Master of Arts in Chicana and Chicano Studies [thesis]
DANCING AMOXTLI: RESISTANCE THROUGH DANZA AZTECA AND INDIGENOUS BODY ART
By Verónica Valadez (2012)
This body of work explores present-day manifestations of Danza Azteca and Mesoamerican body art, and their connection to the development of Chicana/o indigenous identities and resistance against marginalization and erasure of their indigenous heritage. Contemporary Danza Azteca and indigenous body art have their roots in pre-Cuauhtemoc ceremonial dance traditions and rites of passage ceremonies that were at the heart of the religious, political, and artistic foundation of the Aztec civilization. After the Spanish conquest, native forms of knowledge and religious expression, including dance and body adornment, were banned and punishable by death. Those who survived the conquest found ways in which to preserve their cultural traditions in secrecy that have made possible the revival of these traditions today. During the 1960s and 70s, Danza Azteca sprouted throughout the Southwest among politicized Chicana/o communities. For many Chicanas and Chicanos, this was a positive form of resistance against assimilation and marginalization that took the form of cultural pride and the reclamation of repressed histories.
Today, Danza Azteca continues to grow and develop in fascinating ways as the struggle for equal rights continues. Danza Azteca provides its participants access to embodied recuperations of indigenous epistemologies. Contemporary danzantes (Aztec dancers) express their indigeneity through an aesthetic that includes traditional forms of dress and body adornment through the use of Aztec dance regalia and even tattoos and piercings. By wearing and tattooing Mesoamerican images, glyphs, and symbols, danzantes are reviving and preserving Mesoamerican art, including symbolic representations and expressions of religious philosophies. The practicing of Danza Azteca and taking on an indigenous aesthetic through dress and body adornment are a testament to the empowering role that spiritual traditions and artistic expressions have on the formation of the Chicano’s political consciousness and indigenous identity. Through this study, we can better understand how Chicanas/os are able to resist oppressive ideologies by embracing, celebrating, reviving, and expressing their indigenismo (indigenous identity).