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13 There Is No Prehistory!

Fernando Armstrong-Fumero University Press of Colorado ePub

Such an affirmation can be made unequivocally, without fear of being contradicted. There has been no lack of hypotheses about the existence of prehistoric man in Mexico. Peñon Man, Tequixquiac Man, Chapala Man, and who knows how many other fabulous men have been proposed for intellectual debate. But a scientific naïveté that was forgivable a quarter-century ago is inadmissible and ridiculous today.

Fortunately, the sin was not ours alone. Many researchers insisted until recently that there was a prehistoric American man. The most famous among them, Ameghino,1 dedicated the greater part of his life to demonstrating the presence of that ancient man in the Argentine pampas. ,2 the most learned among the opponents of such a theory, has used the strictest scientific method and consulted all of the investigations undertaken to date to deduce that American man is not prehistoric but contemporary or modern. This hypothesis is supported by the geological context of American man. We will cite some proofs.

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26 The National Seal

Fernando Armstrong-Fumero University Press of Colorado ePub

The adoption of ideographic/symbolic representations that characterize national virtues is one of the oldest of human conventions. A flag and seal synthesize what a nation is or believes itself to be. The colors of a flag symbolize the true virtues of a race: noble valor, honor, purity, hope. The characteristics represented on national seals are more ambiguous virtues. Boldness and even ferocity are proclaimed on almost all national seals: the British and Spanish lions, the Chinese dragon, the Ecuadorian condor, the heraldic eagles of so many countries. All of those bloody images, made in gold and inlays on fields of polychrome silks, are nothing but ancestral vestiges of a time when fearful displays augmented natural aggression and strength. Destruction is also a common motif on national seals, represented by rifles and cannons, swords and lances. The flag is thus more spiritual, more Christian, than the seal.

Our seal has more of a truly national character than those of many other countries. It was forged on the anvil of History with the divine hammer of Fable and the sacred fire of Art. It is at once creative and true, it exists within Beauty and Truth. A beautiful dragon meanders on the Chinese flag, but this dragon has never existed. The lions of Iberia and Great Britain are exotic animals in those countries; they were born in the jungles of Africa and the deserts of Asia. The unicorn of the British arms was invented by some poet or artist-king. In contrast, the eagle on our seal is indigenous, not imported. It inhabits the seal legitimately. Those American aesthetes who felt and thought about beauty before the Conquest arrived saw the majestic circling of this imperial bird or saw it perched epically on some spiny bush. From there, they invited that majestic vision to live in their art and in their history, to inhabit the skies of their myths. On our ancient seal, the eagle does not only represent strength and ferocity but also nobility and just power. It is the triumph of what raises itself on high, of the divine, of Good (the eagle) in its eternal struggle against Evil (the serpent).

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16 Revision of the Latin American Constitutions

Fernando Armstrong-Fumero University Press of Colorado ePub

We have noted how the legislative bodies of the future should pay greater attention to the anthropological study of the populations that they govern. In this way, the constitution and general laws of the country can provide the most efficient and authoritative means with which to meet the needs and seek the well-being of the population. This should be the only objective of any constitution. It was also noted that individuals of Indian race, or those in whom that blood predominates, constitute the great majority of the national population. The rest of the population is made up of individuals of European blood, or those who have this in a greater proportion to indigenous blood. Up until now, the constitutions and legislations of independent Mexico had been derived exclusively from the needs of this latter group and have tended to promote its betterment. The Indian population was left in a greater state of abandon by these laws than it had been under the famous Laws of the Indies created by the Spanish monarchy. These colonial laws constituted a powerful barrier against the exploitation of the Indians and forbade the enslavement of the Indian. Even if they were not entirely free, at least the Indians were never slaves in the way that individuals of the black race were. Other colonial laws prohibited the Inquisition from rending the Indians with its claws, as it did the whites. The legal protection of collective landholdings permitted the Indians to cultivate their lands patriarchally and to preserve many aspects of their pre-Hispanic system of land distribution.

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5 Prejudices Against the Indigenous Race and Its History

Fernando Armstrong-Fumero University Press of Colorado ePub

In The Mind of Primitive Man, an interesting work in which Dr. Franz Boas compiles his lectures from Harvard and Mexico, the chapter on racial prejudices is especially worthy of attention. The illustrious professor condemns prejudices regarding the aptitudes of different human groups and proves that the innate inferiority that is ascribed to some groups does not exist. Deficiencies in aptitude are produced by historical, biological, and geographic causes; that is, by education and environment. When these causes are changed, perceived inferiorities disappear. It is indispensable that such logical ideas should be popularized among us, as we are a nation composed of ethnically heterogeneous social groups, each of which has developed along divergent paths. Our progress as a nation has not been synchronous.

The great problem of studying Mexico’s indigenous families and their future has always been addressed with naïve and superficial prejudices. There are those who see the indigenous social group as a barrier to the progress of the whole, as an element that is resistant to all culture and destined to perish like a sterile field in which no seed flourishes. They believe that this justifies the unfortunate state in which the Indian has lived for four centuries. At the other extreme, those who practice and preach the work of Indianism exalt the capacities of the Indian beyond all limits, considering him superior to Europeans in intellectual and physical aptitudes. They say that if the Indian had not been trapped and oppressed by foreign races, he would now supersede the European in culture. They use Juarez, Altamirano,1 and other isolated cases of illustrious Indians to support their opinions.

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9 The Work of Art in Mexico

Fernando Armstrong-Fumero University Press of Colorado ePub

It seems risky to classify all of the manifestations of art that exist in Mexico—architecture, sculpture, painting, ceramics, pottery, decorative arts, and so forth. Besides being diverse and little-studied, these art forms differ in terms of their cultural origin, character, technique, and symbolic value. But by having a basic knowledge of the characteristics of Western art, examining the art of the pre-Hispanic period, and studying how the two have influenced each other, one can make the following provisional classification:

1) The work of pre-Hispanic art;

2) The foreign work of art;

3) The work of traditional art that emerged through evolutionary incorporation and the work of traditional art that emerged through systematic incorporation;

4) The work of art of reappearance, by copy; the work of art of spontaneous reappearance.

This type of art was produced in Mexico until the arrival of the Conquest. Its most interesting manifestations, when compared with objects of the same antiquity in the Orient and Occident, included architecture, feather art, lapidary art, artistic metallurgy of gold and copper, ceramics, profuse and original decoration. Distinctive architectural elements included the corbelled arch, the plastering and polishing of walls and floors, and mural painting. There was also a pavement made of superimposed coats of a concrete made from pumice, conglomerates, and lime. The pre-Hispanic architects employed a column made with a base, shaft, and capital and a prismatic pillar with pyramidal base. All of these artistic and technical achievements can be considered along with a thousand other details that the brevity of this article forces us to omit. Overall, they denote great powers of observation and constructive knowledge among the pre-Hispanic architects, as well as the aesthetic sense that can be observed in the marvelous decorations of their buildings. The same can be said of their gold and silver jewelry, smelted, beaten, and “braided,” and the opulent mosaics of feathers, turquoise, rock crystal, and jade. This type of art was produced by the civilizations of the Maya, Aztecs, Teotihuacanos, and Mixteco-Zapotec, and others.

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