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Indigenous Studies (Latin America & Caribbean): Natalio Hernández

Natalio Hernández--Naranjo Dulce, Ixhuatlán de Madero, Veracruz, Mexico, 1947

Natalio Hernández is an educator, poet, essayist, and a promoter of indigenous rights, culture, education, and languages in Mexico.  Hernández has worked most of his life as a bilingual teacher, first as a promoter of bilingual preschool education and later as the deputy director of bilingual-bicultural education in the General Directorate of Indigenous Education in the Secretariat of Public Education (1978-1989).  He also worked as deputy director of the Indigenous Languages and Literatures Program in the General Directorate of Popular Cultures of the Nacional Council for Culture and the Arts (1989-1993). As an activist he was a founding member and the first president of the Organization of Indigenous Náhuatal Professionals (1973-1976) and of the National Alliance of Bilingual Indigenous Professionals (1977-1980).  He was also a member of the Indigenous Initiative for Peace in Chiapas created by Rigoberta Menchú. As an author, Hernández writes in both Spanish and his native Náhuatl, at first using the pseudonym José Antonio Xokoyotsin in memory of his grandfather José Antonio. He was the founder and coordinator of the multilingual supplement published in the newspaper El Nacional (1990-1993), president of the association of Writers in Indigenous Languages (1993-1996), and president of the Seminar on the Analysis of Indigenous Experiences.  In 1992 he participated as a member of the jury for the Award for Literature in Indigenous Languages from the Casa de las Americas of Cuba. Because of his poetic work, Hernández has won the Nezahualcoyotl Prize for Literature in Mexican Languages (1997), the Bartolomé de las Casas award from the Casa de América of Spain (1998), and the Toltecayotl Award for Indigenous Letters from the General Council of the House of Indigenous Peoples of Puebla (2000).  He is currently the president of the Macuilxochitl Cultural Foundation and has been a corresponding member of the Mexican Academy of the Spanish Language since 2013

Publications

 

Xochikoskatl / Collar de flores (poetry, 1985)

Sempoalxóchitl / Veinte flores, una sola flor (poetry, 1987)

Ijcon ontlajtoj aueuetl / Así habló el Ahuehuete (poetry, 1989)

Yancuic Anahuac cuicatl / Canto nuevo de Anáhuac (poetry, 1994)

Papalocuicatl / Canto a las mariposas (poetry, 1996)

In tlahtoli, in ohtli / La palabra, el camino. Memoria y destino de los pueblos indígenas (essays, 1998).

Tlajtoltlanauatili tlen sentlanauatijkayotl tlen tlanautiloyan chalchiuekan-Llave 2000 xiuitl / Constitución política del estado libre y soberano de Veracruz-Llave 2000 (co-translator, 2000)

El despertar de nuestras lenguas / Queman tlachixque totlahtolhuan (essays, 2002)

Semanca huitzilin / Colibrí de la armonía / Hummingbird of harmony (poetry, 2005)

De la exclusión al diálogo intercultural con los pueblos indígenas (essays, 2009)

Amatlanahuatili tlahtoli tlen mexicameh nechicolistli sentlanahuatiloyan = Constitución política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (translator, 2010)

Xopantla xochimeh / Flores de primavera: selección poética para mujeres (poetry, 2012)

Forjando un nuevo rostro / Yancuic ixtlachihualistli: orígenes y desarrollo de la educación indígena en México (essays, 2015)

El vuelo del colibrí / Patlani huitzitzilin (poetry, 2016)

Multimedia Links

Information from Exhibit

The poem selected for this exhibit is the title poem of his 1989 collection Ijcon ontlajtoj aueuetl / Así habló el Ahuehuete [Thus Spoke the Ahuehuete Tree].  In this poem, Hernández makes a call for the Nahua peoples to return to their roots through the metaphor of the ahuehuete tree, a tree native to Mexico whose name literally means “old man of the water” due to its tendency to grow near bodies of water.  The ahuehuete is used as a symbol in Nahua culture to refer to the accumulated wisdom of older generations and, by extension, the preservation of the history, culture, and identity of Nahua-speaking peoples.

Text Selections

“Ijkon Ontlajtoj Aueuetl”

 

Nopilkoneuan…

noxochipipiluan

inkonilkatokej toxikneluayo uan toyeso.

 

Amo inkimatij kanij tionualouij

uan amo inkixmatij totlajtolyotl;

amo inkiyekmatij intlamatilis tokoltsitsiuan.

 

Namoixhuapolojtokej

uan inkipolojtokej xochitlajtoli

tlen tokoltsitsiuan.

 

Melauak niueuentsiya

uan ijkon niontlachixtok;

nikinyekmajtok nopiltsitsiuan

niyetok nijyekmajtok ken kisa tonatij

uan ken on asi teotlak.

 

Nijneki xijyekmatikaj

melauak nochi tlakatsitsintin

oksepa moyesotia ipan inxikneluayo.

Nejuatl melauak nionueuentsiya

uan ijkon nojua niontlachixtok,

nitlachixtok ika miak noyochikaualis

uan ika miak noyolpakilis.

 

Amo kemaj nijpolojtok noyektlachialis,

nochi tonali nimoyolilijtok

okspea imotlatskilisej ipan toxikneluayo uan toyeso.

 

No toskak uan notlajtol

nempoliui ipan kauitl uan Semanauak

mosentlalia uan mosennechikoua

iuaya ejekatl itoskak.

 

Ejekatl tlen ualaj Naucampan:

Uitslampa uan Miktlampa

Tlakopan uan Siuatlampa.

 

Ipan pipiltsitsin niktlalia noyektlachialis,

konetsitsin tlen kualtsin noxochipipiluan.

 

Nikan tlami notoskak

uan nikan peua yankuik notlachialis.

 

Aueuetl itlajtol.

Spanish Traslation

“Así Habló el Ahuehuete”

 

Hijitos…

mis pequeños retoños;

han olvidado su raíz y su esencia.

 

Desconocen nuestro origen

y nuestra  historia,

dudan de la sabiduría

y de la palabra de nuestros mayores.

 

Han extraviado su propio rostro

y la palabra florida de nuestros abuelos.

 

Es cierto que soy viejo,

sin embargo aún vivo;

vivo pensando en mis pequeños retoños,

vivo pensando en el amanecer

y en el atardecer.

 

Recuerden que las nuevas generaciones

se nutren siempre

de raíces antiguas y profundas.

Yo, viejo como estoy

aún vivo,

y vivo con fuerza y con alegría.

 

Jamás he perdido la esperanza

de que el día de mañana

acudirán a nuestra raíz

y a nuestra propia esencia.

 

Mi voz y mi palabra

se pierden en el tiempo y en el espacio,

se funden y se confunden

con la voz del viento.

 

El viento que brota

de los 4 puntos cardinales:

de Uitslampa y de Miktlampa,

de Tlakopan y de Siuatlampa.

 

Mi mejor esperanza son los niños,

los niños que son mis más pequeños retoños.

 

Aquí termina mi voz

y aquí empieza mi nueva esperanza.

 

El Ahuehuete

English Translation

“Thus spoke the Ahuehuete tree”

 

My little children…

my little shoots;

you have forgotten your root and your being.

 

You are ignorant of our origin

and our history,

you doubt the wisdom

and the word of our elders.

 

You have lost your own face

and the flowered word of our grandparents.

 

It is true that I am old,

but I still live;

I live, thinking about my little shoots,

I live, thinking of the sunrise

and of the sunset.

 

Remember that new generations

are nourished always

by ancient roots and deep.

I, though I am old,

I still live,

and I live with strength and gladness.

 

I have never lost hope

that tomorrow

you will turn to our root

and our own being.

 

My voice and my word

are lost in time and space,

they are fused and confused

with the voice of the wind.

 

The wind that springs

from the four cardinal directions:

from Uitslampa and from Miktlampa,

from Tlakopan and from Siuatlampa.

 

My greatest hope are children,

children, which are my smallest shoots.

 

Here my voice ends,

and here begins my new hope.

 

The Ahuehuete Tree

Sources

Hernández, Natalio.  Ijkon Ontlajtoj Aueuetl (Así habló el Ahuehuete).  Colección Luna Hiena 9.  Xalapa: Ediciones Papel de Envolver; Universidad Veracruzana, 1989.  pp. 18-21.

Hernández, Natalio.  In tlahtoli, in ohtli / La palabra, el camino. Memoria y destino de los pueblos indígenas.  Mexico City: CIPAE, Plaza y Valdés Editores, 1998.

Juárez, Colonia. “La Academia Mexicana de la Lengua eligió a don Natalio Hernández miembro correspondiente por el estado de Veracruz.” Academia Mexicana de La Lengua, 13 Sept, 2013, http://www.academia.org.mx/noticias/item/la-academia-mexicana-de-la-lengua-eligio-a-don-natalio-hernandez-miembro-correspondiente-por-el-estado-de-veracruz.

“Natalio Hernández.” Academia Mexicana de La Lengua, 2017, http://www.academia.org.mx/academicos-2018/item/natalio-hernandez.