Thursday, November 07, 2013

Chicanonautica: Nahuatl in Prison

I needed a Nahuatl translation for a project, so I did some Googling (and there are Nahuatl dictionaries online, praise Quetzalcoatl) when I got a chunk of the cultura war thrown in my face. One of these dictionaries was supposed to have been “intercepted in a prison” -- shades of High Aztech! I had to check it out . . .

This dictionary was particularly interesting in that it showed Nahuatl words as they are being used by contemporary gangsters: Achuatli is boss, cahuayo is heroin, topile is cops, tuca is snitch . . . great material for fiction!

In the short introduction was: Mexicans and Mexican Americans who can barely say taco are being taught dialects of the ancient Aztec language Nahuatl.

What? Who ever heard of any of us who couldn’t say taco? Vatos who can learn a new language are stupid? Who wrote this?

The author of that phrase is Sgt. Richard Valdemar, “retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.”

The Sargent must be proud of that line. He also used it in another article for Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine called “Do You Speak Nahuatl?” where he explains how Latino gangs appeal to a sense of racial superiority in their recruits, even though “most Mexicans are of mixed race.” He blames Chicano studies, MECha, and Academia del Pueblo.
I’ve run into this kind of barrio racsim. The kids need to learn La Raza comes from José Vasconcelos’ La Raza Cosmica . . .

Sgt. Valdemar goes on to tell the tale of Juan Miguel Alvarez, an Academia del Pueblo student who, though “not a gang member himself,” used cocaine and was arrested several times for “suspicion of burglary.” Alvarez was obsessed with Aztec rituals:

He joined a group that performed dances and ceremonies dressed in loin cloths, sandals, and feathered headdresses. He had even learned to play the traditional Aztec drums.
Music, dance, costumes . . . how dangerous!
One day he drove his Jeep Cherokee onto some railroad tracks, and: 
 According to some reports Alvarez stabbed himself in the chest and slit his wrists with a knife, either just before or just after abandoning his Jeep on the tracks. Some believe Alvarez had intended to do a ritual Aztec suicide but chickened out.
Note all the qualifiers. When it comes to Alavarez’ motivations, all we have are unsubstantiated rumors.
As for ritual Aztec suicide: I’ve been a bit obsessed with Aztec culture for a few decades myself, and have never heard of such a thing. I did a Google search, and found nothing.
Unfortunately, the abandoned Jeep caused a train crash. 180 commuters were injured, and 11 were killed. Alvarez was convicted of the murder of the 11.
Sgt. Valdemar concludes: This is proof that crazy lies, fantasies, and myths can kill you.
Though despite Alvarez’ interest in things Aztec, no real connection is shown with the tragic incident. It may have been more of a case of qualanqui, “angry at everyone.” 
Both articles, and the idea that Aztec culture can cause crime, remind me of Dr. Fredric Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent and its many stories of juvenile delinquents who read comic books, assuming a cause and effect relationship.
It’s sad to see this attitude in on a website that calls itself a Community for Cops.
Meanwhile, I’ve got some crazy fiction, fantasies, and myths to get back to.  Somehow, they haven't killed anyone yet.
Ernest Hogan’s books may get you in trouble if you get caught reading them in school or prison. Cuidado.

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