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Monday, September 22, 2014

Intro to: Our Sacred Maíz is our Mother: Indigeneity and belonging in the Americas


* Excuse the rushed message.. Was not expecting book to be released til Nov 6, but it is already out.

Our Sacred Maíz  is our Mother: Indigeneity and belonging in the Americas
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

I’ve written or edited several books in my life and each of them have been special, especially since most were banned by Tucson’s school district during the state’s infamous battle in Arizona to eliminate Raza Studies, However, this one, Our Sacred Maíz is our Mother, released early by the University of Arizona Press, seems to be a little more special. Perhaps it is so because it speaks to a topic that recognizes no borders and connects peoples from across this continent, and it is a story that arguably goes back some 7,000 years.

The actual title of this book is Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl. Translated, it means  – Nuestro Maíz sagrado es Nuestra Madre – Our Sacred Maíz is our Mother. Only the English appears on the front cover. However, Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl does appear on the title page, along with the names of 9 Indigenous elders or teachers who contributed maíz origin/creation/migration stories from throughout Abya Yala, Cemanahuac or Pacha Mama – from throughout the continent: Veronica Castillo Hernandez, Maestra Angelbertha Cobb, Luz Maria de la Torre, Paula Domingo Olivares, Tata Cuaxtle Felix Evodio, Maria Molina Vai Sevoi, Francisco Pos, Irma Tzirin Scoop and Alicia Seyler.

Each of the ancestral stories they wrote, or relate, is a treasure unto itself, each from a different people or pueblo from throughout the continent. The same thing applies to the artwork; each one is also a priceless treasure, depicting maíz  in a most special way. The artists include: Laura V. Rodriguez, Tanya Alvarez, Grecia Ramirez, Paz Zamora, Pola Lopez, Mario Torero and Veronica Castillo Hernandez.

Already, I have been asked what the primary message of the book is. Each person will take away something different, but for me, my simple answer is that the title and front cover say it all: Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl – Our Sacred Maíz is our Mother. For some, no further explanation is required.

The message resonates because it comes from somewhere profound… from a place of ancestors. Its message is: We are people of maíz. This is where we come from. This is what we are made of. This is who we are. Most Indigenous peoples form maíz–based cultures instinctively understand this message.

If you are reading this without seeing, or not having seen, the image, the front cover is a genuine amoxtli or codex unto itself, painted by Laura V. Rodriguez. It tells the ancient Nahua story of Maíz from the oral tradition and recorded in the Chimalpopoca Codex – of the ants of Quetzalcoatl – and how it is that humans received the maíz. Truly, the imagery and message are both stunning. Again, it is a story, one of many ancient stories actually, that is thousands of years old, stories that were initially suppressed during the colonial era, but now are back, not as part of an extinct culture, but as part of living cultures that exist throughout the continent, including in what is today the United States.

More than that, there is a specific message for peoples of the Americas that have been de-Indigenized, disconnected and severed from their traditions, languages and stories: despite 522 years of European presence, most remain connected to maiz culture. In particular, this applies to peoples with Mexican and Central American and Andean origins that live in the United States. And thus the message: Okichike Ka Centeotzintli or “Made from Sacred Maiz.”  After all, many if not most of the peoples from these communities eat maíz (tortillas), beans and chile, virtually on a daily basis. Along with squash and cactus, these foods are Indigenous to this continent.

This is not the message brown children receive in school. It is not the message they receive in the media and it is not the message they receive from government institutions.

The message in the book is that they are not foreigners, that they are not aliens and that contrary to what the U.S. Census bureau promotes, that they are not white. Instead, the message is that they are children of maíz – part of Indigenous cultures on this continent that are many, many thousands of years old.

In effect, this message was banned during the colonial era… and also in present-day Arizona… the whole country, actually. This message, in effect, was made illegal (HB 2281) by politicians who think that only Greco-Roman culture should be taught in U.S. schools. Maíz culture is the story of this continent… though in reality, it is one of the great stories of this continent (salmon, buffalo). These cultures produced not simply civilizations, but also produced values and ethos such as In Lak Ech -Tu eres mi otro yo and Panche Be – To seek the root of the truth. And it is precisely these and related values that were continually attacked during that battle to destroy Raza Studies.

But just as knowledge cannot be destroyed, neither can values and ethos be destroyed. Yes, a program was shut down, but that is temporary.

Another part of the message for this continent is, in Nahuatl: non kuahuitl cintli in tlaneplantla: the maiz tree is the center of the universe. The related message is that for those reasons, it is everyone’s responsibility to protect maiz from the multinational transgenic corporations that have literally stolen and hijacked our sacred sustenance. And it is not just the maíz that they have stolen and desecrated; they have done this or are attempting to do this to all of our crops…not just the sacred foods of this continent, but of the entire world. Because indeed we are what we eat, exposure to highly toxic (pesticides and herbicides) and genetically modified foods is highly dangerous, not simply to human beings and all life, but to the entire planet.

More than part of a de-colonial process, writing this book is part of an affirmation that as human beings, we are sacred because our mother is sacred… and on this continent, maíz is our mother.

This book is a compilation of elder or ancestral knowledge from throughout the continent, and as noted, it contains the simplest of messages, contained in both the front cover and the title.

The simple idea of this book was to counter-act… actually this book is not meant to counter anything. It is meant to affirm the thousands-of-years maíz–based cultures – to affirm that we are Indigenous to this continent – and to assert our full humanity, along with our full human rights, this in a society that brands us as illegitimate, unwelcome and nowadays illegal.

As Indigenous peoples continue to affirm: We cannot be illegal on our own continent. And yet more than that, the simple message of the humble maíz is that there is no such thing as an illegal human being anywhere. That is the primary message of the book.

Rodriguez teaches at the University of Arizona and can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com For info re Our Sacred Maíz is Our Motherhttp://www.uapress.arizona.edu/Books/bid2497.htm

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother


BOOK IN HAND: Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl - Monday 9/15/2014 Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother (University of Arizona Press). Dedicated to my father and mother, both who passed on to spirit world in Jan 2011 (my father) and this past June (my mother). They would have been proud. And they were.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A FORTHCOMING READER

A publisher has asked me to compile my writings from the past 42 years... However, I have proposed simply the past 7 years, since I moved to Arizona. I am to choose my favorite writings to be published as collected works -- as a reader. If you have any favorites that you have ever read or taught from, please write me at: XColumn@gmail.com Most of what I have written the past 7 years has been as Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez. Prior to receiving my PhD, I did not include "Dr. Cintli" as part of my name. At the initial stage, I am free to suggest and design it in any manner I choose... from columns to academic articles etc. Of course, my maiz book (http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/Books/bid2497.htm) is almost out (mid-October), plus I continue work on the Smiling Brown project... so this is kind of cool to be working on this at this time. Thanks in advance, write me at: XColumn@gmail.com

Friday, August 8, 2014

Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother



Electronic billboard at the main library at the U of Arizona... Nice way to be greeted after being away for the summer...

Below is a flyer with 20% discount for book for pre-orders.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Newspaper Comment Sections Become Cordoned-Off Hate Crime Scenes

This is a lengthy article I wrote recently for Truthout's Public Intellectual Page regarding the hate that emanates from media. This article analyzes the hate, primarily from the comments sections of the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star during the height of the SB 1070 (racial profiling) and HB 2281 (anti-ethnic studies) issues.. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24684-editorial-pages-as-cordoned%E2%80%93off-hate-crime-scenes#.U9bMka8mgiQ.email Please post, share, etc.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our Sacred Maiz is Our Mother

Front Cover by Laura V. Rodriguez
University of Arizona Press (Oct 2014)

Just had to showcase the front cover to my forthcoming book

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nakum Journal: Smiling Brown: Gente de Bronce—People the Color of the Earth

Indigenous Cultures Institute

Nakum Journal

2014 V 4 #1

 

Smiling Brown: Gente de Bronce—People the Color of the Earth

By Roberto “Dr. Cintli” Rodriguez

I begin this essay on brown skin color and color consciousness with memories of my early childhood when I would sit on the porch step of my house in an alley on Whittier Boulevard in East LA and absorb the rays of the blazing hot sun. When I did this, I was constantly warned to stay out of the sun lest I get darker. I never paid any heed because I was already dark, and my body craved the rays of the sun. It was the heat I wanted; it made me feel good. It brought comfort to me, and sitting out in the hot sun (or when I grew older, playing basketball shirtless for hours on end) had nothing to do with my skin color, or so I thought. In one sense, whoever was giving me those admonitions was preoccupied not so much with the sun, but with my skin color—this in a society that has always favored light-skin.

New Mexico poet Demetria Martinez once described me in a poem on racial profiling, “Driving While Brown,” as unable to hide my Indian blood. “He is as dark as chocolate,” she writes (2005, 122). I always felt that was my skin color, except in Arizona where I feel it changes to red-brown.
I remember many years ago, an elder, Ernie Longwalker Peters, told me that when you mix the colors of maíz: red, white, yellow and blue—which represent all the peoples of the world—you get the color brown. I wish I had heard those words when I was growing up because most of my early memories in regards to skin color are negative. For example, I remember walking home from junior high school in the 1960s and one of my friends telling me: “Mexicans are the color of dirt!” I remember not knowing how to respond because he meant it as an insult, and at that time, I didn’t relate dirt with the Earth. That’s where the subtitle for this essay comes from, Gente de Bronce: People the Color of the Earth. Society taught me at a very young age that dirt was a bad thing and that it was an ugly color.
The issue of color isn’t simply something external; color, even when unstated, is also an internal issue among Mexicans and other people of the Americas.1 This is true even in the home. Whether verbalized or not, color consciousness is omnipresent and is directly linked to issues of indigeneity. In other words, these communities tend to show a preference for light skin that is not necessarily related to the black-white racial paradigm in the United States. It actually goes back to the era of Spanish colonization when deep anti-Indigenous attitudes first developed.

For the rest of the essay, go to:
http://indigenouscultures.org/nakumjournal/nakum-2014-vol-4-1,