i need help

i need help

AHS 113 Unit 2 Assignment


AHS 113: Sixteenth Century Mexico
Unit 2 Assignment
Due Feb. 9 at 5 pm (Canvas)

This assignment is a guided reading exercises that I call a ‘scholarly journal scavenger
hunt. ‘Use this worksheet as your guide as you read and answer questions about two
scholarly articles (listed below).1 This worksheet is designed to help you efficiently
distill information from academic journal articles. You can apply these skills to any
article or book chapter, such as the articles you will write about for the Unit 3 and


assignments. To complete this assignment, you will need to go through the worksheet
TWICE. First use it to answer questions based on the Mundy article. Then, repeat the
exercise to answer questions based on the Saracino article, separately.

Please write your answers on a separate document, and double-space your answers.
You are welcome to copy and paste the text from the assignment instructions if that’s
helpful for you. Do your best to follow the style guidelines on the syllabus.

Article A (mandatory)
Mundy, Barbara E. “Mapping the Aztec Capital: The 1524 Nuremberg Map of
Tenochtitlan, its Sources and Meanings.” Imago Mundi 50 (1998): 11-33.

Digitized Map: https://vistasgallery.ace.fordham.edu/items/show/1781#lg=1&slide=0

Article B (chose your adventure)
Saracino, Jennifer. “Indigenous Stylistic & Conceptual Innovation in the Uppsala Map
of Mexico City (c. 1540).” Artl@s Bulletin 7, no. 2 (2018): 11-25.

Digitized Map: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/503/view/1/1/

Not interested in reading about maps? You may swap out only Article B by Saracino for
another article in the Assignment 2 folder on Canvas. Be sure to indicate on your
assignment which article you pick! You may choose from:

– Brittenham, “Codex Mendoza”
– Mundy, “Ecology Landscape Pantitlan”
– Mundy, “Smellscape”
– Sifford, “Africans in Codices”

I. Get Oriented

What is a scholarly journal?
It is one of the main venues where your professors publish the results of their original
research. Journals also publish book reviews, review essays, and editorial pieces, such
as notes on the discipline (i.e., Art History) or field (subcategory, i.e., colonial Latin
American). All reputable journals have a peer-review process, where experts in the
field and discipline evaluate the article. The best journals use a double-blind peer

1 This assignment was inspired by exercises in Wendy Belcher, Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019).

AHS 113 Unit 2 Assignment


review process, where readers (peer reviewers) submit their comments and revisions to
the author anonymously. They also send a report to the journal’s editor to help them
decide if the article should be published. The author responds to those revisions before
the article is published. Sometimes it takes many rounds. In the sciences and social
sciences, an editorial note always indicates when the article was submitted, revised, and
accepted. Every journal, and editor, has a vision/mission statement for the journal and
its specific scholarly audience. Sometimes this is called “Aims and Scope” or “About
this Journal” tab of the webpage.

What journal published your article?
Question 1: Find the website for that journal. What is the journal’s objective? What
kinds of materials, disciplines, fields, or subjects does it publish?

What is a scholarly article?
There is a truism about research at “R-1” or top-tier research universities, like UCR:
“Publish or Perish.” That means a university professor’s job security, merits and
promotions, is directly linked to the quantity and quality of their publications. Because
it takes years to write and publish a book, and scholars in some disciplines don’t write
books, the main venue for a professor’s research is a scholarly article. An article is 5–40-
page essay, usually with 5-50 citations (primary and secondary sources), that addresses
one or two key issues in the field or discipline and is vetted by peer reviewers (Belcher
2019: 10).

Question 2: How long is your article (pages)? How many citations does it have? (Hint:
some articles have footnotes, and others have endnotes).

Question 2, pt. 2: What key issue does the author tackle in the field (colonial Latin
American art)? What key issues does the author tackle in the discipline (art history)?
(Hint: Look in the Introduction and Conclusion. You might have to come back to this
question after answering later questions.)

What are the features of a scholarly article?
Journal articles have standard features, and most organize information in similar ways.
Learning how articles are organized is key to being able to read and digest their content

Question 3: Locate each of the following features in the article, then list the page
numbers where this section appears below.

– Literature Review (discusses previous scholarship on the topic):

– Argument (identifies a problem and takes a stance about it):

– Claim for Significance (the unique contribution the article makes):

– Introduction: on what page/s does the author
§ Introduce the map [main evidence/grounds]?

AHS 113 Unit 2 Assignment


§ Provide key historical and geographical background?

§ Explain their approach [method] to the evidence (the map)?

– Conclusion: on what page/s does the author

§ Summarize the article’s main takeaways?

§ Explain why it matters (answer the ‘so what?’ aka “stakes”)?

What are the features of a scholarly article in art history?
An additional feature of articles in art history is visual analysis. This is where the
scholar closely reads a work of art, using that analysis to launch their argument. It
usually appears near the beginning of the article (“start with the art”), and the
beginning of each subsection. Here the author calls attention to interesting details that
they will return to as key evidence to support their claims in the body paragraphs.

• Be sure to look at the Digitized Map (see link). Can you find the features the
authors point out?

Question 4: On what page, and in which paragraph, does the author first describe the
object? Now pick one subsection. What is the main visual/material evidence for that
section? What detail does the author call our attention to? In which paragraph of the
subsection does that appear? Can you find those details on the Digitized Map (see link)?
Did the author accurately describe that detail? Did the add or omit anything you think
is important?

II. Argument and Evidence

“A publishable journal article is a piece of writing organized around one important new
idea that is demonstrably related to scholarship previously published” (Belcher 2019:
62). I put the second half of this quote in bold because it’s the most important key to
publication, and the one writers and students often overlook (because new ideas are
cool). Putting it another way, every article must “Tell me something new I don’t know
so I can better understand our common interests” (Booth, Colomb, Williams et. al
quoted in Belcher 2019: 63). This means the author must connect the new to the old for
their argument to be relevant. If you are writing a course paper, don’t forget this step.

In general, three types of scholarly articles get published. It’s important to identify what
type of article you are working with to determine its contribution to the field and
Does your article:

– Approach New Evidence in an Old Way?
This type of article provides new evidence to add further support to an established idea.
The author must convince readers that their new approach is valid by demonstrating
how it works, usually through a case study.

– Approach Old Evidence in a New Way?

AHS 113 Unit 2 Assignment


This type of article applies a new approach to old data, such as a previously studied
artwork. The author must connect their theory to old evidence, usually through an
extensive discussion of previous literature.

– Pair Old Evidence with Old Approaches in a New Way?
This type of article “brings together existing data and approaches together to create new
understanding” (Belcher 2019: 65).

Question 5: What type of article is your article? Why? On what pages did that become
evident to you? You should say something about what constitutes the old and the new in
your article.

III. Analysis

Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with the article, you can begin to analyze its
individual parts to evaluate the argument’s coherence and logic. Begin by looking at the
Abstract. Most journal articles have an abstract, a short (250-500 word) and condensed
version of the article’s most important information. Successful abstracts share the same
ingredients, which can help you to quickly figure out what’s important and why. If a
piece of information is missing, that’s your first clue that there might be a flaw in the
author’s argument.

Question 6: Read the abstract to your article. Sort the abstract’s sentences into the
appropriate category below.

– Background/Context (what/where/when):

– Subjects (who and what are discussed):

– Claim for Significance (announces unique contribution and approach to it):

– Theoretical Framework (theory or approach to the evidence, like iconography
or style, or spatial organization):

– Argument (what did the analysis reveal, and how does it connect to current


– Evidence (describe the elements of the objects analyzed):

– Keywords (List key terms/new vocab. associated with the abstract):

Congratulations! You are now well on your way to being able to state, in succinct terms, what
the argument is and what impact it has on the field of colonial Latin America and the discipline
of art history! Please repeat this exercise as you work with Article B next.

Mapping the Aztec Capital: The 1524 Nuremberg Map of Tenochtitlan, Its Sources and
Author(s): Barbara E. Mundy
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Imago Mundi, Vol. 50 (1998), pp. 11-33
Published by: Imago Mundi, Ltd.
Stable URL:


/stable/1151388 .
Accessed: 06/05/2012 15:24

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Imago Mundi, Ltd. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Imago Mundi.





Mapping the Aztec Capital: The 1524 Nuremberg Map of

Tenochtitlan, Its Sources and Meanings


ABSTRACT: The map of Tenochtitlan published along with a Latin version of Heman Cortes’s letters

(Nuremberg, 1524) was the first picture Europeans had of the Culhua-Mexica city, the capital of the Aztec

empire. The source of this woodcut map is unknown, and the author argues here that it was based on an

indigenous map of the city. Once published in Europe, the city map and its companion map of the Gulf Coast,
while certainly documentary, also assumed a symbolic function in supporting Cortes’s (and thereby Spain’s)
just conquest of the Amerindian empire.

KEYWORDS: Aztec maps, Culhua-Mexica, New Spain, Hernan Cortes, Amerindian maps, Tenochtitlan

[Tenochtitlan, Temistitan], Mexico, cartography, Pre-Columbian maps.

The startling news of the Spanish conquistador
Hernan Cortes’s entry into Mexico and his encoun-
ter with the Aztecs in 1519 fascinated Europeans,
and a large audience awaited the publication of the

conquistador’s letters describing his initial adven-

tures.’ When these letters were translated into
Latin and published in Nuremberg under the title
Praeclara Ferdinddi. Cortesii de Noua maris Oceani

Hyspania Narratio . . ., they were accompanied by a

map of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital city (Fig. 1).

Today, this map affords one of the few contempo-
rary pictures we have of a city that struck one

conquistador ‘like the enchantments they tell of in
the legend of Amadis, on account of the great
towers and cues [temples] and buildings rising from
the water’.2 The original woodcut map shows this

impressive metropolis set like a jewel in the centre

of an azure lake (in the hand-coloured versions).
Around the lake cluster neighbouring cities, the
whole urban area connected by causeways, and the
lake water tamed by a dike.

By the time the map was published in February,

1524, the city it showed was as much a fantasy as
Amadis: the devastating war of conquest, coupled
with the internecine hatreds that Cortes unleashed,
had reduced the city to smoking rubble by August
of 1521. None the less, the map was the first image

Europe had of the fantastic capital and soon would
become the most widespread. Throughout the
sixteenth century and into the seventeenth, pub-
lishers from Venice to Cologne had their illustrators

reworking this map; versions were published in

Giovanni Ramusio’s Terzo Volvme delle Navigationi et

Viaggi and Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis

Terrarum, among others (Appendix 1).
The historic importance of this map has led to its

widespread publication in the twentieth century,
but most writers have expressed a vague uncer-

tainty about the map’s nature. The woodcut is

undoubtedly carved by a European craftsman, but
close examination reveals many precise details of
the Amerindian city that do not appear in the long
description of the city that Cortes had included in
his Second Letter.3 In short, the map is not just an

* Dr Barbara E. Mundy, Department of Art History and Music, FMH 446, Fordham University, 441 East
Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 10458, USA. Tel: (1) 718 817 4897. Fax: (1) 718 817 4829.

? Imago Mundi. Vol. 50, 1998. 11


Fig. 1. Nuremberg map of Tenochtitlan and the Gulf Coast, 1524. This was the first map of the Aztec capital city to be published in Europe; it accompanied the letters of the conquistador
Hernan Cortes. (From Praeclara Ferdinadi. Cortesii de Noua marns Oceani Hyspania Narratio . . . (Courtesy Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox

and Tilden Foundations, *KB+ 1524.)

illustration drawn from the letter. We are left to
conclude that the picture must derive from another

But what was this source? Was it an Aztec map
or a European one? Was it an insider’s view or not?
The question of the map’s provenance is a crucial
one. While the conquistadores lived in the city
briefly and left a few written accounts of it, the
Aztec imperial centre was foreign to them and they
hardly understood it. Today, when we piece
together the sixteenth-century accounts of Tenoch-
titlan (many of which were stained by the
prejudices of their European authors) with infor-
mation from recent excavations, we are only
beginning to understand what the city was to the
Culhua-Mexica: a cosmic linchpin, a place where
the human world brushed up against the divine.4


sixteenth-century paean to the city written in
Nahuatl, the language of central Mexico, described

Mexico Tenochtitlan Atlitic . . .
Among the rushes and the reeds
At the heart and the head
Of what is called the New World
Here it is at the setting of the sun
Where are awaited and received
The diverse people of the four quarters.5

But the puzzle of Tenochtitlan is far from resolved,
and indigenous maps of Tenochtitlan might afford
us practical information on the layout of the city or

perhaps yield a glimpse of the ideological concep-
tion of the imperial capital. For we know the
Culhua-Mexica and their neighbours in central
Mexico made maps, and these maps-in their
symbols and their logographic writing-share
many features with Aztec ‘picture writing’ in
general. Unfortunately, we know of no map of
Tenochtitlan that survived the conquest, and little
has been preserved from the early colonial period.
Today we can count few indigenous maps that
show the sixteenth-century city.6

The Nuremberg map offers a tantalizing possi-
bility: Could it have been based on yet another,
now lost, indigenous map of the capital? Most
scholars have, in passing, thought not: Benjamin
Keen, a masterful scholar of Europe and the Aztecs,
theorized that the map was based on an eye-
witness sketch of Tenochtitlan sent by Cortes and
that whatever fidelity it owes to the Culhua-Mexica
capital is mitigated by its style, which follows ‘the
conventional aspect of island-city plans [of Europe].
The total effect is unreal. . .’ Manuel Toussaint held
that it was not made by Cortes but by a fellow

conquistador trained as a pilot or surveyor. Because
of its flawed planimetry, Toussaint’s colleague
Justino Fernandez granted the map only a limited
role in helping to reconstruct the layout of Aztec
Tenochtitlan.7 In short, the main objections to an

indigenous source for the Nuremberg map are thus:
first, the map’s style reveals it to be essentially a
European product, and second, since the view it

presents of the Culhua-Mexica city seems unfaith-
ful to its planimetry, it owes more to European
conventions than to first-hand knowledge of

Paradigm Shifts

But since these writers were considering the

map, underlying theories guiding the history of
maps and Mexico have shifted. The grout of their

objections no longer seems as firm as it once did.
The map begs to be re-examined in light of

changing models as well as in light of our growing
understanding of the nature of the Aztec capital. In
this essay, I argue that the Nuremberg map is
indeed based on an indigenous prototype-a
Culhua-Mexica map of the capital city-and offer
a re-interpretation of the map that embraces its
ideological and rhetorical functions.

When Keen wrote, the widely accepted view
among historians and art historians was that style
was perhaps the best index of authorship-if
something looked European, then its painter or
carver or artist was European. The same held for the
Aztec, and Donald Robertson’s influential work on
native style systematically laid out how to distin-
guish that style from European.8 In the years since
Robertson wrote, however, numerous art works
from the colonial New World that look European
but were authored by indigenes disprove any
simple equation of style to authorship.9 New
historical research also suggests that indigenous
culture persisted long after its most visible and
highly organized forms (like religion) were sup-
pressed. As a result we now tend to think of culture
in the New World, and with it visual culture, as a
cross-pollination of the European and the indigen-
ous, and of its artifacts as hybrids.’?

Like hybrid flowers, where crossing red and
white may not lead to pink, the way hybrid artifacts
manifest connections to their precursors is often
unpredictable and surprising. Thus style in the
hybrid artifact can be misleading when used to
determine authorship. When applied to the Nu-
remberg map, the concept of the hybrid allows us to 13



0 5

Fig. 2. Map of the Valley of Mexico in the sixteenth
century. (Author drawing.)

re-evaluate the importance of its style. While the

style of the Nuremberg map may look convention-

ally European-it was, after all, copied at least once

by an artist cutting the wood block in Nuremberg,
and he may have been working from a European
copy of the original-if we examine the map with
the emphasis on its content, then we will see it

freshly revealed as rooted in an Aztec mapping

A change in the theories guiding cartographical
history also allows us to re-evaluate the map’s
ambiguous relationship to the planimetry of

Tenochtitlan. Following the work of Brian Harley
and others, we are now more ready to accept that a

map can be shaped by ideology as well as

planimetry-that is, a city map can be faithful to a

reigning idea of a place, rather than to the
mathematical relationships between points A, B
and C. If we forgive the Nuremberg map for its

faulty geometries, what we can discover in the map
is a previously overlooked fidelity to the Aztec idea
of Tenochtitlan. Despite its undoubtedly European

14 authorship and mode of projection, this map offers

so many points of contact with indigenous maps as
to leave little doubt of an indigenous pedigree.”

The Source

While the woodcut’s origins have been masked

by the European style and convention (houses are
rendered in perspective, Aztec towns give rise to
medieval towers and Renaissance domes), other

aspects of the city, particularly its centre, show the
distinct imprint of a cosmic model that the Culhua-
Mexica imposed on their capital, whereby the
human city was patterned after the perceived
order of the larger cosmos.12 We understand this
cosmic modelling both through the nucleus of the
ceremonial centre which has been excavated in the
centre of present-day Mexico City,13 and through a
number of indigenous portrayals of Tenochtitlan.
These later documents present, more than the

planimetry of Tenochtitlan, the idea of Tenochtitlan,
wherein the intermeshing of city and cosmic model
are made manifest. In the following sections, I will

lay out in detail the close correspondence between
the Nuremberg map, the known details of the

temple precinct and the extant pictorial record of
the native city.

The Circular City

In the Nuremberg map, Tenochtitlan, with its

prominent square temple precinct, is set in the
centre of a round lake, clearly contradicting the
actual planimetry of the system of linked lakes,
which looked something like a backwards ( (Fig.
2). Cortes himself well knew that there was not just
one lake but two, one salty, the other sweet,
separated by a chain of mountains, and linked by a
narrow canal.14 So how are we to understand the
distorted planimetry? Incompetence? Misunder-

standing? On the contrary, the island set in the
circular lake, although far from planimetrically
correct, reflects an indigenous understanding of
the centre of empire. Perfect geometry, albeit
distorted planimetry, pervades native images of
the city.

Sometime after the city was destroyed, it was

represented in a native history recounting the siege
of the final phase of Cortes’s campaign. This native
lienzo (canvas) is called the Lienzo of Tlaxcala

(c.1550) after its city of origin (Fig. 3). In it,
Tenochtitlan is remembered in shorthand-as an
island set in a circular lake. In the Codex Boturini

(c.1530), another native work made soon after the

Conquest, the Culhua-Mexica showed themselves

Fig. 3. Lienzo de Tiaxcala. This scene from a larger lienzo (canvas) shows the Spanish and their indigenous allies marching
on the Aztec island capital in 1521. At the centre a shorthand version of Tenochtitlan appears as a temple pyramid, pictured
in profile, ringed by a lake. The original of the lienzo of c. 1550 is now lost, and the lithographic version reproduced here was
published in 1892 (after Alfredo Chavero (ed.), Homenaje a Crist6bol Colon: Antigiiedades mexicanas publicadas por la Junta
Colombina de Mexico en el cuarto centenario del descubrimiento de America (Mexico City, 1892), vol. 2, pl. 42). (Courtesy of the

New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.)

leaving Aztlan, which they held as the mythic

prototype for Tenochtitlan.15 In this account, Aztlan

is depicted in roughly the same fashion as its

successor Tenochtitlan-an oblong set in a squared-
off circle (Fig. 4). The Codex Aubin repeats roughly
the geometric formula-a rounded island set in a

square lake-in rendering Aztlan.16 And when the

Culhua-Mexica represented the founding of their

city Tenochtitlan, the latter-day Aztlan, they did so

in an equally schematized fashion. The Codex

Mendoza (c. 1542) shows Tenochtitlan as a

rectangular city surrounded by a thin frame of

lake (Fig. 5).17

All of these pictures showing the capital city as a

square, circle, or oblong set into a lacustrine

rectangle or circle are examples of modelling,

where a physical description (a map) follows a

symbolic prototype. This visual practice is in turn

related to Aztec concepts of cyclical time and

patterned history, where events are seen as belong-

ing to endlessly repeating cycles. In the case of the

Culhua-Mexica, they held a place called ‘Anahuac’,

the ‘Place Surrounded by Waters’ to be the original

template of their home of the past (Aztlan) and their

home of the present (Tenochtitlan).
The depictions of Tenochtitlan recall the emble- 15

Fig. 4. Drawing after Codex Boturini. This native history of c.1530 tells of the migration of the Mexica from their original
homeland, Aztlan, towards their eventual capital, Tenochtitlan. The opening part of the codex, a long strip of paper, shows
the Mexica departure from the island city of Aztlan, represented here by an single figure rowing across a lake. The path of
footprints shows him to be heading towards a place named Culhuacan-a hill symbol with a curved top-where the deity
Huitzilopochtli, wearing a hummingbird head-dress, awaits. The date of departure is written in the square cartouche at
centre; the year One Flint Knife is thought to have fallen at the beginning of the twelfth century (Museo Nacional de

Antropologia, Mexico, MS 35-38, fol. 1; author drawing.)

matized geography of Europe (T-O world maps and

maps of Jerusalem being prime examples), and

thereby raise the possibility that the Nuremberg
map might just as easily have been drawn by a

conquistador under the sway of his own tradition.
This seems unlikely. We find that Europeans used
such emblematic rendering to represent sites

freighted with meaning-the globe as conceived
of by classical authors, or the axis mundi of the
Christian world. Tenochtitlan was certainly not
such a place to the sweaty conquistadores. It was
such a sacred place to the Culhua-Mexica, how-

ever, being ‘the heart and the head of what is called
the New World’. In showing Tenochtitlan as a

square ceremonial precinct, set within a circular

city, set within a circular lake, the Nuremberg artist
was re-inscribing the idealized geometries of a

16 native, not a Spanish, conception of the city.

The Temple Precinct

The map’s temple precinct clearly reveals the

imprint of Aztec mythic and cosmic models (Fig. 6).
In the charged ground of the centre of the city, the
Culhua-Mexica carefully forged their world into a
mirror of mythic history and cosmic order.18 Here,
on this sacred arena, they built linked temple-
pyramids to honour, on one side, the ancient

agricultural and water god Tlaloc, and on the
other, their newly fashioned tribal deity Huitzilo-

pochtli. The cleft between the temples of the two

gods aligned with the rising sun of the equinox; on
these days, the temples appeared to channel the
sun itself on its ascent.19 Only recently excavated,
these temples have long been the site of specula-
tion. Cortes neglected to mention the dual nature of
the central pyramids, and other European accounts
and pictures present it fancifully.20

(‘IZo ‘ I’V ‘uaplPa ‘q:S ploxo SW ‘IOJXO AI!Sl9Aiun
‘Aieiq! urepalpog Asauno:) sluLjpenb inoj si ui iLeadde Alp qi jo siapunoj leuio aqi pue ‘aiua) ?qi ie seadde-p3oi

LI e uoij; Suimoai snpe) e-Alp aqt jo aueu-aeId aq *at8uepai e oiui is x ue se a3el guipunouns pue sleuez aqi sluasaidaj
pue IS I ‘Sumpunoj si! jo ieaA aql inu Alp aql SMoqls ii AoIA qsiueds aqi jo isaqaq aqi ie Aiqeqoid ‘lIsIUe snoua8ipui
ue Aq umeip ueplq:)oua,L jo deu )ieuaaq:S e si xapo: SJI jo ajnpid Suuado aqj Z eSI’ ‘ezopuaW xapoD 5 -81




,, ?

;; *, . . ‘- . .




Ni: };-_

Fig. 6. Nuremberg map of Tenochtitlan, 1524, detail. The map’s centre shows the great temple precinct of the city
dominated by the twin pyramids, called the Templo Mayor, flanked at left and bottom by two skull racks and facing two
other shrines. (Courtesy Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden

Foundations, *KB+ 1524.)

But in the Nuremberg map these pyramids

appear as the Culhua-Mexica knew them, with a

linked base, parallel flights of stairs leading to the

doors of the shrines and distinct roof decorations;
other native depictions contain the same distin-

guishing details.21 The plan on folio 269r of the

Primeros Memoriales, a book indigenous writers

drew up c. 1561, offers an invaluable comparison to

the Nuremberg map: the Primeros Memoriales plan
is the only known native drawing of the entire

precinct of Tenochtitlan (not just the temples).22
On it the temples appear as they do on the

Nuremberg map (Fig. 7). Surprisingly, the Ger-

man-made map may even better capture the

Culhua-Mexica view, for it includes the solar

event that animated the twin pyramids. In the

cleft between the twin pyramids on the Nuremberg

map, the equinoctial sun is glimpsed, a human face

18 with rays of hair.23

Oddly enough, both the Primeros Memoriales

and Nuremberg maps show the precinct as mini-

mal, bereft of most of its buildings. In the 1570s,

Bernardino de Sahaguin, an erudite friar, queried
native intellectuals about the precinct and found it

to have been much more capacious than either map

shows it to be, containing at least seventy-eight

structures. Eyewitness accounts of the Spanish

likewise comment on its extent.24 I see the brevity

of the maps as a conscious choice: they show the

precinct stripped down to its bare symbolic essen-

tials, a hieroglyph, as it were, comprising the twin

temples, the tzompantli, or skull rack, and the

retaining wall. Had the Nuremberg prototype

indeed been drawn by a Spanish conquistador, we

would expect it to give a better sense of what the

Spanish recorded as overwhelming-the expanse
and extent of the precinct; we would not expect a

Fig. 7. Primeros Memoriales, fol. 269, c. 1561. This native drawing of the temple precinct of Tenochtitlan was created well
after this ceremonial centre had been razed, but it seems to draw on the firsthand knowledge of native informants. As in the
Nuremberg map, the twin temples dominate and are set above a simple skull rack holding just two skulls. Other ceremonial
buildings are included and identified in a facing text. The figures appearing on either side of the temple seem to be statues of
the standard bearers that flanked the temple stairways, while the figure at the centre is a priest. (Photograph copyright ?

Patrimonio Nacional; Codice Matritense del Palacio Real de Madrid, fol. 269r.)

Fig. 8. Codex Azcatitlan, early 17th century. A chronicle of Aztec history, this Codex devotes a section to the reigns of the
Culhua-Mexica emperors. This page, one of two providing an account of the short-lived Tizoc (reigned 1481-1486), records
his re-dedication of an enlarged Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan. At the temple-pyramid’s base lies a decapitated and

dismembered sacrificial victim. (Photo courtesy of Bibliotheque nationale de France, MS Mexicain 59-64, fol. 20r’.)

recently arrived Spaniard to reduce the precinct to
its symbolic kernel.

The Nuremberg map also registers the twin

temples as oversized, as if to capture their impor-
tance. The Culhua-Mexica held these temples to be

Coatepec, ‘Serpent Mountain’, the mythic birth-

place of their tribal god Huitzilopochtli, setting
carved serpent (coatl) heads the size of small
boulders at the base of the stairs. According to

myth, Huitzilopochtli’s first act after his birth was to

slay his matricidal half-sister, Coyolxauhqui, dis-
member her, and then pitch her down Coatepec’s
stairs. His murderous sacrifice was well commemo-
rated at the twin temples. A low relief carving of the
dismembered Coyolxauhqui, over three metres in

diameter, lay at the base of the temple stairs;
thousands of human beings were likewise sacrificed
at the temple and then rolled down the stairs, just
like Coyolxauhqui. Heart extraction brought fame
to Aztec sacrificers, but their victims were probably

20 also decapitated and dismembered, since this was

how the god Huitzilopochtli had chosen to dispatch
Coyolxauhqui. The head was a particular trophy:
numerous tzompantli decorated the precinct and

mainly human skulls, not entire skeletons, have
been found as buried offerings in the temple.25

For us, like the conquistadores, human sacrifice
is repellent, but for the Aztecs human sacrifice was
the ritual that sustained the cosmos; it was the act
that transformed the twin temples into the sacred
mountain of Coatepec; it was the ritual that aligned
human communities with divine needs. Thus in
native representations of the temples, human
sacrifice is celebrated, not denied. Numerous native

images show us temples with victims of sacrifice at
their tops, the stairways slick with blood. The
victims were also pictured at bottom: the Codex
Azcatitlan shows the Templo Mayor being conse-
crated during the emperor Tizoc’s reign (1481-
1486) with a decapitated and dismembered victim
at its base (Fig. 8).26

The Nuremberg map echoes the Aztec under-

standing of both the necessity and the actual

practice of sacrifice by including a decapitated
victim who is set at the base of the pyramid; the

map’s European artist understood it to have been
some kind of monumental statue, labelling it ‘idol

lapideu[m]’. It may even represent the great statue
of the headless mother of Huitzilopochtli, Coatlicue,
which stood in the precinct, or the bas-relief of the
dismembered Coyolxauhqui which was set at the
base of the temples.27 In the map, banners uncurl
from this ‘idol’s’ hands, perhaps a reworking of the
streams of blood that would have ebbed out of an
Aztec sacrifice. We would not expect a Spanish
conquistador to understand the function of the
statues of sacrifice or to distil the bloodbath he
witnessed into the symbolic figure seen in the

Nuremberg map, but a Culhua-Mexica artist

certainly would-to him, human sacrifice was as
fundamental to the temple precinct as the archi-
tecture itself. Without sacrifice, the buildings were

piles of earth; with it, they were abodes of the

Just as the city of Tenochtitlan in the Nuremberg
map is modelled on Anahuac, its temple precinct is
modelled on the Culhua-Mexica cosmos.28 On the

map are two tzompantli, one to the left (or south) of
the temples, one below them. These gruesome skull
racks appear through the lens of the European
engraver like plant stands, although native depic-
tions make their use and purpose abundantly
clear.29 The Primeros Memoriales map, for
instance, shows only one tzompantli in the precinct,

Fig. 9. Codex Fejervary-Mayer, c.1400-1521. The frontispiece of one of the few surviving pre-Hispanic manuscripts shows
a mappamundi constructed largely of symbols and set into a calendar of days that takes the form of a Maltese cross.
(Courtesy of the Board of Trustees of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, Liverpool Museum, 12014

Mayer, fol. Ir.) 21


rising sun
head of sacrificial victim

stream of blood


stream of blood femur

~~~~~/ \ <^)9 ribcage

Fig. 10. Drawing after the Codex Fejervary-Mayer. (Author drawing.)

holding just two skulls strung along a pole, and sets

it below the temples (Fig. 7).30

This arrangement of temple, statue, and tzom-

pantli clearly adheres to a cosmic template. The

Culhua-Mexica imagined that below the skies that

held the sun lay their earth, which could be

represented by the mountain Coatepec. The earth

in turn was linked to Tlaltecuhtli, the ravenous

earth monster, often shown by the Culhua-Mexica

as an open maw, into which the blood of sacrifice
would pour.


Below Tlaltecuhtli was Mictlante-

cuhtli, the land of the dead. In the Nuremberg map,
we see the arrangement of sun/temple/sacrifice
victim/skull rack echoing the (simplified) cosmic

template of sun/earth/Tlaltecuhtli/Mictlantecuhtli.

Indeed, the Nuremberg map is closer than one

might imagine to the famous cosmic map/calendar
found in the frontispiece of the Codex Fejervary-
Mayer, one of the dozen or so known pre-Hispanic
manuscripts (Figs. 9 and 10).32 Although this codex

22 was not made by the Culhua-Mexica, it shows the

general cosmic arrangement to which many
ancient Mexican cultures adhered. Above the

centre quadrant of the map, the sun rises in the

east above a temple. At centre is the old god of fire,
with the blood of a dismembered sacrificial victim

flowing toward him. Below the centre quadrant, to
the west, a hungry tzitzitl, or death goddess, waits to

devour the setting sun. This widely held pattern
of sun/temple/sacrifice/death shaped Tenochtitlan
and its representations, and we see this pattern
coalescing even in the work of an unwitting
woodcarver in Nuremberg.33

Lakeside Cities

The map shows us numerous cities around the

lake of Tenochtitlan but names only three of them:

Atacuba [or Tlacopan, later Tacuba], Tesqua [Tex-

coco], and Iztapalapa [Ixtapalapa]. Here we might
discern the Culhua-Mexica sociopolitical view,

perhaps modulated by the Spanish. Tlacopan and
Texcoco were the other two members of the

Fig. 11. Place-name of Culhuacan, after Codex Boturini,
fol. 1. The basis of this symbol is the bell-shaped hill
symbol. To write the place-name ‘Culhuacan’, central
Mexicans added a curved top to convey ‘col’, or something

twisted. (Author drawing.)

triumvirate headed by the Culhua-Mexica of

Tenochtitlan; although the Culhua-Mexica were
the clear leaders, all three shared in the riches of
the tributary empire we have come to call the
Aztec. Thus the Culhua-Mexica’s two partners in

the imperial enterprise rightly figure on the map.
Ixtapalapa, on the other hand, was a secondary city
in the southern lakes, where it moved in the sphere
of the larger and more important Culhuacan.
Cortes mentions Ixtapalapa as the last native city
he visited before entering Tenochtitlan; he may
have annotated the map source to this effect.

The Southern Lake

The single disruption to the circular shoreline of
the lake comes to the south or left of the city, where
the lake protrudes into a bell-shape. Towards this

blip, an arrow-straight causeway shoots out from
Tenochtitlan. As with the shape of the lake itself,
this protrusion of the southern lake can not be said
to represent planimetry exactly, rather, it seems to
arise from a western artist mistaking a Culhua-
Mexica convention (Fig. 2).

Although not named on the Nuremberg map,
the principle southern city was Culhuacan. Its

importance to the Culhua-Mexica of Tenochtitlan
was great; Culhuacan was seen as one of the older
cities of the valley, its occupants the inheritors of

the great previous civilization headed by the

Toltecs. After the ragtag Mexica settled in the

valley, they looked to the royal line of Culhuacan to

provide their ruler and subsequently took on
‘Culhua’ as part of their name.34 The Mexica
connection with the Culhua was as direct, and

necessary, as the arrow-straight causeway on the

map; the Culhua-Mexica customarily showed their

own city Tenochtitlan adjacent to its predecessor
Culhuacan. In the Codex Mendoza (Fig. 5), the

newly founded city Tenochtitlan is set triumphant
above Culhuacan, which it lists as its first conquest;
in the Codex Boturini, the prototype of Tenochti-

tlan, Aztlan, is also flanked by another Culhuacan

(Fig. 4).
Given the importance of Culhuacan to the

Culhua-Mexica, it is likely they would have
included it on an early sixteenth century map of

Tenochtitlan and environs; yet Europeans, among
them Cortes and the Nuremberg engraver, could
not have known the importance that Culhuacan
had to the Mexica. Thus I am convinced that the

protrusion on the lake shore in the Nuremberg map
was a copyist’s misreading of the indigenous place-
name that would have been used to designate

Fig. 12. Tepetl, or hill, symbol, found in native manu-
scripts of Central Mexico. (Author drawing.) 23

Fig. 13. Codex Osuna, 1565. A page from a collection of documents created by indigenes in the Valley of Mexico as part of
an inquiry into official misdeeds. This part tells of the abuses native communities suffered in rebuilding a dike across one of
the valley lakes. It shows the dike in native fashion, as a chain of stone symbols stretching from one shore to the next

(Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, MS Vit. 26.2, Codice Osuna fol. 39/501). (Photo courtesy Biblioteca Nacional.)

Culhuacan on the native prototype. The symbol for
Culhuacan, a name meaning ‘Place of our Grand-
fathers’, would have been, on a native map,
recorded in the logographic writing of central
Mexico (Fig. 11). The symbol, drawn here from
the Codex Boturini, begins with the generic hill or

place sign shown in Figure 12, which was to convey
the ‘-can’ (place of) suffix, and to this adds a curved
or twisted top, thus representing ‘colli’ (grand-
father) with its near homonym, ‘col’ (something

twisted).35 The successive copying that resulted in
the Nuremberg map led to this symbol’s integration
into the lake shore. As a result, the shoreline takes
on the rough bell shape of the hill symbol; with the

topmost part inclining to the right, it retains a dim

memory of the original curved top.

The Dike

The dike on the Nuremberg map which runs
between Tenochtitlan and Texcoco may be
indebted to a native source for both its position
and odd design. From what we know, the dike of

Nezahualcoyotl, named after the Texcocan king
who built it, was not the improbable wicker-fence
construction we see in this map but a more
conventional earthen bulwark. In the native-

24 drawn Codex Osuna, we see a depiction of a later

replacement dike built in the valley after the flood
crisis of the mid-15 50s.36 The 1555 dike was made

by piling up stones and mud, and the Codex Osuna

represents it as an overlapping line of stones set in
an arc (Fig. 13). The picture in the Codex Osuna
bears the imprint of the conventional indigenous
manner of representing stones: rounded volutes
and a double S marking the interior (Fig. 14). If we

imagine the Nuremberg prototype represented the
dike similarly as a line of stone symbols, it would
bear an uncanny formal resemblance to the round

poles and the curving weaving of the Nuremberg’s
‘wicker’ dike, whose odd design may be ultimately
attributable to a European misreading of a native

Fig. 14. Stones, as they appear in native manuscripts of
Central Mexico. (Author drawing.)

Fig. 15. A house as it appears in native manuscripts.
(Author drawing.)


Rippling out from the centre temples, the houses
of Tenochtitlan appear in careful rows on canals,

making the city look like Venice. The Aztec city
clearly evoked this maritime nation in the minds of

Europeans,37 and the Nuremberg engraver may
have had maps of Venice on his mind.38 But we can
also encounter a precedent for the house rows in

sixteenth-century native maps. The conventional
house symbol (Fig. 15) was ubiquitous in maps, and
in a map from the Valley of Mexico called the Plano
en Papel de Maguey (thought to be a northern
suburb of Tenochtitlan), the city is represented as
rows of houses arranged neatly along canals just
like in the Nuremberg map.

In the arrangement of the centre and in the

appearance of details corresponding to the con-
ventions of native maps, we see the Nuremberg
map indebted to a native prototype. The native

understanding posited Tenochtitlan as an axis

mundi, the centre of a perfectly centred world; it
was linked to, but separate from, an older centre
of civilization, Culhuacan. While its partners in
the imperial enterprise, Tlacopan and Texcoco,
were included in this picture of the imperial
capital, they were peripheral; their status was

clearly secondary in Culhua-Mexica eyes. Most

important, the Culhua-Mexica understood their

city to mirror the cosmic order, with its temples
evoking the sites of myths and its sacrifices

echoing those of the gods. The starting point of
the Nuremberg map, therefore, is solidly on Aztec


The Map in Europe

Historical Evidence

Europeans writing at the time of the conquest
have left evidence that supports the ‘indigenous
prototype’ theory. The city map that was published

Fig. 16. Nuremberg map, detail: A schematic map of the
Gulf Coast appears to the left of the city map. It is oriented
to the south and shows the coast from Florida to the
Yucatan. (Courtesy Rare Books and Manuscripts Division,
The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden

Foundations, *KB+ 1524.)

in Nuremberg is flanked by a smaller map to its left,

showing a rough diagram of Mexico’s Gulf Coast

(Fig. 16). The wily conquistador Cortes was the first
to mention the two maps that were the likely
sources for the double map printed in Germany.
Cortes informed the king, Charles V, that he had
sent a detailed city map of Tenochtitlan to

accompany his Second Letter.39 He also included
in the text of that Second Letter the description of a

second, different map:

a cloth with all the coast painted on it, and there
appeared a river which ran to the sea and according to
the representation was wider than all the others. This
river seemed to pass through the mountains which we
call Sanmin . . .40

The maps Cortes describes as coming from the
New World-the detailed city map and coastal

map-are unmistakably like those published in

Nuremberg.4′ Cortds only specifies that one artist
was indigenous, saying that the coastal map had
been commissioned by Moteuczoma, the Culhua-
Mexica emperor, from his artists at Cortes’s

request.42 Cortes says nothing about the authorship
of the city map. The garrulous correspondent Peter

Martyr D’Anghera fills in the blank. Not long after
Cortes sent his maps to Europe, D’Anghera saw
what must have been the same pair of maps-a
coastal map on cloth and a city map of Tenochti- 25

P 1

tlan-and makes it clear they were both native



But how could these Culhua-Mexica maps, one
of the coast, the other of the city, which Cortes says
he sent from Mexico in October 1520 and which
Peter Martyr saw, probably in Seville, sometime
after early November 1522, have ended up in

Germany by 1524?44 We can speculate on their
travels: Cortes’s missive would have arrived in

Spain, probably Seville, around the beginning of
1521 and with it two maps. The original letter and

maps may have remained in Seville, for it was here
that Peter Martyr saw them. Since their royal
recipient, Charles V, was in Germany at the time

they would have arrived, it is probable that copies of
the letter and maps were dispatched to him there.45
After Charles left Germany to return to Spain in
mid- 1521, his copies of the maps may have
remained in Germany among state papers
entrusted to his brother Ferdinand, who was the
overseer of the German provinces. Ferdinand spent
much of 1522 to 1524 in Nuremberg attending its
Diet,46 and it was here, in February of 1524, that an

impression of the maps, showing them side by side,
was cut into a woodblock and printed.

Above I suggested that the source of the

Nuremberg map of Tenochtitlan was as much a

map of ideology as it was of spatial relations-

positing an Aztec idea of Tenochtitlan and its

relationship to the larger Aztec cosmic order. Here
I aim to show that the Nuremberg map, in turn,
was shaped by an ideological programme, this one

generated by Cortes. While many have considered
what the map showed, few have questioned the
role of the map in its European context, and this

neglected aspect of the map is what will concern
me. Further, I shall argue that the map was not just
a passive object; rather, it was an agent in both

reflecting and shaping European understandings of
the Aztecs and the New World.

Civility or Barbarity?

Cortes was preoccupied, as he reveals in his

letters, with showing Tenochtitlan’s place in the

Spanish imperial domain; that is, Cortes was
concerned not merely with establishing the physical
location of the city but also with creating a political
space for the city within the larger realm of

Hapsburg Spain, as the larger context of his Second

26 Letter makes clear. We see Cortes’s preoccupation

reflected in the writing on the Nuremberg map. A
Culhua-Mexica map would carry no alphabetic
writing, and the writing we see on the woodcut

map may have been a transcription of glosses added

by the conquistador to explain the drawings and

hieroglyphs of the original native map. Many of the

inscriptions on the printed map-the identification
of sources of water, temples and palaces-suggest a
first-hand knowledge of the city which Cortes had

(Appendix 2). Most importantly, the details singled
out by the inscriptions on the map dovetail with the

larger arguments made in Cort6s’s letter.
What makes the Nuremberg map so compelling,

to my mind, is that the map is stretched like a taut

rope between Cortes’s ideological programme and
that of its Culhua-Mexica prototype. The picture
drawn from a native prototype often conveys one

meaning, while the texts add another layer on top
of the first. The resulting dialogue, which we can
think of as an exchange between the native artist
and Cortes, helped shape Europe’s view of the
Aztecs. A particularly important matter to Euro-

peans was the question of the foreign capital’s
civility. As the map presents it, almost certainly
following the prototype, the Valley of Mexico was
an orderly place, its cities carefully planned and
built. Tenochtitlan’s order was in part due to the
order of the cosmic template upon which it was
modelled, revealing how different the Culhua-
Mexica understanding of civilization was from the

European. None the less, the way the Aztecs

pictured their community could easily promote
their civility in the eyes and understanding of

Europe, a ‘parallelism in the semiotic codes of these
two very different cultures’ about which Ceceila
Klein has written.47

For the careful urban planning seen in the map
of Tenochtitlan was widely held in Europe as an
index of social organization: the more planned a

city, the more advanced a civilization. Spaniards
went as far as to set urban order as a precondition
for policia (polity) and later legislated that New
World cities be laid out in much the manner that
Tenochtitlan appears in this map-with an ample
central plaza, flanked by religious and royal
buildings, with smaller auxiliary plazas, four

straight main streets and carefully laid out house
plots.48 In addition, this map-city made manifest
the technical abilities of its inhabitants as well as the
centralized control they enjoyed, for it seemed to
show that engineers had planned waterworks and

conscripted peasants had built them.

The texts on the map modulate the pictorial
view, and in them we seem to hear the voice of
Cortes. For they signal the locus of this order as

Moteuczoma, and in this they closely follow
Cortes’s own fascination with the doomed king in
his accompanying letter. The map’s texts, following
the letter, identify Moteuczoma’s gardens, his zoos,
his pleasure houses of women, his palace, and in

doing so set him at the top of a familiar European
hierarchy (of plants/animals/women/men).49 Thus
both the image and the words of the map promote
the Culhua-Mexica as living in an ordered, cen-
tralized imperial state, as did many Europeans.

While the texts help to establish Aztec civility by
European norms, they also undercut it. For they
reveal the Aztec practice of human sacrifice, the
mortal sin that corrupted all other Aztec achieve-
ments. The map’s pictures are poor conduits for

European disapprobation, although the stepped
pyramids, dominated by spiked profiles, differed

sharply from the chisel-edged, enclosing churches
of Europe (Fig. 6). Instead, the temples’ purpose is
revealed by the text: ‘Templum ubi sacrificant’.
Should any viewer mistake the bristling racks, the
text identifies them-twice, close together-by
their lopped-off heads: ‘Capita Sacrificatoru[m]’.
Thus the spectacle of civic and social order set up by
the picture implodes at the centre, where the words
make present the human sacrifice that corrodes this

utopia. Notably, the name of the city (called
Temixtitan here), is set not at the top of the block
as might be expected but to flank the scene of
sacrifice. Given the code established by the words,
the map was ultimately understood as proof in

European eyes of essential barbarity, not civiliza-
tion. Once human sacrifice is introduced, the
ordered houses of the cityscape that encircle the

temples come to appear like hordes of orants

kneeling before a false god. They turn their backs
on the banner at the top left of the map, upon
which the double-headed eagle of the Hapsburgs
unfurls wings and claws.

The Nuremberg map, then, oscillates between

presenting civility-pictured in the civic order-and

barbarity-described by words of sacrifice-a split
echoed in the accompanying letter where Cortes
himself wrote:

I will say only that these people live almost like those
in Spain, and in as much harmony and order as there,
and considering that they are barbarous and so far
from the knowledge of God and cut off from all
civilized nations, it is truly remarkable to see what they
have achieved in all things.50

The terms of understanding established in the

map-created by inscribing European conceptions
of barbarity upon an Aztec depiction of urban (and
cosmic) order-reassert themselves again and

again. Bartolome de las Casas and Francisco de
Vitoria, both influential theorists and Dominicans,
depended upon the dichotomy established in the

map when they argued for the essential civility of

indigenes and simultaneously cited Aztec paganism,
made manifest by sacrifice, as the essential reason

why Spain could establish rights over the New
World. To these friars, as well as (publicly at least)
to Cortes, Hapsburg rule was necessary to bring true

civility, which was founded upon Christianity; to
their eyes the flag set on the horizon was the
banner of native salvation.5′

The Map as Sign

Up until now, I have been considering the
content of the Nuremberg map in analyzing its

relationship to its native prototype and its multi-
valent message about Aztec civility. But the map
can also be considered as carrying a meaning
beyond its specific rendering of Tenochtitlan. We
see this clearly when we turn to the map’s specific
function within the context of the Second Letter,
with which it was first published (the printed map
would come to play the same role for the wider

readership of the printed work as the native

prototypes did for the king). For in this letter, the

cunning Cortes had a subtext, and the map was
crucial in creating it. Superficially, the Second
Letter, penned in October 1520, gives a straightfor-
ward account to the king of what had occurred
since Cortes reached the mainland, where he and
his troops, after an initially courteous reception at
Moteuczoma’s court, had just been repulsed by
Culhua-Mexica armies and were now regrouping
among indigenous allies in Tlaxcala.

But Cortes had other agendas in the letter, and
for our purposes they were three.52 First, so that

King Charles would appreciate what he, Cortes,
had discovered, he needed to convince the king of
the marvels of a city (and empire) that Charles had
never seen. To this end, the letter provided a
lengthy, and at times awestruck, description of
Tenochtitlan and Mexico, and the maps corrobo-
rated its extent and some of its marvels. Second,
given the dazzling booty of city and gold that he
held out to the crown, Cortes needed to assure the
king that the rout of the Spanish troops and their
allies was a momentary setback and not, as it must 27

have seemed to his foot soldiers, a military

catastrophe.53 In the map, therefore, the Hapsburg
banner at top appears triumphant, as if only
moments away from being set at the centre of

While the map played a supporting role in the

first two arguments, it was central to Cortes’s third,
and perhaps most important, cloaked argument to

the king, wherein Cortes tried to convince Charles

of the validity of the conquest of Mexico. Before

Cortes had penetrated the Mexican interior, Span-
ish conquistadores had merely skirmished with

Amerindians and had assumed them to be tribal

savages. But once Cortes had entered Tenochtitlan,
he had encountered an organized state that might
be seen as a civilized nation, with all the pre-

rogatives civility accords. When Cortes audaciously
seized the Aztec emperor and held him captive (for

plotting an insurrection), he might have been seen
as violating, through the particular case of Moteuc-

zoma, the rights of a ‘natural lord’, one holding a

‘proper, natural and contractual’ relationship with

his community.55 The conquistadores’ actions were

still open to question many years later: ‘Given that

these people had kings and lords’, Las Casas would

ask, ‘with what right and in what good conscience

could they be despoiled of their states and

domains?’56 At the time, Cortes also realized that

a lawless usurpation might well rankle with

Charles, whose own royal power in Spain was

concurrently under threat by Comuneros.
Cortes thus shrewdly wove his narrative to show

that Moteuczoma was indeed a ‘natural lord’ who

rightly represented his subjects. However, as Cortes

presented it, Moteuczoma had not been unjustly

usurped but had willingly abdicated both his own

royal rights and those of the nation he represented
in favour of the Spanish king. If we examine closely
the part of the Second Letter where Moteuczoma’s

‘abdication’ takes place, we find that the map-gift is

a key moment. In what is probably Cortes’s

carefully scripted symbolic drama, performed only
in the letter for the benefit of the king, Cortes

assigns five gestures to Moteuczoma. As Cortes tells

it, Moteuczoma acceded to Cortes his gold mines

and then ordered that a farm be constructed for the

Spanish king. On a symbolic level, Cortes is

showing him giving away his source of national

wealth (gold) and means for sustenance (food).
And then, having signed away wealth and suste-

nance, Moteuczoma gave Cort6s the map of the

28 Gulf Coast. This gift proved to have a symbolic

value even greater than a strategic one, becoming

proof of Moteuczoma’s absolute submission.

Why a map? In the Spain in which Charles V

lived, the Spain that was the birthplace of Cortes,

maps were highly charged documents; their posses-
sion brought power over territory. To give an

example: the Casa de Contratacion [House of

Trade] in Seville maintained tight control over

(and secrecy about) mariners’ maps. They were

entrusted to a ship’s pilot at the start of a voyage
and immediately collected upon his return. Map
theft was a weighty crime, and map pirating a

constant danger. Mariner’s maps were often perfo-
rated, so that they could be strung with weights,

ready to be committed to the sea bottom if the ship
were overtaken by pirates or enemies. Knowledge
about sea routes, ports, shoals, coastlines that these

maps contained was necessary to the continuance

of imperial power, and the royal bureaucracy
maintained a tight hold upon them. The same

secrecy attended land maps, particularly large-scale

survey maps. While royal bureaucracies through-
out Europe frequently sponsored surveys, the

resultant maps were held close. The Escorial atlas,
a survey of Spain sponsored by Charles’s son, Philip
II, was guarded in his library and to this day has

never been fully published.
Just as a king would never willingly sign away

wealth and sustenance, he would never consent to

give up his maps or the trade routes that they

represented. But Moteuczoma acted thus and

thereby signalled his acquiescence. Moteuczoma

then continued along his via dolorosa of abdication,

as the letter tells it, to visit the final stations: he

asked his underlords to pledge fealty to Charles V,
and finally, he signed over to the Spanish crown his

received tribute. With these actions, Moteuczoma

had reached the end: his fall was complete, and the

death-blow that smote him after the drama had

come to a close merely confirmed, rather than

determined, his fate.
The maps that Charles received with the letter

were proof of the truth of its narrative-and most

importantly, proof of the willingness with which

Moteuczoma ceded power. When printed together
to illustrate the Second Letter, they offered a similar

message to a wider European audience: a nation,
both civil and barbarous, was now the lawful realm

of a Hapsburg king.

What lessons are we to draw from this map? We

might see it as an example of Europe’s colonization

of the New World. As the Aztec world was

steamrolled by the Spanish imperial crusade, so

the initial Aztec map was first effaced by copying

and engraving. Then its printed version was put to

the service of a rhetorical conquest, in Cortes’s

Second Letter, as proof of a people’s capitulation to

Charles’s imperial right. But I also see it as showing

us the resiliency of Aztec self-conception, notwith-

standing the effacement and reinscription that

scores the map’s face. For despite the gulf between

the two cultures, the map, even in its bowdlerized

form, presented to Europe a record of Aztec civility
(viewed in the developed and ordered urban form)
that demanded recognition. In this light the map, as
well as other Aztec artifacts, was not passive,
subject to whatever interpretations its European
audience might wish to supply. Aztec self-under-

standing, as manifest in the Nuremberg map,
helped frame the European debate about the Aztecs

by giving evidence of Aztec urbanity and, in

consequence, proving its civility. By the end of
the sixteenth century, Europeans may have turned

away from recognizing any aspect of civility in the

Aztecs, but today in the map, which allows glimpses
of a profound vision that related the city to cosmos,
the complexity and the subtlety of the Aztec world
view and its initial impact on Europe refuse to be

Manuscript submitted July 1997. Revised text received October


1. Cortes’s First Letter was never published and is now
lost. His Second Letter describes the initial entry into
Mexico, and his Third, its conquest. The Second Letter was
first published in Spanish in Seville in November 1522,
and this edition contained no map. The Third Letter was
also first published in Spanish, appearing four months
later. In 1524 the Spanish edition of the Second Letter and
Third Letter were translated into Latin and published in
Nuremberg; this is the first edition to contain a map. Two
manuscript compilations of Cortes’s letters also exist
(Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, MS 3020, and Osterreic-
chische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, MS 1600); neither
contains maps. These are described by Anthony Pagden,
‘Translator’s Introduction’, in Hernan Cortes, Letters from
Mexico, ed. and trans. Anthony Pagden (New Haven and
London, Yale University Press, 1986), lii-lx. A facsimile of
the Vienna manuscript has been published: Hernan
Cortes, Cartas de Relacidn de la Conquista de la Nueva Espana,
Codex Vindobonensis S.N. 1600 (Codices selecti 2; Graz,
Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, 1960). For descrip-
tions of the various editions of the letters see Henry
Harrisse, Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima (New York,

2. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, The Discovery and Conquest of

Mexico, trans. A. P. Maudslay (New York: Farrar, Straus
and Cudahy, 1956), 190.

3. Ola Apenes, following Federico G6omez de Orozco,
asserted that the map, on the basis of its style, could be
attributed to Martin Plinius, an engraver working in
Nuremberg between 1510 and 1536 (Ola Apenes, Mapas
antiguos del Valle de Mexico (Mexico: UNAM, Instituto de
Historia, 1947), 20). But the Nuremberg map could not
have been teased out of the Second Letter alone. It
contains too many unique details. For instance, while
Cortes describes the giant market of Tlatelolco, only the
map correctly locates it (as the ‘Foru[m]’) to the north
(and slightly west) of the city centre. Cortes mentions the
aqueduct leading into the city but does not give its source;
in the map, we see it coming from the springs at
Chapultepec to the west. While Cortes mentions the
lake system, he does not describe the dike that controlled
flooding; here it is shown running along the east side of
the lake, looking as if it were made out of wicker. Cortes’s
accounts of the causeways in the letter are likewise
summary-he mentions ‘four artificial causeways’; in the
map, the system is shown to be more complicated, with
causeways linking the city with the shore at six different
points (Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note 1), 102). In
other places the map is more summary than Cortes
himself. Cortes describes the causeway from Ixtapalapa,
noting in particular a second canal that joins with the
Ixtapalapa canal half a league from Tenochtitlan at the site
of a fortification (ibid, 82); these canals and their
fortifications are shown schematically, albeit correctly,
on the map.

4. The ethnic group that populated Tenochtitlan was
the Culhua-Mexica. Led by Moteuczoma, they controlled
a loosely organized empire, which I refer to herein as the
‘Aztec’ empire. The polities within the empire that the
Culhua-Mexica controlled had other ethnic names and
are called by such herein.

5. Domingo Chimalpahin, Historia Mexicana: A Short
History of Ancient Mexico, trans. and ed. John B. Glass
(Contributions to the Ethnohistory of Mexico, no. 2;
Lincoln Center, Massachusetts, Conemex Associates,
1978), 9, 11.

6. The best known map of Tenochtitlan, the Codex
Mendoza folio 2, is discussed below. Another, the Plano
en Papel de Maguey, shows only a fragment of the larger
metropolis. In addition to these two, a page of the
Primeros Memoriales, also discussed below, contains a
plan of the city’s ceremonial centre. Other indigenous
manuscripts portray Tenochtitlan in a highly schematic

7. Benjamin Keen, The Aztec Image in Western Thought
(New Brunswick, Rutgers, 1971), 67. See also Jean Michel
Massing, ‘Map of Tenochtitlan and the Gulf of Mexico,’ in
Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, ed. Jay Levenson
(Washington and New Haven, National Gallery of Art and
Yale University Press, 1991), 572-73, who writes that ‘the
architecture is largely fanciful and accommodated to
familiar European conventions’; Manuel Toussaint, Fed-
erico G6mez de Orozco and Justino Fernandez, Pianos de la
Ciudad de Mdxico (XVI Congreso Intemacional de Planifica-
ci6n y de la Habitaci6n; Mexico, Instituto de Investiga-
ciones Esteticas de la Universidad Nacional Aut6noma,
1938), 98.

8. Donald Robertson, Mexican Manuscript Painting of the
Early Colonial Period: The Metropolitan Schools (New Haven,
Yale University Press, 1959).

9. See for instance, Jeanette Peterson, The Paradise 29

Garden Murals of Malinalco (Austin, University of Texas
Press, 1993).

10. On the continuities of native cultural patterns after
the conquest see James Lockhart, The Nahuas after the
Conquest (Stanford, California, Stanford University Press,
11. See Barbara Mundy, The Mapping of New Spain

(Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1996), xiii-xiv, for
a discussion of the European style of the map.

12. On the topic of cosmic modelling see Richard
Townsend, State and Cosmos in the Art of Tenochtitlan
(Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, 1979); Johanna
Broda, David Carrasco, Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, The
Great Temple of Tenochtitlan: Center and Periphery in the Aztec
World (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1987);
Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, ‘The Templo Mayor of
Tenochtitlan: economics and ideology’, in Ritual Human
Sacrifice in Mesoamerica, ed. E. H. Boone (Washington, D.C.,
Dumbarton Oaks, 1984), 133-64.

13. Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Victor Rangel, El
Templo Mayor de Tenochtitldn: Planos, cortes y perspectivas
(Mexico, Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia,
1982); Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, ed., Trabajos arqueolo-
gicos en el centro de la Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico, Instituto
Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1979).

14. Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note 1), 102.
15. Codex Boturini, in Antigiiedades de Mexico, ed. Jose

Corona Nuniez (Mexico, Secretaria de Hacienda y Credito
Publico, 1964), 2: 7-29.

16. Historia de la nacion mexicana: reproduccidn a todo color
del codice de 1576 (C6dice Aubin), ed. and trans. Charles
Dibble (Madrid, Ediciones J. Porruia Turanzas, 1963), fol.

17. The Codex Mendoza, ed. Frances F. Berdan and Patricia
Rieff Anawalt (Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford, Uni-
versity of California Press, 1992).

18. On the cosmic modelling and mythology associated
with the Templo Mayor see Broda et al., Great Temple of
Tenochtitlan (note 12); Matos Moctezuma, ‘Templo Mayor’
(note 12); Elizabeth Hill Boone, ed., The Aztec Templo
Mayor (Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, 1987).

19. Anthony Aveni, Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico (Austin
and London, University of Texas Press, 1980), 245-49.
20. Elizabeth Hill Boone, ‘Templo Mayor research,

1521-1978′, in Aztec Templo Mayor (see note 18), 5-69.
For one wholly imaginative reconstruction see Giovanni
Battista Ramusio, Terzo Volvme delle Navigationi et Viaggi
(Venice, Givnti, 1556), fol. 309r.
21. One of these portrayals, from the Codex Ixtlilxochitl,

represents the twin pyramids of Texcoco; the rendering is
similar enough to those of Tenochtitlan to indicate the
conventional nature of the depiction.
22. Bemardino de Sahagfn, Primeros Memoriales (The

Civilization of the American Indian Series, vol. 200, part 1;
Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1993). Thelma
Sullivan et al. in their commentary on this manuscript
raise the possibility that the Primeros Memoriales picture
may be showing the temple precinct of another central
Mexican town. While this is possible, most scholars have
accepted it to be that of Tenochtitlan. See Thelma
Sullivan, Primeros Memoriales: Paleography of Nahuatl Text
and English Translation, rev. and ed. H. B. Nicholson et al.
(The Civilization of the American Indian Series, vol. 200,
part 2; Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1997),
117-20, nn. 1-10.
23. Alfred P. Maudslay, ‘A note on the position and

extent of the Great Temple enclosure of Tenochtitlan, and
30 the position, structure and orientation of the teocalli of

Huitzilopochtli’, Acts of the International Congress of Amer-
icanists, 18: 2 (London, 1913): 173-75. In the Nuremberg
map the eastern orientation of the temple has been
reversed, and it seems that in recopying the prototype, the
Nuremberg artist neglected to compensate for the mirror
effect his copying would have on the temple precinct. This
kind of disorientation is common among later copies of
the Nuremberg map.

24. Bernardino de Sahagun, Historia General de las Cosas
de Nueva Espana (San Angel, Mexico, Consejo Nacional
para la Cultura y las Artes, 1989), 1: 181-89 (book 2,
appendix); Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex:
General History of the Things of New Spain, trans. Arthur
Anderson and Charles Dibble (13 vols.; Santa Fe, School
of American Research and the University of Utah, 1950-
1963), book 2: 165-80. Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note
1), 105-6; Dfaz del Castillo, Discovery and Conquest of Mexico
(see note 2), 408.
25. Matos Moctezuma, ‘Templo Mayor’ (see note 12),

148, 161. Sahagun, Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva
Espana (see note 24), 1: 181-89. Some parts of the bodies
(such as limbs) were certainly distributed for ritual
cannibalism; the Aztec’s disposal of the other body parts
is still an unresolved question (Inga Clendinnen, Aztecs
(Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991), 91).
26. Codex Azcatitlan/C6dice Azcatitlan, ed. Michel Graulich

and Robert Barlow (Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de
France, Societe des Americanistes, 1995).

27. The Coatlicue statue was probably set at the top of
the Huitzilopochtli temple not the bottom. Cort6s also
mentions large idols in the precinct (‘very much larger
than the body of a big man’), but these were made of
seed-studded dough (Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note
1), 107). Such ‘idols’ were rarely, if ever, illustrated in
conjunction with the central temple, and there is no
reason why one would lack its head, as the figure pictured
here does.
28. H. B. Nicholson, ‘Religion in pre-Hispanic central

Mexico’, Handbook of Middle American Indians, 10 (Austin,
University of Texas Press, 1971), 395-446.

29. In the precinct today, only one skull rack, a platform
decorated with 240 stone skulls (Temple B) lying to the
north of the temple, has been excavated. The area facing
the temple (the west) remains unexcavated, but it is likely
that a skull rack was built or conceived to exist here.
According to the 16th-century friar Sahagun’s description
of the precinct, there were six tzompantlis, and the largest
of them, the Hueitzompantli, stood in front of Huitzilo-
pochtli’s temple (Sahagun, Historia General de las Cosas de
Nueva Espana (see note 24), 1: 181-89).

30. I am wary of using contemporary reconstructions of
the precinct to corroborate the Cortes map, since in many
instances these reconstructions have been drawn out of
the Cortes map.

31. Cecelia F. Klein, ‘Post-classic Mexican death imagery
as a sign of cyclic completion’, in Death and the Afterlife in
Pre-Columbian America, ed. E. P. Benson (Washington,
D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, 1975), 69-85.

32. Codex Fejervary-Mayer: M 12014 City of Liverpool
Museums, ed. C. A. Burland (Codices selecti XXVI; Graz,
Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, 1971). See the
interpretation supplied by Eduard Seler, Comentarios al
C6dice Borgia, trans. Mariana Frenk (3 vols.; Mexico: Fondo
de Cultura Econ6mica, 1988); and in Eduard Seler, Codex
Fejervary-Mayer (Berlin and London, Duke of Loubat,
33. The trees seen in the centre may be a pine grove

mentioned by Peter Martyr as being near the great temple

(Peter Martyr D’Anghera, De Orbe Novo, trans. Francis A.
MacNutt (New York and London, 1912), 2: 133).

34. This interlude is described in Nigel Davies, The Aztecs
(Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1980), 41-42.
35. Frances Karttunen, An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl

(Austin, University of Texas Press, 1983), 40.
36. Francisco de Garay describes the dike as ‘construida

de piedra y barro y coronado con un fuerte muro de
mamposterfa’ [constructed of stone and clay and crowned
with a strong wall of rubble masonry], in El Valle de Mexico,
Apuntes Historicos sobre su Hidrographia (Mexico, Secretaria
de Fomento, 1888), 13; Pintura del Gobernador, Alcaldes y
Regidores de Mexico: ‘Cddice Osuna’ (Madrid, Ministerio de
Educaci6n y Ciencia, 1973); Charles Gibson, The Aztecs
under Spanish Rule (Stanford, Stanford University Press,
1964), 225.
37. Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note 1), 68.
38. Italian-German artistic connections are well estab-

lished. Jacopo de’ Barbari, who created a well-known map
of his natal city Venice in 1500, died in Flanders eleven
years later; Schulz proposes that he may have worked in
Nuremberg (Jiirgen Schulz, ‘Jacopo de’ Barbari’s view of
Venice: map making, city views, and moralized geography
before the year 1500′, The Art Bulletin, 60: 3 (1978): 426).

39. Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note 1), 174.
40. Ibid., 94.
41. The Gulf Coast map also includes areas of what is

now the United States. Kenneth Nebenzahl attributes
them to reports from the ill-fated Garay expedition (Atlas
of Columbus and the Great Discoveries (Chicago, Rand
McNally, 1990), 76).
42. In other instances, Cortes recognized the consum-

mate skill of native mapmakers and used maps by their
hands, not his own (Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note 1),
192, 340, 344).
43. Martyr, De Orbe Novo (see note 33), 2: 198-99, 201.
44. Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note 1), 499, n.99.

Peter Martyr says that the goods he saw, including maps,
had been brought back to Europe by Cortes’s secretary
Juan de Ribera, who arrived in Seville around 8
November 1522 carrying a copy of Cortes’s third letter.
This is inconsistent with what Cortes himself says about
the map of Tenochtitlan, which he specifically notes
accompanied his second letter of 1520. Martyr, however,
could easily have been seeing accumulated materials from
the New World along with those that Ribera had brought.

45. Charles left Spain in May of 1520, first to claim his
crown as Holy Roman Emperor in Aachen and then to
proceed to Worms for its Diet, which convened in
January, 1521. On his travels see Karl Brandi, The Emperor
Charles V, trans. C.V. Wedgewood (London, Jonathan
Cape, 1968), 123-32.
46. Jonathan Zophy, ed., The Holy Roman Empire: A

Dictionary Handbook (Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood
Press, 1980), 343.

47. Cecelia Klein, ‘Wild woman in colonial Mexico’, in
Reframing the Renaissance, ed. C. Farago (New Haven, Yale
University Press, 1995), 244-63.
48. For the urban ordinances promulgated by Philip I in

1573 see Colecci6n de documents ineditos, relativos al
descubrimiento, conquista y organizaci6n de las antiguas
posesiones espanolas de America y Oceania, sacados de los
archivos del reino, y muy especialmente del de Indias .. ., ed. J.
F. Pacheco, F. de Cardenas, L. Torres de Mendoza
(Madrid, 1864-1886), 24: 172-84. An English translation
is to be found in Zelia Nuttall, ‘Royal ordinances
concerning the laying out of new towns’, Hispanic
American Historical Review, 4 (1921): 743-53; 5 (1922):
249-54. Although codified in 1573, these ordinances
came after decades of Spanish attempts, begun even
before the conquest of Mexico, to impose civic order on
New World cities by means of urban planning. Erwin
Palm argues that the plan of Tenochtitlan was to influence
Durer; see Erwin Walter Palm, ‘Tenochtitlan y la ciudad
ideal de Duirer’, Journal de la Societe des Americanistes, n.s.,
40 (1951), 59-66.
49. The Latin gloss on the map describes the houses as

pleasure houses; Bernal Diaz confirms that these were
houses of kept women (Diaz del Castillo, Discovery and
Conquest (see note 2), 214). See also Appendix 2 of this
paper, no. 4.

50. Cortes, Letters from Mexico (see note 1), 108.
51. See Peggy K. Liss, Mexico under Spain, 1521-1556:

Society and the Origins of Nationality (Chicago and London,
University of Chicago Press, 1984), 36-38.

52. On Cortes’s larger motives in the letter see J. H.
Elliott, ‘Cortes, Velazquez and Charles V’, in Cortes, Letters
from Mexico (see note 1), xi-xxxvii.

53. Ibid., xxvii.
54. The flag may be intended to mark Tlacopan, later

known as Tacuba, where Cortes beat a retreat after being
routed from Tenochtitlan on Noche Triste (Cortes, Letters
from Mexico (see note 1), 139). It was from here he
launched an attack on Tenochtitlan, described in his Third
Letter (ibid., 187).

55. Liss, Mexico under Spain (see note 51), 26.
56. Bartolome de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, ed.

Agustin Millares Carlo (Mexico, Fondo de Cultura
Economica, 1986), 2: 467.

57. An incomplete version of the Venetian edition may
have led Armstrong to assert that this edition was without
a map (Lilian Armstrong, ‘Benedetto Bordone, miniator,
and cartography in early sixteenth-century Venice’, Imago
Mundi, 48 (1996): 83). Rare complete examples, however,
show the Venetian edition to have a map, based on the
Nuremberg map but with glosses in Italian. This Italian
map was likely to have been the template for those by
Bordone and Ramusio.


Appendix 1: Important 16th and Early 17th Century Publications of Versions of the 1524
Nuremberg Map of Tenochtitlan


Praeclara Ferdinadi. Cortesii de
Noua maris Oceani Hyspania
Narratio …

Place Printer Years

Nuremberg Frederick Peypus
Arthimesus; Pietro
Savorgnani, trans.

Feb. 1524 betw.ii
and iii

Hemran Cortes La preclara Narratione di Venice Bernardino de Viano Aug. 1524 before
Ferdinando Cortese della Nuoua sig. Al
Hispagna del Mare Oceano … A. de Nicolini Aug. 152457

Benedetto Bordone Libro di Benedetto Bordone: Venice Nicolo d’Aristotile 1528 10r
Nel qual si ragiona da tutte l’isole del
mondo …

Isolario de Benedetto Bordone: ” ” 1534 10r
Nel qual si ragiona da tutte l’isole del
mondo … Paolo Manuzio 1547 10r

Francesco di Leno 156-? 10r

Giovanni Battista Terzo Volvme delle Navigationi et Venice Givnti 1556 309v
Ramusio Viaggi ” 1565 307v

Delle Navagationi et Viaggi Raccolte ” 1606 258r
Da M. Gio. Battista Ramvsio

Antoine du Pinet Planz, Povrtraitz, et descriptions de Lyon Ian D’Ogerolles 1564 p. 297
plvsievrs villes et forteresses, tant de
l’Evrope, Asie, & Afrique, que des
Indes, & terres neuues

Tommaso Porcacchi L’isole piv famose del mondo Venice Simon Galignani and 1572 p. 105
descritte da Tomaso Porcacchi da Girolamo Porro 1576 p. 157

Heredi di Simon 1590 p. 157
Galignani 1605 p. 157

Padua Paolo et Francesco 1620 p. 157
Galignani Fratelli

Georg Braun and Civitates Orbis Terrarum, Liber Cologne Braun and Hogenberg 1576 pl. 58
Franz Hogenberg Primvs 1581-82

pl. 58
pl. 58

Appendix 2: Inscriptions on the 1524 Nuremberg Map of Tenochtitlan
1. Ex isto fluuio conducut agud in ciuitatem

From here a stream of water flows into the city

2. Atacuba

3. Viridarni D. Muteezuma
Gardens of Don Moteuczoma

4. Domus aduoluptase d. Muteezuma
Pleasure-houses of Don Moteuczoma

5. Foru[m]

6. Templum ubi sacrificant
Temple where sacrifices are made


8. Capita Sacrificatoru [m]
Sacrificial heads

9. Platea

10. Idol Lapideu[m]
Stone idol

11. Dom[us] D. Muteezuma
House of Don Moteuczoma

12. Capita sacrificatoru[m]
Sacrificial heads

13. Dom[us] a[n]ialui[m]
House of the animals (zoo)

14. Istapalapa

15. Templu[m] ubi orant
Temple of worship

16. Aggeres ad tutelam domoru[m] a Lacus fluctiuz
Dike to protect the houses from lake tides

17. Telqua


Hemrnan Cortes




Cartographie de la capitale azteque: le plan de Tenochtitlan de Nuremberg, 1524

Le plan de Tenochtitlan publie avec l’edition latine des lettres de Hernan Cortes (Nuremberg, 1524) fut la
premiere image presentee aux Europeens de la ville de Culhua-Mexica, la capitale de l’empire azteque. On
ignore la source de ce plan grave sur bois. L’auteur demontre qu’il etait base sur un plan indigene de la ville.

Lorsqu’il fut publie en Europe, ce plan, accompagne de la carte de la cote du Golfe du Mexique, en plus de sa
valeur de document, assuma egalement un role symbolique pour soutenir que la conquete de l’empire
amerindien par Cortes (et donc par l’Espagne) etait un acte justifie.

Eine Karte der Azteken-Metropole: der Nurnberger Plan von Tenochtitlan von 1524. Seine Quellen und seine

Der Plan von Tenochtitlan, der zusammen mit der lateinischen Version der Briefe des Her Briefe des Hernan Cortes 1524 in

Niirnberg publiziert wurde, war die erste Darstellung der Stadt der Culhua-Mexica, der Hauptstadt des
Aztekenreiches, die in Europa zur Verfiigung stand. Die Vorlage dieser Holzschnittkarte ist unbekannt und die
Autorin legt dar, dalf sie auf einer einheimischen Karte der Stadt basiert. Mit der Publikation des Stadtplans
und der zugehorigen Karte des Golfs von Mexiko in Europa sollte-neben der zweifellos dokumentarischen
Absicht-auf einer mehr symbolischen Ebene auch die Eroberung des indianischen Reiches durch Cortes
(und damit Spanien) legitimiert werden.

‘Gateway’ Sites on the Web
Devoted to the History of Cartography

The history of cartography can fairly claim to be one of the best organised subjects on the World Wide Web. Literally
hundreds of sites could be individually mentioned f or images relevant to the study of early maps. However, in a
situation that is so dynamic that any attempt to tie down the Web behemoth is out of date no sooner than written (let alone
printed), and where the subject’s most prolific index site is significantly updated everyday, the only sensible advice to give
here is to point to the ‘gateway’ sites. These are sites which can be relied upon to provide the best current route into a
ceaselessly-changing wired world-in much the same way as knowing where your radio weather programme is while not
knowing what tomorrow’s weather will be like.

There are two of these gateways, each linked to the other at multiple points. From either, you should be able to find
everything on the Web of value to early maps. It is perhaps no coincidence that both sites are managed by librarians, whose
metier is the organisation of information and the routes to it.

1. The History of Cartography site: < http://www.ihrinfo.ac.uk/maps/ >
This is run by the British Library’s Map Librarian, Tony Campbell, who seeks to provide introductory information on all
aspects of the subject while recognising that many of the answers to questions-about fellowships, exhibitions, journals
(including Imago Mundf s own homepage), conferences and lectures, societies, library collections, for example-are still to
be found elsewhere than on the Web.

2. ‘Oddens’s Bookmarks’ site: < http://kartoserver.frw.ruu.nll/html/staff/oddens/oddens.htm >

This is managed by the indefatigable Roelof Oddens, Utrecht University’s Map Librarian. It comprises, at the time of writing,
almost 5000 links to sites involving both historical and modern mapping and has become an indispensable part of our
discipline. The easiest way of accessing its varied historical information is via the History of Cartography homepage, under
‘Internet Resources-Web Links’.

Cartographie de la capitale azteque: le plan de Tenochtitlan de Nuremberg, 1524

Le plan de Tenochtitlan publie avec l’edition latine des lettres de Hernan Cortes (Nuremberg, 1524) fut la
premiere image presentee aux Europeens de la ville de Culhua-Mexica, la capitale de l’empire azteque. On
ignore la source de ce plan grave sur bois. L’auteur demontre qu’il etait base sur un plan indigene de la ville.

Lorsqu’il fut publie en Europe, ce plan, accompagne de la carte de la cote du Golfe du Mexique, en plus de sa
valeur de document, assuma egalement un role symbolique pour soutenir que la conquete de l’empire
amerindien par Cortes (et donc par l’Espagne) etait un acte justifie.

Eine Karte der Azteken-Metropole: der Nurnberger Plan von Tenochtitlan von 1524. Seine Quellen und seine

Der Plan von Tenochtitlan, der zusammen mit der lateinischen Version der Briefe des Her Briefe des Hernan Cortes 1524 in

Niirnberg publiziert wurde, war die erste Darstellung der Stadt der Culhua-Mexica, der Hauptstadt des
Aztekenreiches, die in Europa zur Verfiigung stand. Die Vorlage dieser Holzschnittkarte ist unbekannt und die
Autorin legt dar, dalf sie auf einer einheimischen Karte der Stadt basiert. Mit der Publikation des Stadtplans
und der zugehorigen Karte des Golfs von Mexiko in Europa sollte-neben der zweifellos dokumentarischen
Absicht-auf einer mehr symbolischen Ebene auch die Eroberung des indianischen Reiches durch Cortes
(und damit Spanien) legitimiert werden.

‘Gateway’ Sites on the Web
Devoted to the History of Cartography

The history of cartography can fairly claim to be one of the best organised subjects on the World Wide Web. Literally
hundreds of sites could be individually mentioned f or images relevant to the study of early maps. However, in a
situation that is so dynamic that any attempt to tie down the Web behemoth is out of date no sooner than written (let alone
printed), and where the subject’s most prolific index site is significantly updated everyday, the only sensible advice to give
here is to point to the ‘gateway’ sites. These are sites which can be relied upon to provide the best current route into a
ceaselessly-changing wired world-in much the same way as knowing where your radio weather programme is while not
knowing what tomorrow’s weather will be like.

There are two of these gateways, each linked to the other at multiple points. From either, you should be able to find
everything on the Web of value to early maps. It is perhaps no coincidence that both sites are managed by librarians, whose
metier is the organisation of information and the routes to it.

1. The History of Cartography site: < http://www.ihrinfo.ac.uk/maps/ >
This is run by the British Library’s Map Librarian, Tony Campbell, who seeks to provide introductory information on all
aspects of the subject while recognising that many of the answers to questions-about fellowships, exhibitions, journals
(including Imago Mundf s own homepage), conferences and lectures, societies, library collections, for example-are still to
be found elsewhere than on the Web.

2. ‘Oddens’s Bookmarks’ site: < http://kartoserver.frw.ruu.nll/html/staff/oddens/oddens.htm >

This is managed by the indefatigable Roelof Oddens, Utrecht University’s Map Librarian. It comprises, at the time of writing,
almost 5000 links to sites involving both historical and modern mapping and has become an indispensable part of our
discipline. The easiest way of accessing its varied historical information is via the History of Cartography homepage, under
‘Internet Resources-Web Links’.

33 33

  • Article Contents
  • p. 11

    p. 12

    p. 13

    p. 14

    p. 15

    p. 16

    p. 17

    p. 18

    p. 19

    p. 20

    p. 21

    p. 22

    p. 23

    p. 24

    p. 25

    p. 26

    p. 27

    p. 28

    p. 29

    p. 30

    p. 31

    p. 32

    p. 33

  • Issue Table of Contents
  • Imago Mundi, Vol. 50 (1998), pp. 1-292

    Front Matter [pp. 1-6]

    Editorial [pp. 7-10]

    Mapping the Aztec Capital: The 1524 Nuremberg Map of Tenochtitlan, Its Sources and Meanings [pp. 11-33]

    Reports and Notices

    ‘Gateway’ Sites on the Web Devoted to the History of Cartography [p. 33]

    Norumbega and “Harmonia Mundi” in Sixteenth-Century Cartography [pp. 34-58]

    Abraham Ortelius and the Hermetic Meaning of the Cordiform Projection [pp. 59-83]

    Production Cartographique et Enjeux Diplomatiques Le Problème des Routes et de la Frontière entre les Pays-Bas Autrichiens et la France (1769-1779) [pp. 84-95]

    Map Wars: The Role of Maps in the Nova Scotia/Acadia Boundary Disputes of 1750 [pp. 96-104]

    Red Lines on Maps: The Impact of Cartographical Errors on the Border between the United States and British North America, 1782-1842 [pp. 105-125]

    Area Maps in Maratha Cartography: A Study in Native Maps of Western India [pp. 126-140]

    Navigating in Tropical Waters: British Maritime Views of Rio de Janeiro [pp. 141-155]

    Reports and Notices

    Authors’ Postscripts [p. 155]

    Maps and the Assessment of Parish Rates in Nineteenth-Century England and Wales [pp. 156-173]

    Reports and Notices

    Who’s Who in the History of Cartography (D9) [p. 173]

    Richard Edes Harrison and the Challenge to American Cartography [pp. 174-188]

    The 17th International Conference on the History of Cartography: Report [pp. 189-192]


    Roger Hervé (1904-1997) [p. 193]

    Antoine De Smet (1909-1997) [pp. 193-198]

    Review Article

    Review: Vinland Re-Read [pp. 199-202]

    Book Reviews

    Review: untitled [pp. 203-204]

    Review: untitled [p. 204]

    Review: untitled [pp. 204-205]

    Review: untitled [pp. 205-206]

    Review: untitled [pp. 206-207]

    Review: untitled [pp. 207-208]

    Review: untitled [pp. 208-209]

    Review: untitled [pp. 209-210]

    Review: untitled [pp. 210-211]

    Review: untitled [pp. 211-212]

    Review: untitled [pp. 212-213]

    Review: untitled [pp. 213-214]

    Review: untitled [pp. 214-215]

    Review: untitled [pp. 215-216]

    Review: untitled [pp. 216-217]

    Review: untitled [p. 217]

    Review: untitled [pp. 217-218]

    Review: untitled [pp. 218-219]

    Review: untitled [pp. 219-220]

    Shorter Notices

    Review: untitled [p. 220]

    Review: untitled [p. 220]

    Review: untitled [pp. 220-221]

    Review: untitled [p. 221]

    Review: untitled [p. 221]

    Review: untitled [p. 221]

    Chronicle for 1997-1998 [pp. 222-231]

    Reports and Notices

    Forthcoming International Conferences [p. 231]

    Imago Mundi Bibliography (Of Literature Mainly Published 1995-1997) [pp. 232-269]

    Back Matter [pp. 270-292]

  • Artl@s Bulletin
  • Volume 7
    Issue 2 Cartographic Styles and Discourse Article 2


    Indigenous Stylistic & Conceptual Innovation in
    the Uppsala Map of Mexico City (c. 1540)
    Jennifer Saracino
    Flagler College, jsaracin@tulane.edu

    Follow this and additional works at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/artlas

    Part of the History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology Commons

    This document has been made available through Purdue e-Pubs, a service of the Purdue University Libraries. Please contact epubs@purdue.edu for
    additional information.

    This is an Open Access journal. This means that it uses a funding model that does not charge readers or their institutions for access. Readers may freely
    read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of articles. This journal is covered under the CC BY-NC-ND license.

    Recommended Citation
    Saracino, Jennifer. “

  • Indigenous Stylistic & Conceptual Innovation in the Uppsala Map of Mexico City (c. 1540)
  • .” Artl@s Bulletin 7, no.
    2 (2018): Article 2.









    Cartographic Styles
    and Discourse

    ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

    Indigenous Stylistic & Conceptual Innovation
    in the Uppsala Map of Mexico City (c. 1540)


    The only known map of Mexico City painted with the collaboration of indigenous artists,
    the Mapa Uppsala (c. 1540) depicts the city and surrounding Valley of Mexico. This essay
    counters previous characterizations of the map’s formal composition as one that has
    fully espoused European cartographic modes. This essay contextualizes the Mapa
    Uppsala within the extant corpus of pre-Hispanic and early colonial cartographies to
    demonstrate that a closer analysis of pictorial conventions and structures can shed light
    on how and why the artists might have consciously selected particular pictorial

    Jennifer Saracino *
    Flagler College

    * Jennifer Saracino received her Ph.D. in Art History and Latin American Studies from Tulane
    University. Her dissertation focuses on the Mapa Uppsala, the earliest known map of Mexico City
    painted by indigenous artists after Spanish Conquest. She is currently Assistant Professor of Art
    History at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.


    El único mapa conocido de la ciudad de México pintado con la colaboración de artistas
    indígenas, el Mapa Uppsala (c. 1540) representa la ciudad y el valle de México que lo
    rodea. Este ensayo contrarresta las caracterizaciones previas de la composición formal
    del mapa como una que ha adoptado modos cartográficos europeos. Este ensayo
    contextualiza el Mapa Uppsala dentro del corpus existente de cartografías indígenas para
    demostrar que un análisis más detallado de las convenciones y estructuras pictóricas
    puede arrojar luz sobre cómo y por qué los artistas pueden haber seleccionado
    conscientemente estrategias pictóricas particulares.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    11 ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018) Cartographic Styles and Discourse


    Named for the city in Sweden where it resides

    today, the Mapa Uppsala is the earliest known map

    (c. 1540) of Mexico City painted by indigenous

    artists after Spanish Conquest.1 The map reveals

    the urban plan of the city, the former capital of the

    Mexica Empire, its neighboring altepetl

    (community) of Tlatelolco, and their environs,

    covering the area between the city and its

    surrounding mountain ranges, an average 40 km in

    all directions.2 The map is oriented with west at the

    top, and a cartouche in the lower right-hand corner

    dedicates the map to the Holy Roman Emperor

    Charles V from his royal cosmographer Alonso de

    Santa Cruz. In one of the first publications

    regarding the map, Erik W. Dahlgren initially

    attributed the map to Santa Cruz.3 Manuel

    Toussaint first argued for its indigenous authorship,

    highlighting the fact that Santa Cruz had never set

    foot in New Spain and that the map includes almost

    200 pre-Hispanic glyphs for native place names,

    among other indigenous pictorial conventions.4 It is

    not clear why the map was made, but the

    dedicatory cartouche makes known that it was

    intended for the Spanish Crown. The cartouche and

    ornamental frame prompted Donald Robertson to

    characterize the map as a “presentation piece… an

    artistic tour de force possibly to be considered

    almost as an item of propaganda…before the eyes

    of important powers in the Court of Spain, who

    might be useful as patrons.”5

    Author’s note: Readers may find a high-resolution, digitized version of the Mapa
    Uppsala at the following web address: http://art.alvin-
    portal.org/alvin/view.jsf?file=4289 I thank the Uppsala University Library for
    making this invaluable resource available to the public. I also thank the editors and
    reviewers for their generous comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this
    1 Manuel Toussaint dated the map to c. 1555 or later due to an unsubstantiated
    identification of a dike depicted on the map as the Albarradón of San Lazaro, a dike
    with pre-Hispanic foundations first constructed by the native population and later
    rebuilt. There is no evidence that the colonial reconstruction is the one the authors
    intended. (Toussaint, Manuel, Gómez De Orozco, Federico, Fernandez, Justino, Planos
    De La Ciudad De Mexico: Siglos XVI Y XVII, Estudio Historico, Urbanistico Y
    Bibliografico. Mexico: [Impreso En Los Talleres De La Editorial “Cvltvra”], 1938.)
    Later, Miguel Leon-Portilla and Carmen Aguilera dated the map to c. 1555, a year
    before the abdication of Charles V, to whom the map is dedicated. (León Portilla,
    Miguel., Aguilera, Carmen, and Santa Cruz, Alonso De. Mapa De Mexico Tenochtitlan Y
    Sus Contornos Hacia 1550. Mexico, D.F: Celanese Mexicana, 1986.) Ample evidence
    within the urban plan of the map (through cross-referencing building foundation
    dates in town council minutes and other historical sources) strongly suggests an
    earlier date of c. 1540, a subject I address in more detail in my dissertation.
    (Saracino, Jennifer R. “Shifting Landscapes: Depictions of Cultural & Environmental
    Disruption the Mapa Uppsala of Mexico-Tenochtitlan.” PhD Diss., Tulane University,
    2 In pre-Hispanic Central Mexico, the altepetl conceptually referred to a group of
    people who identified with and largely controlled a specific geographic territory. The

    The mapmakers fastidiously depicted the urban

    plan of Mexico-Tenochtitlan and its adjacent

    altepetl Tlatelolco, labeling key institutions that

    comprised the sociopolitical backbone of the

    Spanish viceregal capital. Thus, the map, soon after

    its rediscovery in the late eighteenth-century,

    proved to be a treasure trove of information for

    scholars interested in the city’s early colonial urban

    history.6 The plan is remarkable for its accuracy.

    Most recently, Edward Calnek has corroborated the

    layout of roads, canals, and buildings with the plan

    of the historic center of Mexico City as it exists

    today, and Susan Toby-Evans’ analysis of the tecpan

    (indigenous ruler houses) and their distribution

    shed light on the city’s urban development at the

    time of the map’s creation.7 However, the

    information presented outside of the urban plan

    has proved more enigmatic, and this is partially

    because the perspective and formal features of the

    surrounding landscape dramatically depart from

    that of the urban plan.

    A complex planimetric network of roads,

    waterways, and canals extends from the urban plan

    and stretches across the valley. In the interstices of

    this roadmap, however, the artists created the

    impression of verdant landscape with washes of

    green pigment and conventionalized trees. The

    trees generally have triangular, scallop-edged

    foliage, and their crosshatched shading was most

    likely copied from woodcut prints found in

    imported European books. In some places,

    altepetl served as the heart of sociopolitical organization for the indigenous
    population. The word comes from the Nahuatl language, the predominant language
    spoken by the indigenous population in Central Mexico at the time of Spanish
    Conquest. James Lockhart, The Nahuas after the Conquest: A Social and Cultural
    History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries
    (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1992), 14.
    3 Erik Wilhelm Dahlgren, N\a Agot Om Det Forna Och Nuvarande Mexico: Med
    Anledning Af En Gammal Karta Öfver Staden Och Dess Omgifningar (Norman, 1889).
    4 Manuel Toussaint et al, Planos de la ciudad de Mexico: siglos XVI y XVII, estudio
    historico, urbanistico y bibliografico (Mexico: Impreso en los talleres de la editorial
    “Cvltvra, 1938), 142.
    5 Donald Robertson, Mexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial Period: The
    Metropolitan Schools, Yale Historical Publications. History of Art 12 (New Haven:
    Yale University Press, 1959), 159.
    6 This is particularly the case for Toussaint et al, Planos de la ciudad de Mexico, a
    collaborative work focusing on the urban history of Mexico City as pieced together
    through a compilation of its extant maps. .
    7 Edward E. Calnek, “Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco: The Natural History of a City,”
    Urbanism in Mesoamerica 1 (2003): 149–202; Susan T. Evans, “The Aztec Palace
    under Spanish Rule: Disk Motifs in the Mapa de México de 1550 (Uppsala Map or
    Mapa de Santa Cruz),” The Postclassic to Spanish-Era Transition in Mesoamerica:
    Archaeological Perspectives ( Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005),



    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    12 Cartographic Styles and Discourse ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

    however, the artists specified plant life indigenous

    to the area such as maguey plants and nopal cacti.

    Conventionalized and naturalistic forms are

    integrated to convey a more intentional and specific

    representation of the local landscape. For example,

    in the upper left-hand corner of the map, grey and

    green brushstrokes are intermingled to indicate the

    rocky volcanic terrain of the Pedregal lava fields

    caused by a millennia-old eruption from the nearby

    Xitle volcano. In the lower left-hand corner, a

    volcano emits puffs of smoke, marking it as a

    representation of Popocatepetl, an iconic feature of

    the landscape that is still active today.

    In terms of the map’s style, Donald Robertson noted

    the pronounced influence of European visual

    culture on the artists of the Mapa Uppsala.8 Miguel

    León-Portilla and Carmen Aguilera believed the

    naturalistic landscape to be entirely due to

    European influence and that European friars who

    worked with the artists likely had the idea for the

    map’s composition.9 The mapmakers also included

    depictions of almost two hundred, mostly

    indigenous figures engaged in a wide, diverse array

    of activities. Some of the human figures display the

    artists’ attempt to render convincing musculature

    and knowledge of the human form, a characteristic

    of European pictorial tradition. León-Portilla and

    Aguilera observed that these vignettes of daily life

    were reminiscent of sixteenth-century Dutch genre

    and “map-landscapes” (“mapa-paisajes”).10 Indeed,

    some of the architecture displays linear

    perspective, Greco-Roman columns, and medieval

    turrets. These European visual traits often led

    scholars to explain the map’s style in dichotomous

    terms (that is, how much the mapmakers adhered

    to either European vs. indigenous convention),

    ascribing what they perceived as the map’s

    dominant naturalism to European influence.

    Sigvald Linné first posited that the artists of the

    Mapa Uppsala might have originated from the

    8 Robertson, Mexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial Period, 159–63.
    9 Miguel León Portilla, Mapa de Mexico Tenochtitlan y sus contornos hacia 1550
    (Mexico, D.F: Celanese Mexicana, 1986), 25–27, 31.
    10 León Portilla, Mapa de Mexico Tenochtitlan y sus contornos hacia 1550, 31.
    11 Linné first observes how the Uppsala illustrations look similar to those found in
    Sahagún’s Florentine Codex. Sigvald Linné, El Valle y La Ciudad de Mexico En 1550;
    Relacion Historica Fundada Sobre Un Mapa Geografico, Que Se Conserva En La

    scriptorium of the Colegio de Santa Cruz

    (henceforth referred to as the Colegio), a monastic

    school of higher education for indigenous students,

    for two main reasons: 1) the Colegio is the largest

    feature in the urban plan, a trait consistent with

    other indigenous maps in which the artists’

    community (typically the map’s site of production)

    is emphasized, and 2) the map’s style, which many

    have concurred is similar to other documents

    known to have come from the Colegio.11

    This essay reconsiders these two features of the

    map—that is, its representation of space as well as

    the map’s overall style—and argues that a closer

    analysis of the map’s conventions, composition, and

    historic context reveals a much more nuanced

    exchange of cartographic cultures between

    indigenous and European actors across the surface

    of the map. It argues that the unique circumstances

    of the Colegio, as a hotbed of cultural exchange

    between indigenous and European actors,

    informed the singularity of the map’s composition

    within the extant corpus of sixteenth-century maps

    of Mexico-Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco. This essay

    serves to complicate past assertions that the map

    represents a teleological culmination of European

    stylistic influence on indigenous artistic production

    and foreground the contributions of its indigenous

    authors to sixteenth-century cartographic culture.

    Building on previous assertions that the artists

    hailed from the Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco,

    this essay argues that, owing to their unique

    position as cultural mediators within early colonial

    society, the Mapa Uppsala artists innovated

    cartographic culture by incorporating distinctly

    indigenous spatial engagements with European

    pictorial illusionism. It argues for a shift in how we

    view the aesthetics of the Mapa Uppsala, that is, as

    the product of the artists’ specific cultural

    formation in a collaborative monastic setting

    between colonial officials and native artists, and not

    as emblematic of complete acculturation or

    Biblioteca de La Universidad de Uppsala, Suecia, Series: Statens Etnografiska Museum
    (Sweden). (Statens etnografiska museum (Sweden). Publication, no. 9). Stockholm:
    [Esselte], 201; León-Portilla and Aguilera even wonder if Fray Bernardino de
    Sahagún, the compiler of the Florentine Codex, might have been responsible for the
    Mapa Uppsala. León Portilla and Aguilera, Mapa de Mexico Tenochtitlan y sus
    contornos hacia 1550, (México, D.F.: Celanese Mexicana, 1986), 34.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    13 ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018) Cartographic Styles and Discourse

    assimilation to European pictorial tradition. This

    essay highlights the sociocultural complexity of the

    map’s site of production and its makers as an

    explanation for its singular composition amid a

    scant corpus of sixteenth-century maps of


    City in the early colonial period.

    Indigenous Mapmakers and Artists in

    Pre-Hispanic and Early Colonial Central


    In Nahuatl—the most widely spoken language in

    central Mexico at the time of Spanish conquest—

    the painter-scribe who possessed the knowledge of

    manuscript art and production was known as the

    tlahcuiloh (pl. tlahcuilohque). In pre-Hispanic

    society, the tlahcuilohque acquired profound

    knowledge of creation mythology, genealogy, and

    community history so they could represent these

    values on paper according to strict iconographic

    convention. Colonial accounts describe the

    tlahcuiloh simultaneously as an artist, craftsman,

    painter, and draftsman.12

    Although Spanish conquest and colonization

    majorly disrupted indigenous scribal culture,

    aspects of pre-Hispanic pictorial tradition survived

    well into the colonial period. This occurred

    especially at monastic schools established by the

    first mendicant missionaries for the inculcation and

    Christianization of the children of indigenous

    nobility. The first of these schools included San José

    de los Naturales (1527) in Tenochtitlan and,

    subsequently, the Colegio de Santa Cruz (1536) in

    Tlatelolco, two areas of prominence in the urban

    plan of the Mapa Uppsala.13

    Franciscan friar Pedro de Gante, one of the first

    missionaries to arrive in New Spain, first

    12 “The scribe: writings, ink, [are] his special skills. [He is] a craftsman, an artist, a
    user of charcoal, a drawer with charcoal; a painter who dissolves colors, grinds
    pigment, uses colors. The good scribe is honest, circumspect, far-sighted, pensive; a
    judge of colors, an applier of the colors, who makes shadows, forms feet, face, hair.
    He paints, applies colors, makes shadows, draws gardens, paints flowers, creates
    works of art.” English translation by Barbara Mundy, “Pictography, Writing, and
    Mapping in the Valley of Mexico and the Beinecke Map,” in Painting a Map of
    Sixteenth-Century Mexico City: Land, Writing, and Native Rule, ed. Mary Ellen Miller et
    al. (New Haven, Conn: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University :
    Distributed by Yale University Press, 2012), 31. The original Spanish text can be
    found in Book 10, Chapter 8 of The General History of the Things of New Spain:
    Florentine Codex, 2nd. ed., Sahagún, Bernardino de, Arthur J. O. Anderson, and

    established San José de los Naturales in 1527. The

    Franciscan faculty there endeavored not only to

    raise their indigenous pupils as Christians, but also

    to impart a traditional monastic education that

    included the instruction of reading, writing, and

    mechanical arts such as carpentry and painting.

    Their aim in teaching these skills was to raise a

    class of faithful indigenous converts skilled in the

    production of religious art for the monasteries and

    churches prolifically constructed in the wake of


    San José de los Naturales facilitated the training of

    blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, tailors, and

    cobblers in addition to a group of painters,

    sculptors, and jewelers.14 Fray Toribio de

    Benavente (more commonly known as Motolinía)

    wrote in his chronicle that these indigenous artists

    learned to illuminate, bind, and engrave, and he

    lauded the skills of the indigenous painters,

    goldbeaters, leather workers, gold and

    silversmiths, and embroiderers.15 The students’

    quick adaptation of new artistic forms and styles

    impressed their European instructors. Many of

    these young Nahua students came from the ranks of

    the indigenous elite and were quite possibly

    descendants of members of the tlahcuilohque. They

    adapted what they learned of European visual

    culture into their pre-Hispanic pictorial vocabulary.

    As such, these Christianized indigenous pupils were

    invaluable cultural mediators.

    The friars’ glowing approval of their students’

    artistic talents coincided with a similar

    appreciation for their intellectual capabilities.

    Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga stated that he

    found the native students, “with great ability,

    liveliness of wit, and a ready power of memory” and

    that they “had the capacity to study grammar and

    other subjects.”16 In 1534, New Spain’s most

    Charles E. Dibble, Monographs of the School of American Research, no. 14 (Santa Fe,
    N.M.: Salt Lake City, Utah: School of American Research, University of Utah, 1970).
    13 Robert Ricard, The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico: An Essay on the Apostolate and the
    Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain, 1523-1572 (Berkeley:
    University of California Press, 1966); Georges Baudot, Utopia and History in Mexico:
    The First Chroniclers of Mexican Civilization (1520-1569), Mesoamerican Worlds
    (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1995).
    14 Ricard, The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico, 212–213.
    15 Ibid, 214.
    16 Luis Nicolau D’Olwer, Fray Bernardino de Sahagún 1499-1599 (Salt Lake City:
    University of Utah Press, 1987), 14.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    14 Cartographic Styles and Discourse ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

    influential religious leaders, Sebastián Ramírez de

    Fuenleal, Bishop of Santo Domingo and president of

    the Second Audiencia; Juan de Zumárraga, first

    Bishop of Mexico; and Antonio de Mendoza, the first

    viceroy, together ordered the foundation of the

    Colegio de Santa Cruz in nearby Tlatelolco.17

    Through the foundation of the Colegio, they sought

    to create an institution of higher education for the

    continuing advancement of their accomplished

    pupils and partially in the hopes of creating a class

    of indigenous clergymen.

    The Representation of Space in the

    Mapa Uppsala—A Statement of the

    Artists’ Identity

    In 1948, Sigvald Linné noted that the monastic site

    that housed the Colegio de Santa Cruz occupies an

    area on the map disproportionately larger than any

    other depicted on the island.18 The monastic

    complex stands at the center of the altepetl of

    Tlatelolco on the right half of the island. This

    enlargement of the monastic site follows a well-

    established tradition in indigenous mapmaking

    wherein the author would enlarge the community

    from which he or she hailed to emphasize its

    importance, leading Linné to posit that the artists

    likely came from the Colegio de Santa Cruz. This

    section reconsiders the treatment of space first

    discussed by Linné and further analyzes the

    compositional layout of the two altepetl that

    comprised the island city. It argues that the map’s

    artists adhered to certain indigenous traditions of

    mapping space as a statement of the importance of

    Tlatelolco to their cultural identity.

    The Mapa Uppsala notably departs from a

    contemporaneous depiction of Mexico-

    Tenochtitlan. The well-known image, first printed

    17 Elizabeth H. Boone, “The Multilingual Bivisual World of Sahagún’s Mexico” in
    Sahagún at 500: Essays on the Quincentenary of the Birth of Fr. Bernardino de
    Sahagún, ed. John Frederick Schwaller (Berkeley, California: Academy of American
    Franciscan History, 2003), 141.
    18 Linné, El Valle y La Ciudad de Mexico En 1550; Relacion Historica Fundada Sobre Un
    Mapa Geografico, Que Se Conserva En La Biblioteca de La Universidad de Uppsala,
    Suecia. 200.
    19 For more in-depth analyses of the composition, see Elizabeth Hill Boone, “This
    New World Now Revealed: Hernan Cortes and the Presentation of Mexico to
    Europe,” Word & Image 27, no. 1 (2011): 31–46; Barbara E. Mundy, “Mapping the

    in 1524 in Nuremberg, Germany, accompanied

    Hernan Cortes’s letters to Charles V and became a

    kind of prototype for subsequent representations

    of the city printed in Europe for centuries.19 The

    Cortés plan shows the island city in the center of a

    schematized circular lake surrounded by a narrow

    strip of its mainland shores (Fig. 1). The Mexica

    ritual precinct is significantly enlarged, creating a

    fish-eye view of the city and its surroundings.20 The

    map shows the multiple causeways that connected

    the city to the mainland. A series of buildings

    radiate outwards from the ritual precinct in

    concentric circles, with their foundations oriented

    towards the center.

    Although a European artist most likely produced

    the woodcut, Barbara Mundy has compellingly

    argued that its composition was based on native

    sources.21 The spatial composition is consistent

    with other indigenous representations of

    Tenochtitlan as a city in the center of either a circle

    or square. Mundy, for example, compared it to the

    depiction of the Spanish and their indigenous allies

    marching to Tenochtitlan in 1521 that appears in

    the Lienzo de Tlaxcala. In the lienzo, a

    conventionalized temple in the center of the

    composition stands as a metonymic symbol for the

    city of Tenochtitlan. A lake inscribed with spirals

    and geometric patterns surrounds it. Framing the

    island, its four corners are denoted as the

    surrounding cities of Tecpatepec, Xochimilco,

    Tlacopan, and Coyoacan. The physical description

    of Tenochtitlan surrounded by these four cities

    follows a symbolic prototype that reinforces a

    cosmological belief in Tenochtitlan as the center of

    the universe.22 This visual tradition relates to pre-

    Hispanic depictions of the cosmos as a symmetrical

    quadripartite design, as conveyed in cosmograms

    like that found in the Codex Fejérváry-Mayer (Fig.


    Aztec Capital: The 1524 Nuremberg Map of Tenochtitlan, Its Sources and Meanings,”
    Imago Mundi 50, no. 1 (1998): 11–33.
    20 Boone, “This New World Now Revealed,” 36.
    21 Mundy, “Mapping the Aztec Capital”; Richard Fraser Townsend, “State and Cosmos
    in the Art of Tenochtitlan,” Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology, no. 20
    (1979): 1–78; Johanna Broda, David Carrasco, and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, The
    Great Temple of Tenochtitlan: Center and Periphery in the Aztec World (Berkeley:
    Univ of California Press, 1988).
    22 Mundy, “Mapping the Aztec Capital,” 15.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    15 ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018) Cartographic Styles and Discourse

    Figure 1. Woodcut map and plan of Tenochtitlan, in Praeclara de Nova maris Oceani Hyspania Narratio (Nuremberg, F. Peypus, 1524). Courtesy of Edward E. Ayer Collection, The Newberry

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    16 Cartographic Styles and Discourse ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

    Figure 2. Cosmogram from the Codex Fejervary-Mayer, c. 1400-1521. Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    17 ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018) Cartographic Styles and Discourse

    The Fejérváry-Mayer image diagrams the shape

    and layout of the universe. In this image, the world’s

    four cardinal directions—(counterclockwise from

    top) east, north, west, and south—each occupy one

    branch of a Formée cross.23 In between the four

    main branches are intercardinal loops that

    collectively form a St. Andrew’s cross. Outlining the

    diagram is a band of calendrical time, punctuated

    by glyphs of the twenty-day signs. The count starts

    at the lower right corner of the eastern branch with

    the symbol of Cipactli, or Crocodile. In the Aztec

    calendar, the year count was subdivided into 20

    groups of 13 days called trecenas. Each day

    corresponded with one of thirteen symbols, and the

    trecena took the name of the first day. Thus, Cipactli

    marks the first trecena as well as the first day of the

    year. Simple dots, or spacers,24 mark the

    subsequent days of the trecena, and this calendrical

    count runs along each branch of the cardinal and

    intercardinal branches and loops to mark the entire

    260-day calendrical year.

    The Fejérváry-Mayer cosmogram demonstrates

    how each of the four directions pertained to a

    thirteen-year period. Miguel León-Portilla has


    Then, not only in each year, but also in each day, the

    influence of one of the four spatial directions

    predominated. Space and time, combining and

    interpenetrating, made possible the harmony among

    the gods (the four cosmic forces) and, consequently,

    the movement of the sun and the existence of life.25

    Within each arm of the cross is each cardinal

    direction’s tree, one of the four trees in each corner

    of the world that supported the heavens. Each of the

    four world trees rests upon a different base that

    corresponds to each direction’s cosmological

    associations. As Mundy demonstrated in her

    analysis of the Cortés plan, indigenous mapmakers

    translated the divine symmetry and idealized

    23 Eduard Seler et al., Codex Fejérváry-Mayer: An Old Mexican Picture Manuscript in
    the Liverpool Free Public Museums (12014/M) / Loubat, J. F.; 1831-1927. ; (Joseph
    Florimond), (Berlin and London : [s.n.] ; [Edinburgh : Printed by T. and A. Constable …
    at the Edinburgh University Press], 1901), 5–31; Elizabeth Hill Boone, Cycles of Time
    and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate, 1st ed, Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long
    Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture (Austin: University of Texas
    Press, 2007), 114–17; Barbara E. Mundy, “Mesoamerican Cartography,” Cartography
    in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and East Asian Societies, 1998,
    229–32; Karl Anton Nowotny, Tlacuilolli: Style and Contents of the Mexican Pictorial
    Manuscripts with a Catalog of the Borgia Group (Norman: University of Oklahoma
    Press, 2005).

    quadripartite design of the cosmogram to

    depictions of the perceived center of the Mexica

    universe: Tenochtitlan. Although all extant

    representations of the Mexica capital were made

    after Conquest, many of them share striking

    similarities in compositional layout and depiction

    of space.

    The Cortés plan also recalls indigenous

    cartographic presentations by the way in which the

    most important feature is situated, not only at the

    center of the composition, but at a much larger

    scale comparative to its peripheral features.26 The

    Mexica ritual precinct occupies a large square space

    in the center of the island that dwarfs its

    surrounding edifices. As the composition extends

    outward, space collapses, so that cities that were

    leagues away from Tenochtitlan are brought closer

    to the central square and island.

    Space is similarly manipulated in the Mapa Uppsala

    to emphasize the city center at the expense of its

    environs. The island of Tenochtitlan in the moment

    of its rendering would have been dwarfed by the

    expanse of its surrounding lakes; however, in the

    Mapa Uppsala, the lakes occupy a significantly

    smaller area in relation to the island. The artists

    likely enlarged the island to accommodate the

    detailed representation of the urban plan and the

    altepetl of Tlatelolco. 27 Because the island city

    occupies so much space within the map, the

    distances between the island and its outlying

    settlements are significantly compressed, much like

    the representation of Tenochtitlan and its environs

    in the Cortés plan. Thus, Otumba, a settlement in

    the lower right-hand corner that is approximately

    60 km away, is rendered at the same scale as the

    width of the island, approximately 5 km.

    The Mapa Uppsala differs markedly from the Cortés

    plan, however, in that it displays the island city as

    24 Boone, Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate, 114.
    25 Miguel León Portilla, Aztec Thought and Culture; a Study of the Ancient Nahuatl
    Mind, 1st ed., The Civilization of the American Indian Series, v. 67 (Norman:
    University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 56.
    26 Mundy, “Mesoamerican Cartography,” 200.
    27 In the 1540s, however, the population of Mexico-Tenochtitlan experienced a
    prolonged period of drought, thus, it is possible that the representation of water
    indicates the mapmakers’ attempts to capture the hydrographic situation of the city.
    Given the detailed rendering of the urban plan, its constituent edifices, and their
    careful labeling, however, I do think it is arguable that the lakes’ volume was
    minimized in order to accommodate the detail of the urban plan.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    18 Cartographic Styles and Discourse ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

    two adjoining altepetl (Mexico-Tenochtitlan and

    Tlatelolco) and not just as Mexico-Tenochtitlan

    alone. While the Cortés plan’s artist depicted

    Mexico-Tenochtitlan, with its ritual precinct, as the

    physical center of the island, the artists of the Mapa

    Uppsala placed Mexico-Tenochtitlan towards the

    left of the center to make room for the geographic

    entity of Tlatelolco to its right. The representation

    of the two altepetl occurs on two separate pieces of

    parchment that are notably joined between their

    borders at the center of the map.

    The composition of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, at left,

    follows the template of the divinely organized city

    revealed in Cortés’ plan. The capital is situated at

    the center of a symmetrical quadripartite division

    of space; however, Tlatelolco, too, follows certain

    indigenous conventions for representing social

    space that have been outlined. The monastery of

    Santiago Tlatelolco occupies the central space of

    the altepetl of Tlatelolco. The monastery’s doctrinas

    (secondary churches for conversion of the

    indigenous population) surround it in a

    symmetrical circle, like the spokes of a wheel. These

    doctrinas are all rendered to the same scale, that is,

    as secondary to the monastic complex of Santiago

    Tlatelolco they encircle.

    Although all the buildings in this altepetl are

    depicted in either linear perspective or elevation,

    the area encompassed by the Santiago Tlatelolco

    monastery complex is rendered in plan, a recurring

    feature of indigenous made maps. In indigenous

    made maps, buildings–calli (houses), tecpan

    (palaces), and teocalli (temples)–were most often

    rendered in elevation or profile view.28 Sometimes,

    however, mapmakers would represent the exterior

    of a building in elevation and the interior

    planimetrically to frame a narrative scene

    occurring inside.

    If the mapmakers did indeed hail from the

    monastery of Santiago Tlatelolco, an assertion with

    which I agree, then the spatial layout of the urban

    plan adheres to traditions of representing social

    space in indigenous maps. The mapmakers’

    28 “Elevation” is an architectural term used to denote a depiction of the face of a
    building (in contrast to a representation of a building in linear perspective.

    emphasis on Tlatelolco as almost half of the island,

    a depiction that does not exist in the Cortés plan,

    could also be a testament to the importance of

    Tlatelolco to the artists. But why is this significant

    to our understanding of indigenous cartography in

    the early colonial period?

    In pre-Hispanic times, Tlatelolco operated as an

    altepetl independent from Tenochtitlan. But in

    1473, Tlatelolco capitulated to the imperial forces

    of Tenochtitlan and became subsumed within the

    Mexica Empire. The conquest of the Mexica by the

    Spanish reignited pre-Hispanic indigenous

    factionalisms, and formerly subjugated elites

    suddenly found new opportunities within the

    colonial system to gain power and prestige. The

    establishment of the Colegio de Santa Cruz in

    Tlatelolco proper, for example, likely added to the

    altepetl’s prestige.

    In the Mapa Uppsala, it is not only the Colegio de

    Santa Cruz that has been enlarged and emphasized,

    but Tlatelolco as an altepetl is rendered at the

    center of the map alongside Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

    The two neighboring altepetl are equal in size and

    compositional importance, a spatial representation

    that is unprecedented in contemporaneous

    representations of the post-Conquest island city.

    Thus, the spatial representation does not only

    indicate that the map was produced at the Colegio

    de Santa Cruz, but it also provides compelling visual

    evidence of the importance of Tlatelolco to these

    artists more broadly. This depiction could be read

    as the artists’ attempt to not only visually elevate

    the status of Tlatelolco, but also to portray it as

    equal to that of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. From this

    analysis, it is evident that indigenous cartographic

    traditions for mapping social space and community

    informed the composition of the urban plan, a

    paramount feature of the map. The differences

    between the spatial representations of Mexico City

    in the Mapa Uppsala versus the Cortés plan indicate

    that cartography developed differently depending

    on specific sociopolitical circumstances of the site

    of production in Central Mexico at this time.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    19 ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018) Cartographic Styles and Discourse

    Because the map was made in the altepetl of

    Tlatelolco, it reveals a view of the island city that is

    distinct from maps that may have been made within

    Mexico-Tenochtitlan proper.

    Style and Artistic Production at the

    Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco

    The Mapa Uppsala is also considered to be a

    product of the Colegio because of its pronounced

    European stylistic influence, a trait shared by other

    documents produced there including the Badianus

    Herbal, a compendium of illustrations of native

    plant life and pharmacopeia and the Florentine

    Codex, an illustrated encyclopedia of indigenous

    culture and customs. In this section, I revisit past

    considerations of the map’s landscape, a feature

    that is frequently cited as evidence of the map’s

    pronounced Europeanized style. This analysis

    reconsiders the mapmaker’s representation of

    landscape, not as a teleological culmination of

    European influence, but rather as a product of the

    map’s site of production at the Colegio, an

    institution that became a productive site of artistic

    collaboration between Franciscan friars and

    indigenous converts. By comparing the Mapa

    Uppsala’s landscape to the Codex Xolotl, a

    contemporaneous map made by indigenous

    authors, I demonstrate that the composition and

    perspective in the Mapa Uppsala adhere more to

    indigenous cartographic tradition than has been

    traditionally acknowledged in past scholarship.

    This section also includes a brief discussion of the

    glyphs incorporated into the landscape of the Mapa

    Uppsala. In various places throughout the map, the

    artists incorporated logographic and pictographic

    glyphs for indigenous place names that doubled as

    figural representations of features of the landscape.

    These instances complicate previous assertions

    that the mapmakers adhered predominantly to

    29 For a more in-depth analysis of the structures of cartographic histories, see
    Elizabeth Hill Boone, Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and
    Mixtecs, 1st ed (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 162–96.
    30 For a thorough analysis of the structure and content of extant cartographic
    histories of Central Mexico, see “Stories of Migration, Conquest, and Consolidation in
    the Central Valleys.” Boone, 162–96.

    European representational techniques. This section

    demonstrates how indigenous cartographers

    served a fundamental role in the formation of a

    burgeoning visual language, emanating from the

    Colegio de Santa Cruz, in maps and a wide range of

    pictorial documents more broadly.

    The Codex Xolotl belongs to a category of

    indigenous pictorial documents known as

    cartographic histories.29 Authors of cartographic

    histories endeavored to pictorially describe

    migrations of people from sacred points of origin to

    final homelands whilst explaining how they settled,

    defined their territory, and created an independent

    altepetl.30 These maps were not expressly intended

    to represent only the geographical scope of a given

    area, as we might expect of terrestrial maps in the

    European tradition, but rather, these documents

    served as a vehicle for a community’s history. Thus,

    a temporal element figured into their representa-

    -tion just as much as a geographic one, and their

    main point was to represent a historical narrative.31

    Although Donald Robertson argued that, “[t]hese

    maps are diagrams rather than indications of the

    spatial relationships of nature,”32 some extant

    indigenous made maps display representations of

    topography and the geographic features of the

    natural environment. This topographic specificity

    allowed the mapmaker to convey the cartographic

    dimensions of migrations and events in the

    pictorial history. In these instances, mapmakers

    depicted geographic setting to ground the

    narrative, and topography served as a secondary

    detail to the narrative action, like in the Codex


    A document comprising ten pages, the Codex

    Xolotl’s first eight pages each reveal a map of the

    central Valley of Mexico. Maps 1, 2, and 5-7 show

    the whole valley (with East at the top) including the

    eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range and the

    31 Ibid., 165; Dana Leibsohn, “Primers for Memory: Cartographic Histories and Nahua
    Identity,” Writing without Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica and the
    Andes, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), 161–187.
    32 Robertson, Mexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial Period, 180.
    33 For a brief overview of various indigenous maps and their treatment of landscape,
    see “Cartography and Landscape,” Donald Robertson, Mexican Manuscript Painting of
    the Early Colonial Period: The Metropolitan Schools, Yale Historical Publications.
    History of Art 12 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), 179–189.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    20 Cartographic Styles and Discourse ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

    valley’s lake system.34 The topographical elements

    of the valley are placed in relatively accurate

    geographical relation to one another, and they

    anchor the events that transpire throughout the

    narrative.35 The artist’s depiction of the lake system

    below displays an interest in the general shape and

    contours of the interconnected five-lake system.

    The loop at the far left indicates Lake Xaltocan (with

    its toponym inscribed within the circular band of

    water), Lake Texcoco occupies the central area, and

    Lake Xochimilco and Chalco form the curve to the


    The wide geographic scope of the cartographic

    histories and their depiction of topographic

    features make them an obvious comparison for the

    Mapa Uppsala. However, the Uppsala’s striking

    differences—mainly the mapmakers’ naturalistic

    representation of landscape—prompted Robertson

    to regard the Mapa Uppsala as a document that

    displayed the artists’ complete embrace of Western

    pictorial illusionism. In his analysis “Cartography

    and Landscape,” Robertson defined the Codex

    Xolotl’s maps as a “protolandscape painted as

    though seen from a height” and the Mapa Uppsala

    as a landscape.36 He wrote:

    One feels immediately that the artist of the Mapa de

    Santa Cruz [the Mapa Uppsala] was a landscapist of

    genius. His ability to paint a continuity of space from

    foreground to background puts him in the class with

    the landscapists of Northern Europe in the sixteenth

    century. In the Mexican context we can consider the

    Mapa de Santa Cruz the latest stage of sequence

    running from the rectangular formalized maps of the

    Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, the maps of Codex

    Xolotl where protolandscape begins in the central

    area of the composition, the Mapa de Teozacoalco

    where the landscape qualities of the central area are

    more marked than they are in Codex Xolotl, and the

    Mapa de Santa Cruz marking the point where true

    landscape appears.37

    34 A digital facsimile of the Codex Xolotl can be found in the Gallica Digital Library
    made available by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
    35 It is worth noting, however, that although the geographic form symbolizes an
    actual mountain range located east of Texcoco, the mapmaker also embodied the
    mountains’ cosmological associations in its representation. On sheet 1 of the Codex
    Xolotl, the artist overlaid a diagonal checkerboard pattern inscribed with dots. This
    pattern recalls the reptilian skin of the crocodile associated with the earth in
    Mesoamerican cosmology. The artist’s use of this pattern reveals the indigenous

    Although the Mapa Uppsala displays a map of the

    valley’s networks anchored into a bucolic

    representation of landscape, the map does not

    exactly convey “a continuity of landscape from

    foreground to background,” as Robertson

    described. There is no clear foreground or

    background in the Mapa Uppsala’s representation

    of landscape. The buildings, churches, people, and

    even flora and fauna are rendered at exactly the

    same scale and from the same perspective from top

    to bottom (generally in elevation with the

    exception of a few buildings in linear perspective).

    The viewer does not have the impression of being

    any closer to the eastern edge of Lake Texcoco than

    to the western edge, as they technically should in

    true bird’s eye view, since the viewer is regarding

    the valley from the east.

    The mapmakers’ view of the entire valley is still

    planimetric, similarly to the representation of

    landscape displayed on the Codex Xolotl. What

    causes the viewer to believe that the perspective is

    a bird’s eye view, is that the mapmakers have

    drawn and painted many of the valley’s

    surrounding features with carefully placed

    brushstrokes that give the appearance of volume

    and depth. For example, the artists alternated

    brown and gray brushstrokes to make the southern

    mountain range appear rocky. Human figures walk

    through the hilly terrain directly north of

    Tlatelolco, however, the range itself is constituted

    by a series of duplicated hill forms crowned with

    conventionalized shrubs. The continuity of the

    various mountain ranges across large areas gives

    the impression of an integrated landscape across

    the map’s surface. To reinforce this continuity, the

    artists filled blank spaces between roads and

    vignettes with washes of green pigment. The

    representation of mountain ranges and the limits of

    certain natural features (like the lakes) more

    closely approximate the artists’ treatment of

    artist’s intrinsic cosmological associations with his or her surrounding natural
    environment. Boone, Stories in Red and Black, 50.
    36 Robertson, Mexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial Period, 181–83.
    37 Before Toussaint argued that the Mapa Uppsala’s artists must have been
    indigenous, the Mapa Uppsala was largely referred to as the Mapa de Santa Cruz, or
    the Santa Cruz Map. It is interesting to note that although Robertson acknowledged
    that the artists were likely indigenous, he continued to refer to the map as the Mapa
    de Santa Cruz. Ibid., 183–84.


    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    21 ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018) Cartographic Styles and Discourse

    geography in the Codex Xolotl maps. What

    differentiates them is style. The mapmakers of the

    Mapa Uppsala used painterly brushstrokes to

    create illusionistic texture.

    The Codex Xolotl provides a useful point of

    comparison in my analysis of the representation of

    landscape in the Mapa Uppsala. If we discard the

    notion that the artists have surpassed those of the

    Codex Xolotl by more skillfully emulating European

    perspective and instead closely analyze the artists’

    representation of the Valley, it is clear that the

    artists created the illusion of naturalism through

    style—using impressionistic brushstrokes—a

    technique uncharacteristic of pre-Hispanic artistic

    tradition. The perspective represented by the

    mapmakers in the Codex Xolotl and the Mapa

    Uppsala is largely the same. This is an important

    distinction for it allows us to consider how

    indigenous mapmaking traditions developed and

    diverged in the Valley of Mexico

    contemporaneously in the mid-sixteenth-century.

    The Codex Xolotl came from the Texcoco region

    east of Lake Texcoco, while the Mapa Uppsala was

    likely produced within the confines of the Colegio

    de Santa Cruz, an artistic and intellectual center

    with a specific pedagogy, library, and climate of

    cultural exchange and collaboration. In effect, the

    artists’ formation within the Colegio de Santa Cruz

    at Tlatelolco fostered a style quite distinct from

    other centers of indigenous artistic production

    whilst retaining aspects of pre-Hispanic pictorial

    tradition. This assertion can be further supported

    through a comparative analysis with images of

    landscape from the Florentine Codex.

    As briefly mentioned, the Florentine Codex, also

    known as the Historia general de las cosas de la

    Nueva España (The General History of Things of

    New Spain), is a compendium of information

    regarding indigenous daily life, customs, and

    knowledge produced partially at the Colegio de

    Santa Cruz by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún and a

    team of indigenous collaborators. In 1557, elected

    Provincial of the Franciscan Order Fray Francisco

    38 Ibid., 173.
    39 Ibid.

    de Toral ordered Sahagún to create a compendium

    of indigenous culture for the instruction of the

    missionaries, ultimately, to aid in the task of

    conversion. In response, Sahagún created the

    Florentine Codex in stages over a series of decades.

    He and his team of native collaborators first

    interviewed community elders and informants in

    the village of Tepeapulco who answered their

    questions by drawing pictures. Then, his assistants

    recorded the elders’ interpretations of these

    pictures and transcribed them in Nahuatl and

    Spanish. The final copy of the text and images

    resulted in what we know of today as the Florentine

    Codex, and its artists transcribed its text and

    created its illustrations over many years ranging

    from 1566 to 1585.38 Illustrations from the

    Florentine Codex make a fruitful point of

    comparison because they exhibit stylistic

    continuities with the Mapa


    Book 11 of the Florentine Codex entitled “Earthly

    Things,” which Robertson dates to an approximate

    range of 1566 – 1577, consists of text and images

    regarding the natural environment and daily life of

    Nahua inhabitants.39 Included in the volume are

    descriptions of the fishermen of Lake Texcoco, their

    pictorial depiction strikingly like the scenes of

    fisherman in the Mapa Uppsala.40 Another image

    shows a couple of farmers, tilling the earth and

    harvesting maguey (Fig. 3). The figure in the

    foreground of figure 4 wears a tumpline that holds

    his bundle in place. These figures are staggered

    along a series of zigzagging planes that recedes into

    space, creating the impression of a vanishing point;

    however, the figure in the background appears

    slightly larger, revealing the artist’s struggle with

    the concept of linear perspective. If the second

    figure were standing in the background, as implied

    by the illusionistic receding space, then he should

    be smaller than the person in the foreground. The

    artists of the Mapa Uppsala represented the

    relationship between landscape and human figures

    similarly. All of the human figures are roughly the

    same height, regardless of their position in the map.

    40 Linné first pointed out the stylistic similarities between the Florentine Codex and
    the Mapa Uppsala. Linne, El Valle y La Ciudad de Mexico En 1550, 201.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    22 Cartographic Styles and Discourse ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

    Figure 3. Farmers harvesting (detail), La Historia Universal de las Cosas de la Nueva
    España, c. 1570. Ink on paper. Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ms. Med.
    Palat. 220, ff. 352v. Courtesy of MiBAC. Any further reproduction by any means is

    Towards the end of Sahagún’s Book 11, the artists

    depicted scenes of inhabitants in a natural

    environment with illusionistic depth (Fig. 4). In

    these scenes, the figures are miniscule, scaled down

    in size to appear proportional with the mountains

    in the distant background. The vignettes of human

    activity and the general impression of landscape in

    the Mapa Uppsala bears strong visual resemblance

    to the Florentine Codex, a document whose

    illustrations were at least partially based on printed

    and illuminated manuscript images.41

    There are many examples in the Florentine Codex

    where the representation of landscape parallels

    that of the Mapa Uppsala. In much of the Florentine

    Codex imagery, scenes set outside are indicated by

    washes of pigment that give the impression of flat

    41 Robertson, Mexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial Period, 40–42.

    land and rolling hills. In these scenes, the depiction

    of landscape anchors the narrative in the

    foreground. In Book 9, for example, many of the

    scenes occur on greenish brown earth with rolling

    hills painted in the distance. The artists do not seem

    to indicate a specific setting, but rather a generic

    landscape. In the Mapa Uppsala, although there are

    instances where the depiction of landscape is site-

    specific (such as, the depiction of the volcano

    Popocatepetl in the lower left corner), most of the

    hills and broad washes of green color appear to be

    decorative gestures of landscape that anchor the

    vignettes of human activity and create the illusion

    of the Valley of Mexico.

    Both the artists of the Florentine Codex and the

    Mapa Uppsala demonstrate an interest in depicting

    a generalized landscape created through strokes of

    vibrant paint. In both documents, the landscape

    serves to anchor depictions of human activity.

    Formally, the representation of landscape between

    the two documents is similar in that the artist

    represented either a series of zigzagging planes or

    undulating hills to give the general impression of

    the natural environment. Stylistically, both

    documents reveal broad washes of pigment and

    impressionistic strokes. In addition, these artists

    used shading, contouring, and cross-hatching to

    indicate depth and volume.

    The formal and stylistic similarities between the

    Mapa Uppsala and the Florentine Codex indicate

    that the map was most likely made under similar

    auspices, that is, with a collaborative team of

    multiple indigenous artists and Franciscan

    supervisors. Moreover, the miniaturization of the

    human figures and the artists’ treatment of

    landscape in the Mapa Uppsala seems analogous

    with the visual imagery of the Florentine Codex

    produced at the Colegio years later. This analysis of

    the mapmakers’ treatment of landscape and

    depiction of human figures illuminates the map’s

    divergence from indigenous cartographic histories

    and its visual connections to monastic artistic


    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    23 ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018) Cartographic Styles and Discourse

    Figure 4. Landscape scenes (details), La Historia Universal de las Cosas

    de la Nueva España, c. 1570. Ink on paper. Florence, Biblioteca Medicea

    Laurenziana, Ms. Med. Palat. 220, ff. 388r. Courtesy of MiBAC. Any further

    reproduction by any means is forbidden.

    42 The comparison to “landscape-maps” (mapas-paisajes) in the Civitates Orbis
    Terrarum (first published in 1573) is made by León Portilla and Aguilera, Mapa de
    Mexico Tenochtitlan y sus contornos hacia 1550, (México, D.F.: Celanese Mexicana,
    1986) 25–27. Donald Robertson compares the Mapa Uppsala to Pieter Bruegel’s

    The similarities between the representation of

    landscape in both documents are also significant if

    we consider the attributed dates of both. The Mapa

    Uppsala’s attributed date of production ranges

    from c. 1540 – 1555 and Book 11 of the Florentine

    Codex about a decade or two later. This means that

    the artists of the Mapa Uppsala were not only

    innovating cartographic production but also

    fomenting a distinct visual culture coalescing

    specifically at the Colegio de Santa Cruz. This fact

    reinforces a need to reconsider the style of the

    Mapa Uppsala not as one of mere emulation or

    acculturation but of innovation and experi-

    -mentation, with long-lasting influences on the

    visual culture of the Colegio.

    Problematizing the Notion of

    “Landscape” in the Mapa Uppsala

    Past art historians compared the Mapa Uppsala to

    what they viewed as similar examples produced

    across the ocean (albeit decades later) including

    Dutch landscapes and “landscape-maps” (such as

    those found in the late sixteenth-century atlas

    Civitates Orbis Terrarum by Georg Braun and Frans

    Hogenberg.)42 These comparisons tended to

    diminish the fact that the artists rendered almost

    two hundred indigenous glyphs for place names

    and sites that embody the indigenous community’s

    cultural associations with sites established long

    before the arrival of the Spanish. In addition, these

    descriptions of the map’s pictorial style position it

    at the end of an artistic spectrum in which

    indigenous artists fully assimilated European

    representational techniques, neglecting a

    consideration of how the artists’ integration of

    glyphs into the naturalistic landscape innovated

    artistic and cartographic production in early

    colonial Mexico City. In this section, I demonstrate

    how in several instances, the artists creatively

    wielded glyphic representation to double as figural

    imagery, blurring the distinction between figural

    Tower of Babel (1563) and the Battle of Alexander by Adam Elsheimer (a Baroque
    painter born in 1578). Robertson, Mexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial
    Period, 160.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    24 Cartographic Styles and Discourse ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

    representation and writing on the surface of the

    Mapa Uppsala.

    In the upper left corner of the map (the

    southwestern region of the valley), three figures in

    white tunics energetically wield axes above their

    heads as they approach the schematized trees of

    the grove (Fig. 5). Although this appears to be

    another example of the many vignettes that

    illustrate scenes of everyday life, Miguel León-

    Portilla and Carmen Aguilera have argued that this

    might be the artist’s innovative way of representing

    Cuauhximalpan, meaning “The place where wood is

    worked.”43 In the detail, the axe in motion is a

    salient identifier of Cuauximalpan. In the etymology

    of the place name, the root ‘Cuauxim(a)’ is a verb

    meaning, ‘to do carpentry, to work wood.’44 Since

    the place name implicitly embodied a verb, the

    artist might have adapted the glyph into a narrative

    scene that would create more visual coherence

    within the representation. The settlement of

    present-day Cuaximalpan can be generally

    correlated to its approximate location in the Mapa


    In the lower left-hand corner, the artists also

    rendered the great volcano of Popocatepetl with its

    characteristic smoking peak rendered as bulbous

    puffs of smoke shaded with a light gray wash.

    Popocatepetl derives its name from two Nahuatl

    words popoca and tepetl, collectively signifying

    “The mountain which continually smokes.” Even

    today, Popocatepetl can be distinguished from its

    neighboring peak Iztaccihuatl by its ever-present

    stream of smoke that emerges from its active

    volcanic vent. The map’s artists capitalized on the

    glyph’s linguistic connotations along with its

    pictorial representation to both identify the site by

    its name and visually describe its characteristic

    physical features.

    A final example of this pictorial doubling can be

    observed in the left side of the map in the volcanic

    region of the Pedregal lava fields just south of

    Coyoacan. The landscape is pictorially described

    43 Alonso de Santa Cruz et al., Mapa de México Tenochtitlan y Sus Contornos Hacia
    1550 (México, D.F: Celanese Mexicana, S.A, 1986), 64.
    44 Frances E. Karttunen, An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl, 1st ed, Texas Linguistics
    Series (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983), 66.

    with maguey plants and nopal cacti. In addition, a

    series of grass blades, marked with short, staccato-

    like pen strokes, are sketched in a break in the


    Figure 5. Cuauximalpan (detail), Mapa Uppsala. Courtesy of Carolina Rediviva

    Library, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.

    Unlike the maguey and cacti that emerge more

    illusionistically from the crevices of the mountains,

    these grass blades are unanchored to the

    surrounding landscape. Some blades of grass are

    depicted outside of the range on white background.

    Although it may seem that the artist disregarded

    Western conventions of illusionistic landscape,

    grass blades glyphically identify Zacatepec, or

    “grass-hill,” which we can identity on a modern

    map of the region. In pre-Hispanic times, Zacatepec

    served as a hunting preserve for Aztec rulers, a

    notable feature on the Cortés plan. In indigenous

    pictorial tradition, the tecpan, or ruler house, was

    demarcated with a concentric circle lintel (alluding

    to jade, a symbol of preciousness and authority).45

    Notably, a tecpan is rendered close to Zacatepec,

    likely alluding to the pre-Hispanic hunting lodge of

    the Aztec rulers.46

    45 For further analysis on the role of the tecpan in the Mapa Uppsala, see Evans, “The
    Aztec Palace under Spanish Rule.”
    46 I thank Elizabeth Boone for pointing this out to me.

    Saracino – Mapa Uppsala

    25 ARTL@S BULLETIN, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018) Cartographic Styles and Discourse


    This essay has aimed to complicate past

    characterizations of the Mapa Uppsala as displaying

    features more influenced by European stylistic and

    cartographic tradition than indigenous through an

    analysis of spatial representation, composition,

    style, and pictorial conventions. The first section

    revealed how the artists’ rendering of Tlatelolco

    presented its equal status to the neighboring

    altepetl of Mexico-Tenochtitlan through indigenous

    pictorial conventions. These included de-centering

    Mexico-Tenochtitlan to the left and depicting the

    island as comprised of both altepetl, joined at the

    center of the map. The mapmakers also emphasized

    the Colegio de Santa Cruz through scale and by

    centering it within Tlatelolco. Finally, the artists

    rendered the monastic complex in a manner

    consistent with other contemporary indigenous

    made maps, that is, with a combination of

    perspectives including a planimetric outline for the

    limits of the complex. These choices served to

    amplify the importance of Tlatelolco relative to its

    neighboring altepetl and present it as equal in

    status in early

    colonial Mexico City.

    The second section revisited previous characteri-

    -zations of the map’s style as predominantly

    European, particularly regarding the representa-

    -tion of the landscape that surrounds the urban

    plan. A comparison of the mapmakers’ view of the

    central valley of Mexico with that in the Codex

    Xolotl demonstrated that the perspectival

    presentation in both maps was similar, that is,

    planimetric. What differs between them, as many

    scholars have highlighted, is the naturalistic style of

    the landscape in the Mapa Uppsala. By connecting

    this style to other representations of landscape

    found in documents also produced at the Colegio de

    Santa Cruz, such as the Florentine Codex, I argue for

    a reconsideration of how we view the aesthetics of

    the Mapa Uppsala, not as a teleological endpoint to

    native artists’ adaptation of European

    representational style, but rather as an indication

    of a coalescing visual style and language fomenting

    at the Colegio itself. In addition, my presentation of

    a few cases in which glyphs double as figural

    representation also complicate the argument that

    the artists were influenced entirely by European

    modes of representation since the incorporation of

    glyphs reflects an understanding of both European

    and indigenous visual traditions and a desire to

    creatively blend the two.

    This essay has focused on the unique collaborative

    artistic and intellectual climate of the Colegio de

    Santa Cruz to contextualize the aesthetic and

    cartographic choices made by the map’s indigenous

    artists. It argues for viewing the stylistic choices

    made by the artists as indicative of a new visual

    style and vocabulary coalescing specifically at the

    Colegio that would go on to influence other well-

    known products produced there (like the

    Florentine Codex.) These multiple instances in

    which the artists selected indigenous pictorial

    conventions and intermingled them with European

    influences gleaned from their monastic setting

    demonstrates the intellectual savvy of the artists

    and rightly recognizes and amplifies their

    contributions to cartographic production in early

    colonial Mexico City.

      Artl@s Bulletin


      Indigenous Stylistic & Conceptual Innovation in the Uppsala Map of Mexico City (c. 1540)

      Jennifer Saracino

      Recommended Citation

    • 30j0zll



    Jorge Gómez Tejada, editor

    Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, Quito 170901, Ecuador.

    We are the publishing house of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ. We further the mission of the university by disseminating knowledge to train, educate, research
    and serve the community within the philosophy of the Liberal Arts.

    The Codex Mendoza: new insights
    Authors: Jorge Gómez Tejada1, Davide Domenici2, Chiara Grazia3, David Buti4, Laura Cartechini5, Francesca Rosi5, Francesca Gabrieli5, Virginia María Lladó-Buisán6, Aldo
    Romani3, Antonio Sgamellotti7, Constanza Miliani8, B. C. Barker-Benfield6, Diana Magaloni9, Mary Ellen Miller10, Claudia Brittenham11, Frances F. Berdan12, Barbara E.
    Mundy13, Daniela Bleichmar14, Todd P. Olson15, Carmen Fernández-Salvador1, Joanne Harwood16, Lucien Sun11

    1Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, Quito, Ecuador; 2Dipartimento di Storia Culture Civiltà, Università di Bologna, Italy; 3Centro di Eccellenza SMAArt (Scientific
    Methodologies applied to Archaeology and Art), Dipartimento di Chimica, Biologia e Biotecnologie, Università di Perugia, Italy; 4CNR-ISPC (Istituto di Scienze del Patrimonio
    Culturale), Florence, Italy; 5CNR–SCITEC (Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie Chimiche “Giulio Natta”), Perugia, Italy; 6Head of Conservation & Collection Care, The Bodleian
    Libraries, University of Oxford, United States of America; 7Accademia dei Lincei, Roma, Italia; 8CNR-ISPC (Istituto di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale), Naples, Italy; 9Los
    Angeles County Museum of Art/Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; 10Getty Research Institute, United States of America; 11University of Chicago, Illinois, United
    States of America; 12University of California, San Bernardino, United States of America; 13Tulane University, New Orleans, United States of America; 14University of Southern
    California, Los Angeles, United States of America; 15University of California, Berkeley, United States of America; 16Independent researcher

    This work is published after a blind peer-review process.

    Book editor: Jorge Gómez Tejada
    Publishing production: Andrea Naranjo
    Design and layout: Ricardo Vásquez
    Cover design: Ricardo Vasquez
    Text editing: Caley Mikesell
    Prepress: Ricardo Vásquez

    © Jorge Gómez Tejada, Davide Domenici, Chiara Grazia, David Buti, Laura Cartechini, Francesca Rosi, Francesca Gabrieli, Virginia María Lladó-Buisán, Aldo Romani,
    Antonio Sgamellotti, Constanza Miliani, B. C. Barker-Benfield, Diana Magaloni, Mary Ellen Miller, Claudia Brittenham, Frances F. Berdan, Barbara E. Mundy, Daniela
    Bleichmar, Todd P. Olson, Carmen Fernández-Salvador, Joanne Harwood, Lucien Sun, 2022
    © Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, 2022
    © Richard Ovenden, del Prefacio, 2022

    All rights reserved. The total or partial reproduction of this work is not permitted, nor its incorporation into a computer system, nor its transmission in any form or by any means
    (including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or others) without the prior written authorization of the owners of the copyright. The infringement of said rights
    may constitute a crime against intellectual property.

    ISBN: 978-9978-68-207-4
    Author record: UIO-061031
    First edition: February, 2022

    Cataloging at the source Library of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ.

    It is suggested to cite this work as follows:
    Gómez Tejada, J. (Ed.) (2022). The Codex Mendoza: new insights. USFQ PRESS.

    The use of general descriptive names, trade names, trademarks, etc., in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that these names are exempt
    from relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for use. general use.

    The information presented in this book is the sole responsibility of its authors. USFQ PRESS presumes that the information is true and accurate as of the date of
    publication. Neither USFQ PRESS nor the authors give any warranty, express or implied, regarding the materials contained in this document or any errors or omissions
    that may have been made.


    Claudia Brittenham
    Department of Art History, The University of Chicago

    The Representation of Taxation in
    the Codex Mendoza

    C H A P T E R 7

    The very utility of the second section of the Codex Mendoza as a document about the
    Aztec economy has made it difficult for us to see what it does not represent. Yet, the

    omissions in these pages are as significant as the very valuable information they provide.
    In what follows, I will suggest that the focus on imperial taxation from the conquered
    provinces, as opposed to other forms of state finance, is a deliberate choice with import-
    ant rhetorical consequences, as is the way that these goods are represented, luxuriously
    painted but separated from the bodies and performative acts which accompanied their
    original production and presentation. Comparison with other Mesoamerican repre-
    sentations of tribute and taxation will make some of these omissions and their strategic
    potential more visible. I will conclude with a tentative proposal about the pre-Hispanic
    prototype for this section.

    First, I present a brief review of what the second section of the Codex Mendoza does
    picture. Each page (or multi-page spread) represents the taxes owed by a particular con-
    quered province.1 At the left, a column of glyphs names the conquered towns, beginning
    with the head town of the province in the upper corner; the place-names may continue
    onto the bottom edge of the page. The goods to be paid by the entire province are arrayed
    in a grid-like arrangement on the remainder of the page, and occasionally on the follow-
    ing pages as well, with the quantities of each item indicated by conventional symbols: a
    white banner for twenty, a triangular feather for 400, and a tasseled bag for 8,000 units.

    Thus, folio 37r (illustrated in figure 1) shows the goods to be paid by the province
    of Tepequacuilco, which corresponds to a region in the modern state of Guerrero. The
    glyph for the head town, which gives its name to the province, is written in the upper
    left, followed by the names of thirteen other subject towns, ending with Cueçalan at the
    lower right. Spanish glosses transcribe each of the toponyms and provide commentary
    on the goods represented on the rest of the page. Some goods were singular: only one of
    each “warrior costume of rich feathers” of the styles represented at left and center of the
    page were owed, but the flag attached to the red costume at right— “of ordinary feathers,”
    according to the gloss—indicates that twenty such costumes were to be paid, along with
    twenty matching shields. In the upper right, 100 copper axes are indicated by a single
    copper axe with five banners signifying the number twenty connected to it, while at low-
    er right, 200 “little jars of bee’s honey” are indicated by ten jars, each with a single flag.
    Clearly the artist had the choice to compress or expand the notation.2 The fine cotton
    mantles at the top of the page are to be paid in loads of 400,3 as are the gourd bowls at the
    far right, while 8,000 balls of copal (to be refined into incense) are specified in the low-
    er left. Significantly, though, the Nahua pictorial text on this page offers no information

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    about the periodicity of tribute payments.4 The Spanish-language textual glosses alone
    specify that textiles are paid every six months; the copper axes, gourd bowls, honey, and
    copal incense are paid every eighty days; and the warrior costumes, greenstone beads,
    and wooden bins of maize, beans, chia, and amaranth are paid annually.5 That is, the
    pictorial content by itself is not sufficient to reconstruct taxation payments, a point to
    which I will return to later.

    Aztec taxation systems

    In showing the taxes paid by conquered provinces, the second section of the Codex Men-
    doza represents only a small part of the Aztec economy, which also included vibrant mar-
    kets and substantial long-distance trade. But even taxation was a complex matter: Michael
    Smith (2014; 2015) outlines as many as thirteen different sources of revenue for the Aztec
    empire. At the imperial level, these sources included taxes from the conquered provinces
    (this, or at least Tenochtitlan’s share of it, is what is represented in the Codex Mendoza)
    (Berdan 1992, 63–64), tribute or “gifts” from client states,6 and taxes from the conquest
    states maintained by each of the three partners in the Triple Alliance (Smith 2015, 76–82).
    To this I might add periodic tribute or “gifts” solicited from allies and conquered provinces

    Figure 1
    Codex Mendoza, f. 37r. Tribute from the
    province of Tepequacuilco

    C H A P T E R 7 • T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I O N O F T A X AT I O N I N T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A


    on occasions such as coronations or temple dedications (e.g., Durán 1994, 302–4, 306–8,
    319, 323). Perhaps more important financially were taxes at the city-state level, including
    land taxes, rent on royal estates, rotational service, public works corvée, market taxes,
    compulsory military service, and military supply taxes (Smith 2015, 82–93).7

    In contrast to the sumptuary goods emphasized in the Codex Mendoza pages, the majority
    of Aztec taxes were paid not in goods, but in labor. Farmers worked a dizzying variety
    of different types of land for fixed numbers of days in order to fulfill labor obligations,
    including calpulli lands, altepetl lands, temple lands, palace lands, lands which furnished
    military supplies, lands which supplied produce for taxes, and various different kinds of
    lands belonging to lords (figure 2; Gibson 1964, 257–70; K. G. Hirth 2016, 35–41; Lock-
    hart 1992, 155–63; Zorita 1963, 117–18, 187).8 Service to lords was also an important cat-
    egory of obligation, with households required to provide both men and women for du-
    ties such as spinning, weaving, sweeping, preparing food, carrying water or other items,
    and cutting firewood at the palace; even lesser lords had duties of personal attendance at
    court (figure 3; Hicks 1984; Smith 2015, 88–89). Like agricultural labor, these duties were
    again assigned on a set rotation: “Personal service (provision of water, fuel, and domestic
    service) was assigned or apportioned for each day among the ruler’s towns and barrios”
    (Zorita 1963, 125). That is, tax obligations were often measured in time and labor, not in
    quantities of goods. Diego Durán (1994, 435) gives a picture of this complex ecology in
    his Historia de las Indias… in which he enumerates the privileges Motecuhzoma Xoyo-
    cotzin granted to valiant warriors after the victory at Teuctepec, among which was the
    reward of being “exempt from paying tribute, taxes, or any other tithe or imposition or
    personal service”.9

    Figure 2.
    Beinecke Map (Codex Reese), detail of
    the right side. This map shows the
    distribution of recently claimed land
    in Mexico City. Like many working
    documents, it was changed in several
    campaigns. Yale Collection of Western
    Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and
    Manuscript Library, Yale University,
    WA MSS S-2533

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    Other taxes, such as market taxes, might have been paid in money or in kind. The Aztec
    economy used several kinds of currency, including plain white mantles and cacao beans,
    but also quills or gourds full of gold dust and copper axes. Many of these kinds of goods
    are also pictured in the pages of the Codex Mendoza—note the plain white mantles and
    copper axes in figure 1; the eighty loads of cacao on folio 38r; or the twenty gourds full
    of gold dust in figure 5—but not in nearly the kinds of quantities required to sustain
    Tenochtitlan and the rest of the empire. The items of currency are not pictured differently
    than the sumptuary goods, but other sources indicate that they might be exchanged for
    items in the marketplace, where prices for certain goods were set in cacao, gold, or man-
    tles (León-Portilla 1962, 47–49; Hirth 2016, 72. 249-253; Rojas 1995, 244–45). Together,
    these labor- and money-based taxation systems many have contributed more in absolute
    terms to the Aztec economy than provincial taxes in goods, which are the subject of the
    Codex Mendoza pages.10

    Many of the sumptuous goods represented in the Codex Mendoza pages also represent the
    end points of other modes of taxation. Both plain and elaborately decorated textiles, for
    example, concretize women’s labor, while the bins of produce represent the output of ag-
    ricultural labor, and feather costumes represent the result of the featherworker’s art (Rojas
    and Batalla Rosado 2008; Gómez Tejada 2012, 291–95). But as Gerardo Gutiérrez has
    shown in his study of tax records from Tlapa, the process was not always direct: taxes in
    this province were collected in gold and (occasionally) cloth (Gutiérrez 2013; Gutiérrez,
    König, and Brito 2009).11 Figure 4 shows the taxes collected in Tlapa and figure 5 shows
    the taxes recorded for the province of Tlapa in the Codex Mendoza. Gold features prom-
    inently in both tallies, but the warrior costumes and decorated cotton textiles recorded
    in the Codex Mendoza seem not to have been part of the taxes collected in the province.
    Gutiérrez suggests that these items were not produced in Tlapa, but rather purchased in
    a metropolitan market, using currency collected in taxes.12

    The inefficient conversion of currency back into goods to be paid in taxes signals the
    ideological power of these charismatic goods. Some of the goods are rare and specific to

    Figure 3.
    Memorial de los Indios de Tepetlaoz-
    toc (Códice Kingsborough), showing
    labor obligations in colonial times.
    British Museum Am2006, Drg. 13964,
    AN564240001, © Trustees of the British

    C H A P T E R 7 • T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I O N O F T A X AT I O N I N T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A


    particular regions, such as the Spondylus shells from Çihuatlan on folio 38r, the amber
    from Xoconochco on folio 47r, or indeed the gold from Tlapa in figure 5. But other taxes
    were, at the same time, more commonplace and more complex: many provinces were
    charged with providing goods not to be found within their borders, requiring market
    purchases or exchange (Gutiérrez 2013, 157–58; Hirth 2016, 50–52; Litvak King 1971,
    95–97, 105–7).

    Some of the goods represented in the pages of the Codex Mendoza have particular rhet-
    oric built into them, such as the obligation of 32 of the 38 provinces to provide warrior
    costumes for the armies that had subdued them (Berdan 1992, 73).13 It also cannot have
    been much fun to be responsible for the annual delivery of a live eagle, as was required
    from the provinces of Xilotepec (folio 31r) and Tochpan (folio 53r). Durán (1967, II:367)
    recounts an even more carefully calibrated insult, not pictured in the Codex Mendoza:
    “Motecuhzoma the Second … even had lice and fleas brought as tribute. In this the kings
    showed their tyrannical nature”; elsewhere, Durán also mentions snakes, scorpions, and
    centipedes as items of tribute (II:206).

    The goods paid by the conquered provinces had power, not just as useful, precious, rare,
    and/or ideologically-charged things, but also as representations of empire. Textual ac-
    counts consistently stressed the representative quality of the taxation system: “Each town
    or province paid in tribute the things that were grown there” (Zorita 1963, 117); “From
    each city and each province, every eighty days, a million Indians arrived with a third of
    the yearly tribute, laden with everything the land produced, even tiny creatures” (Durán
    1994, 358–59).14 Both commonplace produce and exotic feathers mattered because they
    demonstrated the vast range of Aztec control: “The purpose of this tribute was to show
    the magnificence and authority of the Aztec nation and so the Aztecs would be held to be

    Figure 4.
    Tribute Record of Tlapa (Codex Azoyú
    1), f. 1. The scene at the bottom shows
    the negotiation of taxation obligations
    for the newly-conquered province of
    Tlapa. Subsequent rows show the
    quarterly payments collected in the
    months of Tlacaxipehualiztli,
    Etzalcualiztli, Ochpaniztli, and
    Panquetzaliztli in the year 8 Grass
    (1487). Gold tables and gourds full of
    gold dust are the only goods
    collected at this early stage; white
    mantles were added later.
    Biblioteca del Instituto Nacional de
    Antropología e Historia, Mexico City

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    Lords of All Created Things, upon the waters as well as upon the earth” (205). The goods
    requested provide a conceptual map of empire, both territorial and ideological.15 In this,
    they enacted some of the same rhetoric as the offerings deposited in the Templo Mayor,
    so insightfully analyzed by Johanna Broda (1987).16 The way the pages of the second sec-
    tion of the Codex Mendoza are organized, in a loose, counterclockwise spiral out from the
    imperial center, also has cosmic resonance (Gómez Tejada 2012, 289–90; Hamann 2017,
    116–17; Mundy 2010, 116–17).

    Furthermore, the imperial tax system was inextricably linked to military conquest. Pay-
    ments of tax or tribute were metonymic for submission to the Aztec state, so much so that
    responding to an Aztec request for exotic goods from one’s territory could come to mean
    incorporation into the Aztec empire (Durán 1994, 105, 175, 223–24). Taxation and its
    attendant bureaucracy was an immediate consequence of conquest: “And when the city
    which they had destroyed was attained, at once was set the tribute, the impost. [To the rul-
    er who had conquered them] they gave that which was there made. Likewise, forthwith
    a steward [calpixqui] was placed in office, who would watch over and levy the tribute”
    (Sahagún 1950, 8:53-54). Paying taxes was how provinces experienced incorporation
    into the Aztec empire, while failing to pay taxes constituted revolt (e.g., Durán 1967, 197).

    Figure 5.
    Codex Mendoza, f. 39r. Tribute from
    the province of Tlapa.
    Note the decorated textiles and
    warrior costumes, which were not
    part of the tribute collected in Tlapa

    C H A P T E R 7 • T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I O N O F T A X AT I O N I N T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A


    If the goods in the second section of the Codex Mendoza are the products of conquest,
    their representation highlighted the Aztec self-conception as a nation of fierce war-
    riors. By focusing on imperial taxation, the second section emphasizes bellicose “Chi-
    chimec-like” conquests over more sedentary “Toltec-like” pursuits such as agriculture,
    craft making, and long-distance trade (for a description of these activities as Toltec at-
    tributes, see Sahagún 1975, 3:195-96).17 But it also emphasized the continuing gestures of
    submission required by the periodic delivery of taxes. As such, the second section of the
    Codex Mendoza is a much closer correlate to the first section than has sometimes been
    recognized: it translates the conquests of the first section into a register of ongoing acts
    of material submission. The gridded format of the pages in both sections highlights this
    connection (Jorge Gómez Tejada, personal communication, 2017).

    The performance of taxation

    The splendid goods arrayed on the pages of the Codex Mendoza correspond to a larger
    Mesoamerican tradition concerning the presentation and display of goods. We see some
    of the clearest representations of such dazzling displays in images of the Maya courts, cen-
    turies before the Aztecs came to power. Goods are often associated with thrones, either
    being presented by kneeling intermediaries or simply stashed beneath the throne while
    courtly life carries on around them (figure 6). In many cases, there is an emphasis on stacks
    of plain white textiles—women’s labor concretized and commodified into a standardized
    form that, by the time of the conquest, was beginning to serve as a form of currency—but
    there are other intriguing bundles as well, sometimes labeled with their contents, much
    as we see in the Codex Mendoza (Stuart 1998, 409–17; 2006, 127–28). In these images, it
    is not always possible to tell if regular taxation, one-time gifting, or the spoils of war are
    being represented—and, indeed, different images may represent all three, using a set of
    conventions which could also be deployed for mercantile or supernatural scenes.18

    For example, figure 7 shows bundles under the throne as captives are being presented,
    suggesting booty or perhaps tribute obligations brought into being by warfare.19 The mu-
    rals of Bonampak, by contrast, seem to show gifts presented on the special occasion rep-
    resented in the murals of Room 1, perhaps the presentation of an heir (or heiress), which
    occasioned dances, musical performances, and embassies from other courts. Stashed un-
    derneath the throne in the upper vault of Room 1 lie bags of full of luxurious goods, one
    even labeled ho’ pik kakaw, or 40,000 cacao beans (figure 8; Miller and Brittenham 2013,
    125; Miller and Houston 1998, 248–49; Stuart 2006, 137–41; Houston cited in Miller

    Figure 6.
    Rollout of a Maya cylinder vase,
    showing cloth and bundles
    of goods being presented to a Maya
    ruler. Princeton University
    Museum of Art. Museum purchase,
    Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921,
    Fund 2001-181. Rollout photograph ©
    Justin Kerr, K8089

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    1997, 40). Significantly, what these Maya images emphasize is the performative aspect
    of tribute presentation. The goods themselves are never represented alone, as they are in
    the Codex Mendoza. Tribute does not just appear—it is piled up in front of the throne by
    kneeling subjects, under the gaze of the royal recipient.

    In contrast to the Maya examples, where representations frequently focused on personal
    interactions between king and subject, the Aztec performance of tax or tribute delivery
    was a demonstration of imperial might. Personalized dynamics might have persisted at the
    provincial level—well into the colonial period, Zorita (cited in Gibson 1964, 196)” noted
    that taxes were received “from the hand of the señor”, and tribute continued to be paid in
    kind until at least 1549 (see discussion in Gómez Tejada 2012, 292). But the presentation
    of tribute at the Aztec capital was a stunning display of bureaucracy, the responsibility of
    imperial officials, including the calpixque (tribute collector or provincial administrator)
    and petlacalcatl (keeper of the imperial storehouses).20 Here is Durán’s (1994, 335–36)
    description of an extraordinary levy of tribute and gifts for the emperor Ahuitzotl’s dedi-
    cation of the Templo Mayor in 1487,

    Ahuitzotl then requested that the royal officials have the majordomos, adminis-
    trators, and treasurers of all the provinces bring the royal tribute to him. One by
    one these authorities brought the tribute they had collected. … All these men
    brought tribute in gold, jewels, ornaments, fine feathers, precious stones, all of
    great value and in quantity. There were countless articles of clothing and many
    adornments both for men and for women, of great richness, and an amazing
    quantity of cacao, chiles, pumpkin seeds, all kinds of fruit, fowl, and game. All
    this was received in an orderly manner and to show Aztec grandeur and power
    to the enemies and guests and foreign people and fill them with bewilderment
    and fear. They saw that the Aztecs were masters of the world, their empire so
    wide and abundant that they had conquered all the nations and that all were
    their vassals. The guests, seeing such wealth and opulence and such authority
    and power, were filled with terror.

    While this extended passage describes tribute collected for a temple dedication rather
    than a regular tax, Durán (1994, 323) suggests that the performance of tax payments was
    similarly staged: “everything that was paid in tribute by the different cities and provinces
    during the entire year was given to the lords and chieftains in only one day. It was for this
    purpose that those riches were acquired, were collected, throughout the year, in order to
    make a grand and magnificent display”.

    Figure 7.
    Rollout of a Maya vase, showing the
    presentation of captives, while goods
    are stashed underneath the throne.
    Rollout photograph © Justin Kerr,

    C H A P T E R 7 • T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I O N O F T A X AT I O N I N T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A


    It is a disembodied echo of this “grand and magnificent display” that is represented in
    the pages of the Codex Mendoza. We should take seriously the possibility that this repre-
    sentation aims to evoke the same kinds of sentiments that the very splendor and organi-
    zation of the goods within the palace might have done. The grid-like form of the tribute
    payments arrayed on the page makes claims about the orderly nature of the Aztec state
    (Gómez Tejada 2012, 273–74). While this may have been a feature of the Codex Mendo-
    za’s pre-Hispanic prototype, for a colonial audience, as Jorge Gómez Tejada (2018) has
    argued, demonstrating the just and rational nature of Aztec government continued to
    have important stakes.

    Comparing the images of the Codex Mendoza with Durán’s descriptions of tribute pre-
    sentation ceremonies or with Maya images of the same subject, highlights a conspicuous
    absence within the pages of the Codex Mendoza: the lack of people. With the exception of
    the disembodied heads of the rulers of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco on folio 19r and the
    heads representing captives from Tlaxcala, Cholula, and Huexotzingo to be delivered as
    slaves by the province of Tepeacac (folio 42r), there are no bodies in this section of the
    manuscript.21 We see neither the bodies which performed the labor required to produce
    the goods ordered across the pages (Litvak King 1971, 99–112; Rojas and Batalla Rosado
    2008), nor the bodies of the administrators and attendants who would have presented
    these goods at court. The performative element is conspicuously absent, just as the blood
    and gore of conquest is missing from Part I of the book.

    But there is yet another kind of body missing from the second part of the Codex Mendoza—not
    just the body of the tribute-payer, but also the body of the emperor, the ultimate recipient
    of all taxes, tribute, booty, and other goods that flow through the Aztec imperial system
    (see Barbara Mundy’s essay in this volume for an argument that the altepetl or city-state
    of Tenochtitlan is the true subject of the Codex Mendoza; in this case, what matters is the
    tlahtoani’s status as representative or embodiment of the altepetl). It is for his delectation
    that the goods are piled up before being redistributed to temples and storehouses and as
    royal gifts to subjects, allies, and enemies. After describing the amassing of tribute for the
    Templo Mayor dedication (quoted above), Durán (1994, 335–36) continues,

    All the tribute was delivered to the royal treasurer or to the chief majordomo
    so that it could be divided according to law. Especially everything the priests
    required for the cult to the gods and for the present ceremonies was provided.
    Then the artisans, silversmiths and lapidaries, and featherworkers were giv-
    en all they needed for making the jewelry, feather ornaments, diadems, and
    precious objects that the kings and great lords were to be given. In this way,
    not only was the grandeur and sumptuousness of Tenochtitlan made evident,
    but also these things were available for the great feast and dedication of the
    Great Temple.

    In this light, it is significant to consider again the kinds of goods which are being deliv-
    ered from the provinces. We realize how these dazzling goods must have made satisfying
    piles in front of the throne, more so than either monotonously compact piles of gold or
    a vast bulk of agricultural produce. What is also notable is how few items could actually
    be put directly to royal use. Although the goods would be piled up before the emperor,
    he personally had little use for the modest warrior costumes or even the vast majority of

    Figure 8.
    Bonampak Room 1, detail of east,
    south, and west walls. The bundles in
    front of the throne on the west wall
    —including one labeled as containing
    cacao— may have been presented by
    the visiting emissaries represented on
    the east and south walls. Reconstruc-
    tion painting by Heather Hurst and
    Leonard Ashby, courtesy of the
    Bonampak Documentation Project

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    the elegantly-decorated textiles (and much less for the women’s clothing).22 Many of the
    goods would of course go immediately into the petlacalli or imperial storehouses, while
    other raw materials would be distributed to court artisans to begin making goods which
    might be fit for a king; however, an equal number of objects might have been immediately
    redistributed as gifts. Indeed, rare is the account of tax or tribute delivery in Durán (e.g.
    1994, 201, 341) which does not conclude with the distribution of gifts . I quote one of
    these lengthy passages, from Ahuitzotl’s reign,

    The following day the treasurers and factors from the different cities and prov-
    inces brought to the king the tribute that had been collected during the year.
    … He divided up among all those men much of the tribute just received, that
    is, the fine mantles and breechcloths, jewels and precious stones, weapons, and
    shields handsomely decorated with feathers of many colors. After making these
    gifts to the noblemen, Ahuitzotl called the sons of the lords and dignitaries of
    the court, all the captains and leaders of the army, the seasoned warriors and
    the other soldiers who had participated courageously in the conquest of those
    four provinces. They were all awarded part of these riches, each one according
    to his rank and feats in battle, as the king had promised them in Tecuantepec

    Figure 9.
    Mátricula de Tributos, page 24.
    Taxes owed by the province
    of Xoconochco. Note the glyphs for
    the months of Ochpaniztli and
    Tlacaxipehualiztli in the upper left
    and right corners of the page.
    This is the cognate of f.47r in the
    Codex Mendoza. Biblioteca del
    Instituto Nacional de Antropología
    e Historia, Mexico City

    C H A P T E R 7 • T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I O N O F T A X AT I O N I N T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A


    when he prohibited the looting and destruction that was going on there. All
    these men were contented and considered themselves well paid. They thanked
    their lord and king for this favor. They were most willing to continue serving
    him, seeing that he was so generous, so magnanimous, in compensating them
    for their work. (Durán 1994, 358–60)

    The presentation of tribute or taxation was ultimately a demonstration of Aztec imperial
    power, embodied in the person of the tlahtoani or emperor. Taxes—of goods, services,
    and labor—were first received by him and then redistributed as gifts, positioning imperial
    subjects as dependents and recipients of royal largesse.23 Taxation may have been only
    part of the Aztec economic system, but the rhetoric of its performance and representation
    mattered greatly.

    The prototype of the Codex Mendoza taxation pages

    In closing, I would like to raise the possibility that the pre-Hispanic prototype of the Codex
    Mendoza may have been part of an elaborate performance of the presentation of taxation
    and that this may account for some of the most striking absences within its pages. There
    are two cognate texts, the pictorial Matrícula de Tributos (figure 9) and the textual Infor-
    mación de 1554 (Rojas 1997), and, although the three do not agree in all particulars, their
    coincidence does suggest a pre-Hispanic genre.24

    But just what was that pre-Hispanic genre? As Frances Berdan (1992, 64) puts it in her
    magisterial study, “There is some question whether the Codex Mendoza tribute list is a
    record of assessment (i.e., what was asked or demanded) or a record of collection (i.e.,
    what was sent by the provinces)”. There were undoubtedly books that served both pur-
    poses: both Cortés (1960, 54) and Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1984, A325) make note of
    such documents.25 Yet, I question whether the prototype of the Codex Mendoza and
    the Matrícula de Tributos was such a pedestrian accounting document. The very visual
    elaboration of these pages as well as the loving care lavished on the representations of
    mantles, feathers, and greenstone beads signal a rhetoric far in excess of the demands of
    simple record keeping.26

    Furthermore, the Nahua graphic text alone does not represent a complete tally of objects
    paid in a given year because it includes no information about the periodicity of payment
    (except for the divergent notations on folio 19r and 47r, see note 4 above). While some
    payment schedules seem to have been conventionally agreed upon (textiles were paid
    every six months, warrior costumes were paid annually), others, like the delivery of green-
    stone beads, could vary significantly from province to province (Berdan 1992, 62). It is
    impossible to calculate an entire year’s tax burden from the pictorial content of each page.

    What if the prototype of the Codex Mendoza and Matrícula de Tributos were not a record
    of taxes owed or paid in an entire year, but rather an elaborate presentation copy of the
    taxes that were being given at a particular moment—an exquisitely calligraphic bill of lad-
    ing, as it were? Such an elegant document might have been made to be presented to the
    emperor during one of the formal tax presentation ceremonies described above. Assum-
    ing that that yearly, semiannual, and quarterly payments all coincided during the yearly
    payment ceremony, this would account for the partial representation of the total annual
    goods owed as well as the absence of notations of periodicity in the Nahua pictorial text.
    Furthermore, neither the recipient nor the date would need to be specified, since both
    would be obvious from the context of presentation.

    If so, the status of the original document as a self-reflexive gift resonates with its subse-
    quent incorporation into the compilation we know as the Codex Mendoza. This manu-
    script was itself a royal gift, much as its prototype may have been, albeit under radically
    changed political circumstances (Gómez Tejada 2012, 309–20). The Codex Mendoza fits
    into a long European tradition of books as gifts. Many European books self-reflexively
    register their own presentation with a dedicatory text or an illustrated frontispiece which
    anticipates the presentation of the work to its patron. This practice also made its way to

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    colonial New Spain; the frontispiece of the Relación de Michoacán, for example, shows
    the presentation of the manuscript to Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, who had commis-
    sioned the document (figure 10). Yet, as Cynthia Stone (2004, 54–62) has demonstrated,
    this illustration was a site of contention between indigenous scribes and the Spanish friar
    who oversaw the work, with late changes transforming the image from a subtle critique of
    colonial authority into a more conventional gift-giving scene. The presentation of books,
    it seems, was a protocol which indigenous nobles easily embraced, fully appreciating the
    political nuances possible within the gesture.

    But, if an Aztec royal tax presentation register were the prototype of the second section
    of the Codex Mendoza, this is radically different from the purposes to which the same
    images were put in within that document, where they are used to illustrate not a singu-
    lar presentation, but an entire system of taxation. It has often been remarked that the
    Codex Mendoza represents as stable and unchanging a taxation system which was, in
    fact, in considerable flux (Berdan 1992, 65; Hamann 2017). Indeed, it is the expansion of the
    Aztec territories through conquest (and their contraction via revolt) which allows Frances
    Berdan to suggest a date between 1516 and 1518 for the creation of the prototype of the
    Codex Mendoza. Additionally, Gerardo Gutiérrez’s work on the Tlapa tax documents
    has confirmed that the Aztec tax demands escalated frequently, with a dramatic spike in
    the years just before the Spanish invasion. Even the composition of the provinces was

    Figure 10.
    Relación de Michoacán, frontispiece,
    showing the presentation of the book
    to Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza. Later
    changes in the image, such as the
    position of the friar and the gesture
    of the indigenous nobleman behind
    him, suggest the charged rhetoric
    that accompanied the presentation
    of a manuscript during colonial
    times. Royal Library of the Monastery
    of El Escorial

    C H A P T E R 7 • T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I O N O F T A X AT I O N I N T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A


    not static: part of the rise in tax demands for Tlapa in 1511 and 1515, for example, came
    from the incorporation of new territories into the province (Gutiérrez 2013, 161–63).
    A system of annual, semi-annual, or quarterly presentation documents could account
    for such fluctuations without unsightly emendations and cross-outs (although these
    may very well have been present on the working inventories and tax treaties). Such a
    system might also help explain some of the discrepancies between the Codex Mendoza,
    Matrícula de Tributos, and Información de 1554, in that each may be a copy of a record of
    a different episode of tax presentation (although other discrepancies are surely errors of
    interpretation or glossing).

    What is key is that the pictorial Nahua document never claims to be a complete represen-
    tation of a static taxation system. It is the Spanish language glosses that do this work, spec-
    ifying the periodicity of payments, without which it is impossible to calculate yearly tax
    payments, and suppressing any mention of the yearly fluctuations in tax assessments. Here
    we have another example of the “tyranny of the gloss” (the phrase is Marc Zender’s, per-
    sonal communication with Jorge Gómez Tejada, 2017), where the Spanish-language texts
    have preconditioned our understanding of the Nahua pictorial document and converted
    a record of a particular moment into a general system, losing historical nuance along the
    way.27 The images themselves resist this normalization: glosses underneath the images
    simply translate quantities, and it is only the purely textual commentaries on the facing
    pages which specify the periods of payment (with the exceptions of folio 19r, perhaps
    an early attempt to unify the two systems, and folio 47r, which may represent an unusual
    periodicity of payment).28 It is the use of the imperfect past tense in the Spanish language
    text which makes the claim that these payments were repeated in just the same way again
    and again, in a timeless and unchanging past: “ellos pagaban,” “tributavan dos veces al año,”
    and “daban en tributo.” These terms themselves are relentlessly repeated, only reinforcing
    the impression that the system continued unchanging and uninterrupted, from a remote
    past until its protracted colonial end. It is the Spanish text which transforms the meaning
    of the images from a copy of a record of a particular instance into the evidence of a fixed
    and orderly system. As in so many other colonial documents, in the second section of the
    Codex Mendoza, alphabetical writing reshapes the meaning of the Nahua pictorial text.


    I am grateful to Jorge Gómez Tejada for the invitation to participate in this volume as well
    as for his thoughtful feedback on this essay. Barbara Mundy and Kris Driggers also read
    the essay and offered many helpful comments. Brian Muhs, Richard Payne, Niall Atkin-
    son, and Chelsea Foxwell provided helpful comparative perspectives on taxation, as did
    Dain Borges and Clark Evans. Kenneth Hirth graciously shared his work on Aztec eco-
    nomic systems, and our energetic conversation about Aztec economies greatly enriched
    the work. Thanks also to Davide Domenici for thought-provoking questions.


    Barlow, Robert H. 1949. The Extent of the Empire of the Culhua-Mexica. Berkeley:
    University of Chicago Press.

    Batalla Rosado, Juan José. 2007. “The Scribes Who Painted the Matrícula de Tributos and
    the Codex Mendoza.” Ancient Mesoamerica 18 (1): 31–51. https://doi.org/10.1017/

    Berdan, Frances. 1992. “The Imperial Tribute Roll of the Codex Mendoza.” In The Codex
    Mendoza, edited by Frances Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt, 2:55–79. Berkeley:
    University of California Press.

    Borah, Woodrow, and Sherburne F. Cook. 1963. The Aboriginal Population of Central
    Mexico on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    Broda, Johanna. 1987. “Templo Mayor as Ritual Space.” In The Great Temple of Tenochtitlan,
    edited by Johanna Broda, 61–100. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Brown, Betty Ann. 1977. “European Influences in Early Colonial Descriptions and
    Illustrations of the Mexica Monthly Calendar.” Tesis doctoral, University of New
    Mexico, Albuquerque.

    Cortés, Hernán. 1960. Cartas de Relación. Ciudad de México: Editorial Porrúa.

    Díaz del Castillo, Bernal. 1984. Historia Verdadera de La Conquista de La Nueva España.
    Edited by Miguel León-Portilla. 2 vols. Crónicas de América 2. Madrid: Historia 16.

    Durán, Diego. 1967. Historia de Las Indias de Nueva España e Islas de La Tierra Firme.
    Edited by Ángel María Garibay K. Ciudad de México: Editorial Porrúa.

    ———. 1994. The History of the Indies of New Spain. Translated by Doris Heyden. Norman:
    University of Oklahoma Press.

    Gibson, Charles. 1964. The Aztecs under Spanish Rule. Palo Alto: Stanford University

    Gómez Tejada, Jorge. 2012. “Making the Codex Mendoza, Constructing the Codex
    Mendoza: A Reconsideration of a 16th Century Mexican Manuscript.” Tesis
    doctoral, Yale University.

    ———. 2018. “Conquest, Growth and Evolution: Indigenist Discourse in the Codex
    Mendoza.” In Mesoamerican Manuscripts: New Scientific Approaches and
    Interpretations, edited by Maarten Jansen, Virginia M. Lladó-Buisán, and Ludo
    Snijders, 8:120–33. Leiden, NL: Brill.

    Gutiérrez, Gerardo. 2013. “Negotiating Aztec Tributary Demands in the Tribute Record of
    Tlapa.” In Merchants, Markets, and Exchange in the Pre-Columbian World, edited by
    Kenn Hirth and Joanne Pillsbury. Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research
    Library and Collection.

    Gutiérrez, Gerardo, Viola König, and Baltazar Brito, eds. 2009. Códice Humboldt
    Fragmento 1 (Ms. amer. 2) y Códice Azoyú 2 reverso: nómina de tributos de Tlapa
    y su provincia al Imperio Mexicano. 2 vols. Ciudad de México: CIESA / Stiftung
    Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

    Hamann, Byron. 2017. “Introduction to the Matrícula de Tributos.” Mesolore. January
    5, 2017. http://www.mesolore.org/tutorials/learn/17/Introduction-to-the-

    Hicks, Frederic. 1984. “Rotational Labor and Urban Development in Prehispanic
    Tetzcoco.” In Explorations in Ethnohistory: Indians of Central Mexico in the Sixteenth
    Century, edited by H. R. Harvey and Hanns J. Prem, 147–74. Albuquerque:
    University of New Mexico Press.

    Hirth, Kenneth G. 2016. The Aztec Economic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University

    Kerr, Justin. n.d. Maya Vase Data Base. Accessed October 25, 2019. http://research.

    León-Portilla, Miguel. 1962. “La Institución Cultural Del Comercio Prehispánico.”
    Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 3: 23–54.

    Litvak King, Jaime. 1971. Cihuatlán y Tepecoacuilco: Provincias Tributarias de México En
    El Siglo XVI. Ciudad de México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

    Lockhart, James. 1992. The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of
    the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries. Stanford:
    Stanford University Press.

    C H A P T E R 7 • T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I O N O F T A X AT I O N I N T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A


    Melgar Tísoc, Emiliano, and Reyna Beatriz Solís Ciriaco. 2015. “The Technological
    Analysis of Lapidary Objects from Tenochtitlan.” In Breaking Barriers: Proceedings of
    the 47th Annual Chacmool Archaeological Conference, edited by Robyn Crook, Kim
    Edwards, and Colleen Hughes, 118–28. Calgary: The Chacmool Archaeological
    Association of the University of Calgary.

    Miller, Mary Ellen. 1997. “Imaging Maya Art.” Archaeology 50 (3): 34–40.

    Miller, Mary Ellen, and Claudia Brittenham. 2013. The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court:
    Reflections on the Murals of Bonampak. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

    Miller, Mary Ellen, and Stephen D. Houston. 1998. “Algunos comentarios sobre las
    inscripciones jeroglíficas en las pinturas de la Estructura 1 de Bonampak.” In La
    Pintura Mural Prehispánica en México. II: Área Maya Tomo III: Estudios, edited
    by Beatriz De la Fuente and Leticia Staines Cicero, 245–54. Ciudad de México:
    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas.

    Morris, Ann A. 1931. “Murals from the Temple of the Warriors and Adjacent Structures.”
    In The Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itzá, Yucatan, edited by Earl Halstead
    Morris, Jean Charlot, and Ann Axtell Morris, 1:347–484. Carnegie Institution of

    Mundy, Barbara. 2010. “Aztec Geography and Spatial Imagination.” In Geography and
    Ethnography: Perceptions of the World in Pre-Modern Societies, edited by Kurt A.
    Raaflaub and Richard J. A. Talbert, 108–27. The Ancient World–Comparative
    Histories. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

    ———. 2015. The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City. Austin: University of
    Texas Press.

    Payne, Richard. forthcoming. “Taxation, Aristocratic Autonomy, and Theories of
    Reciprocity in the Iranian Empire.” In Ancient Taxation: The Mechanics of Extraction
    in Comparative Perspective, edited by Jonathan Valk and Irene Soto Marín. New
    York: New York University Press.

    Rojas, José Luis de. 1995. México Tenochtitlan: Economía y sociedad en el siglo XVI. Ciudad
    de México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

    ———. 1997. Información de 1554 Sobre Los Tributos Que Los Indios Pagaban a Moctezuma.
    Ciudad de México: CIESAS.

    Rojas, José Luis de, and Juan José Batalla Rosado. 2008. “Los Números Ocultos Del Códice
    Mendoza y La Mátricula de Tributos.” Revista Española de Antropología Americana
    38 (2): 199–206.

    Ruwet, Wayne. 1992. “A Physical Description of the Codex Mendoza.” In The Codex
    Mendoza, edited by Frances Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt. Vol. 1. Berkeley,
    CA: University of California Press.

    Sahagún, Fray Berardino de. 1950. Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New
    Spain. Translated by Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble. 13 vols. Santa Fe:
    School of American Research.

    ———. 1975. Historia General de Las Cosas de Nueva España. Translated by Ángel María
    Garibay K. Ciudad de México: Editorial Porrúa.

    Smith, Michael E. 2014. “The Aztec Paid Taxes, Not Tribute.” Mexicon 36 (February):

    ———. 2015. “The Aztec Empire.” In Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern
    States, edited by Andrew Monson and Walter Scheidel, 71–112. Cambridge:
    Cambridge University Press.

    Stone, Cynthia. 2004. In Place of Gods and Kings: Authorship and Identity in the Relación
    de Michoacán. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    Stuart, David. 1998. “‘The Fire Enters His House’: Architecture and Ritual in Classic Maya
    Texts.” In Function and Meaning in Classic Maya Architecture, edited by Stephen D.
    Houston, 373–425. Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and

    ———. 2006. “Jade and Chocolate: Bundles of Wealth in Classic Maya Economics and
    Ritual.” In Sacred Bundles: Ritual Acts of Wrapping and Binding in Mesoamerica,
    edited by Julia Guernsey and F. Kent Reilly, 127–44. Barnardsville, NC: Boundary
    End Archaeology Research Center.

    Umberger, Emily. 1996. “Art and Imperial Strategy in Tenochtitlan.” In Aztec Imperial
    Strategies, edited by Frances Berdan, Richard E. Blanton, Elizabeth Hill Boone,
    Mary G. Hodge, Michael E. Smith, and Emily Umberger, 85–106. Washington
    D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks.

    Zorita, Alonso de. 1963. Breve y Sumaria Relación de Los Señores de La Nueva España.
    Edited by Joaquín Ramírez Cabañas. Biblioteca Del Estudiante Universitario 32.
    Ciudad de México: UNAM.


    1 Distinguishing between tax and tribute is a complicated matter, with many competing definitions. Here, I follow Michael Smith (2014, 19; 2015,
    74–75; 2015, 79–80) in making a distinction between taxes, which are paid regularly in pre-negotiated quantities, and tribute, which is an irregular levy
    extracted at unpredictable intervals. The matter is confused by the fact that early Spanish sources render both kinds of payments as “tributo” (Smith 2014, 19;
    2015, 75). Glosses which stipulate the periodicity of payments in the Codex Mendoza suggest that its images were interpreted by the glosser as taxes, to be paid
    annually, semi-annually, or every eighty days, and not as more irregular tribute. But, it is likely that tax-paying provinces could also be subject to unexpected
    levies of tribute, on occasions such as the coronation of a ruler or the dedication of a new temple, often in the form of requests for “gifts” (e.g., Durán 1967,

    Note that there are other competing definitions of tax and tribute: Hirth (2016, 35) prefers to retain the term “tax” for levies on finished products, as opposed
    to labor, in order to highlight the prevalence of labor-based extractive systems in the Aztec world, while Berdan (1992, 55) defines tribute as “revenue collect-
    ed by a militarily dominant state from its conquered regions”. Richard Payne (forthcoming), by contrast, in an ancient Iranian context, highlights differing
    terms for tax payments from imperial subjects (whether regular or special levies) and tribute as gifts from outside the empire, either from allies or client
    states. While acknowledging this diversity of terminology, I concur with Smith in using the word “tax” to facilitate comparison with other ancient economies.
    Frances Berdan (1992, 63–64) suggests further that it is taxes paid to Tenochtitlan alone, and not to the whole of the Triple Alliance, which are represented
    in the Codex Mendoza.

    2 This is especially notable on folio 47v, showing the taxes of Xoconochco, where the jaguar pelts, loads of cacao, gourd bowls for drinking cacao, and
    pieces of amber are duplicated, as if to emphasize the preciousness of the goods owed (see figure 9 for the cognate page in the Matrícula de Tributos). Berdan
    (1992, 56) suggests that this division corresponds to the two annual payments made during the months of Ochpaniztli and Tlacaxipehualiztli (unusually, the
    glyphs representing both months are painted at the top of the page). Doublings or expansive representations on other pages may have a more purely rhetorical
    motivation (note for example the doublings on folio 19r).

    3 There is some uncertainty whether the textiles represent individual cloths, or bundles of 400 cloths. The scribe who added the glosses to the Codex
    Mendoza himself seemed unsure, inserting the word “cargas” or “bundles” with a carat into existing notations. For recent summaries and positions on the
    controversy, see Berdan (1992, 156), Gutiérrez (2013, 151, 156, 165n9), Hirth (2016, 300n35), and Rojas y Batalla Rosado (2008, 201–5).

    4 The two exceptions are glyphs for the months on Ochpaniztli and Tlacaxipehualiztli on folio 47r (figure 9 illustrates the cognate page in the Matrícula
    de Tributos) and the four circular glyphs on Tlaltelolco page (folio 19r). As the gloss explains indicate “estas quatro como flores, significan, ochenta días, cada
    una flor vente días, en los quales portasacion, de los señores de Mexico, tributaban los di Tlatilulco, de las cosas en esta plana figuradas e yntituladas” (Ruwet
    1992, 43; these four, like flowers, indicate eighty days, each flower twenty days, in which the people of Tlatelolco gave in tribute to the lords of Mexico those
    things drawn and named on this page). The use of two different ways of showing periodicity and the rarity of temporal glyphs suggest that this was not a
    familiar or necessary part of the prototype text. For more on the periodicity of tribute, see Barlow (1949), Berdan (1992, 62–63), Smith (2015, 93–94); for
    more on representations of the Aztec months, see Brown (1977).

    5 Note also how bins of foodstuffs are systematically underrepresented on the pages of the Codex Mendoza: the text on folio 36v specifies “four large
    wooden bins … full of maize, beans, chia, and amaranth,” but only two bins are represented, their contents mixed together, while the glosses on folio 37r pull
    the contents apart again: “two bins, the one of maize and the other of chia” and “two bins, the one of beans and the other of amaranth.” This pattern is found
    wherever bins of staple foods are pictured (folios 20v, 22r, 23v, 25r, 26r, 27r, 28r, 29r, 30r, 31r, 32r, 33r, 34r, 35r, 36r, 37r, 41r, 42r, 44r).

    6 Smith’s (see discussion in 2015, 80–81) preferred term for the “strategic provinces,” again to facilitate cross-cultural comparison.

    7 I have omitted Smith’s (2015, 92–93) category of “labor by youths in the telpochcalli” in the list above, which Smith also suggests might be grouped with
    public works corvée.

    8 Calpullalli, altepetlalli, teopantlalli, tecpantlalli, milchimalli, tequitlalli, and piltalli, teuctlalli, and tlatocatlalli, to name just a few. See Hirth (2016, 37) for
    a more complete listing as well as Lockhart (1992, 1155–63).

    9 The text in Spanish reads: “y declarándoles las preeminencias de que desde aquel día gozaban. Que era: vestir algodón, ponerse sandalias en los pies,
    entrar en palacio, comer de las comidas reales, beber cacao, usar de xúchiles y humazos, tener las mujeres que pudiesen sustentar, y ser reservados de tributos

    C H A P T E R 7 • T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I O N O F T A X AT I O N I N T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A


    y alcabalas y pechos y cualesquier pensiones e imposiciones y de servicios personales, salir a todos los bailes reales y comer carne humana, poder beber vino y
    dar voto en las cosas de guerra, edificar casas con sobrados, y juntarse con los caballeros del sol, que llamaban comendadores del Aguila” (Durán 1967, 443;
    emphasis is mine).

    10 For a thorough review of Mesoamerican marketplaces, which includes an argument for a minimal impact of market taxes, see Hirth (2016, 72–87).

    11 Although Gutiérrez does not speculate about how the gold was obtained, I wonder if some of it might have been generated by selling products of taxed
    labor as well as by mining. The provinces of Çihuatlan and Tepequacuilco, studied by Jaime Litvak King (1971, 95–97, 105–7), in fact collected a greater range
    of goods in taxes than those recorded in the Codex Mendoza, suggesting another kind of market exchange (cited in Hirth 2016, 54).

    12 Gutiérrez also notes that annual taxes represented in the Tribute Roll of Tlapa amount to about 12% more in monetary equivalent than the good
    represented in the Codex Mendoza and cognate documents, as if the local calpixqui (Aztec tribute collector and administrator) took a hefty cut along the way.

    13 Weapons and armor would also seem to be exquisitely calibrated items to demand in tribute, if questionable ones, due to the risk of sabotage. Although
    Durán (1967, 209) lists them among the items of tribute received by Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, in the Codex Mendoza, only the province of Tepeacac on
    folio 42r is shown to provide arrows and atlatl projectiles.

    14 Zorita (1963, 117) continues on to say that no province paid goods from beyond its borders “so the people did not have to leave their natural surround-
    ings to seek tribute.” Close examination of taxation documents demonstrates that this idealized understanding is incorrect (see note 12 above). In quoting so
    extensively from sixteenth century Spanish accounts like those of Zorita and Durán, I do not wish to suggest that they represent correct or definitive under-
    standings of how the Aztec taxation system worked; instead, I use them to capture a sense of the rhetoric surrounding Aztec taxation.

    15 Barbara Mundy (2015, 23–55) makes a similar point about the rhetoric of royal feathered costumes.

    16 There is surprisingly little overlap between the goods represented in the Codex Mendoza and the items deposited as offerings in the Templo Mayor
    (no corals, for example, in the pages of the Codex Mendoza). In this context, it is helpful to recall Melgar Tísoc and Solís Ciriaco’s (2015) argument that many
    of the “foreign” offerings at the Templo Mayor were made in Tenochtitlan workshops. However, corals, shells, and other products of the sea must have arrived
    via a different mechanism, perhaps requested as exceptional gifts in honor of a temple dedication or bought in the market.

    17 I am grateful to Davide Domenici for highlighting the tensions between Toltec and Chichimec in Aztec self-conception (personal communication,
    2017); see also Umberger (1996, 86). Richard Payne (forthcoming) notes a similar pattern among putatively nomadic late Iranian empires in Central Asia,
    where again, goods received via imperial tribute may have been monetarily far less important than the revenues from labor and land and market taxes, but
    received far greater rhetorical emphasis because of their splendor, and also because of the ritualized gestures of submission involved in their delivery.

    18 The same kinds of conventions are used to represent a mercantile scene on K1728, while gods with bundles assemble before the creation of the present
    era on K2796 (Kerr 2019; the K numbers refer to Justin Kerr’s catalog of rollout photos of Maya vases).

    19 War is likely also the context of the very Codex Mendoza-like representations of goods in the fragmentary murals of the Temple of the Warriors at
    Chichen Itza (Morris 1931, 409, pl.154).

    20 Though the Codex Mendoza (folio 44v) suggests that the petlacalcatl was the provincial governor and a calpixqui placed in each conquered town. See
    Smith (2015, 95–101) for further discussion.

    21 In this light, it is also worth noting the problematic transitional status of folios 17v-18r, which name the governors of various provinces. These pages
    are structured very much like the tribute pages of Section 2, with an L-shaped fame of place-names on folio 17v, but at the end of folio 18r comes the notation
    “fin de la partida primera de esta ystoria.”

    22 Crucially, in Durán’s (1967, 205–14) account, the catalog of Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina’s tribute comes just before his establishment of laws, the first
    ten of which have to do with sumptuary privileges. I am grateful to Davide Domenici (personal communication, 2017) for highlighting this conjunction. In
    another passage, Durán (1967, 367) notes, “entre estos tributos traían ropas que sólo servían a señores y otros para gente de todos estados”.

    23 I am grateful to Brian Muhs for suggesting this line of analysis (personal communication, 2017). See also Mundy (2010, 120) and Umberger
    (1996, 103).

    24 For a review of the question, see Berdan (1992, 56–63). I follow Jorge Gómez Tejada (2012, 200–209, 281) in thinking that at least the first few pages of
    Mátricula de Tributos must be post-conquest, and perhaps even later than the Codex Mendoza, based on the style of the heads, with characteristically mid-six-
    teenth century pointed chins, and also some of the unusual renderings of glyphs. For a strong statement of the contrasting view, see Batalla Rosado (2007).
    If both the Codex Mendoza and the Mátricula de Tributos are post-conquest, it is likely that they are derived from a shared pre-Hispanic prototype (Borah’s
    and Cook’s [1963] “prototype A”) or perhaps even two very similar pre-Hispanic documents. There is, however, no reason to think that these pre-Hispanic
    documents would have looked exactly like the Codex Mendoza or the Matrícula de Tributos, especially in the ways that both documents are accommodated
    to the very peculiar proportions of the European page; amate strips are visibly glued together in the Mátricula de Tributos to attain pages of this unfamiliar
    configuration (see Gómez Tejada 2012, 207–8). Other elements of the compositions, such as the grid-like layout and the L-shaped border of place glyphs, may
    have more pre-Hispanic precedent.

    25 Here are the relevant passages. Cortés (1960, 54): “En todos los señoríos de estos señores tenía fuerzas hechas, y en ellas gente suya, y sus gobernadores
    y cogedores del servicio y renta que de cada provincia le daban, y había cuenta y razón de lo que cada uno era obligado a dar, porque tienen caracteres y fig-
    uras escritas en el papel que hacen por donde se entienden. Cada una de estas provincias servían con su género de servicio, según la calidad de la tierra, por
    manera que a su poder venía toda suerte de cosas que en las dichas provincias había”. Díaz del Castillo (1984, A:325): “Acuérdome que era en aquel tiempo su
    mayordomo mayor un gran cacique que le pusimos por nombre Tapia, y tenía cuenta de todas las rentas que le traían al Montezuma, con sus libros hechos de
    su papel, que se dice amatl, y tenía destos libros una gran casa dellos”.

    26 Many of the other taxation records from the same period are far more workmanlike in nature, frequently rendered solely in black ink, and certainly
    with none of the elaborate shading and elegant presentation of the two imperial tax registers. In fact, some of the closest parallels are to other documents
    intended as petitions or legal documents—that is, for presentation—such as Codex Kingsborough, the Codex Osuna, or certain pages of the Codex Huehotzingo,
    where the care lavished may also signal part of a colonial rhetorical strategy.

    T H E C O D E X M E N D O Z A : N E W I N S I G H T S


    27 I am grateful to Kristopher Driggers (personal communication, 2017) for this observation.

    28 For further discussion, see note 4 above. Folio 18v also includes the only note about the beginning of tribute payments: “tuvo principio el dicho tribute
    desde en tiempo de Uauhtlatoa y Moquihuiz, señores que fueron de Tlatilulco. Los señores de Mexico que dieron principio a los Tatilulco para que les tribu-
    tasen, reconociendo vasallaje, fueron Ycoaçin y Axayacaçin.” Apart from this passage, the system is treated as if it had been there since time immemorial.

    No Longer Home:
    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600

    Barbara E. Mundy, Fordham University

    Abstract. During the course of the sixteenth century, the Aztec (or Mexica) city
    of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco (present-day Mexico City) was transformed from a
    sweet-smelling lacustrine city into a foul one, the direct result of the Spanish invasion
    (1519–21). This article reconstructs both the sources of odors and culturally situated
    ideas about smell among the city’s Nahuatl-speaking residents. They are opposed
    to the ideas about smell held by settler colonists, derived from the framework
    of Hippocratic medicine. These imported ideas about acceptable smells (like
    those of urban slaughterhouses) and dangerous smells (swamps) came to have
    disastrous consequences as they played out in the unique environment of the
    Basin of Mexico.

    Keywords. ecology, sense perception, epidemic disease, Mexican codices

    From the first appearance of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco in European records
    in the early sixteen century, the odors of the Aztec (or Mexica) city now
    known as Mexico City aroused the interests of the conquistadors. They
    contrasted the fragrance coming from the well-tended surrounding lakes
    to the stench from the sacrifices at the central temples (Cortés 1969: 50;
    Díaz del Castillo 2008: 156). They filtered their perceptions through their
    own cultural lenses to make sense of the strange new world they encoun-
    tered. Their reactions to the odors—delight in the pleasantly fragrant city,
    horror in rank sacrificial residues—provided the basic road map for the
    actions they would take over the course of the Spanish invasion (1519–21)
    and subsequent decades, proof positive of what Constance Classen, David
    Howes, and Anthony Synnott (1994: 3) have posited: “Odors are invested

    Ethnohistory 68:1 (January 2021) doi 10.1215/00141801-8702360
    Copyright 2021 by American Society for Ethnohistory


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    with cultural values and employed by societies as a means of and model
    for defining and interacting with the world.”

    However, the smellscape of longtime residents of the island of Mexico,
    comprising the āltepētl (city-states) of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco and part
    of one of the largest urban complexes in theworld in1500, has received scant
    attention, despite the city’s long historiography and the proposition that
    smellscapes guided the ways people interacted with one another and their
    environment. This historic smellscape, as I construe it, has three facets. The
    first is the“odor profile”of a place, that is, the identifiable odors producedby
    the environment and human activity, which often can be reconstructed using
    historical sources. The second is the values attached to those odors, making
    them“smells.”Odors have nomeanings in and of themselves,whereas smells
    are the product of a specific interpretive community (Engen 1991: 117).
    Among the Nahua, like their Spanish counterparts, smells were seen to have
    effects on the human constitution, and thus these generated a third facet
    of the smellscape: their socially held idea of positive or beneficial smells,
    which provided an impetus for them to create ormaintain a positive-smelling
    environment. A smellscape can be thought of as the olfactory analog to a
    landscape, which is the ideational perception of a piece of land, whose
    parameters (be they poetic or visual) and reception are culturally deter-
    mined, and whose desired form pushes human agents toward its reali-
    zation. Unlike the landscape, where the cognitive source is vision, the
    smellscape is olfactory and thus is shaped by different cognitive features,
    as I explore below. But like the landscape, the smellscape also has agency,
    shaping a community’s interactions with one another and with the spaces
    around them in the quest for ideal states. In this article, I attempt to
    reconstruct the odor profile of the pre-Hispanic city as well as how those
    odors might have been interpreted (as smells) by the city’s urban resi-
    dents. I use both pictorial and textual source material in an attempt to
    grapple with the extremely limited archive of this evanescent sensorial
    experience. Despite the fleeting nature of individual odors, I propose that
    the smellscape would have been a powerful source of collective iden-
    tity for the residents of the island who shared a habituation to the smells
    around them.

    In the decades following the Spanish invasion, the city’s odor profile
    changed dramatically. One feature of high-impact colonization was the
    rapid imposition of European urban principles, which led to an entirely
    transformed odor profile for the city: an indigenous smellscape was dis-
    placed by a Spanish one. As the commemoration of the invasion leads us to
    think afresh about the events of those years and their consequences, this
    article draws attention to the importance of the smellscape as an element in

    78 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    collective identification and to its flip side, alienation. Documenting its
    dramatic transformation in the two decades following the invasion and
    beyond allowsme topropose that our understanding of the rather generically
    painted “trauma” of indigenous peoples can be brought to sharper focus by
    understanding a short-term, and devastating, experience of the city’s vast
    indigenous population: sensory alienation. In addition, the long-term effect
    of the imposition of a European smellscape has ecological consequences that
    persist today.

    The Odor Profile of Tenochtitlan

    Period maps help in the difficult reconstruction of the probable sources of
    odor in the pre-Hispanic city (such as markets); the foundational work by
    historians of ecology allows us to understand the city’s unusual lacustrine
    environment, the source of much of its very particular odor profile (Palerm
    1973; Rojas Rabiela, Strauss, and Lameiras 1974). The city sat in a shallow
    inland sea comprised of different lakes, whose distinctions were clear in
    the dry season. A series of causeways and dikes mostly built under Mexica
    rulers in the fifteenth century controlled water levels within this inland sea.
    These barriers protected the city from flooding during the rainy season.
    They also separated the salty waters of Lake Tetzcoco to the east from the
    sweeter waters of the Laguna of Mexico to the west and cordoned off the
    sweet waters of the lakes of Chalco and Xochimilco in the south. The
    lagunas and lakes had different smell profiles. Francisco López de Gómara
    (1964: 159) reported that “the lake on which Mexico is situated is,
    although it seems to be one, is really two, very different from each other, for
    one [Lake Tetzcoco] is saline, bitter and stinking, and has no fish in it,
    while the other [the Laguna of Mexico] is of sweet water and does have
    fish, although they are very small.”

    Crucial to the system were canals. Some cut into the lake bed, and
    others ran through the city. During the rainy season they allowed waters
    flooding into the Basin from the western hills to sluice through the city into
    lower-lying Lake Tetzcoco to the east. Many features of the system are
    documented in theMapaUppsala, amap of the city created ca. 1537–42 by
    indigenous artists (fig. 1). Oriented with the west at top, the map enlarges
    the island city dramatically in relation to the surrounding lakes. Despite this
    cartographic distortion, it is highly precise in documenting many of the
    man-made features that allowed the island residents to coexist with the
    seasonal fluctuations of the surrounding lakes. The map shows the two
    major dikes, both named for rulers, Ahuitzotl and Nezahualcoyotl, that
    protected the city from saltwater floods, as well as the major canals cutting

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 79


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    through the city. Many of these water-roads continued into the lake bed,
    where intensely colored blue pigment was used to show the system of
    passages that had been dredged out of the lake bed. During the dry season,
    these deep-cut canals allowed canoes to continue to travel from outlying
    agricultural zones to provision the city; their maintenance was part of the
    tribute obligations of Basin residents.

    Bodies of sweet water lay to the south and west of the city, and their
    cleanliness was a continued preoccupationof the urban community. Human
    waste was carefully collected daily (for use as fertilizer and mordants) and
    thus was kept out of the lakes and the canals that traversed the city (Becerril
    and Jiménez 2007; Harvey 1981). Agriculture employing chināmitl (raised
    beds, or chinampas) was practiced intensively in the sweet water lakes of
    Chalco andXochimilco, and it produced its ownodors. Tomake chināmitl,
    organic matter from the bottom of a lake was piled into raised beds, and
    the borders of these muddy beds were secured by small trees (chināmitl
    means “fence” to describe the anchoring arbor). Rich with microscopic
    bacteria that were breaking down organic matter, chināmitlwere odiferous.

    As in other lacustrine environments, odors from the surrounding lakes
    varied, waning and waxing with the seasons. When water levels fell during
    the dry months of November through April, the edges of the shallow lakes

    Figure 1. Artists whose names are currently unknown (Nahua, Mexico City),
    Mapa Uppsala. Pigment on parchment, 78×114 cm. Uppsala University Library,
    Sweden. Public Domain Mark 1.0, Creative Commons.

    80 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    would revert to swamps, shown on the Mapa Uppsala in the reedy littoral,
    and potent swamp odors would fill the air. In particularly dry years, dust
    from the lake bed would become airborne. One of the common Nahuatl
    words to describe strong smells was potōni. From it comes potōnqui, which
    means both “strong-smelling thing” and “dry dust,” perhaps deriving from
    the cycles of the lake, of which the residents of the regionwere keenly aware
    (Karttunen 1983: 203–4; Molina [1571] 1970: 83v).

    Odors from two enormous tiānquiztli (markets, corrupted to tianguis)
    on the urbanized islandwould have permeated the streets around. The great
    tiānquiztli of Tenochtitlan was admiringly described by Cortés (1969: 62–
    64); praised in the 1555 narrative of Francisco Cervantes de Salazar (1953:
    58), this immense market contained the products that “the earth brings
    forth,” and among its fragrant wonders were “aji [chile], beans, Persian
    pears [avocados], guavas, mameyes, zapotes, camotes, gícamas, cacmites,
    mesquites, tunas, gilotes, xocotes, and other fruits of this nature.” A map
    created of this same tiānquiztli, likely a copy from a late sixteenth-century
    original, shows its careful organization well after the invasion (fig. 2). The
    tiānquiztli is shown divided into eight rectangular sections, and each sec-
    tion is separated by passageways that lead to the hexagonal fountain at
    the market’s center (Mundy 2015: 84–94). Each of the blocks is carefully
    divided into stalls, and words and small images in each show that sellers of
    similar goods were grouped together, also noted in conquistador accounts.
    The images of products for sale give us a more precise estimation of the
    odors of the market. Oriented with the south at top, the map shows the
    most odorific zones as falling along the market’s south and eastern edges,
    that is, to the top and left-hand sides of the map. At the middle-left edge, a
    plant with a prominent root and the word quilnamacaque, “vegetable
    vendor,” is set adjacent to a stall with two cups, showing the frothing
    technique for the cacao drinks, labeled hatlaq*tzali (ātlaquetzalli), for the
    “foamy chocolate” sold there. Above are the meat and fish merchants
    (michnamacaque), and the smell of their wares would have filled the air
    around. Above the fish sellers are the tobacco sellers, and at the upper center
    the sellers of ducks and waterfowl would have set out their wares. From the
    southwest corner of the market, or the upper-right edge of the map, would
    emanate the smell of chiles, the spicy capsicum, that were grown in dozens
    of varieties. The distinct smells of cooking foodswould have also permeated
    the city at large— the basic foodstuff, the tortilla, was cooked over a griddle
    heated by a small wood fire, and the quotidian miasma of Tenochtitlan-
    Tlatelolco, as in small Mexican towns today, was the odor of wood smoke
    and toasty maize as well as roasted chiles.

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 81


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    A concentrated but intense source of odor would have come from the
    city’s central Templo Mayor, where the blood of sacrificial victims was left
    on altars and temple façades, and sometimes body parts were displayed as
    trophies or human skins were cached. On entering one of the temple
    complexes, Bernal Díaz del Castillo (2008: 178) recounted the smell: “The
    walls were so clotted with blood,” he wrote, “and the soil so bathed with it
    that in the slaughterhouses of Spain there is not such another stench.”
    Archeologists have revealed that the processing of humans and animals to
    prepare them to be cached or displayed also took place here (Chávez

    Figure 2. Artists whose names are currently unknown, map of the tiānquiztli of
    MexicoCity, orientedwith the south at top.Nineteenth-century copy after now-lost
    original of ca. 1580. Ms. Mexicain 106b, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.
    Photo courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

    82 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    Balderas 2017). The nodes of main markets and temples are mapped in
    figure 3, which reveals how these odor centers were distributed in the city.
    Their locations, along with the chināmitl zones to the south and west,
    suggest that island residents could orient themselves in the densely popu-
    lated city by its odors alone.

    Figure 3. Map of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco, present-day Mexico City, ca. 1500,
    showing odor nodes of tiānquiztli and temples. Author’s work, after map by Olga
    Vanegas, fig. 1.10 in Mundy (2015).

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 83


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    The Interpretation of Smell

    Odors lie at the base of the smellscape, but they also involve the culturally
    grounded interpretation of those odors as smells. “To a human being,” the
    psychologist Trygg Engen (1991: 117) wrote, “the meaning of an odor is
    determined by its environmental associations, whether they be a person, an
    event, an object.” As social animals, human beings do not attach meanings
    to odors in a vacuum— their interpretation, whether they are masculine or
    feminine, desirable or not, along with hedonic judgments about them, is
    mostly culturally determined. Reactions to odors are culturally specific to
    this day: the odor of durian fruit, described by some as akin to rotting flesh,
    is savored by others. Moreover, odors perceived as benign may actually
    smell less strong than those perceived as toxic (Distel et al. 1999). In the case
    of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco’s residents, vocabulary and images— in their
    iconography and use of pigment—help reconstruct their interpretations of
    odors as smells.

    Nahuatl vocabulary expresses hedonic judgments: potōni meant “to
    smell strong” or “bad,” whereas good smells were described by ahhuiāya,
    “to be fragrant” (Karttunen 1983: 6, 203;Molina [1571] 1970: 9v). To smell
    something was ihnecui, and at its root was an unattested verb ihī, “to
    breathe” (Karttunen 1983: 99). Words containing it were frequently trans-
    lated by the Franciscan Alonso de Molina in negative terms: ihyāya, “to
    stink,” and the related ihyāca, “something foul or stinking,” and ihyācxi-
    huitl, “stinking plant or grass” (Karttunen 1983: 102). But since the latter is
    the Nahuatl term for the fragrant night jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum), the
    translation of ihyāya into “stink,” a Spanish (and English) “bad” smell
    category, may reflect Spanish judgments, a by-product of the culturally rel-
    ative nature of smell. Instead, in a Nahua context, ihyāya seemed to mark
    strong odors rather than bad ones.

    Certain powerful odorswere important, and their nature as smells was
    bound up in the ways the Nahua of the sixteenth century conceived of the
    body (López Austin 1984).1 They associated many of the odors of animate
    beings with the ihīyotl (breath, respiration), an internal animating force
    that entered a body upon birth andwas present through one’s lifetime, with
    greater force in some than others. It is part of the complex of words related
    to the unattested verb ihī. Jill Leslie McKeever Furst (1995: 141, 156)
    describes ihīyotl as “wind, light, and odor,” but she also points out that
    one’s ihīyotl could have a powerful odor, manifesting as flatulence. Alfredo
    López Austin (1984, 1:260) described the ihīyotl as like “a luminous gas
    that had properties that could influence other beings,” either for good or for
    harm. Some smells, in other words, were perceptible extensions of the
    human body.

    84 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    Powerful smells indexed a powerful ihīyotl, and one possessor was the
    indigenous priest. The Codex Mendoza, created in Mexico City around
    1545 as a guide to Mexica history and lifeways for a Spanish audience,
    dedicates the top register of one of its pages (fol. 63r) to the ritual practices
    of indigenous priests (fig. 4). The text identifies the men as alfaqui mayores
    (a Spanish term for an Islamic cleric, derived from Arabic) to describe the
    teōpixqueh (god-keepers). Three of themare shown across the page; the one
    at the left is accompanied by a smaller-sized novice. The three teōpixqueh
    have long hair, tied at the nape of the neck, and the area around their ears is
    painted bright red. The leftmost one,whowears over his loincloth thewhite
    short-sleeved jerkin of priests, holds an identifying accouterment: a deco-
    rated bag used to carry incense, which he burns in the long-handled ceramic
    vessel held in his extended right hand, with leaf-like plumes extending
    upward into the text. These distinct formsmay have beenmeant to show the
    particular smell of the copal incense, not just generic smoke: Élodie Dupey
    García (2017: 135–42) has argued that similar volutes in pre-Hispanic
    codices were specifically meant to show the odor of the burnt offerings, as
    the smoke carried it to its intended deity recipient.

    If the imagery of the first priest underscores emanations that produce
    odors, that of the second and third does the same with sounds and sights.
    The figure at the center raises his rubber-tipped mallets to play the tepo-
    nāztli (drum), set in front of him, as small brilliant turquoise scrolls emerge
    from his mouth, indicating song. As the figure at the right looks out to see

    Figure 4. Artists whose names are currently unknown (Nahua, Mexico City),
    activities of Mexica priests. Codex Mendoza, fol. 63r, detail (ca. 1545). Ms. Arch.
    Selden A1, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. Photo courtesy Bodleian
    Libraries, University of Oxford.

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 85


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    the night sky that hovers above him, his sight is indicated by a small,
    disembodied eye connected to his face with a dotted line, showing a bodily
    connection to the stars themselves, which were thought of, and represented
    as, the eyes of the sky. This iconography suggests that theMexica saw sight,
    like smell, to be extromissive, extending beyond the limits of the body.
    Overall, the image emphasizes sensory emissions, be they the fragrance of
    burnt copal, the sound of song, or the outward beamof the eye.While other
    pages of the Codex Mendoza show authority figures (e.g., the ruler)
    emitting sound scrolls, this page is singular in attaching somanymarkers of
    the senses to one class of people, the priests, making clear that some of their
    status (an elevated one, as we know from other sources) derived from the
    sensory surfeit they produced.

    This surfeit included their powerful smell, an index of ihīyotl. The
    Codex Mendoza artists used a dark pigment to paint the priest’s skin,
    consistent with other manuscripts. But the pigment they used is a rich
    brownish purple that includes carbon black, clearly a pigment of some
    complexity. It is meant to represent the unguent used to color a priest’s
    skin black, which also was composed of carbon black. As Jeanette Favrot
    Peterson (2012: 64) has argued, black skin signified “acute shamanic
    vision, centeredness, and sovereignty.” The priest’s black skin color was
    accompanied by an intense odor, which is most evidently signaled by the
    red area around the ears: the blood from self-sacrifice that was left to
    congeal in the unwashed hair. Díaz del Castillo (2008: 182) would
    describe the hair as “clotted with blood.” That powerful smells could be
    indicators of a supernaturally powerful ihīyotl is suggested by the deity
    Tezcatlipoca, one of the supreme deities of the Nahua pantheon, whose
    black aspect (Black Tezcatlipoca) shared the skin color of the priest.
    Tezcatlipoca had as his animal double, or nāhualli, a skunk (Sahagún
    1950–63: bk. 5, chap. 9, 171).

    Intense smell indexed elevated social status and extended to rulers. The
    Codex Ixtlilxochitl, a manuscript painted in the 1580s by indigenous art-
    ists, includes a portrait of the ruler of Tetzcoco, Nezahualpilli (1464–1515)
    (fig. 5). In his right hand is a bouquet made of both flowers and brightly
    colored feathers; the pale yellow flowers might be the yōllohxōchitl, sig-
    nificant for both their distinctive heart-like shape and fragrant odor
    (Peterson 1993: 85–87). Much attention has been paid to the way that
    Nezahualpilli’s dress amplified his particular social identity, but the image
    tells us as well that the scent of flowers also composed the ruler. As with
    priests, the presence of the ruler extended beyond the limits of his skin,
    permeating the air around him, allowing him to be known even in darkness
    and in silence, when other sense organs could not function.

    86 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    Like contemporary Europeans, the Nahua saw smells, including those
    of the ihīyotl, as having the ability to penetrate other bodies. Thus, ingesting
    the smells of flowers, as Dominican Diego Durán (1971: 238) wrote,
    brought the Nahua “happiness and delight . . . in smelling any kind of
    flower, whether it have an agreeable or displeasing scent, as long as it is a
    flower.” Certainly, accounts of illness usually identify filth or pollution
    (often the result of errant human action) as the cause, rather than noxious
    smells entering the body; thus, medicines for curing diseases were usually
    applied to the skin or ingested (Sahagún 1950–63: bk. 10, chap. 28). But
    certain smells could enter the body, and curers harnessed their tonic effects
    in using the smoke of tobacco and other plants to cure headaches.

    This very rudimentary framework shows some features of how the
    Nahua interpreted odors, therebymaking them into smells. Powerful odors

    Figure 5. Artists whose names are currently unknown (Nahua, Basin of Mexico),
    portrait of the ruler of Tetzcoco, Nezahualpilli. Codex Ixtlilxochitl, fol. 108r (ca.
    1580). Ms. Mexicain 65–71, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. Photo
    courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 87


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    were not necessarily “bad” smells, perhaps because odors could index the
    supernatural and offered evidence of a powerful ihīyotl. Within the Nahua
    smellscape, certain odors produced by a healthy ecosystem would have
    been tagged as positive, like the pungent odor of a healthy chināmitl or the
    seasonal desiccation of the swamps, or perhaps habituation would have
    meant that they were imperceptible, their perceptual absence itself a part of
    the smellscape (Distel et al. 1999). While the sources are far from definitive
    on all the contours of meaning attached to odors, we can appreciate how
    concepts such as the ihīyotl had an impact on the smellscape, as did the
    shared habituation to the odors produced by the distinct environment of the

    Rooted by Smell

    While the values attached to odors are culturally determined, neurologists
    and psychologists have proved the special connection between odor and
    memory. Engen (1991: 6) underscored how resistant odor memories are
    to change: “A long-term odor memory can be established with only one
    exposure. An episode is tagged in memory with whatever odor happens
    to be present. And then, like a bad habit, this odor connection is difficult
    to unlearn and forget.” Scientists are now coming to understand the value
    of smell memory to trigger a positive psychological response (“comfort
    smelling”) in no small measure because smells can offer a connection to
    familiar places and to one’s past— in fact, the recognizable odor of a place
    is a key factor in making it familiar (Herz 2016). Research has shown
    that people who lose their sense of smell (anosmia) often describe feeling
    unmoored and frequently face depression (Doty et al. 1997; Van Toller
    1999). And new research is looking at the ways that changing odor profile
    of a place can be part of trauma (Moulton 2015).

    Given the obdurate nature of smell, it is a deep but largely unrecog-
    nized part collective identification and collective memory (Classen 1992;
    Herz 2016). Smell is particularly important to urban dwellers, where a
    concentrated population leads to an intensity and diversity of odors unlike
    those of rural areas. Cities have particular odor profiles, as any world
    traveler knows, and residents livingwithin themicroculture of a city tend to
    interpret smells in similar ways, given the human brain’s predilection to
    habituate to familiar and shared odors. This has implications for the urban
    populace: collective assessment of smells offered urban residents ameans of
    social cohesion.

    In the case of pre-Hispanic Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco, the collective
    assessment of urban smell would have provided the city’s residents an

    88 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    important pillar (in addition to shared locale) of what it meant to be mem-
    bers of the urban island’s community; indeed, given that different ethnic
    groups (e.g., the Otomí) also occupied the urban island along with the
    Nahuatl-speakingMexica, who themselves were divided between Tenochca
    andTlatelolca, the shared assessment of the city’s smellmay have beenone of
    the few elements that transcended ethnic divisions. As such, the “communal
    smellscape” offered an olfactory parallel to spectacular (and thus ocular)
    urban events, such as themonthly (veintena) rituals staged in and around the
    island and the triumphant display of military captives at the close of a suc-
    cessful battle. In short, the collective assessment of smells offered urban
    residents a means of social cohesion, not unlike the processions, parades,
    masques, bullfights, and riots that have long been understood to help con-
    solidate and define the multiethnic and polyglot communities across the
    early modern Habsburg Empire (Verbeek and van Campen 2013).

    The Quickly Changing Smellscape

    The war of the Spanish invasion changed everything. The once life-giving
    lake was now fetid, its powerful smells linked to the waves of indigenous
    death. An indigenous representation of these new urban odors appears in
    the Florentine Codex, a great encyclopedia compiled by the Franciscan
    Bernardino de Sahagún in the 1570s in the monastery of Santiago in Tla-
    telolco. It drew on the work of indigenous Nahuatl-speaking writers and
    artists, and it offers an account of the war of conquest in book 12, the final
    volume of the work. Among its writers and painters were some of the great
    indigenous intellectuals of New Spain, a number trilingual in Latin, Span-
    ish, and Nahuatl, and in their work we find some of the evidence of sensory
    alienation that the invasion visited on the city.

    The first indication came with the Spanish harquebuses, a novel
    weapon whose noxious smoke “stupefied [tēīxihuinti] and robbed one of
    one’s senses” (Sahagún 1950–63: bk. 12, chap. 15, 38). A parallel dislo-
    cation is found in the illustrations— illuminatedmay be a better word than
    illustrated to describe the role of pictures in the FlorentineCodex, given that
    the images form a kind of supplementary streamof information, not always
    in concert with the text. Onone page, theMexica artist illustrates the events
    of early July 1520, when the city’s residents were able to repel the Spanish
    invaders from the capital, following the famous Noche Triste (fig. 6). While
    Spaniards moved eastward to regroup, the Mexica started the cleanup job
    at home. Unlike other scenes in the book, this one features not the marquee
    players, such as Cortés, Alvarado, and Motēuczōma, but the mācēhualtin,
    or common people. On the bottom register Mexica men in their low-slung

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 89


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    canoes traverse the lake to pick up the corpses left in the wake of the battle.
    At left, a pile of bodies is seen filling the boat. In the reeds in the foreground,
    two more face-down corpses lie at center, and a still-bridled dead horse
    appears at the left. The figure in one canoe pulls an entire body from the
    swamp, the legs of the corpse foreshortened above. This corpse, albeit
    whole, is shocking within the terms of Nahua imagery: rarely are figures,
    including the ones in this image, rendered in anything other than a profile
    view. In this case, the artist offers a back view, upside down. The head and

    Figure 6. Artists whose names are currently unknown (Nahua, Mexico City),
    cleaning up after the battle. Florentine Codex, bk. 12, chap. 25, fol. 45r (ca. 1575–
    77). Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ms. Med. Palat. 220, fol. 452r.
    Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Any further
    reproduction by any means is forbidden.

    90 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    face, the site of one’s social identity, are invisible. At center a hand unat-
    tached to an owner emerges from the water, and to the left a face-up body
    awaits collection. A dead indigenous woman is pictured at the lower right,
    with her distinctive “horned” hairstyle intact in death. In the upper third,
    on a spit of solid land, twoMexicamen carry yet another corpse, and in this
    part of the image the corpses are all identifiable as Spaniards, bearded and
    dressed in tunics and pants, as contrasted with the loincloths and cloaks of
    indigenous men.

    The composition and figural form are part of the meaning of the work,
    and here the foreground is filled with scattered and poorly visible figures,
    rendered largely with broken frame lines. Visual continuity is disrupted by
    the sharp upward forms of the reeds that grew at the edges of the lake. The
    foreground conveys the chaos of what has just occurred and the decom-
    position under way, as the lines themselves fail to demarcate the boundary
    that constitutes the body’s integrity. In rendering fragments of the body, the
    image challenges the viewer to piece the body parts back together, or even
    connect them to an origin, creating a sense of dislocation similar to that
    created by the war.

    The corpses shown in the imagewere amain source for new odors that
    beset the city during the thirteen months following July 1520, odors that
    would have had no precedent for its residents. The bodies of enemy com-
    batants were looted and despoiled, and the text, amplifying the image,
    suggests they were left out to decompose (Sahagún 1950–63: bk. 12, chap.
    25, 69–70). Even the smell emitted by the toppled rulerMotēuczōma’s body
    was alien. After he died, along with the Tlatelolco ruler �Itzquauhtzin, the
    latter was taken back to Tlatelolco, where “his body was burned very
    honorably”; however, “the body ofMotēuczōma lay sizzling, and it smelled
    foul [tzohyāya] as it burned” (chap. 23, 63–64).2

    The odors would only intensify after Cortés broke the pipes of the
    aqueduct that carried freshwater from Chapultepec during his siege of
    May–August 1521, leaving residentswith only scant groundwater to drink;
    they would have had little access to wood needed for cremations, so the
    smell of even more decomposing bodies added to the city’s changing odor
    profile. When, during the final days before Cuauhtemōc’s capitulation,
    Cortésmade incursions into the battered capital, hewas so overwhelmed by
    its smell that he pulled his men out of the city at the end of each day,
    “because we could not suffer the bad odor of the dead that had laid out
    on those streets, which was the most pestilential thing in the world. So we
    returned to camp” (Cortés 1969: 160). The Nahua Anales de Tlatelolco
    reports that, at the capitulation, “many people were fallen so that the
    warriors ran one on top of another, the water was filled to the brim with

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 91


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    bodies, it was only thus that people could save themselves” (Tena 2004:
    116–17). The surviving inhabitants of the urban island who streamed out
    to find food and refuge in neighboring cities left behind a city whose smell
    was unlike anything they had known barely thirteen months before.

    Changing Smells in the Postconquest City

    After Cortés’s 1519 arrival, his reaction to the city’s smells served as a kind
    of road map in this strange, foreign capital. His admiration was repeatedly
    directed to the water management systems of the Basin of Mexico (Cortés
    1969: 65–66), but the admiring tone did not extend to the city’s temples.
    While Cortés does not note the temples’smell, Díaz del Castillo’s vivid recall
    of the smells in the later writings (he finished his manuscript in 1568)
    testifies to their impermeability. It is also the by-product of changing
    interpretations of smells. During the sixteenth century, as Amara Solari
    (2016) has written, a trope of “the stench of idolatry” gained traction
    among Spanish writers in the Americas. Interpreting the powerful odors
    of indigenous ritual spaces and priests as idolatrous smells was one way
    that European settler colonists marked indigenous practice and pushed
    indigenous difference from the zone of rhetoric to an embodied response.
    “Abhorrence of smells,” writes Alain Corbin (1986: 5) “produces its own
    form of social power.” If Nahua priests were unified by their distinctive
    odor, Díaz del Castillo and his fellow conquistadors found a similar uni-
    fying force in their reactions to the smell. When odor became interpreted as
    the stench of pagan idolatry, it added another measure of justification for
    the destruction of the city’s shrines and another element of unity among
    Christian Spaniards. And it made the work of the war dogs, as they hunted
    down and mauled the odiferous priests to death, just that much easier
    (Varner and Varner 1983).

    The city’s odor profile upended the expectations of Spanish invaders of
    what a city should smell like, with sacred spaces smelling overwhelmingly
    of blood, not incense, and the rest of the city smelling pleasant, not fetid like
    the European cities they knew. From birth, most had been habituated to the
    odors of European cities, which would strike modern noses as repellant,
    with raw sewage in streets and waterways. Peter Burke (2014: 45) has
    offered a brief catalog of the elements of the European urban smellscape:
    “urine, excrement, rotting fruit and fish, and decaying corpses, especially in
    time of plague.”

    Most important, when Cortés (1969: 160) wrote of the city’s pleasant
    odors, he wasmentally ticking off his most feared enemy: dangerous odors,
    “the most pestilential thing in the world.” In identifying smells as disease-
    producing, Cortés revealed his adherence to a main tenant of Hippocratic

    92 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    medicine, which ascribed a crucial role to air and water in determining the
    human constitution, such that foul air could contaminate the human body,
    causing sometimes fatal illness (Siraisi 1990). Ironically, it was Cortés’s
    siege that would unleash the maleficent odors he encountered upon its

    Such an understanding of harmful odors arrived in Spain via the ideas
    of the influential Greek physician Galen (AD 129–c. 200/c. 216). Galen
    had expanded on the porousness of the body, writing of the damage that
    could occur not only though ingesting “strong smelling”water but also by
    breathing in “foul air” or “miasmas” (quoted in Jouanna 2012: 130).
    When discussing fevers, he suggested they were triggered by “a slight
    impetus from the ambient air,” which had been “polluted by putrefied
    odors” (130). The sources that Galen identified of those “putrefied odors”
    were indeed terrible ones: a mass of cadavers that had not been cremated or
    fumes from swamps (130). For Europeans in the early modern period,
    strong smells were blamed for those fearful outbreaks of the plague, which
    brought swift and unpredictable death in itswake.Marsilio Ficino (1481), a
    Renaissance medical writer whose works enjoyed wide popularity, wrote
    a volume specifically devoted to the plague, and in this he reiterated cau-
    tions about foul airs. Galenic ideas circulated widely in Spain by the end of
    the fifteenth century, among both educated physicians and folk healers
    (Earle 2012: 32–36), and later, through FranciscoVallés’sControversiarum
    medicarum et philosophicarum (1556), which discusses the idea of vapors
    as transmitting disease. To the Spanish invaders, smells had agency, par-
    ticularly as encountered by the porous human body. Once they became
    aware of the epidemics scourging indigenous allies and friends alike, they
    would have quickly realized that whatever miasmas were present were
    selective ones, killing only indigenous residents and leaving European
    combatants largely untouched.

    Cortés’s obdurate memory of a sweet-smelling city may have been one
    factor in his largely inscrutable election of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco, rather
    than Coyoacan, as the capital of New Spain. During the subsequent dec-
    ades, settler colonists were able to impose their smellscape, both actively
    and passively, by introducing new economies and by neglecting the city’s
    lacustrine infrastructure. For instance, the smell of the market was per-
    meated by something new: the smell of meat. Most of the products depicted
    on themarketmap in figure 2 are indigenous ones, showing the perdurability
    of the city’s culinary and material culture. But one square is occupied by the
    nacanamacaque (meat sellers), whose icon is the bent leg of a ruminant, the
    deeply cleft hoof suggesting cattle rather than native deer. Introduced Euro-
    pean livestock— cattle, sheep, and goats—would bring dramatic changes to

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 93


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    the city’s odor profile during the century, indexing enormous ecological shifts
    happening across New Spain. The introduction of alien ruminants into for-
    merly untouched grasslands quickly resulted in a “plague of sheep,” as Elinor
    G. Melville (1994) called it. Spanish settler colonists saw it in a much rosier
    light: a cheap supply of meat for urban dwellers. The diets of native peoples,
    before the conquest mostly vegetarian, adjusted to take advantage of once-
    luxurious now-cheap meat (Acuña 1986: 193).

    By the 1530s the odors of meat culture began to pervade the city, as a
    main slaughterhouse and a rastro, where meat was distributed, were set up
    on the main plaza, not far from where the Templo Mayor had stood the
    previous decade. Unlike the odor-producing node of the temples, however,
    odors were spread throughout the city by the use of canals as sewers, made
    clear in a 16May 1542 Spanish cabildo (city council) directive that ordered
    the butchers to refrain from dumping animal blood in the street or pitching
    the wastes into the main canal that ran along the south side of the plaza
    (Bejarano 1889, 4:282–83). Soon, a new site was chosen only a few blocks
    to the south along the Ixtapalapa canal, where the slaughterhouse and
    rastro would remain into the nineteenth century (Castera and López 1785).
    The maintenance of clean canals was a thing of the past.

    Part of the new Spanish smellscape were the tanneries, where hides
    from sheep, pigs, and cattle were converted into leather, used for shoes, war
    gear, and tack. Tanning uses strong chemicals, including acidic tannins, to
    break down the chemical bondswithin the hide,making it supple and decay
    resistant. The odors produced are intense. Tanneries seem to have been
    scattered through the city, although always near canals where wastes were
    dumped. For some, like the tannery established 6 June 1542 on the city’s
    west edge, the adjacent canal, flowing to the east, would have carried waste
    into and through the city (Bejarano 1889, 4:287). The city government tried
    to control tannery odors by controlling their location—a number seem to
    have been clustered near the slaughterhouse. By 1549 the wastes and odors
    emitted by tanneries in one area were so severe that the cabildo took the
    extreme step of relocating them (Bejarano 1889, 5:3–4 [7 Sept. 1543], 263
    [8 Jul. 1549]). By the century’s end, the city government attempted to ban
    tanneries in the city proper (Bejarano 1889, 12:306–7 [20 Sept. 1596]).
    This measure notwithstanding, the location of tanneries and the city’s
    main slaughterhouse at its southern edge made this area particularly foul

    Given the shifting balance of power in the city across the sixteenth
    century, as the growing Spanish population seized more of the city’s real
    estate as well as control of its development through the Spanish cabildo,
    which approved and often funded public works, the locales of non-Spanish

    94 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    ethnic groups could be mapped onto the newly ascendant smellscape, with
    the city’s indigenous zones housing more of the fetid industries. Spanish
    occupation radiated outward from the main plaza (Mier y Terán Rocha
    2005), and within two decades of the city’s conquest the most noxious
    sources of odor had been banished from the plaza and pushed to its
    indigenous margins, with the worst of them heading south. The southern
    belt of the city was also where indigenous power was concentrated, as
    revealed by theMapaUppsala (fig. 1). It showswithin the city the palaces of
    two powerful indigenous leaders and their families: one large palace glossed
    “casa d[e] Tapia,” home of don Andrés de Tapia Motelchīuhtzin, named
    ruler of the city in 1526, and another glossed “casa d[e] dõ Pablo,” which
    probably housed don Pablo Tlacātēcuhtli Xōchiquēntzin, the highest-
    ranking native official in the city between 1530 and 1536. Both palaces
    were erected in the southern zone of the city. By midcentury the city’s
    indigenous nodes— the great tiānquiztli and the tēcpan (the palace of the
    indigenous ruler)—were both in this southern belt. Censuses of indigenous
    tribute payers taken at the beginning of the seventeenth century corre-
    spondingly show the southern half of the city densely populated by indig-
    enous peoples (Caso 1956). In fact, the decisions of the Spanish cabildo to
    allow foul industries and their waste to flow through the city’s southern half
    may have been specifically because these were the indigenous zones.

    Certainly some elite Spaniards needed to tolerate these smells, as their
    palatial residences were concentrated along the east-west and north-south
    causeways (Mier y Terán Rocha 2005; Valero de García Lascuráin 1991).
    The highest elites, members of the Cortés family and the viceroy, lived
    around the main plaza, farther from the worst sources of odor, especially
    after the slaughterhousewasmoved off themain plaza. Sowhile no onewas
    completely protected from odor, the increase of noxious odors in the city’s
    southern half meant that by 1543 indigenous neighborhoods smelled the

    The Smell of Plague

    Allowing the spread of this new smellscapewas theGalenic framework that
    settler colonists carried with them to the Americas, which meant they saw
    more threat from the smells of the lakes than from tanneries and sewage in
    the streets, as it was lake miasmas that carried the threat of disease. In the
    1530s the Spanish cabildo appealed to SebastiánRamírez de Fuenleal, head
    of the Second Audiencia (1531–35), to allow more water to flow into the
    Laguna of Mexico, “to avoid the bad odor that happens when the laguna
    dries up” (Rojas Rabiela 1981: 99). In 1536, again, the cabildo noted the

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 95


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    terrible smells coming from the surrounding laguna (Bejarano 1889, 4:12
    [14 Mar. 1536]), and also of concern were odors coming from waste-filled
    properties (Bejarano 1889, 5:151 [6 Sept. 1546]). In 1552, four years after a
    major epidemic among indigenous peoples, it petitioned Viceroy Antonio
    de Mendoza for repairs on river courses feeding the lakes, “because when
    there is water, the bad odors that come off the lake cease” (Bejarano 1889,
    6:75 [14 Nov. 1552]). That the Spanish cabildo made this last request for
    both the “security and health” of the city offers evidence that its members
    were thinking about smells within a Galenic framework. The waves of
    epidemic diseases sweeping through generation after generationof the city’s
    indigenous population—as they did with chilling frequency in 1520–21,
    1545–48, 1563–64, and 1576–81—would have only reaffirmed settler
    colonists’ fears of miasmas (Gerhard 1986: 23).

    By midcentury the Nahua were also interpreting epidemics within the
    theory of miasmas, indications that their smellscape was changing as well.
    In a 1555 testimony about the water systems of the Basin, Martín Suchi-
    panecatl, an indigenous man, blamed the recent cocoliztli epidemic on the
    smell coming from the swamps (Pérez-Rocha 1996: 52). And in an account
    from Chimalhuacan, a lakeside town in the Basin of Mexico, the local
    corregidor (Spanish crown official) took down responses from town elders
    to the questions sent out by the crown in 1578. On the one that addressed
    the local “airs,” he reported that the residents were often sick “because of
    the excessive moisture there and because of the vapors from the laguna that
    lies nearby” (Bravo-García 2019: 119).Whether thatwas his interpretation
    of the environment or one he was hearing from his informants is not clear,
    but it is not surprising that a belief in the connection between disease and
    miasmas and “airs” should be percolating out from settler colonists to their
    indigenous neighbors. Suchmedical knowledgewas part of the exchange of
    ideas happening in centers like the monastery of Santiago in Tlatelolco,
    where native intellectuals had access to European books imported intoNew
    Spain. These included vehicles for Galenic ideas, such as Vallés’s Con-
    troversiarum medicarum (Calero 1989: 152–53). One surviving edition of
    1564 bears the firebrand of Tlatelolco’s library (Mathes 1985: 70). It was so
    heavily used that its original last page, which is about Galen, has been lost
    only to have been carefully replaced with a handwritten copy that survives
    in the volume to this day.4 Beyond such documented volumes, European
    medical treatises circulated widely in New Spain; Lori Boornazian Diel
    (2018: 57–73) suggests that native intellectuals frequently turned to Euro-
    pean rationales to explain these new scourges.

    The Florentine Codex also shows traces of the impact of Galen, perhaps
    via the Vallés volume in the Tlatelolco library, as some fifty years had elapsed

    96 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    between the terrible events of 1519–21 and the narrative about them in book
    12 of the codex. In showing corpses left out in the July sun, beginning to
    decompose in the shallow swamp (fig. 6), the artists brought together the two
    culprits thatGalen identified as the cause of epidemic disease. The imagemay
    also have been inflected by empirical observations that lake smells were
    followed bydisease, reflecting a deeper indigenous knowledge base about the
    lake systems. The lacustrine environment gave off powerful smells during
    times of environmental disruption, like the massive drought that gripped the
    Basin at the end of the 1530s. While contemporary observers, like Suchi-
    panecatl, saw smell as the cause of epidemics, modern investigators
    construct the causal chain somewhat differently, setting the drought as the
    central phenomenon and relegating odor to an epiphenomenon. Drought
    led to famine, and as food supplies dwindled, weakened Basin residents
    became evenmore susceptible to themany importeddiseases. Indeed,Rodolfo
    Acuña-Soto et al. (2002) have used tree ring data to link the “megadroughts”
    of Mexico’s sixteenth century and the “megadeath” that followed.

    The Smellscape and the City’s Fate

    The sweet smells of the city at contact made it attractive to Spanish con-
    quistadors. But within their smellscape, the canal system was an open
    sewer, convenient to wash away the filth from slaughterhouses and tan-
    neries. By the 1540s these urban arrivisteswere habituating to the smells of
    its markets and foods, coming to value the smells and tastes of tobacco,
    chiles, and chocolate. These native plants in turn served as foci for collective
    rituals that defined settler colonists as vecinos (vested city residents) or, upon
    their return to Spain, indianos, that is, men who made their fortunes in the
    Americas. For the vecinos, however, their understanding of the smells of the
    lake as connected to pestilence was deep-seated and obdurate, and it would
    lead them to infrastructure projects that would prove catastrophic. The
    droughts of the 1530s gave way to terrible floods of 1555, 1604, 1607, and
    1629, largely due tomismanagement of the Basin’s inland sea. By the 1630s,
    draining the lakes that comprised it would seem to eliminate the threat
    of both floods and miasmas; during the next three centuries this desagüe
    (drainage project) cost tens of thousands of indigenous lives as the lakes
    were drained and the dried out bed was converted to a massive city dump
    (Candiani 2014). Today, the draining of lakes is a main cause of the eco-
    nightmare that the city, one of the largest conurbations in theworld, faces: the
    twenty-first century megacity is alternately flooded and parched, with winds
    whipping into the air the dust from desiccated lake beds, a toxic potōnqui.

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 97


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    But to end with the legacy of the imposition of settler colonists’
    smellscape is to neglect that of the city’s longtime residents, particularly the
    thousands who returned soon after the invasion to help rebuild and to
    reconstitute what they could of shattered lives and a shattered city. Vivid
    enough in their sense memory to be passed down to the next generations
    (who were probably habituated to the city’s new smellscape, but who
    would nonetheless record it in the Florentine Codex) was the smell of
    gunpowder that robbed one of one’s senses and the fetid smell from the
    body of a toppled ruler. If their once-verdant āltepētl, like other living
    entities, had had its distinctive and memorable ihīyotl, it was not recog-
    nizable by 1540. The research of contemporary scientists revealing the
    connections between familiar smellscapes and a sense of belonging allows
    us to better identify one of the particular traumas that Amerindian urban
    dwellers faced. Even those who were not uprooted were still dislocated: the
    habituated smellscape of their city—whose maintenance, through the
    careful husbanding of chināmitl and the dredging and cleaning of canals,
    provided the rationale for the collective labors that drew the city’s residents
    together—had vanished. After the invasion, Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco no
    longer smelled like home.


    This article came out of papers delivered at the conference “Entangled Trajectories:
    Integrating Native American And European Histories,” organized by Ralph Bauer
    and Marcy Norton at George Washington University in 2015, and at the session
    “Exploring Early Modern Cities: The Urban Sensorium” during the 2016 meeting
    of the Renaissance Society of America, organized by Lisa Pon and Karen-edis
    Barzman. I thank the organizers as well as colleagues who provided valuable criti-
    cism and feedback, including my Fordham University colleagues Kathryn Heleniak,
    Jo Anna Isaak, Elizabeth Parker, Nina Rowe, and Maria Ruvoldt. Conversations
    with Nathalie Rochel (Fordham class of 2011) sparked my interest in smell. Paul
    Niell and Luis Peláez also read and commented, as did anonymous peer reviewers at
    Ethnohistory, whose criticisms helped me strengthen the argument. Any errors or
    evidentiary weaknesses are my own.

    1 For a comparison to theMaya sensorium, seeHouston, Stuart, andTaube 2006.
    2 My translations here are adapted from the Anderson and Dibble translation in

    Sahagún 1950–63. As I understand the etymology, the Nahuatl word tzohyāya
    combines tzotl, meaning filth or excrement, with ihyāya, a word related to

    3 For a parallel offered by Lima, see Kole de Peralta 2019.
    4 My thanks to Jose C. Guerrero, librarian at the Sutro Library of the J. Paul

    Leonard Library, San Francisco State University, for this information on the

    98 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022


    Acuña, René, ed. 1986. Relaciones geográficas del siglo XVI, vol. 7. Mexico City:
    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

    Acuña-Soto, Rodolfo, David W. Stahle, Malcolm K. Cleaveland, and Matthew D.
    Therrell. 2002.“Megadrought andMegadeath in SixteenthCenturyMexico.”
    Emerging InfectiousDiseases 8, no. 4: 360–62.wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/8/4

    Becerril, Jorge E., and Blanca Jiménez. 2007. “Potable Water and Sanitation in
    Tenochtitlan: Aztec Culture.” Water Supply 7, no. 1: 147–54.

    Bejarano, Ignacio, ed. 1889. Actas de cabildo de la ciudad de México. 27 vols.
    Mexico City: Aguilar e Hijos.

    Bravo-García, Eva. 2019.Las voces del contacto. Edición y estudio de las relaciones
    geograficas de México (siglo XVI). Warsaw, Poland: Warsaw University Pub-
    lishing House.

    Burke, Peter. 2014. “Urban Sensations: Attractive and Repulsive.” In A Cultural
    History of the Senses in the Renaissance, 1450–1650, edited by Herman
    Roodenburg, 43–59. London: Bloomsbury.

    Calero, Francisco. 1989. “Pervivencia de Galeno: Los conceptos básicos de la
    enfermedad en los controversiarium medicarum et philosophicarum libri
    decem de Francisco Vallés.” Asclepio 41, no. 2: 141–56.

    Candiani, Vera. 2014. Dreaming of Dry Land: Environmental Transformation in
    Colonial Mexico City. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Caso, Alfonso. 1956. “Los barrios antiguos de Tenochtitlan y Tlatelolco.” Mem-
    orias de la Academia Mexicana de la Historia 15, no. 1: 7–62.

    Castera, Ignacio de, and Tomás López. 1785. Plano geométrico de la imperial noble
    y leal ciudad de Mexico. Madrid: Tomás López.

    Cervantes de Salazar, Francisco. 1953. Life in the Imperial and Loyal City of
    Mexico in New Spain, translated by Minnie Lee Barrett Shepard. Austin:
    University of Texas Press.

    Chávez Balderas, Ximena. 2017. Sacrificio humano y tratamientos postsacrificiales
    en el Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlan. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de
    Antropología e Historia.

    Classen, Constance. 1992. “The Odor of the Other: Olfactory Symbolism and
    Cultural Categories.” Ethos 20, no. 2: 133–66.

    Classen, Constance, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott. 1994. Aroma: The
    Cultural History of Smell. London: Routledge.

    Corbin, Alain. 1986. The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social
    Imagination, translated by Miriam Kochan, Roy Porter, and Christopher
    Prendergast. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Cortés, Hernán. 1969. Cartas de relación. Mexico City: Porrua.
    Díaz del Castillo, Bernal. 2008. The History of the Conquest of New Spain,

    translated by Alfred Maudslay and edited by David Carrasco. Albuquerque:
    University of New Mexico Press.

    Diel, Lori Boornazian. 2018. The Codex Mexicanus: A Guide to Life in Late
    Sixteenth-Century New Spain. Austin: University of Texas Press.

    Distel, Hans, Saho Ayabe-Kanamura, Margarita Martínez-Gómez, Ina Schicker,
    Tatsu Kobayakawa, Sachiko Saito, and Robyn Hudson. 1999. “Perception of
    Everyday Odors—Correlation between Intensity, Familiarity, and Strength of
    Hedonic Judgement.” Chemical Senses 24, no. 2: 191–99.

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 99


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022



    Doty, Richard L., David M. Yousem, Lynda T. Pham, Allyson A. Kreshak, Rena
    Geckle, and W. William Lee. 1997. “Olfactory Dysfunction in Patients with
    Head Trauma.” Archives of Neurology 54, no. 9: 1131–40.

    Dupey García, Élodie. 2017. “Mostrar lo invisible. Representaciones de olor en
    códices prehispánicos del centro de México.” InMostrar y ocultar en el arte y
    en los rituales: Perspectivas comparativas, edited by Guilhem Olivier and
    JohannesNeurath, 117–65.MexicoCity: UniversidadNacional Autónoma de

    Durán, Diego. 1971. Book of the Gods and Rites and the Ancient Calendar,
    translated by Fernando Horcasitas and Doris Heyden. Norman: University of
    Oklahoma Press.

    Earle, Rebecca. 2012.The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race, and the Colonial
    Experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
    versity Press.

    Engen, Trygg. 1991. Odor Sensation and Memory. New York: Praeger.
    Ficino, Marsilio. 1481. Consiglio di Marcilio Ficino contro la pestilenza. Florence,

    Italy: Jacob de Ripolis.
    Furst, Jill Leslie McKeever. 1995. The Natural History of the Soul in Ancient

    Mexico. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
    Gerhard, Peter. 1986. Geografía histórica de la Nueva España 1519–1821, trans-

    lated by StellaMastrangelo.MexicoCity: UniversidadNacional Autónoma de

    Harvey, Herbert R. 1981. “Public Health in Aztec Society.” Bulletin of the New
    York Academy of Medicine 57, no. 2: 157–65.

    Herz, Rachel S. 2016. “The Role of Odor-Evoked Memory in Psychological and
    Physiological Health.” Brain Sciences 6, no. 3: 22.

    Houston, Stephen D., David Stuart, and Karl A. Taube. 2006. The Memory of
    Bones: Body, Being, and Experience among the Classic Maya. Austin: Uni-
    versity of Texas Press.

    Jouanna, Jacques. 2012. “Air, Miasma, and Contagion in the Time of Hippocrates
    and the Survival ofMiasmas in Post-HippocraticMedicine (Rufus of Ephesus,
    Galen, and Palladius).” In Greek Medicine from Hippocrates to Galen:
    Selected Papers, edited by Jacques Jouanna, Philip vander Eijk, andNeil Allies,
    119–36. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

    Karttunen, Frances E. 1983. An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl. Austin: Uni-
    versity of Texas Press.

    Kole de Peralta, Kathleen. 2019. “Mal Olor and Colonial Latin American History:
    Smellscapes in Lima, Peru, 1535–1614.” Hispanic American Historical
    Review 99, no. 1: 1–30.

    López Austin, Alfredo. 1984. Cuerpo humano e ideologia: Las concepciones de los
    antiguos nahuas. 2 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de

    López de Gómara, Francisco. 1964. Cortés: The Life of the Conqueror by His
    Secretary, translated and edited by Lesley B. Simpson. Berkeley: University of
    California Press.

    Mathes, W. Michael. 1985. The America’s First Academic Library: Santa Cruz de
    Tlatelolco. Sacramento: California State Library Foundation.

    Melville, Elinor G. 1994. A Plague of Sheep: Environmental Consequences of the
    Conquest of Mexico. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    100 Barbara E. Mundy


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    Mier y Terán Rocha, Lucía. 2005. La primera traza de la ciudad de México, 1524–
    1535. 2 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Fondo de
    Cultura Económica.

    Molina, Alonso de. (1571) 1970. Vocabulario en lengua Castellana y Mexicana y
    Mexicana y Castellana. Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa.

    Moulton, Sunday M. 2015. “How to Remember: The Interplay of Memory and
    Identity Formation in Post-Disaster Communities.”HumanOrganization 74,
    no. 4: 319–28.

    Mundy, Barbara E. 2015.TheDeath of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life ofMexico City.
    Austin: University of Texas Press.

    Palerm, Ángel. 1973. Obras hidráulicas prehispánicas en el sistema lacustre del
    Valle de México.Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

    Pérez-Rocha, Emma. 1996.Ciudad en peligro: Probanza sobre el desagüe general de
    la Ciudad de México, 1556. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología
    e Historia.

    Peterson, Jeanette Favrot. 1993. The Paradise GardenMurals of Malinalco: Utopia
    and Empire in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press.

    Peterson, Jeanette Favrot. 2012. “Perceiving Blackness, Envisioning Power: Chalma
    and Black Christs in Colonial Mexico.” In Seeing across Cultures in the Early
    Modern World, edited by Dana Leibsohn and Jeanette F. Peterson, 49–71.
    Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

    Rojas Rabiela, Teresa. 1981. “Obras hidráulicas coloniales en el norte de la Cuenca
    de México (1540–1556) y la reconstrucción de la albarrada de San Lázaro
    (1555).” Ingeneria 2: 98–115.

    Rojas Rabiela, Teresa, Rafael A. Strauss K., and José Lameiras. 1974. Nuevas
    noticias sobre las obras hidráulicas prehispánicas y coloniales en el Valle de
    México. Tlalpan, Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

    Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1950–63. Florentine Codex: General History of the
    Things of New Spain, translated by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E.
    Dibble. 12 bks. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research.

    Siraisi, NancyG. 1990.Medieval andEarlyRenaissanceMedicine: An Introduction
    to Knowledge and Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Solari, Amara. 2016. “The ‘Contagious Stench’ of Idolatry: The Rhetoric of Disease
    and Sacrilegious Acts in Colonial New Spain.” Hispanic American Historical
    Review 96, no. 3: 481–515.

    Tena, Rafael, trans. 2004. Anales de Tlatelolco. Mexico City: Cien de México.
    Valero de García Lascuráin, Ana Rita. 1991.La ciudad deMéxico-Tenochtitlán: Su

    primera traza, 1524–1534. Mexico City: Editorial Jus.
    Van Toller, Steve. 1999. “Assessing the Impact of Anosmia: Review of a Ques-

    tionnaire’s Findings.” Chemical Senses 24, no. 6: 705–12.
    Varner, John Grier, and Jeannette Johnson Varner. 1983. Dogs of the Conquest.

    Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
    Verbeek, Caro, and Cretien van Campen. 2013. “Inhaling Memories: Smell and

    Taste Memories in Art, Science, and Practice.” Senses and Society 8, no. 2:

    The Smellscape of Mexico City, 1500–1600 101


    nloaded from

    undy by AC


    S D

    EPT /H

    EF/ user on 02 June 2022

    Mexican Manuscripts and the First Images
    of Africans in the Americas

    Elena FitzPatrick Sifford, Muhlenberg College

    Abstract. Africans in the Americas were first visually recorded by tlacuiloque, or
    indigenous artist-scribes, in mid-sixteenth-century Central Mexican manuscripts
    such as Diego Durán’s History, the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, and the Codex
    Azcatitlan. These figures, while often peripheral to the central narrative and
    never mentioned specifically by name, are nevertheless rendered as active agents
    in the shaping of a new colonial society. The article examines these images
    of Africans to reveal their ethnographic complexity and the development of concepts
    of alterity in the early contact period.

    Keywords. Africans in Mexico, Afro-Mexico, Tlacuilo, Juan Garrido, Telleriano-
    Remensis, Azcatitlan, Durán’s Historia

    A dark-skinned man with tightly curled hair hangs from a noose tied to a
    wooden scaffold. Rendered in profile, hewears a red tunic and holds a cross
    in hand. His hanged body slumps downward, back and head sunken. This
    image, on folio 45 recto of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, may well be the
    very first rendering of an African in the Americas. It was painted by an
    indigenous artist in the mid-sixteenth century, just a few decades after the
    conquest of Mexico (see fig. 1).

    It is perhaps surprising that it was in Mexico, a country not typically
    known for its African population, that Africans in the Americas were
    visually recorded several decades before elsewhere. This precedent can
    be credited to the ingenuity of Mexica (Aztec) tlacuiloque (artist-scribes)
    who had been trained in the creation of the xiuhtlapohualamoxtli, or
    annals, a literary genre produced inCentralMexico long before the Spanish

    Ethnohistory 66:2 (April 2019) doi 10.1215/00141801-7298747
    Copyright 2019 by American Society for Ethnohistory


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Figure 1. Codex Telleriano-Remensis, folio 45 recto. Courtesy Biblioteque
    National de France.

    224 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    conquest. The earliest extant firsthand visual depictions of Africans in the
    Americas were therefore made by indigenous artists, not Europeans.1

    These images can be seen in the Codex Azcatitlan (ca. 1550), the
    Codex Telleriano-Remensis (ca. 1550), and Fray Diego Durán’sHistory of
    the Indies of New Spain (1581).2 Studying them adds a new perspective to
    the field of New Conquest History, which problematizes accounts of the
    conquest as the triumph of Spaniards over the indigenous peoples through
    examining alternative narratives and viewpoints (see Restall 2012). This
    article contributes to this history by looking at the ways in which indige-
    nous artist-scribes described and recorded the Africans who arrived as part
    of the Spanish entrada into Tenochtitlan. The indigenous reaction to Afri-
    cans provides a visual alternative to the dominant European gaze, revealing
    not only the Spanish, indigenous, and African triangulation of the colonial
    encounter but also the ethnographic skill and artistic adaptation of the
    indigenous artists.3

    The examples highlighted in this article show the ways in which tla-
    cuiloque pictured and recorded “others,” both Spanish and African, and
    how those categories, while familiar in Europe, were only beginning to be
    defined on American soil. These images showcase the processes of social
    categorization from outside—showcasing Africans recorded not by
    Spaniards who are credited for setting the rules of the new colony, or by
    themselves, but rather by indigenous people.4 The act of being represented
    as the other would later be conceptualized by the African-American theo-
    retician W. E. B. DuBois, who wrote of “a peculiar sensation, this double-
    consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of
    others” (DuBois [1903] 1994: 38). But what if those “others” were not
    Europeans, but, instead, members of another marginalized group (in this
    case, indigenous Central Mexican artists who had recently been conquered
    and colonized)? These images from colonial codices offer the possibility of
    blackness that was not tainted with the pejorative notions that surrounded
    blackness on the European continent and would soon continue within
    Western culture in the Americas.

    Toni Morrison developed the term Africanism to describe “the deno-
    tative and connotative blackness that African peoples have come to signify,
    as well as the entire range of views, assumptions, readings, andmisreadings
    that accompany Eurocentric learning about these people” (Morrison
    1992: 6). These Eurocentric readings of Africans saw an upswing in the
    fifteenth century with the reconquest and expulsion of Moorish (black and
    Arab) populations from the Iberian Peninsula and the increase of the
    African slave trade in Europe (Spicer 2012: 9). Because of the slave trade
    that would soon stretch across the Atlantic to the New World, Africans

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 225


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    came to be seen as natural servants as well as heretics who were stained by
    exposure to Islam on the African continent.

    In later centuries Mexican artists, displaying European associations
    with blackness, depicted Africans as biblical or allegorical subjects, or as
    stereotyped figures at the peripheries of Viceregal society. These earliest
    images, however, are neither idealized nor stereotyped. The Africans
    depicted by indigenous tlauciloque, while often peripheral to the central nar-
    rative and never mentioned specifically by name, are rendered as active agents
    in the shaping of a new colonial society.

    Despite this, art historians have looked to thework of European artists
    as the progenitors of the earliest images of Africans in the Americas.
    Scholars studying images of Africans in colonial Latin American art have
    tended to focus on Brazil and the Caribbean as the primary sites of the
    African experience in the Americas, citing artists like Albert Eckhout, a
    Dutch painter who traveled to northeastern Brazil in the mid-seventeenth
    century as the first to record the appearance of Africans in theNewWorld.5

    Others have examined both European and local prints that depict Africans
    as Magi and various religious figures as the earliest examples (Brewer-
    García 2015: 111). The groundbreakingmultivolume Image of the Black in
    Western Art similarly overlooks the early contributions of the indigenous
    people of Central Mexico to the rendering of Africans in the Americas.
    These early colonial works by the tlacuiloque are indeed some of the earliest
    examples of “Western” art in the Americas, showcasing the melding of
    Western European and indigenous American literary and pictorial tradi-
    tions. Nevertheless, the “Age of Discovery” tomes overlook the codices and
    focus on European traveler art as well as depictions of black saints, the black
    Magus, and the personification of the African continent as the iconographic
    conventions for blackness (Bindman, Gates, and Dalton 2010–14).

    By the seventeenth century, artists in Mexico had adopted similar
    schemes for rendering black Africans as magi, saints, or allegorical figures.
    By the eighteenth century, some of the most famous images of New World
    Africans were casta paintings that depicted the racial mixing between
    Spaniards, Indians, and Africans.6 Some casta paintings negatively portray
    people of African descent, particularly women, as violent and pernicious or
    as culprits in the degradationof Spanish blood.Whilemuch of theViceregal
    visual production ignores or stereotypes the black body, the images located
    within the pages of the three key colonialmanuscripts discussed in this article
    show that the tlacuiloque, not privy to the Hispanic history of racial cate-
    gorization, renderedblackbodies in key positionswithin these compositions.

    By offering a visual alternative to the often negatively stereotyped
    images of blackness perpetuated in the Americas, these earliest images,

    226 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    though few, offer a glimpse into an African diasporic history untainted by
    what Krista Thompson describes as the perpetuation of imagery that ren-
    dered Africans as “noncitizens, nonhumans, as not representable, or as
    unworthy or incapable of art” (Thompson 2011: 10). Whether through
    negative imagery or the lack of representation of them in Western art,
    African diasporic peoples have been intimately acquainted with the
    inherent connection between the visual and the self. As Thompson aptly
    explains, “Who knew better the meaning and uses of the visual in Western
    society than those who were defined as black, as other, as property, based on
    the surface appearance of their skins?” (Thompson 2011: 11). The very visi-
    bility of black skin became codified as the identifierofAfrican-ness, inferiority,
    and servitude. Yet in these conquest-era tlacuiloque images, such negative
    associations are largely absent. Within them we see a glimmer of possibility
    that exists beyond (or before) the racism that would come to define the black
    experience and the representation of blackness on the American continent.

    Manuscripts, Pre- and Post-Hispanic Aesthetic Practice,
    and the Tlacuilo’s Development of New Iconography

    All three manuscripts under discussion were commissioned by Spaniards
    and created by now-anonymous indigenous tlacuiloque (singuar tlacuilo).
    These individuals were trained in the Aztec-Mixtec writing tradition, a
    technique that combined ideographic, phonetic, pictographic, and mathe-
    matical elements to create what Miguel León Portilla describes as “true
    works of literature” (Léon Portilla 2001: 64). Much as alphabetic writing
    functioned elsewhere, the image in the Mesoamerican world was used to
    document and disseminate knowledge (Magaloni Kerpel 2014: 18).

    In Nahuatl, cultural knowledge and wisdom were described as in tlilli
    in tlapalli, which translates to “the black ink, the colors” (Léon Portilla
    2001: 66–67; see also Boone 2000). This describes the convention in which
    tlacuiloque created images outlined in black and filled in with color. Eru-
    dition and aesthetic practice were intimately linked, not only linguistically
    but mythically as well. The artist-scribe’s patron was the divine hero god
    Quetzalcoatl, the bringer of both art and knowledge to humanity via the
    Toltecs who in turn transmitted these skills to the Mexica (Aztecs). The
    making of images was thus intimately linked with the recording and
    acquisition of wisdom.

    AsMichael Baxandall has established, a society’s way of viewing itself
    and the world is communicated through picture-making (Baxandall 1988:
    29–103). The stylistic conventions of a cultural group reflects its under-
    standing of the world around it, mirroring the society’s values and

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 227


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    interactions.7 After millennia of developing in tlilli in tlapalli, conquest
    and colonization fundamentally altered the cultural dynamics behind image-
    making. Suddenly the tlacuilo found him or herself working for Spanish
    patrons and incorporating the events of the conquest into their new socio-
    cultural realities.

    In order to render the appearance of the new arrivals, tlacuiloque had
    to quickly develop new iconographies. The genre itself, of historical picture-
    making, was nothing new for the tlacuiloque who had trained in the cre-
    ation of the xiuhtlapohualamoxtli, or “book of years.” Of the three man-
    uscripts analyzed here, only theCodexTelleriano-Remensis features a fairly
    traditional format for the annal. The other two (Durán’s Historia and the
    CodexAzcatitlan), however, also clearly draw fromparts ofMesoamerican
    history-painting tradition.

    The Codex Telleriano-Remensis was written a generation after the
    conquest, and was largely copied from pre-Hispanic texts, the images
    drawn by two artists (Quiñones Keber 1995: 123). The codex is made up of
    three traditional manuscript types: the ritual calendar of monthly feasts called
    veintenas; the tonalamatl, or divinatory almanac; and the xiuhtlapohuala-
    moxtli, a chronicle of Mexica history (Quiñones Keber 1995: 111). The text
    records more than 350 years of Nahua history beginning with the migration
    from Aztlán in the twelfth century to the conquest and colonial period up to
    its mid-sixteenth-century creation. The artist-scribe of the Codex Telleriano-
    Remensis likely consulted a pre-Hispanic xiuhtlapohualamoxtli and expan-
    ded it to include the conquest and early contact period (QuiñonesKeber 1995:

    While the ritual sections are as tightly organized as they would be in a
    pre-Hispanic manuscript, the annals deviate drastically from their tradi-
    tional source, necessitating new iconography to render the arrival of
    Spaniards and the subsequent events and reordering of society, evident in
    the people, objects, animals, and the introduction of new modes of repre-
    sentation. The African, like the natives and Europeans throughout the
    codex, is rendered with conventional Nahua figuration emphasizing figure
    type rather than individual physiognomy. Figures are shown in isomorphic
    form in profile with large heads, frontally faced eyes, and large, protruding
    facial features. Changes to differentiate between groups are encoded in skin
    color: natives are given a medium brown, Spaniards a light tan, and the
    singular African is rendered in a deep brown. Hair and headgear are also
    signifiers, with indigenous male commoners shown with a straight fringed
    bobwhile Spaniards are typically renderedwith beards and avariety of hats
    or hairstyles including tonsures, helmets, miters, and crowns. The African

    228 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    figure notably has cropped and curly hair, a notation of the appearance of
    African hair texture.

    This modification of hair to suit an African phenotype shows the
    artist’s observation of difference. Indigenous artist-scribes took note of
    African bodies, not only in such images but also in written form. The
    Florentine Codex, commissioned by Bernardino de Sahagún, was an eth-
    nographic study of the culture and history of the Mexica. Sahagún and
    his former students interviewed elder informants in Nahuatl, which was
    recorded alongside Spanish translations and accompanied by some two
    thousand illustrations (Sahagún 1950–82). While the images within the
    codex conspicuously omit the presence of an African soldier, the accom-
    panying text written in Nahuatl mentions that some of the invaders had
    “tightly curled [hair]—ocolochtic.” The Spanish translation, written oppo-
    site theNahuatl, further explains, “Among the Spaniards cameBlacks,who
    had crisply curled dark hair.”8 Notice that the Nahuatl text emphasized
    only the hair texture without mentioning skin color. Much as the artist
    lavishes great attention on European headgear, the curly hair of the Afri-
    can figure serves as a prime marker of difference that separated him from
    the Spaniards and most obviously from the Nahuas themselves, who had
    straighter hair.

    Curly hair, in fact, was considered a negative trait for the Mexica.
    During the festival of Toxcatl, the ixiptla (ritual impersonator) of the
    supreme god Tezcatlipoca was, according to Sahagún, “without defects,”
    and among the list of traits it is noted that “he was not curly haired”
    (Sahagún 1950–82: bk. 3, 66). Straight hair was a sign of beauty, while
    curly hair was considered unattractive. This parallel did not exist in regard
    to skin color: lighter skin in the Mexica worldview was not more beautiful
    thandark skin,which in fact had numerous positive associations. Evidently,
    the finely curled hair of Africans was a more striking difference than skin
    color, which was not so notably different from that of natives themselves,
    being just a few shades darker.

    All of these conventions were developed by the tlacuiloque of the
    manuscript who re-created the events of the recent past using their powers
    of observation and recording. Whereas European artists had previously
    depicted Africans, it was a new phenotypical subject for the tlacuilo.
    Recording different ethnic identities, however, was nothing new in
    Mesoamerican visual culture. Indigenous artists in Mexico used markers
    such as dress and material culture to convey ethnicity since as early as the
    Classic period (ca. AD 150–650) (Pasztory 1989: 15–38). For stratified
    societies, the depiction of distinct ethnic or racial groups was key in the
    effort to order and codify power. With the Spanish conquest and

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 229


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    development of a multiracial society, notions of difference and new social
    orders emerged. First referred to informally as géneros de gente (types of
    people) and later codified into a sistema de castas (caste system), colonial
    citizens were grouped based on the amount (or lack) of Spanish blood
    (Schwaller 2016;Magali Carrera 2003; Martínez 2004; Lewis 2003). While
    these notions of difference are rooted in a Spanish worldview, the tlacuiloque
    also clearly noticed and recorded the diverse types of people in the new colony
    and their related hierarchies.

    José Rabasa describes the artist-scribe’s inventive depictions of Euro-
    pean objects and people and even the occasional adoption of European
    perspective as instances inwhich “the observer found himself observed, . . . a
    return of the tlacuilo’s gaze that exposes the gaze of the missionary” (Rabasa
    2011: 1–2, 47). He suggests, for example, that the images of the Spanish friars
    may have been read as caricatures of the very friars who supervised the cre-
    ation of the manuscript. This inventiveness indicates that while created under
    Spanish aegis, the tlacuiloque of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis had relative
    autonomy in the painting of the manuscript, exhibited not only in its indige-
    nous pictorial style but also in the development of new iconography and
    adoption of European visual devices.

    The Codex Telleriano-Remensis is remarkable among the group dis-
    cussed in this article for its indigenous style, including Nahua glyphic and
    visual conventions. It stands out as well for its iconography: it is the only
    example showing the repercussions of a rebellion, while the other early
    images of Africans showed them as members of the conquistador Hernán
    Cortés’s convoy.

    Alliance, Revolt, and Punishment in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis

    The figure in the Telleriano-Remensis shows the hanged individual as a
    symbol of the repercussions of a major slave uprising that took place in
    Mexico City in 1537. The figure and its annotation record events enu-
    merated in Antonio de Mendoza’s letter to King Charles I of Spain. Men-
    doza, the first viceroy, writes of the election of an African king who plotted
    with native allies to overthrow the Spaniards and take over the lands of
    New Spain.9 In order to quell the fledgling uprising, Mendoza sent natives
    to round up rebel African leaders in Mexico City and the mines of Ama-
    tepacque for execution. Mendoza reveals many of the anxieties of the
    period within the letter, expressing concern about knowledge received by
    both Africans and Indians in the colonies and concerns about the paucity of
    boats arriving from Spain. Mendoza suggests an increase in Spanish ships

    230 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    as well as a decrease in the importation of Africans, stressing that too many
    would heighten their ability to rebel.

    Both Mendoza’s letter and the annotation in the codex indicate how
    early on Africans rebelled against their enslavement. We may think of the
    image of the hanged African as an indication of centuries of discord to play
    out throughout the Americas through enslavement, uprising, escape, and
    various forms of corporal punishment. Rather than configure the image as
    symbolic of only the vanquished slave, we might think instead of the figure
    as indicative of the many individuals who rose up against the conditions of
    slavery. Furthermore, considering the authorship of the image, it may
    indicate indigenous sympathies with the plight of Africans.

    The annotator reports the rebellion of negros and the subsequent
    hanging of their leaders as well as the “smoking star” (comet) and violent
    earthquake of that year. An ollin glyph representing movement of the earth
    through seismic activity is placed below the hanged figure. Beside him, also
    connected to the date sign above by a thin black line, is the “smoking star.”
    Both earthquake and comet were natural phenomena associated with bad
    omens.10 All three images—hanged man, earthquake, and comet—are
    further indicators of the unrest of the early colonial period that punctuates
    the text (Lockhart 1993: 51–53).

    Mendoza mentions an allegiance between the Indians and Africans,
    and perhaps the prominent inclusion of the African alongside the fore-
    boding comet and earthquake signifies the incorporation of Africans and
    their circumstances into the system of signs and portents that characterized
    theNahua illustrated histories. Such evidence of alliances between Africans
    and indigenous peoples was rarely recorded, and, in fact, colonial docu-
    ments tended to focus on instances of African-native hostility rather than
    coexistence and alliance building.11

    Consequently, whatever documentation of interaction between Afri-
    cans and native peoples there was tended to be negative, thereby reflecting
    Spanish self-interest. In the case of the 1537 slave revolt, Mendoza’s letter
    indicates the anxiety about the conspiring between the two groups, just
    the type of “flagrant violation,” to use Patrick Carroll’s term, that would
    be recorded (Carroll 2005: 252). And while the codex does not depict
    an alliance, speaking only of the negros revolting, it does point out the
    “smoking star” and the terrible earthquake of that year, thus associating
    typically Nahua concepts of unrest with the chaos of the squelched rebel-
    lion. Furthermore, the iconographic conventions that accompany the glyph
    reveal the ways in which the indigenous tlacuilo imbued the hanged figure
    with both Nahua and Spanish symbols.

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 231


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    The platform at the base of the typically European scaffold resembles
    a Mexica stepped pyramid, manmade sacred “mountains” topped with
    temples to the gods. The Nahua written convention for recording a city’s
    conquest features a toppled temple platform, seen at the bottom of the
    frontispiece of the Codex Mendoza, an early colonial document that fea-
    tures typical indigenous glyphic representation (see fig. 2). Similar to pre-
    hispanic militaristic conquest, the Spaniards who conquered Central
    Mexico also destroyed the great pyramids, at times erecting their Christian
    churches directly atop them. This symbolic gesture of the vanquished god
    superseded by the victor’s godwas replicated inminiature inwhatChristian
    Nahuas called themomoxtli, an altar onwhich a cross is erected, seen in the
    Testerian catechism of 1614 that translates the Lord’s Prayer into a rebus
    for the instruction of indigenous Christian neophytes (see fig. 3). Before the
    arrival of the Spanish conquerors, momoxtli referred to a platform, stage,
    or altar for human sacrifice (Orduña 2011: 219).

    Much as the stepped pyramid served as an altar-stage for the ritualistic
    act of human sacrifice, the early colonial momoxtli presented the symbol of
    Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The African on folio 45 recto is renderedwith
    this same convention, the scaffold from which he hangs shown mounted
    atop the momoxtli. Furthermore, the toppled temples in and around the
    Mexica capital may still have been visible. The enormous Templo Mayor
    complex was not entirely dismantled for quite some time after the entrada,
    despite the fact that the earliest Spanish maps depict an entirely Hispani-
    cized city center. The Codex Mendoza, for instance, records the Mexica
    leader Tlacotzin’s efforts to preserve Tenochtitlan’s indigenous infrastruc-
    ture (Mundy 2015: 81). Folio 64 recto of that manuscript credits him with
    maintaining streets and bridges that are depicted as leading to an adjoining
    temple pyramid. Clearly, these structures were still seen, at least in part, in
    many of the most prominent parts of the city. The massive Templo Mayor
    still cast its shadowover the PlazaMayorwhereCortes set up gallows in the
    months after the conquest. Here the indigenous residents who had been
    exiled by the Spaniards were publically punished if they attempted to move
    back into the center of the city (Mundy 2015: 76). We can imagine, then,
    that alongside the figure of the hanged African in the Telleriano-Remensis,
    themomoxtli, temple base, andmain plaza are conflated into a single space,
    harkening back to the sacrificial victims who died atop the great pyramids
    and representing the human deaths that occurred now within the same
    central urban space.

    Even when hanged for disobeying Spanish authority, both indigenous
    and African victims were given the chance to accept Christianity and
    repent, following Spanish custom. The Telleriano-Remensis African is

    232 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Figure 2. CodexMendoza, frontispiece. Courtesy Bodleian Library, University of

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 233


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    shownwith a cross in hand, indicating he died in a state of grace, having been
    granted confession and absolution prior to execution. In the Old World as in
    theNew, Africans were believed to have been corrupted by exposure to Islam,
    a religion that the friars were eager to eradicate following the Reconquista of
    the Iberian Peninsula (Martínez 2009: 96). Indigenous people, by contrast,
    were seen as pure and eager to bemolded into true Christians. For this reason,
    it was argued that the Indians should not be enslaved while Africans were
    natural slaves.12

    As the colonial hierarchy evolved, Africans were placed into the
    Republica de Españoles rather than the Republica de Indios. Though this
    placement may be read as a sign of higher status for Africans, in fact it
    offered them few advantages and subjected them to greater control. They
    were associated with the Spaniards, often living in close proximity to them
    as slaves, which differentiated them from natives who were pushed to the
    outskirts of Mexico City and placed in reducciones in other parts of the
    Viceroyalty. As members of the Republic of Spaniards, they were expected
    to be true Christians and yet they were often not afforded the rights and
    privileges that were the lone domain of the peninsular Spanish and later

    Figure 3. Egerton Codex, Lord’s Prayer in Testerian hieroglyphics with Nahuatl
    translation. Courtesy British Museum.

    234 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    creole Spanish overlords. Indigenous people, while undoubtedly exploited,
    were in some instances paternalistically protected by Spanish authorities.
    Africans thus occupied a liminal “in-between” space of being associated
    with but not fully regarded as Spanish. The ambiguous way that groups
    viewed each other was particularly notable to the tlacuiloque, who were
    perhaps unsure how to categorize the negros who arrived alongside the
    powerful Spaniards, a sentiment that is crystalized in the second category of
    first African images: those of the black conquistador.13

    Black Conquistadors in the Codex Azcatitlan and Durán’s Historia

    The Codex Azcatitlán is a manuscript created in the mid-sixteenth century
    by tlacuiloque from the city of Tlatelolco. It chronicles the migration of the
    Mexica from their ancestral home in Aztlán to found the cities of Tlatelolco
    andTenochtitlan.Of interest to the present study is plate 23, “TheMarch of
    the Spaniards intoMexico,”which records the Spanish army led by Cortés
    andMalinche, a Nahua noblewoman who became Cortés’s interpreter (see
    fig. 4). The two leaders are followed by numerous armed henchmen and a
    trailing group of native porters bearing heavy loads. The soldiers wear
    armor and carry lances and shields, their faces obscured by their helmets.
    The single African in the group stands out markedly: he is placed near the
    front with only one soldier between him and Cortés.

    The figure may be a reference to one Juan Garrido, an African auxil-
    iary in Cortés’s militia (Restall 2000: 175). Garrido famously petitioned
    Charles I of Spain for recognition of his involvement in the conquest of
    Mexico.14 He was born in Africa, traveled to Portugal, and eventually
    arrived in Seville before setting off to the NewWorld, becoming one of the
    first Africans to reach American shores, arriving in Santo Domingo as early
    as 1510.15 It is likely, in fact, that Garrido was one of a group of Africans
    involved in Cortés’smission.MatthewRestall explains: “The proportionof
    black armed auxiliaries in expeditions such as that of Cortés is . . . difficult
    to assess, as Spanish conquest accounts tend to ignore them or mention
    themonly in vague or passing terms” (Restall 2000: 179). Clearly, however,
    for the tlacuilo of the Codex Azcatitlan, the African soldier was distinctive
    and worth recording.

    While the porters in back (the Tlaxcalan allies of the Spaniards) are
    shown floating in space, Malinche, Cortés, the African figure (Garrido?),
    and the henchmen are shown illusionistically along a path with a rolling
    horizon line following European pictorial conventions. Federico Navarette
    argues that such changes in the manuscript’s perspective were purposeful.
    Spanish figures and the portions most relevant for a Spanish audience were

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 235


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    rendered with European conventions while the narrative sections con-
    cerned with indigenous matters use their own style and modes of repre-
    sentation (Navarette 2004: 145–46). This line of reasoning is interesting to
    consider in light of plate 23, where the African figure is shown entrenched
    within the Spanish army and given a prominent position near the front. He
    exists within the “Spanish” space of the image, as does Malinche, the
    indigenous interpreter. It is only two of the three Tlaxcalan porters who
    hover in space, divorced from the perspectival scheme of the rest of the
    composition. While a subtle difference, the African’s inclusion with the
    Spanish group rather than as a lowly servant like the Tlaxcalans indicates
    an intermediary, liminal position. Although part of the Spanish retinue, the
    figure is clearly singled out as different and given a prominence not accor-
    ded to the indigenous males within the entourage.

    Painted a dark brown skin tone with curly black hair, the figure wears
    fine and colorful clothing: a yellow hat and doublet with red breeches and
    tights. He holds both a spear like that of the other soldiers and the reigns of
    the singular horse belonging to their dismounted leader, Cortés. His bright
    clothing and lack of armor distinguish the black figure from the Spaniards,
    yet his spear matches that of some of the trailing armored soldiers. The

    Figure 4. Codex Azcatitlan, “The March of the Spaniards into Tenochtitlan,”
    folio 23. Courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.

    236 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    figure may perhaps be identified as Cortés’s servant, perhaps a groom or
    page, holding the leader’s reins and spear in either hand. The figure is clearly
    shown as an auxiliary, though possibly one who was himself unarmed.

    The black conquistador as auxiliary is similarly rendered in Domini-
    can friar Diego Durán’s The History of the Indies of New Spain, written
    between 1574 and 1581 (Durán 1994: xxviii; see fig. 5). Durán and his
    indigenous assistants traveled the Basin of Mexico collecting accounts of
    Mexica history and of the events of the conquest. Durán’s African figure
    similarly holds the leader’s horse, wears fine clothing that distinguishes him
    from bothMexica and Spaniards, and holds an almost identical spear. The
    figure of Cortés, just as in the Codex Azcatitlan, has dismounted his horse
    and removed his hat as a signof respect. InDurán’s text, however, the image
    of Moctezuma is illustrated on the same folio rather than on the following
    (missing) page as in the Codex Azcatitlan. Two pages earlier, the Spanish
    leader is shown on horseback receiving the peaceful Tlaxcalans (see fig. 6).
    Here the Spanish soldiers are absent, showing the black conquistador’s
    distinctive role in this image as a servant of Cortés.

    Even before the entrada, Nahua scouts sent by Moctezuma to survey
    the troops on the coast noted their varied skin color. According to Sahagún,
    Moctezuma was convinced that the Spaniards were gods, perhaps the
    return of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent.16 The Nahuatl account in
    Sahagún’s Florentine Codex reads: “They [the Spaniards] were called and
    given the name of gods who have come from heaven, and the blacks were
    called soiled gods.”17 While the Spanish translation makes no differentia-
    tion between the color of the black skin of the conquistadors themselves (los
    negros) and the concept of black gods (dioses negros), the Nahuatl trans-
    lation differentiates between these two concepts.18 The Nauhatl word
    tliltquemeans “black people” or “blackmen”; the termwas likely invented
    in this early contact period from the root word tlilli, meaning soot or
    black.19 Yet when referring to the gods, the Nahuatl text describes them
    as tliltique teucacatzacti, or “soiled gods.” This description of the black
    conquistadors as soiled gods likely derives from Mexica associations with
    blackened deities. Alfredo López Austin notes that there was a clear rela-
    tionship between darkness and holiness and that the Nahuatl word teotl,
    which translates as god or sacred essence, also refers in some cases to
    blackness (López Austin 1990: 145). Mexica priests often painted them-
    selves black to honor male deities and to embody the sacred prestige
    associated with blackness. This is seen in an image of a priest performing a
    ritual sacrifice in the Codex Tudela, a sixteenth-centuryMexicamanuscript
    (see fig. 7).20The priest is shownwith a dark brown skin tone that contrasts
    with the tan coloring of the sacrificial victim, indicating the use of body

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 237


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Figure 5. History of the Indies of New Spain and the Islands of Tierra Firme, “The
    Encounter of Cortés and Moctezuma.” Courtesy Biblioteca Nacional de España.

    238 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Figure 6. History of the Indies of New Spain and the Islands of Tierra Firme, “The
    People of Tlaxcala Receive Cortés in Peace.”Courtesy Biblioteca Nacional de España.

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 239


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Figure 7. CodexTudela, “Priest Performing Sacrifice.”CourtesyMuseo deAmérica.

    240 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    paint likely derived from poisonous or hallucinogenic plants and animals.
    This paint not only associated the body with the potency of blackness but
    also could provide bodily protection during harmful activities such as
    entering caves, sacred places of emergence, and portals to the underworld.

    At times of turmoil or change, these same salves were placed on the
    Mexica ruler himself, allowing passage through ritualistic liminal zones
    (Peterson 2012: 61). The most powerful figures were routinely depicted as
    black, following Nahua conventions as a sign of their male sacred power
    and leadership. In this context, it is not surprising that the tlacuiloque took
    note of the African physiognomy, which evidently was noticeably darker
    than that of the Spaniards and perhaps conjured up preconquest notions of
    blackness and its connection to the divine.

    By contrast, Europeans associated blackness with ugliness and sin
    and regarded whiteness as beautiful and holy.21 As Erin Rowe points
    out, “When meditating on the black skin color of sub-Saharan Africans,
    Franciscanmissionary JuandeTorquemada (d.1624) decried blackness as a
    deformity— so ugly it was clearly a punishment from God.”22 These ear-
    liest images of Africans, then, indicate that the Spanish hatred of blackness
    was not understood by indigenous tlacuiloque, as such a binary distinction
    did not exist in Nahua cosmology.23 Africans in fact are given prominent
    places within the narrative of the entrada and its consequences. As the
    Mexica became entrenched in the colonial order, however, Africans were
    soon recognized as subordinates to their Spanish rulers.

    Omission of the African Presence

    While notable in indigenous accounts, the African presence was often
    ignored in Spanish chronicles of the entrada (Restall 2000: 184). Instead,
    the conquest was envisioned as an epic clash between Spaniards and Indi-
    ans, with the valiant Spaniards portrayed as heroes. Numerous Spanish
    conquest accounts completely ignore African contributions, and those that
    mention it often do so only in passing (179). These chronicles were often
    used for social advancement, and the inclusion of Africans in the narrative
    was therefore peripheral to that goal. As Africans were captured and
    brought to the Viceroyalty in increasing numbers, their involvement in the
    conquest faded further from memory.

    By the late seventeenth century, Antonio de Solís’s Historia de la
    conquista de México (Solís 1684) became the most popular account of the
    conquest on both sides of the Atlantic. Solís’s text details the encounter
    of Cortés and Moctezuma and the fall of Tenochtitlan, compiled using

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 241


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Cortes’s letters (1519–25) and narrativeswritten byBernalDiaz del Castillo
    (1552–80) and Francisco Lopez de Gomara (1553). Despite other evidence
    to the contrary, both Cortés and Diaz del Castillo fail to mention the
    presence of Africans during the conquest. Lopez de Gomara, however, does
    mention an African member of Cortes’s retinue, whom he blames for
    introducing smallpox andmeasles to the fledgling colony. A classic example
    of Spanish scapegoating, the African is mentioned only as the cause of
    discord (Restall 2000: 176). Lopez de Gomara’s account, like that of Solís,
    was secondhand, compiled from the accounts of conquistadors. Despite
    having never set foot onMexican soil, he alone mentions the Africans who
    participated in the entrada, if only pejoratively. Africans were largely left
    out of the most popular narratives of the conquest.

    This omission is evident as well in the visual record of the period.
    Perhaps one of the most famous images of the conquest of Mexico is in the
    seventeenth-century biombo, or painted screen, now housed at the Museo
    FranzMayer in Mexico City (see Sanabrais 2015). One side of the biombo
    offers an idealized view ofMexicoCity and its environs devoid of its human
    inhabitants. The opposite side shows a panoramic scene of the conquest
    that includes events from battles in multiple cities. The view offers a con-
    tinuous narrative pulsating with Spaniards and natives locked in combat.
    Gauvin Bailey points out that the two groups are rendered as equals in
    number, military might, and splendid regalia (Bailey 2006: 159). Biombos
    were commissioned for wealthy viceregal palaces as part of the process of
    cultivating a sophisticated criollo identity. Inspired by Asian models,
    incorporating European styles of painting, and rendering Mexican sub-
    jects, they crystalize the cosmopolitan tastes of viceregal Mexico. Despite
    this, the African presence is notably absent.

    Not one African conquistador is depicted on the biombo, which is
    populated by hundreds of figures. The conquest scene is based on Solis’s
    Historia de la Conquista, which would have been well known among the
    learned elites of Mexico City at the time of the creation of the biombo
    (Mundy 2011: 166). This painted screen thus celebrates the popular nar-
    rative of the entrada, which by this point fails to acknowledge the presence
    of Africans within the Spanish retinue. By ignoring the presence of Africans
    in early conquest battles, Spanish narratives, as Herman Bennett com-
    ments, “den[ied] the complexity that characterized the initial ethnogra-
    phy of the Nahua” (Bennett 2009: 213). While the iconography of the
    black conquistador quickly faded, the extant images within contact period
    codices showcase both the keen observations of the tlacuiloque and the
    active role that Africans played in the formation of viceregal New Spain.

    242 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023


    While much of the viceregal visual record ignores the black body, the
    images located within the pages of the three key manuscripts discussed in
    this article show that some indigenous artists in the early contact period
    found Africans notable and worthy of recording. These artists were now
    working under Spanish patronage, combining the inherited and newly
    introduced modes of representation. Following the tradition of the xiuh-
    tlapohualamoxtli, the tlacuiloque recorded the events of the conquest and
    colonization of their people. Yet within that encounter lay not two mono-
    lithic cultural groups, but numerous ethnic and racial identities. These
    images of Africans captured by indigenous artists obfuscate the hegemony
    of the Spaniards. An indigenous hand renders an African body, the imag-
    ining of a cross-cultural exchange reduced to a few inches within a much
    larger narrative.

    By the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth, the iconography of
    Mexican blackness had been reduced to mythologized or stereotyped fig-
    ures. Africans were pictured as historical Catholic saints, as allegories of
    the African continent, or (negatively) stereotyped as racial “types” in casta
    paintings. Despite their visual absence as agentival agents, Afro-Mexicans
    continued to live, work, and even prosper within a society that denied their
    very personhood. Whereas under civic law Africans were seen as chattel,
    within the Catholic Church they were deemed fully human (Bennett 2009:
    1). Africans and their descendants were able to legally marry within the
    Church, and theywere also able to secure a degree of legitimacy through the
    development of their religious and familial lives.24

    The archival records unearthed by scholars such as Gonzalo Aguirre
    Beltrán, Matthew Restall, Herman Bennett, María Elisa Velázquez
    Gutiérrez, Ben Vinson, and Nicole von Germeten indicate the complex
    interactions and efforts exerted byAfricans to gain their freedomand live as
    full citizens.25 This struggle continued into the modern era, when the
    African presence remained overlooked in the Mexican collective memory.
    In the 1920s, José Vasconcelos, the reformist minister of education,
    declared that the Mexican people were the “cosmic race,” made up of the
    best characteristics of the Spanish and Indian forebears (Vasconselos [1925]
    1948). Vasconcelos insisted that the African influence in Mexico was neg-
    ligible and that if there was any impact at all, it would have had to be
    negative (Moreno 2006: 15). Within the process of Mexican nation
    building, the stigma against blackness persisted, as it does inMexico to the
    present day. The subject of the first Africans in Mexico therefore is par-
    ticularly salient in the wake of the recent 2015 census, which for the first

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 243


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    time acknowledged the category of Afro-Mexicans, despite the evident
    reckoning with alterity by the indigenous tlacuiloque more than four and a
    half centuries earlier.


    Thanks are due to the following individuals who offered feedback on this article:
    Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank, Elisa Mandel, Lisa Boutin Vitela, Kristen Chiem, Ananda
    Cohen-Aponte, LawrenceWaldron, Eloise Quiñones-Keber, DonWyatt, Emanuela
    Kucik, and the three anonymous Ethnohistory reviewers.

    1 Theodore DeBry’s prints created for translations of NewWorld travel accounts
    from Spanish, English, Italian, andDutch sources included some images ofNew
    World Africans. These images were produced in Europe, rather than through
    direct observation in the Americas as in the codices analyzed in this article.
    Another notable early image of New World Africans is indigenous Peruvian
    artist Andrés Sánchez Galque’s Mulato de Esmeraldas (1599), a portrait of
    Afro-indigenous rulers of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. These examples are later than
    the dates of both the Telleriano-Remensis andDurán images. SeeGroesen 2008;
    and Cummins 2013.

    2 Anthropologist Ivan Van Sertima claimed in 1976 that the Olmec heads were
    images of Nubian overlords who had sailed to the Americas around 700 BC.
    This claim, while popular among some Afrocentrists, has been dismissed by
    Mesoamerican archaeologists. The falsity of Van Sertima’s claims does nothing
    to undermine the impact of Africans in theAmericas, who first arrived not in the
    eighth century, but in the late fifteenth. See Haslip-Viera, Montellano, and
    Barbour 1997; and Van Sertima 1976.

    3 So far as the author knows, the only other scholar to point out that the first
    images of Africans in the Americas were in Mexican codices was Ricardo
    E. Alegría, who mentions this point briefly in a larger text on the life of the
    black conquistador Juan Garrido. He mentions only the Durán and Azcatitlan
    images. See Alegría 1990.

    4 For more on this, see Fisher and O’Hara 2009: 15–23.
    5 For example, Edward Sullivan writes, “The earliest surviving depictions of

    Africans in the Americas are in paintings by Europeans” (Sullivan 2006: 40).
    6 For more on casta painting, see Katzew 2004.
    7 Magaloni Kerpel (2014: 17) offers a useful discussion of Baxandall’s theories of

    perception as related to Mesoamerican picture making in The Colors of the
    New World.

    8 TheNahuatl text says,“ . . . cocototzique ocolochtic,”which translates as“[The
    Negroes’ hair] was kinky, it was curly.” The accompanying Spanish text reads:
    “… y de como venja algunos negros entre ellos, que tenja los cabellos crespos, y
    prietos.” See Sahagún 1950–82: bk. 12, chap. 7, 19.

    9 Report of Antonio de Mendoza, Viceroy of New Spain, to King Charles I of
    Spain, nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/settlement/text6/SlavePlot
    Mexico (accessed 12 April 2016).

    10 “Méxica/Aztec Chronicle, Codex Telleriano-Remensis, historyproject.ucdavis
    .edu/ic/image_details.php?id=1101026 (accessed 12 April 2016).

    244 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023





    11 For more on conflict and cooperation of Africans and indigenous people during
    the sixteenth century, see Schwaller 2016; Palmer 1976: 119–44; and Carroll
    2005: 252.

    12 The Valladolid debate (1550–51) concerned the status of indigenous people.
    Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas argued that Amerindians were
    rational beings who should have equal rights, while theologian Juan Ginés de
    Spúlveda claimed that they were sinful natural slaves.

    13 Matthew Restall (2009) describes a similar phenomenon, of blacks living
    connected to yet in between Spanish and indigenous worlds.

    14 Juan Garrido’s probanza (petitionary proof of merit)—dated September 27,
    1538 and housed in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, México, 204,
    f. 1—was published in Alegría 1990:127–38.

    15 There is disagreement over whether Garrido was ever enslaved. All sources, as
    well as Garrido’s probanza, indicate that he was free at the time of his arrival in
    the Americas. See Alegría 1990: 19–22.

    16 Restall (2003: 100–130) debunks this “Desolation Myth” as a Eurocentric
    revision promoted by the Franciscans.

    17 From chapter 8 of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún’s FlorentineCodex as translated
    in Lockhart 1993: 82. The original reads: “ic tocaiotiloque, teteu ilhuicac auh in
    tliltique teucacatzacti mitoque.”

    18 From chapter 8 of the Florentine Codex translated in Lockhart 1993: 82. The
    Spanish text reads: “… y el lomando hazer porque tenia que aquellos erá dioses
    que venian del cielo: y los negros pensaron que eran dioses negros.”

    19 whp.uoregon.edu/dictionaries/nahuatl/index.lasso?&dowhat=FindJustOne&
    theRecID=115651&theWord=tlilli (accessed 5 September 2016).

    20 Codex Tudela: ceres.mcu.es/pages/ResultSearch?Museo=MAM&txtSimple
    %20de%20Am%E9rica%5D (accessed 5 September 2016).

    21 For more on early modern notions of blackness, see Andrew Curran 2011;
    Rowe 2016; Stoichita 2011.

    22 Rowe 2016: 57, referring to Juan de Torquemada, Primera parte de los veinte i
    un libros rituales i monarchia Indiana (Madrid: Nicolas Rodríguez, 1724), 611.

    23 For more on notions of racism in the early modern period, see Eliav-Feldon,
    Isaac, and Ziegler 2009.

    24 For more on Afro-Mexican Christian community formation, see vonGermeten
    2006; and Bristol 2007.

    25 Africans also used military service as a means of advancing in the viceregal
    society; see Vinson 2001.


    Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo. 1946. La población negra de México, 1519–1810:
    Estudio etnohistórico. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

    Alegría, Ricardo. 1990. Juan Garrido, el Conquistador Negro en las Antillas,
    Florida, México y California. San Juan: Centro de Estudios Avanzados de
    Puerto Rico y el Caribe.

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 245


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023








    Bailey, Gauvin. 2006. Art of Colonial Latin America. London: Phaidon Press.
    Baxandall, Michael. 1988. Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy: A

    Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style. Oxford: Oxford University

    Bennett, Herman. 2009. Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico. Bloom-
    ington: Indiana University Press.

    Bindman, David, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Karen C. C. Dalton. 2010–14. The
    Image of the Black in Western Art. 5 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Uni-
    versity Press.

    Boone, Elizabeth Hill. 2000. Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the
    Aztecs and Mixtecs. Austin: University of Texas Press.

    Brewer-García, Larissa. 2016. “Imagined Transformations: Color, Beauty, and
    Black Christian Conversion in Seventeenth-Century Spanish America.” In
    Envisioning Others: Race, Color, and the Visual in Iberia and Latin America,
    edited by Pamela A. Patton, 111–41. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

    Bristol, Joan. 2007. Christians, Blasphemers, and Witches: Afro-Mexican Ritual
    Practice in the Seventeenth Century. Albuquerque: University of NewMexico

    Carroll, Patrick J. 2005. “Black-Native Relations and the Historical Record in
    Colonial Mexico.” In Beyond Black and Red: African-Native Relations in
    Colonial Latin America, edited by Matthew Restall, 245–67. Albuquerque:
    University of New Mexico Press.

    Cummins, Tom. 2013. “Three Gentlemen from Esmeraldas: A Portrait Fit for a
    King.” In Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World, edited by Agnes Lugo-Ortiz
    and Angela Rosenthal, 119–46. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Curran, Andrew. 2011. The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in the Age
    of Enlightenment. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    DuBois, W. E. B. (1903) 1994. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Dover.
    Durán, Diego. 1994. History of the Indies of New Spain, edited by Doris Heyden.

    Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
    Eliav-Feldon, Miriam, Benjamin Isaac, and Joseph Ziegler. 2009. The Origins of

    Racism in the West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Fisher, Andrew, and Matthew O’Hara. 2009. Introduction to Race and Identity in

    Colonial Latin America, edited by Fisher and O’Hara, 1–38. Durham, NC:
    Duke University Press.

    Groesen, Michiel van. 2008. The Representations of the Overseas World in the De
    Bry Collection of Voyages. Leiden: Brill.

    Haslip-Viera, Gabriel, Bernard Ortiz de Montellano, and Warren Barbour. 1997.
    “Robbing Native American Cultures: Van Sertima’s Afrocentricity and the
    Olmecs.” Current Anthropology 38, no. 3: 419–41.

    Katzew, Ilona. 2004. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mex-
    ico. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    León Portilla, Miguel. 2001. La filosofía náhuatl estudiada en sus fuentes. 9th ed.
    Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

    León Portilla,Miguel. 2002. “Aztec Codices, Literature and Philosophy.” InAztecs,
    edited by Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Felipe Solíce Olguín, 64–71. New
    York: Abrams Books.

    Lewis, Laura. 2003. Hall of Mirrors: Power, Witchcraft, and Caste in Colonial
    Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    246 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Lockhart, James. 1993. We People Here: Nahuatl Accounts of the Conquest of
    Mexico. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

    López Austin, Alfredo. 1990. The Myths of the Opossum: Pathways of Mesoa-
    merican Mythology, translated by Bernard Ortiz de Montellano and Thelma
    Ortiz de Montellano. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

    Magaloni Kerpel, Diana. 2014. The Colors of the New World: Artists, Materials,
    and the Creation of the Florentine Codex. Los Angeles: Getty Publications,

    Martínez,María Elena. 2009.Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion,
    and Gender in Colonial Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Moreno, Cesário. 2006. The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Pre-
    sent. Chicago: Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum.

    Mundy, Barbara. 2011. “Moteuczoma Reborn: Biombo Paintings and Collective
    Memory in Colonial Mexico.” Winterthur Portfolio 45 (summer/autumn):

    Mundy, Barbara. 2015.TheDeath of Tenochtitlan, the Life ofMexicoCity. Austin:
    University of Texas Press.

    Navarette, Federico. 2004. “The Hidden Codes of the Codex Azcatitlan.” Res 45
    (spring): 144–60.

    Orduña, Santiago de. 2011. “The Tree, the Cross, and the Umbrella: Architecture
    and the Poetics of Sacrifice.” In Chora 6: Intervals in the Philosophy of
    Architecture, edited by Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell, 211–28.
    Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

    Palmer, Colin. 1976. Slaves of the White God: Blacks in Mexico. Cambridge:
    Cambridge University Press.

    Pasztory, Esther. 1989. “Identity and Difference: The Uses and Meaning of Ethnic
    Styles.” In Cultural Identity in the Visual Arts, edited by Susan Barnes and
    Walter Melion, 15–38. London: National Gallery of Art.

    Patton, Pamela, ed. 2016.EnvisioningOthers: Race, Color, and the Visual in Iberia
    and Latin America. Leiden: Brill.

    Peterson, Jeanette Favrot. 2012. “Perceiving Blackness, Envisioning Power: Chalma
    and Black Christs in Colonial Mexico.” In Seeing Across Cultures in the Early
    ModernWorld, edited byDana Leibsohn and Jeanette Favrot Peterson, 49–71.
    Burlington, England: Ashgate Publishing.

    Quiñones Keber, Eloise. 1995.Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Ritual, Divination, and
    History in a Pictorial Aztec Manuscript. Austin: University of Texas Press.

    Rabasa, José. 2011. Tell Me the Story of How I Conquered You: Elsewheres and
    Ethnosuicide in the Colonial Mesoamerican World. Austin: University of
    Texas Press.

    Restall, Matthew. 2000. “Black Conquistadors: Armed Africans in Early Spanish
    America.” Americas 57, no. 2: 171–205.

    Restall, Matthew. 2003. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. New York: Oxford
    University Press.

    Restall, Matthew. 2009. The Black Middle: Africans, Mayas, and Spaniards in
    Colonial Yucatan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Restall,Matthew. 2012. “TheNewConquest History.”History Compass 10, no. 2:

    Rowe, Erin Kathleen. 2016. “Visualizing Black Sanctity in Early Modern Spanish
    Polychrome Sculpture.” In EnvisioningOthers: Race, Color, and the Visual in

    First Images of Africans in the Americas 247


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Iberia and Latin America, edited by Pamela A. Patton, 51–82. Leiden, the
    Netherlands: Brill.

    Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1950–82. Florentine Codex: General History of the
    Things of New Spain, edited by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble.
    Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

    Sanabrais, Sofía. 2015. “From Byobu to Biombo: The Transformation of the Jap-
    anese Folding Screen in Colonial Mexico.” Art History 38, no. 4: 778–91.

    Schwaller, Robert. 2016. Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico. Norman:
    University of Oklahoma Press.

    Solís, Antonio de. 1684.Historia de la conquista deMéxico: Poblacón y progreso de
    la América septentrional conocida por el nombre de Nueva España. Madrid:
    Bernardo de Villa-Diego.

    Spicer, Jonathan. 2012. Introduction to Revealing the African Presence in Renais-
    sance Europe. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum.

    Stoichita, Victor. 2011. “The Image of the Black in Spanish Art: Sixteenth and
    Seventeenth Centuries.” InThe Image of the Black inWesternArt, Volume III:
    From the “Age of Discover” to the Age of Abolition, Part 1: Artists of the
    Renaissance and Baroque, edited by David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates
    Jr., 191–234. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Sullivan, Edward. 2006. “The Black Hand: Notes on the African Presence in the
    Visual Arts of Brazil and the Caribbean.” In The Arts in Latin America 1492–
    182, edited by Joseph J. Rishel and Suzanne Stratton-Pruitt, 39–55. Phila-
    delphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    Thompson, Krista. 2011. “ASidelongGlance: The Practice of AfricanDiaspora Art
    History in the United States.” Art Journal 70, no. 3: 6–31.

    Van Sertima, Ivan. 1976. They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in
    Ancient America. New York: Random House.

    Vasconselos, José. (1925) 1948. La raza cósmica. Mexico City: Espasa Calpe.
    Velázquez Gutiérrez, María Elisa. 2006. Mujeres de origen africano en la capital

    novohispana, siglos XVII y XVIII. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional
    Autónoma de México.

    Vinson, Ben, III. 2001. Bearing Arms for His Majesty: The Free-Colored Militia in
    Colonial Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    von Germeten, Nicole. 2006. Black Blood Brothers: Confraternities and Social
    Mobility for Afro-Mexicans. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

    248 Elena FitzPatrick Sifford


    nloaded from
    http://read.dukeupress.edu/ethnohistory/article-pdf/66/2/223/1634596/223sifford by U



    E LIBR

    Y user on 20 January 2023

    Calculate the price of your order

    Select your paper details and see how much our professional writing services will cost.

    We`ll send you the first draft for approval by at
    Price: $36
    • Freebies
    • Format
    • Formatting (MLA, APA, Chicago, custom, etc.)
    • Title page & bibliography
    • 24/7 customer support
    • Amendments to your paper when they are needed
    • Chat with your writer
    • 275 word/double-spaced page
    • 12 point Arial/Times New Roman
    • Double, single, and custom spacing
    • We care about originality

      Our custom human-written papers from top essay writers are always free from plagiarism.

    • We protect your privacy

      Your data and payment info stay secured every time you get our help from an essay writer.

    • You control your money

      Your money is safe with us. If your plans change, you can get it sent back to your card.

    How it works

    1. 1
      You give us the details
      Complete a brief order form to tell us what kind of paper you need.
    2. 2
      We find you a top writer
      One of the best experts in your discipline starts working on your essay.
    3. 3
      You get the paper done
      Enjoy writing that meets your demands and high academic standards!

    Samples from our advanced writers

    Check out some essay pieces from our best essay writers before your place an order. They will help you better understand what our service can do for you.

    • Analysis (any type)
      Advantages and Disadvantages of Lowering the Voting Age to Thirteen
      Undergrad. (yrs 1-2)
      Political science
    • Coursework
      Undergrad. (yrs 1-2)
      Business Studies
    • Essay (any type)
      Is Pardoning Criminals Acceptable?
      Undergrad. (yrs 1-2)
      Criminal Justice

    Get your own paper from top experts

    Order now

    Perks of our essay writing service

    We offer more than just hand-crafted papers customized for you. Here are more of our greatest perks.

    • Swift delivery
      Our writing service can deliver your short and urgent papers in just 4 hours!
    • Professional touch
      We find you a pro writer who knows all the ins and outs of your subject.
    • Easy order placing/tracking
      Create a new order and check on its progress at any time in your dashboard.
    • Help with any kind of paper
      Need a PhD thesis, research project, or a two-page essay? For you, we can do it all.
    • Experts in 80+ subjects
      Our pro writers can help you with anything, from nursing to business studies.
    • Calculations and code
      We also do math, write code, and solve problems in 30+ STEM disciplines.

    Frequently asked questions

    Get instant answers to the questions that students ask most often.

    See full FAQ
    • Is there a possibility of plagiarism in my completed order?

      We complete each paper from scratch, and in order to make you feel safe regarding its authenticity, we check our content for plagiarism before its delivery. To do that, we use our in-house software, which can find not only copy-pasted fragments, but even paraphrased pieces of text. Unlike popular plagiarism-detection systems, which are used by most universities (e.g. Turnitin.com), we do not report to any public databases—therefore, such checking is safe.

      We provide a plagiarism-free guarantee that ensures your paper is always checked for its uniqueness. Please note that it is possible for a writing company to guarantee an absence of plagiarism against open Internet sources and a number of certain databases, but there is no technology (except for turnitin.com itself) that could guarantee no plagiarism against all sources that are indexed by turnitin. If you want to be 100% sure of your paper’s originality, we suggest you check it using the WriteCheck service from turnitin.com and send us the report.

    • I received some comments from my teacher. Can you help me with them?

      Yes. You can have a free revision during 7 days after you’ve approved the paper. To apply for a free revision, please press the revision request button on your personal order page. You can also apply for another writer to make a revision of your paper, but in such a case, we can ask you for an additional 12 hours, as we might need some time to find another writer to work on your order.

      After the 7-day period, free revisions become unavailable, and we will be able to propose only the paid option of a minor or major revision of your paper. These options are mentioned on your personal order page.

    • How will I receive a completed paper?

      You will get the first version of your paper in a non-editable PDF format within the deadline. You are welcome to check it and inform us if any changes are needed. If everything is okay, and no amendments are necessary, you can approve the order and download the .doc file. If there are any issues you want to change, you can apply for a free revision and the writer will amend the paper according to your instructions. If there happen to be any problems with downloading your paper, please contact our support team.
    • Where do I upload files?

      When you submit your first order, you get a personal account where you can track all your orders, their statuses, your payments, and discounts. Among other options, you will have a possibility to communicate with your writer via a special messenger. You will be able to upload all information and additional materials on your paper using the “Files” tab on your personal page. Please consider uploading everything you find necessary for our writer to perform at the highest standard.
    See full FAQ

    Take your studies to the next level with our experienced specialists

    Live Chat+1 (857) 777-1210 EmailWhatsApp