A modern Mexica palimpsest, dance, education, and the construction of a calpulli
- Modern transnational Mexica (Aztec) dancers organize dynamic learning environments that echo millenary dance traditions and community organizing practices. This text is an ethnography of the organization of education in Calpulli Tonalehqueh (San José, California), an ambitious Mexica dance and cultural diffusion group situated in a landscape of groups in México and beyond that encompass diverse stylistic and ideological fundamentals. This group aligns itself with the Mexicayotl framework that endeavors to strip Christianity from previously syncretic ceremonies at the same time as aiming its focus on indigenous practice. While modern materials do factor in their re- creation, members of Calpulli Tonalehqueh operate within a context of what Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (1996) calls México Profundo, the culture and worldview of indigenous Mexican peoples that can never be erased from Mexican culture—despite all attempts— because it is integral in the fabric of all Mexican social, cultural, linguistic, and historical productions. In the face of colonial forces, indigenous communities survive and renew their culture through mechanisms of appropriation, innovation, and resistance. This study extends the sphere of México Profundo to Mexican-origin people in diaspora. The Mexica dance universe involves countless social, political, economic, religious, historical, and artistic facets, but the focus of this study is centered on the character and loci of education in this particular group. Questions that drive the study are (a) when are environments for a modern Mexica education constructed? In other words, at what times does this group mobilize resources for cultural transmission and socialization?; (b) when is paideia? Specifically, when are environments that address the formation of the mind, body, and spirit of group members created?; and (c) when is palimpsest? Meaning, at what times is the metaphor of a multilayered text with an incompletely erased heritage upon which new text is superimposed apt for group productions? Paideia is a term that simultaneously refers to culture, schooling, and child rearing. This dissertation argues that the dynamics of education constructed by Calpulli Tonalehqueh can be characterized as comprehensive, holistic, purposeful, and culturally- and community-based. A palimpsest is a manuscript in which the original text is visible because it has been incompletely erased and upon which a new text is placed. This study maintains that Calpulli Tonalehqueh and all its activity are a palimpsest when members work to read, recover, and remember ancient forms in ceremonies and in social organization in order to re-write them in a contemporary context as they construct their group. Answers to the central questions of the study are found in at least seven calpulli- constructed environments that are each given a chapter. All are interconnected sites of paideia and palimpsest, organized by members couched in the ideology of México Profundo. Each chapter centers on an ancient Mexica concept reorganized in the present. With trials and triumphs, each environment serves the larger group objectives of ceremony and cultural diffusion. A review of the group's educative sites would be incomplete without an examination of each environment. After an introductory chapter, Chapter 2 deals with the concept of calpulli, a reunion of houses (alliance of families) that also stands for a form of government, the primary system of sociopolitical organization in Mesoamerica prior to European invasion. Calpulli Tonalehqueh envisions itself as a calpulli and achieves this form of organization when member resources are marshaled in support of individuals as well as all group objectives. Through all its productions, Calpulli Tonalehqueh reconfigures the concept of calpulli. The second concept summoned by Calpulli Tonalehqueh is tequio, Náhuatl for communal work, the focus of Chapter 3. Tequio is an ancient concept signaling members of a community who pool their resources for public, ceremonial, and agricultural projects. Calpulli Tonalehqueh activates this obligation as it organizes the largest Aztec dance ceremony in the United States. This achievement is only possible through tequio, as the group is a non-profit organization and membership is free of charge and non-compulsory. The theme of sustainability is analyzed as members lend their time and talents to group endeavors. The next chapter reviews formal schooling institutions and ideologies in the pre- European contact era of central México. The Náhuatl word for education is tlacahuapahualiztli, which means the art of forming a person. Calpulli Tonalehqueh organizes formal sites and occasions for education that respond to identified community needs. The sites are characterized as alternative (to mainstream U.S. schooling), comprehensive, and experiential and include a parenting class, music workshops, a philosophy research group, and agriculture projects. Given that the calpulli system of local and national governance is autochthonous, tried, and true in various ways unto this day, Calpulli Tonalehqueh endeavors to mirror the elected offices of ancient calpultin in the leadership of their group and dance ceremonies. Members study, receive, and execute the roles, called cargos, which are traditional in indigenous Mexican leadership and are analyzed in Chapter 5. Reinstituting cargos requires attention to both traditional Mexica practices and a response to elements impacting modern dance group organization. Therefore it is a rich site for examining group dynamics and characterizing a modern calpulli as a palimpsest. Calpulli Tonalehqueh is a group with ambitious cultural diffusion projects including art expositions, fundraising dinners, art workshops, business meetings, sweat lodge ceremonies, school presentations, healing ceremonies, and so on. Their work extends into the community on a scale larger than the typical dance group. At their core, however, is the dance ceremony. Dance is referenced by many terms in Náhuatl, including macehualiztli, the art of deserving. Chapter 6 examines the weekly dance ceremony of Calpulli Tonalehqueh as a palimpsestic site of cultural production, not to mention praying. Participation in and analysis of a video of the dance ceremony reveals features that allow for effective acquisition and an environment that includes embodied memory, shared leadership, an integrated curriculum, spirituality, immersion, and a de- emphasis of failure and competition in favor of harmony and inclusion. Central in the calpulli-building project is a fountain of resources: an elder named Ocelocoatl who advises Calpulli Tonalehqueh, shapes its general ideology, and is a primary source of information on Mexica beliefs and practices. Though he is featured throughout the dissertation, Chapter 7 is dedicated to one of the dozens of formal workshops he delivers on Mexica history, art, and culture. His lectures are an extension of ancient discourses, monologues, and speeches given by elders in indigenous communities called huehuetlatolli. Ocelocoatl's primary objective is to deliver a decolonial message. This study traces the materials he delivers to Calpulli Tonalehqueh's calpulli-authoring projects as well as his effectiveness as a pedagogue. Chapter 8 examines another important palimpsest, the one written upon individual biographies. Participation in Calpulli Tonalehqueh engenders transformative shifts in a person's identity. Key in this personal palimpsest is the process by which members acquire a name in Náhuatl after a traditional consultation of their birthdate in pre-contact divinatory amochtin (books). After receiving name options and selecting one, members go through a naming ceremony where they commit to fulfilling their destiny on the planet: to be their best selves. Calpulli Tonalehqueh is one of the few, if not the only group in the United States that has revived the traditional In Toca In Tocaitl ceremony. In Toca In Tocaitl means the sowing of one's essence. Though some children are named in this way from birth, most individuals arrive at this process with a given name and a long personal history outside of dance. Through this process, individuals add a significant layer to their identity and thereby re-inscribe themselves. The process is yet another educative site in Calpulli Tonalehqueh. In the end, Calpulli Tonalehqueh is a thriving and dynamic group where members actively create a communal palimpsest, learning together as they draw from an incompletely erased trove of traditional practice and re-assemble modern Mexica life with contemporary materials. This document is an account of that achievement.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, School of Education.
|McDermott, Ray (Raymond Patrick), 1946-
|McDermott, Ray (Raymond Patrick), 1946-
|Martin, Shane P
|Martin, Shane P
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2011.
- © 2011 by Ernesto Colin
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY).
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