Wednesday, 22 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Banning the "Aztec Calendar": Indigenous, Maiz-Based Knowledge at the Heart of Tucson's Mexican-American Studies Curriculum and Conflict

Friday, 28 December 2012 12:06 By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, Indigenous Cultures Institute | News Analysis

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Introduction

The banning of the Aztec Calendar in a Tucson classroom in 2012, was the symbolic culmination of a six-year effort to destroy the district’s highly successful Mexican-American Studies (MAS) department. This mind-numbing act gives the public a glimpse into the level of conflict and censorship present during this “debate”; it is a form of censorship that went beyond the banning of books. In effect, this conflict is about civilizational war. And to the chagrin of those promoting this war, this effort has boomeranged; the attack on the MAS program has created an unprecedented interest in Indigenous knowledge, history, and culture. The destruction of Tucson’s MAS program as also created a teaching moment of what is commonly referred to as the Aztec Calendar or the Sun Stone, though more precisely known as the Tonalmachiotl.

The Tonalmachiotl was created over many centuries. The one most people are familiar with was chiseled in the 1400s in Mesoamerica and currently resides in Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology. The interest in learning how to read it, especially in the United States, is very much on the rise.

Exploring this growing phenomenon, Dr. Cintli examines, in the first part of this essay, examines the political context of the efforts to prevent the teaching of Mexican history and culture. In the second part, MAS teacher Norma Gonzalez touches on the contents of the Tonalmachiotl, whose teaching was banned in Tucson schools in 2012.

The Political Context

When the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) governing board voted in January of 2012 to suspend its Mexican-American Studies department, chaos ensued. Contrary to what the board and the district’s superintendent, Dr. John Pedicone, had been telling the community for months, that vote did not suspend the department; rather, it abolished it. This is the same department that was graduating close to 100 percent of its students and sending close to eighty percent of them on to college.1

Perhaps the most underreported aspect of this conflict is that shortly after the department was dismantled, one of the MAS teachers, Norma Gonzalez, co-author of this article, was told that she could not teach the Aztec Calendar to her students. In a symbolic sense, this spoke volumes. Indeed, this prohibition on teaching the Tonalmachiotl confirmed the idea that the debate was a civilizational war—a characterization that was first advanced by former state school superintendent, Tom Horne. When Horne first began this campaign to eliminate Tucson’s MAS department, that is, he advanced the idea that it needed to be done because the MAS curriculum was purportedly outside of Western Civilization. Indeed, there are few symbols more connected to Mexico’s Indigenous roots and history than this Pre-Columbian calendar, a calendar so exact that it continues to be more advanced than the Western Gregorian calendar in use today.2

Despite the significance of this incident involving the censuring of the Aztec Calendar, it has never been widely reported by the mainstream media. In part, this may be due to the fact that after the dismantling, chaos ensued in Tucson schools, primarily because this action took place in the middle of the school year in response to the 2010 anti-ethnic studies HB 2281 legislation. What would happen to the teachers, the students and the curriculum, became not academic questions, but trauma that was played out in real time in Tucson classrooms. Overnight, no one was quite sure what was legal or illegal, or what was permissible inside of the classroom. In one case, after student Nico Dominguez spoke at the previous school board meeting, he was pulled out of his classroom at Tucson High School by TUSD security personnel.3

During this chaotic time, MAS teachers were given nine directives, explaining what they could expect thereafter, including what they could and could not teach.4 The directives had the additional chilling effect that even students were unclear as to how they could interact in class. The first directive is jarring: “assignments can not direct students to apply MAS perspectives.” In the 43-year history of MAS/Raza Studies, there are no known parameters that define or limit “Mexican American Studies perspectives.” That the district would attempt to constrict the teachers was an apparent attempt to also constrict the discipline and its perspectives. The second directive banned MAS books and other teaching materials, including art and posters, from the classroom. Aside from the resulting district-wide walkouts, most of the attention immediately focused on the book banning which included TUSD personnel entering former MAS classrooms—during class time—boxing books and labeling them “banned books” and shipping them off to the district’s warehouse.

One teacher reported that her computer had been wiped clean and she, along with all the MAS teachers, were told to clear up all their MAS books, not just the seven that appeared on a TUSD list.5 The directive involved some additional fifty titles, which constituted the MAS curriculum. To this day, the district and state deny that any books were banned.6 Ironically, despite that denial, one rationale that MAS critics utilized for their removal was that such books—which dealt with such topics as critical race theory—were appropriate for college youths but inappropriate for high school level youths. The critics actually advanced the argument that Ethnic Studies, and Mexican American Studies specifically, were appropriate in college but not high school or younger.7

After the directives were issued, the chaos began as both teachers and students were confounded, not sure of what could be taught or discussed in their classrooms, including what could and could not be written in class. Of the many situations that arose, one, involving MAS teacher, Norma Gonzalez, bears special scrutiny. A few days after the dismantling of MAS, while Gonzalez was teaching the meaning of the Aztec Calendar to her students, the principal instructed her to take down the image. The principal cited the TUSD vote, explaining that because the calendar corresponded to Mexican history and culture, its teaching was now prohibited. One of the great ironies of this situation is that while the calendar apparently could no longer be taught in Mexican American Studies, it could be taught in Native American Studies.8

None of these draconian prohibitions were surprising; another one calls for the regular monitoring and collection (confiscation) of teacher and student work by district and state officials, which has happened. Despite these unprecedented measures, this six-year conflict has actually begun to create a teaching opportunity nationally for Indigenous knowledge. For instance, Gonzalez made the observation that while many Mexican families have an Aztec Calendar in their home, the vast majority don’t know how to read it. Indeed, this observation is true about most Indigenous knowledge in Mexico and Mexican homes. What little is known is viewed as part of the past and function more at the level of artwork or relics, as opposed to living knowledge.

When Horne began his attacks, claiming that MAS was outside of Western civilization and that its roots were not within the Greco–Roman tradition, what he was apparently referencing were the Maya philosophical concepts that anchor the MAS-TUSD department.9 These concepts are In Lak Ech (You are my other Me) and Panche Be (to seek the root of the truth). These concepts teach students to see themselves in each other and to pursue the truth in all that they do. Invariably, this leads students also to fight for social justice. Those concepts are traced not to Europe but to this very continent. However, as Maya scholar Domingo Martinez Paredez explains in Un continente y una cultura (1960), the concepts are actually not Maya, but rather belong to all maiz-based peoples of this continent.

Other elements of the curriculum that can be construed as outside of Western civilization, in addition to the Aztec calendar and these maiz-based philosophies, would be the teaching of other Maya-Nahua or Mesoamerican knowledge. Because of this emphasis on maiz-based knowledge, Horne also alleged that MAS teachers taught the students to see themselves as part of groups (Aztecs or Mayas, apparently), as opposed to individuals.

HB 2281 has precipitated several legal challenges, yet, regardless of how the courts settle this, Mexican-American Studies, particularly with a maiz-based or Indigenous perspective emphasis, is ascendant nationwide.10 Probably at no time since the 1960s has there been this much interest in these studies. The interest nowadays appears to be even more profound because its allure is that Indigenous Knowledge, history, and culture has once again become “forbidden” knowledge.

In this environment, people nationwide, and students in particular, want to know what elements within MAS are considered to be “outside of Western civilization.” Specifically, they want to know about In Lak Ech andPanche Be, the Aztec Calendar, and about the great book of the Maya, the Popol Vuh. Within this book is the creation story of the Maya, how the cosmos was born, and how human beings and maiz were created. This has also sparked interest in other Indigenous (Maya-Mixtec and Aztec-Mexica) codices that contain Indigenous knowledge and history of the continent, including the creation stories of other Indigenous peoples. One such codex, or Amoxtli, is Codex Chimalpopoca, which contains the creation story of the Nahuatl peoples (Legend of the Suns), which is somewhat similar to the Popol Vuh. The knowledge contained within these ancient books is referred to as In Tlilli In Tlapalli—The Red and the Black (Boone 2000). This is the knowledge that students want and are now clamoring for.

The battle to defend MAS-TUSD has created an unprecedented thirst for this knowledge (often found in the few surviving codices), knowledge that has been on this continent for many thousands of years. In these communities, there is also high interest in the Nahuatl (Aztec), Maya, and Quechua (Inca) languages. This also includes a high interest in Mesoamerican mathematical knowledge systems, including theNepohualtzinzin, and, to a lesser extent, the quipu of the Inca, reputedly 5,000-years old.11 Both of these devices record knowledge; they are not simply counting devices. This also includes interest in the Maya-Nahuatl numbering systems,12 and the culture that has also been preserved in the oral tradition, song, poetry and dance.13

In the United States, in the past, these different kinds of Indigenous knowledge were seen at best as quaint or simply of interest to poets or esoteric and erudite scholars. However, since the advent of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, with an emphasis on In Xochitl In Cuicatl, or Floricanto—Flower and Song—but even more so, as a result of this Arizona conflict, there is a groundswell of interest in these forms of Indigenous knowledge.

Beginning in the fall of 2012, many communities nationwide are set to recommend to their local school boards that maiz or Indigenous-based Mexican-American Studies—with a social justice emphasis—be introduced and taught in their schools.14 It is safe to assume that this is not what Horne had envisioned.15Now, no one is certain whether Horne’s successor, John Huppenthal, will next come after MAS at the university level, though he has promised he will do so. If he does, no doubt this will create an even greater interest in Indigenous knowledge and studies.

Cultural Relevancy and Maiz-based Curriculum

For the predominantly brown students that attend Tucson Unified School District schools, a maiz-based (corn-based) curriculum possesses a profound relevancy to their humanity, thus imparting purpose for their existence as planetary citizens, effectively rendering them at once responsible and response-able.

Components of a maiz-based curriculum include: identity, discipline, tlanelhualtiliztli (seeking truth for stability), Nehuan Ti Nehuan (I am you and you am I), and cultural relevancy. As colonized people we struggle with identity, as that is what the colonizers immediately attack. Without knowledge of our culture, history, or roots, we are weak individuals; thus, acquiring an authentic identity is critical as a component to cement a positive identity. Acquiring an authentic identity places students on a path towards self-love. Discipline is presented in the manner in which students are in control of their learning and are expected to have confidence in themselves to move in a positive and progressive manner. As such discipline is understood as the training of self, in all aspects, so that we can positively transform the self and the collective. Seeking truth for stability is a requirement as students become academicians through their devotion to research due to the application of critical thinking. Community is the essence of the classroom environment, so students are expected to conduct themselves with the utmost respect for themselves and everyone around them. This is practiced daily through the application of Nehuan Ti Nehuan.

It is through the implementation of these components that students experience love with high standards, the concretizing of an ethnic and academic identity, the expectation that they must be researchers (as the more knowledge they gather about a topic the more stable they will be as authorities on that topic), and a vision of themselves in others as a basis for their interaction with one another.

Relevancy is when a student finds a significant and logical connection to classroom content and knowledge that provides a bearing on the students’ daily lives. This maiz-based curriculum fosters students’ connections to their essence. Within the Mexican American Studies (MAS) curriculum, culture is defined as a “lens,” figuratively speaking, that we utilize to perceive our world. Culture was created as a necessity for humans who first inhabited the Earth so we could live in harmony with our surroundings. Cultural relevancy is the ability to utilize that “lens” in the classroom as a tool for the students to critique, understand, question, value, perceive, apply, evaluate, and to relate to the content that is being presented. Cultural relevancy is what the maiz-based curriculum provides our students to profoundly impact their lives.

Cultural Symbols and the Aztec Calendar

Culture is expressed through language, values, beliefs, etc. and has various characteristics. One of the characteristics of culture is that it is symbolic. Every culture has a set of symbols that expresses its features. As a Mexican indigenous person, many cultural symbols permeated my home as a young girl, and I accepted them as just that, symbols. Growing up, I was particularly interested in the round shaped plaque with many symbols on it; it is commonly known as the “Aztec calendar.”

Today, as a student of Amerindigenous culture, I have come to deeply appreciate and value the teachings embedded in some of those cultural symbols that made up my home as a child. Indeed, they are symbols that are present in most Mexican indigenous homes. Specifically, I have long been a student of the Aztec Calendar, or properly named by its creators: the Tonalmachiotl. It is this symbol precisely that has enlightened me about indigenous Mexican culture and, more generally, all indigenous cultures of this continent. The Tonalmachiotl represents the keys to the cultures indigenous to this continent and should be a required subject taught in all schools on this continent.

This symbol was the point of reference for the development of the former MAS maiz-based curriculum, that is, until I was prohibited from teaching it by my former administrator at a middle school, when the program was dismantled. Upon returning from an administrators’ meeting, my administrator literally stormed into my classroom the day after TUSD killed the program as a result of HB 2281 and stated in front of my students, most of them Mexican, that I was not to teach anything related to that symbol, pointing to the Tonalmachiotl. She stated that the TUSD directives (and specifically the 1st directive) prohibit the teaching of anything that had to do with “Mexican culture.” Needless to say, I was in shock primarily because this is a cultural symbol that permeates the Mexican indigenous homes, restaurants, bakeries, and murals of her very students. The calendar is more “American” than any Greco-Roman symbol that the state of Arizona would have its teachers teach. In fact, according to my co-author, University of Arizona professor Roberto Rodriguez, “Tucson is home to the oldest cornfield in the nation,” thus establishing maiz-based curricula and culture as more indigenous than “America” itself.

Since this event, interest in maiz-based curricula has skyrocketed as educators nationwide have been intrigued by the prohibited curriculum. What follows, then, are lessons on the Tonalmachiotl and maiz-based perspectives.

The Knowledge in the Tonalmachiotl

Profesor Arturo Meza Gutierrez, a respected teacher of Mexican Indigenous culture in Mexico City, states that the Tonalmachiotl communicates to us that we have the right to live a just and happy life and that we must respect the four life-giving elements. Developing a curriculum centered on these precepts appeals to the students’ humanity and yields tremendous growth, as evidenced by human measures. Human measures are expressed through the students level of engagement in life, that is when they engage positively in life because they have a purpose, they have hope that opportunities exist for them as opposed to being in a state of nihilism where we can find students of color because of colonization. A stable identity that allows them to walk in beauty.

Focusing on growth based on these human measures will positively and drastically foster progress in all academic areas, as evidenced by TUSD’s Raza Studies students’ consistent outperforming all other student groups in AIMS (standardized test) scores. This curricular focus imparts to students the keys to their indigenous identity and their rights as planetary citizens of this continent, thus cementing their purpose in life, their responsibility and their sense of self, their humanity.

According to the teaching of our Mexica elders, caretakers of our indigenous history and knowledge, theTonalmachiotl is based on at least 30,000 years of research and study conducted on the Earth and the Cosmos; it is a scientific documentation and an astronomical account (Meza-Guitierrez). According toCalpolli Teoxicalli, the twelve-foot diameter stone is the culminating product of research conducted by our indigenous elders.16 Our ancestors’ query was centered on living in harmony with all of creation. This research cultivated the knowledge to understand the Earth and her cycles and to effectively and harmoniously work with her and the Cosmos (Calpolli Teoxicalli). Moreover, this knowledge establishes a connection with our inner-self to live in harmony from within and without.

When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico-Tenochtitlan in 1525, an understanding of these cultural symbols and the knowledge embedded within them was the furthest thing from the Spaniards’ minds; they came to destroy. As colonizers of this region, the Spaniards proceeded to chronicle the history of the Mexica. Purposefully they wrote that the face in the center of the Tonalmachiotl is that of a sun god, but to my understanding, that is a 500-year-old fabricated falsity. Evidence reveals that it is not a sun god as there is no word in Nahuatl to express an idea of a sun god.

According to the teachings of Meza-Gutierrez, the face represents Tlaltecutli, the Earth. Tlaltecutli translates into “our guide”; thus, the Tonalmachiotl is our guide to understanding how to live in harmony with the Earth. The Sun is, however, represented in the form of an Eagle and Butterfly in the center of the Tonalmachiotl, symbolizing an astronomical event that can be witnessed on Earth every year in July.

Among the many documented counts within the Tonalmachiotl, two are of significance and are elaborated in the maiz-based curriculum. The xiuhpohualli (a solar count) represents the solar calendar, which consists of 360 days with 5 days of the nemontemi, a reflection period used to evaluate the previous year with the intent to learn and grow from our lived experiences. The xiuhpohualli consists of eighteen veintenas (20-day cycles) as our ancestors discovered that the climate changes slightly every twenty days. Each twenty-day period that changes in the Earth’s climate is recognized and ceremonial obligations continue to be completed in an effort to assist the Earth or thank the Earth for everything that She provides. This solar count was critical to the survival of our ancestors as it was an agricultural calendar that provided the necessary knowledge for them to grow their sustenance effectively without destroying the Earth. An understanding of this count cements our interdependence with the Earth and establishes our responsibility to respect Her, for ourselves and the many generations hereafter.

The second count, the tonalpohualli (human count), consists of 260 days. The tonalpohualli consists of twenty trecenas (13-day cycles). This count totals 260 days, which is the amount totaling the human gestation period and applies to our development in the womb and the philosophy that the very second we take our first breath we are granted the energies of the day. Additionally, each thirteen-day cycle carries an energy that, when known, can be used. For example, according to the thirteen-day cycle, Ce Tochtli (one rabbit) days carry the energy of completion and maturity, a great time to undertake a project and to complete it.

Knowing the energy of the day on which we were born serves as a guide to realize and develop our potentials and capabilities so that we can fulfill our destiny as human beings to develop our profound potentials and inhabit this Earth and live in harmony with Her. This is what the Tonalmachiotl teaches us. Each day is given the symbol of an animal, a plant, a life-giving element or a symbol of life. For example, the day tochtli (rabbit) carries the energy of fertilization and maturity, and so a person born on the day, rabbit, is granted that energy. As such, that person can be fertile with the creation of ideas and on the completion or maturity of projects. A person born on the day atl, water, has the potential like water to give life, to take the shape of any container that it is housed in. As such, that person will be the giver of life to all things, ideas, and projects and will be well-established in all groups of people just as water conforms to its surroundings.

Each of the twenty days carries a very specific symbol because the elders matched the energy of the day with an animal or element that is representative of the specific energy. The twenty days, which appear counterclockwise in one of the inner circles, are the following: cipactli (crocodile), e’hecatl (wind), calli(house), cuetzpallin (lizard), coatl (serpent), miquitzli (skull), mazatl (deer), tochtli (rabbit), atl (water),itzcuintli (dog), ozomatli (monkey), Malinalli (herb), acatl (reed), Ozelotl (jaguar), cuautli (eagle),cozcacuautli (condor), ollin (movement), tecpatl (flint), qiahuitl ( rain), and xochitl (flower). In a maiz-based curriculum, students are able to find the personal symbols that correspond to their birthday. By knowing these symbols, students have acquired an identity that gives them purpose and direction in life to live in beauty.

Another critical pillar of the maiz-based curriculum is centered on the Nahui-ollin. This way of knowing is extrapolated from the center of the Tonalmachiotl, including the face and the four images in the squares surrounding it. The knowledge reveals a fundamental concept in Aztec-Mexica Cosmology that establishes a guide for everyday life and decisions. Moreover, it guides us in our development towards harmony and balance of the mind, body, and essence that fosters community. This epistemology serves to guide our decision-making in that there is an understanding that as evolutionary beings we grow and become wise through our lived experiences. The cycle consists of the male energies of Tezcatlipoca (reflection), Xipe Totec (transformation), Huitzilopotchtli (our will), and Quetzalcoatl (stability). The Nahui-ollin demonstrates that we must be reflective in our daily actions so that we can learn from them and grow into loving and respectful human beings.

This maiz-based curriculum focuses on the development of identity, purpose, and hope that is appealing to a students’ humanity and not focused on test scores. The focus on human measures is how we can transform the experience of students in the classroom and where we can disrupt the achievement gap.

While some will deny that there is a civilizational war at play here, what is clear is that indigenous knowledge has been demonized. That demonization has backfired as there is a newfound interest among people of Mexican, Central, and South American descent—indigenous peoples on this continent—to learn about the ancestral knowledge that lives in our midst. That the knowledge that is indigenous to this continent would be deemed to be Un-American is mind-numbing. Regardless of how this plays out in the courts, this is why it has become a teaching moment. It is possible that the calendar that has graced homes, schools, and restaurants in both Mexico and the United States for many generations, will no longer be appreciated simply for its artistic value, but for its actual content.

Notes

1. A June 2012 study confirms the positive relationship between taking MAS classes and success in school, thus debunking once again the notion that there is no such proof. See this study.

2. For a broader discussion on the topic of whether MAS is outside of Western civilization, go to Truthout.

3. The proper context of this conflict can only be appreciated by knowing that several months before on May 3, 2011, perhaps 200 law enforcement officers converged on the school board meeting, surrounding the entire neighborhood, occupying the building with SWAT officers, snipers, police dogs, a bomb squad and a metal detection unit. At this meeting, seven women were arrested inside for speaking in support of the program, while youths and students were beaten outside. To this day, there has been no accounting as to the reason for the massive show of force.

4. The directives can be found on this website in a column titled TUSD shuts down Dept., bans books, & issues draconian directives as to what can and cannot be taught in schools.

5. The initial seven books that were boxed in Jan 2012 were: Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic; 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth Martinez; Message to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales; Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by F. Arturo Rosales; Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña; Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire; and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow.

6. Several of my own books were part of the MAS-TUSD curriculum. Two, The X in La Raza and Codex Tamuanchan: On Becoming Human, were banned by TUSD administrators the year before and were part of the original MAS curriculum since the department’s founding in 1997.

7. The argument that TUSD was not censoring books was also predicated on the idea that the books were not actually banned, but simply placed in district libraries. While books are available to students, they can no longer be taught in MAS classes or by former MAS teachers.

8. Chucho Ruiz, who is part of Calpolli Teoxicalli in Tucson and who teaches for Chicanos Por La Causa in area schools, including TUSD schools, is permitted to teach the Aztec Calendar through Native American Studies.

9. Tom Horne has not attacked the concepts of In lak Ech-Panche Be or Hunab Ku, but these are the most celebrated concepts of the MAS program. His attacks have generally attacked everything outside of Western Civilization. One such attack was Lecture #1023, Heritage Foundation, May 14, 2007

10. One of the legal challenges actually precedes HB 2281. The long-standing Fisher/Mendoza desegregation lawsuit may trump local and state laws. As of Nov. 2012, it seems likely that the courts may order TUSD to reinstate the Raza Studies curriculum. A preliminary report calls on TUSD to greatly expand its Latino-relevant classes.

11. In the United States, people of Mexican origin have a greater interest in the Nepohuatzinzin because it is of Mesoamerican origins, though Lorenzo Boturini Benaduci posited in the 1700s that it is similar to the quipu of the Andes.

12. In a maiz-based curriculum, students are taught things as simple as how to count in Nahuatl. For example, here is 1-13: ce (one), ome (two), yei (three), nahui (four), macuili (five), chicuace (six), chicome(seven), chicueyi (eight), chicnahui (nine), matlactli (ten), matlactli huan ce (eleven), matlactli huan ome( twelve), matlactli huan yei (thirteen).

13. The oral tradition is passed on by both, elders, primarily from Mexico and Central America, but also by traditional dance groups referred to as danza. Several influential elders who have had direct relationships with Mexican American community have included Maya scholar, Domingo Martinez Paredez, Aztec-Mexica elders, Florencio Yescas and Maestra Angelbertha Cobb, conchero elder Andres Segura and Mexicayotl elder, Tlakaele. All are now deceased except Maestra Cobb.

14. In the summer of 2012, educators convened a Raza Studies Now conference in Santa Monica, Calif., with the expressed purpose of spreading Raza Studies at the pre-K–12 levels nationwide. Several of the participants were those that also took part in writing “El Plan de Santa Barbara” in 1969, a blueprint for spreading Chicano Studies at the college and university level nationwide.

15. During the first week of August, Mr. Horne verbally reversed himself on the topic of the Aztec Calendar. At a press conference held to denounce the use of death threats in the debate over MAS, he stated that HB 2281 does not prohibit the teaching of the Aztec calendar, nor does it prohibit the teaching of Mexican-American history or culture. However, he added a disclaimer, saying that he is not responsible for what administrators do in the classrooms. See my Truthout article.

16. Calpolli Teoxicalli is a family of Indigenous families in Tucson, Arizona, who guide their lives according to the Tonalmachiotl or Aztec Calendar.

References

Boone, H.E. 2000. Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Boturini Benaduci, L. 1974. Idea de una historia general de la America Septentrional. Preliminary analysis by Miguel Leon Portilla. Mexico City: Editorial Porrua.

Chimalpopoca Codice: anales de Cuauhtitlan y leyenda de los soles / traduccion directa del nahuatl por Velazquez. (1945). (Velasquez, Primo, Feliciano (ed.). Mexico City: UNAM.

Forbes, J.1973. Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan. Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett.

Martinez Paredez, D.M. 1960. Un Continente y Una Cultura: Unidad Filologica de la America pre-hispanica. Mexico City: Editorial Poesia de America.

Rodriguez, R. 2010. Amoxtli X – The X Codex. Austin: Eagle Feather Research Institute.

— — —. 2012. “Raza Studies: Inside or Outside of Western Civilization?” Truthout: Public Intellectual Project.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Roberto Cintli Rodriguez

Roberto Rodriguez, an assistant professor in Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona, can be reached at xcolumn@gmail.com.


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Banning the "Aztec Calendar": Indigenous, Maiz-Based Knowledge at the Heart of Tucson's Mexican-American Studies Curriculum and Conflict

Friday, 28 December 2012 12:06 By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, Indigenous Cultures Institute | News Analysis

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Introduction

The banning of the Aztec Calendar in a Tucson classroom in 2012, was the symbolic culmination of a six-year effort to destroy the district’s highly successful Mexican-American Studies (MAS) department. This mind-numbing act gives the public a glimpse into the level of conflict and censorship present during this “debate”; it is a form of censorship that went beyond the banning of books. In effect, this conflict is about civilizational war. And to the chagrin of those promoting this war, this effort has boomeranged; the attack on the MAS program has created an unprecedented interest in Indigenous knowledge, history, and culture. The destruction of Tucson’s MAS program as also created a teaching moment of what is commonly referred to as the Aztec Calendar or the Sun Stone, though more precisely known as the Tonalmachiotl.

The Tonalmachiotl was created over many centuries. The one most people are familiar with was chiseled in the 1400s in Mesoamerica and currently resides in Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology. The interest in learning how to read it, especially in the United States, is very much on the rise.

Exploring this growing phenomenon, Dr. Cintli examines, in the first part of this essay, examines the political context of the efforts to prevent the teaching of Mexican history and culture. In the second part, MAS teacher Norma Gonzalez touches on the contents of the Tonalmachiotl, whose teaching was banned in Tucson schools in 2012.

The Political Context

When the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) governing board voted in January of 2012 to suspend its Mexican-American Studies department, chaos ensued. Contrary to what the board and the district’s superintendent, Dr. John Pedicone, had been telling the community for months, that vote did not suspend the department; rather, it abolished it. This is the same department that was graduating close to 100 percent of its students and sending close to eighty percent of them on to college.1

Perhaps the most underreported aspect of this conflict is that shortly after the department was dismantled, one of the MAS teachers, Norma Gonzalez, co-author of this article, was told that she could not teach the Aztec Calendar to her students. In a symbolic sense, this spoke volumes. Indeed, this prohibition on teaching the Tonalmachiotl confirmed the idea that the debate was a civilizational war—a characterization that was first advanced by former state school superintendent, Tom Horne. When Horne first began this campaign to eliminate Tucson’s MAS department, that is, he advanced the idea that it needed to be done because the MAS curriculum was purportedly outside of Western Civilization. Indeed, there are few symbols more connected to Mexico’s Indigenous roots and history than this Pre-Columbian calendar, a calendar so exact that it continues to be more advanced than the Western Gregorian calendar in use today.2

Despite the significance of this incident involving the censuring of the Aztec Calendar, it has never been widely reported by the mainstream media. In part, this may be due to the fact that after the dismantling, chaos ensued in Tucson schools, primarily because this action took place in the middle of the school year in response to the 2010 anti-ethnic studies HB 2281 legislation. What would happen to the teachers, the students and the curriculum, became not academic questions, but trauma that was played out in real time in Tucson classrooms. Overnight, no one was quite sure what was legal or illegal, or what was permissible inside of the classroom. In one case, after student Nico Dominguez spoke at the previous school board meeting, he was pulled out of his classroom at Tucson High School by TUSD security personnel.3

During this chaotic time, MAS teachers were given nine directives, explaining what they could expect thereafter, including what they could and could not teach.4 The directives had the additional chilling effect that even students were unclear as to how they could interact in class. The first directive is jarring: “assignments can not direct students to apply MAS perspectives.” In the 43-year history of MAS/Raza Studies, there are no known parameters that define or limit “Mexican American Studies perspectives.” That the district would attempt to constrict the teachers was an apparent attempt to also constrict the discipline and its perspectives. The second directive banned MAS books and other teaching materials, including art and posters, from the classroom. Aside from the resulting district-wide walkouts, most of the attention immediately focused on the book banning which included TUSD personnel entering former MAS classrooms—during class time—boxing books and labeling them “banned books” and shipping them off to the district’s warehouse.

One teacher reported that her computer had been wiped clean and she, along with all the MAS teachers, were told to clear up all their MAS books, not just the seven that appeared on a TUSD list.5 The directive involved some additional fifty titles, which constituted the MAS curriculum. To this day, the district and state deny that any books were banned.6 Ironically, despite that denial, one rationale that MAS critics utilized for their removal was that such books—which dealt with such topics as critical race theory—were appropriate for college youths but inappropriate for high school level youths. The critics actually advanced the argument that Ethnic Studies, and Mexican American Studies specifically, were appropriate in college but not high school or younger.7

After the directives were issued, the chaos began as both teachers and students were confounded, not sure of what could be taught or discussed in their classrooms, including what could and could not be written in class. Of the many situations that arose, one, involving MAS teacher, Norma Gonzalez, bears special scrutiny. A few days after the dismantling of MAS, while Gonzalez was teaching the meaning of the Aztec Calendar to her students, the principal instructed her to take down the image. The principal cited the TUSD vote, explaining that because the calendar corresponded to Mexican history and culture, its teaching was now prohibited. One of the great ironies of this situation is that while the calendar apparently could no longer be taught in Mexican American Studies, it could be taught in Native American Studies.8

None of these draconian prohibitions were surprising; another one calls for the regular monitoring and collection (confiscation) of teacher and student work by district and state officials, which has happened. Despite these unprecedented measures, this six-year conflict has actually begun to create a teaching opportunity nationally for Indigenous knowledge. For instance, Gonzalez made the observation that while many Mexican families have an Aztec Calendar in their home, the vast majority don’t know how to read it. Indeed, this observation is true about most Indigenous knowledge in Mexico and Mexican homes. What little is known is viewed as part of the past and function more at the level of artwork or relics, as opposed to living knowledge.

When Horne began his attacks, claiming that MAS was outside of Western civilization and that its roots were not within the Greco–Roman tradition, what he was apparently referencing were the Maya philosophical concepts that anchor the MAS-TUSD department.9 These concepts are In Lak Ech (You are my other Me) and Panche Be (to seek the root of the truth). These concepts teach students to see themselves in each other and to pursue the truth in all that they do. Invariably, this leads students also to fight for social justice. Those concepts are traced not to Europe but to this very continent. However, as Maya scholar Domingo Martinez Paredez explains in Un continente y una cultura (1960), the concepts are actually not Maya, but rather belong to all maiz-based peoples of this continent.

Other elements of the curriculum that can be construed as outside of Western civilization, in addition to the Aztec calendar and these maiz-based philosophies, would be the teaching of other Maya-Nahua or Mesoamerican knowledge. Because of this emphasis on maiz-based knowledge, Horne also alleged that MAS teachers taught the students to see themselves as part of groups (Aztecs or Mayas, apparently), as opposed to individuals.

HB 2281 has precipitated several legal challenges, yet, regardless of how the courts settle this, Mexican-American Studies, particularly with a maiz-based or Indigenous perspective emphasis, is ascendant nationwide.10 Probably at no time since the 1960s has there been this much interest in these studies. The interest nowadays appears to be even more profound because its allure is that Indigenous Knowledge, history, and culture has once again become “forbidden” knowledge.

In this environment, people nationwide, and students in particular, want to know what elements within MAS are considered to be “outside of Western civilization.” Specifically, they want to know about In Lak Ech andPanche Be, the Aztec Calendar, and about the great book of the Maya, the Popol Vuh. Within this book is the creation story of the Maya, how the cosmos was born, and how human beings and maiz were created. This has also sparked interest in other Indigenous (Maya-Mixtec and Aztec-Mexica) codices that contain Indigenous knowledge and history of the continent, including the creation stories of other Indigenous peoples. One such codex, or Amoxtli, is Codex Chimalpopoca, which contains the creation story of the Nahuatl peoples (Legend of the Suns), which is somewhat similar to the Popol Vuh. The knowledge contained within these ancient books is referred to as In Tlilli In Tlapalli—The Red and the Black (Boone 2000). This is the knowledge that students want and are now clamoring for.

The battle to defend MAS-TUSD has created an unprecedented thirst for this knowledge (often found in the few surviving codices), knowledge that has been on this continent for many thousands of years. In these communities, there is also high interest in the Nahuatl (Aztec), Maya, and Quechua (Inca) languages. This also includes a high interest in Mesoamerican mathematical knowledge systems, including theNepohualtzinzin, and, to a lesser extent, the quipu of the Inca, reputedly 5,000-years old.11 Both of these devices record knowledge; they are not simply counting devices. This also includes interest in the Maya-Nahuatl numbering systems,12 and the culture that has also been preserved in the oral tradition, song, poetry and dance.13

In the United States, in the past, these different kinds of Indigenous knowledge were seen at best as quaint or simply of interest to poets or esoteric and erudite scholars. However, since the advent of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, with an emphasis on In Xochitl In Cuicatl, or Floricanto—Flower and Song—but even more so, as a result of this Arizona conflict, there is a groundswell of interest in these forms of Indigenous knowledge.

Beginning in the fall of 2012, many communities nationwide are set to recommend to their local school boards that maiz or Indigenous-based Mexican-American Studies—with a social justice emphasis—be introduced and taught in their schools.14 It is safe to assume that this is not what Horne had envisioned.15Now, no one is certain whether Horne’s successor, John Huppenthal, will next come after MAS at the university level, though he has promised he will do so. If he does, no doubt this will create an even greater interest in Indigenous knowledge and studies.

Cultural Relevancy and Maiz-based Curriculum

For the predominantly brown students that attend Tucson Unified School District schools, a maiz-based (corn-based) curriculum possesses a profound relevancy to their humanity, thus imparting purpose for their existence as planetary citizens, effectively rendering them at once responsible and response-able.

Components of a maiz-based curriculum include: identity, discipline, tlanelhualtiliztli (seeking truth for stability), Nehuan Ti Nehuan (I am you and you am I), and cultural relevancy. As colonized people we struggle with identity, as that is what the colonizers immediately attack. Without knowledge of our culture, history, or roots, we are weak individuals; thus, acquiring an authentic identity is critical as a component to cement a positive identity. Acquiring an authentic identity places students on a path towards self-love. Discipline is presented in the manner in which students are in control of their learning and are expected to have confidence in themselves to move in a positive and progressive manner. As such discipline is understood as the training of self, in all aspects, so that we can positively transform the self and the collective. Seeking truth for stability is a requirement as students become academicians through their devotion to research due to the application of critical thinking. Community is the essence of the classroom environment, so students are expected to conduct themselves with the utmost respect for themselves and everyone around them. This is practiced daily through the application of Nehuan Ti Nehuan.

It is through the implementation of these components that students experience love with high standards, the concretizing of an ethnic and academic identity, the expectation that they must be researchers (as the more knowledge they gather about a topic the more stable they will be as authorities on that topic), and a vision of themselves in others as a basis for their interaction with one another.

Relevancy is when a student finds a significant and logical connection to classroom content and knowledge that provides a bearing on the students’ daily lives. This maiz-based curriculum fosters students’ connections to their essence. Within the Mexican American Studies (MAS) curriculum, culture is defined as a “lens,” figuratively speaking, that we utilize to perceive our world. Culture was created as a necessity for humans who first inhabited the Earth so we could live in harmony with our surroundings. Cultural relevancy is the ability to utilize that “lens” in the classroom as a tool for the students to critique, understand, question, value, perceive, apply, evaluate, and to relate to the content that is being presented. Cultural relevancy is what the maiz-based curriculum provides our students to profoundly impact their lives.

Cultural Symbols and the Aztec Calendar

Culture is expressed through language, values, beliefs, etc. and has various characteristics. One of the characteristics of culture is that it is symbolic. Every culture has a set of symbols that expresses its features. As a Mexican indigenous person, many cultural symbols permeated my home as a young girl, and I accepted them as just that, symbols. Growing up, I was particularly interested in the round shaped plaque with many symbols on it; it is commonly known as the “Aztec calendar.”

Today, as a student of Amerindigenous culture, I have come to deeply appreciate and value the teachings embedded in some of those cultural symbols that made up my home as a child. Indeed, they are symbols that are present in most Mexican indigenous homes. Specifically, I have long been a student of the Aztec Calendar, or properly named by its creators: the Tonalmachiotl. It is this symbol precisely that has enlightened me about indigenous Mexican culture and, more generally, all indigenous cultures of this continent. The Tonalmachiotl represents the keys to the cultures indigenous to this continent and should be a required subject taught in all schools on this continent.

This symbol was the point of reference for the development of the former MAS maiz-based curriculum, that is, until I was prohibited from teaching it by my former administrator at a middle school, when the program was dismantled. Upon returning from an administrators’ meeting, my administrator literally stormed into my classroom the day after TUSD killed the program as a result of HB 2281 and stated in front of my students, most of them Mexican, that I was not to teach anything related to that symbol, pointing to the Tonalmachiotl. She stated that the TUSD directives (and specifically the 1st directive) prohibit the teaching of anything that had to do with “Mexican culture.” Needless to say, I was in shock primarily because this is a cultural symbol that permeates the Mexican indigenous homes, restaurants, bakeries, and murals of her very students. The calendar is more “American” than any Greco-Roman symbol that the state of Arizona would have its teachers teach. In fact, according to my co-author, University of Arizona professor Roberto Rodriguez, “Tucson is home to the oldest cornfield in the nation,” thus establishing maiz-based curricula and culture as more indigenous than “America” itself.

Since this event, interest in maiz-based curricula has skyrocketed as educators nationwide have been intrigued by the prohibited curriculum. What follows, then, are lessons on the Tonalmachiotl and maiz-based perspectives.

The Knowledge in the Tonalmachiotl

Profesor Arturo Meza Gutierrez, a respected teacher of Mexican Indigenous culture in Mexico City, states that the Tonalmachiotl communicates to us that we have the right to live a just and happy life and that we must respect the four life-giving elements. Developing a curriculum centered on these precepts appeals to the students’ humanity and yields tremendous growth, as evidenced by human measures. Human measures are expressed through the students level of engagement in life, that is when they engage positively in life because they have a purpose, they have hope that opportunities exist for them as opposed to being in a state of nihilism where we can find students of color because of colonization. A stable identity that allows them to walk in beauty.

Focusing on growth based on these human measures will positively and drastically foster progress in all academic areas, as evidenced by TUSD’s Raza Studies students’ consistent outperforming all other student groups in AIMS (standardized test) scores. This curricular focus imparts to students the keys to their indigenous identity and their rights as planetary citizens of this continent, thus cementing their purpose in life, their responsibility and their sense of self, their humanity.

According to the teaching of our Mexica elders, caretakers of our indigenous history and knowledge, theTonalmachiotl is based on at least 30,000 years of research and study conducted on the Earth and the Cosmos; it is a scientific documentation and an astronomical account (Meza-Guitierrez). According toCalpolli Teoxicalli, the twelve-foot diameter stone is the culminating product of research conducted by our indigenous elders.16 Our ancestors’ query was centered on living in harmony with all of creation. This research cultivated the knowledge to understand the Earth and her cycles and to effectively and harmoniously work with her and the Cosmos (Calpolli Teoxicalli). Moreover, this knowledge establishes a connection with our inner-self to live in harmony from within and without.

When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico-Tenochtitlan in 1525, an understanding of these cultural symbols and the knowledge embedded within them was the furthest thing from the Spaniards’ minds; they came to destroy. As colonizers of this region, the Spaniards proceeded to chronicle the history of the Mexica. Purposefully they wrote that the face in the center of the Tonalmachiotl is that of a sun god, but to my understanding, that is a 500-year-old fabricated falsity. Evidence reveals that it is not a sun god as there is no word in Nahuatl to express an idea of a sun god.

According to the teachings of Meza-Gutierrez, the face represents Tlaltecutli, the Earth. Tlaltecutli translates into “our guide”; thus, the Tonalmachiotl is our guide to understanding how to live in harmony with the Earth. The Sun is, however, represented in the form of an Eagle and Butterfly in the center of the Tonalmachiotl, symbolizing an astronomical event that can be witnessed on Earth every year in July.

Among the many documented counts within the Tonalmachiotl, two are of significance and are elaborated in the maiz-based curriculum. The xiuhpohualli (a solar count) represents the solar calendar, which consists of 360 days with 5 days of the nemontemi, a reflection period used to evaluate the previous year with the intent to learn and grow from our lived experiences. The xiuhpohualli consists of eighteen veintenas (20-day cycles) as our ancestors discovered that the climate changes slightly every twenty days. Each twenty-day period that changes in the Earth’s climate is recognized and ceremonial obligations continue to be completed in an effort to assist the Earth or thank the Earth for everything that She provides. This solar count was critical to the survival of our ancestors as it was an agricultural calendar that provided the necessary knowledge for them to grow their sustenance effectively without destroying the Earth. An understanding of this count cements our interdependence with the Earth and establishes our responsibility to respect Her, for ourselves and the many generations hereafter.

The second count, the tonalpohualli (human count), consists of 260 days. The tonalpohualli consists of twenty trecenas (13-day cycles). This count totals 260 days, which is the amount totaling the human gestation period and applies to our development in the womb and the philosophy that the very second we take our first breath we are granted the energies of the day. Additionally, each thirteen-day cycle carries an energy that, when known, can be used. For example, according to the thirteen-day cycle, Ce Tochtli (one rabbit) days carry the energy of completion and maturity, a great time to undertake a project and to complete it.

Knowing the energy of the day on which we were born serves as a guide to realize and develop our potentials and capabilities so that we can fulfill our destiny as human beings to develop our profound potentials and inhabit this Earth and live in harmony with Her. This is what the Tonalmachiotl teaches us. Each day is given the symbol of an animal, a plant, a life-giving element or a symbol of life. For example, the day tochtli (rabbit) carries the energy of fertilization and maturity, and so a person born on the day, rabbit, is granted that energy. As such, that person can be fertile with the creation of ideas and on the completion or maturity of projects. A person born on the day atl, water, has the potential like water to give life, to take the shape of any container that it is housed in. As such, that person will be the giver of life to all things, ideas, and projects and will be well-established in all groups of people just as water conforms to its surroundings.

Each of the twenty days carries a very specific symbol because the elders matched the energy of the day with an animal or element that is representative of the specific energy. The twenty days, which appear counterclockwise in one of the inner circles, are the following: cipactli (crocodile), e’hecatl (wind), calli(house), cuetzpallin (lizard), coatl (serpent), miquitzli (skull), mazatl (deer), tochtli (rabbit), atl (water),itzcuintli (dog), ozomatli (monkey), Malinalli (herb), acatl (reed), Ozelotl (jaguar), cuautli (eagle),cozcacuautli (condor), ollin (movement), tecpatl (flint), qiahuitl ( rain), and xochitl (flower). In a maiz-based curriculum, students are able to find the personal symbols that correspond to their birthday. By knowing these symbols, students have acquired an identity that gives them purpose and direction in life to live in beauty.

Another critical pillar of the maiz-based curriculum is centered on the Nahui-ollin. This way of knowing is extrapolated from the center of the Tonalmachiotl, including the face and the four images in the squares surrounding it. The knowledge reveals a fundamental concept in Aztec-Mexica Cosmology that establishes a guide for everyday life and decisions. Moreover, it guides us in our development towards harmony and balance of the mind, body, and essence that fosters community. This epistemology serves to guide our decision-making in that there is an understanding that as evolutionary beings we grow and become wise through our lived experiences. The cycle consists of the male energies of Tezcatlipoca (reflection), Xipe Totec (transformation), Huitzilopotchtli (our will), and Quetzalcoatl (stability). The Nahui-ollin demonstrates that we must be reflective in our daily actions so that we can learn from them and grow into loving and respectful human beings.

This maiz-based curriculum focuses on the development of identity, purpose, and hope that is appealing to a students’ humanity and not focused on test scores. The focus on human measures is how we can transform the experience of students in the classroom and where we can disrupt the achievement gap.

While some will deny that there is a civilizational war at play here, what is clear is that indigenous knowledge has been demonized. That demonization has backfired as there is a newfound interest among people of Mexican, Central, and South American descent—indigenous peoples on this continent—to learn about the ancestral knowledge that lives in our midst. That the knowledge that is indigenous to this continent would be deemed to be Un-American is mind-numbing. Regardless of how this plays out in the courts, this is why it has become a teaching moment. It is possible that the calendar that has graced homes, schools, and restaurants in both Mexico and the United States for many generations, will no longer be appreciated simply for its artistic value, but for its actual content.

Notes

1. A June 2012 study confirms the positive relationship between taking MAS classes and success in school, thus debunking once again the notion that there is no such proof. See this study.

2. For a broader discussion on the topic of whether MAS is outside of Western civilization, go to Truthout.

3. The proper context of this conflict can only be appreciated by knowing that several months before on May 3, 2011, perhaps 200 law enforcement officers converged on the school board meeting, surrounding the entire neighborhood, occupying the building with SWAT officers, snipers, police dogs, a bomb squad and a metal detection unit. At this meeting, seven women were arrested inside for speaking in support of the program, while youths and students were beaten outside. To this day, there has been no accounting as to the reason for the massive show of force.

4. The directives can be found on this website in a column titled TUSD shuts down Dept., bans books, & issues draconian directives as to what can and cannot be taught in schools.

5. The initial seven books that were boxed in Jan 2012 were: Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic; 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth Martinez; Message to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales; Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by F. Arturo Rosales; Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña; Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire; and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow.

6. Several of my own books were part of the MAS-TUSD curriculum. Two, The X in La Raza and Codex Tamuanchan: On Becoming Human, were banned by TUSD administrators the year before and were part of the original MAS curriculum since the department’s founding in 1997.

7. The argument that TUSD was not censoring books was also predicated on the idea that the books were not actually banned, but simply placed in district libraries. While books are available to students, they can no longer be taught in MAS classes or by former MAS teachers.

8. Chucho Ruiz, who is part of Calpolli Teoxicalli in Tucson and who teaches for Chicanos Por La Causa in area schools, including TUSD schools, is permitted to teach the Aztec Calendar through Native American Studies.

9. Tom Horne has not attacked the concepts of In lak Ech-Panche Be or Hunab Ku, but these are the most celebrated concepts of the MAS program. His attacks have generally attacked everything outside of Western Civilization. One such attack was Lecture #1023, Heritage Foundation, May 14, 2007

10. One of the legal challenges actually precedes HB 2281. The long-standing Fisher/Mendoza desegregation lawsuit may trump local and state laws. As of Nov. 2012, it seems likely that the courts may order TUSD to reinstate the Raza Studies curriculum. A preliminary report calls on TUSD to greatly expand its Latino-relevant classes.

11. In the United States, people of Mexican origin have a greater interest in the Nepohuatzinzin because it is of Mesoamerican origins, though Lorenzo Boturini Benaduci posited in the 1700s that it is similar to the quipu of the Andes.

12. In a maiz-based curriculum, students are taught things as simple as how to count in Nahuatl. For example, here is 1-13: ce (one), ome (two), yei (three), nahui (four), macuili (five), chicuace (six), chicome(seven), chicueyi (eight), chicnahui (nine), matlactli (ten), matlactli huan ce (eleven), matlactli huan ome( twelve), matlactli huan yei (thirteen).

13. The oral tradition is passed on by both, elders, primarily from Mexico and Central America, but also by traditional dance groups referred to as danza. Several influential elders who have had direct relationships with Mexican American community have included Maya scholar, Domingo Martinez Paredez, Aztec-Mexica elders, Florencio Yescas and Maestra Angelbertha Cobb, conchero elder Andres Segura and Mexicayotl elder, Tlakaele. All are now deceased except Maestra Cobb.

14. In the summer of 2012, educators convened a Raza Studies Now conference in Santa Monica, Calif., with the expressed purpose of spreading Raza Studies at the pre-K–12 levels nationwide. Several of the participants were those that also took part in writing “El Plan de Santa Barbara” in 1969, a blueprint for spreading Chicano Studies at the college and university level nationwide.

15. During the first week of August, Mr. Horne verbally reversed himself on the topic of the Aztec Calendar. At a press conference held to denounce the use of death threats in the debate over MAS, he stated that HB 2281 does not prohibit the teaching of the Aztec calendar, nor does it prohibit the teaching of Mexican-American history or culture. However, he added a disclaimer, saying that he is not responsible for what administrators do in the classrooms. See my Truthout article.

16. Calpolli Teoxicalli is a family of Indigenous families in Tucson, Arizona, who guide their lives according to the Tonalmachiotl or Aztec Calendar.

References

Boone, H.E. 2000. Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Boturini Benaduci, L. 1974. Idea de una historia general de la America Septentrional. Preliminary analysis by Miguel Leon Portilla. Mexico City: Editorial Porrua.

Chimalpopoca Codice: anales de Cuauhtitlan y leyenda de los soles / traduccion directa del nahuatl por Velazquez. (1945). (Velasquez, Primo, Feliciano (ed.). Mexico City: UNAM.

Forbes, J.1973. Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan. Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett.

Martinez Paredez, D.M. 1960. Un Continente y Una Cultura: Unidad Filologica de la America pre-hispanica. Mexico City: Editorial Poesia de America.

Rodriguez, R. 2010. Amoxtli X – The X Codex. Austin: Eagle Feather Research Institute.

— — —. 2012. “Raza Studies: Inside or Outside of Western Civilization?” Truthout: Public Intellectual Project.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Roberto Cintli Rodriguez

Roberto Rodriguez, an assistant professor in Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona, can be reached at xcolumn@gmail.com.


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