MexConnect
in Help?
Showing 1—25 of 79 results.

Personal reminiscences of Mexico's Huichol people I: A disappearing way of life? Ronald A. Barnett ©

Huichol artisan teaches his grandson
I began to discover that certain vested interests involving the Huichol did not welcome outsiders. There was almost a political rivalry among various individuals and groups who regarded the Huichol as their own private preserve. This sense of proprietary rights by over the Huichol was confirmed later when I went to Mexico City. Back then there was intense rivalry among people working with the Huichol., too. read more

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Tonantzin or the Virgin Mary? Ronald A. Barnett ©

It was on December 9, 1531, when Juan Diego, a humble Indian peasant, was crossing the hill of Tepeyac just north of present day Mexico City that — it is said— a beautiful shining woman miraculously appeared to him. Declaring herself to be the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, she called Juan her son. He reported his vision to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, who demanded additional evidence of the divine apparition. On December 12 then, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac, where the Virgin told him to gather roses where none had grown previously. Then, when the Indian delivered the roses to the Bishop, the image of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared on his cloak. read more

Frey Diego Duran: An eye-witness account of ancient Mexico Ronald A. Barnett ©

Moctezuma II flees the conquistadors
By Frey Diego Duran
Diego Durán was born in Seville, Spain, in 1537 but came to Mexico as a boy. At first he lived in Texcoco but later moved to Mexico City. By then, the old Aztec world was in ruins but vestiges of the former Aztec empire remained. Durán was not only fluent in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, but he was acquainted with the Indians, some of whom had survived the Conquest. He was therefore a first-hand witness of the conflict between the Spanish and Indian cultures... read more

Mesoamerican epic poetry and saga: Universal elements Ronald A. Barnett ©

An Aztec musician poet from the Codex Borbonicus
The Aztecs formed a highly civilized society with poet-kings busily engaged in learned philosophical discussions. Unfortunately, the general public hears mostly about the Aztec practice of tearing out human hearts.

Prior to the Conquest, written documents in Roman transcription did not exist. The Aztecs handed down history and customs through an oral tradition backed up by codices — the "painted books" of ancient Mexico. It is true that the Aztecs did have a form of writing based on a combination of commonly recognized symbols (the Maya had an even more advanced form of phonetic symbolism). Nevertheless, written documents do imply a post-Conquest period of composition. This, in turn, raises the question of Spanish missionary influence on these apparently "native" compositions... read more

A Huichol creation story Ronald A. Barnett ©

Tawexikia the sun centers this nierika or Huichol votive yarn painting. The blue deer accopanies the sun.
© Kinich Ramirez, 2006
A Huichol friend of mine, Juan Bautista Carillo, came up with the idea of a trilingual edition (Huichol, Spanish, English) of traditional Huichol narratives,

The original version entitled Historia El Tau-Sol (Huichol and Spanish for "sun", which I translated using both the Huichol and the Spanish versions, came to about 3368 words. Therefore I shall give a condensed version of the main outline followed by an attempt to explain its meaning and significance.

This is not an account of the creation of human beings but of their main means of sustenance, namely fire and the sun. Accordingly this particular Huichol narrative begins with the creation of the first hearth fire... read more

Nahuatl Song-Poems Ronald A. Barnett ©

Diorama of a Tenochtitlan market
© Anthony Wright, 2013
The Nahuatl language and culture of the Aztecs of central Mexico are among the best-documented sources of information we have for understanding the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Aztec society was abruptly interrupted and brought to an untimely end by the Spanish invasion and conquest of Mexico-Tenochtitlan in 1521. Nevertheless, it is from this very early stage of the Spanish Colonial Period that we have some of the most intriguing and yet controversial and difficult documents in Nahuatl — the language of Tenochtitlan at the time of the Conquest. read more

The codices of ancient and colonial Mexico Ronald A. Barnett ©

Extract of page 2 of the Codex Colombino, depicting a Mesoamerican ballgame
How do we really know what happened in ancient Mexico before the arrival of the Spaniards and the introduction of writing? To get an idea how the Indians actually viewed these events we must turn to the pictorial and "written" manuscripts or codices produced by the people themselves. The codices themselves were generally in the form of long strips of native paper (amatl) or sized deerskin folded up into the shape of a moderate sized book, hence the name codex. Others were originally produced in book format. read more

Mesoamerican epic poetry and saga: A survey Ronald A. Barnett ©

Tonatiuh from the Codex Borgia
Public Domain
Mexican scholar A. Garibay believed that the ancient Aztecs too had a form of epic poetry, traces of which survived the Spanish Conquest of Mexico.

Much Aztec history and traditional lore were preserved in the Calmecac and other schools of learning in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Using the hieroglyphic codices as "prompt" books, priests and scribes were no doubt able to recount long epic-type narratives.

Although no long sustained metrical epics have survived the Conquest, numerous fragments remain of what Garibay believed must once have been an extensive body of epic poetry and saga in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs... read more

Mesoamerican epic poetry and saga: What is epic? Ronald A. Barnett ©

Coba in Yucatan, an ancient Maya city
© Roger Cunningham, 2013
Heroic type epics focus on a main hero, and epic themes may also include shamanism where the hero relies as much on magic as on personal resources.

To what extent Nahuatl epic corresponds to this type of epic literature remains to be seen. read more

An ancient Aztec betrayal Biblical style Ronald A. Barnett ©

Our knowledge of ancient Aztec civilization comes from many different sources: archaeology, codices or painted books, comparative ethnological studies and the like. But it is not until the advent of writing that a clear picture of past history begins to emerge.

That is not to say that historical accounts did not exist before the Conquest. read more

Aztec poets or ghost riders? Ronald A. Barnett ©

The Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards under Cortes in the sixteenth century brought to an abrupt end the developing civilization of the ancient Aztecs. With the destruction of their capital of Tenochtitlan (now modern Mexico City) much of Aztec religion and culture was destroyed in a catastrophic cultural holocaust. However, within a few decades of the Conquest, Franciscan friars had established a school for survivors or their offspring at Tlatelolco, not far from present day Mexico City. read more

Translation, evangelism and Mexico's classical Aztec literature Ronald A. Barnett ©

Aztec temples were brightly colored.
The Nahuatl (Aztec) song-poems are contained in three collections: the Cantares Mexicanos (Mexico City), the Romances de los señores de Nueva España (University of Texas), and a third fragmentary collection in Paris. read more

Was the Aztec's Nahuatl literature a Spanish invention? Translation and evangelism Ronald A. Barnett ©

In ancient Mexico, the spoken word or the oral tradition was greatly reinforced by the use of painted books in which native history and religion were preserved and handed down through successive generations. The Maya had the most advanced system of writing in the Americas at the time Europeans began to arrive, but the Mixtec and Aztec peoples also had a very efficient system of written communication. read more

Homer and the Aztec muse in Mexican literature Ronald A. Barnett ©

Tribute Page from the Codex Mendoza
Much controversy has recently arisen over several collections of poems in Nahuatl, in particular the Cantares Mexicanos, a manuscript in the National Library of Mexico. These poems are of particular importance because they appear to support a much different picture of the ancient Aztecs than we get from the tzompantli (skull rack) in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán or the horrendous accounts of Aztec human sacrifice left to us by the early Spanish soldiers and missionaries. read more

Personal reminiscences of Mexico's Huichol people VII: Return from the Huichol sierra Ronald A. Barnett ©

I wandered out of town toward the rock-strewn single runway landing strip of San Andrés. Several Huichols were gathered at the side of the field with stacks of cardboard boxes beside them. They told me that the regular flight from Tepic was not due for several days, but that a single engine light aircraft was scheduled to arrive in a few hours. I checked my wallet and decided to throw myself on the mercy of the pilot, whoever he was, and offer him the few hundred pesos I had left for a flight out of the Huichol territory. read more

Personal reminiscences of Mexico's Huichol people VI: Peyote Fiesta Ronald A. Barnett ©

Huichol man
The Huichol Peyote Fiesta takes place around the end of May or the beginning of June, the start of the traditional rainy season in Mexico. The main purpose is to assure that the rain gods return to refresh the earth and nourish the newly-sown crops of beans and maize. The Huichols are located in large community centers, such as San Andres and Santa Catarina, or in scattered ranchos throughout the sierras. The Peyote Fiesta I attended at the invitation of my friend Nacho was held at Las Guayabas, deep in the valley below the plateau of San Andres in the Huichol Sierra. read more

Personal reminiscences of Mexico's Huichol people V: Journey to the sierra Ronald A. Barnett ©

Each year the Huichol walk more than 300 miles to harvest peyote for use in 2000-year-old rituals and ceremonies.
Some years ago, I was invited to attend the annual peyote fiesta at Las Guayabas in the Huichol Sierra. The Peyote Fiesta takes place around the end of May or the beginning of June, the usual start of the rainy season in north-western Mexico. A lot of things depend on when the chief marakame (shaman-priest) dreams it is the auspicious moment for any action. read more

Personal reminiscences of Mexico's Huichol people IV: Ritual dance Ronald A. Barnett ©


Panoramic view of Teotihuacan looking south from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon. You can see the Pyramid of the Sun.
© Rick Meyer, 2001
In 1996, I attended the Fiesta de las Plantas Medicinales held that year in San Martin de los Piramides not far from the famous archaeological site of Teotihuacan with its pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. There was a feeling of great spiritual power in the air that day. read more

Personal reminiscences of Mexico's Huichol people III: The shaman Ronald A. Barnett ©

Contrary to my earlier impressions, some Huichols were also curanderos who used herbal remedies in treating a variety of illnesses. read more

Personal reminiscences of Mexico's Huichol people II: Fiesta of medicinal plants Ronald A. Barnett ©

The Fiesta de las Plantas Medicinales is held every year in a different pueblo in Mexico. This three day event features workshops given by curanderos (native healers), herbalists, and other native specialists in various traditional practices and beliefs involving alternative or traditional medicine. I had read in the Fiesta brochure that there was to be a workshop on Traditional Huichol Medicine conducted by a genuine mara'akame (shaman-priest) from the remote sierras. read more

Huichol art, a matter of survival IV: An art in evolution Ronald A. Barnett ©

Huichol art has come a long way since Carl Lumholtz first recorded it in the late 19th century It is moving from a strictly religious function to a commercialized folk art. Some items of Huichol art are definitely non-traditional, such as beaded eggs intended for Christmas decorations; others, such as masks of the sun and moon, are borderline traditional. Beaded Jaguar heads are an important symbol in Mesoamerican religion and by no means confined to the Huichol. The bead and yarn paintings are becoming more and more complex, with some risk of becoming more decorative than symbolic or religious. read more

Huichol art, a matter of survival III: Motifs and symbolism Ronald A. Barnett ©

Huichol art is even more prolific today than it was during the years 1890 to 1898 when Carl Lumholtz, the Norwegian explorer and ethnographer, first visited the Huichol and recorded their symbolic and decorative art in such remarkable detail that we are able to make direct comparisons between Huichol art then and now. The major difference is that today Huichol artisans have a much greater variety of imported and commercial materials with which to work, but many traditional designs and functions have been preserved to the present day. read more

Huichol art, a matter of survival II: Authenticity and commercialization Ronald A. Barnett ©

For years, many people have been predicting the ultimate demise of the Huichol (wii-zaari-taari) as a linguistic and cultural entity. This has not happened. They were first contacted by the Spaniards around 1530. Although many live near main community and religious centres, such as San Andres, Santa Catarina, and San Sebastian, most live in hundreds of small ranchos scattered throughout the Sierras.

read more

Huichol art, a matter of survival I: Origins Ronald A. Barnett ©

The authenticity of Huichol art on the market today becomes of some importance when called into question by no less an authority on the Indians of Mexico than the famous Mexican historian and anthropologist Fernando Benítez, who once described the popular Huichol yarn paintings as "...a falsification and an industry." read more

Huichol art: Religious or secular? Ronald A. Barnett ©

When does a tradition cease to be a tradition? Conversely, at what point in time and under what circumstances does a tradition begin? "Tradition" may be defined as "a statement, belief, or practice tr... read more
Showing 1—25 of 79 results.
All Tags