Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

Ask a Mexican: Is the American southwest really the Aztecs' Garden of Eden? 

Dear Mexican: In a column some time ago, you mentioned the Aztec prophecy claiming that "their descendants would reclaim ancestral lands in the southwest U.S., and guess what." I'd appreciate it if you shed a little light on this statement. This is the mythical state of Aztlán you're referring to, right? What are its "borders"? How many Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Central Americans and indigenous peoples know and/or believe in this? Is there a movement to take over these lands? And how similar is this to the (incorrect) Jews' claim to the holy land of Israel?
Texas Truth Seeker

Dear Gabacho: Oh, Aztlán! Nothing gets Know Nothings more encabronados than this creation myth. The breve version: The Aztecs told the Spaniards that their ancestors had migrated from somewhere north of modern-day Mexico City. The Spaniards begin a'slaughtering, unintentionally elevating Aztlán to Eden in the minds of the Mexica. Centuries later, the 1960s Chicano Movement began appropriating Aztec motifs (more on this in an upcoming column) and picked up on the People of the Sun's longing for the Garden. Not content with pilfering from one culture, the Chicanos also grabbed from another — the historical reality of the southwest United States once belonging to Mexico — and conveniently anointed this geographic region Aztlán despite there being no evidence the Aztecs ever lived anywhere in the Southwest, let alone the whole enchilada. At least the Jews kept their origin story straight for millenia, you know?

Aztlán seems like revanchist irredentism, ¿qué no? But believing in it is mostly a college phase, like thinking communism can work or that Dane Cook is funny. Most Mexicans only vaguely know about Aztlán, and then in the same way gabachos think about Plymouth Rock. Some Chicanos remove Aztlán from its terrestrial moorings and adopt its Edenic spirit — in other words, the spirit of a people committed to bettering their community. Nothing harmful in that. But yes: some do believe the American Southwest is Aztlán, and that all non-Mexicans should vamoose back to Europe — the Mexican calls these ahistorical pendejos indigenazis. Don't believe the hype — Aztlán is as harmless as arroz con leche, and anyone who believe otherwise has listened to too much Coast to Coast. Mexicans aren't taking back any ancestral lands because they're guided by Aztec destiny or fiat — los Estados Unidos can take credit for that demographic reality, baby.

Dear Mexican: I don't know if someone has asked you this before — they probably have — but with all the talks of problems with illegal immigrants, and with all the obvious racial tension in this country between whites and Mexicans, do you think that Mexicans are the new blacks of this country?
Division Street Dude

Dear Gabacho: Gracias for giving me the opportunity to commemorate the passing of one of the Mexican's idols: Studs Terkel, the legendary oral historian who went to his reward two weeks ago at the age of 96. I can give you an answer, but Terkel documented a much-better respuesta in his 1992 collection, Race: What Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession, in a chapter titled "Ron Maydon." In it, the namesake Chicago wab said Mexicans served as a buffer between African Americans and gabachos. In light of Barack Obama's historic victory, Maydon's following words are most telling: "Whatever gains the Hispanic community has made in this country have been at the expense — we've piggybacked the black movement. I say every time blacks political, economic and social gains, I say hooray for them because we get some of the fallout. They sneeze; we catch the cold. They make inroads; we get hired." By the way, Know Nothings and the Hillary Clinton campaign: More than two-thirds of Mexicans voted for a negrito in this presidential election, contrary to your assertions. How do you like them manzanas?

Ask the Mexican at,, or write to him via snail mail at: Gustavo Arellano, P.O. Box 1433, Anaheim, CA 92815-1433!

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

September 22, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2021 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation