Category Archives: native

Conference on International Mother Language Day

I will be giving a conference on Wednesday February 21st, 2018 on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day at the Consulate of Mexico in Laredo, Texas at 10:00 am.

My lecture will cover basic (but still interesting) aspects of the importance of natives languages. A language helps shape a person and a culture, and Mexican indigenous languages have do

ne so in modern times and around the world — with words like chocolate, avocado, tomato amongst others.


It will also focus on how native languages have formed a Mexican identity since millenia ago. Nahuatl being the most important generator of words for Mexican culture and Spanish language, including the word “Mexico” itself, yet there are other languages who have also given identity to the Mexican people.

Finally, the highlight of the conference will be the indigenous languages which were once spoken in Southern Texas and Northeastern Mexico — mostly those around the Laredo area and along this part of the Rio Grande river cultural area.


If you’re interested in native history, Mexican culture and its languages you may enjoy reading my novel, Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.



As the day ends, at the land of the Coahuilteca.

Mobile photo I shot while hiking near the Rio Grande river banks.

The land of the Coahuilteca.

Under this vegetation knapped pieces and paleolithic tools lie since ancient times, once used by the native Coahuilteca people who used to live along the Mexico – Texas border.

A vast land which rivers are the only features and places for survival — the few streams one can find, at least. Not a grassland entirely, but also not quite a desert. Life does appear to survive at the land of bushes, cactus, reeds, and tall grass (like in the image).



For hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago, this area was already a border area. Back then it was the limit where the Comecrudo (Carrizo) people (east of modern-day Laredo and Nuevo Laredo) and the Coahuilteca lived (west of the two cities).

A land where rivers are the only feature you’ll find, if you find one.

Our ancestors once lived along the Rio Grande. After all, this is a land where rivers are the only feature you’ll find — assuming you can find a stream or a proper river. And the mighty Rio Grande (or Rio Bravo, as the Mexicans call it) is the most important river in the part of the world, and one of the most important in the Americas.

Perhaps that’s why they called it Guanapetnan — which means Big River in Coahuiltecan indigenous language. It is quite understandable to recognize it as “the” big river if you ever travel accross all Texas towards it, or from Central Mexico to the north.

A border — back then and now.

There is evidence of antiquity in this area. I have been informed of many findings at the west side of the two Laredos (both sides of the border, that is). And I have identified a large site southest of Nuevo Laredo or South of Laredo, where the ancient ones once inhabited.

Chronicles from post-contact travelers and expeditions refer to this area as a border zone between the Coahuilteca and the Comecrudo nations. Nowadays, Laredo and Nuevo Laredo are still a border region, where the Guanapetnan or Rio Grande separate the United States (Texas) and Mexico (Tamaulipas).

Hiking where the Coahuilteca and the Comecrudo once hiked.

Although it is a rough terrain and the climate can be an issue in Summer or Winter, the experience can be as rich as hiking in a high mountain forest or a secluded beach — trust me, I’ve done it. To me, being as picky as I consider myself, the hiking trails of the border can be a handful. So you can’t be disappointed — unless you don’t like hiking or nature (or bugs, or the sun).

As with all thing in life, if done with caution hiking in the deep of South Texas or the Mexican side of border can be fun. One can see animal life, interesting plants, erosion formations along the creeks, and all kinds of pebbles.

Hiking in the actual Rio Grande river can be difficult if you’re a newbie, not because of its difficulty in terms of the terrain but because of the overwhelming vigilance of law enforcement. Hey, it’s a border, remember that. Don’t get me wrong… there are parks exactly at the Rio Grande — 2 parks, 1 resting stop and 1 golf course at Laredo, Texas, 4 parks and 1 zoo in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, and 1 park at Colombia, Nuevo León.

But hiking actual trails along the Rio Grande can be difficult, desolate, and expect to be stopped by authorities. I have been stopped by authorities on both sides of the border, and they just ask who you are and what are you’re intentions. Of course, if you’re up to no good, you’ll see it with them — in the US side you have the Border Patrol are omnipresent at those trails and parks, and in Mexico side you have the Mexican Army.

If you ask me, the most dangerous thing you’ll face when hiking in South Texas or Northern Mexico is the heat — hands down. And both Laredo and Nuevo Laredo are famous for their infamous hot weather. Winter is very cold, but nothing a good and sturdy clothing choice can help. But the sun of summer literally kills people every year. Again, if done with caution and at certain hours, you’ll be fine.

Butterflies – The Souls of Ancient Warriors

Photo I shot at Xochitla, Mexico.

For thousands of years native people in what is now Mexico, Central America and Southwestern United States had stories, epic accounts, and even religious beliefs regarding animals. One of such admired animals was the butterfly.

They revered nature almost to religious levels.

Who knew that people who admired fierce jaguars, stealthy snakes, and mighty eagles would have butterflies in high esteem — from all animals. And yet it is true. Once you know the ancient lore and culture of the indigenous people you can easily understand. For their reason in life wasn’t all about war — or inexistent human sacrifices. They revered nature almost to religious levels, or even more!

Such a society would respect the delicate.

The societies of Ancient Mexico were composed of poets, artists, performers, mathematicians, astronomers, dancers, and great teachers — but you won’t hear this in any Discovery Channel or National Geographic documentary (since they either lack historical knowledge or work on a biased agenda). Such a society would know and respect the delicate, the artistic, and the beautiful. We know that because their poetry and way of talking is full of empathy and care. They were no blunt warriors only — the vast diversity amongst the ancient native peoples of the Americas is not only impressive but still unknown.

Warriors carried a big butterfly symbol.

Motifs of butterflies adorned clothing capes, artisan’s clay figures, and even the glyphs written on deer hide or amatl paper by scribes. In Tula, Hidalgo (known back then as Tollan Xicocotitlan), the capital of the historical Toltecs, warriors carried a big butterfly symbol over their chests as part of their military attire. Also printing seals — a great tradition in Ancient Mexico not so much discussed — were also made with various butterfly shapes and sizes.

There are still traditions to honor the deceased.

But beyond the visible, butterflies were part of the ancient’s stories and beliefs. For instance one of the most famous one, which still survives to our times: butterflies being visiting souls. Although Day of the Dead traditions has been quite tainted and manipulated for centuries — I.E. Disney-Pixar’s Coco — there are still some original traditions who once honored or remembered the deceased. The butterfly story is one.

Now they come to bring joy to us, and for us to honor them.

It is said that if you see a butterfly pass by or visit you, it is in reality the soul of an ancient warrior visiting you. And it is probable that person died in battle to became a beautiful butterfly in the next life. We know from Tula the connection between warriors and butterflies, probably as if they knew that if they were to die in the fight a chance to become a peaceful and delicate butterfly awaited. So people respected and protected butterflies, because they may even have been a father or a sibling who perished under the spears and arrows at the chaos of the battlefield. Now they come to bring joy to us, and for us to honor them.


Ancient Maya writing basics

Photo I shot of my student Fatima.

One of my students learning how to write Ancient Maya glyphs.

First I taught them how to transliterate their name phonetically into Maya glyphs. This in order to grasp the concept of constructing Maya cartouches.

A Maya cartouche is composed by one or several glyphs.

Once they knew how to write their name in Mayan, we began building sentences in order to comprehend structure. One easy task was to begin writing using the TZOLKIN-HAAB’ DATE + NAME + “WAS BORN” sentence that was used a lot by the ancient indigenous Mayas. This formula was written like that in glyphs while read: In the year X of the month Y so and so was born.

If you’re interested in Ancient Mexico or native history you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

For classes in your city, please contact me.

Mexican girl learning ancient Maya writing. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.
Mexican girl learning ancient Maya writing. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

Xonaxi, Zapotec great mother.

Zapotec mother goddess Xonaxi. Oil on wood. 9 x 11.

Portrait I painted of the great Zapotec mother Goddess, Xonaxi. She created — alongside with her husband Cosana — the Earth, the Sun, and mankind.

These manifestations of reality, understood by Western minds as gods and goddesses, were actually the way Ancient Mexicans summed up nature’s phenomena. That is why there was no word for god or goddess in indigenous languages like Zapotec or Nahuatl, but only used for scholarly purposes.

She is considered protector of humans, for we are their sons. Not only Zapotec culture, but many other had and still have this concept of the mother goddess.

As an overseer of fertility, Xonaxi personifies human being’s life cycles. Xonaxi wears the Milky Way galaxy Zapotec glyph as her symbol (below her necklace). A macaw, another of her symbol, is in her headress.

If you like Ancient Mexican history and beliefs, you my enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

For custom portraits and art, please contact me.

Xonaxi painted portrait. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña. Xonaxi painted portrait. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

Girl dressed as Mixtec warrior ruler Ñuñuu

Photo, text, and dress design by Miguel Omaña.

Portrait my model Ximena dressed with the regal military attire of the great warrior ruler. Lady Ñuñuu Dzico Coo Yodzo, who stood up against the imperial aspirations of 8 Deer Jaguar Claw.

Although a ruler, she is considered in the literature as a warrior Queen, Lady Six Monkey.

At a young age, she visited the enigmatic Vehe Kihin cave to seek the favor from her revered ancestors to rule her people. She became ruler of what is now Jaltepec, Oaxaca almost 1,000 years ago.

A violent wedding.

On the way to her wedding, Lady Ñuñuu was ambushed and attacked by political enemies. Two towns in the road rose against her. She and her wedding carriers successfully repelled the attack, winning her military admiration, and thus being condecorated with the Quechquemitl of War.

The Lady wear War.

The quechquemitl is her distinctive garment with which she appears in ancient books and drawings. The quechquemitl is delineated by a chevron-like glyph which is read as “war”. Along with her dress these became her official attire, but also part of her name as written in millenia-long ancient books for posterity.

A jaguar seat — it’s all in the details.

Here, she is seated in her seat of power (equivalent for a throne), as depicted by each ancient codex with a jaguar hide. Such seats were used only by rulers. This was also applied by ancient scribes when writing history, putting rulers above a jaguar seat. These details help us now discern who were rulers of importance, and who were client or lesser rulers. After all, indigenous Ancient Mexico was all about protocol and sophistication — contrary to popular belief. While at that time (11th to 12th century) in England or France royals were very austere and plain (it was way before Spanish customs were introduced into King Henry VIII’s court) in the Oaxaca-Puebla realms of the Mixtec, Zapotecs, and Mixe lived in a sophisticated and courtly manner.

A woman who fought imperialism.

Lady Ñuñuu fought ruler Eight Deer Jaguar Claw’s imperialistic expansion. His men-at-arms sprawled across the Three Mixtec regions (locally known as Las Tres Mixtecas) — from now tourist beaches of Oaxaca to the mountain region and the valley area. No one could stop Eight Deer Jaguar Claw, especially after being anointed with the nose-piercing of power by the Toltecs, perhaps Quetzalcoatl himself. Little did they know what 8 Deer plan’s were. Lady Ñuñuu fought him personally, but was defeated. She along her husband and sons save for one were executed.

8 Deer became the first Yya Canu, meaning ruler of rulers, hence Emperor. Four Wind, Ñuñuu’s only surviving son avenged her mother many years later, executing 8 Deer and automatically becoming the second Yya Canu.

If you like ancient Mexican history or stories of intrigue you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

Girl dressed as Mixtec warrior ruler Ñuñuu Dzico Coo Yodzo. Copyright 2013 Miguel Omaña. Girl dressed as Mixtec warrior ruler Ñuñuu Dzico Coo Yodzo. Copyright 2013 Miguel Omaña.

What Lies Within Every Person — poem.

Poem and photo by Miguel Omaña.

What lies within every person
is no mere earthly flesh,
pints of red gushing secretion,
or sheer elations, nor
tangled ties of daily passion;
be it sincere goodness
or evil grandest in action.

Oh! But fire endless!
Thus lies within at ignition,
amongst us the keepers
of the warm flame of creation;
undying and restless,
it kindles to beacon realization.

If you’re interested in poetry, you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes, where I wrote many poems of love and hatred as part of the story. 

I shot the photograph in downtown Mexico City of calpulli indigenous dance group Tezomolline Naukuauhtli. Keeping the flame of our ancestors, people are once again organizing into calpullis (correct plural would be calpultin) just as in times of old.

Girl on fire. Copyright 2014 Miguel Omaña.
Girl on fire. Copyright 2014 Miguel Omaña.

A hill with stories of magic

Text and photos by Miguel Omaña.

In Southeast Mexico City’s huge valley there is a place cluttered with volcanoes, hills, forests, but also with strange stories since times of old.

Summit of the Sacromonte hill, with view of the snowy volcanoes and the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña. Summit of the Sacromonte hill, with view of the snowy volcanoes and the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.

The Sacromonte, a magnet to stories of magic.

Although many towns are sprinkled below the active Popocatepetl volcano, one stands as the to-go town, Amecameca. Not only roads intersect there, but it seems to be in the middle of the area, with hotels, restaurants, and farmers’ market. To the west of the small town of Amecameca there’s a hill. Now crowned with a church and a cemetery from Colonial times, it used to be a magnet for stories involving the magical — the Sacromonte.

Geographical names in Mexico give you a hint of what happened there.

Sacromonte means in Spanish Sacred Hill, and the name gives us clues of its importance. In Mexico, the names of geographical places carry a clue of the place. Many hills are named for whatever was there, for example the Peñon De Los Baños — The Boulder of the Baths — refers to the hill where the Mexica Aztec rulers used to have their spa and baths installations (nowadays Mexico City’s airport radar can be seen there). In this case, the purpose of this hill was its sacredeness. In ancient times the hill was called Chalchiuhmomoztli.

View of the Sacromonte hill, and what lies below, still surrounded by crops. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña. View of the Sacromonte hill, and what lies below, still surrounded by crops. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.

A mysterious temple that guarded magical waters.

In the Sacromonte Chalchiumomoztli Hill  a temple standing probably where the European church now stands. The mysterious temple guarded magical waters that gave powers to the Olmeca Xicallanca people, original inhabitants of the area, before they were pushed to the other side of the volcanoes. Those powers involved transforming themselves into animals or rain.

Iztaccihuatl Volcano as seen from the Sacromonte hill. Below the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña. Iztaccihuatl Volcano as seen from the Sacromonte hill. Below the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.

A magical arrow that burned magical waters.

There is another story where Atonaltzin, a Totolimpaneca warrior and chieftain shot an arrow to the spring of this magical water and the water burned and only to disappear. This seems to have been the end of those magical waters that, if stories are accurate, once flowed from this hill.

Shapeshifters in Mexico are known as Nahuales.

In other places stories exist of people transforming into animals, wind, rain, and other weather elements. Some of these stories are recounted as being literal, while other stories may be metaphorical. Nowadays, in modern Mexico, these shapeshifters are called Nahual (plural Nahuales). While some contend this are metaphorical stories that invite us to an inner understand of ourselves, others claim they have seen or hear Nahuales still to our days.

If you like stories from Ancient Mexico, you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

Greetings from Texcoco, Mexico

Text and photo by Miguel Omaña.

Once the capital of Tlatoani (ruler) Netzahualcoyotl, a member of the Triple Alliance (popularly known as the Aztec Empire), and home of master artisans.

I will be visiting the most important ancient Mexican cities during the time of the Chichimec Domain (way before the Mexica Aztecs, and immediate predecesor to the Tepanec rule). These places appear in my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes. You can locate them in the map I did on amatl paper.

Texcoco was one of the three capitals of the Triple Alliance, popularly known as Aztec Empire.

This is Texcoco, previously known as Tetzcoco – or perhaps Tetzcuco, since their people were known to accentuate the “u” instead of the “o” in Nahuatl language. One of the three major capitals (or heads) that governed the Triple Alliance (popularly known as Aztec Empire in Academia and the media) along Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan.

Visiting Texcoco, Mexico, one of the places that appear in my novel. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña. Visiting Texcoco, Mexico, one of the places that appear in my novel. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

Don’t be fooled by the green, there’s a Burger King nearby.

Don’t be fooled by the green and the ruined promontory that perhaps was a temple in other times this is Texcoco’s downtown. The site is called Los Melones and is surrounded by schools, a Burger King and other Mexican restaurants and retail stores. Since Texcoco was an important city after the arrival of the Hispanics, everything that was once Texcoco was destroyed except this rather small (very small) area. Or perhaps much remains underneath just like in Mexico City’s downtown, were every month city workers keep uncovering the ancient Mexica capital underneath modern-day streets, churches, and buildings.

As a Chichimec capital Texcoco rose with prestige.

After Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin moved the Chichimec capital from Tenayuca to Texcoco, the city gained prominence in the Eastern Lands of the Valley of Mexico. At one time, Texcoco was the capital of all the Chichimec Domain, but later diminished to become capital of a country loosely named Acolhuacan. As an Acolhua capital, its territory went from Southern Hidalgo state to the northern towns of Morelos state.

There were universities, libraries, and courts in ancient Texcoco.

After the Tepanec Wars, Netzahualcoyotl of Texcoco not only gained independence for his nation from Azcapotzalco, but also to the Mexica. Being his home, Tlatoani (ruler) Netzahualcoyotl established universities, libraries, schools, and courts – but he never forgot his cousins the Mexica. He also did a great deal for Tenochtitlan especially concerning engineering works.

The Hispanics fought a naval battle against the natives.

After the Toxcatl massacre in Tenochtitlan, the Hispanics went to war against the Mexica, and they used Texcoco as their base. The city was close to the lake, so they used it to their advantage and built small ships called bergantines. With their small fleet, the Europeans in coalition with Cholulteca, Huexotzinca, Tlaxcalteca, and Otomí engaged the Mexica fleet and sieged the city with cannons.

Texcoco’s role became diminished, and was even witness to one of the worst police abuse in Western history.

After the fall, Texcoco was still an important city, so much that at some point it was the capital of the State of Mexico (a state that surrounds Mexico City). But the mexiquense capital was changed, and Texcoco importance was suddenly halted. The destruction of Lake Texcoco did not help either. Without its lake and prestige, Texcoco suddenly found itself in the middle of nowhere. At the beginning of the 21st century Texcoco and its vicinity suffered police abuse, riots broke, and then governor Peña Nieto’s state police raped, abused, and dissappeared people in the area, especially in Atenco, a few miles to the northwest. Today, the Mexiquense highway (sort of a loop of gargantuan proportions that surrounds Mexico City) has brought new life to the area, although the local people is wary since it has already attracted the gigantic new Mexico City airport to be built nearby.

You can buy my novel at your online book retailer or