[ unseennewmexico.org ]
cover image: Painting of Moctezuma Dance
By Kurly Tlapoyawa
The process of Spanish colonization in Mexico resulted in the widespread diaspora of Mesoamerican people across much of the western hemisphere. In particular, Tlaxkaltekah colonists serving as auxiliary forces for the Spanish crown brought with them Mesoamerican languages, foods, rituals, artistry, and traditions. One such ritual is the dance tradition of los Matachines. This dance, which is still performed in both Mexico and New Mexico (and other areas of colonization) can be traced directly to Mesoamerican dances of conquest such as the Moctezuma Dance and the Danza de Pluma.
Of particular note is the “cupil” headpiece, which comes from the Nawatl “copilli.” These headpieces are designed in the form of traditional Mesoamerican headpieces. Some New Mexican pseudohistorians reject any association between New Mexican and Mesoamerican traditions, but such claims are grounded in provincialism and ideology. This page is meant to serve as a repository for information regarding this tradition, and its Mesoamerican origins. More information will be added as it becomes available.
Description of Moctezuma Dance:
Excellent article about the Danza de Pluma and los Matachines:
Video of Tlaxkaltekah Matachines:
Kurly Tlapoyawa is an archaeologist, author, and ethnohistorian. His research focuses primarily on the interaction between Mesoamerica, Western Mexico, and the American Southwest. Kurly has lectured at UNLV, University of Houston, and Yale University on topics related to Mesoamerica and its connection to New Mexico. His recent book, “Our Slippery Earth: Nawa Philosophy in the Modern Age” was published in 2017. In addition to his work in Archaeology and Ethnohistory, Kurly is a professional stuntman with over 35 credits to his name. Kurly lives in New Mexico.
Follow Kurly on twitter @KurlyTlapoyawa
Enjoy this article? Become a patron and support independent, Indigenous media!
Interested in learning how the Nawatl language influenced the way Spanish is spoken in New Mexico? Check out my book “Totacho: Our Way Of Talking” available on Amazon.com. In it, I detail the major influence that the Nawatl language has had on the “Spanish” spoken by Chicanos and Chicanas in the Southwest.