• July 24th, 2024
  • Wednesday, 09:03:47 PM

Cuentos de Mi Chante Chicano: Telpochcalli Ihuan Calmecatzin

Photo: Daniel Stange Daniel Stange


Daniel Stange


Yo Soy Chicano. Soy Promotor@. “The qualities of a Promotora is a life-long learner,” this quote is from my jefita Belinda García. As long as we live, we learn and so we should not think of school as a place to learn, but the manner we are shown to investigate life. The Greeks gave us the word school from their idea of leisure, but Horace Mann institutionalized our American school system to develop efficient workers. Many of those who want power, tend to belittle the intellect of the masses. In Anahuac, education was foundational, obligatory and provided to all community members.


Today, in México City the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) sits on the grounds of the Calmacatzin that the Mexika founded 700 years ago. When Latinos are surveyed why they come to América, it is overwhelmingly an education issue and this genetic impulse for the people of Anahuac continues to increase. We use the term critical thinking today and that points in the right direction, but the word critical should be replaced. We criticize too many things today. It’s a spirit of curiosity that remains when you accept the mysteries of life. Stop being critical of life.


Our ancestors here wanted to know the secrets of the universe like every mother culture aspired to do. We saw a movement that reflected itself in all natural forms and recycled from the macro to the microscopic world. The forma is part of our biology and there is not good parts and bad parts.


There are not necessary parts and unnecessary parts. All pieces of the environment have a function. Your body doesn’t consume, it recycles. Such basic functions of what your body does are part of the Nahui Ollin system. The four movements. Four directions. Four elements. Four is cosmic.


In the Nahui Ollin teaching the four sections can be expressed in Lo Esencial – Lo Necesario – Lo Deseado – Lo Tentible.


Most essential to your daily life, is the breath. Secondly, the thing we all need is rest. Then, the body requires water it is the thirst that we desire and lastly the nourishment of food is what fulfills our temptations. With good breath, enough sleep, clean water and healthy nourishment, we can fulfill the requirements of our life that will carry our body as it moves through the world and becomes educated.


Every teacher knows that their students learn better when they are fed and hydrated and have had enough rest, but not many of them teach the kids how to breathe. Hopefully the parents did that already? Of course, all education begins in the home. This reinforces the disparity of classism and many of us believe that better education for the wealthy is just a part of life and society. I suggest this to be evidence of a broken society. We all fantasize that education is a great equalizer because a person’s intelligence will allow them to overcome their social deficiency, but if wealth is a measure of success, economics has shown us repeatedly that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.


Knowledge is a very arbitrary concept. And most people agree that wisdom is a greater ally. In Anahuac, the language can help us comprehend a shift in perspective. MACH has been translated as knowledge, but the speakers of Nahuatl will say that MACH is more like perception. Knowledge is constantly changing. We use our seven senses to perceive the environment and respond to life. Most of us focus on the material world, many search the spiritual view. “Reality” at the end of it all, is a handful of ideas that describes the energetic charges of energy that we observe in movement and “life!” is merely a collection of these reflections and memories.”


So, educating over teaching, helps to prepare youth to engage with society. Telpochtli is a young boy, Telpochcalli is their school. Ichpochtli for young girl, and they generally had separate schools, Ichpochcalli. They probably gave Europeans the idea for boarding schools and certainly were the first public education systems. Older children could instruct and guide newer children, so administration was not so heavy. The basis for their education curriculum was how to grow food and each Telpochcalli was self-sufficient and rigorous with a minimalist attitude, so kids slept on a yoga style mat and they prepared their own meals. Evening time, boys and girls would join in the Cuicacalli, house of song, and practice music and art, and dance together; and their parents would often participate and relieve separation anxiety that some children can get.


After adolescence, many students would join their professions and some would continue into the Calmecatl, House of strings/ropes, where they would excel in philosophy, spirituality, engineering, astrology, medicine and other technical skills. The word Mecatl is a rope that was used for measuring and counting, I described it in an earlier article about the Olmecas. The Calmecatl school was also not directed by social status or “reserved” for nobles. Mostly students were recommended from their teachers at Telpochcalli, but it was open to all that wanted to continue.


Another quality of education is language. It is the key to understanding a culture’s perspective and the Nahuatl language was developed over hundreds of years to encode their understanding of reality. Such as the numbers ce-ome-yei-nawi, which have stem words that explain the formation of the human body. Tzintamalli is the nahuatl word for the Gluteus Maximus (buttcheeks) and the prefix TZIN can be added to many words to indicate reverence. Many translations use ‘Blessed’ like in TO-NAN-TZIN, our blessed Mother (the Earth), so etymologically it’s like ‘your anus’ when you see Cuahtemoctzin. Spaniards translated it like ‘Our Lord Cuahtemoc’. Well, the ass is never on top; so, the idea that our “rulers” were above us is ridiculous. Our Anahuac political and social systems were circular and every clan or kalpulli gave voice to their family members. It also reduced a need for money, another misconception about our past.


The Nahuatl word for gold is Teocuitla. Cuitla is poop. It was a material way less valued than silver (that has healing properties) and jade or turquoise, that were prized among our nations. I could write two more pages about the Pochtecatl, who were the few citizens concerned with trade and commerce and most of them were women, but we will retire until next week. The final article in this series, Mexicayotl and Chicanismo, hopes to look at our potential collective future. I wish you good fortune on your continued education. Check out www.toltecayotl.org



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

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