some elements of the Nawatl language that I find interesting, and that might help you understand and appreciate the language a little bit more. Especially if you’re a Mexican Spanish speaker, and especially if you happen to be an archaeologist (though being an archaeologist is hardly necessary). …


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Hunters embark on the ceremonial hunt during Kecholli, from Primeros Memoriales

The feast of Kecholli is named for the roseate spoonbill, a bird with resplendent pink feathers that migrates south into Mexico during the winter months. The word Kecholli literally means “rubber neck” in the Nawatl language. The feast was held in honor of Kamaxtli/Mixkoatl, the lord of the hunt, who is depicted in the codices painted in red stripes and holding his hunting instruments. The first several days of the month were used to craft the arrows, darts, and spears that would be used in the upcoming hunt.


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Tlalok vessel from the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan.

The twelfth month of the traditional Mexika calendar system is known as Tepeilwitl, “the Feast of the Mountains.” It is believed that the Teteoh known as Tlalok, along with his helpers the Tlalokeh reside within the mountains and misty caves that dot the Mexican landscape. Tlalok and the Tlalokeh are responsible for the rain and are venerated heavily in Mesoamerican cosmovision.

The feast of Tepeilwitl is held in honor of the mountains, Tlalok and the Tlalokeh, and the people who had died water-related deaths. It was thought that those who died by drowning had been selected by Tlalok to join him in Tlalokan, “the place of Tlalok.” The festival also honors the Teteoh known as Xochiketzal, who is considered the female counterpart of Tlalok. …


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Tlaxochimako (offering of flowers) is the 8th month of the Mexikah calendar system. It was also known as Mikailwitl or Mikailwitontli (the small feast of the dead.) Like most of the other months in the Mexikah calendar system, Tlaxochimako lasted 20 days, and concluded with a large feast to commemorate the passing of the month (The final month, Nemontemi only lasts 5 days). This year, the 8th through 27th of August take place during Tlaxochimaco.

The feast was characterized by the collection of flowers from nearby mountains, which were then fashioned into garlands and used to adorn the idols of the various Teteoh. As with most other feasts, the festivities included sumptuous meals which were painstakingly prepared the night before, and a day filled with music, song, and dance. This feast is notable for one dance in particular in which the city’s sex workers, known as the awianime (ahuianime), danced with high ranking warriors (more about this below). …


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An Open Letter to The Urban Review

A recent publication in The Urban Review journal has come to our attention. The journal presents itself as one that deals with “Issues and Ideas in Education,” so it was surprising to see their publication of the article entitled, “Early Pioneers of the Americas: The Role of the Olmecs in Urban Education and Social Studies Curriculum’’ by Greg Wiggan, Annette Teasdell, Marcia J. Watson‑Vandiver, and Sheikia Talley‑Matthews. In their article, Wiggan et al peddle the long discredited notion that the Olmec were not indigenous Americans, but rather that they were black Africans who traversed the Atlantic Ocean millennia before Christopher Columbus. There are variations on the hypothesis, but the general idea is that Africans established (or helped establish) one of the oldest major civilizations in the Americas, the Olmec, which scholars credit as being a major inspiration for the Mesoamerican Indigenous cultures that followed. …


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A statue of Juan de Oñate is removed in northern New Mexico

When you hear the phrase “white nationalist” the sad image of an angry young skinhead toting a nazi flag and snapping out the fascist salute may come to mind. But here in New Mexico, we have a brand of white nationalism rooted in “hispano” identity. And while the people promoting this ideology may look very different from the angry skinhead, their objectives are no less dangerous.

So, what is a hispano white nationalist you might ask?

The ideology that drives hispano white nationalism is rooted in the (false) historical narrative that New Mexicans are directly descended from Spanish conquistadors and that New Mexico has a unique, distinctly “Spanish” (NOT Mexican) cultural inheritance. Those that promote this confused ideology will recoil in disgust at the very idea of being called a “Mexican,” and will be quick to respond to such an accusation with “I’m not a Mexican! …


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A statue of convicted rapist and murderer Juan de Oñate stands in northern New Mexico

The controversy surrounding Española’s celebration of Juan de Oñate recently boiled over when a coalition of community activists and Indigenous rights groups demanded that representations of Oñate be removed from the city’s annual parade. This demand prompted an outcry from a small, but vocal segment of New Mexico’s white hispano community, who saw it as an existential threat to their cherished fiestas.

The thing is, very few people have a problem with commemorating the events that led to the establishment of communities in northern New Mexico. The history is well documented of how these communities were settled by a handful of Spaniards accompanied by a large number of Indios Mexicanos. It is the insistence that these fiestas serve as a platform for celebrating Juan de Oñate that people take issue with. …


The years following the Mexican revolution saw an upsurge in a form of nationalism characterized by the exaltation of Mexico’s indigenous past. As a result, Kuauhtemok — the last sovereign Tlahtoani of the Mexika Empire — was elevated to a symbol of national pride and unity. The Declaration of Kuauhtemok is a text in Nawatl that has been circulated since the late 1960’s within the Mexicayotl movement, where it holds the status of a foundational and prophetic document.

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This movement claims that it is the final decree given by Kuauhtemok prior to the fall of Mexiko-Tenochtitlan on August 13, 1521. Allegedly, this message was memorized and spread throughout Mesoamerica by a series of runners, and has subsequently been passed down via oral tradition to this day. It is the position of the Chimalli Institute of Mesoamerican Arts that the text actually dates from the mid 20th century and is best understood as part of the mythologizing of Kuauhtemok in his role as cultural hero. Nonetheless, analysis of the text, its origins, and the means of its circulation provide important insight into the formation of contemporary folklore in the context of nationalist movements. …

About

Kurly Tlapoyawa

(Chicano/Nawa/Mazewalli) Archaeologist, filmmaker, and founder of the Chimalli institute of Mesoamerican Arts. Professor of C/S at Colegio Chicano del Pueblo.

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