Student Life celebrates the Aztec roots of Hispanic Heritage

by Michael Arbizo

Taco Tuesdays, tequila, and Tecate are what comes to mind for most students when they think about the contributions of Hispanic culture to everyday American life. But there is so much more to it than that. On Thursday, Sept. 15 the office of Student Life sponsored an educational event in honor of Hispanic Heritage month to celebrate the native Aztec roots here in Arizona. The traditions of this native culture have directly influenced modern day Hispanic culture especially for those right here in the American Southwest.

This free event included a very educational presentation: “Aztecs in Arizona then and…now?! Reflections of a Modern-day Aztec Warrior” by guest speaker Alberto Olivas. But the fun didn’t stop there, it also included a very compelling performance by the local Phoenix Aztec Warrior dance troupe, Danza Azteca Grupo Coatlique. It was held in the SU 104 D and E from 4:40pm to 6:30pm and open to the public, students, and faculty.

Student Life sponsors these free events to encourage learning and provide exposure to other cultures beyond the typical classroom setting. These opportunities are special because they incorporate components of education and entertainment all for free. We all know for students anything free is a great thing. Inviting friends and family is always encouraged because it provides the opportunity for students to share with those around them (whom may not be students) what community college is all about and the great cultural events we offer.

Alberto Olivas’s interesting presentation included an informative slide show, Q&A discussion, and a table of artifacts including his traditional handmade Aztec Warrior outfit. He shared information about Aztec culture, including facts typically not found in our history books such as their dental procedures and the implantation of brain surgeries. He discussed their use of public sanitation systems and use of intricate irrigation systems. Olivas has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and a Master’s degree in Education. He currently serves as the Executive Director at the Congressman Center for Politics and Public Service at ASU and as a research partner/collaborator for the Kettering Foundation. Olivas was also an Aztec Warrior (dancer) for 30 years with a local Phoenix Aztec dance troupe, proudly displaying the outfit he used to wear during his traditional prayer dance ceremonies. He invited Danza Azteca Grupo Coatlique to perform after his presentation.

The performance included 3 live drummers and a group of more than twenty-five Aztec performers comprised of family, friends, and community members. The group was led by Rebecca, known simply as Becky, who is currently in the Nursing program at Phoenix College. Becky explained that the performance is actually a sacred prayer circle and they were there to share their blessings with everyone in the room. It was a very high energy performance filled with vocal outbursts, powerful heart pounding drum beats, and hundreds of colorful feathers. Every single performer, both young and old are responsible for creating their own outfits and each feather was given them by someone within the community. It is a representation of the good deeds they do for others. As it is in life, material things given to us never hold the same value as the things we have worked hard for.

Hispanic Heritage month is learning the history of a forgotten people and celebrating with them. Many will agree tacos and tequila are great. But these Student Life sponsored events provide us with a glimpse into the bigger pictures and a deeper understanding of more than what we learned in elementary school. The heritage of other cultures is important because changing the future depends on our knowledge of the past. As Americans, we never destroy our roots we simply incorporate them into the united tree of American life creating the foundation of this free nation.


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