We are the stones from here — Xico, the navel, and as a centre connected to more things than we know. It is an island surrounded by mountains and water.

We are the earth mixed with water and strengthened by fire, by Huehueteotl – the oldest of us. He is the fire of the house and is kept living in a vessel with a pierced cover that encourages the oxygen to flow and keeps the embers alive. The people here created us with their hands.

They made Tlaloc (He Who Makes Things Sprout), the deity of water: pool-water eyes, part roaring jaguar, part lightning serpent. It is the Graniceros who sustain the movement of water on and above the earth.

Huehueteotl from the collection

From the collection

Graniceros de la región de Chalco-Amecameca en el Estado de Mexico,

Manejan las fuerzas de la aqua: el rayo, las granizadas, las trombas, la sequía,

las huracanes, y el arco iris.

Y hacen petitiones de lluvia para cultivar los frijoles, el maiz, y las calabacitas.

Y hacen petitiones de lluvia para la vida.

Han estado ocultos per los ulitmos quinientos años.

Siguen siendo perseguidos por la Iglesia Catolica.

Ocultos - mantenido el ciclo sagrado de la relación del agua y la vida.

Aún ocultos - continúan como guardi-anes del ciclo de agua

Ocultos en los rincones de la montana donde brota el agua y donde se genera la vida.[1]

(an excerpt of Los Graniceros, an unpublished poem by Alves and Altamirano, 1 May, 2020)

Once the invasion came, the Graniceros were hunted down by the sayers who told only one truth existed — that of Europe. We know there are many truths: of rain, of streams, of lakes, of axolotl, of the volcano Iztaccíhuatl, of night, of day, of fire, of xoxouh-chalchihiutl (Mexican jade), of maize, of the ocelotl, of the ayotochin (armadillo), of the colotl(scorpion), of the cuija (gecko), of the guajolote (turkey), of tlacuachín (opossum), of the zopilote (vulture), of the tecolotito (a small owl), of the chachalaca, of the mapache (raccoon), cempaxúchitl (marigolds), garbacillo (blue myrtle cactus of the maguey, of the chimalxochitl (sunflower), of nopal, of the huizache (sweet acacia), of the guamúchil and of the ahuehuete (Montezuma cypress). The Graniceiros sought refuge inside of caves — made of rock . They continue to try to maintain a balance where there no longer is one. And Xico is no longer surrounded by water.

We see the Sky Beholder who comes above us at the hill of Xico. An astronomer, she looks up at burning worlds and stars to unweave their knowing so that the mysteries of time can be understood, so that Xipe, the deity of spring and new vegetation, is encouraged for the planting of seeds.

Quetzalcoatl, the magnificent feathered serpent now lives deep inside Chichinautzin (the volcano of Xico). He brings us air, wind and knowledge, writing and books, and art and he brought music to the earth and, because of that, people began to dance for the first time. He is the lord of the star of dawn and the Teotl of life as it is his blood that gave birth to people.

The asphalt conquerors are advancing rapidly all around and on top of us, they were even going to build a large complex on top of the doorway of Quetzalcoatl’s home. Many of us are buried under their buildings and roads. Sometimes during construction works we are found — if a person of the land finds us, we are returned to the community, otherwise we are destroyed.

When the earth is turned over to plant crops and dew still covers the earth, you can see so many small pieces of us that had been statues, vessels, and architectural models reflecting the sun. Please take us to our community.

The Valle de Xico Community Museum offers a place for artworks and objects found throughout the region and was founded in 1996 in Xico, in the state of Mexico. During its inauguration, two truckloads of soldiers came to threaten itslaunching. The museum is an initiative carried out by the local community to actively defend their indigenous culture. Without financial support from the government, but under threats and intimidation, the Community Museum has been able to save nearly 5,000 pre-invasion artefacts from oblivion or destruction as there is no other institution in the city interested in protecting this cultural heritage.

The Valle de Xico Community Museum inauguration in 2018

Closure of the museum with police guarding the door against visitors

Protest of the Community against the closure: Tenorio (the mayor who ordered the closure): the archaeological pieces are not yours, they belong to the People

The vast majority of the artefacts are donated to the museum by local residents, construction workers, garbage pickers, ranchers, or quarry workers, who find them in the surrounding area. It is the people of the community, who have until now resisted the elimination of the indigenous social and cultural heritage, without which we would only be pathetic lovers of Europe, as Jimmie Durham says.

Since its founding in 1996, there have been continuous acts of aggression and violence from the local government against the Community Museum, including an attempt to arrest its co-founder, Genaro Amaro Altamirano, in 2010.

Altamirano talks about one of his favorite pieces. A vessel that was created using a technique through which the wearing away of the colour of a pattern’s imprint becomes permanent on the surface — it is called the “fugitive white vessel”. The young construction worker who had brought it in and donated it to the museum was fired for revealing the location of the construction site and the objects.

Last year in 2019, the mayor, with no reason given, closed the Community Museum — an action that the museum, which has no link with the municipal government, considers illegal. For over a year, the community has had no access to their cultural artefacts. Teens and a group of young artists no longer have a place to meet and are vulnerable in this drug cartel area.

The museum has requested supportive actions in order to convince the municipal authorities to reopen their museum. I responded by making the campaign, Son del Pueblo. Contributors are invited to make a ceramic work inspired by one of the works from the museum’s collection. If you would like to contribute please send an image of the work (which does not need to be fired in a kiln), your name and place of residency to: studio@mariatherezaalves.org. The images will be posted on the Community Museum’s website, Alves’s website, as well as on Instagram.

Farah Piriye in London

Chiedza Pasipanodya in Toronto

Lara Castro Lema in Galicia, Spain
Joen Vedel in Copenhagen

Maria Thereza Alves, Berlin, September 2020

[1] Graniceros from the region of Chalco-Amecameca in the State of Mexico,

They manage the forces of water, of lightning, hailstorms, thunderstorms, drought,

Hurricanes and rainbows.

And they petition the rain to grow the beans, maize and squashes.

And they petition the rain for life.

They have remained hidden for the last five-hundred years.

They continue to be persecuted by the Catholic Church.

Hidden — they maintain the sacred cycle of the relationship between water and life.

Still hidden — they continue as guardians for the cycle of water.

Hidden in the rifts of mountains, where water springs and life begins.