Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aztec and Maya History (in Technicolor)

San Francisco is one of the great cities for murals. When I was there this weekend, I was really interested to see how many of them drew upon themes from the colonial and pre-Columbian histories of Latin America. This was the best example. I didn't even notice until I saw the photographs that at the bottom, the Spanish conquerers are turning into modern soldiers. This wasn't atypical; many of the images combine modern questions of social justice with colonial ones.

It was interesting to see other groupings of colonial-era and contemporary figures. I'm not sure that I would have thought to pair Sor Juana with Martin Luther King, Jr., but there you have them:

There was also a mural painting in progress. The guys who were working on it were taking a break when I went by, but it gave me the chance to overhear them explaining to another onlooker that they couldn't decide whether to honor the Aztec god Tlaloc or Huitzilopochtli, another Aztec god, and so they decided to paint both in their mural. It was really interesting, coming out of this experience of being involved in teaching these figures as part of a historical religion, to see contemporary people not just recognizing them as part of their historical past but actively wanting to honor (not worship, but honor) them as gods.

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