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By: Roy Cook: writer, curator,  Opata/Osage-Mazopioye Wichasha

 Traditional Aztec Dancers coming to dance for the people and our Mother Earth from 12 noon till 5 p.m. Saturday. This is a free and open to the public event, March 20, 2004 at Chicano Park in the Logan Heights community under the Coronado Bridge, one block east of Cesar Chavez Blvd. and Logan Avenue, the Toltekas en Aztlán celebrate their 25th annual Xochikuikatl or Flor y Canto ceremony of the Aztec Spring Equinox. Organized by Toltekas en Azlan and Aztleka, it is a way of celebrating the rebirth of Mother Nature's abundance through a spectacular gathering of Aztec Dancers from various parts of California and Mexico. The term Aztec means 'man of Aztlan', the place where the Mexica came from, but was not commonly used until 18th and 19th century historians adopted it. The Aztec people called themselves Mexica after the migration and this was how they came to be known to the Spaniards, hence the name Mexico. Too often there is a misconception that this has some association with a combination of the cultures. Mixteca is totally Native American indigenous and the language of the true Mexican people is not Spanish but Nautal, an Indian language. Naturally there are many other Indian languages in Mexico and the rest of North America.

Chicano park is a focal point of the San Diego Bay community since 22 April 1970. Many efforts and politics have secured this neighborhood park under the Coronado Bridge. Murals proclaim colorfully the rich cultural heritage and historical events of this Barrio Logan location.

Steve Rouillard, Santee Dakota and Roy Cook, Opata/ Osage sing the opening ceremony into being. Songs of the center of North America: Northern songs, Southern songs and Round dance songs follow a respectful acknowledgement to the local Kumeyaay with a Yuman Bird song. Dozens of songs were sung during the first hour. Fires were lit to the four directions and much copal incense is in the air. Conch shells trumpet the dancers into the defined arena. They are spaced into a large circle as the drummers begin their distinctive rhythms. A single female dancer is centered on the platform. From time to time another female dancer will replace the center dancer. Surging, rolling, driving the drumming becomes frenzied as the sound grows from two to five drummers. More dancers are arriving, putting on their regalia, passing into the copal circle to dance for all the people. Drumming, constant drumming continues with whirling dancers with Flashing feathers and rattles shaking to the constant drumming. On rainbow colored regalia we see carefully applied Gold and silver embroidery flashing in the bright Tonatiuh sun. Glorious colors, exotic toztli feathers of the South. Your children are dancing on Tonantzin Mother Earth.

The dancers pause and watch almost as if waiting for a beat that will lift their feet. When the music is right and the space is as it should be the dancers do not seem to touch the ground. It is wonderful. They float in place oblivious to pain, illness, or weariness. Held safe in the bosom of Mother Earth.

A spirit filled family, Christian Love, from Southeast San Diego is feeding the people. All are welcome: park regulars, homeless, visitors, dancers and the well to do stopping by while the sun is high in the sky.

Still the drums call the dancers to the circle. They dance; they dance giving of themselves in celebration of the life and warmth of the Atlan-Tonnan growing season to come. Ribbons define the dance arena and newly arriving dancers are purified with copal before they enter and join in with the constant drumming and dancing. Two young men, one with a small guitar formed from an armadillo shell dance in tandem on the platform. The dancing continues for hours without stop. The Ehecatl wind is biting as it whistles in from the bay and the sky grows gray and overcast. The dancers go beyond tired and cold, dance harder! The glory and richness of the Mixteca is once again alive.

The Toltec empire flourished from about 900 AD to its sudden and violent fall around 1170. The powerful capital, Tula or Tollan, controlled a large proportion of what is now the state of Mexico. It was traditionally thought that Toltec warriors conquered the Yucatan peninsula, helping to form the Toltec-Maya states but archaeological investigations are beginning to indicate that there was more of a mutual influence. It is not yet clear why the Toltec collapse came about but there is a theory that the Toltec military culture was not able to cope with outlying Chichimeca population southern movements complicated by a long period of drought in the northern area. Fighting, with buildings showing signs of fire and deliberate demolition having been excavated destroyed Tula.

Refugees settled in some of the towns of the southern Valley of Mexico and in the 13th century other tribes came from the northern land of cranes, Atzlan to the central plateau, four of which influenced the rise of the Aztec Empire. These were: the Chichimecs under the legendary leader Xolotl, the Tepanecs who were probably from Toluca, and the Acolhua who moved to the uninhabited eastern area and the Mexica. The various groups developed rapidly to form the Aztec empire, based in Lake Tetzcoco around the island cities of Tenochtitlan (where Mexico City is now) and Tlatelolco.

This day, again the reverberations are felt in Chicano park. The vitality and richness of the Mixteca is once again very real and alive.