Interpreters of the Sacred: The Tlaziuhqueh Diviners (and Their Interpreters)

Friday, January 6, 2012: 3:30 PM
Huron Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Leon Garcia Garagarza, University of California, Los Angeles
This paper examines the role of the tlaziuhqueh as interpreters of the sacred across ethnic lines, particularly the semantic and performative mechanisms that the Otomi ritual specialists -the badi- have employed when called to direct ritual life within Nahua communities. Ritual exchanges between Otomi and Nahua diviners are well represented in the colonial canon, and more so in modern ethnographic literature. The author argues that divination lies at the core of all communication with the sacred in Mesoamerica, and that, as such, it can be characterized as the art of interpreting the language of the sacred. As intrinsic interpreters, the badi/tlaziuhqueh have skillfully blended the performative syntax of ritual with the use of the dominant lingua franca in discrete historical periods: Nahuatl in the post-Classic era, and Spanish in the late Colonial and modern eras. The dialogical strategies enacted by the “foreign” tlaziuhqueh and the communities in which they serve shed considerable light on the adaptive nature of the Mesoamerican Cosmovision across time.  Moreover, the art of the tlaziuhqueh has been in turn interpreted and mis-interpreted by the representatives of the Western episteme: friars and inquisitors; anthropologists and historians. The present essay problematizes the scholarly perception of the tlaziuhqueh, and reflects on the personal relationship of the author and Juan Cabrera, a renowned badi/tlaziuhqueh who works in the area of Chicontepec, Veracruz.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation