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Nahuatl Song-Poems Ronald A. Barnett ©

This 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

100 Love Sonnets Reviewed by James Tipton

"Well," you might be asking, "just what does a book titled 100 Love Sonnets have to do with Mexico?" "A lot," I might answer, "because this is a collection 100 sonnets, the first 50 of which were written after the break-up of a fifteen-year marriage" and include fantasies of a future relationship.

The final 50 were written after the author meets Gioia in San Miguel de Allende. They become lovers and "The second half of the sonnets, from 51 on, were inspired by and written for her."

Both halves, though, are about extraordinary women. read more

A Pillow Stuffed with Diamonds: Tanka on La Vida Mexicana Reviewed by Rob Mohr

When poet, accomplished musician, champion swimmer and a writer/editor who developed innovative Florida arts curricula entered Mexico, her experiences were deftly transformed into finely-nuanced poetry.

Margaret Van Every's bilingual lyric poetry, following the seventh century Japanese five-line Tanka format, affords the reader one pleasurable moment after another.

With well-honed sensibilities she unveils her day-by-day confrontation with Mexican culture and its people — a confrontation that soon became a love affair. read more

Book reviews in Mexconnect

Since 1995, Mexconnect has featured books about Mexico, new and old. Here are links to the growing list.

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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

Discovering Clues to the Legacy of a Mexican Poet: Manuel Rocha y Chabre Joseph A. Serbaroli, Jr.

Several years ago, I was rummaging through a box of family photos with my dad, when he showed me an old, yellowing image of his mother from 1908. He told me it was taken in Mexico at the wedding of her cousin, the poet and playwright Manuel Rocha y Chabre. read more

Writing about writers: Puerto Vallarta and Jenny McGill Marvin West

Jenny McGill, author of Drama and Diplomacy in Sultry Puerto Vallarta
Writing about writers can be a challenge. Most are civil enough. They know you can't do it as well as they do but they are forgiving and generally polite. Writers understand interviews but seem reluctant to part with good lines. I think they think they are saving them for themselves. Not so Jenny McGill. She tells it like it is. read more

Mexico inspires a growing list of foreign writers Anthony Wright

Roberto Bolaño The wave of media excitement generated in 2009 by the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño was on a par with the announcement of a new Britney Spears release, even if up until that moment ... read more

The Lake Chapala artistic and literary scene in the 1960s and early 1970s Tony Burton

Lake Chapala’s literary and artistic reputation was enhanced in the 1930s, '40s and '50s by a long string of visiting writers and artists. Here is a brief alphabetical listing of some of the stalwarts of the Lake Chapala art and literary scene in the 1960s and early 1970s. read more

Six degrees of separation: how a Mexican star became a Cajun legend Maggie Van Ostrand

statue of Evangeline in St. Martinville, Louisiana

Even if you have never wondered what ties Mexico to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I'm going to tell you anyway. It begins with a poem.

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The Sanchez Ghost Anthony Wright

A tale of haunted guilt set in Mexico City and in the mind of the haunted protagonist, Pablo. . . . Omar gazed at the rifle trained at his chest, and no presentiment crossed his brow. He knew it was Pablo's gun; he had gone pheasant hunting with him and his old man in the past among the gullies of hills of valleys extending to the great volcano of Popocatépetl. . . . read more

Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village / Lavando platos en el antiguo pueblo: A Few Comments Reviewed by James Tipton

Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village / Lavando platos en el antiguo pueblo: Poetry by James Tipton
A little over a year ago, I was searching for a title to pull these short poems together. Enedina stepped out to wash dishes in the cold water of the worn concrete tank immediately behind the house. She greeted that first morning of the new year in her short white dress and white high heeled shoes. read more

Ghosts of the Palace of Blue Tiles: Los fantasmas del Palacio de los Azulejos by Jorge Fernández Granados Reviewed by James Tipton

Ghosts of the Palace of Blue Tiles
 
Many readers of Mexico Connect have discovered these illuminating words by Octavio Paz: "In the United States the word death burns the lips, but the Mexican lives close to it, jokes about it, caresses it, celebrates it, sleeps with it, it is his favorite toy." read more

Sacred Lake Poems by Bill Frayer Reviewed by James Tipton

  Available from the author Life in Mexico observed by someone who is bursting with affection for his new country. I have reviewed a lot of fiction and non-fiction books for Mexico Connect, but I... read more

Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chavez Reviewed by James Tipton

"What can I tell you about Pedro Infante? If you're a Mejicana or Mejicano and don't know who he is, you should be tied to a hot stove with yucca rope and beaten with sharp dry corn husks as you stand in a vat of soggy fideos. If your racial and cultural ethnicity is Other, then it's about time you learned about the most famous of Mexican singers and actors." read more

The Pearl: a novella by John Steinbeck Reviewed by James Tipton

In film or fiction, The Pearl is a good story. It is one of those stories so simple that it becomes profound.

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Did you know? The first Mexico tourist guide books Tony Burton

Comprehensive guide books to Mexico have existed for more than 120 years. Modern travelers to Mexico are often hard-pressed to choose their favorite guide. Fodor's, Frommer's, Real Guide, Insight Guid... read more
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