Man ze kualli tonalli ximo panoltik.
That's how you say "May you spend a good day" in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Los Angeles musician/composer/storyteller Michael Heralda reconnects people to the wisdom of the ancestors with his Aztec Stories project. I had the great good fortune to perform and record with Michael, and now to sit down and pick his brain about lots of things — from the ancient past, to the meaning of the end of the Mayan calender.
Here in the Andes, many people are proud of indigenous wisdom and are active in promoting the wisdom of the ancestors. However, I am sad to see others who do not value the traditions of indigenous culture. For example, even though parents in a household both speak Quechua or Aymara, many do not speak it with their children. Neither are the majority passing on the knowledge of how to gather medicinal plants or plants for dying wool or how to spin and weave the ancestral textiles. There is the belief that if the children speak Spanish and even English, they can "get ahead" in society. That it is better for their children to learn business administration and marketing and accounting than it is to know the oral tradition stories of the grandparents. Michael, as someone whose family, some generations back, cut the flow of transmitting ancestral wisdom in order to "get ahead" in the United States, what thoughts would you like to share with families who are in the process of cutting the flow in this very generation?
I would offer for consideration that parents and grandparents NOT cut off transmitting their original languages or ancestral knowledge and wisdom, because those unique components of their heritage will become the foundation that their children will build their lives upon. Having an indigenous understanding or upbringing does not mean that you cannot have a business background or marketing contribution to make. It is not a question of “one or the other.” Our children need to have both types of education — a solid cultural base of knowledge and the tools necessary to contribute in today’s technologically modern world.
There are life lessons contained in the oral tradition stories and working with your hands (as in weaving, sculpting, gardening, etc.) develops patience and an artistic eye for beauty. Regarding plant knowledge, there is an old saying that goes like this: “A man who knows how to work with the Earth and with plants will never lack for food or medicine when needed.” Growing up learning to work with the earth and nature are experiences that will ground our children in ways that the modern world rarely promotes, understands, or acknowledges as vital life experiences.