Raza Studies: A Ceremonial Discourse

This society tells people of Mexican/Central and South American descent that they don't belong

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: June 2, 2008

Raza Studies: A Ceremonial Discourse

Atop the hills of the Nahuatl-speaking village of Ocotepec, Morelos, Mexico, while a colony of red ants is carrying maiz kernels on their backs, an elder explains: "These are the ants of Quetzalcoatl."

The sensation is magical. In a metaphorical sense, the ants are acting out a cosmic drama. It and similar stories which can be considered a ceremonial discourse are recorded in many of the ancient Mesoamerican amoxtlis or codices of how maiz or cintli came to the people. They are also recorded in songs and dances and in the collective memory of the maiz-based cultures of the Americas.

In the nearby village of Amatlan, the late elder, Don Felipe Alvarado Peralta, relates from memory the following story:

At the dawn of the Fifth Sun, after humans were created, Quetzalcoatl bringer of civilization, writing, the calendar and the arts is put in charge of finding food for the people. Walking along, Quetzalcoatl notices a red ant carrying a kernel of corn. Quetzalcoatl asks: "What's that on your back?"

"Cintli," replies the ant. "Maiz. It is our sustenance."

"Where did you get it?"

Reluctantly, the ant points toward Tonalcatepetl the mountain of sustenance. "Follow me."

When they arrive, the only way into the mountain is through a small opening. At that, Quetzalcoatl transforms into a small black ant. Once inside the mountain, Quetzalcoatl sees the maiz and takes it, proceeding to bring it to the "lords" in Tamuanchan. There, they approve of it. Unable to bring Tonalcatepetl itself, Quetzalcoatl instead brings the seeds to the people.

This ancient story of the Nahuatl peoples of Mexico was recorded in the Chimolpopoca Codex of 1548. Don Felipe was reputedly the keeper of the stories of the Quetzalcoatl priest, Ce Topitzin, who had been born in the ancient city of Amatlan some 1200 years earlier. One such story was about the association between Nahuatl-speaking Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and Quetzalcoatl. He related that during the 1910-1920 Revolution, Zapata had hid in the caves above Amatlan the same caves associated with Ce Topitzin. After Ce Topiltzin's
schooling in nearby Xochicalco, he also later left his impressionable civilizational mark throughout Mesoamerica, including the ancient cities of Cholula, Tula, Cacaxtla and Chichen Itza.

Known as a wise and peaceful elder, he took his name from the much older or mythic
Quetzalcoatl the plumed or beautiful serpent whose presence is also recorded in the ancient city of Tollan-Teotihuacan. According to Maya scholar, Domingo Martinez Paredez, in Un Continente y Una Cultura, Quetzalcoatl is known by various names throughout the
continent, including Kulkulkan among the Maya of Yucatan, Gucumatz among the Maya Quiche of Guatemala, Itzam among the Huastecas, Tohil among the Zapotecas and Arara among the Andean Quechuas. This plumed or water serpent reputedly also goes by several other names in what is
today the U.S. Northeast, Southwest and Northwest.

While it is not certain when and where maiz was specifically created, most botanists place the age of maiz somewhere in the vicinity of 7,000 years in Southern Mexico and /or Central America. Oral traditions generally agree with this framework and scenario.

While there are plenty of variations, Mesoamerican cultures appear to have sprung forth from a common root maiz. Thus, many share similar stories of mythic or hero twins who battle lords of the underworld in a cosmic ballgame; stories of a plumed or beautiful serpent; and the
attempts to create humans, first out of mud, then wood, and finally maize, as recounted in the ancient Popul Vuh, the Maya creation book. It includes maize-based calendars and similar cosmovisions, including the belief in the sacredness of maiz. As Guillermo Bonfil Batalla
argued in Mexico Profundo, maiz itself is the civilizational impulse or germinational seed that triggered Mesoamerica's development. Traces of that impulse can still be seen today throughout Turtle Island or the Americas, including wherever corn, beans and squash wherever tortillas and chile are being eaten.

* * * *

This society tells people of Mexican/Central and South American descent that they don't belong; witness the massive immigration raids sweeping the nation and the clamor for a 2,000 mile wall. At best, they are told that they are subservient. This maiz discourse, which underpins Raza-Mexican American Studies nationwide, tells a different story. The primary stories teach respect and that as humans, we are all equal. It is such stories, contained in the codices, that were destroyed by fanatical priests during the colonial era. Contrary to the myths [about Raza Studies in Tucson and Semillas del Pueblo in Los Angeles] that are being foisted upon by new would-be censors rather than subvert Western Civilization these stories provide an invaluable glimpse of the continent's history. And similar to Greco-Roman, Chinese and Egyptian stories, they are part of our human legacy and heritage.

* Positive Representation in Education has been formed to Save Raza Studies. They have a listserv at: Also, a petition to Save Raza Studies can be found at:

About Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez:
Rodriguez can be reached at: or 520-743-0376. The column is archived at: here.

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