La Portada de Semillas in Tepoztlán in 1993
The drawing above and the following text are from the folder distributed at the inauguration of the portadal.
THE TWO CULTURES IN THE ARCH FOR THE FIESTA OF THE VIRGIN OF NATIVITY
The Union of Vendors and Artisans of Tepoztlan decided to share with the people of Tepoztlan and their visitors during the fiesta on the 8th of September an arch adorned with seeds indigenous to this region placed at the entrance to the atrium of our main church. In previous years, we decorated with natural flowers or with flowers of plastic, but this year, after several design proposals, we arrived at the following images and colors. Next year we shall make one of other natural materials. In the arch we reproduce symbols of the prehispanic beliefs of the Tepoztecans which come fundamentally from the Teotihuacan and Toltec-Chichimec cultures and from medieval Christian culture composed of Jewish, Moorish, Greco-Roman, and other cultures. To reconstruct these symbols, we have referred to the codices, to the figures on the facade of the Santa Maria Natividad church, to the murals in the ex-Convent, and to that which has been preserved in our oral tradition. We are the synthesis of the prehispanic, about which we know little, and the medieval Christian which we celebrate more, without knowing why. We think that only by knowing the past can we understand the present of our culture.
The figures which decorate the arch are interpreted from right to left and rising up from left to right to reach the dominating belief, the flight of an angel at the top center. To pass by the arch is to enter the world of the reality and the imagination of Tepoztlan's past cultures.
To see from nearby the composition of colors and figures is to feel the force of the currents which rush through the veins of these artists in their attempts to form a school of this craft.
"We are far from reaching the stature of an art, but we have achieved a unity, and achieved that many have discovered their taste for and ability for this craft and, above all, that happy kids, playfully and experimentally, have enjoyed sitting hour after hour to work uncomplainingly, without rest, with only the bread and coffee sent by the other members of the Union."
Large (145k) printable image at 150 dpi
In the first scene on the right we have a plumed serpent descending from space to earth, announcing with his open mouth and forked tongue of colorin and pinguica seeds the arrival of a tlatoani ("one who leads people by means of his ability to speak well") Tepoztecatl at the beginning of the history of Tepoztlan, or also this could be the monster at Xochicalco vomiting up the tlatoani. On the side, el Tepozteco, one of the gods of pulque with half moons on his warrior's shield and his nose rink, god of the color green and of fertility, associated with agricultural production, dressed elegantly to appear in a codex, with his baston of office in his left hand and emblem as the descendent of the god of wind. Above the plumes of his headdress El Tepozteco is accompanied by the goddess Mayahuel in the center of a maguey plant, the discoverer, along with Papaztac, of how to ferment pulque, to have a happy expression and say "to your health!". On one side, a half sun with sunbeams, Tonatiuh, because we are also children of the people of the sun. Finally a mountain with an ax above it, a prehispanic symbol of Tepoztlan; to the side two flowers of the four cardinal points which appear as though made of citolli as are the crowns over the church facades during fiestas in the barrios. Flowers for the joy of collective life and also for death.
On the left we have as a central scene the baptism in the waters of Axihtla of El Tepozteco, the tlatoani, testified to by a thousand year old cypress which still blooms in spite of being half destroyed through the people's negligence. He is baptized by one of the 14 friars who appear on the walls of the ex-Convent and above their heads is the light of the dove of the Holy Spirit, providing this conversion with faith, that is, this is the beginning of the blending of the prehispanic gods and beliefs with those of medieval Christianity. To one side is the spherical monument surmounted by a cross which signifies "the world and Christianity." Above and to the left we have the the Dominican dog, guardian of the faith, and two great vases with fleurs de liz (the Marian flower) bracket the horizontal horn of the moon. The Virgin of Nativity carries the Christ child in her arms, his features part Indian and part Spanish, to surprise the Iscariots who shall come later. She is Tonantzin ("our dear mother"), she who pardons our errors, she who caresses us with her glance., She who looks over us, the Tepoztecan mother, the giver of life and of death, and above and to the left the Dominican symbol in black and white with its four eight pointed starts, as seen in the interior of the Christian church.
In the center and above the arch is crowned by a shining sun, as much European as it is prehispanic, and a half moon where a rabbit appears, seated, in profile, hands on knees, with a smile as bright as ripe corn in the Fall, listening to the bad things said of him by priests of other religions and other times, as if all of them did not drink at the same fountain. Between the sun and the moon an angel looks upon us and raises its flight to the height of our imagination; from its front rises the final cross which blesses the humanitarian principles of Christianity and not the dogmatic ones.
We begin to gather seeds in November, for their colors, sizes, forms, and plasticity, and almost all are from Tepoztlan,.
All the beans are edible; the red ayocote adds its flavor to red mole sauces and serves as an outline for the largest images. The yepatiacheti or cherry red cuaresmeño which with beef or pork gives a special flavor to red mole is used to outline the smaller figures, to cite just two of the beans used in these figures.
The seeds of amaranth, lentil, kidney bean, chia, lagrima, alpiste, canary seed, haba beans, garabonzas, rice and golden and white millet are for the outlines or fillings of the figures.
Red colorin, like mustard, is used for illness caused by bad airs. Pinguica is for kidney infections."Deer eye" is for children with "evil eye". The "seven little ones", half black and half red, are miraculous against snake bite. All are used for filling the figures.
The seeds of chompola and of sunflower are used for the wings of angels and the sphere in the monument at Axihtla.
The corn used in making pozole is the white background that makes the figures stand out. The red guinda gives its color to the vases of the Dominicans; there are also blue and yellow ones.
Seeds which cure; seeds which kill. Seeds which nourish the life and spirit of mankind. Seeds in different colors and sizes which Tepoztecan craft transforms into an art which is both religious and pagan.
The majority of Tepoztecans are Christians in their own way. We like to share our seeds in green mole sauce and in warm tamales. We are merry and peaceful, but also we are rebels when someone abuses our beliefs, when they wish to manipulate us religiously or politically, when those in power disguise what they are doing with what they are saying.
This ornament which we are presenting is not an offering to the prehispanic or the Christian-feudal sun or moon, but rather is the light and shadow of our very own culture.
We gave it our all, without considering cost or time, because it is a pleasure and no one forces us to think the way we do. This is the collective work of men and women, of children, young people and adults. What we were able to accomplish in this task is impressive. We are proud to tell you that grandparents with their children and grandchildren came to place these seeds until late at night and over more than two weeks.
We hope to have awakened uncertainties and pleasure, by making this craft with our seeds and through our culture, for we are the inheritors of this grand past which now we must recreate and enrich.
With pleasure for all our countrymen and visitors.
UNION DE COMERCIANTES Y ARTESANOS TEPOZTECOS A.C.
September 8, 1992
Gonzáles de Lima Oswaldo. EL MAGUEY Y EL PULQUE EN LOS CODICES MEXICANOS, Segunda edición, México. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 1978.