Victoria has created the first commercial in Nahuatl for Dia De Los Muertos, and it’s kind of a big deal. The scene opens in a Maze Runner-looking stone structure, a man covered in skeleton body paint rushes through a maze, turns into stone and zig zags through flying arrows. “Viaje a Mictlān” is a trip through the layers of the underworld on the way to the land of the dead. In Aztec mythology in order to get to Mictlān one has to pass through 9 layers: the earth (Tlalticpac), the passageway of water, the place where the hills are found, the obsidian hills, the place of the obsidian wind, the place where the banners fly, the place where people are killed by arrows, the place where people’s hearts are devoured, and the obsidian place of the dead. Souls had to make their way successfully though each layer in order to get to Mictlān—it’s a journey that would take 4 years.
Yo Nezahualcóyotl lo pregunto:
¿Acaso de veras se vive con raíz en la tierra?
Nada es para siempre en la tierra:
Sólo un poco aquí.
Aunque sea de jade se quiebra,
Aunque sea de oro se rompe,
Aunque sea plumaje de quetzal se desgarra.
No para siempre en la tierra:
Sólo un poco aquí. (Nezahualcóyotl)
In the background the poem “yo lo pregunto” by the great philosopher King Nezahualcóyotl is read. Nezahualcóyotl was many things in his time but he was best remembered as an architect, a warrior, and a poet. Another pretty cool aspect is the fact that the commercial features Mexican ballet dancer Isaac Hernández. The poem and imagery resonate on the fleeting nature of life and it’s material possessions. Unfortunately, empowering Mexicans is a bit contradictory to the overall ethos of companies like Victoria/Constellation Brand, which continue to leave communities in Mexico without water. And while it is exciting and beautiful to hear Nahuatl and see Aztec imagery in the mainstream, we should remember that an American owned company is using the beautiful Aztec history of Mexica to sell beer.
It’s already been pointed out in the Facebook comments that Aztec actors should have been cast as well as the fact that Mexico’s excitement about their pre-Columbian heritage does not extend to the 1.5 million Nahua which live mostly in Central Mexico. As is common all over the world, indigenous populations in Mexico still face massive discrimination and widespread silencing at the hands of the Mexican Government.
There are plenty of ways this commercial could have gone, BUT there are also plenty of ways that it can still go in the future. This doesn’t have to be the only Nahuatl commercial and it definitely doesn’t have to be the only mainstream recognition of mesoamerican languages, history, and imagery.
Let us know what you think in the comments!