Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chicanonautica: Guajolote, Thanksgiving, and Other Words

by Ernest Hogan

This will be going up on Thanksgiving Day. Have a happy one, everybody! And be thankful. Even in hard times, we all have reasons to be thankful.

I’m lucky to be a publishing Latino writer. It hasn’t made me rich or famous, but I’ve been published, people have read my work, and some even said they liked it. A lot of people never get published. For all you struggling Latino writers out there, I recommend talking advantage of former Simon & Shuster editor Marcela Landres’ offer to answer your questions here at La Bloga. I’m hoping it stirs up some lively discourse.

According to the sacred Aztec calendar, we are in the middle of the festival of Panquetzalitzi, the “Lifting of the Banners” when paper banners were hung on houses and in fruit trees in honor of Tezcatlipoca, the trickster/warrior god, and Huitzilopotchtli, the Méxica tribal war god. Prisoners of war and “bathed slaves” were sacrificed. There was also a sacred procession from the Great Pyramid to Tlatelolco, Chapultepec, and Coyoacán, then back to the sacred precinct at Tenochitlán.

And all we have to do is eat turkey.

In Mexico, the turkey is called guajolote. The rest of the Spanish-speaking world uses the word pavo. Guajolote is Nahuatl. A native word for native meat.

In Spanish, carne means both “meat” and “flesh.” Are they not the same substance? What makes them different is all in our minds, the way the Victorians consider “legs” to be indecent and “limbs” proper. To the contrary of the popular slogan, meat is not dead, meat is life.

In Aztec mythology, the current human race was created by mixing blood from Quetzalcoatl’s penis with corn ashes. Corn and human flesh are thought of as the same substance, almost an intuitive suggestion of DNA. There cannot be cannibalism or vegetarianism in the Aztec world, the concepts are interchangeable when you consider the flesh of plants and animals to be the same thing.

Another interesting Spanish word is frontera -- it means both “frontier” and “border.” In American Wild West mythology, a frontier is something that heroes cross so they can settle and bring civilization to the other side, while a border is something only nefarious criminals cross with official permission. A bilingual discussion of border issues can get confusing.

I wonder what the Nahuatl word for “border” is?

Ernest Hogan eats flesh, makes sacrifices, and is thankful to Tezcatlipoca for his literary and artistic successes.


Anonymous said...

Guajolote--I hate that I forget that word and use pavo with my mexicanitos!

I'm no linguist, nor a real mexicano indigene, but here's what my dictionary says for border:

Gracias, este día de gracias,

msedano said...

my grandmother emilia macias was the best poultry dresser in the inland empire. gente would drive from as far as pomona to get a cocono dressed by "emily."

cocono. that is her, thus my, word for turkey. different onomatopoeia rules in michoacan quizas.

Manuel Ramos said...

cocono - I'm with Michael on this one. my grandmother Antonia always saved the turkey's neck for me and I thought it made me special.

Ernest Hogan said...

Thanks for the URL of the online Nahuatl dictionary, Rudy -- it will come in handy. It's interesting that the work "iten" also means bill or beak. There's some different thinking there.

Melinda Palacio said...

El día de guajolote is what my grandmother always referred to as Thanksgiving.

juanita said...

pavo is to guajolote as
beef is to cow

pero bueno, enjoyed your item very much.