The Nahuatl, Mexicano or Macehualcopa languge, is the mother tongue of our community ; testimony of this are the names of mountains, hills, urban and cultivating areas as well as the original barrios of Atocpan. True, even though the Nahuatl language is no longer the lingua franca of our community, the re-evaluation of the Nahuatl language is of paramount necessity, we have to learn and appreciate the benefits of such a legacy. Our older folks still speak it and most of all they realize the damage created by its lose. In such a scenario it becomes absolutely relevant to ask, "what it means the loss of such a language" and furthermore, to recognise that the adoption of the Spanish language was a strategy for survival by the community of Malacachtepec Momoxco, and that it took place reluctantly and at a high cost. It is specially surprising to realise that such a change took place in recent memory, especially if we stop to consider 500 years of acculturation of indigenous peoples in the country.
The Dutch Anthropologist Rudolf A. M. Van Zantwijk in his work: “The Indigenous people of Milpa Alta, heirs of the Aztec” 1957, observed, that in that year most of the population in the 12 towns that make up Delegacion Milpa Alta spoke Nahuatl, with the exception of the town of Tecomitl where one third of its population spoke Spanish. The assimilation of the Spanish language by our community was in the first place, prompted by the disdain and outright discriminatory policies toward indigenous communities, characteristic of Independent Mexico and at a later stage by post revolution Mexico’s effort to industrialize a country with a predominantly rural population. Here it is important to recognize, that the detrimental forces against the so called "Pueblso Originarios" is still systematic and relentless throughout the country today.
According to resent studies there are around 6000 languages currently spoken worldwide, of these, only 10% are spoken by 90% of the global population. If we stop to consider that in Mexico there are approximately 70 indigenous languages, this statistic, represent a serious concern. To appreciate that when a language dies, a particular understanding of our relation with the world dies too, is today, a most important concern to all.
In the Nahuatl language for instance, the verb “to be”, is inexistent, a characteristic which distinguishes it from an occidental view of life, prevalent in most parts of the world. On the other hand and perhaps of a better practical value, the Nahuatl language has no word for “rubbish”, to state it clearly; in the Nahua universe nothing is created to be a sub product, redundant, waste, or a hindrance. In spite of this, the hastened acculturation of the last half century experienced by Atocpan has given way to the virtual Nahuatl language disappearance in the community, and in turn the abandonment of arable land, to rubbish in our town, and the detrimental consequences evident in the surrounding environment.
Certainly, the town of Atocpan like the other 11 towns of Milpa Alta have an old linage, testimony to this is the ancient cultivation system of Tlamoxtli or “place of offering” in Nahuatl, today known as Terrazas in Spanish. These are platforms of soil strategically constructed over specially selected hillsides and retained by stone walls or tetepamitl. Different specialists disagree on the age of such constructions, some placing their origin to the Tolteca culture but perhaps are as old as the Teotihuacan civilisation, and may be as old as the Cuicuilca culture. The town of Atocpan as such was founded by Aztec families around 1409, led by Hueyitlahuilanque, who had come from Tenochtitlan, the then capital of the Aztec world, to subdue the local Chichimeca people, who had been there since at least 1240.
Atocpan cultural heritage is undoubtedly, large, the maintenance and looking after of the place is undoubtedly the responsibility of the local community : natural resources, archaeological sites, and sacred places, are at the edge of irreversible loss today, threatened to be swallowed up by the chaotic growth of our capital, Mexico City.
To think in such a way means, to promote an identity closer to our surroundings, to become conscious of our rich natural history and culture. In view of such a landscape, the still alive native language is vital to whatever strategy to preserving our patrimony. At this point it is worth remembering here, an indigenous proverb: "Amaca toanimatzin tla amo titlazotazque tonantzin tlalticpactli" “Without love for the earth a soul is not possible.”
In order to meet this objective, Calpulli Tecalco NGO has an ongoing compilation project of Atocpan’s nahuatl toponymy, the objective being, the creation of an (alive) memory available to the community, where the population may be able to gain access to the meaning of such places in Castilian. Nahuatl toponymy in contrast to the Castilian one, is descriptive of both, natural history, idiosyncratic aspects and geographic qualities alike
Parallel to such an effort we have started the studding of the ancient Nahua method of writing and the system of place naming or Toponimia, its eminent visual character renders it an important identity vehicle. The logo-syllabic writing as it is technically known, has been in disuse for nearly 300 years. The revitalization of a indigenous way of writing however, represents an act of cultural resistance today.
With this body of work we have started generating regional maps, that gather together the data collected, signalling places by their Nahuatl name, its corresponding logo-syllabic writing and its meaning. This is a very useful tool able to contrast the character of the land described in the nahuatl names and the actual condition of the locations referred, and to better comprehend the effects population growth is having in the area.
Indeed, the objective of such an exercise is to promote the studding of our grandparent's tongue, especially amongst the young.
The Nahuatl language is highly agglutinant, this characteristic allows the formation of unexpected abstract concepts, furthermore, the visual character of its writing make the Nahuatl a
Currently, Calpulli Tecalco NGO works on the development of a language learning method based on toponynmy (toponynmy on line).
Fomento al Idioma Nahuatl
Nahuatlahtolli: Idioma Nahuatl
Nahuatlahtolli, "Idioma nahuatl, o Palabra sonora y armoniosa" = Nahua
Tlancoch, "Diente" = tla
Tollin, "Tule" = toli