I have always been conflicted about the term “Chicano/a.” On the one hand, I believe in la causa that defined el movimiento of the 1960s and early 70s. The injustices that young Chicanos/as fought against demanded their resolve and dedication (and still do). On the other hand, I have never have felt comfortable with Chicano/a nationalism (or any form of nationalism, for that matter).

In particular, even though I know I have a significant amount of indigenous blood in me, I have never felt comfortable with the two defining myths of Chicanismo, those that attempt to reject our European ancestry in favor of our indigenous ancestry, namely that we descend from Aztlán and that we belong to la raza (understood as mestizo). Don’t get me wrong, I understand the impulse to distinguish ourselves from a history of colonialism and imperialism, the impulse for self-determination, and the feeling that the only way to get the justice we deserve is to take it, by force if necessary. However, I have never fully understood – I realize that my doubt may just be a result of ignorance – the claims to our indigenous ancestry. At best, it seemed artificial; at worst, false; and either way, lacking in historical evidence.

Though Chicano/a nationalism isn’t as strong today as it was 40 years ago, certain strains of it survive, such as Danza movements in Mexico and the US. And every time I see a dance, such as Danza Azteca at La Plaza Olvera in DTLA, I always wonder how these movements began, to what extent they are connected to similar movements in 20th century Mexico (which I know are highly suspect), and, what anthropological evidence there is for (a) believing that you are faithfully rendering the past, and (b) that it is, in fact, your past. (Indigeneity, as well as Afro-indigineity, in Mexico is a complicated affair.)

This is a conversation I often have with James Maffie, who I believe shares my reservations. Today he sent me this, adding that though he cannot attest to the scholarly credentials, we should at least look into it. He added that he does know that the critique of Hunab Ku is sound.

I would love to have a discussion about this. Here’s the link to the video again:


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