Cristina Tacata, a Mexika dancer and drummer, and special education teacher of Los Angeles, CA was appalled by the new photo series for a Ollin Ixtli’s calendar to promote the workout company. Basically, Ollin Ixtli nicked a sacred Mexica dance and ceremony tradition and packaging it into a body workout by physical trainers in a similar nature as zumba or yoga. This business appropriated physical activity in ceremony by reducing the historical, spiritual and sacred element. Tacata posted this statement:
“I never agreed with Ollin Ixtli‘s practices but this photo has taken it way too far and this is now an issue of accountability. My initial critique of the image went unaddressed and was immediately removed: “my heart just sank into my stomach. Our ancestors were humiliated, tortured, and murdered for their use of the huehuetl, and their sacrifices since the start of colonization are what made it possible for the prayer of drumming to still be alive today. Is this a thank you gesture? Disgusting.”
Plumed headpieces, copaleros, and chachayotes (rattle seeds) accessorize the models. One image is a straight out offense as it depicts a woman laid on top of a huehuetl (ceremonial drum) on a beach. Why would a woman have any business lying on top of this sacred instrument on a sandy shore? Because it is sexy and sex sells to the ignorant and superficial consumer.
Tacata’s statement reflected what many in different Calpullis (Nahuatl community systems) and danza circles had on their mind. Tacata writes:
“In addition, aside from the general disrespect and desecration of our culture that these photos perpetuate, we as wombyn of color already have to contend with a bombardment of hyper-sexualized images in euro-centric mainstream media that justify rape and many other forms of violence against us. Promotion of the same types of representations by our “own” kind is completely, entirely, and utterly unacceptable.”
Because there is nothing contextual in the apparel they wear, it is treated like costume. Because it is a calendar of fit women in exaggerated dramatic and sexual poses, it perpetuates the notion of exoticism and hyper-sexualization of women in an indigenous culture, thus perpetuating colonial views on Aztec, African and mestiza women as being deserving of sexual and physical violations. What a way to ignore historical context of the countless acts of rapes and misogyny committed against our grandmothers, mothers, and sisters from 1492 to the present day! And because most of these women in the photos are glammed up with whitened version of native beauty (one photo even has a blond in native headdress) they are good enough to steal and sell Mexica culture but the inherent womyn of the culture are not pretty enough for the western standard.
These images become the popular representation of women of color and the producers are washed clean of responsibility or accountability to the communities that are constantly damaged by sensationalized and inaccurate reflections of themselves.