[00:00:00] I was lucky in that I was acquainted with two people. One was Manuel Gamio, and the other was Angel María Garibay. Gamio, who is considered to have initiated modern anthropology in Mexico , was my uncle. Ever since I was a child I would go with him to various places, above all to Teotihuacán where he had excavated the Temple of Quetzalcóatl . He spoke to us of the archaeological excavations and all that he had done, and so he influenced me greatly ever since I was a boy. Years later I was studying and, by chance, some translations of Angel María Garibay of Nahuatl poetry fell into my hands, and I read these translations. I wrote to my uncle, Gamio, in Mexico and told him that I wanted to meet Garibay. When I finished my master’s and returned home, he [Gamio] said to me, “I’m going to introduce you to Garibay,” and I went to see him. He asked me, “Do you know the Nahuatl language?” And I said, “No, no I don’t.” And he said, “It is extremely necessary! How are you going to study these things without knowing the Nahuatl language? I can help you, but if I see in a few days that you are not learning anything, then don’t come back and waste my time.” Well, I started to see him at the end of 1953 and continued to see him a couple of times a week until he died in 1967. That was how I was drawn to a specialization in the field of Nahuatl culture, above all to its thinking, its literature and language, and its philology.
[1:54:00] In the field of Mesoamerican cultures, I am very interested in their vision of the world—their thinking and their literature. I have tried to approach this by always going to primary texts. Really, within the field of Mesoamerica, I have been most interested in the Nahuatl culture and the central region [of Mexico], and, to a lesser extent (but still very much), in the Maya culture. In Nahuatl I have studied Nahuatl philosophy. In the beginning it was almost laughable to many people: “You mean to say that Indians have structural thinking?” Remember I am talking about more than forty years ago. Other works [of mine] were, for example, looking at the vision of the “other.” I began by focusing on the Mesoamerican perspective of the Conquest, which was the vision of the vanquished, the reverse of the conquest. We have many texts, codex images, that allow us to explore that perspective. That book was called Broken Spears. Also within Mesoamerica , I have examined Maya culture and I have [published] the book, Time and Reality in Maya Thought. For me, it is very important to establish these correlations, because if we find great similarities in two cultural areas or sub-areas in Mesoamerica , this reinforces the authenticity of what we consider to be their vision of the world. For example, on the first page of the Fejérváry-Mayer Codex, which I re-named The tonalamatl of the Pochtecas or the Merchant’s Book of Destiny, we find a vision of the world that is very similar to the one found on pages seventy-six and seventy-seven of the Tro-Cortesian Codex of Madrid. There we have a spatial vision with the cosmic directions and a central tree, with gods presiding in each of the quadrants. And I believe that this is a really good reason for us to become more deeply and more surely acquainted with that which we call Mesoamerican civilization.
[3:52:00] At present [in 1999] I am very interested in the relationship among the texts that were transcribed in the sixteenth century (thus passing through, what Garibay calls, “the alphabet’s luminous vision”), the pre-Hispanic reality, the codices (of which there are only a few we know), and, lastly, their relation to archaeological findings. I have wondered if the language was destined to disappear, as so many had wished, for its being “idolatrous,” or if the word was destined to be saved, as the wise indigenous survivors wished and as did Don Carlos Ometochtzin, the grandson of Nezahualcóyotl, son of Nezahualpilli, who helped preserve the codices. Why did humanistic friars finally become interested in the indigenous languages? For example, why did Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, the father of anthropological research methodology, come to admire the indigenous Bible? I have found many relationships. For example, we have a full account concerning the Festival of the New Fire. In the Codex Bourbonicus, we have a page that shows us the whole ceremony. We have texts in Nahuatl that appear to be detailed readings [of the festival] included in the Florentine Codex, which was compiled by Fray Bernardo de Sahagún. I could cite many others where we find a correlation between the pre-Hispanic codex and the text, which was translated into the alphabet.
[5:21:50] I am interested in Baja California , although I feel that this is due in part to [Mexican] nationalism. (But what can we do? We are merely mortals.) When I was a boy in elementary school, the teacher said that Baja California belonged to the United States . I said that it did not, that it belonged to Mexico . She took me out of the class for saying that because I appeared to be a rebellious, rude boy. When I arrived at home, I asked again and naturally they told me that it belonged to Mexico . When I was director of the Institute of Historical Research at the UNAM, I was invited to Baja California . Later, I founded a center with the University of Baja California in Tijuana called the Center for Historical Research UNAM-UABC. A group of researchers had already published a number of things. I personally have published some three or four works on Baja California , one which is called The Cartography and Chronicles of Old California. It is a beautiful book from a typographical standpoint. It is like a history, a saga of how the image of California was created in the cartography of the world, and it follows the journeys of all the explorers, which are extremely interesting and almost like reading a novel. Right now I am working on a small book in which I publish the first four letters written by the Jesuit Juan María de Salvatierra when he landed in Loreto exactly three centuries ago.