As The Dust Settles
It’s taken a few days, but I’ve finally got the site fully restored and running again, including cleaning up all the links. Fun fact — importing an old WordPress blog onto a new domain, still using their software, doesn’t auto-update links to pages and posts, internal or external. When you realize that is when you also realize just how many links you’ve built up over the course of two years. Good times. On that note, if you spot any broken links while navigating the site, please shoot me a comment or email (cehualli <AT> hotmail <DOT> com), it’ll help me fix anything still wrong faster.
Matters of housekeeping aside, I’d also like to point out that I’ve opened the Post-Colonial Modern History page in the History section with its first entry, a collection of John P. Schmal’s papers and research on the numerous indigenous nations within Mexico in the modern era, hosted on Somos Primos. It’s valuable beyond its core informative value as it also serves to highlight the very important fact that, yes, the Aztecs (Mexica), the Maya, the Huaxtecs, and all the other indigenous peoples one frequently reads about in the past are not gone, they are still here, even if the Conquest and incorporation into a modern, European-style Republic has left its mark on their lifeways. This might seem like an odd thing to make a big deal about, but it’s a serious issue when discussing First Nations people, as they’re so often stereotyped as archaic, vanishing, or extinct, creatures of the past, and these aren’t harmless cliches. They hurt people, real, living people. If you’d like to get a bit of an intro on the issue of damaging stereotyping, check out Adrienne K.’s recent posts on her blog, Native Appropriations, HERE and HERE. If you’d like to dig deeper and read a concise paper on the results of a 2008 Stanford University study by Dr. Stephanie Fryburg, please go HERE for a downloadable PDF.
Study Of A Contemporary Huaxtec Celebration At Postectli
I came across an interesting article by Alan R. Sandstrom on FAMSI the other night. It is a summary of his observation of a modern Huaxtec ceremony honoring one of the Tlaloque, a rain spirit named Apanchanej (literally, “Water Dweller”). This festival took place in 2001 on Postectli, a mountain in the Huasteca region of Mexico.
A bit of background — the Huaxtecs are an ancient people, neighbors of the Aztecs. Like the Aztecs, they spoke and still speak Nahuatl, making them one of the numerous Nahua peoples. To this day they still live in their traditional home, one of the more rugged and mountainous sections of Mexico. They have retained more of their indigenous culture than some of the other nations that survived the Conquest due to their remoteness and the rough terrain that inhibited colonization. This includes many pre-Conquest religious traditions, even some sacrificial practices.
To read the short article summarizing Sandstrom’s experiences at the ceremony:
If you would like to read the article in English, please go HERE.
Si desea leer el artículo en español, por favor haga clic AQUI.
Some Highlights Related To Modern Practices
This article includes discussion of several details of particular interest to those interested in learning from the living practice of traditional religion. Of special note are photographs of the altar at the shrine on Postectli, including explanation of the symbols and objects on it (photograph 12). Also, the practice of creating and honoring sacred paper effigies of the deities involved in the ceremony is explored in some depth. Paper has traditionally been a sacred material among the Nahua tribes, and paper representations of objects in worship is a very old practice indeed. Additionally, there is some detail on tobacco and drink offerings, as well as the use of music and the grueling test of endurance inherent in the extended preparation and performance of this ritual.
Contemporary Animal Sacrifice
A key part of the article’s focus is on the modern practice of animal sacrifice and blood offerings that survive among the Huaxteca today. These forms of worship have by no means been stamped out among the indigenous people of Mexico, as Sandstrom documents. (Yes, there are photographs in case you are wondering — scholarly, not sensationalistic.) Offering turkeys is something that has been done since long before the Conquest, and from what I have read they remain a popular substitute for humans in Mexico. It’s fitting if you know the Nahuatl for turkey — if I remember right, it’s pipil-pipil, which translates to something like “the little nobles” or “the children.” If I’m wrong, someone please correct me, as I don’t have my notes on the Nahuatl for this story handy at the moment. They got that name because in the myth of the Five Suns, the people of one of the earlier Suns were thought to have turned into turkeys when their age ended in a violent cataclysm, and they survive in this form today. I doubt the connection would have been lost on the Aztecs when offering the birds.
To wrap things up, Sandstrom’s article was a lucky find and is a valuable glimpse into modern-day indigenous practice . I strongly recommend stopping by FAMSI and checking it out, as my flyby overview of it can’t possibly contain everything of interest. On one last detail, I strongly encourage you to read the footnotes on this one — a lot more valuable info is hidden in those.