Growing up, people are usually aware of who they are, whether it’s identifying with a specific group or even in broader terms. Many go years with assuming their role and just going about their day, but others really embrace who they are. Hundreds of these individuals are present in our community; it’s just a matter of paying close attention.
One major way to understand who people really are is through their language. In Mexico, people are trying to hold on to their native tongue and that doesn’t include Spanish, which is not even recognized as the country’s official language. Mainly because there are so many languages that the indigenous speak. Others are faced with the reality of having to learn their grandparents’ language, and if that doesn’t seem like a hard task, they are in another country trying to accomplish that.
“I think it’s very important to learn the language of our grandparents, great observers of the cosmos, who managed to become aware of the seasonal changes the planet goes through,” said Graciano “Chimalcoyotl” del Carmen, San Jose resident.
Chimalcoyotl believes that he was not fortunate to learn Nahuatl because of the influence the media has on people. He explained how the Mexican media spoke of becoming a better and more successful person by speaking Spanish, and how they lied, because to him that’s not his language. The government also went as far as only teaching in Spanish in public schools, only because before people actually started going to school during the different revolutions, they had no time to pay attention to those details. Eventually there was no choice but to learn Spanish. The language that would help them become better people.
“This is our culture, it’s not political. It’s a way of life,” said Chimalcoyotl.
Chimalcoyotl, who identifies as Mixtec from the state of Puebla, Mexico, has been performing with Calpulli Tonalehqueh for eight years. He is one of the many people who, along the way, thought they had lost their identity. He is rediscovering his roots along with his four children and wife.
With strong ties to the Nahuatl language, Chimalcoyotl looks forward to the day when he can speak it 100 percent or even 80 percent like his parents. He has been attending class for five years, where he practices his Nahuatl and goes deep into the philosophical meaning behind the different words.
“Nahuatl is our language and we should study it, we should speak it and know it, to preserve our culture,” said Chimalcoyotl.
Free Nahuatl classes are held at Consejo Interamericano de Tradicion y Cultura Quetzalcoatl, 45 E. Williams in downtown San Jose. Class meets every Sunday from 11AM – 2PM.