Q: How long did the journey take?

A: It took the Mexica people a little bit more than two hundred years, [according to] one of the versions, which is 1064 to 1325. The Codice of Tira de Aztlán doesn’t come up, quite, to 1325, but [about] 1300. That’s when it stops, but there is another codex that complements this, the complete set, which is the Codex Obin, with the rest of the years that happened.
It is a very important moment at this time right now, because it’s one flint, again. If we, if we count how many cycles of 52 years, which were like the centuries, there is 18, so 18 times 52 give, gives us the cycle, right now, of this moment, that comes along with the new sun. This 18 times 20 marks the the solar year, 360 days, plus five point 25. So this is like a new sun. A new--moment.

Q: How has this research of going back to your roots empower you?

A: In the nineteen seventies, the Chicano Movement posed many questions to the youth of that moment: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? I guess it’s a question that has been raised all the time. But at that moment, when you’re young and you need to be answered immediately, you follow your heart. And so at that moment, I was into already mural painting and through the arts I was able to meet Siqueiros. This was a very important part of my life. From college [I went] directly to Mexico, because one of our main goals was to fill all of Aztlán with murals.
This was important also because in my history, and I can imagine, other Chicanos of the time, we had things that were very discriminatory, like having our mouths washed out with soap because we spoke Spanish, in grammar school. Things like that made you feel that you weren’t a first class citizen. You weren’t worthy of speaking your own tongue or having your own traditions. [You were] humiliated all the time. And so with this question, with this need to answer this, I went to Mexico. And so, thirty years ago, I began my own journey of Aztlán, trying to discover [the answers to] all of these questions. And it’s when I [met] the Mascarones Theater Group, that was based in Mexico City, and we would go to the different organizations or schools or if there was a strike with workers, we would go there. If there [were] campesinos, or farm workers, had taken over certain lands, we would be invited.
So [I received] this new type of education [from the] university of life, of what Mexico was at that time. And [I was] also penetrating into the Nahuatl philosophy with works of Netzahualcoyotl, began to answer, more philosophically, all of these questions that I had at that time.
Personally, I am from Raramuri origin. My family migrated to the United States from Chihuahua, the northern state of Mexico, and so on both sides of my family, I have that Raramuri blood in me, so there was also a need to answer all of these questions. This desperate search for understanding all of this made me also try to find exchange within my own classmates in the university with the Mascarones Group, so we started an exchange that culminated in an incredible festival that we had with people that came in from all of the continent, but mostly Chicanos. So this was a very important moment of the Movement, I think, because about seven hundred people traveled in black to Mexico City. And that’s the same idea, trying to recognize each other, because until then the Chicano people were considered like pochos, also in a discriminatory way, [but] by Mexican people. Because they didn’t understand them, or they didn’t know them. They just felt that they were either Mexicans that had traveled to the United States, and didn’t want to have anything to do with Mexico. They just wanted to assimilate into the Anglo society. Or people that had always been up here, but had no understanding of Mexico. And so, unfortunately, this would happen. But with this new coming down, this wave of people that started coming down to Mexico, a new idea of the Chicano Movement began. And this was very important for us Mascarones, has become something that we work on, constantly.
Right now we have created an institution called the Nahuatl University, which has special classes directly related with the Chicanos. And this is a place where they could set up a base from where they can visit different sites and have different experiences in Mexico. Always protected. I think that, very modestly, we can say that we have helped a lot to change the image of the pocho into a Chicano. Because we also helped danzantes (dancers) and Maestro, like Maestro Andres de Segura, to come here and also he began a whole organization of danzantes, and so what has happened is that now the Chicano Movement has turned one part of it. Not only the political betterment of the people or economic, but also the spiritual is what is now linking us very much, and, again, making our people come together as we are.
The concept of Aztlán, just by the fact that “Aztlán” is a Nahuatl word, immediately hits you right inside and it moves all of your history, as Mexicanos, as Chicanos, as people from this continent, Anahuac. The Nahuatl words make you react in a certain way. You might not understand Nahuatl, but it unifies. It is a form of doing away with political boundaries and, all of a sudden, you react. What happens is that the language is a manifestation of a culture. It’s ancient, it’s old, it’s as old as we can trace it back, to Atlantis or whatever you [want to] start, or the universe. Where did the Earth come from? The solar system?
So at this moment, what happens it that there’s many things that are not understood but are felt. And that’s what happened in the spirit, and the spirit world, is that we can connect as brothers and sisters, and we have one mother, one father. We’re standing on her. We’re being given life by the cosmic forces. And so all of this makes us come to together. It unifies us. The rituals, the danzas, the studying Nahuatl, understanding the Tonalmachiota, what is called the stone of the suns or the Aztec calendar. It’s hot within our heart. We all feel that they are symbols of our people of this great family that we have. And so these are the ways that I think that the more that we come together--we share our experiences. My mouth was washed out with soap. [This] happens every day in Mexico with indigenous people. It’s a parallel situation. It’s very similar. So, immediately, they connect. It’s so easy to communicate now the with the Internet and all these different ways, that very soon in a few more years, we’re [going to] have a very strong connection between the indigenous movement in Mexico, and the Chicano struggle. And everybody is going to be touched.

Q: In our documentary, we are looking at Aztlán as a geographic location. In what ways is Aztlán not just a geographic thing, but much more of a spiritual thing?

A: The concept of Aztlán is real; it’s real. It’s these words like “Aztlán,” our home, [that] refer to a place within our hearts because it’s within our own self. Because it’s in the cosmos, and it’s on Earth. It’s like we’re a reflection--the macro-cosmos, and the micro-cosmos. And so we really can’t define [Aztlán] in just a specific place. It’s more in a historical, more biological, part of us. That’s why it’s very important to not give it a specific geographical pinpointing, because it could refer to a broader land than just one place. And it’s important for us to feel that we are connected by Aztlán. Because we are. We are connected. It is the home that we’re searching [for], Aztlán. I think that it’s very important that we do this documentary at this moment, because it’s what we’re searching for. The Chicano Movement from the seventies started this search, and now these new generations have to receive this information, this fruit of these thirty years that have passed. So that we’ll have a clear idea of where we come from and where we’re going.

Q: Who taught you at The Nahuatl University, and who are the students today?

A: The Nahuatl University was founded in 1990. We began with courses that had to do with philosophy and interpretation of codices, nutrition, medicine, and with this idea of creating an ancient style of calmecac, the ancient school of higher learning. We named it the Nahuatl University so that it could [be] understood that it had to [do], first, with the philosophy of the Nahuatl people, the ancient people, not limiting it, of course, to just Nahuatl. There’s Maya and other places. Territories that are studied, too.
But this university was founded by the Mascarones Theater Group and directed by Mariano Leva, and it was this vision he had from from the beginning of his own school career that was in philosophy. We decided to base it in Cuernavaca, in uptown Calocotepec, where we created a department, just one department that has different branches to it. So we have from the arts to the philosophy to the medicine to arts, dances, and all of this. This is what we work with.
The teachers are people that have studied more academically than . . . the Nahuatl-speaking professors who come and give the Nahuatl courses, and others that are within the community, and we take our students out into the community. Especially when they have to [study] crops or corn, we go out into the fields. And there's also special courses like I said that have to do with introducing the Chicanos [to] the Nahuatl culture.

Q: Who are the indigenous Nahautl speakers historically, geographically, and today?

A: Well, actually, [we don’t know about] the origin of the Nahuatl language. But today there’s a very large community of people that speak the Nahuatl language. Right in Ococopec there’s still people who speak it. But in the state of Morelos, there’s two or three towns or cities that are almost one hundred percent Nahuatl-speaking.

Q: Do you know what “Uto-Azteca” refers to?

A: Well, Uto-Azteca talks about the linguistic origin of all of this territory that is precisely the Southwest and into Mexico. And the people trace back certain languages to this origin.

Q: Is, is culture embedded in the language, and is that why the language is taught?

A: Yes, of course. Many times when even the Nahuatl language is lost within the community, still we have all the forms. The calenders, the rituals, the ceremonies, that still take place to this day. These dates were covered up by the Catholic church when they came. They [replaced them with] festivities of saints. But the ritual, the actual ceremonies, are still very pre-invasion.