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July 2010, Week 4

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Mon, 26 Jul 2010 22:44:12 -0400
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What State Officials Don't Want Arizona School Children
To Know In Lak Ech, Panche Be & Hunab Ku: The
Philosophical Foundation for Raza Studies

by Roberto Rodriguez

Published on Monday, July 26, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/26-4

For the next few months, the world will be focusing on
Arizona's SB 1070 - the state's new racial profiling
law. However, in this insane asylum known as Arizona,
where conservatives have concocted one reactionary
scheme after another, another law in particular stands
out for its embrace of Dark Ages-era censorship - the
2010 anti-ethnic studies HB 2281 - a law that seeks to
codify the "triumph" of Western Civilization with its
emphasis on Greco-Roman culture.

Unless it is blocked, HB 2281 - which creates an
Inquisitorial mechanism that will determine which books
and curriculums are acceptable in the state - will go
into effect on Jan 1, 2011. Books such as Occupied
America by Rodolfo Acuna and Pedagogy of the Oppressed
by Paulo Freire, have already been singled out as being
un-American and preaching the violent overthrow of the
U.S. government.

Both laws are genocidal: one law attacks the physical
presence of red-brown peoples; the other one, our minds
and spirits.

Lost in the tumultuous debate regarding what can be
taught in the state's schools is the topic of what
actually constitutes Ethnic/Raza Studies.

In general, the philosophical foundation for Raza
Studies are several Indigenous concepts, including: In
Lak Ech, Panche Be and Hunab Ku. Over the past
generation, the first two concepts have become fairly
well known in the Mexican/Chicana/Chicano communities
of the United States. The third concept, Hunab Ku, is
relatively less well known, though it actually forms
the foundation for In Lak Ech - 'Tu eres mi otro yo -
You are my other self' and Panche Be - 'to seek the
root of the truth' or 'to find the truth in the roots'.
As explained by Maya scholar, Domingo Martinez Paredez,
Hunab Ku is the name the Maya gave in their language to
the equivalence of the Supreme Being or the Grand
Architect of the Universe (Hunab Ku, 1970). Such
concept is an understanding of how the universe
functions.

These three concepts are rooted in a philosophy based
on maiz. Maiz, incidentally, is the only crop in the
history of humanity that was created by humans. Also,
the Indigenous peoples of this continent are the only
peoples in the history of humanity to have created
their/our own food - maiz - a food so special that it
is what virtually unites not simply this continent, but
this era. These three maiz-based concepts, in effect,
constitute the essence of who we are or who we can be;
human beings connected to each other, to all of life
and creation. Part of creation; not outside of it. This
is the definition of what it means to be human. While 
these concepts are Indigenous to this continent, they
also exist generally in all cultures.

Despite the destruction of the many thousands of the
ancient books of the Maya (along with those of the
Aztecs-Mexica) by Spanish priests during the colonial
era, these Maya-Nahua concepts were not destroyed, nor
are they consigned to the past. Today, they continue to
be preserved and conveyed via ceremony, oral
traditions, poetry and song (In Xochitl - In Cuicatl)
and danza. And they continue to be developed by life's
experiences.

In Raza Studies, these ideas are designed to reach
those that are unfamiliar with these concepts,
including and in particular, Mexicans/Chicanos and
Central Americans and other peoples from the Americas
who live in the United States and who are maiz-based
peoples or gente de maiz, albeit, sometimes far-removed
from the cornfield or milpa. Despite their
disconnection from the fields and despite the
disconnection from the planting cycles and accompanying
ceremonies - and in many cases the ancestral stories -
their/our daily diet consciously and unconsciously
keeps us connected to this continent and to the other
original peoples and cultures of this continent.

In part, this effort to understand these concepts is an
attempt to reclaim a creation/resistance culture, as
opposed to viewing themselves/ourselves as foreigners
or merely as U.S. minorities. It is also an affirmation
that de-Indigenized Mexicans/Chicana/Chicano and
Central and South American peoples are not trying to
revive or learn from dead cultures. Instead, as elders
from throughout this continent generally affirm, these
cultures have never died and neither have these
concepts; peoples have simply been disconnected from
them. That is one definition of colonization and/or
de-Indigenization. The effort to understand these and
similar concepts and to embrace and live by them, is
also one definition of de-colonization. And to be sure,
it is elders from throughout the Americas that have for
more than a generation reached out to these
communities, imploring them/us to "return to our
roots."

Asserting the right to this knowledge that is
Indigenous to this very continent is an effort to
proclaim both the humanity and Indigeneity of peoples
who are matter-of-factly treated as unwelcome and
considered alien in this society. HB 2281 bizarrely
treats this knowledge as "un-American."

Additionally, asserting the right to write modern
amoxtlis or codices - is also part of an effort to
proclaim that all peoples - including de-Indigenized
peoples - also have the right not simply to repeat (or
recreate) things ancient, but to produce their/our own
living knowledge. And in the case of Arizona - with
red-brown peoples continuously under siege - these
concepts can help us bring about peace, dignity and
justice, with the potential to create better human
beings of all of us. The above is a synopsis of Amoxtli
X - The X Codex, 2010, Eagle Feather Research Feather
Institute, by Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the
University of Arizona, in collaboration with several
authors.

Roberto Rodriguez, formerly of Madison and now a
research associate at the University of Arizona in
Tucson, offers a Latino/indigenous perspective on the
Americas. He can be reached at: [log in to unmask]

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