Mexica New Year: Q&A With A Fire Protector

Editor's Note:

A reflection by an urban Native with insight on the celebration of Mexica New Year that brought families together, created a space of healing and letting go.


Whether it was on restaurant walls, handball courts at community centers or traditional dancing in plazas, the familiar images of the bronze, strong Azteca warrior or the more appropriate tribal name Mexica, were a constant sight as a youth in San José.

Always attracted to this history I’ve searched for the connection between modern day [email protected] and the nation they came from pre-colonization. The journey for many of our ancestors and generations after colonization is a journey of self and cultural examination, identification, and preservation.

Though we’ve been indoctrinated to believe in Judeo-Christian principles through mission systems and Native American boarding schools we now have a blend of many diverse beliefs and understandings.  

As a person who identifies as Mexicano/Chicano/Yaqui native from a displaced background, I’m constantly in search for indigenous preservations in a modern world.

Mexica New Year, earlier this month was an opportunity to come full circle with the indigenous culture that has always drawn interest during my life journey. The sounds of the concha, vibrations of drumming, dancing, chanting, and regalia are a typical setting at Mexica ceremonies.

The Mexica New Year, March 11-12th at Emma Prusch Park off of historic Story and King Roads on the east of San Jose, brought me a closer understanding of the possible displaced meanings of Mexica native philosophy.

I was fortunate enough to receive the wisdom of a much deeper meaning of the ceremony by attending and speaking with Mitlapilli, a leader of Calpulli Tonalehqueh, the lead organizing group of the yearly gathering and with a respected Cihuacoatl (Fire-Protector).

Many people outside the space even descendants of the Mexica, modern day [email protected], may not understand where the connection between [email protected] and the Mexica tribe come from. From what I learned though, not all Mexicans come from the great Mexica; modern Mexican culture has embraced the most preserved traditions.


The following is my Q&A with a Cihuacoatl (Fire-Protector)

Gabriel Ortiz: Who are the Mexica and how are modern day [email protected] connected to them?

Cihuacoatl (Fire-Protector)Mexica also known as Azteca come from the central valley of Mexico. Thus during the many generations after Spanish conquest, families from this part of Meso-America have migrated, preserved and are reconnecting with close ancestral roots. The In 1992, a movement of awareness and knowledge of the traditions came to San Jose from Mexico City and thus a rebirth and formation of many Mexica groups.

GO: What is the Mexica New Year all about? 

C: The Mexica New Year is a time where the carriers of these traditions commence the new year according to the Mexica Calendar (Tonalmachiotl). This year celebrates Macualli calli, 5-house, the New fire ceremony, a new cycle. The purpose for this particular ceremony was to unite all indigenous people with the Mexica groups through prayer, song and dance; it was to bless our communities, share and educate about the Mexica message of love and unity.


GO: What do the ceremonies/danzas signify?

C: The ceremony is a cosmic movement in which the danzante - dancer is the representation of the connection to the sky and earth. Ceremony is done in a circle, the drums are placed in the middle to signify the sun and the dancers around represent the planets. All the dances tell a story of our history. Some imitate the animals in nature and elements like earth, wind, fire and water. As we dance barefoot we connect ourselves with mother earth and caress her with our feet giving thanks to everything that she gave us. 


GO: Why is it important for people to understand the event as more than just a festival?

C: The Ceremony is the most important part because it allows us to all be connected spiritually and in harmony with one another to bring unity and love with our mother earth and to one another as human beings. 


Given the rich, deep traditions and history of the people that inhabited the Central Valley of Mexico, there are undoubtedly more vivid and various perspectives and understandings of these traditions. However as a San Jose local, searching, & displaced Native I was in great gratitude to receive further knowledge of part of my lineage. Though this piece may scratch the surface I hope that others who identify as [email protected] or that are curious about the people that come from these areas of Meso-America now have more understanding of the annual gathering.

At this ceremony I felt the energy of the holders of the traditions, and how it brought families together, created a space of healing and letting go of this past year. I saw laughing, dancing, crying, hugs, sharing of art, bartering goods, exchanging knowledge and a true connection to community. My hope is that this piece and others like it continue to ask questions that may be have been forgotten and open space for those that have the knowledge to educate, share and encourage true understanding of the traditions of our ancestors. If you are more interested in getting involved there are many Calpullis in San Jose, that have these types of spaces for connection, knowledge and understanding.



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