Ometeotl, Hunab Ku, and the battle for Indigenous souls

Spanish priests supervise the destruction of Indigenous statues.

In 1524, twelve Franciscan missionaries were sent to Mexico from Spain to convert the previously unknown Indigenous people to Catholicism. To help facilitate this, the Spaniards constructed the Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco in 1536, where young Indigenous nobles were trained in Catholic doctrine and taught to read and write using the Latin alphabet. These nobles held valuable insight into Mesoamerican cosmovision and helped determine how to manipulate it to serve the missionizing process.

These Indigenous aides would often use Mesoamerican vocabulary and concepts when attempting to translate Catholicism into Indigenous terms. Pre-existing names such as Ipalnemoani “He by…


The colonialist roots of La Virgen de Guadalupe

A man crawls during the annual pilgrimage to Tepeyak. Photo by Eman Kazemi / Alamy Stock Photo

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…


While doing research for the makwawitl (macuahuitl, macana) episode of my youtube series, I came across a lot of really interesting information that I thought was worth examining further. One of the things that I came across was the catalog of the Royal Armory of Madrid, Spain. In particular, a page illustrated by an Italian artist depicting a makwawitl and another Mesoamerican weapon known as a tepoztopilli. The tepoztopilli is basically a lance or a spear, although it wasn’t really intended to be thrown. Next to these two pieces of weaponry are two shields. The shields are interesting, because…


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…


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…


The colonialist roots of la Virgen de Guadalupe

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…


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.


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…


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…


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…

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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