[versión en español]
Martín Narciso Méndez Huaxcuatitla was born about 1906 to an indigenous (Mösiehuali) couple in Tetelcingo, Morelos. Tetelcingo is only a few miles from Cuautla, which was an early focus of the series of conflicts known as the Mexican Revolution. Martín's father, along with many other Mösiehuali men, was conscripted and carried off to fight, and Tetelcingo itself was abandonded and burned. Martín never saw his father again. He survived a severe bout with typhoid fever, but his mother died of it. From then through the end of the Revolution Martín (by now in his teens) fought and lived an adventuresome, rough-and-tumble life in various armies on different sides of the conflict, all over the Republic of Mexico. He narrowly escaped with his life on numerous occasions. In the process he developed a very strong character and gathered a wealth of experiences that would enrich and color his outlook during the rest of his life.
After the war Ru Marti (Mr. Martín, as he was known in Mösiehuali) made his way back to Tetelcingo, and there became a leader among the poorest of the people. He was known for his fearlessness and willingness to champion the underdog, as well as for eloquence and an almost reckless generosity.
In 1934 Ru Marti had been elected “ayudante municipal” (the highest town office in Tetelcingo), when William Cameron Townsend, leader of the fledgling Summer Institute of Linguistics, first came to Tetelcingo. Ru Marti gave Townsend permission to live in the village, and a strong friendship formed between the two of them. General Lázaro Cárdenas, the President of Mexico, heard of Townsend and came to Tetelcingo to see what he was doing. Ru Marti tells that story in his Āmatlapohualistli de Don Lázaro Cárdenas.
Townsend encouraged Ru Marti, who had taught himself to read during his hardscrabble days in the Revolution, in reading and writing Mösiehuali. He also inspired in him a love of the Bible and a Christian commitment that characterized the rest of Ru Marti’s life, and is reflected in his beautiful hymn, ¿Tli tiniechmojtilili?
That commitment was put to a strong test several years later when Ru Marti barely survived an assassination attempt. He was shot through the neck and upper chest and could not hold up his head for months. But when he finally caught at gunpoint the man who had tried to have him killed, in the open and unarmed, he chose to be reconciled with him rather than to avenge himself on him.
Ru Marti worked at various times until the 1970’s for Townsend and other members of the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Tetelcingo, including Richard S. Pittman, who collected the texts published on this website. Although he was fully competent in Spanish, he loved to write and speak in his native language, and he was a noteworthy orator and a skillful raconteur, with an apparently inexhaustible fund of anecdotes for illustrative points in his addresses.
Ru Marti died in the early 1990’s in Cuautla, Morelos.
Photos that appear in this document:
Copyright © 2003 David Tuggy