Aztlán, haboob, huarache and other “funny” words

Aztlán, haboob, huarache and other “funny” words

One of the most interesting aspects of a modern language like English is that, like other “living” things, it grows, reacts and “learns” from its interactions. It is in such ways that words get borrowed and even high-jacked. American usage is wonderfully fertile for the evolution of the language, thanks in part to the proverbial “melting pot” of our plural cultures.

We’re no strangers to “immigrant” words, which sometimes have no equivalents in English, or have become entrenched in our speech despite their “foreign” sounds and origins… much like the lively mosaic of cultures that make up this country we know as the U.S. of A. In discussing and planning the promotion of our upcoming show, Searching for Aztlán, a few words popped up that we found equal parts intriguing and interesting. Today we bring you the origin and meaning of three of them: Aztlán, haboob and huarache.

Aztlán: this name covers a lot of metaphorical and physical ground, which merits a longer post (coming soon), but at its core it refers simultaneously to the mythical land of the Mexicas (better known as the Aztecs), the physical territory that comprised Mexico before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and to the geopolitical consciousness that galvanizes the Chicano movement. Literally, it means “Place of (the Whiteness of) Herons”.

Haboob: this word borrowed from Arabic means “blasting”, an apt description of the violent sand storms that blow through arid territories all over the world like the Sudan and central Australia. The Southwest US also sees its share of these storms, such as the one that hit Phoenix, AZ in 2011 with a dust cloud 5,000 feet tall.

Huarache: Flower-power fashionistas in the US first encountered this term for a flat, leather strapped sandal in the 60s, and it was embraced with all the gusto reserved for comfortable, ethnically-diverse clothing that made dashikis, love beads and buckskin the rage of the age. The word itself is a linguistic corruption of the word kwarachi which means “sandal” in the P’urépecha/Tarascan language from the region around modern-day Michoacan, Mexico.

Strap on your huaraches and let the haboob sweep you along to the mythical land of Aztlán! Join us on January 9th for the official opening of Searching for Aztlán or catch it during its national tour!