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Natalio Hernández Hernández speaking in 1977

A modern Nahua poem

We can’t think of a finer example of what we might call New Nahuatl Poetry than this, by Natalio Hernández Hernández, aka Natalio Hernández Xocoyotzin and José Antonio Xokoyotsij, a Nahua poet from Lomas del Dorado, Ixhuatlan de Madero in the state of Veracruz. It’s powerful, inspiring and authentic. We’ve taken the Nahuatl and Spanish translation from his book Canto Nuevo de Anahuac, and we’re grateful to Professor Alan R. Sandstrom for his permission to include his English translation, from his much recommended book Corn Is Our Blood.

Pic 1: Olmec giant head stone sculpture, Xalapa
Pic 1: Olmec giant head stone sculpture, Xalapa (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio --- Yo soy indio --- I am Indian

Na ni indio:
ipampa iquino nech tocatique coyome
queman asilo ipan yancuic tlaltipactli.


Yo soy indio:
porque así me nombraron los hombres blancos
cuando llegaron a esta tierra nueva.


I am Indian:
because the white men named me thus
when they arrived in this new land.

Pic 2: Detail from mural by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City
Pic 2: Detail from mural by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ipampa mocahcayaque coyome
queman asico campa tlanahuattaya nocolhua.


Yo soy indio:
por ignorancia de los hombres blancos
al llegar a estas tierras que gobernaban mis abuelos.


I am Indian:
because of an error of the white men
when they arrived in the land governed by my grandparents.

Pic 3: Model of Mexican market woman pot seller, Museo de las Américas, Madrid
Pic 3: Model of Mexican market woman pot seller, Museo de las Américas, Madrid (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ipampa iquino nech manextihque coyome
tlen ica huelis nopan nenemise
ihuan nech pinatise.


Yo soy indio:
porque así me señalaron los hombres blancos
para justificar su dominio y discriminación.


I am Indian:
because that is how the white men labelled me
in order to crush me and discriminate against me.

Pic 4: Detail from a mural by Antonio González Orozco, Hospital de Jesús Nazareno, Mexico City
Pic 4: Detail from a mural by Antonio González Orozco, Hospital de Jesús Nazareno, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ipampa iquino tech tocatique coyome
nochi timasehualme tlen ni yancuic tlaltipactli.


Yo soy indio:
porque así me llamaron los blancos
a todos los hombres de este Continente.


I am Indian:
because that is what the whites called us
all the people of this continent.

Pic 5: Detail from a mural by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City
Pic 5: Detail from a mural by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan nama ica nimotlacanequi ni tlahtoli
elen yalhuayca ica nech pinatiyaya coyome.


Yo soy indio:
ahora me enorgullece esta palabra
con la que antes se mofaban de mí los hombres blancos.


I am Indian:
and now this word fills me with pride
the word which yesterday the white men used to jeer us.

Pic 6: Detail from a painting, Museo de las Américas, Madrid
Pic 6: Detail from a painting, Museo de las Américas, Madrid (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan nama amo nipinahuia ma quino nechilica
ipampa nimati mocuapoloque coyome.


Yo soy indio:
ahora no me avergüenza que así me llamen,
porque sé del error histórico de los blancos.


I am Indian:
and now it causes me no pain that they call me this
because I know the historical error of the whites.

Pic 7: Detail from a mural by R. Anguiano, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.
Pic 7: Detail from a mural by R. Anguiano, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan nama nimati nipixtoc
nonelhuayo ihuan no tlalamiquilis.


Yo soy indio:
ahora sé que tengo mis propias raíces
y mi propio pensamiento.


I am Indian:
and now I know that I have my own roots
and my own thoughts.

Pic 8: Detail from a mural by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City
Pic 8: Detail from a mural by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan nama nimati nipixto noxayac,
notlachialis ihuan nonemilis.


Yo soy indio:
ahora sé que tengo rostro propio,
mi propia mirada y sentimiento.


I am Indian:
and now I know that I have my own face
my own look and my own feelings.

Pic 9: Detail from a screen mural painting by Roberto Cueva del Río
Pic 9: Detail from a screen mural painting by Roberto Cueva del Río (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan axcan nimati melahuac ni mexicano
ipampa nitlahtohua mexicano,
tlen intlahtol tocolhua.


Yo soy indio:
ahora sé que soy verdaderamente mexicano,
porque hablo el idioma mexicano,
la lengua de los abuelos.


I am Indian:
and now I know that I am truly Mexican
because I speak the Mexican language,
the language of my grandparents.

Pic 10: School girls, San Isidro Buensuceso, near Puebla
Pic 10: School girls, San Isidro Buensuceso, near Puebla (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan nama tlahuel niyolpaqui
ipampa huala yanquic tonati,
huala yancuic tlanextli.


Yo soy indio:
ahora se alegra mucho mi corazón
porque viene un nuevo día, un nuevo amanecer.


I am Indian:
and now my heart is happy
because a new day is coming, a new dawn.

Pic 11: Two women from San Isidro Buensuceso, near Puebla, a village where Nahuatl is widely spoken
Pic 11: Two women from San Isidro Buensuceso, near Puebla, a village where Nahuatl is widely spoken (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
nama nimachilia tlamisa cuesoli,
sampa niyolpaquis ihuan nimoyolchicahuas.


Yo soy indio:
ahora siento que pronto acabará esta tristeza,
otra vez podrá reír mi corazón y ser más fuerte.


I am Indian:
and now I feel that this sadness will soon end,
again my heart will be able to laugh and be stronger.

Pic 12: Concheros dancers watching others perform
Pic 12: Concheros dancers watching others perform (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan nama sampa yeyectzi nicaqui
ayacachtlatzotzontli ihuan xochitlatzotzontli.


Yo soy indio:
ahora puedo contemplar la belleza de la danza,
eschuchar la música y el canto.


I am Indian:
and now I can contemplate the beauty of the dance,
and hear the music and the song.

Pic 13: Stone sculpture of an elderly couple, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pic 13: Stone sculpture of an elderly couple, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan nama sampa niquinita
ihuan niquintlacaquilia huehuetlacame.


Yo soy indio:
ahora puedo escuchar
la palabra de los ancianos.


I am Indian:
and now I can see and hear
anew the elders.

Pic 14: Detail from mural by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City
Pic 14: Detail from mural by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Na ni indio:
ihuan nama sampa nech nelhuayotia tlaltipactli:
tonana tlaltipactli.


Yo soy indio:
ahora vuelve a enraizarme la tierra:
nuestra madre tierra.


I am Indian:
and now the earth returns to give me roots,
our mother earth.

Sources:-
Canto nuevo de Anahuac: Yancuic Anahuac Cuicatl - Poesía Nahuatl by Natalio Hernández, Editorial Diana SA de CV, Mexico DF, 1994
Corn Is Our Blood: Culture and Ethnic Identity in a Contemporary Aztec Indian Village by Alan R. Sandstrom, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1991.

Picture sources:-
• Pic 1: photo by Karel Baresh/Mexicolore
• Pix 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 & 14: photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Pic 4: photo by Eva Sánchez Fernández/Mexicolore.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Jun 28th 2020

Learn more about Natalio Hernández
Hear Natalio Hernández address the UN in 1977, in Nahuatl and Spanish
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