for nahuatl info?

Ricardo J. Salvador salvador at
Sat Jan 11 23:42:08 UTC 2003

Hello Scott,

Good to make your acquaintance. We clearly share the same objectives:
to support learning about Nahuatl language and culture. Someone who
merely wished to discount your efforts on the site could
have done so without taking the time to suggest a number ways (and
resources) to improve the accuracy and value of the site. In fact, the
site speaks volumes about the energy and dedication that you and
Citlalin have invested. I assumed the best about your intentions to
provide an accurate and reliable site for the learning of Nahuatl
(Ometeotl knows we need as much of this as we can get ;-)), which is
why I took the time and effort to review and critique (as did others on
this list.)

> You state, and Citlalin Xochime cites, that the sound sample she
> edited (The Day Count) was yours posted some time ago.  You need to
> understand why she even added her voice at all.  I am a professional
> multimedia artist, and can tell you without hesitation that Ms.
> Xochime did not add her voice because she felt she was any kind of
> expert, but simply because the quality of your original recording
> sample is extraordinarily awfull.

Sorry about that ;-). As a multimedia specialist, you'll probably enjoy
the story. The year was probably 1994, the WWW was just getting off the
ground and I was fascinated with the facility it provided for sharing
multimedia content across the wires. That site was put up impulsively,
in a single evening, if I remember correctly. I was just playing with
my new toys and the "tech" I used was a Mac IIcx equipped with a
microphone. I'm sure you can understand that for that technical reason,
and because the main purpose of the page featuring the recordings was
to explain the tonalpohualli, not the Nahuatl language, it never
occurred to me that anyone would want to use this for Nahuatl learning
purposes. I understand, as you say, that Nahuatl audio is scarce online
and that is why even such sparse material is valuable. However, I did
do a bit of sleuthing recently and forwarded my suggestions for more
and better recordings that can now be found on the WWW. Furthermore,
with a bit of good will, and a commitment to respect accuracy and
legitimacy, these types of merely technical limitations could be
amended directly ;-).  BTW, the original recording was a huge .au file,
no one dreamed of such a thing as MP3 format compression at that time
;-). One last thing about this. You say that the site cites the source
of that audio. I must have missed that attribution, and I raise this
(don't misinterpret) because my name and e-mail address are easily
obtained from the source site and I would have welcomed your contacting
me about the quality of my materials for your purposes (plenty of
others contact me regularly to complain, I mean comment, about my web
materials ;-)).

> You treat history as if it's a chemical chain reaction, easily
> observable in laboratory conditions to establish a scientific truth.
> Well, it's not.  History is not a science - it is an art.  To be
> honest, history is "mythologized" ten minutes after its creation in
> most cases

It is indisputable that, as a human activity, documentary history is
prone to human fallibility. It doesn't follow from this that we can't
know anything about the past and that therefore we can make up whatever
we please. I won't deal with the aspect of historiography, but if
you'll recall, what I attempted to explain was the pitfall of
compounding poor knowledge with more poor knowledge. That was factual,
not condescendent, critique, as a cursory inspection of the content of
the site will demonstrate. Further, note that this
critique was complemented with concrete suggestions for more
trustworthy sources and materials.

A friend who has been observing the development of this dialogue, and
whose privacy I'll respect, wrote recently saying "It has always seemed
to me that real stuff--including Nahuatl grammar--is inevitably more
amazing than anything we could possibly think up on our own." I
couldn't agree more with this and I remit it to your attention with the
most earnest good will. All those of us who have interest and respect
for the Nahuatl tradition have much to share in the way of mutual
support, and I again extend that to you on those terms.

However, it must also be said that such positive exchange cannot be
facilitated by manifestly spurious ideologies as are expressed by
people who at one time can decry present-day colonialism while
idealizing past colonialists, or oppose today's war mongers and exalt
yesterday's war mongers, and who ultimately dither with the commonplace
human penchant for replacing one type of racism with another. This is
to say nothing of the astonishing mystical current permeating the
discourse of many participants in the fora to the effect
that there are long-lost Aztecs trapped inside their bodies and that
their genes or something are now awakening them to long forgotten
Nahuatl words they once knew, or to a heritage that they've been fooled
into forgetting.

I repeat that the truth is without exception more interesting than
myth. It is admirable that we should be interested in discovering and
fleshing out our personal heritage and an honest effort in this will
provide much satisfaction to most of us. As far as young
Mexican-Americans are concerned, it is my opinion that the first step
is not to act as if the last 6 centuries hadn't happened. Secondly,
there is ample demographic, historical and statistical cause to
recognize that the majority of present-day Mexicans, to the extent that
they share significant native ancestry, descend from any number of
aboriginal peoples, and that only a vanishing proportion of them have
any claim to specific Aztec ancestry, and thereby it is the height of
irony that the former should invest such an enormous sense of pride in
identifying with a people who, in the pre-Hispanic era that they
idealize, were actually the VICTIMS of the Mexica. There is plenty to
discover and celebrate in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican culure and history
(as there is in post-conquest Mexico, I would argue), and that pursuit
is the more unfettered and rewarding if it is executed free of
stultifying fictions.

> Now, an observation.  Over all, your voluminous attempted browbeating
> of Ms. Xochime's work sounded scholarly, but smacked of polite
> condescension powered by a person with an ego issue themselves.  I am
> all too familiar with those who have feathered their nests warmly in
> the comfortable recesses of academia.  Often, they sit like vultures
> on the sidelines, springing to attack, criticize and dissemble the
> work of anyone who dares stick their neck out and actually do
> something to try and better their world.  A sad thing, that.  It is
> eerily reminiscent behavior of the limousine liberal, who feels that
> any identity movement automatically fosters supremacy and racism; and
> that any effort or opinion not supported by those in the ivory towers
> is wrong or misled, by that dubious virtue.

Scott, I am the first to recognize that lengthy jeremiads online can
easily be read as pedantry. Generating more of the same is not likely
to ameliorate the matter. This public list devoted to Nahuatl is not
the place to joust over the disembodied psychosocial impressions that
mere words allow us to form of one another. Due to the values reflected
in your paragraph above, I think that in person we'd find much more in
common than you might expect. I've written to Citlalin off-list to wish
her the best with her efforts, and I extend these same good wishes to

Ricardo J. Salvador          Voice: 515.294.9595
1126 Agronomy Hall         Telefax: 515.294.8146
Iowa State University        e-mail: salvador at
Ames, IA 50011-1010       WWW:

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