Keep Aztlan Indigenous, Not Colonial

#DecolonizeAztlan

The inspiration to touch on this topic came from seeing a substantial amount of Chican@s and Mexicah/Mexican Indian identifying people still espousing, in various intensities, the outdated colonial expression of Aztlan from the 60s/70s.  The intention here is to ensure we keep the understanding of Aztlan rooted in Indigenous worldview and respect and do away with the colonial contradiction that some Chicanx partake in. It is also to provide some clarity for U.S. area Ndgns people who might be confused or offended by how they see Aztlan being used.

 

Outdated Aztlan

That outdated Aztlan I’m referring to is the claim by Chicanx that the Southwest U.S. is the Mexican homeland which needs to be reclaimed. Of course, in this instance “Mexican homeland” takes on the form and spirit of the colonial nation we now call Mexico. It is not to be confused with the original Aztec-Mexica capital of Mexico-Tenochtitlan of which the current colonial nation gets its name. The symbol you will usually see accompanying this ideology is some variation of the image showing the outline of the current borders of colonial Mexico along with several Southwest U.S states.

 

Outdated Aztlan

 

United Aztlan

 

The above images and flag pretty much sums up the colonial minded concept of outdated Aztlan. This imposition is not any different from Eurocentric or Afrocentric political claims over Indigenous lands.

 

“This All Used to Be Mexico”

I know we’ve all heard this, and probably more often than we would like to. Mexicans who say this are far removed from their Indigenous identity and worldview. When they say “this all used to be Mexico” they are actually speaking about the colonial nation of Mexico which claimed all the southwest states you see outlined in the popular outdated Aztlan flag before being taken over by the United States.

But let’s be clear, the Mexico that once “owned” the Southwest back then is the same minded European state and government that runs it now.  When one waves a flag or promotes an image of outdated Aztlan  they, whether they admit to it or not, are waving a symbol that implies the recolonization of the Southwest still based in Eurocentric mentality and colonial borders.

 

Aztlan is a Real Place Tho

Where exactly, I don’t know. But it is a real place with an important spotlight in the migration stories of the Aztec-Mexica peoples. It is said to be the place which the Aztec/ Mexica peoples originate from before settling in Central Mexico. Migration stories give the impression of it being somewhere in the Southwest. Some also think it is in Northern Mexico while others consider it more of a mythical or spiritual place of origin. Nobody can say with authority where Aztlan actually is, one thing we do know is that it’s not the complete southwest with Eurocentric colonial lined borders.

 

Most Mexicas Don’t Push the Colonial Aztlan Image

Mexicas tend to be in more genuine pursuit of Indigenous knowledge and ways. Mexicas respectably versed in their history will understand Aztlan as a place of origins for their people. There are some dedicated Mexicas who do focus their research on trying to find the physical location of Aztlan but they tend not to attach any colonial concepts or intentions with it.  They understand that we (ethnic) Mexicans* in the Southwest are in our Indigenous origin homelands as the languages and creation stories of Southwest and Mexican area nations make clear. However, most Mexicas make no rude colonial style land claims or similar styled impositions. For them the pursuit of Aztlan is more for historical and spiritual purposes.

While Chicanx and Mexicah identities now overlap in many respects, it is my observation that Chicanx activists, while embracing an Indigenous oriented identity, seem to be about Indigenous identity more on a superficial level. Chicanx who still lean on stagnant Chicano philosophy of the 60s and 70s tend to be the ones more fanatical about reclaiming outdated Aztlan.  This is not to disparage or imply anything about their character, perhaps it’s just where they’re at in the learning process,  I’m just acknowledging that many of them seem devoid of basic Indigenous worldview and etiquette.

 

Keep Aztlan Indigenous 

While that outdated Aztlan may have served a good purpose for that time, the colonial concept it implies is something we need to disconnect from.  Especially if one is claiming Indigenous and Decolonization. You can’t speak of decolonizing and still hold on to this stagnant concept and image. There is no way to justify it. If you didn’t recognize it as disrespect to U.S. area Indigenous peoples well then hopefully you see it now.

Be proud about the true Aztlan. Understand that our history is interwoven with all the Indigenous peoples of this hemisphere. Study it, try to find this beautiful “place of origins” whether physically or in your heart, but let us make sure we’re not disrespecting any of our Indigenous family and perpetuating a disguised colonial mentality in that process.

Ma xipactinemi. (be well)

 

 

 

Quimich
About the author

Quimichipilli is a fifth generation Chicanah hailing from Venice, CA. He's a former graffiti artist turned Web & Graphic Designer, promoting Ndgns Values and positive community culture. You can find him on and Twitter.
  • Johnny Olmedo Jr.

    I’m chumash we were here in California long before the Spaniards and long before the Spanish government relinquish the land over to the Mexican officials so how is California aztlan??????

    • Roberto D. Hernandez

      It is not, that is the point of the article! That although the concept of Aztlán did serve a purpose of uniting diverse colonial subjects (mexicans, chicanas/os, even some northern natives that organized for a variety of reasons within the Chicano Movement), equating the concept of Aztlán to the present-day U.S. southwest was based under different colonial precepts in their own right that simply meant redrawing colonial nation-state borders and not undoing them. Instead, it is important to think of Aztlán not as a place (although it is one, just not the u.s. southwest as a whole), but rather as a process, as the process of return to an understanding of one’s indigenous self, and the respective nation/people that one is a part of, without imposing what ultimately amounts to a different settler colonial nation-state, now with brown/chicano face….