I’ve always known the spirited sentiment to mean “Mexican (Indigenous) Moving/Go Forward!” It is used as a positive exclamation mostly by Chicanah (Chican@) people in the United States who are using “Mexica” as an identity point in reclaiming their Indigenous self.
From my Nahuatl dictionary research, Tiahui is a form of the the word Tihui: “to go do something.” which, if not mistaken, is a variation of the word Titix(tli) which means to “go gather, discover, be resourceful.” It should be noted that Nahuatl words are often poetically technical and can have dimensions to their meaning. We should not assume Nahuatl words and expressions to be limited to literal, rigid, and mechanical purposes as they are often approached in the English language.
Tayekana is a term that many insist is more accurate word to use instead of Tiahui. From what many have told me, Tayekana is the “proper way” to say “forward”. I haven’t come across any variation of that word in any dictionary or literature yet but Nahuatl words have a lot of range and dimension to them so I’m sure it’s very applicable. I’m not sure if Tayekana proponents are just being literal definition nazis about the word, I’ll have to report back to you on that one. Either way, that doesn’t matter to me because the sentiment and intention remain the same, so I can dig Mexica Tayekana as a valid alternative to Mexica Tiahui.
Some bitter academic types like to belittle the Mexica Tiahui term and the people who use it. They often say that it’s a “new age invention” or a “corruption” of the language, as if indigenous knowledge is a static object stuck in time. They get real picky with being academically literal since most of them don’t do any practical community organizing or mobilizing. But anyway, since I’m just trying to give a scope of the subject, their opinion is worth a mention.
I feel calling it a “corruption” is an inaccurate claim. Different Nahuatl regions have their variations of words and grammar so I doubt their regional style would be called a “corruption” of the other community’s grammar style. Also, with all respect due to the native Nahuatl speaker’s who graciously share their knowledge doesn’t mean they are exempt from making mistakes or being incomplete in their definitions. I have some literature from various Nahuatl teachers which has served me with great information but even they can leave some definitions and their capacities incomplete. For one example in some definitions of Teotl some teachers simply defines teotl as “God,” which I feel most will agree leaves out a lot of depth and dynamic.
Fermin Herrera, a renowned professor from California State University of Northridge, and one of the very few college professors in the U.S who teaches Nahuatl, notes that the construction of Nahuatl grammar is often similar to how grammar is constructed in English. People also say Tiahui Mexica interchangeably with Mexica Tiahui (Mexica Lets’ Go,” “Let’s Go Mexica.) so it’s obvious that the sentiment is the same. The word Tiahui also has more dimension than just being a mechanical command, it’s a non-material concept as well. It’s not like the word construction is nonsensical Nahuatl grammar, so I highly doubt it’s confusing. Rather, it is more a matter of a standard or formal grammatical preference.
The point of words is to communicate. People give life and power to words. Regions and communities have their dynamics of how they develop and decide their formal or colloquial language style, Chicanos are no different. Ultimately I think Mexica Tiahui or Mexica Tayekana serves a practical purpose of being a positive and inspiring term for those in the process of reclaiming their (Mexican) indigenous self. Since true knowledge is always growing and used for practical life purposes, the word Tiahui is legit in it’s purpose and function in our current social scenario. The power is in the intention and purpose we give our words.
Mexica Tiahui! Tiahui Mexica!