In Lak Ech—
Tu eres mi otro yo—
You are my other self.
I am you and you are me.
If I hurt you, I hurt myself.
If I hate you, I hate myself.
If I love and respect you,
I love and respect myself.
This is how Maria Federico Brummer’s class begins at Tucson High School in Arizona. Students here, part of Tucson Unified School District’s highly successful Mexican American Studies (MAS) K-12 program, the largest in the nation, are taught this and other Indigenous concepts, including Panche Be (seek the root of the truth), and the Aztec and Maya calendars.
I am here to speak to the students about the relationship among In Lak Ech, Panche Be, and Hunab Ku. Hunab Ku is a beautiful Maya philosophy and human rights ethos based on maize. It affirms, contrary to what is taught in most schools, that the ancient peoples of this continent were not savage, that they clearly understood how the universe functions and what it means to be a human being.
Not coincidentally, MAS students, many of whom were doing poorly in school prior to entering this program, consistently outperform their peers academically. The program claims a high rate of college-bound graduates.
In a parallel universe, across Highway 10 at the state capitol in Phoenix, 518 years after Columbus initiated the theft of a continent, Arizona’s State Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne has declared, via the passage of HB 2281, that Indigenous peoples and Indigenous knowledge are (still) not part of Western civilization.