Analysis of 45 Nahua/Mexica/Aztec Children's Books: Decolonizing Children's Literature on Indigenous Communities
The purpose of this study was to investigate, given this legacy of 500 years of colonization and miseducation of Indigenous peoples, how can Nahua/Mexica/Aztec children’s books be decolonized and made appropriate to the twenty-first century? The study involved three methodologies: 1) quantitative research consisting of a survey; 2) qualitative research consisting of four focus groups with Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants who reviewed, analyzed, and discussed ten books, three books per group; and 3) using critical race theory and tribal critical race theory to analyze thirty-five Nahua/Mexica/Aztec K-8th grade children’s books published both in the United States and Mexico for stereotypical and racist, or constructive and positive content. 76 surveys were returned, focus groups were conducted in Queens, New York; Houston, Texas; Oakland, California; and Mexico City, Mexico; a total of eighteen participants, and eight out of the forty-five books studied are identified as decolonized Nahua children’s books.
The participants of this study included parents, college students, professors, teachers, activists, a home schooling parent, librarian, counselor, and a children’s book editor. The participants involved are knowledgeable or concerned about children’s literature, the Nahua/Mexica way of life, or the work of decolonization. Also, some of the participants are members of the Native American Church (NAC) and Danza Anahuak (Mexica dance). The major findings of this study involved: (1) the characteristics of colonized Nahua/Mexica/Aztec children’s books to consist of incorrect information, reinforced stereotypes, and racist characterizations such as the Nahuas being extinct or violent “savages,” having practiced human sacrifices, and the application of Western concepts such as “God,” “King,” and “Lord,” to describe the Nahua culture; and (2) the characteristics of decolonized Nahua children’s books to consist of books written in the Nahuatl language, with literal translations, and based on the oral tradition. Other findings were: prior to even thinking of decolonizing Nahua/Mexica/Aztec children’s books, one has to understand how 500 years of colonization has affected the Nahuas, critique Western teachings about the Nahua culture, value the importance of the oral tradition, incorporate the Nahua epistemology, and begin to re-write the incorrect, stereotypical, and racist misrepresentations of Western civilization about the Mexica culture.