EL PASO – After 58 years of exposure to the sandblasting winds rolling off the Franklin mountains, cracks have appeared on the Aztec Calendar in downtown El Paso as if a hard-riding Juan de Oñate had used it for jousting practice.
But repairing the artifact that the Mexican consulate gave El Paso in 1953 as a symbol of friendship and respect is problem as complex as the ancient designs on the calendar itself.
The calendar must be removed from its location in order for the Mexican consulate to agree to repair it but moving it could result in further, perhaps irreparable, damage. The city fathers want to relocate it to an indoor facility but activists want none of that.
“We were all appalled so we did our research…and it is in fact, there’s contracts to remove it and give it to the Consulate,” activist Cemelli De Aztlán said. “If the calendar does break while they’re taking it down to give it to the consulate, that contract becomes null and void, and the calendar will be put in a basement in a box somewhere in a museum. It will never be seen again.”
Although some residents are confused as to what exactly the city is doing to protect the artifact, the city Department of Museums and Cultural Affairs reassured residents at a meeting Sept. 10, that El Paso has the money to refurbish the Aztec Calendar.
But the underlying problem is how to go about doing the repairs.
The city could remove the item from the Plaza and relocate it to an indoor city facility or simply replicate the calendar. But although residents want the city to repair it, they want it to remain outdoors in the Plaza, restored to its original condition. They say the city has not properly maintained the artifact.
If the calendar is removed successfully from its location then the city would send the calendar back to the consulate for repair, because according to the original agreement, the calendar is insured by the consulate.
De Aztlán, a Harvard University graduate with a master’s degree in indigenous religious studies supports the restoration of the calendar. She is also one of a few activists that make up Respect, Repair, Restore, an organization that is dedicated to preserving this piece of history.
De Aztlán said that an evaluation has determined that the Calendar would break if moved. If that happens, she said she fears that the calendar will be stored and never seen again.
El Paso’s Aztec Calendar is one of three replicas molded from the original Aztec Calendar found in Tenóchtitlan, México. The other two models are located in New York, and Moscow.
“The city has neglected it for far too long. It’s a neglect that I think reflects poorly on our city, “De Aztlán said. “The city should have gone to every means possible to make sure it was always taken care of, which it hasn’t been.”
“I think the community gave some real clear direction on what they would like to see,” said Sean McGlynn, director of the El Paso department of Museums and Cultural Affairs. “I think their representative is committed to seeing the stabilization effort and so we’re going to start to look at what it would take to begin that process of stabilization.”
“I really don’t know where we stand on the whole moving of the Aztec calendar,” activist Pablo Hernandez said. “If it’s going to stay or if they’re just going to cast over it and move it, I don’t know.”