Sunday, November 3, 2013

Academic Origins of Major Ideas (with academic citations)

Academic Origins of Major Ideas

(with academic citations)

This list shows that many important concepts can be traced back with academic references.

Nican Tlaca:

The term Nican Tlaca has been a part of the historical record for nearly 500 years.

The term Nican Tlaca can be definitively shown to have originated around the mid-1500's and was used well into the 1600's. No individual can be identified as its originator. The term seems to have originated as a way to differentiate Indigenous People from Spaniards/Europeans.  In 1992, with the publication of The Nahuas After the Conquest, James Lockhart re-introduced the term via scholarship and affirmed it as being synonymous with “indigenous people”. Thereafter, the term has been adopted by other people (e.g. Mexica Movement, Nican Tlaca Voices Radio Show, Nican Tlaca metal-music band, Nican Tlaca University of Cemanahuac) and applied towards different purposes.

Below are the earliest academic sources in which we find the term Nican Tlaca.

1. Florentine Codex, Chapter 12 (mid-1500s A.D.)

Chapter Twelve of The Florentine Codex documents dialogue exchanges between colonizing Spaniards and the Indigenous people they encountered in Central Mexico. The term Nican Tlaca appears along with other terms like Nican tlalli (“the land here”) and Nican Mexico (“Mexico here”).

The term also show up in Sahagun's Primeros Memoriales as well as numerous colonial documents (e.g. wills, testaments, chronicles, etc.)

2. James Lockhart (1992)

On page 641 of his book The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries, historian James Lockhart acknowledges that Nican Tlaca is a “term for indigenous people” (Lockhart, 1992, p. 641).


A small segment from page 641 of James Lockhart's 1992 book showing Nican Tlaca as being equated with a “term for indigenous people”. (Lockart would assert the same meaning to Nican Tlaca in his next book in 1993).

Lockhart observes through archival documents that most colonized Indigenous people did not adopt the term indio, but rather, opted for alternative terms like Nican Titlaca, Nican Tlaca, or Nican Itoca in order to express their identity (Lockhart, 1992, p. 115). Lockhart fails to explain the etymological connection between Nican Titlaca and Nican Tlaca, although it is clear that the two terms are related and represent an evolving use throughout early Colonial Mexico.

Furthermore, another term – macehualli – was also a stand-in term meaning “the people” or “the common people”, in contradistinction to “nobles” (Lockhart, 1992, p. 115).

Lockhart states an important difference between Nican Tlaca and Macehualli (or macehualtin, plural) is that, “The collective machehualtin was more neutral”, as opposed to the more personal and conscious term Nican Tlaca (Lockhart, 1992, p. 116).

But the term Nican Tlaca is problematic if it is taken to mean “we people here”, since that meaning would be more accurately assigned to the term Nican Titlaca. Linguistically speaking, it appears that the term Nican Titlaca is the original term, from which Nican Tlaca was derived, either by social convention or some unknown decision by elites.

It would seem then, that Nican Titlaca is the more “etymologically / grammatically correct” term for expressing personal-possessive identity, even though “linguistic evolution” morphed the term into Nican Tlaca.


3. James Lockhart (1993)

On page 331 of his book We People Here: Nahuatl Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico, historian James Lockhart acknowledges that Nican Tlaca is a “term for indigenous people” (Lockhart, 1993, p. 331).

Seen above: a small segment from page 331 of James Lockhart's 1993 book showing Nican Tlaca as being equated with a “term for indigenous people”.

On page iv of his book, Lockhart prefaces the historical dialogues in his book with some examples of how Nican Tlaca – and some interesting variations/transpositions of the term – are found within Chapter Twelve of The Florentine Codex (Lockhart, p. iv, 1993).

Lockhart's book specifically examines Chapter Twelve of The Florentine Codex, a 16th-century Spanish ethnography.

The term Nican Tlaca has been a part of the historical record for nearly 500 years.

4. John F. Schwaller (1993)

In his 1993 academic peer review of James Lockhart's book The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries., Schwaller addresses the 16th century origins of the term Nican Tlaca:

“Likewise the natives did not call themselves Indians, and in fact it was not until nearly a half century after the conquest that any term arose to describe the natives to themselves, usually appearing as Nican Tlaca [emphasis added]” (Schwaller, 1993, p. 762).

5. Stafford Poole (1995)

In his book Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol 1531-1797, historian Stafford Poole notes that the term Nican Tlaca was being used well into the 1600s. In particular, the term shows up in a written account of "Indian miracles" claimed to come from "The Virgin":

"The story of the Indian miraculously restored to life at the time of the dedication parade contains no Spanish loan words and uses the older term nican tlaca for natives (Poole, 1995, p. 122).
(Note: Poole's book deals with "La Virgen de Tepeyac" and debunks the entire "Juan Diego appearance" story by showing how no official records exist for the story with the local Catholic Bishop during the years the event was claimed to occur.)
Also in 1995, in his review of James Lockhart's book We People Here: Nahuatl Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico, Poole makes a reference to the usage of the term Nican Tlaca:

“The "people here" (nican tlaca) also showed relatively little interest in the Spaniards as such” (Poole, 1995, p. 225).

6. Susan M. Steele (1976)

A linguist by training, Steele translates what she calls “Classical Aztec” language. Among her many translations is the term Nican Tlaca which she translates quite literally as “here people” (Steele, p. 44, 1976).

While Steele's examination of the term predates James Lockhart by almost twenty years, it lacks Lockhart's more specific definition of the term to mean “Indigenous people”.

Still, Steele's article implies that she sees Nican Tlaca as a reference to Nahua peoples who speak “Classical Aztec” (as opposed to Spaniards/Castillians).

7. Jack Forbes (1973)

Although he did not use the term Nican Tlaca, Forbes used an equivalent term – Anishinabe – to describe Indigenous people across the continent – in particular, Mexicans who were the subject of his book, Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan (Forbes, 1973, p. 13). The term Anishinabe was a precursor to the later notion of an inclusive, pan-Indigenous term like Nican Tlaca.

Forbes states that at that time, Mexicans as a group “compose the largest single nation of Anishinabeg (Indians) found in the United States today” (Forbes, 1973, p. 13).

8. Susan Schroeder (2010)

Describing the Colonial-era historian Chimalpahin in The Conquest All Over Again: Nahuas and Zapotecs, Thinking, Writing, and Painting Spanish Colonialism, Susan Schroeder remarks about him being "an ardent Nahua paisan" and that:

" we have a genuine, almost unique, display of pan-Indianism that is nontypical of the micropatriotism [emphasis added] always attributed to Mesoamerican ethnic societies. This, of course, could be a reflection of the seventeenth-century colonial nican titlaca (we people here) phenomenon..." (Schroeder, 2010, p. 117).

9. Louise A. Breen (2012)

In a recent book titled Converging worlds: communities and cultures in colonial America, the following statement re-confirms the use of nican tlaca an an identity label:

The term "Indian" used in Spanish documents usually refers to naturales (natives) of the New World. In the indigenous Nahuatl-language documents of Mesoamerica the native authors refer to themselves as nican tlaca, or "here people" (Breen,  2012, p. 83).


The name Mexica can be traced back to The Letters of Hernan Cortes, which were correspondences from the Spanish invader of Mexico to King Charles V back in Europe. The historical consensus is that the name Mexica is much older, and describes the people who are commonly called Aztecs.

The term can also be found within The Florentine Codex from the mid-1500s. 

Mexica As An Identity For Mexicans”

E. Cardoza Orozoco (1966) / Jack Forbes (1973)

In his 1973 book Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan, historian Jack D. Forbes makes the case for using the term Mexica as an Indigenous affirmation (and replacement term) people of “Mexican-American” and “Chicano” descent.

But the argument for the usage of “Mexica as an identity” is even older than that. Forbes' book cites an 1966 pamphlet entitled Mexica: An Identity For Mexican-Americans, written by E. Cardoza Orozoco.

Orozoco states that, “Most persons of Mexican ancestry are mixed bloods of predominantly 'Indian' descent [emphasis added]” (Forbes, 1973, p. 168). His reasoning for the Indigenous term Mexica is that it will remove the semantic oppression of imposing foreignness upon Mexicans:

“Nobody listens to a foreigner or a second-class citizen. Persons of Mexican ancestry are relegating themselves to a second-class status by hyphenation...”

to which he proposes the following solution:

“In order to abolish this second-class position, this total foreignness, this difference between the minority group and the majority, a term has been coined by several persons of Mexican ancestry. This term is MESHICA and is also spelled MEXICA” (Forbes, 1973, pp. 170-171).

Mestizo as a European colonial identity”

1. Jack Forbes (1973)

The idea that the term mestizo is a European-colonial identity can be traced back to Jack. D. Forbes' seminal work Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan.

Specifically, Forbes wrote a section entitled The Mestizo Concept: A Product of European Imperialism” wherein he explains that, “The Mexicans and Chicanos of today are perhaps eighty percent native Anishinabe descent” and that “Mexicans and Chicanos possess far greater continuity with their native past than do the Spaniards” (Forbes, 1973, p. 188).

Forbes proceeds to shrewdly dissect the mixed-heritage of Europeans in a section named “Mestizo Peoples Who Are Not Mestizo”. He points out how,

“Racially, the modern Spaniard probably carries relatively few indigenous genes, the latter having been greatly overwhelmed by Carthaginian, Celtic, Latin-Roman, Germanic, Arab, Moorish, Berber, Jewish, black African, and Gitano intermixture. In both a racial and culture sense, then, the Spaniard is profoundly a mestizo” (Forbes, 1973, p. 180).

In summary, Forbes states that:

“The mestizo concept, as used by the Spaniards, by white ruling cliques, and by social scientists, is an anti-Indian, psychologically paralyzing tool of colonialism” (Forbes, 1973, p. 204).

2. Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (1996)

Quotes from Guillermo Bonfil Batalla's book, Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming A Civilization:

“Mestizos are the contingent of the 'de-Indianized' Indians” (Batalla, 1996, p.17).

“Traditional campesinos do not think of themselves as Indians, even though their culture is predominantly Indian” (Batalla, 1996, p.58).

6,000 years of civilization”

Based on an archeological study by Haas, Creamer, and Ruiz (2004), the oldest radiocarbon dates with communal architecture date back to 3720 B.C., at the Porvenir site in the Fortaleza Valley of Peru (Haas, Creamer, and Ruiz, 2004, p. 13).

This effectively places the earliest civilizations of the hemisphere at 6,000 years old.

4,300 years of civilization”

In his classic work Mexico: From The Olmecs to the Aztecs, world-renowned archeologist-historian Michael D. Coe points out that the true starting point of civilization lies in the abundant production of ceramics, which he calls “that index fossil of fully sedentary life” (Coe, 1994, p. 38).

It was during the “Purron phase” (2300-1500 BC) that radiocarbon dates identify a definite transition into urban life. This is not to say that no pottery existed prior to this period, but that its regular production during the Purron period indicates that sedentary life was an established way of life.

An argument could also be made that the starting point of “civilization in Ancient Mexico” begins even earlier – during the Abejas phase (c. 3400-2300 BC) – given a patterned appearance of “small hamlets of five to ten pithouses” composed of small farming populations. Coe states that this phase demonstrates how “sedentism was gradually replacing nomadism” (Coe, 1994, p. 38). Based on this perspective of nascent urbanism, a phrase like “5,400 years of civilization” might well be justified.

(It should be noted that this is the very method used to date the earliest beginnings of Minoan civilization, and in so doing, the beginnings of an allegedly "Greek" civilization).

Supe Valley as the oldest area of civilization”

1. Charles C. Mann (2009)

In his book Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491, author Charles C. Mann states that, “Radiocarbon dating showed that Caral was founded before 2600 B.C. The history books would have to be rewritten” (Mann, 2009, p. 7).

Huaricanga as the oldest site”

1. Charles C. Mann (2009)

In his book Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491, author Charles C. Mann states that, “Several of these sites were older than Caral. One with pyramids, Huaricanga, dates from about 3500 BC. It is currently the oldest known American city” (Mann, 2009, p. 7).

racial and cultural castration”

1. Jack D. Forbes (1973)

In his work Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan, Forbes makes reference to the psychological poison caused by colonialism:

The oppressed peoples of the world are struggling to liberate themselves from both the material and psychological forces of imperialism...Many people are castrated by feelings of racial and cultural inferiority implanted by European colonists and their neocolonist successors” (Forbes, 1973, p. 204).

75 to 100 million killed by Europeans”

David Stannard (1996)

In American Holocaust (1996), David Stannard states estimates on the number of Indigenous peoples killed as a result of Europeans. On the original Indigenous population, Stannard states that,

“Today, few serious students on the subject would put the hemispheric figure at less than 75,000,000 to 100,000,000” (Stannard, 1996, p. 11).

and in addition,

“...the total extermination of many American Indian peoples and the near-extermination of others, in numbers that totaled close to 100,000,000” (Stannard, 1996, p. 151).

350,000 inhabitants in Tenochtitlan”

1. David Stannard (1992)

In American Holocaust (1996), David Stannard estimates the pre-genocide population of the capital city of the Mexica ("Aztecs") :
“With a conventionally estimated population of 350,000 residents by the end of the fiteenth century, this teeming Aztec city already had at least five times the population of either London or Seville, and was vastly larger than any other European city” (Stannard, 1992, pp. 3-4).

smallpox as a genocidal tool of Europeans”

1. James Blaut (1993)

From Blaut's book The Colonizer's Model of the World: Geographic Diffusionism and Eurocentric Theory:

“The relatively minor difference in technology between the two communities [Indigenous vs. Europeans] , and the impact of Eastern Hemisphere diseases upon Western Hemisphere communities, can be explained in terms of the settlement history of the Western Hemisphere and its consequences. The Americas were not conquered; they were infected [emphasis added]” (Blaut, 1993, p 186).

2. Ward Churchill (1997)

In his book A Little Matter of Genocide, Ward Churchill states that smallpox was consciously used by Europeans as a weapon of war:

“ is at best an absurdity to contend that attrition through disease represents anything approximating a 'benign' explanation for the complete extermination of numerous North American native peoples – or the near-total disappearance of the 'race' as a whole – between 1600 and 1900. To the contrary, based on evidence the presumption should be... that the waves of epidemic disease that afflicted indigenous populations during these centuries were deliberately induced, or at least facilitated, by European invaders” (Churchill, 1997, p. 156).

3. Ronald Wright (1992)

In his book Stolen Continents, Wright provides a quote by Spaniard Francisco de Aguilar welcoming the onslaught of smallpox against Indigenous people:

“And when the Christians were exhausted from war, God saw fit to send the Indians smallpox” (Wright, 1992, p. 44).

inventions and achievements

See the excellent book American Indian Contributions to the World for an encyclopedic treatment of Indigenous inventions.

compulsory education of the “Aztecs”

Jacques Soustelle (1962)

In his seminal work Daily Life of the Aztecs, Soustelle explains that in terms of education:

“It is well worth noting that in that age and upon that continent an American native race practiced compulsory education for all and that Mexican child of the sixteenth century, whatever his social origin, was deprived of schooling” (Soustelle, 1962, p. 173).

"Anahuac" as a nation
1. Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (1996)

In his book Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming A Civilization, Guillermo Bonfil Batalla suggests that the creation of the modern area of "Mexico"  -- via so-called "Independence" in 1821 -- could also be equated with an enlarged concept of Anahuac:

" Independence created a new sociopolitical entity, Mexico, or "Anahuac", as was suggested at one point" (Batalla, 1996, p.97).

The original use of Anahuac applied mainly to the Anahuac Valley. Most scholars interpret the meaning of Anahuac to be something like "The land near the waters" or "the land in between the waters".

When "Mexico" achieved formal "independence" from Spain in 1821, its territory extended from modern-day Mexico to the far north in the "U.S. Southwest"... far beyond the original conception of Anahuac in its earlier form.

In fact, this version of Anahuac would encompass the majority of "North America".


From "A Hill on a Land Surrounded by Water: An Aztec Story of Origin and Destiny" by Wayne Elzey:

“The surface of the earth, Cemanahuac, meant "land surrounded by water...Cemanahuac was the model for all centers established on it, and each of these centers was a world in miniature, enclosing and enclosed by other, structurally similar centers” (Elzey, 1991, p. 128).

Ometeotl has many manifestations”

1. Jack D. Forbes (1973)

Quotes from Forbes' book Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan:

“Ometeotl is known by many other names, such as Tonantzin... and Tlazolteotl” (Forbes, 1973, p. 56).

“We can summarize the [ancient] Mexican concept of The Ultimate Reality by saying that it is a great, creative, active, force or power possessing the quality of self-creation” and that with its Masculine and Feminine qualities, “it can give birth to 'thoughts' which are cosmic forces (sometimes described as 'lesser gods') and to 'thoughts' which are visible things that we call the earth, matter, living things, and so on” (Forbes, 1973, p. 56).

2. Roberta H. Markman and Peter T. Markman (1992)

In their work The Flayed God, the Markmans explain “Mesoamerican religion”:

“The vast complexity becomes profound simplicity when we realize that for the seers of Mesoamerica who elaborated this marvelous system, all observed reality, all the gods and spiritual forces, are finally manifestations on various planes of 'reality' of the unitary essence of all being that is complete and of itself” (Markman and Markman, 1992, pp. 61-62).

The need for an Indigenous University

1. Jack D. Forbes (1973)

In a section of his book Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan (in a section titled “Every People Needs Its University”, Jack D. Forbes states that:

“History has shown that every race or nation of people needs it own center for intellectual and artistic development, its own university, its own center for assisting in the self-realization of its entire people” (Forbes, 1973, p. 245)


Our noble heritages are as great as any other on the face of the earth. We do not have to prove that they are worthy of “preservation” (Forbes, 1973, p. 246).

 Works Cited

Batalla, G., & Dennis, P. A. (1996). México profundo: reclaiming a civilization. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Blaut, J. M. (1993). The colonizer's model of the world: geographical diffusionism and Eurocentric history. New York: Guilford Press.

Churchill, W. (1997). A little matter of genocide: holocaust and denial in the Americas, 1492 to the present. San Francisco: City Lights Books.

Coe, M. D. (1994). Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs. (4:e upplagan. ed.). London: Thames and Hudson.

Cortes, H., & Pagden, A. (2001). Hernan Cortes - Letters from Mexico. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Dibble, C. E., & Anderson, A. J. (1977). Florentine codex.. ([Reprint]. ed.). Santa Fe: The School of American research and the Univ. of Utah.

Elzey, W. (1991). A Hill on a Land Surrounded by Water: An Aztec Story of Origin and Destiny. History of Religions, 31(2), 128.

Forbes, J. D. (1973). Aztecas del norte; the Chicanos of Aztlan.. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications.

Haas, Jonathan, and Winifred Creamer. 2004. Cultural transformations in the Central Andean Late Archaic. In Andean archaeology, ed. H. Silverman, 3550. Malden: Blackwell.

Haas, J., & Creamer, W. (2006). Crucible of Andean Civilization: The Peruvian Coast from 3000 to 1800 BC. Current Anthropology, 47(5), 745-775 .

Keoke, E. D., & Porterfield, K. M. (2002). Encyclopedia of American Indian contributions to the world: 15,000 years of inventions and innovations. New York, NY: Facts on File.

Lockhart, J. (1992). The Nahuas after the conquest: a social and cultural history of the Indians of central Mexico, sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Lockhart, James, and Bernardino de Sahagún. We people here: Nahuatl accounts of the conquest of Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Print.

Mann, C. C. (2005). 1491: new revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York: Knopf.

Mann, C. C., & Stefoff, R. (2009). Before Columbus: the Americas of 1491. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Markman, R. H., & Markman, P. T. (1992). The flayed God: the mesoamerican mythological tradition : sacred texts and images from pre-Columbian Mexico and Central America. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco.

Nican Tlaca. Mexica Movement. Retrieved from

Poole, S. (1995). Our Lady of Guadalupe: the origins and sources of a Mexican national symbol, 1531-1797. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Poole, S. (1995). We People Here: Nahuatl Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico. Anthropological Linguistics, 37(2), 225.

Schroeder, S. (2010). The conquest all over again: Nahuas and Zapotecs thinking, writing, and painting Spanish colonialism. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press.

Schwaller, J. F. (1993). The Nahuas after the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries. The Sixteenth Century Journal, 24(3), 762.

Soustelle, J. (2002). Daily life of the Aztecs. London: Phoenix. (Original work published 1962)

Stannard, D. E. (1992). American holocaust: the conquest of the New World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Steele, S. M. (1976). A Law of Order: Word Order Change in Classical Aztec. International Journal of American Linguistics, 42(1), 44.

Wright, R. (1992). Stolen continents: the Americas through Indian eyes since 1492. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. (Original work published 2005)

1 comment:

  1. The Jacques Soustelle quote on compulsory education of the Aztecs is missing the word "no" in front of "Mexican".