Greetings and Welcome Back!

If you aren’t caught up on IRP’s current project please consider reviewing the newsletters for January and February. We last left off in Guadalajara where project partner, Janette Casas of Mexi-HA, and I were able to present IRP’s Pre-Agreement Package to our primary contact community partners, Jesus y Lucero. Further work has ensued and we are gearing up for our major scouting mission and presentation at San Agustín Oapan! Let’s start with my trip out of Guadalajara to a beautiful city called San Luis Potosí.

San Luis Potosí is both the name for a state and its capital city which are found about 400 km North of Mexico City. Although the city itself boasts more colonial than indigenous history, the surrounding areas certainly offered exciting lessons about local indigeneity as you will soon find out. During my week in SLP I continued working on the National Geographic Explorer Grant that Janette and I aim to receive in order to fund our project. Staying in an old hacienda - which now serves as a hostel in the city-center called Iturbide500 - was the perfect place to carry out meetings and research.

On February 7th I had the privilege of meeting with Sindy Valdez, Project Manager and Digital Media Manager for Indigenous Mexico. John P. Schmal established this remarkably successful historical and genealogical organization amassing a database of indigenous-focused articles and research from every state in Mexico. Their team is currently updating archival access but we agreed that our organizations aligned well for potential collaborations. As IRP and IM develop over the next months and years, our production capacities could be useful for the truly necessary work being done by the team at Indigenous Mexico.

Obviously I’m always on the lookout for indigenous history so the Museo Nacional de la Máscara in SLP definitely required a visit! At this museum you can find crocodile masks, bat masks, jaguar masks and entire bodies painted then adorned with a mask that’s more like a crown! From pre-hispanic to contemporary masks, the exhibits displayed a rich culture of spiritual and community connections with masks from cultures around the entire country including the Tenek and Nahuas. Indeed, our partners in San Agustín Oapan and San Miguel Tacuiciapan are also Nahuas!

That’s the perfect time to continue on about Recovering Traditions. On February 12th we took a big step forward regarding our ethical practices which has now grown the roots of this project even deeper. Janette’s former Nahuatl language professor connected us with a Nahuatl scholar from Guerrero and thus, we had our first joint meeting with our pre-production translator, Erika Sebastián Aguilar. She provided necessary and useful tips on how we can move the project forward and, of course, contributed a truly professional level of academic translation. So far we have the IRP Project Tree and IRP’s Oral History Consent Release Form both translated into Spanish and Nahuatl. 

Following the city of San Luis Potosì we traveled east to what is known as the Huasteca region by local indigenous groups on the Southwest Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This area boasts loads of indigenous history including the Tenek who are represented at the National Mask Museum mentioned earlier. The visit included watching swallows cave dive at (if I am not exaggerating) 170 km/h as well as the chance to swim in and enjoy turquoise waterfalls all over the region. During a lesson about the local fauna and its traditional uses, I was also able to make indigenous connections in Huasteca which will hopefully prove fruitful in the future!

Moving back down to Mexico City after a few weeks in places I haven’t been before was enlightening. I now feel quite used to the ins-and-outs of this megalopolis. It’s a great thing because the next couple of weeks included errands in different barrios. A major task was my recordings at the Indigenous Museum in Mexico City. This is the same museum I told you about in January and is where I met the scholar and administrator, Rene Lopez Bedolla. He was so gracious to greet me yet again and grant permission to record portions of my narration for our pre-production promotional video inside the museum. We updated each other on our progress towards a potential collaboration and we were able to get Rene and Janette connected as well. She spoke briefly with Rene while I recorded and the following day we all met over video conference. Important topics included that, as should be expected, the indigenous communities with whom IRP is partnering must be the primary contacts in order to receive INPI’s endorsement. Therefore, we have plans within our scouting mission to visit the INPI Office closest to our project partners. This is also Mr. Bedolla’s advice considering the INPI office in Guerrero will be more directly connected with our project partners.

From Mexico City I made my way down to Oaxaca de Juarez which is globally known to be a major indigenous and cultural center in Mexico. I had the privilege to speak with the administrator of el Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca as well as enjoy the exhibits there which prepared me well for my day trip to Monte Alban.  She was excited to hear about IRP and her only question was to be sure she understood that IRP provides these historical preservation and production resources for free. I confirmed this and we concluded that the opportunity can be possible once I return to Mexico for the true production (Trunk Phase) of Recuperando Tradicciones.

Monte Alban archaeological site is the largest pre-hispanic urban center in the state of Oaxaca. Its history includes astronomical urban planning, commerce with other cities like Teotihuacan, and reliefs exhibiting successful conquests by the Zapotecas who maintained the city from 500 BCE - c. 800 CE. Interestingly, one can find obelisks and stelaes throughout the city indicating multi-cultural influences. Moreover, there was a beautiful estadio or cancha for ōllamalīztli: the Mesoamerican ball-game. However, there is no evidence that sacrifices were made in association with the game as is found in other parts of Mexico like at Chichen Itza. It was truly a pleasure to enjoy the tranquility of the wind atop the peak which was inhabited 2000 years ago looking over the surrounding valley with its seemingly limitless natural resources.

With Recuperando Tradiciones [Ma Tikyolitikan Tonemilis in Nahuatl & Recovering Traditions in English] well underway our team has been working diligently on the aforementioned scouting trip to take place in the villages of our community-partners. In fact, it seems most likely that I will visit a week ahead of the team in order to deepen my understanding of the community. This is vital in the Roots Phase of IRP’s project development. Preparations for this trip include the translation of all vital documents, fundraising efforts, background research, acquiring all the medicines and special supplies necessary for the visit and, of course, much more. 

In the next week I will be continuing to work on the National Geographic Application, we will launch our Pre-Production Kickstarter campaign, and I will travel to Guerrero. If it’s not clear by now, there are lots of moving parts to building a project such as this. Communication, flexibility, respect, and passion are the primary foundations for our teamwork. By our next newsletter I will have stayed in San Agustín Oapan and will be finalizing our National Geographic application! 

Pay close attention to our social media for our Kickstarter campaign and more news about our project updates!


Shmuel Tamo