The Way Aztec Subtly Impacts Your Life

I was watching one of my last class videos, when I discovered the root of the name for Ozomatli. OzomatliIt’s one of the Aztec day signs meaning ‘monkey’. Now, some of you may be familiar with the band and wonder what a multi ethnic, activist band that plays music ranging from salsa to funk is doing with a name that means ‘monkey’. Personally, I was wondering myself. Evidently the monkey was also the god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music, which makes sense for a band name. Especially one that’s so integrally a ‘dance band’ that thrives on getting audience participation and involvement. I’m not sure if one of the group members is a Nahuatl speaker (one of the languages Aztec is ‘written in’), but it may be a bow to someone’s origins as well.

I decided to see if any other day signs had slipped into more mainstream use in America. Here’s my findings:

1 – Coatl (snake) – Also a band name, in this case of the metal/gothic/rock variety

2 – Tochtli (rabbit) – A two-player board game that combines aspects of Connect Four and Chinese Checkers

3 – Ollin (‘movement’, or as is more commonly accepted now, ‘earthquake’) – A digital design studio

4 – Ocelotl – the word ‘ocelot’ comes from this. How much more mainstream can you get?

5 – Xochitl (flower) – A restaurant/lounge in Philadelphia. Also an arts studio

Who knew?


One of the almost daily alarms that makes me question my faith are the forwards that people send out regarding religion. Maybe if you aren’t Christian, your Christian friends and relatives don’t send these to you, but for me it’s just another thing I need to check off and quickly delete. Occasionally a subject line will catch my eye and I’ll actually read the email. Most often I just delete them though, either with guilt or annoyance. I mean, really, are animated GIFs and bright colors going to make me more spiritual or faithful? Not likely. But occasionally there’s a sweet story in there that I enjoy reading, and I do feel guilty for ignoring that potential.

Still, the idea of multiple email forwards that promote or enliven your faith life is somehow disturbing in and of itself. It seems showy, almost like propaganda. It reminds me of Brio magazine, which one of my aunts kept me subscribed to for my pre-teen and teen years. For those of you who don’t know, Brio is a publication of Focus on the Family and is geared towards teen girls. It’s basically like most other teen and pre-teen magazines, with articles on a variety of topics, the difference being that it has a Christian bent. While there are some political and ethical questions surrounding the organization, in particular the founder, James Dobson’s, use of Focus on the Family as a platform, Brio itself is pretty much what it claims to be: a Christian teen girl’s magazine.

That being said, there are times when the magazine slides from promoting Christian morals and supporting teen girls in what we must admit is a growingly complex and confusing world to conservative conformism. I can remember my own first recognition of the slide while reading one of the music reviews near the end of the magazine. It must have been in the very early nineties, when my musical taste was still developing and the only real Christian artists were Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. There was a review of a ‘mainstream’ artist who I had never heard of, but was evidently a Christian and had just put out a new albums that was mostly faith-based songs. The thing that struck me was the reviewer’s portrayal of this artist as one readers should boycott because her other albums were not all about God or Jesus or Christianity.

I walk a fine line in my faith life. I’m a fairly liberal Christian, I live in a liberal city, and most of my friends are either agnostic or atheist. There are times when these leanings threaten both my faith and sense of self, and I wish for a community that would tell me the rules I’m supposed to be following rather than making my own decisions. There are times when the questions I have about my own life – what I’m supposed to do for a career, what God is calling me to do, what the world really needs from me, or what one small person can do in the face of all our troubles – overwhelm me and leave me feeling lost and helpless. There are times when the honest questions of outsiders towards my faith feels like an attack on me personally. But most of the time I feel privileged to make my own choices, to be able to enjoy non-Christian music and the company of atheists without endangering my beliefs, to appreciate and tolerate the thoughts of others without necessarily agreeing with them or taking them as my own.

I looked at several reviews of Brio before writing this post, and I am grateful to the spectrum of voices which wrote those reviews. Not because I necessarily agree with any of them, but because most people took the time to give honest feedback. I’ll select a few examples for you:

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Pick, May 28, 2003
By Anastasia (New York, U>S>A) – See all my reviews

Brio is a great magazine for Christian girls. The magazine has friendly staff that take questions in the mail or on the computer. There is good advice that is helpful to all girls: clothes, make-up, guys, school and much, much more. Beauty tips and music reviews are given also. The fashion articles give the best ways to be stylish and modest. At the end of every issue there is a Bible study to follow along with for that month; to help you learn Scripture and be a better Christian. The magazine is awesome!

3.0 out of 5 stars Basic but true., March 20, 2005
By Julie S. (Wytheville, VA) – See all my reviews

I had a subscription to Brio for ages when I was younger. It is wholesome and encourages girls to make the right choices in life based on the Bible. After a while, though, I realized that I kept hearing the same topics again and again, and they weren’t ones I had trouble with – topics like not having sex before marriage and listening to music that sends a good message and obeying your parents and why the Bible says that witchcraft is wrong. These are all wonderful topics, of course, but growing up in a Christian community, I’d heard them all before.

Bottom line, Brio is a good magazine, an alternative to secular teen-oriented magazines, but I would not recommend it to Christian girls who are looking for in-depth Bible studies and many spiritually helpful articles that go past the “basics”. I recommend it to younger Christians who may not have been given much Bible-based advice in their life and are trying to find whether or not they are leading their lives in a way that will please God.

1.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected, January 10, 2007
By Tawnya Sesi (Deep South) – See all my reviews

I subscribed to this magazine (Brio) on behalf of my 13 year old step-daughter so that she would have an age-appropriate magazine that would foster a more Christian view of her world. The cover and first few pages were OK. Loved the “ad” about reconnecting with your mom because “You have more in common than your DNA.” Pictures and format were well done. The contents page looked inviting,too. Then to the nitty-gritty. The “Inbox,” which contains feedback from readers, got my attention first. In the middle of the page is a note from a 15 year old girl entitled, “God Talks to Me.” OK, well, he ‘speaks’ to all of us, but this was different. She states “God has told me that America is like the biblical Israel, and we’re going to be destroyed if we don’t turn from our sins. We’ve already been warned enough through 9/11 and Katrina.” Incredulously, there was absolutely no reply or note of any sort from the editors. That the staff would condone the idea that disasters befall people because they (or we) deserve them surprised me and is just not the message I want to impart to my child. But, instead of suggesting something that may actually be helpful to the writer, the editorial staff reinforced this view by their complicity. As I continued not so casually perusing the rest of the magazine, I found more off-kilter expressions of devotion in all of the articles that related to God and religion. The articles that were not religiously oriented were quite good (on hygiene, IQ, etc.), but were of the sort that one can find in any girl’s magazine. In the end, I cancelled my subscription. And, although I ordered this mag through, Brio’s “Specialty Department” told me that I could not get a refund because somehow I had subscribed through a “fundraiser,” and they (the publishers, Focus on the Family) did not have my money.
Well, in the end, LESSON LEARNED! There will not be any more Focus on the Family publications in this household.

1.0 out of 5 stars This is Christian???, November 30, 2005
By BosseSee all my reviews

A friend ordered me a subscription to Brio, and, frankly, it disgusted me. It talks about God in a hip, “funny” (yeah right) way that any Christian should think is slightly disrespectful and at least one article about guys is ALWAYS in the contents. I couldn’t believe this is considered a “Christian girl” magazine. When I get mine I throw it straight in the garbage, where it belongs.

When I see this, despite my disagreement with some comments, it gives me a little flush of hope for my faith. Yay, people actually making judgments for themselves! Yay, questions being raised about what a magazine tells you to believe! I think regardless of your faith, there’s a lesson to be learned here.

Sunlight makes things better

I have recently made a commitment to myself to try and observe more of the world around me on a daily basis. It’s true, that I live in an old city, so there’s built-up infrastructure and concrete everywhere, but even the ugliest part of city life can have redeeming qualities.

Today for me it was the snow remainder. I don’t mean the still-white patches that were glowing in the sun, or the gentle drip of the melting eaves of houses. I mean the gross stuff that’s been churned up from the streets liberally coated and mixed with motor oil. It’s the kind of big messy piles that you really hope you don’t even have to walk across for fear of contamination. When the sun hits them just right, the icy surface places refract like crystals, like strange geodes embedded in a duller, more sullen rock matrix.

It made me think about the sun in general – how long-ago peoples, my ancestors, worshiped its return in spring, dancing or singing or otherwise recalling it to life and vigor. It reminds me of the way grass looks greener in the afternoon. It reminds me if I want to paint color, I should do it in the afternoon, when the angle of the light reveals the world at it’s richest. I don’t know the principles of why this is true. Like the flintknappers of the past, I don’t know the physics of the thing, I just know that if you hit the rock here, it will carry the force through to there, splitting and cracking along a certain plane of force.

When I wake up in the morning now, it’s still to a vague dawn light. It makes me want to crawl back under the covers again. But by the time I’ve gotten ready and stepped outside to walk to the bus stop, the sun is up and smiling. It puts a little jig in my step.