Celebrating the Aztecs

This morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune features one of the over-the-top exercises in political correctness that have made it a national laughingstock. Today the paper celebrates not just Minnesota’s burgeoning Mexican population, but the Mexicans’ observance of their Aztec roots: “Mexican roots, Minnesota homes.”
The story puts a benign face on a fabricated pagan ritual bizarrely at odds with the authentic tradition to which it alludes. Here’s how the story opens, purple prose and all: “Little Joaquin Diaz awoke abruptly to the potent, primitive beat of a single drum and a circle of brilliant pheasant plumes dancing above him. Joaquin, just 54 days old, soon lay peacefully in his mother’s lap again, next to a makeshift altar bursting with ears of corn, oranges, red carnations and burning incense. Dancers in full, feathery Aztec regalia whirled around Joaquin in a ritual that his ancestors once practiced to welcome newborns into their world and their ways.
“His eyes open, Joaquin seemed content as his mother, Mayra Almendariz, placed him in the arms of friend Yannely Sanchez, who had agreed to be the boy’s godmother. He shivered as Sanchez peeled off his pajamas and rubbed corn mush on every inch of his silky cinnamon skin. After wrapping red bandana strips on his head, wrists and ankles, Sanchez covered her godson in a loincloth she had made. Joaquin was now Uemazatl, which in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs means ‘the elder deer.’ Joaquin didn’t know it yet, but the recent weekend ceremony held in his honor at a St. Paul school cafeteria transcended time, distance and international borders to symbolize his family’s embrace of its indigenous roots. The corn ceremony, along with other rituals that can be traced to the Aztecs and other Indians native to what is now Mexico, are becoming more visible in the Twin Cities as people of Mexican heritage establish a stronger presence in Minnesota.”
Below is one of a series of photographs that accompany the Star Tribune’s article, this one with the caption: “Joaquin Diaz Friday was bathed in corn mush by his godmother Yannely Sanchez in a ritual practiced by his ancestors. The Aztec ceremony welcomes newborns to the world.”
Anyone even vaguely familiar with Aztec rituals knows that their most notable component was human sacrifice. A far more authentic observance of the Aztec tradition than smearing corn meal on a baby’s face would begin with tearing Joaquin’s chest open and ripping his heart out. It would conclude with cooking Joaquin’s limbs and eating them. I’ve adapted the following paragraphs from descriptions of Aztec practices available on the Web.
Even today, it is hard to comprehend the extent or rationale of the ritual sacrifice practiced by the Aztecs. It is estimated that from 15,000 to as many as 250,000 people per year were sacrificed by the Aztec royalty. Sacrificial victims were taken to the top of pyramids where, upon a ritual flat stone table, they had their chests cut open and their hearts ripped out. Then the bodies of the victims were rolled down the steps of the pyramids. The steepness of the pyramids facilitated rolling the bodies down them to the bottom.
The concepts underlying the practice of ritual sacrifice were about as sophisticated as the ritual itself. Critical to understanding the motivation behind the ritual sacrifices is the concept of “tonalli,” which means “animating spirit.” The tonalli in humans was believed to be located in the blood, which concentrates in the heart when one becomes frightened. This explains the gods


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