General Florencio Yescas

What Is The History of La Danza Azteca?


Tlein Ca Mi'totiliztli Mexi'cayotl
What is the Aztec Dance?
¿Que es la Danza Azteca

Macehualiztli, Mit'totiliztli, El Mitote, La Danza Azteca, La Danza De La Conquista, La Danza  Chichimeca, La Danza De Los Concheros, La Batalla, El Sacrificio, The Aztec Dance , The Chicano-Azteca Dance Circle, all of these names have been used throughout the past four Hundred and eighty years to describe a complex and ancient form of communication amongst the Native American nations of central Mexico. Simply put, La Danza Azteca, is a modern mystic folk dance tradition of Central Mexico based on the cultural legacy of the "Aztecs", their enemies, and their descendants. But then, that is like saying that the Pacific ocean is "simply put, a big hole full of water".

La Danza Azteca is a living, evolving, cultural tradition filled with the artistic, spiritual and military traditions of the Precolombian Aztecs, their neighbors, AND their post-conquest Mestizo descendants. It is a form of prayer, individual, and yet communal.

It is a way of life, all encompassing. It is a form of ancestor worship, and a way of communicating with the future yet unborn. It is NOT just a modern folk dance tradition. In reality La Danza Azteca is closer to a church service, than to a ballet performance.

La Danza Azteca is a form of communication. It is a rich blend of music, choreography, poetry, theater, and most importantly of all, of deeply held spiritual faith. La Danza Azteca is a culmination of fifty thousand years of cultural celebration within the valleys and forest of central Mexico. It is ancient and anachronous. It is modern and futuristic. It is as old as the ancient alpine forests of Mexico, as current as the urban jungles of Aztlan. It owes as much to the ancient gods of Moctezuma as it does to the saints and virgins of Cortez. La Danza Azteca is kinetic prayer.

Using brilliant colors in their uniforms, headdresses, and musical instruments, the Azteca dancers communicate across generations, sacrificing their bodies, their economic abilities, and even their limited socio-political power, to carry on a tradition which they have been entrusted with.

Mixing pre-Columbian spiritualism with Spanish folk Catholicism, and to a lesser extent, African animism, the danzantes of the Azteca tradition redefine modern Native American tradition. Using intricate dance steps, turns and jumps, the dancers evoke a kinetic prayer. Drums, seed pod shells, flutes, mandolins and guitars, unite to create a mind expanding experience that reflects the cultural heritage of Modern Mexico and Aztlan.

Each dancer according to his or her age, agility and physical stamina, dances in cohesive unity to create prayer: kinetic, powerful and emotional. The prayer is carried within the dancer's heart and without the dancer's consciousness.

The Azteca dance tradition is a climax of thousands of years of cultural wars, conquests and ultimately, survival. This is perhaps the greatest legacy of the Azteca dance tradition. Through the dance steps, drum beats, and ceremonies, the memory of ancient peoples survives into the 21st century. Through this tradition, the largest indigenous nations of America (the Mexican and Chicano Nations) find new spiritual, cultural, political and economic power.


 

Aquinque' Mexi'ca'?
Who were the Azteca?
Quien eran los Aztecas?

The Mexi'ca, were the last of the Native American nations that had wandered south into the Valley of Mexico or Anahuac. They were a heterogenous group of clans, families, and individuals who were the inheritors of an ancient prophecy. These people were the descendants of tribes that had migrated over centuries from far north in what is now northern Mexico, and the southernwestern United States (known historically as Aztlan and Chicomoztoc).

According to the codices written by our post-conquest ancestors in Latin letters and indigenous glyphs, The people we call the Aztecas lived in a land of seven caves Chicomoztoc. There, in the land of the white heron Aztlan, the people's priest Mexi had a dream.

In this dream, the tribal god, spirit or anima (Teotl), called Huitzilopochtli called to him. He was told to call all of the clans together. They were to leave their ancestral homes. The people were to go and journey south, carrying their sacred bundles, family possessions and hunting regalia.

The people were to suffer great hardships, tribulations, and trials. Once they had traveled far enough south to earn their valor, to earn their place in history, they were to look for a special sign. Wherever this sign appeared, they were destined to create a great nation that would rule the world. They would be given the duty of keeping the universe alive. They were to maintain the universe's sacred movement, Ollin, necessary for all life to flourish until the death of the current sun. When the current sun Nahui Ollin died, the world would end and a new cycle of life would begin.

The priest Mexi called his people. He told them of his vision. He told them of his dream. Some people quickly agreed to follow him south. Others felt that they had all they needed in their homeland and they did not want to leave. This was the beginning of the separation of the Uto-Azteca nations.

Soon, those that had taken Mexi's vision as their fate, departed. They left behind their relatives and friends. The pilgrims were saddened by their god's request to leave their homes. Mexi promised them that someday, their descendants would return to once again join their relatives in Aztlan. Thus reunited they would share their stories of all the wondrous things that they had seen. They would share with each other all of the history they had created.

It is the belief of some modern-day Azteca elders that the people who stayed behind are today's Hopi, Pima, Papago and Yaqui nations.

The Mexi'ca (the people of Mexi) wandered south for over three hundred years. About the year 1300 they arrived in Anahuac, the valley of Mexico. At this time, this small and impoverished nation, more a coalition of tribes and clans than anything else, was weak and only slightly assimilated into the great cultural heritage of Mesoamerica. They wore simple clothes made of wolf, rabbit, deer, and coyote skins.

Their cultural legacy was that of the small wandering hunter tribes of Northern Mexico. Many generations had passed since the priest Mexi had called them onto their epic journey.

When they arrived in Anahuac, they found scores of ancient city-states that had inherited the civilizations and cultures of Tollan-Teo'tihuacan, Tollan-Xicocotitlan, Xochicalco, and Cholula. Deep in the murky past, like ghosts that floated behind the consciousness of every kingdom, were the cultures of Cuicuilco, Tlatilco, Chalcatzinca, and the mysterious Olmeca.

At first the Mexi'ca were forced to be vassals and mercenaries of their older, richer, and more powerful neighbors, but by A.D. 1325, ( a date filled with mythical, political, and historical numerology), the Mexi'ca had begun to build their double headed capital city of Mexi'co-Tenochtitlan and Mexi'co-Tlatelolco. In less than two centuries, the poor, humble "illegal aliens" from Aztlan became rulers of the largest empire ever seen in pre-Columbian North America.


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Yancuic Tonatleco
A
New Sun Rises
Un Nuevo Sol Asiende

The Mexi'ca, as the defacto leaders of the Azteca Triple Alliance (which included their lesser business partners Tetzcoco and Tlacopan) were disciplined, arrogant, and bellicose. They saw themselves as the greatest nation on earth. They felt that they had been entrusted with the survival of the universe.

Their city-state was the center of the universe, the navel of the earth. The Mexi'ca felt that they had a right to re-write history in order to make themselves seem to be the logical and prophetic inheritors of the classic cultures of the ancients. The poetry, stonework, artwork, and architecture of the Mexi'ca people reveal a colossal, triumphant psychology that finds modern echos in the cultures of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China.

The elaborate Mexi'ca elegance of style and protocol, mixed in with their determination towards greatness, create a cultural experience unique amongst the world's civilizations. Mixteca painted books, Mayan chocolate and jade, Huastecan cotton and other exotic tributes were gathered in the "center of the universe"- Mexi'co Tenochtitlan.

Mexi'ca warriors and nobles bathed in water scented with wild tropical flowers. The elite lived a life of elegance. The nobles ate sumptuous meals and drank hot chocolate, which was made from cacao beans. These beans served as money. The rich could literally "eat their money" while toe commoners ate beans, tortillas, and native vegetables.

Ironically in many ways,( politically, economically, and psychologically), the Mexi'ca were the spiritual ancestors of the United States of America. The Mexi'ca bled their subjugated vassals of economic, and cultural vitality.

According to the "officially approved" history of the ruling class of Tenochtitlan, the Mexi'ca were the center of the universe, and were entrusted with keeping it alive. In their eyes, they were the greatest nation to have ever existed. They were the chosen ones, blessed as God's righteous and sacred people. This has many echos in today's nationalistic, evangelical, supremacist rhetoric from the dominant powers of today's U.S.A. and Europe.


In Tonatemoc
The Sun sets
El Sol deciende

It was no wonder then, that when the smelly strange white foreigners from the east arrived in 1519, the Mexi'ca were quickly abandoned by even their triple alliance partners and left to fight for the independence of indigenous America by themselves.

The "aliens," encased in metal and riding wild "huge deer", came with superior technology to the stone age civilizations of America. The Spanish "sticks that spewed smoke", and the big black dogs that tore apart human beings, suddenly, and painfully, united with the hatred of the Mexi'ca's enemies to create the end of the Aztec universe.

The violence and hatred that the Tenochtitlan imperialism had sowed, came back to create a gruesome holocaust at the very steps of the great temple of the Mexi'ca-Tlatelolca, the Coatepec-Huey Teocalli in Tlatelolco..

The fall of Mexi'co-Tenochtitlan and Mexi'co-Tlatelolco in 1521 after a seventy day siege of starvation, epidemics and bloodshed was inevitable. The death of Moctekwzuma Xocoyotzin, Cacamac, and Cuitlahuac left the 25 year old nephew of Moctekwzuma, Cuauhtemoc, as Tla'toani or speaker of the surviving Mexi'ca. After a bitter battle fought on the waters of lake Tetzcoco, Cuahtemoc was forced to surrender to Cortez, to his steel and gunpowder, and to his tens of thousands of Native American allies.

Today the Plaza de Las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City, is a grim reminder of how indigenous blood was shed for Spanish greed and passion for gold. It is a monument to Mexi'ca arrogance and power. It is a silent scream from thousands of ancient dead that recall with grisly detail the fall of Mexi'co-Tlatelolco on August 13, 1521. For this was truly the first of many last stands of pre-Columbian civilizations against the invading forces of European kingdoms.

Tlatelolco is a tragic symbol of the dis-unity of Native American nations that still haunts us to this day amongst the reservations, barrios, and jungles of America. It is a monument of death, retribution, and vengeance. It was not the Spanish armor, horses, gunboats, and diseases that finally overwhelmed the great city of Mexi'co.

It was the thousands of Native American warriors from the Mexi'ca's own empire that helped bring down the Aztec world. In doing so, the Mexi'cas enemies brought down their own world.

At long last they had gotten what they wanted, the end of the Mexi'ca empire that oppressed them. What they receive in return was a horror tens of thousands of times greater than what they had suffered before. The Totonaca, the Huexotzinca, Tlaxcalteca, Tepaneca, Aculhua, Chalca, Culhuaca, and Coyoacanteca, had put racial and cultural solidarity aside for political expedience, hoping the Spanish would leave, or at least if they stayed, that they would be no worse than the Mexi'ca.

But they were wrong. The Spanish used them for their own needs, when they were no longer useful, the proceeded to destroy them too. For four hundred years, the descendants of all the indigenous peoples of Mexico, have suffered from this lack of unity. The Spanish, English, French, and Portugese, used the indigenous nations' intrigues and jealousies to divide and conquer this land for their "new world of opportunity."

One of the legacies of this tragic lack of unity, is that even today, north and south of the "International" border, set up by the Euro-American powers, Native American  people cannot unite for a common cause.

There are some Native American individuals that have bought into the "Mexicans are not indians like us" mentality fostered by many government agencies. Some even seek out the help of immigration agents to keep the "wetbacks" on "their" side of the border.


In Tlalli Omic
The Earth Died
Murio La Tierra

After the fall of the Aztec empire, the survivors had to face a new world, a new dawn that promised only grief and pain. The old gods had failed and a new pantheon of white faced, blue-eyed icons reigned supreme. New diseases joined ancient plagues. Cortes had said that the Castellanos suffered "from a disease that only gold could cure."  This "disease" killed millions of indigenous people throughout the American continent.

Alien invaders from across the ocean took many ancestral and tribal lands for their private use. These "conquistadores," "pilgrims," and "adventurers" came to "civilize" this new savage world. For the sake of the "dreams" of the Europeans, the indigenous people were enslaved for the sake of gold, silver, and sugar cane. When  the native people died off in incredible numbers, the Spanaish did the next "best thing."  They kidnapped and bought millions of African slaves, so that they could take the place of the original inhabitants of this continent.

The Native American people who survived did so out of genetic, spiritual and psychological strength. These 3 million survivors out of a population of approximately 35 million people throughout Mesoamerica were the ones that carried the ancestor's ancient strength. These survivors of the holocaust of 1521-1698 are our direct genetic Native American ancestors. They are the ones that kept La Danza alive.


In Yancuic Tletl
The New Fire
El Fuego Nuevo

In this death and pestilence, the old gods gave their blood, and the new gods gave their flesh for a new people, a new creation that would rise from the stench of decaying bodies and pestilence.

Only a survivor of the Holocaust in such places as Aushwitz, or the killing fields of Cambodia or Uganda, could begin to comprehend the horrors of this time. The old gods had failed and a new pantheon of Saints, Virgins, and Demons took their place.

It had happened once, long ago, in Teotihuacan, where the gods of old made blood sacrifices to create the humans of the fifth sun.  There too the sun and moon were born anew.

Now throughout the American continent, and especially in Mexico, the roots of the indigenous people were giving life to a new race of Indigenous, African, Asian and European descent.

La Danza Azteca, La Danza Chichimeca, La Danza de los Concheros, La Danza de la Conquista, byh what ever name it was to be known, the dance rituals of Mesoamerica were to carry the seeds of the past into the future...

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To be continued..

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