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Pupils Get a Living Lesson in the History of Mexico

May 05, 1999

HOLLYWOOD HILLS — Schoolchildren from across Los Angeles got a living lesson Tuesday in the final days of Mexico's Aztec empire.

Montezuma, portrayed by Fabian Gregory Cordova of Canoga Park, wore a beaded breastplate, loincloth and an elaborate feathered headdress. Cordova has performed educational presentations as Montezuma for 10 years.

The lesson at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park was held on the eve of Cinco de Mayo as a way to give the racially diverse crowd of 1,000 students some insight into the country's rich past, Cordova said.

"So many people celebrate Cinco de Mayo without knowing the history of Mexico," he said. "It's important to have lessons like this for all cultures, so we can understand each other better."

Students gathered at the cemetery's Mexican plaza to commemorate Cinco de Mayo, which marks that 1862 victory of the Mexican army against French forces In his monologue, Cordova described Aztec life both before and after the Spanish conquest, led by explorer Hernan Cortes in the early 1500s. Montezuma died shortly after Cortes' takeover.

"I learned a lot of things I didn't know before about Mexican people," said 8-year-old Christopher Fausto, a third-grader at Hammel Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. "I also liked how he dressed. It was really cool."

After the performance, the children toured the Plaza of Mexican Heritage, with its reproductions of Maya, Aztec, Toltec and Olmec civilizations. They also watched a movie about pre-Columbian civilizations in the cemetery's Hall of Liberty.

"It's very good and a good way to bring history alive" said Amrita Yachana, a teacher at Arroyo Seco Alternative Magnet School in Highland Park.

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