Materializing and Excavating Indigeneity @ Pasadena City College 9/11/2015


2014 Mesoamerican Figurine Project of Rio Hondo College

Hello and welcome! In the summer of 2014, I launched the Mesoamerican Figurine Project of Rio Hondo College. I asked the students of Humanities 125: Introduction to Mexican Culture to excavate and materialize the human body and ideology through hand-bone morphology usage (see Garcia 2014), the sculpting of barro (clay), and the recovery of narrative through self-reflection and memory. Drawing from a series of Indigenous Mesoamerican epistemologies, particularly Gloria Anzaldúa’s (1987) Coatlicue State, I encouraged students to give birth to their own forms of Indigeneity as a means to contest state threats and neo-colonial violence. While meeting the mandated student learning outcomes, I strove to cultivate in all students a strong sense of agency and empowerment.

Figure 1. Kneeling woman

For six weeks, students learned through reading, writing, research, and instruction about the history and culture of Mexico, from Olmec to Aztec, and present times...  Unique to the class, students also had the opportunity to sculpt clay (Figure 1.) in an effort to materialize their own views of the human body. But why the human body, one might ask? Through my own classroom interactions with student youth and adult learners, I came to understand that empowerment could be manifested through ideas of the body (i.e., small scale body ritual, embodiment), and that students with a concrete sense of the self faired better in the classroom. And importantly, were active participants in their communities... as opposed to those without a strong sense of identity. The project, which is ongoing (Figure 2.), is my response, to a growing number of state threats and violence’s against the student body. It remains part of a larger worldwide re-tribalization effort, that strives to assist Indigenous peoples and youth live honorable and sustainable lives. The work is in line with the goals of Article 13, and Article 14 of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Figure 2. Students of the 2015 Mesoamerican Figurine Project

This website has multiple purposes... It serves to: (1) bring the stories of Rio Hondo students to the center of the learning experience; (2) validate the innate understandings and experiences of students as vital to the creation of new knowledge; (3) bring attention to the potential benefits of clay-work (see readings under clay-work in psychotherapy) as a non-invasive teaching, learning, and therapeutic tool in the classroom; (4) give one example of how a decolonizing pedagogy (see Acosta 2007; Gonzalez & Shields 2015; Luna et al., 2015; Tejeda & Espinoza 2013; Toscano Villanueva 2013) works in a community college where as of 2015, 83% of the population is of Indigenous Mesoamerican ancestry; (5) honor the Southern California Gabrielino/Tongva Indian land (see readings under the Indigenous Gabrielino/Tongva) on which Rio Hondo College resides (see Map 1.); and (6) alongside other focused efforts assist the Tongva/Gabrielino become federally recognized by the US government.

Map 1. Indian villages of Southern California with major battle sites
See main source Los Angeles Public Library