• February 8th, 2023
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Cuentos De Mi Chante Chicano: Danza Azteca Chichimeca


Daniel Stange


Yo Soy Chicano. Soy Danzante. Soy Conchero and I know the songs of my culture and the stories they sing. I play Mandolina, but the preferred instrument at our ceremonies is the Concha de Armadillo. During the 16th century, the Spaniards would punish the drummers by cutting off their hands and they forbid the flutes and drums. We call the drum Huehuetl. It means really old one. For the trees have much longer life cycles than the human being. That drum carries the heartbeat of our people. It reflects the sound of our mother’s heartbeat when we were in utero.


When our ancestors realized that the dance steps and rhythms of our sacred dances were threatened. They used an Armadillo shell (concha) to fashion a guitar through which they could copy the rhythms of the songs and then they could strum and dance the same steps of the original dance and dress in white with a red bandana in front of the church. The priests never realized that these were the same ritual dances and they permitted them. Soon every church in every town in México had a group of Concheros. They could continue to resist the assimilation of Spanish rule in a peaceful manner. Like the Armadillo who is never aggressive. They roll up in a ball—the shape of the earth—when they feel aggression. And when the danger is gone, they open up and continue forward. They never walk backwards! This is the qualities of our traditions.


Danza Azteca is not about conquering the world around us. It teaches us to conquer our inner fears and heal our internal wounds. To be a Warrior of Love or a Spiritual Warrior that fights to defend those who cannot fight for themselves.


Mexika Tiahui – People go forward. This is the clarion call of the Danzante. The Danzantes of today’s Danza de Conquista across Anahuac, are the greatest secret society this continent has ever beheld. (We even have our own handshake). Yet, we carry our secret out into the open, into the daylight, into the sunlight, into the face of our oppressors. We form dance circles we call Kalpulis – it means ‘union of homes’. We continue the forms and the rituals and the prayers of our ancestors through Flower and Song – El Flor y Canto – In Xochitl In Cuicatl. We fight the spiritual battle to know our true identity. As our ancestors knew, the real enemy lies within, so we use the instrument of our trade and the sweat of our bodies to reach deep within. To find our path and to realize our collective destiny.


The guiding principles of our Kalpuli is “Union, Conformidad y Conquista.” First, there must be unity among the members. We use the time in practice and performance to learn each other’s character and then seek conformity. Making individual agreements and taking on specific responsibilities. Never allowing for one voice to dictate and supporting each other in the natural phases of life. We practice dancing in a circle to reflect the idea that everyone is equal. Each person leads their own dance and the others follow in turn. Humans naturally have uniqueness; even identical twins will differ in character and desires. This can cause conflict because there is so much variety of opinion and perspective. Therefore, the Conquest (Conquista) is about overcoming our vanity and caprichos. About how to see ourselves in others (captured in a recently popular phrase) In Lak Ech. You are the other me.


This Mayan saying is deepened with the individual because we are each dual in essence. All of us have internal dialogue and at times unexplainable reactions or behaviors that help and/or hinder us. In Nahuatl we use a term Nagual, it’s an animistic force that enters our body just before we are born. When the baby is in the womb and the mother can feel it drop into the pelvis and often her placenta is ruptured and the amniotic fluid escapes. This essence of our unconscious or perhaps sub-conscious self, can be an enemy or an ally depending on how we learn to dialogue with ourselves. How some say to conquer our ego, not to destroy it. We need to find a balance with ourselves so that we avoid internal conflict. Like that image of Donald Duck with the two little mini-Donald’s on his shoulders, where one is like an angel, and the other a demon.


Danza Azteca is not about conquering the world around us. It teaches us to conquer our inner fears and heal our internal wounds. To be a Warrior of Love or a Spiritual Warrior that fights to defend those who cannot fight for themselves. To paraphrase my teachers: “The dance is Movement and movement is a bridge that allows for time and space to exist. Dance is meditation, concentration and discipline. It isn’t jumping up and down, but liberating the empty spaces around us. It’s collective meditation in motion that finds identification, cooperation and purpose.” The dancer develops the strength of their intention. Utilizing all the elements of nature and adapting our human form to the rhythms that the drum produces.


All of us carry that heart-drum beat. Between our lungs the heart is caressed and when you breath deep the lungs expand and squeeze the heart like a gentle hug. The four chambers of the heart with two ventricles and two atriums that push against each other and beat rhythmically. Pulling us back and forth like the waves on the shore, ebb and flow. Everyone has a dance, even the plants, trees and animals. The waterfall and the snow storm. Our labors and our relationships, the way we manage a crisis or fulfill our dreams and move through the journey of our life. The brief moments that we remember between our births and transformations. Between our traumas and our healing grace.


The Dance can transform the battle of a warrior to find value in saving life over taking life. Among the Plains Indian wars’ it became known that the braves were honored greater for the action of Counting Coup. Where they would run into a battle and strike the enemy with a harmless stick without killing or being killed. The Apache hand drum fashions the drumstick into a mini coup sticks, that have a small curved tip. Because we strike the drum like a battle blow, but we don’t want to break the skin. It’s more of a game than a struggle to live or die. Eurocentrism views the natural world in a state of survival they describe as kill or be killed. True observation of nature will teach you that everything is working together. Cooperation of the species. Prey and predator are Latin based words that do not reflect the essence of how our ancestors in Anahuac described the interactions.


A Warrior of love will always find the rhythm that spares life and only takes what is properly needed to sustain and nourish the body, because we all must eat. I hope you find a time to dance before next week’s edition about Kapullis and Toltecayotl.



Daniel Stange is the Grant Manager with Sisters of Color United for Education in Denver, Colorado. Read the fifth edition of Cuentos De Mi Chante Chicano here.


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