Ñuhun Ñuu Savi: Land and language as cultural heritage of the People of the Rain
The research focuses on the understanding of symbolic stratigraphy of the land (through time) from the worldview of the People of the Rain (one of the Indigenous Peoples of southern Mexico), by studying contemporary cultural heritage in communities of the Mixtec Highlands.
Disconnection between past and present
The Ñuu Savi People or Mixtec People, an Indigenous People in Mexico, belongs to Mesoamerican civilization. Mixtec culture has had millenary cultural development that continues until the present day. However, colonialism has created a disconnection between the past and present, a disjunction between the living heritage from the Ñuu Savi people (language, rituals, living traditions, oral literature and ceremonial discourses) and its cultural-historical heritage (codices, colonial maps, colonial texts in Mixtec language, and ancient pre-colonial remains) as a whole.
In that case, to understand the past and present, values and symbolism of the Ñuu Savi People, it is necessary to reintegrate cultural memory. Linking the present and past through the study of language, oral literature, ceremonial discourses, rituals and the daily life. With this is possible to have a deep understanding of signs, concepts, scenes and themes contained in pre-colonial pictorial manuscripts, the sacred landscapes contained in colonial maps, the intrinsic meanings of the cultural material and even the function of pre-colonial sites.
The research is developed by an indigenous researcher in line with the principles of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), a Post-colonial hermeneutics and decolonizing methodologies.
Understanding the symbolic stratigraphy of the land
With this theoretical and methodological framework, the research focuses on understanding the symbolic stratigraphy of the land (through time) from the worldview of the People of the Rain, by studying contemporary cultural heritage in communities of the Mixtec Highlands. This study follows four principles:
- The cultural continuity of the People of the Rain is undeniable and the language is the primordial link with the past.
- The spiritual relationship with the land today in Mixtec communities is important to identify rituals and concepts in pictorial manuscripts. Also, it is important to recognize the landscapes depicted in colonial maps as sacred landscapes, which are a Mesoamerican worldview that contrasts with the dominant Western worldview.
- The reintegration and decolonization of the cultural memory from the worldview of Indigenous Peoples is fundamental to achieve a deep understanding of the cultural values of the Mesoamerican civilization (past and present) without the colonialism layers.
- The importance to study the cultural heritage of Indigenous Peoples by themselves is not only by the past, but it is in the present, to recognize their past, strengthen their identity, re-value and protect their heritage.