That Ancient Cornfield

Indigenous peoples on the continent continue to be connected by language, stories, trade, food, medicines spiritual tradition

By Roberto Rodriguez & Patrisia Gonzales
Published on LatinoLA: October 7, 2005

That Ancient Cornfield

Not long ago, a reader commented that as a result of our research regarding origins & migrations, that we had gone in search of Aztlan and instead found a cornfield.

We did find a cornfield? and the ants of Quetzalcoatl.

Yet, the truth is, we never actually went looking for Aztlan -- the purported homeland of the Aztec/Mexica. What we did was research a map that indicated that the Aztecs had once lived north of the Hopi and that the Hopi had never surrendered their sovereignty. We've previously detailed this historic research.

The context of this research was the post-Proposition 187 era in California in which the nation's anti-immigrant fervor coalesced into not simply xenophobic legislation, but a rabid fear and hatred of immigrants? particularly against Mexicans and Central Americans and also South Americans and peoples from the Caribbean.

Almost ten years later, that fear and hatred has not simply been exported nationwide, but as a result of 911, it has now been conflated with terrorism.

It's difficult to fathom that the atmosphere nationwide could get worse than the Proposition 187-era - yet with the rise of the anti-immigrant Minuteman movement -- it has. Also, as a result of deteriorating economic and political conditions caused by the ill-conceived Iraqi war and the administration's tilt to the rich, and its disastrous response to Katrina - all point to an even more virulent anti-immigrant movement.

The attitude seems to be: If we could only wall the border and drive out the Mexicans, all the nation's problems would be solved and we'd win the war against terrorism also. And if they would just assimilate and learn English?

And here's a new twist: The Blacks had to fight for their rights. Why should illegal immigrants be handed everything on a silver platter?

The rantings of extremists? Not uniquely so. It's actually part of mainstream discourse in which immigrants now equal a threat to the U.S. middle class. Fear and scapegoating are fast becoming the national pastime, though the notion that anti-immigrants are not really anti-immigrant does indeed have some merit. Hispanics - like Cameron Diaz and Daisy Fuentes -- don't bother them. Of course not. It's the dark, ominous Mexicans/Central Americans that do -- the ones that have at least a 7,000 year-old corn-based culture and perhaps a 40,000 year-presence on this continent. Why? No doubt they are seen as inassimilable mongrels or as Indians attempting to reclaim the continent.

No, they say. They simply want the nation's laws enforced, even if it means erecting impregnable walls, Gestapo raids, internal checkpoints, national ID cards and racial profiling.

The problem of immigration can easily be fixed (through an international agreement), though keeping migrants in states of criminality or modern slavery is not a solution. Despite this, and despite the death of several thousand migrants in the desert, there will always be politicians who cater to peoples' basest instincts.

And thanks to Katrina, racism against African Americans is also back [in the spotlight]. On top of this, conservative William Bennett feels he can openly claim that aborting all Black babies would reduce crime, this while Republicans can claim that New Orleans will cease being as Black as it was. Couple that with the continued attempts to de-indigenize the continent and this is our new poisoned atmosphere in which we're all also pitted against each other.

The reason we conducted our research is not because of a fascination with ancient maps, but because our humanity and our existence continue to be questioned.

? And about that ancient cornfield - the corn, beans, squash and the chile found throughout the continent -- indeed proves both the indigeneity of Mexicans/Central Americans and the continued centrality of that indigenous diet to their daily lives. Despite this, we've also encountered the attitude that because many of us are mixed (what peoples are not mixed?) or because our indigenous cultures were forcibly taken from us, that we're no longer truly indigenous. Translated, this means that colonization is purportedly irreversible and that the continent has ceased being indigenous. Not quite.

The collective findings of our recently completed Amoxtli San Ce Tojuan documentary show that indigenous peoples on the continent continue to be connected by language (particularly Uto-Nahuatl peoples) stories, trade, food, medicines and spiritual traditions. And they - we - are connected because we choose to be connected, not just to the continent and its peoples, but to all humanity. Most importantly, the accompanying values -- and way of life -- that teach us that all life is sacred is what makes us most human.

? 2005 Column of the Americas

* The bilingual San Ce Tojuan documentary premieres (free) on Indigenous Peoples' Day at Aztlan High School, 1924 Los Angeles Street in L.A. Oct 10, 6:30 PM, as a
benefit for the L.A. Indigenous Peoples' Alliance. For info:LAIPA at 323-221-0712. Also, Whittier College, Hoover 100 - 6PM - Oct 11. For info: or 562- 907-4962. For obtaining a copy or for more info:

About Roberto Rodriguez & Patrisia Gonzales:
The writers can be reached at: or 608-238-3161.

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