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Description Pedagogy About Aceves One is the Sun


One is the Sun

One is the Sun
Indigenous Pedagogy as an Adjunct in the Classroom

by Carlos Aceves

No culture can survive if it attempts to be exclusive.
– Mahatma Gandhi

When a social group feels it needs to impose on the resources of another group, its members do not simply tell themselves it is “time to act like thieves.” Rather they seek ways of justifying their actions. At that point, they might begin differentiating themselves as “civilized” while others are labeled “uncivilized.” For example, the official script is that the United States is in Iraq not to possess the country’s oil wealth but to “bring democracy” to an “undemocratic or backward” society. All cultures that become imperialistic begin creating an ideology that presents their culture as normal and civilized thus justifying their imperialism. Thus, they give themselves an “exclusive” right over those on whom they impose their power.

When I decided to draw upon my Mesoamerican heritage as a source to recreate a process of undoing whiteness in the classroom, I faced a dilemma. Was I recreating the colonial process described above by focusing exclusively on my own ancestral culture? I resolved this contradiction through focusing on process rather than content. I realized that the initial attempt of all groups is to create a means of survival for their culture and ensure the survival of coming generations by passing on this knowledge. The need for the “exclusivity” of that culture arises only when the original structure created by the group is transformed in an attempt to take and control the natural resources of other groups.

When I started attending Canutillo Elementary School in 1960, I encountered overt racism and a sociopolitical message that wreaked havoc with my self-esteem: to be Mexican was bad. Only through the Chicano Movement almost ten years later did I realize I was being conditioned to occupy a lesser position within the political and economic system of the United States, a society that had long ago become imperialist and colonialist.

Throughout my schooling the invasion by the United States of Mexican territory had been justified by portraying Mexico as an undemocratic country. Texas had been severed from Mexico because its new residents wanted “freedom.” Arguments in favor of the taking of the rest of Mexico simply followed the same reasoning. As my seventh grade history teacher told us, “The Mexican-American war was just as important to Mexicans as it was to Americans. Mexicans would finally have a free country to live in.”

However, my anti-imperialist consciousness which developed through the Chicano Movement helped me not to abandon the idea of using cultural awareness as a pedagogical tool in a similar way that we had used Mexican American culture as a weapon against white supremacy. Within the roots of any culture, there are the human aspirations for freedom, dignity, and artistic expression. As cultures become imperialist or subjected to imperialism, these aspirations become distorted and suppressed but find their way across history in the form of social struggle that often shakes the foundations of the contemporary society in which they now operate. The Xinachtli Project evolved under these circumstances and conditions.

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One is the Sun

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Two is the Earth

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Three are the Animals

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Four are the People

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Five is the World

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Six is the Sky

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Seven is the Moon

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Eight are the Birds

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Nine are the Seasons

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Ten is Death

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Eleven are the Waters

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Twelve is Community

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Thirteen are the Stars

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Zero is Infinity

Twenty is Complete

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