General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 28 Jan 2020/11 Jaguar
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Alfredo López Austin as a young child in northern Mexico

‘What first inspired you to study ancient Mexico/Mesoamerica?’

A school recently asked us this question, which we felt well worth directing at the members of our Panel of Experts, which we’ve done! Here we’ll be steadily adding ‘entries’. We launch it in January 2020 with probably our most eminent living Panel member, Dr. Alfredo López Austin (pictured right, some eight decades ago!). We love his answer (translated from the Spanish)... Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The ‘jaguar bowl’, an Aztec sacrificial altar stone sculpture, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Photo from Wikipedia
The ‘jaguar bowl’, an Aztec sacrificial altar stone sculpture, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Photo from Wikipedia (Click on image to enlarge)

Alfredo López Austin ‘It was a combination of three things from my early childhood.
1) I wasn’t born in the part of Mexico belonging to Mesoamerica, but rather on the northern border, in the desert, where the Mexican state of Chihuahua (where I was born) joins Texas and New Mexico. An old, old man, don Anastasio Hidalgo, used to tell us stories of his youthful experiences in my city of birth. He had actually met some of the Chiricahua Apaches, amongst them Chief Vitorio. His stories made my imagination really fly...
2) I wasn’t brought up to follow any particular religion. Whilst in primary school I was introduced to the ancient Greeks and Romans through storytelling. I began to feel a strong desire to study ‘polytheist’ religion [multiple deities], a subject I’m still passionate about.
3) As a child we travelled as a family by train to Mexico City, a distance of 2,000 kilometres. In the capital my family would always take me to visit the Museum of Anthropology; the one object that used to fascinate me was the ocelocuauhxicalli or ‘jaguar bowl’ [above left]. The image of it remained with me forever.
These three experiences - and major aspirations - came together, by good fortune, when as an adult I had the opportunity to study Mesoamerican polytheist religion.
Today, as an old man of 83, I have no intention of retiring, and I continue to give classes at the National University of Mexico and to research ancient Mesoamerican mythology, alongside that of present-day indigenous communities. I couldn’t be happier in my work.’

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Jan 12th 2020

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