Monday, October 14, 2002

All Feathers and No Fury

Checking over various web-sites this morning I came across a story on CNN about the Columbus Day Parade held in Denver. The brief piece mentioned celebrations by the Sons of Italy in America and corresponding protests by native Americans. As is the case with these sorts of annual showdowns, the protestors accused the Europeans of decimating native peoples.

So far so good. The article goes on to explain some of the preparations for the protest, including this little gem:

At the morning parade, Aztec dancers in brilliant blue and gold feathered headdresses performed while sage was burned to purify and protect the marchers while summoning the spirits of their ancestors.

I wonder if anyone bothered to mention that the ancestors of the Aztecs were among the most brutal of tribes in all the Americas? Their dancers may burn sage today, but during the period of Aztec dominance in central Mexico, they spent countless hours sacrificing their neighbors – and they did so in the thousands. Indeed, so despised and hated were the Aztecs by the other tribes of the region, that when Cortes attacked Tenochtitlan the vast majority of his army consisted not of Spanish conquistadors but of warriors from the surrounding tribes.

With this in mind, I’m not sure it’s a particularly good idea to call on Aztec ancestors for protection. Of course, there probably isn’t a lot of danger involved in protesting a Columbus Day Parade, at least not as much as having your heart ripped out on a stone altar in the fourteenth century. Perhaps the only protection needed today is that of the local sheriff ensuring things don’t get out of hand.

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