Entertainment

Viewers Are Calling Out Amazon For Whitewashing History With The New Series ‘Hernán’

This year marks 500 years since Hernán Cortes met Aztec emperor Moctezuma. The meeting marked the beginning of the violent and dark period known as Mexico’s Conquista. In honor of the, not so happy, anniversary Amazon Mexico and Latin America dropped a series based on the historic event. “Hernán,” follows the conquistador’s journey and retells everything that happened after docking his ship off the coast of Mexico, according to him, that is.

Mexico’s conquista was an important and violent chapter in history, one that transformed, not only one country, but the whole continent. The historic event is being revisited by the heavily publicized show “Hernán, La Serie.”

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For the first time ever, a TV show will be retelling the events that went down between Hernán Cortes and the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. Set in 1519, the series starring Óscar Jaenada, turns on the conquest of Mexico by Cortés and his troops and will be narrated by the Spanish conquistador as the protagonist of this momentous time in Mexico and Spain’s history. The sailor and explorer will be meeting important characters like Moctezuma, Alvarado, Olid and the infamous Malintzin or Malinche.

The Spanish actor Oscar Jaenada, stars as Cortes, as part of a mostly Spanish cast and crew.

Credit: ojaenada / Instagram

Jaenada leads a cast from Mexico and Spain including Víctor Clavijo (Captain Cristóbal de Olid), Michel Brown (Captain Alvarado), Dagoberto Gama (Moctezuma), Jorge Guerrero (Xiconténcatl), Almagro San Miguel (Captain Sandoval), Ishbel Bautista (Marina / Malinche) and Aura Garrido (Doña Juana).

Touted as the most expensive Hispanic series in history by Dopamine, “Hernán” was shot on location and on sets built in both Spain and Mexico, with special effects by El Ranchito, whose credits include “Game of Thrones.”

The filming of “Hernán,” in Xochimilco, left the Mexico City canals seriously damaged. 

Touted as the most expensive Hispanic series in history by Dopamine, “Hernán” was shot on location and on sets built in both Spain and Mexico, with special effects by El Ranchito, whose credits include “Game of Thrones.”

The series’ cast and crew took over an area of the famous canals of Mexico city to film a few key scenes. The environmental damage was so severe that the production was fined over 74 million Mexican pesos by Sedema (Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment).

People are not exactly happy with the representation of the great Aztec and indigenous characters. 

Credit: @eduardofake05 / Twitter

Some have found that the show doesn’t seem to do justice to historic records of what Moctezuma looked like. Chronicles describe the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, as an opulent and imposing leader who wore rich feathers, gold, and gemstones. The series, however, present the emperor in a much more modest fashion —and the actor even sports a belly. “I’m complaining about how Moctezuma was depicted, a short man with a beer belly. Go to hell,” wrote one unimpressed Twitter user.  

Another thing that left us dumbfounded, was the fact that in 2019, the series is based on the Spanish POV, not the indigenous experience. 

Credit: @feli_chuy01 / Twitter

One viewer tweeted directly at the Mexican network that produced the show “@AztecaSiete Why tell the story of Hernan Cortes and give a Spaniard such an important role instead of making a show around Moctezuma or the Aztec people?” —As we know the colonial takeovers of the Americas, led by Hernan Cortes, ended in the death of millions of indigenous people and the forced assimilation of survivors. And we still need to see his side of the story?

Twitter users were quick to express their opinions. 

Credit: @joshcotera / Twitter

Many viewers were not impressed by the angle. A quick Twitter search will show more hundreds of threads unpacking the series. “Is it just me or is this show based on the Spanish experience. According to everything I’ve read, the series has a huge Spanish influence,” wrote one Twitter user, “I’d like to see a second part titled ‘Moctezuma’, and see the experience of the defeated. But of course, let’s watch ‘Hernán’ first,” he added sarcastically. 

By retelling the Conquistador’s account of history the series supports the whitewashed narrative perpetuated in public discourse and in schools, where children are taught simplistic and incomplete information about the conquest.

Credit: @sincorteza / Twitter

Thinking back to my own childhood, I was taught that Malinalli, or Malinche, fell in love with Cortes, and she betrayed her people by giving him Tenochtitlan. The true story must have been much more complex than that romanticized version and, tbh, the story sounds suspiciously similar to that of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. The simplistic and incomplete narrative I and many other Mexican children have been taught obscures our understanding of history and demonizes an indigenous character by turning her into the bad guy, the traitor.

“Hernán” tells the story of the infamous man in 8 episodes through the perspective of Malinche, Moctezuma, Pedro Alvarado, Xicotencatl, Cristóbal de Olid, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, and Gonzalo de Sandoval, all important characters who were around him during the conquest of Mexico.

Credit: @sergiosarmiento / Twitter

“Hernán Cortes is a character that no one loves, not even the Spanish,” explained Jaenada in an interview. The Spanish actor who played the infamous Conquistador added that Hernán “was an explosive man, every place he set foot on, he burned to the ground and exploited.” The actor read countless books on the historical period to help build the complex character.

Jaenada first started reading up on Hernán Cortes close to a decade ago, when Javier Bardem first approached him about a series based on the conquistador, produced alongside Steven Spielberg.

Credit: @vibemagazine / Twitter

The story of Cortes and his exploits in Mexico have long fascinated Hollywood.

Last year, Amazon announced that it had greenlit a four-hour miniseries titled “Cortes” from Steven Spielberg and Amblin Television. To be toplined by Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, the series will be created for television and penned by Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”), based on a five-decade-old movie script by screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The proposed film titled “Montezuma” centered on the thorny relationship between Cortes and Aztec ruler Moctezuma II. HBO had also been developing a series about the conquistador.

As one Twitter user echoed the sentiment eloquently.

Credit: @clm / Twitter

We all know the story, and it’s our job to demand that it’s told with cultural and historical accuracy, not as a one-dimensional, romanticized story that is both harmful and simplistic.

READ: Descendants Of Both Hernán Cortés And Emperor Moctezuma Urge Mexicans To Move On From The Past 500 Years Later

An Ancient Mayan Book That Was Discovered By Archeologist Is Being Called The Oldest Book In The Americas

Culture

An Ancient Mayan Book That Was Discovered By Archeologist Is Being Called The Oldest Book In The Americas

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Something pretty exciting is happening in Mexico. Yes, the Popocatépetl is erupting again. All of that volcanic activity is ejecting new life into the old world of Aztec and Mayan civilization. As you may recall, archeologists recently discovered a thousand-year-old Mayan palace located 63 miles west Cancún in Yucatán, Mexico. Before that, the  National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) also found hundreds of archaeological artifacts nearby the Yucatán that, as experts put it, contain “invaluable information related to the formation and fall of the ancient City of Water Sorcerers, and who were the founders of this iconic site.” This year a new study confirmed that a gold bar found in 1981 in a Mexico City park was part of the Aztec treasure that was stolen by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors 500 years ago. It feels like our ancestors are trying to tell us something. 

After decades of research, experts concluded in 2016 that a book they found years ago, in fact, is a 900-year-old authentic astronomy guide from the Mayan period. The book is called the Grolier Codex, and archaeologists say this is the oldest book found in the Americas.

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One of the reasons the authenticity was always questioned is due to the backstory of how the book was found in the first place. According to ArsTechnica, the Grolier Codex was found by a Mexican collector named Josué Sáenz in 1966. Sáenz said that “a group of unknown men offered to sell the book to him, along with a few other items found “in a dry cave” near the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas.” 

What made this book even more fascinating, yet troubling, was that Sáenz said the men told him if he took the book, he wouldn’t be able to show it to anyone. Others then told Sáenz that the book was a fake, but did allow archaeologist Michael Coe to show the book in New York. He later would give the book to the Mexican government.

The 10-page book is said to be an insightful guide into astronomy and how the Mayans kept track of the sun and the planets. It was their early forms of calendar-keeping.

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ArsTechnica said the book was written during trying times — the late Mayan period. Brown University social scientist Stephen Houston described how each picture in the book offered critical information that Mayans needed for day-to-day duties. 

The images are of “workaday gods, deities who must be invoked for the simplest of life’s needs: sun, death, K’awiil—a lordly patron and personified lightning—even as they carry out the demands of the ‘star’ we call Venus. [The Dresden and Madrid Codices] both elucidate a wide range of Maya gods, but in Grolier, all is stripped down to fundamentals,” Houston said. 

What’s also fascinating about the timing of the book’s confirmation is that Michael Coe, the Yale anthropologist, who decoded the text, died last year at the age of 90.

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The New York Times wrote in his obit that Coe was instrumental at deciphering Mayan code and giving the Mayans credit for their work when many wrote off the images as just that. 

In “Breaking the Maya Code” (1992), he theorized that anthropologists had never given the Maya adequate credit for their linguistic advances because of what he called ‘quasi-racism,’ or an ‘unwillingness to grant the brown-skinned Maya a culture as complex as that of Europe, China or the Near East.'”

As we previously noted, a more recent discovery was made just this week. A gold bar that was found in a park in Mexico City in 1981 was finally determined to be an authentic Aztec treasure.

Credit: National Institute of Anthropology and History

It’s quite fascinating to see that just because artifacts are found, doesn’t necessarily mean they can be authenticated by archeologists with a snap of a finger. Their research takes years, sometimes decades. 

The National Institute of Anthropology and History said they used special equipment to research the gold bar including an X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) which is “a proven multi-elemental technique of high sensitivity, non-destructive, non-invasive and extremely fast.” 

With so many recent discoveries, we can only imagine what other types of treasures are still buried underneath the ancient lands of Mexico.

READ: Mexico’s Popocatépetl Volcano Erupted And Now People Think The World Is Coming To An End

For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

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For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

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This year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. To honor the many fearless and historical women who made strides for the rights of women and minorities, People magazine is looking back on them through a new series called #SeeHer Story. The new digital video series airs on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles and is headed up by Katie Couric Media. 

This week, the new series has put a spotlight on the life and times of civil rights activist Coretta Scott King in honor of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In the new video, the series highlights her work and contribution to the Civil Rights Movement and lifelong activist as a leader in her own right.

In the new series, King is hailed as a fearless leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

King, who had been born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama, has long been celebrated for her work as an author, activist and civil rights leader in the movement to advocate for African-American equality. Later in her life, years after her husband’s assassination, she broadened her fight for quality to include the advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and the opposition of apartheid. 

Throughout her life, King faced racism but her eyes were opened to it at a young age as girl growing up in the south in the town of Marion, Alabama. As People reports, King was subjected to the physical threat of racism when her family home was destroyed by arsonists.

Education became a defining aspect of Coretta’s life. 

Having been born into a family whose paternal great-matriarch had been a former slave, education proved to be an essential requirement in her family home in her early ears. During a speech at Antioch College, Coretta once quoted her mother as having said, “My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on.” She went onto study political activism at Antioch University and later music at  New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It was during her time as a student that Coretta met Martin Luther King, Jr., then a theology student. There, the two students bonded over their interest in Ghandi and his practice of nonviolent protests and the two later married in 1953. 

Soon after they wed, they moved to Montgomery and found themselves thrust into the Civil Rights Movement. 

By 1955, King and her husband had taken on leadership positions in the protests that came about after Rosa Parks protest. 

After giving up her dreams to become a classical singer so that she could support her husband, Coretta watched her husband become a full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954.

“We found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself,” Coretta said in the video created by People. During their fight for equality, King and her husband faced extreme acts of racism and violence. In 1955, just months after the birth of their child, Yolanda, the Kings were targeted when a gunshot went through the front door of their home. In 1956, the family’s  front porch was destroyed by a homemade bomb. At the time  Coretta had been home with her  daughter and a family friend. Two years later, in 1958 King’s husband, Martin, had been stabbed while he’d been signing copies of his book.

Still, the couple would not be deterred. The two stood side by side as her husband continued to lead peaceful protests and give  speeches. King herself led a series of her own demonstrations by conducting concerts.

Then, in 1968, Coretta’s husband was shot and killed. 

After her husband’s death,  King had been left a widow and the single mother of four children. In the years after her husband’s death, King gave speeches advocating for civil rights speaking about her husband’s ideals. Eventually King took up her husband’s torch and broadened her fight to include women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, economic issues, world peace and apartheid.

“The world is in dire need of a spiritual awakening which will make those eternal values of love, justice, mercy and peace meaningful in our time,” Coretta said of her work in the clip by People.

Later in her life, King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and continued to extend her activism and worked to fight for nuclear disarmament. 

During her life and after it, Coretta has been celebrated for her work in keeping her husband’s legacy alive. She fought for the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which thanks to King is observed today in all fifty states.