Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mictecacihuatl la norteña in 'hell-hot' Tucson

Service Learning

On a recent visit to a local Tucson high school, I was speaking with students of a Latin American literature class. The students were asked to draw self portraits, incorporating symbols that they believed identified them according to their culture and interests. Some of the students had drawn images of Aztec/Nahua calenders, flowers and pictographic heads representing various deities. I began speaking with a young girl who told me that she was from El Salvador. She laughed when I asked her if she liked Tucson. She responded with a variation of how I'd heard Tucson referred to before, as 'hell-hot', or 'hot as hell.'

I told her that the Aztecs might've agreed--although Tucson is located in what is often referred to as Aztlán, where the Aztecs began their migration to Tenochtitlán, the Aztecs also thought of the underworld Mictlan as being located north of them in relation to present day Mexico City DF. So Mictecacihuatl might've been a norteña, sweating like the rest of us under the Arizona sun.

Hopefully the next time I visit, I'll remember the names better, but it's great to see how much interest these students have in pre-Columbian history. Now, if I were only able to incorporate their love of Reggaeton into New World Rhetoric...

UPDATE: I couldn't help but add a video of Calle 13 in a response to my previous point about using reggaeton as a point of entry--Calle 13's Latinoamerica possesses a critical ethos that alludes to the tradition of colonialism in the Americas.


  1. I would recommend the band Monte Negro ( as a potential discussion point as a bridge to contemporary pop music and changing cultural the kids these days can dig it.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation Alfredo. I'm much more of a Cafe Tacuba fan, but what I find interesting about pop culture, and music especially, is how it is a part of identity (many times more so for younger people), and how influential it can be as a part of our culture. I was talking to a high school student about his self-portrait and he had a Puerto Rican flag even though he wasn't Puerto Rican (another student asked him this), but the student associated with the culture of Reggaeton in the same way he would to something culturally linked to his heritage.

  3. Reggaeton is moving beyond its borders in the Caribbean and becoming representative of the way young folks express anger at the injustice they see. Perhaps not the popular Reggaeton we hear on the radio (I am thinking Daddy Yankee), but bands like Calle 13 address issues of inclusion/exclusion, oppression, and Puerto Rican independence. But it makes sense that this music would cross borders in the same way that Reggae has in the past.
    Great posts, Cruz!