Sacred Sells: Nahuatl is the New Sexy
Cristina Tacata, a Mexika dancer and drummer, and special education teacher of Los Angeles, CA was appalled by the new photo series for a Ollin Ixtli’s calendar to promote the workout company. Basically, Ollin Ixtli nicked a sacred Mexica dance and ceremony tradition and packaging it into a body workout by physical trainers in a similar nature as zumba or yoga. This business appropriated physical activity in ceremony by reducing the historical, spiritual and sacred element. Tacata posted this statement:
“I never agreed with Ollin Ixtli‘s practices but this photo has taken it way too far and this is now an issue of accountability. My initial critique of the image went unaddressed and was immediately removed: “my heart just sank into my stomach. Our ancestors were humiliated, tortured, and murdered for their use of the huehuetl, and their sacrifices since the start of colonization are what made it possible for the prayer of drumming to still be alive today. Is this a thank you gesture? Disgusting.”
Plumed headpieces, copaleros, and chachayotes (rattle seeds) accessorize the models. One image is a straight out offense as it depicts a woman laid on top of a huehuetl (ceremonial drum) on a beach. Why would a woman have any business lying on top of this sacred instrument on a sandy shore? Because it is sexy and sex sells to the ignorant and superficial consumer.
Tacata’s statement reflected what many in different Calpullis(Nahuatl community systems) and danza circles had on their mind. Tacata writes:
“In addition, aside from the general disrespect and desecration of our culture that these photos perpetuate, we as wombyn of color already have to contend with a bombardment of hyper-sexualized images in euro-centric mainstream media that justify rape and many other forms of violence against us. Promotion of the same types of representations by our “own” kind is completely, entirely, and utterly unacceptable.”
Because there is nothing contextual in the apparel they wear, it is treated like costume. Because it is a calendar of fit women in exaggerated dramatic and sexual poses, it perpetuates the notion of exoticism and hyper-sexualization of women in an indigenous culture, thus perpetuating colonial views on Aztec, African and mestiza women as being deserving of sexual and physical violations. What a way to ignore historical context of the countless acts of rapes and misogyny committed against our grandmothers, mothers, and sisters from 1492 to the present day! And because most of these women in the photos are glammed up with whitened version of native beauty (one photo even has a blond in native headdress) they are good enough to steal and sell Mexica culture but the inherent womyn of the culture are not pretty enough for the western standard.
These images become the popular representation of women of color and the producers are washed clean of responsibility or accountability to the communities that are constantly damaged by sensationalized and inaccurate reflections of themselves. -Arlene Mejorado
As if it wasn’t enough that my community struggles with identity problems due to the mass colonization and erasure of our culture within our homelands, the little that we have managed to save is now being mass marketed without our consent, and stripped of it’s value.
THIS is why we make such a big deal about why cultural appropriation is harmful and damaging to the original cultures. THIS is why we make such a big fuss when white people like to come around and cherry pick out of our cultures, then twist it around to suit their needs.
My culture and our sacred dances are NOT your fucking zumba workout.
Sometimes I wonder why I ended up as a Luciferian. If I hadn’t been tapped on the shoulder by Lu, would I still have somehow found my way onto this path?
And then I stop to think about the central issue behind Lu’s mythos—rebellion.
Rebellion is as much a part of my daily life as it is a part of my spirituality.
Rebellion is in my blood. My mere existence is a rebellion against the attempted genocide of my ancestors. My culture and traditions are a rebellion against the attempted erasure and assimilation of my people. The color of my skin is a rebellion against society’s ideals of beauty. My home is a rebellion against those who claim I don’t belong here. My lack of shame toward the fact that my family came here illegally is a rebellion—a rebellion against the very people who funded the civil war that tore my family’s homeland apart, the same people who now urge us to return.
I am a rebellion against the stereotypes of my people. I am a rebellion against the idea that I must be uneducated and lazy. I rebel against the notion that all my people are all criminals, that we’re all gang members and cholos.
I rebel against the idea that we have nothing to offer the community, that all we do is take away jobs and homes. I rebel against the thought that an indigenous school of resistance can accomplish nothing. Please, come tell me that to my face and I will show you the marshlands we have recovered, the GMOs we have stopped from entering our food supply, the injustices we have fought against and won.
I am a rebellion against the stereotypes of my faith. I rebel against the stereotype that I must be intolerant and hateful.
So maybe I’ll never be called to follow in Lu’s footsteps and rally troops or lead wars against tyrants—that isn’t the sort of rebellion I am called to do. My responsibility to my community, my people, my calpulli, and my god call for other acts of rebellion, ranging from protests and rallies against injustice, to much more innate forms of revolt as those mentioned above. Rebellion doesn’t have to be solely about violence and warfare.
I believe that those of us who are devoted to deities end up reflecting the qualities of those gods, but I also believe the opposite is true—that we are called by those that see themselves within us, however small a part.