English Text for "The Tree of Knowledge"

Mary Fukumoto:

Manuel, could you tell us the story of the Huehues dance?

Manuel Lecona:

Well, I’ll tell you what an old man called Bernabe told me. (note 1)

He taught us to dance, and told me in his dialect, in Totonac, that a group of Indians lived in a village. One day they went to the woods, and there they found a house. In the windows were two girls who called them with their hands. Those are the puppets in the dance. (2)

The Indians were afraid, and went home to tell their father. He said, ‘Let’s all go see who lives in the house”. When they got there, they heard music, and those inside invited them to dance. But for the dance, they gave the Indians white man’s clothing,mestizo clothing. (3)


Why are dressing up like “whites”?

Manuel: Because those who lived in the house taught the Indians to dress like they did. Of course, in the dance, one Indian wears Totonac clothes.


Who lived in the house?


They were “whites” – mestizos – who spoke another language. The Indians say ‘Luhuan‘. Luhuans speak Spanish, so they must have been Spanish-speakers. (4)

But since the house was small, they danced around outside the house. So that’s how the dance began. They learned how, and all danced together. Besides, the Indians stayed, and became family with those who lived in the house. (5)


Why is the dance called ‘Huehues’?


Because of the mixture between families. In TotonacSit‘ means ‘to intermingle’. ‘Kam‘ is ‘child’. The Totonacs call the dance ‘Sit-Kam‘; the intermingling of children – a mixture of Indian and Spanish blood. (6)

Parish Priest:

I don’t see why the Indians ask the mestizos to become godparents, since the mestizos aren’t much interested, except to get some advantage. They become godparents so the Indian will sell them his coffee. Pure self-interest. Now the Indian knows that that mestizo doesn’t like him, but he still asks him. I have found that the mestizo always sees the Indian as inferior. So when they call them peasants (‘peoncitos‘) because they speak Totonac and wear Indian clothes, it disgusts me. (7)


Our main interest is that all the children learn Spanish. By his fourth year, the pupil is completely hispanicized, and he likes school. If he completes 6th grade, he will not be ashamed to go on to secondary school. If we speak Totonac to a 6th grade pupil, he is insulted. He says, ‘I speak Spanish now, why do you talk to me in Totonac?’ (8)

Yes, they like school, and so they integrate into the life of the nation. If their father had land, he sold it off bit by bit. So most pupils leave here to work in the cities. (9)

They change their Indian clothing when we make them wear uniforms. We make them buy commercial clothing; they get to like it, so they buy more. To go to secondary school, they must go on buying store clothing. The Indian children themselves realize they shouldn’t wear Indian clothes to school. (10)


The Totonacs learn Spanish in school, and they see the need to wear store clothing. Others go to work in the cities. They go in Indian clothes, and come back in pants and shoes. Now those who go to the cities, and return, are called Ladinos. The Totonacs say ‘Tapalajnat‘ – equalized. They say they changed their shell. (11)

You’re dressed like me, but you’re not Mexican. But you’re mestizo, even though you’re American. The mestizos accept you, they invite you to their parties. But if you were a ladino Indian, you wouldn’t get the same treatment. (12)

The Indians criticize another Indian if he changes his clothes. They say he is a Huehue, because he dresses up like they do. (13)


The school must teach the population civic pride: love for the fatherland. For example, tonight is the 15th of September, so we reenact the proclamation of independence. (14)


So that’s the Huehues dance. There should be 12 poles around the post, for the months of the year. The house in the woods is represented by the screen.

Now that they were all family, they taught the Indians about the seasons. In the spring, the flower blooms. In the summer they hunt, in the fall it rains, and in the winter it’s cold so no one goes out. (15)

In the spring, a woodpecker climbs the post, since it’s the only bird that climbs straight up. The other birds jump from branch to branch. The woodpecker seeks nectar, pecks

the flower, and so a flag blooms. But when the dance began, it wasn’t a flag, but a sun flower.

Then they taught the Indians to hunt, in the summer. For that reason, the dancers don’t sleep with their wives during the dance. The coatimundi is the animal they hunt. It could have been a deer or a jaguar but deers don’t climb trees. Possibly a jaguar, but they can’t climb straight up. So it has to be a coatimundi. (16)

All the masks are Mestizo. They use the masks to change their personality. (17)

Huehue violinist:

The Huehues dance is about trees. The dancers are not really who is dancing. They’re just moving. The 16.) real dancers are the masks, because they’re made of wood. They too are alive. They have hearts and can speak. Not just us. That’s where the dance began. (18)

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