Tuesday, August 4

This is Mexico, Part 2 of 2: How many miles is it to Babylon, anyhow?

The Aztec social classes grew incredibly sophisticated and complex once the Mexican people settled and began to build their empire. It's been said that the class structure was so elaborate that it impressed the Spanish almost as much as the architecture of the empire.

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Expressive orange-ware clay vessel in the Toltec style 
from the American Museum of Natural History collection

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Mexico Struggles to Come to Grips With Treatment of Indians
February 25, 2001
ASSOCIATED PRESS via The Los Angeles Times

Race: The country's indigenous peoples are routinely thought of as simple-minded and uncouth. There has been no real debate on whether to integrate Indians or help them develop separately.

When farmer Andres Nunez walks into a store, clerks act as though he isn't there. When Juana Gomez hawks embroidered bags at a marketplace, people brush by her. When Agustin Vazquez pleads for aid, government officials ignore him.

The reason, these three and many others say, is simple: They are Indians.

"We Indian farmers seem to cause blindness in people because they act like they don't see us," said Vazquez, an elder in Chenalho, a Tzotzil Indian town. He wears a traditional beribboned hat and carries a wooden staff of authority.

The treatment of Mexico's Indians has been largely an invisible issue for decades.

By and large, Mexicans -- most of whom are varying shades of mixed Indian and European ancestry, and who often are themselves the victims of discrimination in the United States -- view racism as a foreign phenomenon.

"There isn't any racism in Mexico because we have no blacks," goes a common saying that ignores several realities, including Mexico's small Afro-Caribbean population.

For decades, Mexico's 10 million Indians have been revered in textbooks and government propaganda -- and systematically ignored in reality.

The official line, sculpted in stone or bronze on monuments for 70 years, reads: "Here was born the Cosmic Race," a term coined in the 1920s by a pioneer of modern Mexican art and education, Jose Vasconcelos, to describe a seamless continuum of Indians and mestizos, those of European and indigenous heritage.

The theory praised Indians but said the future belongs to mestizos. They would inherit the Indian strength and wisdom, and Indians, about 10% of the population, would just get folded into the mix.

Mexico has no official definition of who is an Indian, nor any special benefits for them. There has been no real debate on whether to integrate Indians or help them develop separately.

Mexico hasn't even decided on a name for them: The simplest term, "Indio," has come to be an open insult. "Don't be an Indian," many mestizos say. It means don't be ignorant or uncouth.

But after Mexico's first democratic transfer of national power in last year's presidential election, there is now at least a serious debate within government about which way to go for Mexico's 62 Indian groups.

Upon assuming office Dec. 1, President Vicente Fox took up the questions broached by the 1994 Zapatista uprising, quoting a slogan popularized by the mostly Indian rebels: "Never again a Mexico without us."

He pledged to slash poverty among Indians and proposed legislation that would grant some autonomy to Indians to follow ancient traditions in local governance, culture, land ownership and natural resources.

Many Indian rights activists have worried that the ascent of Fox's National Action Party -- largely middle class, and thus more white -- may mean a reduction in the number of high-profile Indians in politics.

But Fox signaled a new approach by appointing Xochitl Galvez, an Otomi Indian, as Mexico's first Cabinet-level Indian affairs director. Galvez says she wants to develop something that Spanish doesn't quite have a word for: empowerment.

It's something she wants to give the millions of Indians who toil in labor camps to build hotels and office buildings on land their ancestors ruled 500 years ago, before the Spaniards conquered the Maya and Aztec empires and dozens of other indigenous peoples.

"For 500 years you've been told you're an imbecile, that you can't do anything for yourself, and in all that time you've demonstrated just the opposite," Galvez said. "One of the main things we have to do is recover self-esteem."

Although she put herself through college and founded a technology consulting firm, Galvez knows what that struggle is like.

"When I first came to Mexico City at 16, I was fired from my job on the first day because of the Indian accent I had," Galvez said.

Indian accents and mannerisms are the butt of jokes on television and in movies. At official "cultural" events, Indians are sometimes depicted with buckskin dresses and feather headdresses that seem copied more from U.S. cowboy movies than from any group that exists in Mexico.

Such attitudes have been common for generations. In the 1880s, dictator Porfirio Diaz -- whose mother was a Mixtec Indian -- ordered his servants to powder their faces so visiting dignitaries "won't think we're a country of Indians." 

He also invited Germans to immigrate "to improve the race."

After the 1910 Revolution, official propaganda depicted Indians as bronzed heroines and heroes who resisted the Spaniards, and land reform programs in the 1930s released some of them from near-slavery on haciendas -- but they continued to lose territory to mestizo farmers.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, which held the presidency from 1929 until Fox's victory, actively recruited Indian leaders and used meager aid programs to keep the Indian masses as a reserve of captive votes.


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2012 A.D. 

In Mexico, racism hides in plain view
By Ruben Navarrette Jr.

November 20, 2012

The Distrito Federal, also known as Mexico City, serves as a constant reminder that Mexicans are about maintaining tradition, except when they're sidestepping it. They're about moving forward, except when they are unable to let go of the past. They're about preserving memory, except when they have amnesia.

For example, when it comes to forgiving the corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party (also known by its initials, PRI), whose leaders brutalized the Mexican people and plundered the country for much of the 20th century, they have short memories; they recently returned the PRI to power by electing Enrique Pena Nieto to the presidency. He takes office December 1.

The Distrito Federal, also known as Mexico City, serves as a constant reminder that Mexicans are about maintaining tradition, except when they're sidestepping it. They're about moving forward, except when they are unable to let go of the past. They're about preserving memory, except when they have amnesia.

For example, when it comes to forgiving the corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party (also known by its initials, PRI), whose leaders brutalized the Mexican people and plundered the country for much of the 20th century, they have short memories; they recently returned the PRI to power by electing Enrique Pena Nieto to the presidency. He takes office December 1.


And yet, even with all the progress and openness in Mexico over the past few years, there is still one subject that no one talks about, one that is still off-limits: race.

The enduring taboo subject is skin color, whether an individual's complexion betrays an allegiance to the Spanish who conquered the Aztec empire in 1521 or the Aztecs who were conquered. It's no exaggeration to say that, in this country and especially in this city, the best, highest-paying, most important jobs often seem to go to those who, in addition to having the best education and the strongest connections, have the lightest skin.

On television, in politics and in academia, you see light-skinned people. On construction sites, in police forces and in restaurant kitchens, you're more likely to find those who are dark-skinned. In the priciest neighborhoods, the homeowners have light skin, and the housekeepers are dark. Everyone knows this, and yet no one talks about it, at least not in elite circles.

Nor do Mexicans seem all that eager to discuss the larger dynamic that race feeds into: the fact that this is, and has always been, a country of deep divisions. In the 100 years since the Mexican Revolution, one part of Mexico has often been at war with another: urban vs. rural, rich vs. poor and, yes, dark-skinned vs. light-skinned.

It's one reason that institutions such as the economy, the political system and the social structure haven't matured as quickly as they should have, given Mexico's advantages.

This country of 120 million people has ports, highways, airports and skyscrapers. It takes in billions of dollars every year in revenues from oil and natural gas, and billions more from tourism and remittances from Mexican migrants living abroad. Mexico's economy is growing faster than the U.S. economy, and investments are flowing in from Asia and Europe. It's consistently within the top three of trading partners for the United States. But what good is all that when only a small number of the population can live up to their full potential? Prejudice kills progress.

The hour is late. It's time for Mexico to confront the color line and free itself of its past. Or it won't have much of a future.

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2015 A.D. 

Missing Students Case Also Highlights Racism in Mexico
By Emilio Godoy

January 29, 2015
Inter Press Service (IPS)

 “They were taken away alive; we want them back alive.” Protesters and family members of the 43 missing students demonstrating on the Paseo de la Reforma avenue in the Mexican capital on Jan. 26, four months after they were killed, according to the official investigation. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

(MEXICO CITY) The mother tongue of Celso García, a 51-year-old indigenous Mexican, is Mixteca. As a boy, García, the father of one of the 43 students forcibly disappeared four months ago, had to learn Spanish to make his way in mainstream society in this country where most people are of mixed-race heritage.

García, a father of four, has a small farm where he grows corn, beans, pumpkins and hibiscus flowers near the town of Tecuantepec, some 380 km south of Mexico City, in the state of Guerrero.

But his crops have been abandoned since the night of Sep. 26, when his 21-year-old son Abel, a first-year student at the Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa rural teachers college, was disappeared along with 42 of his classmates at the hands of municipal police and gunmen from the organised crime group “Guerreros Unidos”, according to the investigation by the national authorities and the testimony of suspects who have confessed their involvement.

“We want our kids to appear,” said García, wearing a long checked shirt, baggy pants that fluttered in the wind, and sandals that hardly protected his feet, calloused from trudging along dirt paths. “That way we can stop losing time; we’re not able to work now,” he told IPS.

The night of Sep. 26 local police from Iguala, a town 191 km south of the capital, opened fire on students from the Ayotzinapa rural teachers college as they were driving to Mexico City in buses. Six students were killed and 25 were wounded.

The police then took away 43 of the students and handed them over to members of Guerreros Unidos, one of the most violent drug trafficking gangs in the area, according to the investigation by the attorney general’s office.

The investigation found that the 43 students were killed that night and their bodies were burnt using a flammable substance in a garbage dump outside Colula, a town near Iguala, and the ashes and any other remains were dumped in a nearby river.

Four months after the alleged massacre, attorney general Jesús Murillo said that was the “truth” about what happened, which was reconstructed on video with the cooperation of suspects arrested in the case. He added, however, that the investigation was still open.

But the parents of the victims, some of whom talked to IPS, are not convinced that all of the students are dead.

The remains of only one student were identified using DNA samples, the attorney general’s office reported on Jan. 7.

Forensic experts from the University of Innsbruck in Austria, who carried out the tests, said it was impossible to obtain DNA samples from the rest of the remains due to the “excessive heat” to which the bodies were subjected.

The missing students and their families who are searching for them tirelessly are poor peasant farmers, most of whom are indigenous.

That is the description, in fact, of the students of the colleges that train the schoolteachers who work in Mexico’s poor rural villages with the aim of helping their communities combat the poverty, hunger, marginalisation and discrimination faced by the country’s indigenous people, who officially number 12 million in a total population of 122 million.

The Mexican census identifies people as indigenous if they preserve their native languages, traditions, beliefs and cultures. There are 54 indigenous peoples in Mexico. The great majority of the population identifies as “mestizo” or mixed-race.

At least half of the 43 missing “normalistas”, as rural teachers college students are known in Mexico, belong to the Me’phaa, Nahuatl or Mixteco indigenous peoples. And when an indigenous person dies, a language, culture and hope die out a little more, the victims’ families and experts point out.

For thousands of young people like the missing “normalistas”, the only possibility for continuing their education is offered by the colleges that train the schoolteachers who are posted in poor rural communities.

Like most of the parents of the missing students, Metodia Carrillo, 54, is indigenous. Her native language is Nahuatl and she lives in the village of San Antonio in the state of Guerrero.

She is the mother of 18-year-old Luis Ángel Abarca, another first-year student. Until Sep. 26, her life was dedicated to her home, her family, and growing corn, Mexico’s staple crop.

“He wanted to be a teacher to help his family,” said Carrillo. “The students aren’t criminals or ‘narcos’, for them to do this to them. That’s why we feel so much anger and pain,” added the mother of nine, whose youngest was Luis Ángel.

The southern states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas have the largest indigenous populations and are among the poorest states. In Guerrero the native population officially numbers around 600,000 people from the Amuzgo, Mixteco, Nahuatl and Me’phaa communities.

“There has always been discrimination, in education, for example,” Melitón Ortega, the father of another missing student, 17-year-old Mauricio, told IPS. “And there is no justice. Our rights have been violated,” said Ortega, who insisted that his son be referred to in the present tense.

The father of six, who grows corn and coffee, said racism in Mexico is reflected in the high unemployment rate in indigenous communities and the lack of affordable, decent housing and adequate public services.

The government’s National Programme for Equality and Non-Discrimination 2014-2018 (PRONAIND) reports that 76 percent of the country’s indigenous population lives in poverty, and has “historically suffered from discrimination.”

In Mexico, indigenous people, the small black minority, and the rural population are poorer and less educated, and have lower incomes, less social protection and limited access to justice and participation in politics, according to PRONAIND.

“There are clear signs of discrimination,” activist Maurilio Santiago, head of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Advice for Indigenous Peoples (CEDHAPI), based in the state of Oaxaca, told IPS. “Indigenous people are seen as third-class citizens. There is no equality in education and access to justice.”

Discrimination and poverty among the country’s native peoples persist even though the state budget assigned to that segment of the population has risen steadily since 2002, to over 4.7 billion dollars this year.

The parents of the missing students are reluctant to talk about racism, although they admit that they have experienced it.

“I’ve felt it, of course I have,” Celso García said shortly, holding up a sign reading: “Abel: we still hope you are alive. And we won’t rest until we find you. Come back soon. We miss you.”

“If they give us back our sons, we will be appeased. But we will fight until we find them,” said Carrillo after the attorney general made his statement.

Ortega wants the communities themselves to manage the budget funds. “There is rhetoric, but it doesn’t translate into facts. There are budget funds, but the problem is corruption and influence peddling. That stands in the way of works and projects being carried out,” he said.

But PRONAIND predicts a reduction in indigenous peoples’ lack of access to health services, from 24 percent in 2012 to five percent in 2018.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes


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2,600 B.C. - 250 A.D. 
Maya Civilization

The Maya peoples never disappeared, neither at the time of the Classic period decline nor with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and the subsequent Spanish colonization of the Americas. Today, the Maya and their descendants form sizable populations throughout the Maya area and maintain a distinctive set.

Social Structure 
(from the Oracle Thinkquest Library; website discontinued July 1, 2013)

The lowest level of Mayan society were slaves. The slaves were made up of orphans, criminals, prisoners of war and other enemies, and the children of slaves. Slaves were not necessarily mistreated, but they had no privileges, provided almost all manual labor in Mayan society, and were the most common victims of human sacrifice.

The next level was made up of the peasants. They also became human sacrifices occasionally, and were not allowed to own any quetzal ( ket-zal) feathers, jade, or anything else that showed status. The peasants worked extremely hard and gave the governing priests large tributes and taxes.

The next level was the nobility. Nobles were chosen for all the positions of importance, such as craftsman, merchant, civil servant, military officer, etc. Also, the nobility was not required to pay taxes or tributes.

Warriors were a special group of nobles that fought in battles. The warriors would fight the enemy warriors all day, and a temporary treaty was called at nightfall that lasted until morning. Warriors fought with such weapons as flint knives, spears, clubs, and hornet nests, which were thrown into enemy ranks. If the leader of one army was wounded or killed, the battle ended and the army without a leader would retreat.

The highest level in Mayan society was made up of priests. Priests were supported entirely by peasants, who paid them large tributes and provided them with free manual labor. Priests controlled government, religion, warfare, and trade. 

While priests and nobles tended to live in the large Mayan cities and peasants lived in the surrounding country and villages, ruler-priests did live in the villages, and lived a luxurious lifestyle with several servants and assistants and kept themselves distanced from their subjects.

While it may not have been impossible to move up the ranks, it was incredibly difficult and status was usually hereditary.

Classic Maya rule was centered in a royal culture that was displayed in all areas of Classic Maya art. The king was the supreme ruler, and held a semi-divine status that made him the mediator between the mortal realm and that of the gods. From very early times, kings were specifically identified with the young maize god, whose gift of maize was the basis of Mesoamerican civilization. 

Maya royal succession was patrilineal, and royal power only passed to queens when doing otherwise would result in the extinction of the dynasty. Typically, power would be passed to the eldest son. 


Although being of the royal bloodline was of utmost importance, the heir also had to be a successful war leader, as demonstrated by the taking of captives. 


Maya political administration, based around the royal court, was not bureaucratic in nature. Government was hierarchical, and official posts were sponsored by higher-ranking members of the aristocracy; officials tended to be promoted to higher levels of office during the course of their lives. Officials are referred to as being "owned" by their sponsor, and this relationship continued even after the death of the sponsor. 

The Maya royal court was a vibrant and dynamic political institution.  There was not a fixed universal structure for the Maya royal court, instead each polity formed a royal court that was suited to its own individual context.

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c.  A.D. 1345 - 1521
Aztec Civilization

(Wikipedia; source references omitted)

Aztec society traditionally was divided into social classes. The Aztec social classes grew incredibly sophisticated and complex once the Mexican people settled and began to build their empire. It's been said that the class structure was so elaborate that it impressed the Spanish almost as much as the architecture of the empire.

The Mexican people, who later became the nucleus of the Aztec empire, were for a time a nomadic tribe looking for a home. As they moved south, they came into contact with advanced peoples. Many cultures of the day looked back to the impressive culture of the Toltecs, and the Aztecs came to admire the Toltec heritage. In fact, eventually the word for artistic creations would be toltecat, for the Toltecs, and the Aztecs themselves would claim to be descended from the great Toltec nobles.

The Mexicans were anxious to claim a Toltec heritage, so they chose a nobleman of Toltec origin as their first king, a man named Acamapichtli. He fathered a great many children by 20 wives, and his descendants became the heart of a new social class in the empire - the nobles or pipiltin (singular pilli). From then on, a king would always be chosen from among the pipiltin.

The nobles had many other privileges. They generally received a fuller education, they were allowed to wear fancier clothes and decorate their houses. They were allowed to hold important government offices. But not all had positions of authority - some were craftsmen, or even palace servants. Those who served with distinction could move up the ranks.

Basically, the ruling positions were not hereditary, but preference was given to those in the "royal families" The highest class were the pīpiltin or nobility. Originally this status was not hereditary, although the sons of pillis had access to better resources and education, so it was easier for them to become pillis. Later the class system took on hereditary aspects.

The second class were the mācehualtin (people), originally peasants. Eduardo Noguera estimates that in later stages only 20% of the population was dedicated to agriculture and food production. The other 80% of society were warriors, artisans and traders.

Slaves or tlacotin also constituted an important class. Aztecs could become slaves because of debts, as a criminal punishment or as war captives. A slave could have possessions and even own other slaves. 

Slavery in Aztec society was in some ways more humane than in Western cultures. While some slaves were punished criminals or prisoners of war, others sold themselves or their children into slavery due to economic hardship. Slaves could free themselves by repaying their purchase price. They could marry and own property, and their children were born free.

Traveling merchants called pochtecah were a small, but important class as they not only facilitated commerce, but also communicated vital information across the empire and beyond its borders. They were often employed as spies.

From 2012 version of Wikipedia's article on Aztec society:

Socially the society depended on a rather strict division between nobles and free commoners, both of which were themselves divided into elaborate hierarchies of social status, responsibilities, and power. 


The most basic social division in Aztec society was that between nobles (Nahuatl pīpiltin) and commoners (Nahuatl mācehualtin). Nobles held a large number of privileges not shared by the commoners most importantly the right to receive tribute from commoners on their land. 

Commoners on the other hand were free to own and cultivate land and to manage their own possessions, while still completing the services required by their lords and their calpolli, such as tribute payment and military service. 

Mobility between the two social layers was difficult, but in practice both the commoner and noble groups were structured into finer hierarchies and a high degree of social mobility was possible within a given layer. For example the pochtecah long distance traders were considered commoners, but at the same time held a number of privileges comparable to those of the lesser nobility.

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Persistence of Maya culture

The Spanish conquest stripped away most of the defining features of Maya civilization. However, many Maya villages remained remote from Spanish colonial authority, and for the most part continued to manage their own affairs. Maya communities and the nuclear family maintained their traditional day-to-day life. 

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México Profundo (The deep Mexico)

From Amazon's introduction to Guillermo Bonfil Batalla's masterwork, México Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization  (published January 1, 1996), translated into English by Philip A. Dennis:
This translation of a major work in Mexican anthropology argues that Mesoamerican civilization is an ongoing and undeniable force in contemporary Mexican life. For Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, the remaining Indian communities, the "de-Indianized" rural mestizo communities, and vast sectors of the poor urban population constitute the México profundo. Their lives and ways of understanding the world continue to be rooted in Mesoamerican civilization. 
From there the introduction lapses into sentimentality about the civilization:
An ancient agricultural complex provides their food supply, and work is understood as a way of maintaining a harmonious relationship with the natural world. Health is related to human conduct, and community service is often part of each individual's life obligation. Time is circular, and humans fulfill their own cycle in relation to other cycles of the universe
Oh please.  Plow through the entire Wikipedia articles you'll see those societies ran on maize and war.  The nobility got up in the morning and asked 'Who can we try to conquer today?'  

War was a way of life.  It had to be. There was a constant need for more arable land, a constant need for slaves to work the land. The peasants didn't do much of the plantation labor; they supervised the slaves. And because a slave could move up in the world, this meant no rest for the warrior class.  They had to steal as many people from another tribe as possible just to keep the maize production up.     

I haven't read México Profundo but I think the gauzy Amazon introduction obscures Bonfil's main point, which while not perfectly translated by Google for the Spanish-language Wikipedia article about him comes through:
The presence of indigenous cultures is, in some aspects, so daily and omnipresent, that rarely notices its deep meaning and in the long historical process which made possible its presence in social sectors that today assume a non-Indian identity.
In the depths of his being Mexican (and Latin Americans) are indigenous; mestizo society must recognize itself as indigenous, philosophically, ontologically and essentially spiritual. The current crisis of the system is indicated. According to Bonfil, the role of indigenous peoples in the (and Latin American) Mexican scenario is final, and will be an important part in shaping a new society.
I'm not sure about the spiritual part; from the Wikipedia history it got to the point where there were so many kings that the idea of the 'divine' king became diluted. But yes, it's not racism that's hidden in plain view in today's Mexico. It's the fact that certain attitudes reflected in thousands of years of civilizations never entirely went away. The Spaniards and Catholic Church didn't stamp out those attitudes in the Mesoamerican heartland, any more than the Muslim conquests stamped out worship of the gods in Indian villages.

And I suspect that as with the Muslim conquerors and later the British meeting up with the caste system in India, the Spaniards found the elaborate class system they met with in Mesoamerican societies to be very useful in helping them maintain influence.  

Yet the influence must have been a two-way street, as it was in India. The Mogul culture reflected the influence of the Indian societies it ruled over -- and the British government nearly went broke after it began putting on the airs of a maharaja.

So I'd venture that if the Mexicans are making a sharp distinction between their Spanish and indigenous histories, they're not taking into account that after the conquerers ere in Mexico a couple generations they weren't really Spanish anymore in how they thought. 

In short, as Bonfil suggests, mestizo culture is rooted in the mind, not DNA. With or without intermarriage between Europeans and Americans, the sheer power of a very long-lived civilization is the biggest factor in making the Mexican culture.  Where the Mexicans of today may have gone wrong was in putting that civilization on a pedestal.

The Mayans and Aztecs weren't some magical race felled by the weapons and smallpox of white devils. They were a bunch of people, for crying out loud.  The Mayans, at least, made brilliant discoveries, which qualifies their societies as a 'great' civilization.  But societies don't stand on brilliant discoveries. They stand on human nature, and human nature is less concerned with the cosmic order than with the pecking order.

I suspect it is the pecking order developed by the Mayan Civilization, and carried forward by the civilizations that evolved from it, which holds clues to what is really wrong with Mexico today.

As to the racism discussed in the reports I featured -- it sounds suspiciously like Toltecness. I realize this is venturing too near huge controversies surrounding the Toltecs. But whether or not the Toltecs existed as a distinct people, the snobbery connected with them is very real:
Furthermore, among the Nahuan peoples the word "Tolteca" was synonymous with artist, artisan or wise man, and "toltecayotl." "Toltecness" meant art, culture and civilization, and urbanism and was seen as the opposite of "Chichimecayotl" ("Chichimecness"), which symbolized the savage, nomadic state of peoples who had not yet become urbanized.
This interpretation argues that any large urban center in Mesoamerica could be referred to as "Tollan" and its inhabitants as Toltecs – and that it was common practice among ruling lineages in Postclassic Mesoamerica to strengthen claims to power by claiming Toltec ancestry.
Odd to think how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here we are today, with a great political divide in the United States fueled in no small part by big-city residents on the two coasts looking down their noses at everyone else in between. 

So are the Mexicans who protest there's no racism in their country not far from wrong?  Is it really a dislike for the un-citified?  I wouldn't be surprised to learn it's something like that. But certainly the biggest suprise for me about the history of the Mexicans is that at root it's a story of urbanization.

I'm not entirely sure how I got from a discussion of racism in Mexican to one about urbanization. But now that I'm here, I'm reminded of a passage from Thomas F. Bertonneau's 2014 book review at Brussels Journal: Babylon the Great is Fallen ...
Copley’s newest book, Un-Civilization: Urban Geopolitics in a Time of Chaos (2013), concerns itself with fundamental and perhaps terminal changes occurring globally, not only in the industrialized nations, which portend, in his diagnosis, the enormity summed up in the over-title. At the heart of Copley’s vision of the near-future lies the counter-intuitive event that he forecasts for the mid-Twenty-First Century – not the Malthusian catastrophe of runaway population and insufficient resource that various Cassandras from Paul R. Ehrlich to Albert A. Gore have profitably vouchsafed to connoisseurs of doom since the 1960s, but rather its opposite, a sudden steep population-decline linked to the desertion of the countryside and the morbid engrossment of the already hyperbolically distended megalopolitan centers.
Come to think of it, all that's not so far from a striking observation in the Wikipedia article about the Mayan Civilization:
Unlike the Aztec and Inca Empires, there was no single Maya political center that, once overthrown, would hasten the end of collective resistance from the indigenous peoples. Instead, the conquistador forces needed to subdue the numerous independent Maya polities almost one by one, many of which kept up a fierce resistance. 
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