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Part of the Quetzalecatzin Codex. This codex highlights genealogical information and land ownership for the Nahuatl "de Leon" family from 1480-1593. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Journey of Indigenous Words between Mexico and the PALABRA Archive

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I want to share with you the stimulating experience of being able to connect the PALABRA Archive with Indigenous authors from Mexico and their various Indigenous languages. Together with the curator of this historic audio archive, Catalina Gómez, and the authors highlighted, we have been working to expand the voices represented in this important resource of the Library of Congress, an adventure that has involved a great number of collaborators.

Before introducing the authors, I would like to share with you also a little bit of the process of coordination of the recordings. My goal was to get more spaces for belonging of these communities beyond the books we have and the archaeological materials in the collections. I began to research possible authors and the magic of the internet connected me with the writer Martín Tonalmeyotl. True to his principles of community outreach in Indigenous languages, Martín shared with me the contact information of many of the authors he has worked with and thus began my linguistic journey through Mexico.

In terms of communication platforms, my cell phone was vital, as were the messaging applications that I imagine many of you use to keep in touch with loved ones living outside the United States. I wanted to create a space of empathy on the day of the recording. So, previously, I had several brief meetings—with a few mishaps due to time zone differences—so that the authors could get to know me, I could explain the history of the PALABRA Archive and they could also get to know the Library’s holdings. Then, I proceeded to schedule the recording. One of the things I asked the authors to do beyond reading their poems, was to share with us the stories behind those words as well as the stories related to their communities. I wanted people listening to these recordings to feel that they were having a conversation with the author. I hope I succeeded.

Ateri Miyawatl. Courtesy of the author.

Nahua poet Ateri Miyawatl Ateri was born in Acatlán Guerrero, Mexico in 1988. She is the author of Neijmantototsintle (2016), which includes linocuts by artist Francisco Villa, and in 2018 received the Judges Choice Award at Oxford Fine Press Book Fair in England. Ateri has published in the magazines “Strange Horizons” (2020) and Shilaa’ (2022) and in the anthology Raíces a una voz (2020). She studied theater at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo. She currently lives in her home community and is very happy growing vegetables with her little son Kiawitl.

Irma Xóchitl Cuauhtémoc Xicoténcatl. Courtesy of the author.

Nahua poet Irma Xóchitl Cuauhtémoc Xicoténcatl Xóchitl was born in Cuautlancingo, Puebla, Mexico in 1986. She is an anthropologist and linguist, author of the books Nahuatocaitl. Apellidos nahuas de Puebla, senderos hacia nuestra cultura originaria (2018) and Mah timomachtiah nahuatlahtolli ican totoca. Aprendamos náhuatl con nuestros apellidos (2021).  She actively collaborates in the promotion and dissemination of the Nahuatl language in various media, including Radio BUAP (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla), Cholollan Radio and the Journal “La Tinta del Tiempo”. Xóchitl currently lives in Cuautlancingo, Puebla, Mexico.

Nadia Lopez García. Courtesy of the author.

Mixtec Tu’un Savi poet Nadia López García Nadia was born in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1992. She is the author of the poetry collections Ñu’ú Vixo /Tierra mojada (2018), Tikuxi Kaa/El Tren (2019), Isu ichi/ El camino del venado (2020) and Dorsal (2021). She has participated in different events and festivals in Mexico, India, Colombia, United States, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Cuba. From 2015 to 2017 she was an awardee of the Foundation for Mexican Literature in the area of poetry. She has received several honors such as the Premio a la Creación Literaria en Lenguas Originarias Cenzontle 2017, the Premio Nacional de la Juventud 2018, the Premio Juventud Ciudad de México 2019, the Premio CaSa de Literatura para Niños 2020 and the Premio Mesoamericano de Poesía Luis Cardoza y Aragón 2021. She lives in her Mixtec homeland in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Natalio Hernández. Courtesy of the author.

Nahua poet Natalio Hernández Natalio was born in Veracruz, Mexico in 1947. Among his bilingual Nahuatl-Spanish poetry books are: Semanca huitzilin / Colibrí de la Armonía (2005), Yancuic Anahuac Cuicatl / Canto nuevo de Anáhuac (2007), Patlani huitzitzilin / El vuelo del colibrí (2016), Xopantla xochimeh / Flores de primavera (2012), y el más reciente Itoscac ahuehuetl / Las voces del ahuehuete (2021). He is also the author of the books: De la exclusión al diálogo intercultural con los pueblos indígenas (2009), Tamoanchan: la tierra originaria (2017), Yancuic ixtlachihualistli / Forjando un nuevo rostro. Orígenes y desarrollo de la educación indígena en México (2018); De la hispanidad de cinco siglos a la mexicanidad del siglo XXI (2020) y Cinco lienzos para mi maestro Miguel León-Portilla (2020). He received the Nezahualcóyotl Prize for Literature in Indigenous Languages (1997) and the Bartolomé de las Casas Prize from Spain (1998). In 2013 he joined the Mexican Academy of Language and, in 2018, the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA) honored him with the homage “Protagonistas de la literatura mexicana” (Protagonists of Mexican literature). In March 2021 he received the Medal of Merit from the Universidad Veracruzana, and the Colegio de Veracruz awarded him the Doctorate Honoris Causa in February 2023. For almost twenty years he was professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He currently lives in Mexico City and is involved in intercultural Indigenous education projects nationally and internationally.

Esteban Ríos Cruz. Courtesy of the author.

Zapotec poet Esteban Ríos Cruz Esteban was born in Asunción Ixtaltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1962. His poetic work is written in Zapotec and translated into Spanish. He is the author of the poetry collections Dxi gueela’ gaca diidxa’/Cuando la noche sea palabra (2006), Ubidxa galaa dxi/Sol de mediodía (2008), Xaniaa gueela’/Al pie de la noche (2014) and the book Ca guichu guendarieedasiló’/ Las espigas de la memoria (2019). He has been distinguished with literary awards in poetry such as the Nezahualcóyotl National Prize for Literature in Mexican Languages in 2018; the Indigenous Literatures of America Award (PLIA) in 2014 awarded by the Guadalajara International Book Fair; the Center for the Arts Award of San Agustin, Etla, in Literary Creation in Zapotec Language in 2012, and winner of the Literary Contest in Native Languages, for Zapotec, convened by the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno, California in 2022. Promoter of poetry in didxazá (Zapotec), his poems have been translated into Italian, French, English and Mayan.

There are more Indigenous authors in the PALABRA Archive. Thanks to a collaboration that Catalina made with Professor Emerita Inés Hernández-Ávila (Nez Perce/Tejana), there is another exquisite journey through the Mayan communities that I invite you to explore.

Discover more

Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS): A Resource Guide The Handbook of Latin American Studies is a bibliography on Latin America consisting of works selected and annotated by scholars. 

The PALABRA Archive at the Library of Congress The PALABRA Archive is a collection of original audio recordings of 20th and 21st century Luso-Hispanic poets and writers reading from their works. This link takes you to the audio recordings of South American authors. This other link takes you to PALABRA Indigenous Voices Project, a subset of the PALABRA Archive focused on poetry and literature written and spoken in Indigenous languages.

Library of Congress Research Guides Library’s guides organized by research topic and collections – these include both online materials, and materials only available on site. The guides related to the Caribbean, Iberian, and Latin American Studies can be found here.

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