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Nahuatl, the Aztec language that once graced Texas’ Canutillo Elementary displaced by pragmatism

Nahuatl, the Aztec language that once graced Texas’ Canutillo Elementary displaced by pragmatism

By Meili Robles
Borderzine

CANUTILLO, Tx. – While many schools are integrating bilingual studies into their programs, one teacher went beyond the two-language system at Canutillo Elementary to include Nahuatl, the Aztec language.

Carlos Aceves, a fifth grade teacher at the school, began teaching Nahuatl and the Aztec calendar to his students in 1995. But in the same way that the Spanish did away with the Aztecs, the need to prepare students to take the state mandated achievement tests purged the Native American language from the curriculum.

[caption id="attachment_20727" align="alignleft" width="300"] Carlos Aceves began teaching Nahuatl to his students in 1995. (Meili Robles/Borderzine.com)[/caption]

“The first year I did it without telling anybody,” recalls Aceves. “The second year the administration found out because I asked permission to do a school wide event.”

Luckily for Aceves, former principal Hector Girón was completely aboard and from then on Aceves and the children looked into the Aztec Calendar for cultural enrichment and insight into the traditions of many El Pasoans.

“The kids recognized the symbol of the calendar, but they never really knew what it was. The one’s that were more fascinated were the parents, because they had grown up their whole lives with the Aztec calendar but never really knew what it meant,” explained Aceves.

“Learning about the languages of our forefathers is very important, it’s something I think would be very beneficial to me,” stated current C.E.S Principal, Consuelo Parker. “For the past two years he’s taught Nahuatl to our children, but in reality when we’d really see him (teaching the Calendar and Nahuatl) was in the Christmas and Mother’s Day programs.”

According to Aceves, the Aztec Calendar enriches the understanding of literature and the sciences. “It’s a model for education,” he said.

Unfortunately this model is not necessarily understood by all administration…

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