Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives 1607322838, 9781607322832

Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives presents an in-depth, highly nuanced historical understanding of this maj

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Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives
 1607322838, 9781607322832

Table of contents :
List of Figures
List of Tables
1. Texcocan Studies Past and Present
2. Improving Western Historiography of Texcoco
3. The Aztec Triple Alliance: A Colonial Transformation of the Prehispanic Political and Tributary System
4. Polygyny and the Divided Altepetl: The Tetzcocan Key to Pre-conquest Nahua Politics
5. The Mapa Quinatzin and Texcoco’s Ideal Subordinate Lords
6. Evidence of Acolhua Science in Pictorial Land Records
7. Don Carlos de Tezcoco and the Universal Rights of Emperor Carlos V
8. Beyond the Burned Stake: The Rule of Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin in Tetzcoco, 1540-45
9. The Alva Ixtlilxochitl Brothers and the Nahua Intellectual Community
10. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Texcocan Dynasty: Nobility, Genealogy, and Historiography
11. The Reinvented Man-God of Colonial Texcoco: Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Nezahualcoyotl

Citation preview



Edited by Jongsoo Lee and Galen Brokaw


© 2014 by University Press of Colorado Published by University Press of Colorado 5589 Arapahoe Avenue, Suite 206C Boulder, Colorado 80303 All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America The University Press of Colorado is a proud member of The Association of American University Presses. The University Press of Colorado is a cooperative publishing enterprise supported, in part, by Adams State University, Colorado State University, Fort Lewis College, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Regis University, University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado, Utah State University, and Western State Colorado University. ∞ This paper meets the requirements of the ANSI/NISO Z39.48–1992 (Permanence of Paper). Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Texcoco : prehispanic and colonial perspectives / edited by Jongsoo Lee and Galen Brokaw. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-60732-283-2 (hardback) — ISBN 978-1-60732-284-9 (ebook) 1. Texcoco de Mora (Mexico)—History. 2. Texcoco de Mora (Mexico)—History—Sources. 3. Texcoco de Mora (Mexico)—Social life and customs. 4. Indigenous peoples—Mexico— Texcoco de Mora—History. 5. Aztecs—Mexico—Texcoco de Mora—History. 6. Colonists— Mexico—Texcoco de Mora—History. I. Lee, Jongsoo, 1964- editor of compilation. II. Lee, Jongsoo, 1964- author. Texcocan studies past and present. F1391.T338T49 2014 972—dc23 2013035023 23
















Cover illustration: Migration and palace scene, Mapa Quinatzin, leafs 1 and 2.






List of Figures


List of Tables




1. Texcocan Studies Past and Present


Jongsoo Lee and Galen Brokaw 2. Improving Western Historiography of Texcoco


Jerome A. Offner 3. The Aztec Triple Alliance: A Colonial Transformation of the Prehispanic Political and Tributary System


Jongsoo Lee 4. Polygyny and the Divided Altepetl: The Tetzcocan Key to Pre-conquest Nahua Politics


Camilla Townsend 5. The Mapa Quinatzin and Texcoco’s Ideal Subordinate Lords


Lori Boornazian Diel 6. Evidence of Acolhua Science in Pictorial Land Records 147 Barbara J. Williams and Janice K. Pierce

7. Don Carlos de Tezcoco and the Universal Rights of Emperor Carlos V


Ethelia Ruiz Medrano 8. Beyond the Burned Stake: The Rule of Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin in Tetzcoco, 1540–45


Bradley Benton 9. The Alva Ixtlilxochitl Brothers and the Nahua Intellectual Community


Amber Brian 10. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Texcocan Dynasty: Nobility, Genealogy, and Historiography


Pablo García Loaeza 11. The Reinvented Man-God of Colonial Texcoco: Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Nezahualcoyotl


Leisa Kauffmann



List of Contributors





2.1. The “swearing in” ceremony of Ixtlilxochitl Ome Tochtli and his son Nezahualcoyotl on Códice Xolotl, leaf 7 34 2.2. Nezahualcoyotl, with cozoyahualolli glyph attached, discusses the fate of disloyal kinsmen with two intermediaries on leaf 10.1 of Códice Xolotl


2.3. The succession ceremony and the beginning of the Tlachco tlacamecayotl from the Mapa de Metlatoyuca, with two additional tlacamecayotl to the right


2.5. Funerary rites for Techotlalatzin on leaf 6, Códice Xolotl


2.4. Installation ceremony at Xicotepec, Section 12, Códice de Xicotepec 37

2.6. Three figures on leaf 10.1, Códice Xolotl

2.7. Erroneous reading of Códice Xolotl, leaf 5, by the Anónimo Mexicano and Torquemada

2.8. Correct reading of Códice Xolotl, leaf 5, by Ixtlilxochitl

39 40 41

2.9a and 2.9b. The Dream of Tezozomoc on leaf 8, Códice Xolotl 42

4.1. Huehue Ixtlilxochitl’s wives from Azcapotzalco and Tenochtitlan, Codex Xolotl, plate 6 98

5.1. Migration and palace scene, Mapa Quinatzin, leafs 1 and 2 5.2. Death of Tencoyotzin I, Tira de Tepechpan, after Aubin (1849–51)

5.3. Death of Tencoyotzin II, Tira de Tepechpan, after Aubin (1849–51) 5.4. Tenochtitlan’s rulers, Primeros memoriales, folio 51r

5.5. Texcoco’s rulers, Primeros memoriales, folio 52r 5.6. Huexotla’s rulers, Primeros memoriales, folio 53r–53v 5.7. Tepetlaoztoc’s rulers, Codex Kingsborough

118 124 127 131

132 133 135

5.8. Installations of Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco and Cocopin, Azcaxochitl, and Tlilpotonqui of Tepetlaoztoc, Codex en Cruz 137

6.1. Recording of field areas in square tlalcuahuitl by positional notation


6.2. Paired drawings of perimeter dimensions and recorded areas of three fields in the Códice Vergara 154

6.3. Examples of taxonomically structured soil classes recorded by Acolhua surveyors in the Códice de Santa María Asunción 158 8.1. Ruling family of Texcoco, selected genealogy 8.2. Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin; Humboldt Fragment VI, detail

8.3. Humboldt Fragment VI

8.4. Ruling family of Texcoco, selected genealogy



184 185




3.1. Divisions of Texcocan subject towns


3.2. Torquemada’s list and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list II 80

6.1. Monad glyphs, proportions to the standard Acolhua “land rod” tlalcuahuitl, and metric equivalents inferred from calculations of recorded field areas



The Aztec city-state of Texcoco was an important polity in what is commonly referred to as the Aztec empire. It has not been studied as intensely as Tenochtitlan, but it has provoked a number of debates concerning the role it played in the history of the highland basin. This volume was motivated by these debates. In April 2010, the University of North Texas hosted a symposium at which a group of international scholars discussed their research on Texcoco and began identifying directions for further research. Revised and expanded versions of most of the papers presented at that meeting appear in this volume. We thank all those who participated in the symposium, including those whose work we were unable to include here: Frederic Hicks, Eduardo Corona Sánchez, Isabel Bueno, Patrick Lesbre, José Contel, Jeanne Gillespie, Patrick Hajovsky, Eduardo Douglas, Joe Campbell, John Sullivan, Lloyd Anderson, and Bruce Willis. Wells Fargo Bank awarded us a grant that allowed us to bring to the symposium scholars from Spain, France, Mexico, and the United States. We also received support from the officers and staff of the University of North Texas: Warren Burggren, provost and vice president of academic affairs; Vish Prasad, vice provost for research and economic development; Kenneth W. Sewell, associate vice president for research; Kathryn Cullivan, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and the chairs of the Departments of Anthropology, Art Education and Art History, and History. We are also

very grateful for the support of these colleagues: Marie-Christine Koop, chair of the Department of World Languages and Literatures; Mary Hardcastle, Maria Muñíz, Martin Price, Connie Martinez, Pierina Beckman, and Jiyoung Yoon. Finally, special thanks to Cara Guziak and Belinda Reyes, who provided administrative support. Without the contributions of all of these people, this volume would not have been possible.




1 From the conquest through the present, Texcoco, best known as the home of the famous King Nezahualcoyotl, has been an important topic of research on Prehispanic and colonial Mexico. Numerous Texcocan leaders figure prominently in chronicles and histories of ancient Mexico: from the legendary Chichimec conqueror Xolotl to Nezahualcoyotl prior to the conquest and from Cortés Ixtlilxochitl through Carlos Ometochtzin and Hernando Pimentel Ixtlilxochitl during the colonial period. These histories frequently describe Texcoco as an enlightened city that developed highly advanced and efficient political and legal systems. Moreover, they often eulogize Texcoco as the home of a unique Prehispanic artistic and literary tradition supported and exemplified most notably by Nezahualcoyotl (1402–72). The scholars who study Prehispanic and colonial Texcoco are fortunate in that sixteenth- and seventeenthcentury sources are abundant and diverse. The rich and wide-ranging corpus of colonial writings on Texcoco includes pictorial and alphabetic texts painted and written by Europeans, Texcocan and non-Texcocan mestizos, and indigenous and non-indigenous Texcocans. However, the texts produced by these groups reflect the particular interests and ideological perspectives derived from their positions in colonial society and the motives that informed their projects. Among the earliest available sources on Texcoco are the works of Spanish friars, such as the Memoriales by Fray Toribio de Benavente (1971), more commonly known as Motolinia. In his treatment of Prehispanic Mexico, Motolinia does not document the entire history and culture of Prehispanic Texcoco, but he refers repeatedly to Texcocan religion, politics, and the legal system. The historical work of

Texcocan Studies Past and Present Jongsoo Lee and Galen Brokaw

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c001


the Franciscan Andrés de Olmos has been lost, but it informs later writings by Gerónimo de Mendieta (1971), Juan de Torquemada, and Alonso de Zorita (Baudot 1995: 75–81). In the Primeros memoriales (Sahagún 1997), Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, who spent several years in the Texcocan city of Tepepulco, records Prehispanic religious rituals and practices and includes a brief treatment of Texcocan dynastic genealogy, from the Prehispanic ruler Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin to the colonial don Hernando Pimentel. This book was later incorporated in several books of the Florentine Codex (Sahagún 1950–82). Among the Spanish chroniclers, Juan de Torquemada (1975 [1615]), who in his Monarquía indiana records in detail the genealogical succession of Texcocan kings and the major achievements of each from Xolotl to Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, was able to consult a number of pictorial and alphabetic sources available in the seventeenth century; this history is very similar to that of the native Texcocan chroniclers. The most important pictorial and alphabetic texts were produced in Texcoco itself. From the mid-sixteenth century to the early seventeenth century, native Texcocan tlacuiloqueh (scribes) painted texts such as the Códice Xolotl (1996 [1951]), the Mapa Quinatzin (Aubin 1886a), the Mapa Tlotzin (Aubin 1886b), and the Códice Ixtlilxochitl (1976). Along with these pictorial sources, two major alphabetic texts record almost the entire history of Prehispanic and colonial Texcoco: Fernando Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1997 [1600–25]) and Juan Bautista Pomar’s Relación geográfica de Texcoco (Pomar 1993 [1582]). In these sources, Texcocan history begins with the arrival of several Chichimec groups in the basin of central Mexico 300 years before the Spanish Conquest. The legendary Chichimec leader Xolotl conquered most of the basin and settled down alongside the Toltec descendants already living in the area. After settling his people, Xolotl distributed land to other Chichimec groups that arrived later and helped them build their cities. He also gave his daughters in marriage to the leaders of these groups to serve as the founding mothers of their dynasties, thereby cementing political relationships. At the end of the thirteenth century, Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin, who according to the Texcocan sources was a great-grandson of Xolotl, founded a small village in Oztoticpac that would later become Texcoco. Xolotl bequeathed vast lands to the Texcocan kings, and they became the dominant political power in the basin. In the 1410s, however, Tezozomoc of Azcapotzalco conquered Texcoco. In spite of this defeat, around 1430 an alliance with Tenochtitlan allowed Texcoco to reemerge as the dominant city-state in the basin. Nezahualcoyotl regained control over the basin and joined with Tenochtitlan to form the Aztec empire. However, 2


when the Spaniards arrived, Texcoco, which had been Tenochtitlan’s closest ally, sided with the Spaniards. The Texcocan ruler who came to be known as Cortés Ixtlilxochitl appears as the most important figure in the Texcocan history of the conquest. Cortés Ixtlilxochitl’s direct descendant, Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, is enthusiastic in portraying his ancestor as a colonial hero and a religious apostle who embraced Christianity and helped the Spaniards conquer Tenochtitlan. Many other colonial texts originate from cities near, or subject to, Texcoco. Several pictorial codices—such as the Codex en Cruz (1981) from Chiauhtla, the Tira de Tepechpan (1978), the Códice de Tepetlaoztoc (1992), and the Códice de Xicotepec (1995)—and several alphabetic texts, such as the Relaciones geográficas del siglo XVI: México (1982–88) from Acolman, Tepechpan, Teotihuacan, Coatepec, and Cempoala, provide information on Texcocan history that corroborates much of what appears in the sources from Texcoco itself. However, in many cases they also present conflicting accounts. These sources are particularly useful in assessing the nature of Texcoco’s alleged political dominance in the Acolhua region, which Texcocan authors’ pictorial and alphabetic texts attempt to document. In fact, some of these sources explicitly deny that Texcoco ever dominated the eastern basin of Mexico. Most of the other historical accounts relevant to the history of Texcoco come from its closest ally, Tenochtitlan. Several pictorial sources, such as the Codex Azcatitlan (1995) and the Codex Mexicanus (Menguin 1952), and alphabetic texts, such as the Anales de Tlatelolco (1948), Histoire du Mechique (1965), and Crónica mexicana (Tezozomoc 1987 [1878]), record Texcocan political and cultural events relevant to Mexica history. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan (1992) and the chronicles of Domingo Francisco Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin (1965, 1991), produced in Cuauhtitlan and Chalco, respectively, also record major political achievements of Texcocan rulers such as Nezahualcoyotl, Nezahualpilli, and Cortés Ixtlilxochitl. The most important sources are the works produced by Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, who seems to have consulted many pictorial texts from Texcoco as well as other regions. Evidently, Alva Ixtlilxochitl actually collected numerous important pictorial documents, such as the Codex Xolotl and the Mapa Quinatzin, and alphabetic works, such as the Annals of Cuauhtitlan. His collection of manuscripts served as a source for later historians of Ancient Mexico. At some point after his death in the mid-seventeenth century, the contents of his library ended up in the possession of Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora, and from that point on the study of Texcoco became an exclusively Creole project that romanticized the indigenous past as part of what would T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


eventually become a nationalist discourse. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s collection of books and manuscripts served as the basis for Sigüenza y Góngora’s history of Mexico, in which he further develops Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s treatment of the myth that the god Quetzalcoatl was really the apostle Saint Thomas by drawing a connection to the worship of an unknown or true god, a practice that, according to Alva Ixtlilxochitl, was instituted by Nezahualcoyotl (Sigüenza y Góngora 1995: 52–53). Subsequently, Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s library passed into the hands of the Italian Lorenzo Boturini Benaduci and then to Mariano Fernández de Echeverría y Veytia. Boturini followed Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Toltec chronology, and he reproduced the Quetzalcoatl–St. Thomas myth drawing from Alva Ixtlilxochitl and others (Boturini Benaduci 1990 [1949]: 242). Veytia recorded Prehispanic history primarily based on Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles. His history of Prehispanic Mexico exhibits a Texcocan-centric perspective through the death of Nezahualcoyotl (Veytia 1944). Another eighteenth-century historian, Francisco Clavijero, seems to have used Alva Ixtlixochitl’s manuscripts as primary sources in the composition of his Storia antica del Messico (Clavijero 1780–81), translated into Spanish as Historia antigua de México in 1826, which records the same trajectory of Prehispanic history up through the death of Nezahualcoyotl followed by Veytia and other Texcocan-centric chroniclers. He begins with the Toltec settlement in the basin and then narrates in detail the history of the area from the arrival of Xolotl through Nezahualcoyotl’s reign (ibid.: 48–116). Like Veytia, however, after the death of Nezahualcoyotl, Clavijero’s history takes on a Mexica perspective. From the end of the eighteenth century through the twentieth century, Texcoco gained even more prominence in the nationalist discourse of Mexican historiography as Creole intellectuals adopted the indigenous past as part of a project to construct and disseminate a national heritage that would distance them from Spain. Nineteenth-century Mexican intellectuals such as Carlos María Bustamante celebrated the political and cultural systems of Prehispanic Texcoco as described in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles and its derivatives to promote their vision of Mexican independence. Bustamante published a portion of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work titled Tezcoco en los últimos tiempos de sus antiguos reyes (Bustamente 1970 [1827]), presenting the Texcocan king Nezahualcoyotl as the model political leader for the newly independent nation. The North American historian William H. Prescott also contributed to this nationalization of Texcoco’s indigenous past. His famous book, History of the Conquest of Mexico (Prescott n.d. [1839]: 99–116), which was translated into Spanish in the mid-nineteenth century and became one of the most popular 4


books among Mexican historians of the period, exalted Nezahualcoyotl’s Texcocan political, religious, and cultural system as an island of civilization and refinement surrounded by the barbarous and sanguinary Mexicas. In the second half of the nineteenth century, José Fernando Ramírez, who studied the library of the French scholar Joseph Maurius Alexis Aubin, reintroduced to Mexico the two major pictorial texts, Mapa Quinatzin and Mapa Tlotzin (de La Torre Villar 2001: 104–7). In addition, he studied in depth Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles. These studies later served as a fundamental source for the editions prepared by Alfredo Chavero (1891–92). During this period, another Mexican historian, José María Vigil, also published a biography of Nezahualcoyotl that presented him as a national hero (Vigil 1957). In the field of literary studies, José Joaquín Pesado incorporated Nahua literature into Mexico’s nationalist literary tradition through the publication of a collection of Prehispanic poems titled Las Aztecas (Pesado 1998 [1854]). In this collection, Pesado presents Nezahualcoyotl as a symbolic figure of the Prehispanic literary tradition. Although in many cases the historical investigations produced during this period are more relevant for understanding nineteenth-century Mexican nationalism than Prehispanic history, the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth also saw the publication of editions of important primary texts from the colonial period that made it easier for scholars to conduct research in this field. In 1886 (a and b), Aubin published studies and re-drawings of the Mapa Quinatzin and the Mapa Tlotzin. In 1891–92, Alfredo Chavero published for the first time in Mexico the collected works of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl under the title Obras históricas. And in 1905, Francisco del Paso y Troncoso published the Papeles de Nueva España, which include the Relaciones geográficas from the Texcocan region (Paso y Troncoso 1905). The increased availability of these primary sources laid the foundation for the expansion and diversification of Texcocan studies in the twentieth century. The Mexican Revolution awakened the interest in indigenous culture and history, and the field witnessed the emergence of a new generation of scholars, including such figures as Manuel Gamio, Alfonso Caso, Wigberto Jiménez Moreno, Robert Barlow, and Rubén Campos. This group’s main research interests generally centered on Tenochtitlan and other Prehispanic cities such as Teotihuacan, but in one way or another they contributed directly or indirectly to the study of Texcoco as well. Jiménez Moreno (1954–55) contextualized Texcocan history in the broader historical context of the basin through a comparison with the city-states of other regions, such as Culhuacan, Tenayuca, T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


Tenochtitlan, and Cuitlahuac. Based on Texcocan sources, Caso (1966) published a Texcocan dynastic history beginning with the first Chichimec leader, Xolotl. Barlow (1994 [1950]) found the lost third leaf of the Mapa Quinatzin and published a detailed interpretation of this pictorial text. Campos (1936) developed a theoretical basis for modern Mexican literature as a mestizo discourse; for him, the Texcocan king Nezahualcoyotl is the most representative figure of Prehispanic literature. The second half of the twentieth century through the present has produced a new wave of editions of alphabetic and pictorial texts from Texcoco and interpretations of them. Charles Dibble published modern editions of the Códice Xolotl (1996 [1951]) and the Codex en Cruz (1981), along with accompanying interpretations. Dibble’s study of the Codex Xolotl was later supplemented by Marc Thouvenot (1988), who provided a more in-depth graphic reading of this codex. The publication of other pictorial sources, along with interpretative analyses, includes the Códice Ixtlilxochitl (1976) by Jacqueline de Durand-Forest, the Tira de Tepechpan (1978) by Xavier Noguez, the Códice de Tepetlaoztoc (1992) by Perla Valle, the Códice de Xicotepec (1995) by Guy StresserPean, and the Mapa Quinatzin by Luz María Mohar Betancourt (2004). These publications have contributed significantly to the field of Texcocan studies, not only because they include analyses along with the pictorial texts but also because they facilitate access by other scholars to a corpus of pictorial sources available previously only to those with the means to travel to the various archives and libraries where they were kept. During this period, historians have also published new editions of major Texcocan alphabetic texts. Edmundo O’Gorman (1997 [1975]) produced an edition of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles, with an introduction that immediately became indispensible for Texcocan studies. O’Gorman’s introduction includes a biography of Alva Ixtlilxochitl, a historical chronology of ancient Mexico based on his chronicles, an analysis of the available manuscripts and the order in which the texts were composed, and a bibliography of relevant sources (ibid.). René Acuña also published the Relaciones geográficas del siglo XVI: México (1982–88) from the Texcocan region: Teotihuacan, Acolman, Tepechpan, Tepepulco, and Cempoala. In addition to the publication and textual analysis of alphabetic and pictorial documents by historians, in the 1960s archaeologists began studying Texcoco as well. William T. Sanders (1965, 1970) conducted archaeological research into issues such as urbanization, land availability, and population density in major cities in the Teotihuacan Valley, such as Acolman, Otompan, Teotihuacan, and Tepechpan. His pioneering work established the initial archaeological 6


and ecological context of Teotihuacan that would inspire later studies of this region. While Sanders focused on the Teotihuacan Valley, which was subordinate to Texcoco, Jeffrey Parsons (1971) studied the demographic and political configurations of the entire Texcocan region from the early classic period through the time of the Spanish Conquest. Subsequently, Thomas Charlton, Susan Toby Evans, and Elizabeth Brumfiel contributed further archaeological studies of the Texcocan area. Charlton, who participated in Sanders’s project, has focused on the major Texcocan city of Otompan, publishing work individually as well as with Deborah Nichols and Cynthia Otis Charlton (Charlton 1973; Charlton, Nichols, and Charlton 2000). Evans initially excavated Cihuatecpan, a village located in the Teotihuacan Valley, focusing on social stratification from commoners to nobles; later, she took up Sanders’s Teotihuacan Valley project and edited a number of reports and articles with him (Evans 1988; Evans and Sanders 2000). While Charlton and Evans focused on the Teotihuacan Valley, Brumfiel’s (1980) work collecting surface data inside the basin at the major Texcocan city-state of Huexotla contributed to a better understanding of agricultural and commercial activities prior to the Spanish conquest. In the ethnohistorical study of the Texcocan area, numerous scholars such as Charles Gibson, Nigel Davies, Víctor Castillo Farreras, Frederic Hicks, and Jerome Offner have also made valuable contributions. Gibson (1956), a historian of the early colonial period, published an important article about the Acolhua region’s llamamiento system, which was based on Prehispanic labor draft practices. Davies (1980: 42–71, 1987: 42–47) pointed out that Texcocan sources exaggerated Texcoco’s political role during Prehispanic times and challenged the idea that there existed a Texcocan empire, as described in these sources and accepted by most scholars since the colonial period. Castillo Farreras (1972) has studied all of the pictorial representations of Nezahualcoyotl published in pictorial texts. While these scholars have dealt with Texcocan ethnographic history as one component of the larger Aztec empire and Nahua culture in the Basin of Mexico, Hicks and Offner have focused mainly on Texcoco itself and its neighboring cities. Hicks (1978, 1982, 1984a, 1984b) has published a series of articles about the Prehispanic Texcocan tribute system and its political development before and after the conquest. Most recently, in collaboration with Barbara Williams he published a facsimile version of the Códice Vergara (2011) from Tepetlaoztoc, a town of the Texcocan region. Offner’s Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco (Offner 1983) was the first book ever published that focused exclusively on Prehispanic Texcoco, and his innovative interdisciplinary approach employs a perspective informed by the anthropology of law. T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


In addition to archaeological and historical research and the publication of primary historical texts, scholars also began translating and studying Nahuatl literary discourses; in these discourses, Texcoco acquires singular importance in Prehispanic culture. Ángel María Garibay K. (1993 [1964]) translated into Spanish selections from the collections of Nahuatl poems known as the Cantares mexicanos: Songs of the Aztecs (1985) and the Romances de los señores de la Nueva España (1993), which was attached as an appendix to Juan Bautista Pormar’s Relación geográfica de Tezcoco. Garibay’s translations and analyses of Nahuatl songs initiated the modern study of Nahuatl poetry, and the Texcocan ruler Nezahualcoyotl is the most prominent figure in these poems. Somewhat later, John Bierhorst (1985, 2009) translated the entire corpus of these Nahuatl poems into English and drew very different conclusions about the nature of the texts and the figure of Nezahualcoyotl. These translations and their associated analyses gave rise to two different lines of research based on the two perspectives proposed, respectively, by Garibay and Bierhorst (see discussion below). Since the 1990s, a new generation of scholars has benefited from the increasing availability of modern facsimiles and editions of pictorial and alphabetic texts. Susan Spitler (1998, 2000), for example, examines the colonial influence on the Mapa Tlotzin and the Mapa Quinatzin. Salvador Velazco (2003) studies Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s writings as a mestizo political and religious project designed to support requests for compensation from the Crown for service by Texcocan nobles. Patrick Lesbre (1998, 1999, 2008), a French scholar, has published a series of articles on the Codex Ixtlilxochitl, the Mapa Quinatzin, and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles. Lesbre has analyzed not only the political, cultural, and religious systems of Prehispanic Mexico but also the changes these systems underwent after the conquest. Three books that focus exclusively on Texcoco and the Texcocan area have appeared more recently. In The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetry, Jongsoo Lee (2008) presents a detailed analysis of all aspects of Nezahualcoyotl and his city-state of Texcoco from a revisionist, postcolonial perspective grounded in a thorough reading of pictorial and alphabetic sources. In his book In the Palace of Nezahualcoyotl, Eduardo Douglas (2010) analyzes the Codex Xolotl, the Mapa Tlotzin, and the Mapa Quinatzin to demonstrate how these texts employ a Prehispanic narrative form and style in an attempt to justify Texcoco’s political dominance and economic rights over neighboring cities in the eastern basin during the colonial period. While Lee and Douglas focus on Texcoco, Lori Boornazian Diel turns her attention to Tepechpan by analyzing the political motives of the Tira de Tepechpan. In The Tira de Tepechpan: 8


Negotiating Place under Aztec and Spanish Rule, Diel (2008) examines how this pictorial text negotiates Tepechpan’s own political status and autonomy before and after the conquest. Diel’s book makes a unique contribution to the study of Texcoco in that it examines the political relationship between the imperial centers of Tenochtitlan and Texcoco and their subject cities, such as Tepechpan, from the perspective of the latter. This subordinate perspective is important given the ideological maneuvering that was taking place in these cities’ colonial historiography. The renewed interest in Texcoco has given rise to a number of debates derived from differences in the way scholars view the iconographic and alphabetic Texcocan sources discussed above. Some scholars accept more or less at face value the information these sources contain. Others have approached the sources with a certain amount of skepticism because of the ideological biases that informed their production in the colonial period. One of the most prominent debates in Texcocan studies has to do with the specific nature of Nezahualcoyotl’s Texcoco in relation to its neighboring city-states such as Tenochtitlan: whether Texcoco was an “island of civilization” in the midst of a violent and “barbarous” world. The essential question in this debate is whether the chronicles of Alva Ixtlilxochitl contain accurate descriptions of Prehispanic Texcocan cultural beliefs and practices or transform them to enhance Texcoco’s position in the colonial order. The two different approaches to Nahuatl poetry represented by Garibay on the one hand and Bierhorst on the other help put this debate into focus. Garibay interpreted poems as expressions of a philosophy of peace and a religious monotheism, and he identified Nezahualcoyotl as a prominent figure in these compositions. This led many later scholars to identify Texcoco as a cultural center that developed an artistic and philosophical tradition different from that of most other city-states in the basin. Miguel León-Portilla, Garibay’s former student, used the analysis of the Nahuatl songs as the basis for corroborating and further developing the image inherited from Alva Ixtlilxochitl of a civilized, peace-loving Texcoco (León-Portilla 1967, 1972, 1986, 1992, 1996). León-Portilla also devised a method by which he identified the authors of the poems, among whom Nezahualcoyotl figures prominently, and he described them as sages, tlamatinime, who advocated and expressed through their poetry a peaceful philosophy that contrasted starkly with the violent militarism and human sacrifice practiced by Tenochtitlan. Following LeónPortilla’s lead, numerous scholars—such as José Luis Martínez (1996 [1972]), Georges Baudot (1979), and Birgitta Leander (1976)—have further advanced this line of research. In addition, these studies have inspired numerous modern T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


literary responses, such as Ernesto Cardenal’s (1992) indigenous poetry and Carlos Fuentes’s (1975) novel Terra Nostra. On the other hand, a few scholars—such as Gordon Brotherston (1972), John Bierhorst (1985), and Amos Segala (1990)—have adopted a perspective on Nahuatl songs very different from that of León-Portilla and his followers. Brotherston and Bierhorst argue that identifying individual Nahuatl poets is impossible because the songs are collective compositions. They maintain that the notion of individual authorship is a European imposition that obscures the true nature of the songs. Contrary to the interpretation offered by LeónPortilla, Segala argues further that the poems, including those attributed to Nezahualcoyotl, express the same religious and militaristic worldview as the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan. The debate on this issue appears explicitly in LeónPortilla’s (1986, 2001) response to Bierhorst and Segala and in a rebuttal published by Segala (1992). In all of these studies, Nezahualcoyotl and the citystate of Texcoco appear as the main theme. Thus, regardless of the position one takes, the debate itself has contributed to a growing interest in the field. Texcocan regionalism constitutes another topic of debate in Texcocan studies that is also linked to the way scholars read the available sources. The Códice Xolotl and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles begin their Texcocan genealogies with the legendary Xolotl, but some scholars such as Davies doubt this figure’s historicity. Others, such as Lee, argue that Xolotl may have been the founding father of many other city-states in addition to Texcoco. Furthermore, disagreement exists on the role Texcoco played in the Tepanec-Mexica, which led to the formation of the Aztec empire. According to Texcocan sources, Nezahualcoyotl’s Texcoco saved Tenochtitlan from Azcapotzalco tyranny in the Tepanec War, and in so doing it gained a position of political superiority in the subsequent formation of the Aztec empire. The Mexica version of this war has Tenochtitlan coming to the aid of Texcoco. These competing versions of Prehispanic history have produced two corresponding perspectives in modern research. Many scholars accept the idea that, up to the reign of Nezahualcoyotl, Texcoco was politically superior to Tenochtitlan or that the two city-states were political equals. Other researchers disregard the claims made in Texcocan sources as colonial propaganda and accept the Mexica version in which Texcoco was subordinate to Tenochtitlan. The issue in this case hinges on the extent to which the available evidence indicates Texcoco’s regional autonomy. The status of a city-state in the Prehispanic period informed its geopolitical boundaries and economic rights in the colonial order. Recent scholarship on Texcoco—such as that by Spitler, Velazco, Lesbre, Douglas, Lee, and Diel—notes that Texcocan sources produced during 10


the colonial period romanticize and Europeanize the Prehispanic history of their hometown to bolster their claims to status in the colonial order. The research reviewed above and the ongoing debates among scholars have expanded and enriched the field of Texcocan studies. This development of the field has also exposed a number of areas that demand further attention. Except for a few of the books mentioned above, the majority of research on Texcoco has appeared in broader studies of Aztec history and culture. Compared with the published research on the Mexica and the city-state of Tenochtitlan, the work on Texcoco is relatively minimal. In addition, most of the books published on Texcoco focus on Nezahualcoyotl and his political and legal system. Thus the field of Texcocan studies needs more book-length publications that focus on Texcoco in greater depth and breadth. For instance, no thorough analysis of Texcocan religion exists, and we lack in-depth research on colonial Texcocan leaders such as Cortés Ixtlilxochitl and Carlos Ometochtzin. Along with the necessity of works on specific cultural and historical topics related to Texcoco, scholars from all fields must pay more attention to pictorial sources. The availability of modern editions of pictorial texts has facilitated the expansion of Prehispanic studies in general and Texcocan studies in particular, but many scholars still rely heavily on alphabetic sources without taking into account their relationship to the surviving pictorial texts from which they drew. Finally, the role Texcoco played in the nationalization of Prehispanic culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has not received the attention it deserves. Since the time before Mexico gained its independence, Texcocan culture and history was an integral part of Mexican national identity. Pablo García (2007, 2009) has recently initiated research on this topic, focusing on Mexican Creole patriotism and nationalism in the writings of Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora and Carlos María Bustamante, but more work in this area is urgently needed. The essays in this volume attempt to begin addressing these issues by expanding our knowledge of familiar topics, dealing with current debates, and proposing a new look at Texcocan history and culture from different academic disciplines. In the first chapter, “Improving Western Historiography of Texcoco,” Jerome Offner offers a critical assessment of Texcocan studies, pointing out the pitfalls of past research that relies on Western concepts and classificatory schemes and the promising lines of research taken up in recent scholarship. He then reviews in more detail several issues or problems that demand attention. In particular, he points to the need for a more adequate understanding of pictorial sources, as well as their relationship to the colonial T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


alphabetic histories that rely on them, especially but not limited to the Codex Xolotl and Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historical writings. Offner explains that modern scholars must engage with indigenous sources, and the alphabetic texts based on them, in ways that are consistent with their original use, which means accepting the possibility of multiple readings informed by changing contexts and differing perspectives. One of the debates that has emerged in Aztec studies more generally focuses on the nature of the political relationships between major citystates. The traditional view was that the Aztec empire was formed as a Triple Alliance among the city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. Although this alliance was an unequal partnership, with Tenochtitlan functioning as the dominant power, the traditional view maintained that, at least initially, the three major city-states were more or less politically independent. Charles Gibson (1971) first suggested the possibility that the Triple Alliance was invented by chroniclers from subordinate cities like Texcoco to enhance their position in the colonial order. Subsequently, in a copiously documented book-length study, Pedro Carrasco (1996, 1999) argued that in fact the Triple Alliance did exist. While not always engaging directly in this debate, scholars of Aztec studies such as Frances Berdan, Richard Blanton, Elizabeth Boone, Mary Hodge, Michael Smith, and Emily Umberger (1996) depart from, and contribute to, the premise of a Triple Alliance in their detailed analyses of the politics, economics, and art of areas dominated by the Aztecs. However, Susan Gillespie (1998) has attempted to corroborate Gibson’s suggestion that the Triple Alliance was a postcolonial invention through a detailed analysis of the ideological context in which the Texcocan sources were produced after the conquest. While this analysis is convincing, Gillespie did not take into consideration the Prehispanic political and economic systems and practices Texcocan chroniclers had to rework in their historiographical accounts in order to construct the Triple Alliance. Given the complexity of the political relationships involved and the state of our knowledge, some scholars have strategically ignored these questions in hopes that future work will provide a stronger basis for a more informed assessment (Berdan et al. 1996; Smith 2002). In his chapter “The Aztec Triple Alliance: A Colonial Transformation of the Prehispanic Political and Tributary System,” Jongsoo Lee proposes a more comprehensive interpretation that falls somewhere between the positions advocated by Carrasco and Gillespie. On the one hand, he argues that the image of the Triple Alliance that emerges from colonial texts is misleading, but on the other hand he maintains that it is not completely inaccurate. 12


The problem resides not merely in the ideological biases of colonial Texcocan chroniclers attempting to enhance their city’s political prestige but also in the nature on the one hand of the Prehispanic city-state system and on the other hand of the colonial cabecera-sujeto system that promoted a geopolitical organization much simpler than the Prehispanic institutions it replaced. According to Lee, neither Texcoco nor Tlacopan served as a tribute-collection center; rather, they were regional political centers. As such, they did not control tribute but instead contributed to imperial projects, such as military expeditions and public works. Lee demonstrates that, during the colonial period, Texcocan and Tlacopan chroniclers embellished their cities’ roles to include the collection of tribute to make the claim that they shared imperial power with Tenochtitlan. Camilla Townsend’s essay, “Polygyny and the Divided Altepetl,” also contributes to a better understanding of the complex politics of the Basin of Mexico and exemplifies the kind of research to which Offner refers. Through a critical analysis of both iconographic and alphabetic sources, Townsend reveals the key role polygyny played in the nature of the political relationships among Nahua polities. She begins by explaining that marriages were often political arrangements between city-states and that the status of a ruler’s “principal” wife was not necessarily fixed. The principal wife was the mother of the child chosen as heir, a decision often based on the prominence of the mother’s city-state of origin. In the dynamic context of Aztec city-state politics, the prominence of a particular city might change, thus prompting a corresponding shift in the matrimonial hierarchy of the rulers of its allied cities. Townsend’s analysis links the succession from Ixtlilxochitl to Nezahualcoyotl in Texcoco to the Tepanec wars and the succession from Nezahualcoyotl to Nezahualpilli to another extended conflict that persisted in one way or another until the arrival of the Spaniards. She explains that even though these wars were conflicts between city-states, they were also civil wars between competing sets of brothers by different wives of the previous ruler. Although Lori Diel does not directly address the nature of the Aztec empire, her chapter has implications for this debate. In “The Mapa Quinatzin and Texcoco’s Ideal Subordinate Lords,” Diel demonstrates that the native iconographic text known as the Mapa Quinatzin presents an idealized version of Texcoco’s political domain, as well as those of its subject cities. The information conveyed in the images of the map is not consistent with other sources, which present a much less hegemonic version of Texcocan politics. Diel argues that the exaggeration of Texcoco’s political dominance reflects an attempt by the colonial elite to enhance their status in the colonial hierarchy. T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


This analysis not only reveals the biased nature of the Mapa Quinatzin in favor of Texcoco but also elucidates further the constantly shifting political terrain discussed by Townsend. Traditionally, most historical research, both colonial and modern, has focused on major political figures and events, but more recently historians have begun broadening the field to include the social history of marginalized groups, minor political figures, other social actors, and cultural phenomena. In this volume, Barbara Williams and Janice Pierce, for example, partially reconstruct the nature of Acolhua science based on information contained in the Códice de Santa María Asunción and the Códice Vergara. They identify three fields of knowledge evident in the representation of land: metrology, mathematics, and pedology. The field of metrology is evident in the complex system of land measurements. These measurements involve the use of “zero,” which leads to a discussion of mathematics. Williams and Pierce identify what they call five rules, or algorithms, used in measuring the land. Finally, the representations of land in the codices also include various soil types that imply the existence of a field of pedology. The study of these texts and interviews with native informants reveal at least seven different types of soil, which the chapter enumerates and explains. The authors then compare the indigenous knowledge and practices involved in these fields to Spanish practices of the same period and conclude that indigenous science was far more advanced and precise than European science of the same period. The chapters by Ethelia Ruiz Medrano and Bradley Benton help address the issue Offner raised about our relative ignorance of the history of Texcoco between 1519 and 1550. In “Don Carlos de Texcoco and the Universal Rights of Emperor Carlos V,” Ruiz Medrano reexamines the 1539 case in which Don Carlos of Texcoco was executed, ostensibly for heresy. Based on a comparison with other heresy cases, Ruiz Medrano explains that the death sentence in this case was incommensurate with the alleged crime. In her revisionist history of this event, Ruiz Medrano places the case against Don Carlos within the larger context of sixteenth-century Spanish imperial politics. At this same time, Spain was facing challenges to its sovereignty in Europe. In fact, in the same year Don Carlos was executed, the city of Ghent refused to pay its taxes and rebelled against Spain. In addition, Francisco de Vitoria published his collection of treatises titled De indis, which argued that the Indians were civilized and retained their rights to sovereignty. Carlos V violently put down the rebellion in Ghent and confiscated all copies of De indis. These events in Europe would normally have had nothing to do with Don Carlos’s legal case, except that the court documents produced in the case also contain accusations 14


of sedition involving an attempt to convince other Indians to quit obeying the Spaniards and return to the old ways. Thus Ruiz Medrano argues that Don Carlos’s death sentence was really in response to the political threat of sedition rather than the religious crime. Of course, the rebellion of Ghent and the publication of De indis did not directly influence colonial authorities’ reaction to Don Carlos’s politically subversive activities, but these events are representative of the political situation of the time. Don Carlos’s case came to trial during a period when the Crown and its representatives were particularly sensitive to challenges to its authority, not only in the New World but in the Old World as well. In “Beyond the Burned Stake: The Rule of Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin in Tetzcoco, 1540–45,” Benton shifts the focus from Don Carlos to his lesser-known brother Don Antonio, who ruled colonial Texcoco between 1540 and 1545. Benton explains that historians’ tendency to emphasize the actions, prosecution, and execution of Don Carlos, who was never the ruler of Texcoco as many historians have assumed, paints a misleading picture of the relationship between the colonial administration and Texcoco on the one side and Nahua society in general on the other. Benton explicates the complex politics of Texcoco in the colonial period and the way Don Antonio negotiated both his relationship to the Spaniards and the traditional native political practices that still informed Texcocan practices. The final three chapters in the volume deal with Bartolomé de Alva and/or his brother Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl. Amber Brian explores the larger historical context and intellectual communities within which Fernando and Bartolomé functioned. Fernando’s work focused on Texcoco’s Prehispanic history, while Bartolomé produced Nahuatl translations of Spanish Golden Age plays. Brian compares these projects in more detail, arguing that while they come out of different intellectual communities, they are both informed by a living Nahuatl tradition. She frames her argument with Angel María Garibay K.’s metaphor of “broken flight” to describe the Nahuatl literary tradition. Both Fernando and Bartolomé contributed to the advancement of Nahuatl culture in the early colonial period. Although Fernando wrote in Spanish, his work represents an attempt to document what Brian calls the vanishing past of Texcocan culture. Bartolomé, on the other hand, translated Spanish plays into Nahuatl in an attempt to forge a new literary community of Nahuatl speakers in the colonial present. Brian’s discussion of the transformative nature of Bartlomé’s translations is particularly insightful. Unfortunately, as Garibay’s metaphor indicates, the promise of the new literary tradition was never realized. T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


Pablo García Loaeza’s chapter, “Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Texcocan Dynasty: Nobility, Genealogy, and Historiography,” examines the way Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historical writings participate in the European discourse of the nobiliario, a historical narrative designed to highlight the nobility of a family’s history. García Loaeza reviews the historical origin and background of the nobiliario and its socio-political function in Spain. He then lucidly analyzes both the way Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work fits into this discursive tradition and its particular socio-political function in the context of colonial Mexico. As Offner points out in his contribution to this volume, all of the dimensions of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s relationship to indigenous forms of media and discourse are still relatively understudied, but, as García Loaeza demonstrates Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work is also informed by the conventions and expectations of European discourses. While García Loaeza’s chapter focuses primarily on one of the European dimensions of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work, Leisa Kauffmann analyzes the dynamic relationship between indigenous and European textualities in the Historia de la Nación Chichimeca. Kauffmann situates Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historical narrative in the multidimensional context in which it was produced. Specifically, she demonstrates how the text participates in both indigenous and European discursive traditions. To a reader unfamiliar with the codes of Nahua culture, the indigenous nature of such work goes largely unnoticed. Kauffmann’s anthropologically informed analysis, which brings out both the indigenous and the European dimensions of the text, makes a substantive contribution to our understanding of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work. More important, perhaps, her essay demonstrates that a full understanding of such texts requires an interdisciplinary approach based on an understanding of the social, political, and religious codes employed by both Spanish and indigenous societies. The order and organization of the chapters in this volume are based in part on the distinction between the Prehispanic and colonial periods, but sorting out the Prehispanic from the colonial is one of the major challenges faced by scholars studying Texcoco and other Prehispanic polities. In addition to archaeological evidence, alphabetic and iconographic texts produced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries constitute the most important source of information about the Prehispanic period, but these texts are also inflected by the colonial context in which they were produced. Several of the chapters in this volume point to two general tendencies that have characterized research on Prehispanic polities such as Texcoco: on the one hand, Lee and Townsend point out that scholars have tended to accept uncritically the information contained in colonial sources; on the other hand, many researchers have focused 16


merely on the identification of errors, omissions, and biases that inform such texts. Although research in this field is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor, the way scholars approach this issue is often determined by the nature of the primary discipline from which they work. Offner and Townsend advocate a methodology that moves beyond merely documenting the problems posed by colonial sources to focus on the information that can be gleaned from them. Offner emphasizes the need to read both iconographic and alphabetic sources in their own terms rather than merely point out the presence of inconsistencies or errors of fact that do not conform to the expectations of modern historiography. Townsend argues that the initial phase involving the identification of errors and biases has run its course and that it is time to move on to an approach that incorporates this critical perspective into the analysis of all available sources to glean what information we can from them. Many of the chapters in this volume exemplify the kind of analysis advocated by Townsend and Offner. Townsend herself draws on a wide array of sources to examine the role polygyny played in Texcocan politics. Lee engages critically with iconographic and alphabetic texts to gain a better understanding of Texcoco’s role in the Aztec empire. Williams and Pierce and Kauffmann engage in a kind of textual archaeology that uncovers the connotations of colonial sources in light of anthropological understandings of indigenous culture. And García Loaeza builds upon, and moves beyond, an ideological critique to illuminate the way colonial texts function in the dynamics of colonial politics and Spanish discourses. The extent to which all of these scholars engage in the same type of methodology demonstrates the growing convergence of interdisciplinary approaches by researchers in different disciplines. In addition to a common methodological approach, many of the chapters in this volume also rely on the same sources. The fact that many of the primary iconographic and alphabetic texts that serve as the basis for research into both the Prehispanic and colonial periods were produced after the Spanish conquest is not merely a problem researchers must negotiate in their attempts to illuminate the past. For many scholars interested in the interaction between indigenous and Spanish societies, the transcultural nature of the colonial context and the cultural products it produced are often the primary objects of analysis, either because the convergence of cultures is an interesting and important phenomenon in and of itself or because the usefulness of these sources for historical and anthropological research demands an analysis of this convergence. As a literary and cultural studies scholar, Kauffmann is interested in the multidimensional nature of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work. Similarly, García Loaeza identifies the convergence T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


of indigenous and Spanish notions of nobility and contextualizes the production of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work within the multiple discursive and iconographic traditions from which it arose. The chapters in this volume, then, deal with some of the most pressing issues in Texcocan studies and in some cases bring to light new ones. Investigations that focus on Texcoco also inherently engage within the larger field of Aztec studies. In fact, as several contributors make clear, investigating any Aztec city-state requires the negotiation of often conflicting sources from various regions. Most important, however, the collection of studies presented here highlights the kinds of interdisciplinary approaches that increasingly characterize research in this field. Readers will notice differences of opinion on key issues between some of the contributors, and the editors have made no attempt to reconcile these views. The purpose of this volume was to promote a broader and more interdisciplinary dialogue within research on Texcoco. The goal is not to pronounce definitive answers to particular research questions but rather to establish connections between different versions of these questions, the methodological approaches to answering them, and the proliferation of new questions to which they give rise. As a final note and in the same vein, we have not attempted to standardize the spelling of the Nahuatl names and places that appear in these chapters. The variations in the spellings of names and places throughout reflect the variation present in colonial sources. Texcoco itself has a variety of alternative attestations, the most common perhaps being Tetzcoco and Tezcoco. The original lack of standardization can be attributed in part to the absence of the kind of authoritative orthographic tradition that had only recently begun to develop in the Spanish of the period and in part to the often ambiguous nature of the morphology of these names. The orthographic variations are easily recognizable, do not impede understanding, and reflect the multiplicity of perspectives that characterize the chapters and the kinds of approach they advocate. WORKS CITED

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Cantares Mexicanos: Songs of the Aztecs. 1985. Trans. John Bierhorst. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Cardenal, Ernesto. 1992. Los ovnis de oro. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Carrasco, Pedro. 1996. Estructura político territorial del Imperio tenochca: la triple alianza de Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco y Tlacopan. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Carrasco, Pedro. 1999. The Tenochca Empire of Ancient Mexico: The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, and Tlacopan. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Caso, Alfonso. 1966. “La época de los señores independientes.” Revista mexicana de estudios antropológicos 20: 147–52. Castillo Farreras, Víctor. 1972. Nezahualcoyotl: Crónica y pinturas de su tiempo. Texcoco: Gobierno del Estado de México. Charlton, Thomas H. 1973. Post-Conquest Developments in the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico. Part I: Excavations. Report 5. Iowa City: Office of the State Archaeologist. Charlton, Thomas H., Deborah L. Nichols, and Cynthia L. Otis Charlton. 2000. “Otumba and Its Neighbors: Ex Oriente Lux.” Ancient Mesoamerica 11 (2): 247–65. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0956536100112088. Chavero, Alfredo. 1891–92. Obras históricas de Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl. Mexico City: Oficina Tip; De La Secretaria de Formento. Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, Domingo Francisco de San Antón Muñon. 1965. Relaciones originales de Chalco Amaquemecan. Trans. Silvia Rendón. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura. Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, Domingo Francisco de San Antón Muñon. 1991. Memorial breve. Trans. Victor M. Castillo. Mexico City: UNAM. Clavijero, Francisco Saverio. 1780–81. Storia antica del Messico. Cesena: Gregorio Basini. Codex Azcatitlan. 1995. Ed. Robert H. Barlow. Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Codex en Cruz. 1981. Ed. Charles Dibble. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Códice de Tepetlaoztoc. 1992. Ed. Perla Valle. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Códice de Xicotepec. 1995. Ed. Guy Stresser-Pean. Mexico City: Gobierno del Estado de Puebla. Códice Ixtlilxochitl. 1976. Códice Ixtlilxochitl, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Ms. Mexican 65–71). Ed. Jacqueline de Durand-Forest. Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt. Códice Vergara. 2011. Ed. Barbara J. Williams and Frederic Hicks. Mexico City: UNAM. Códice Xolotl. 1996 [1951]. Ed. Charles Dibble. Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas.



Davies, Nigel. 1980. The Toltec Heritage: From the Fall of Tula to the Rise of Tenochtitlan. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Davies, Nigel. 1987. The Aztec Empire: The Toltec Resurgence. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. de La Torre Villar, Ernesto. 2001. “Advertencia al tomo primero.” In Obras históricas by José Fernando Ramírez, ed. Ernesto de La Torre Villar, 1: 95–115. Mexico City: UNAM. Diel, Lori Boornazian. 2008. The Tira de Tepechpan: Negotiating Place under Aztec and Spanish Rule. Austin: University of Texas Press. Douglas, Eduardo. 2010. In the Palace of Nezahualcoyotl. Painting Manuscripts, Writing the Pre-Hispanic Past in Early Colonial Period Tezcoco, Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press. Evans, Susan Toby. 1988. “Cihuatecpan: The Village in Its Ecological and Historical Context.” In Excavations at Cihuatecpan, ed. Susan Toby Evans, 4–49. Nashville: Vanderbilt University. Evans, Susan Toby, and William T. Sanders, eds. 2000. The Aztec Period Occupation of the Valley: The Teotihuacan Valley Project Final Report, vol. 5, Part 1: Natural Environment, 20th Century Occupation, Survey Methodology, and Site Descriptions. Occasional Papers in Anthropology 25. University Park: Pennsylvania State University. Fuentes, Carlos. 1975. Terra Nostra. Barcelona: Seix Barral. García, Pablo. 2007. “La historia al servicio de la patria: Carlos María de Bustamante edita a Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl.” Colonial Latin American Historical Review 16 (1): 37–64. García, Pablo. 2009. “Saldos del criollismo: el Teatro de virtudes políticas de Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora a la luz de la historiografía de Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl.” Colonial Latin American Review 18 (2): 219–35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080 /10609160903080212. Garibay K., Angel María. 1993 [1964]. Poesía nahuatl. 3 vols. Mexico City: UNAM. Gibson, Charles. 1956. “Llamamiento General, Repartimiento, and the Empire of Acolhuacan.” Hispanic American Historical Review 36 (1): 1–27. http://dx.doi.org /10.2307/2508623. Gibson, Charles. 1971. “Structure of the Aztec Empire.” In The Handbook of Middle American Indians, ed. Gordon F. Ekholm and Ignacio Bernal, vol. 10, 376–94. Austin: University of Texas Press. Gillespie, Susan. 1998. “The Aztec Triple Alliance: A Postconquest Tradition.” In Native Traditions in the Postconquest World, ed. Elizabeth Hill Boone and Tom Cummins, 233–63. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks. T EXCO CA N S T U D I ES PA S T A N D P R ES EN T


Hicks, Frederic. 1978. “Los Calpixque de Nezahualcoyotl.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 13: 129–52. Hicks, Frederic. 1982. “Tetzcoco in the Early 16th Century: The State, the City, and the Calpolli.” American Ethnologist 9: 230–49. Hicks, Frederic. 1984a. “La posición de Temazcalapa en la Triple Alianza.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 17: 235–60. Hicks, Frederic. 1984b. “Rotational Labor and Urban Development in Pre-Hispanic Texcoco.” In Explorations in Ethnohistory: Indians of Central Mexico in the Sixteenth Century, ed. H. R. Harvey and Hanns J. Prem, 147–74. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. “Histoire du Mechique.” 1965. In Teogonía e historia de los mexicanos, ed. Angel María Garibay K., 69–120. Mexico City: Porrúa. Jiménez Moreno, Wigberto. 1954–55. “Síntesis de la historia precolonial del Valle de México.” Revista Mexicana de Estudios Antropológicos 14: 219–36. Leander, Birgitta. 1976. In xochitl in cuicatl. Flor y canto: la poesía de los aztecas. Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones. Lee, Jongsoo. 2008. The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. León-Portilla, Miguel. 1967. Trece poetas del mundo nahuatl. Mexico City: UNAM. León-Portilla, Miguel. 1972. Nezahualcoyotl: poesía y pensamiento. Texcoco: Gobierno del Estado de Mexico. León-Portilla, Miguel. 1986. “¿Una nueva interpretacion de los cantares mexicanos? La obra de John Bierhorst: Cantares Mexicanos, Songs of the Aztecs. John Bierhorst; a Nahuatl-English Dictionary and Concordance to the Cantares Mexicanos. John Bierhorst.” Mexican Studies/ Estudios Mexicanos 2 (1): 129–44. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/msem.1986.2.1.03a00060. León-Portilla, Miguel. 1992. Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. León-Portilla, Miguel. 1996. Los antiguos mexicanos a través de sus crónicas y cantares. 12th ed. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. León-Portilla, Miguel. 2001. “¿Una nueva aportación sobre literatura náhuatl: el libro de Amos Segala?” Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 21: 293–308. Lesbre, Patrick. 1998. “Illustrations acolhua de facture européenne (Codex Ixtlilxochitl, ff. 105–112).” Journal de la Société des Americanistes 84 (2): 97–124. http:// dx.doi.org/10.3406/jsa.1998.1719. Lesbre, Patrick. 1999. “Mapa Quinatzin: las vigas del Tecpan de Tezcoco. ¿Escritura o figuracion?” Thule: Revista italiana di studi americanistica 6–7: 119–37.



Lesbre, Patrick. 2008. “Recuerdo colonial de la realeza prehispánica: el uso de cerbatanas por los señores de Tezcoco.” In Símbolos de poder en Mesoamérica, ed. Guilhem Olivier, 293–313. Mexico City: UNAM. Martínez, José Luis. 1996 [1972]. Nezahualcoyotl. Textos coleccionados con un estudio preliminar. Mexico City: Secretaria de Educación Pública. Mendieta, Gerónimo de. 1971. Historia eclesiástica indiana. Mexico City: Porrúa. Menguin, Ernst. 1952. “Commentaire de Codex Mexicanus.” Journal de la Société des Americanistes 41: 387–498. Mohar Betancourt, Luz María. 2004. Códice Mapa Quinatzin: Justicia y derechos humanos en el México antiguo. Mexico City: Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos México. Offner, Jerome A. 1983. Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. O’Gorman, Edmundo. 1997 [1975]. “Estudio introductorio.” In Obras históricas by Alva Ixtlilxochitl, ed. Edmundo O’Gorman. Mexico City: UNAM. Parsons, Jeffrey. 1971. Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the Texcoco Region, Mexico. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Museum. Paso y Troncoso, Francisco del. 1905. Papeles de Nueva España. 6 vols. Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra. Pesado, José Joaquín. 1998 [1854]. Las Aztecas: poesías tomadas de los antiguos cantares mexicanos. Mexico City: Factoría Ediciones. Pomar, Juan Bautista. 1993 [1582]. “Relación geográfica de Texcoco.” In Poesía Nahuatl, ed. Angel María Garibay K., vol. 1, 149–219. Mexico City: UNAM. Prescott, William H. n.d. [1839]. History of the Conquest of Mexico. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott. Relaciones geográficas del siglo XVI: México. 1982–88. Ed. René Acuña. 10 vols. Mexico City: UNAM. Romances de los señores de la Nueva España. 1993. In Poesía Nahuatl, ed. and trans. Angel María Garibay K., vol. 1, 1–101. Mexico City: UNAM. Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1950–82. Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain. 12 vols. Trans. Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble. Santa Fe: School of American Research; Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1997. Primeros memoriales. Trans. Thelma D. Sullivan. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Sanders, William T. 1965. The Cultural Ecology of the Teotihuacan Valley: A Preliminary Report of the Results of the Teotihuacan Valley Project. University Park: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University.



Sanders, William T. 1970. The Natural Environment, Contemporary Occupation and 16th Century Population of the Teotihuacan Valley. University Park: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University. Segala, Amos. 1990. Literatura náhuatl: Fuentes, identidades, representaciones. Trans. Mónica Manssur. Mexico City: Grijalbo. Segala, Amos. 1992. “La literatura náhuatl, ¿un coto privado?” Caravelle, Cahiers du monde Lusohispanophone 2: 209–20. Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos de. 1995. Paraíso Occidental. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Letras. Smith, Michael E. 2002. “The Tenochca Empire of Ancient Mexico: The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, and Tlacopan (review).” Ethnohistory 49 (2): 451–53. Spitler, Susan. 1998. “The Mapa Tlotzin: Preconquest History in Colonial Mexico.” Journal de la Societe des americanistas 84 (2): 71–81. http://dx.doi.org/10.3406/ jsa.1998.1717. Spitler, Susan. 2000. “El equilbrio entre la veracidad histórica y el propósito en los códices de Texcoco.” In Códices y documentos sobre México: Tercer Simposio Internacional, ed. Constanza Vega Sosa, 617–31. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Tezozomoc, Fernando Alvarado. 1987 [1878]. Crónica mexicana/Códice Ramírez. Ed. Manuel Orozco y Berra. Mexico City: Porrúa. Thouvenot, Marc. 1988. Codex Xolotl. Étude d’une des composantes de son écriture: les glyphes. Dictionnaire des éléments constitutifs des glyphes. Atelier national de reproduction des thèses. Lille, France: Université de Lille III. Tira de Tepechpan. 1978. Ed. Xavier Noguez. Mexico City: Biblioteca Enciclopédica del Estado de México. Torquemada, Juan de. 1975 [1615]. Monarquía indiana. 3 vols. Ed. Miguel LeónPortilla. Mexico City: Porrúa. Velazco, Salvador. 2003. Visiones de Anáhuac: reconstrucciones historiografías y etnicidades emergentes en el México colonial: Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, Diego Muñoz Camargo y Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc. Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara. Veytia, Mariano Fernández de Echeverría. 1944. Historia antigua de México. 2 vols. Mexico City: Editorial Leyenda. S.A. Vigil, José María. 1957. Nezahualcoyotl, el rey poeta. Mexico City: Ediciones de Andrea.




Isabel Bueno Bravo (2005) describes Tlatelolco as standing in the shadow of Tenochtitlan, and the same is true of Texcoco, although for different reasons. Research on the Aztecs came of age in a postRevolutionary Mexico, with its one-party state dominated by the contemporaneous Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party; PRI) controlled by a small oligarchy. Mexico’s assertion of economic independence from the United States was well under way, while across the Atlantic, Europe’s ideological struggles and wars generated exiles—including those fleeing the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War—who became prominent figures in the field. In the work of such founding figures as Arturo Monzón, Paul Kirchhoff, Pedro Armillas, Angel Palerm, and, later, Pedro Carrasco, the emerging portrait of the Aztec empire exhibited many similarities to Mexico’s one-party political system under the PRI. A strong Mexican president found his counterpart in a powerful Aztec emperor, both ruling from Mexico City. From that legitimated seat, political and military power was projected to extract taxes from the surrounding country to service a large central urban agglomeration. The politically mandated closed economy of twentiethcentury Mexico mirrored claims of a “directed economy” in Aztec times. A wealthy oligarchy benefiting directly from these arrangements intermarried with the political families of that era, paralleling portrayals of the roles of pochteca and pipiltin in pre-conquest times. In such an atmosphere celebrating one-party centralized power, Texcoco, the Aztec second city, was an inconvenience. The situation was exacerbated by the

Improving Western Historiography of Texcoco Jerome A. Offner

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c002


fact that the ruler of the second city, Nezahualcoyotl, was legendary for his legal expertise, having constructed a legal system that was more complex than the simple will of an unrestrained sovereign. While use of archaeology and history in the service of the state is hardly unique to Mexico—it continues to the current day in many, if not all, countries—Texcocan studies suffered, and have continued to suffer, with fewer resources than those directed to the celebration of the Mexica empire of Tenochtitlan, counterpart to the modern Mexican political system. A central characteristic of this early work on the Aztecs was its reliance and insistence on intrusive Western ideologies, de-contextualization, and advocacy. In many senses it was not a historiographic exercise at all but was instead an attempt to recruit fragments of indigenous data to fit predefined stages of Marxist or Polanyist economic formation. The more broad and ambitious the ideology, the less effective it is as an engine of analysis, and in the early 1980s I began adducing the considerable evidence that had been ignored, deemphasized, or reinterpreted by advocates of such intrusive belief systems in their construction of a vision of Aztec society (see Offner 1981a, 1981b, 1983: xiv–xv). Although curiously scandalous at the time, with the passage of years this effort now seems little more than the application of caution and common sense, while the non-coincidental similarities this portrayal of Aztec society bore to the one-party government of the PRI and the oligarchs that benefited from it have become increasingly apparent. This Western historiographic movement—or perhaps ideological exercise—has not yet, however, elicited the full scholarly appraisal it merits. The extent to which a small group of scholars functioned to hold up a mirror in which the PRI and the oligarchy could display themselves to the Mexican nation as legitimate successors to the Tenochtitlan hegemony bears, even at this late date, considerable examination. Modern students approaching this mid-twentieth-century literature must become diligent textual archaeologists, sorting through layers of odd and often distorted semantic penumbra surrounding and obscuring such terms as communal land tenure, corporate landholding, usufruct rights only, exchange, luxury goods, sumptuary laws, long-distance trade, control of markets, directed economy, redistributive economy, and many more. Supportive but dismembered bits of Aztec social and political structure litter a Western-constructed theoretical battlescape, with little or nothing of the indigenous “other” remaining in it. These older ideologies have by now collapsed or fragmented in academia, although with some delay, as their explanatory failure became clear beginning about 1968.1 Adherence to such antique cultural evolutionary and similar 26


stage-bound theories remains more common among archaeologists, influenced somewhat by the nature of their discipline, but many have moved on to more empirical studies. Some, notably Richard Blanton,2 have questioned lingering orthodoxy more directly regarding the degree of market integration of the economy and have demonstrated the utility of exploring market-oriented hypotheses instead of settling for use of the word exchange. Michael E. Smith and Frances Berdan recently began to explore the nature of these economies using a necessarily reduced version of world systems analysis (Smith and Berdan 2003). Perhaps inadvertently, their efforts serve as much to illustrate how little we can know about the everyday details, structures, and processes within these bewilderingly complex economies as they do how much we can discover about them. By the standard of most other disciplines, the remnant data to investigate such economic problems and phenomena are thoroughly inadequate. Thanks to Blanton, Berdan, Smith, and others, the older crippling and exoticizing view of the Aztecs as locked into one or another type or stage of primitive or ancient economy is giving way to one that requires dissolution of old paradigms and categories and a thorough investigation of economic phenomena beyond the governmental and redistributive emphases that were, after all, driven by the colonial context. Displaced rulers, as well as their relatives and descendants, clung to and emphasized the governmental aspects of the old economy that favored them, while the rest of the populace—less privileged, less well capitalized, and with far less access to the expensive, slow, and unpredictable colonial court systems—adapted from one economy to the next through largely unvoiced struggles.3 TEXCOCO—EARLY PROMISE, EARLY RESULTS

Wigberto Jiménez Moreno, Frances Gillmor, and Charles Dibble were key figures in developing interest in, and exhibiting the richness of, Texcocan history and its documentation. As an innovative historian working with non-Western documentation, Jiménez Moreno had to invent many of the techniques he used as he tried to understand and synchronize the disparate historical traditions of pre-conquest Mexico. He recognized the importance of the early history of the various centers of power in Central Mexico, including Azcapotzalco, Huexotla, Coatlinchan, and Texcoco, and his works are still ignored by modern researchers at their peril (e.g., Jiménez Moreno 1954–55). Gillmor (1949) demonstrated the richness of historical and legendary detail available for Texcoco in her book on Nezahualcoyotl, as she deliberately I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


blended both to capture and render a portrait of this celebrated figure in his distinctive time and place. No one entered into the indigenous Texcocan world to the extent of Dibble in his still astonishing and classic work on the Códice Xolotl (Dibble 1951). Never before had the work of an early historian, in this case Alva Ixtlilxochitl, been related so intimately to the minute details of an existing indigenous pictorial document. Dibble demonstrated the primacy of this pictorial source for several alphabetic histories of Texcoco, both indigenous and Spanish colonial, and unlocked considerable stores of new meaning in both the pictorial and alphabetic stores through his careful comparisons. Unfortunately, Dibble’s energies were diverted to the unarguably important Florentine Codex project (Sahagún 1950–82), and Texcocan studies were largely ignored until the late 1970s and early 1980s. More important, Dibble’s success in showing the primacy of pictorial sources was largely forgotten and remains unknown among some Texcocan researchers today. TEXCOCAN REVIVAL

A number of Texcocan specialists emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. For example, William Sanders (1994–2000),4 along with Jeffrey Parsons (1971), Richard Blanton (1996), and Thomas Charlton (1969, 1973), produced expert regional studies of Texcoco and the Otumba and Teotihuacan Valleys in Aztec times, providing an indispensable, although usually ignored, physical foundation for Texcocan studies. Frederic Hicks (1982) extended the efforts of the Polanyists with greater ethnographic sensitivity and diachronic awareness, while Elizabeth Brumfiel did the same in archaeology. Howard Cline lent his experience and expertise to a valuable study of Oztoticpac pictorial materials (Cline 1966, 1972). And I produced a history and ethnography of Texcoco, with an emphasis on its legal and political systems; in addition, inspired by Dibble’s work, I began to explore the relationship of pictorial sources to alphabetic texts (Offner 1983). Herbert Harvey and Barbara Williams tied sixteenth-century indigenous pictorial land cadasters to actual fields near Tepetlaoztoc and explored Texcocan mathematics and surveying techniques as well as nutrition and agricultural productivity (e.g., Harvey and Williams 1986; Williams and Harvey 1997; Williams and Jorge y Jorge 2008; Williams and Pierce, this volume). This research into Texcocan surveying techniques, soil science (pedology), and mathematics is an outstanding example of how disciplined inquiry into such structured cultural domains can reveal the depth, complexity, expertise, and 28


accomplishment of Texcocan culture. It provides a hint and a warning concerning the degree of knowledge we lack concerning Texcocan society and culture. Marc Thouvenot, working with, and later surpassing, methods developed by Joaquín Galarza and following in the footsteps of Dibble, had the courage and patience to take up the backbreaking labor of analyzing the glyphic and other content of the immensely complex Códice Xolotl (Thouvenot 1987; Thouvenot et al. n.d.). In similar fashion, Perla Valle Pérez (1993) expertly analyzed a body of Tepetlaoztoc pictorial and alphabetic materials. Informed by these findings, Patrick Lesbre (1999, 2000, 2004) developed careful methods of detecting the composite nature of Texcocan written texts and the sources from which they were drawn—both pictorial and alphabetic. Lesbre produced a series of articles that delicately dissect and evaluate the combinations of indigenous, colonial, (and modern) concepts related to Texcocan history and culture, along with its institutions and rulers. He also began to investigate the scantily documented but crucial early colonial decades, the time of the production of most of the important Texcocan pictorial documents. This group of scholars was largely from outside Mexico and was primarily concerned with establishing and understanding the pre-conquest and immediate post-conquest ethnographic content and context per se rather than with recruiting data to fit externally derived ideological schemes. In this effort, they were aided by a florescence of Nahuatl language studies, led by James Lockhart, R. Joe Campbell, J. Richard Andrews, Charles Dibble, Frances Karttunen, Gordon Whittaker (2009),5 and others. The emphasis in this period remained on the extraction of data about pre-conquest times from what were in fact colonial documents, but the practitioners were cognizant of the problems of this approach and noted it in their discussions and their work (Offner 1983: 19). Some had ambitions to extend historical understanding into the past to attempt correlations with the new archaeological findings (Parsons 1970; Calnek 1973; Charlton 1973), but the complexity of the data was daunting, with understanding of the Códice Xolotl and its dependent sources— principally Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1975) and Torquemada (1969)—standing as the foremost obstacle and challenge from the documentation side. The atmosphere of meetings and conferences of the time held a conviction—or at least a hope—that results were being produced that could be systematically compared with similar studies in other parts of the world, but the cohort aged; although results were many and notable, the promise of much research and publication was never realized. Texcoco has continued to attract scholarly interest, mostly from outside Mexico. Some safely followed the long-accepted paradigm of the inerrancy I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


and superiority of Tenochcan sources (e.g., Spitler 1998), although Sylvie Peperstraete (2007: 9), noting a long history of uncritical reading of Tezozomoc, recently demolished the concept of an accurate and unbiased historiography in key Tenochtitlan sources. Lori Diel’s (2008) recent excellent work on the Tira de Tepechpan is helpful in this pursuit because it exposes the many complexities and commonplace nature of local bias in colonial sources. She outlines how the people of Tepechpan not only played Tenochtitlan against Texcoco but also played the Spanish colonial hegemony against Tenochtitlan. By expertly exposing and analyzing the obvious but long-neglected and misreported surface phenomena of bias in all Aztec sources, such studies begin to enable modern scholars intent on reading colonial sources as colonial sources to direct their considerable energies to the critical examination of some of the deeper, basic issues of Aztec studies—the reports of land tenure, tribute, labor service, trade, and class structure. There is considerable opportunity to show how unequal access to courts and historical account writing by the remnant nobility—as well as the Spanish colonial administration’s alternatively naive, corrupt, or partially informed reaction to indigenous legal efforts—all functioned to produce a profoundly distorted context and content for the presentday study of Aztec economics and political structure. It seems ill advised to write about rulers, their rivalries, marriages, battles, victories, and empire building without also grappling with the myriad unresolved issues regarding the basic economic and political underpinnings that drove and generated the surviving stories and romances of that period. In her chapter in this volume, Diel continues her inquiry into the substance of the political dynamism behind seemingly orderly and settled pictorial documents as she highlights the contrast between Aztec political process and political structure as depicted in the Mapa Quinatzin to show the struggles and disorder disguised in such a presentation piece. Although she concentrates her analysis within the Texcocan realm, Nahua culture in general was intensely entrepreneurial: such disorder and struggles were duplicated in struggles between the members of the (undoubtedly real and pre-conquest) Triple Alliance (Offner 1984). Returning to the recent revival of interest in the issue of bias, the Nahua themselves were expertly aware of local bias and its problems and uses. As Camilla Townsend (2009: 625) notes in a recent Ethnohistory article: “there is direct evidence that Nahuatl historical annals originally were not, as has been supposed, purely linear texts recounting the history of a single altepetl, but rather, constructions based on an accumulation of cellular contributions from multiple subentities. Historical truth was understood to require multiple 30


perspectives.” It appears Nahua historiographers have something to teach us in the present day. Although the growth in Nahuatl expertise has been a key benefit to Aztec studies, a welcome counterweight to the emphasis on this language has been the emergence of such scholars as David Carr Wright, versed in both Otomí and Nahuatl. One of the reasons I have always spelled the city of study “Texcoco” instead of “Tetzcoco” is to call attention to this multiethnic feature, and I proposed long ago (Offner 1983) that Texcoco’s multiethnic composition was important in shaping its governing strategies and processes and therefore its history and historiography. The Otomí were a significant group for Texcoco, with their leading city of Otompan. In the Histoyre du Mechique (de Jonghe 1905: 17), the Texcocan ruler is referred to as “le seigneur des Otomís” (“lord of the Otomí”) by a voice we remain unable to contextualize or comprehend fully. Carrasco Pizana’s (1950) early study pointed out the importance of the Otomí in Postclassic Mesoamerican culture, and it is good to see Wright (2008, 2009) again calling attention to the commonalities in culture and behavior among the various language groups of the time.6 TEXCOCO: LAND OF RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

What are the opportunities in Texcocan studies, and what is it about the data that holds such promise for substantive research? Texcoco’s richness of closely related pictorial and alphabetic documents offers the best available laboratory for understanding both Nahua and colonial historiography. The most complex and detailed historical pictorial report of the Basin of Mexico is the Códice Xolotl. It is complemented by the Mapa Quinatzin (Mohar Betancourt 2004),7 a sort of presentation piece, with its shorter version of early history, along with a portrayal of court political, legal, and economic structure and an unfortunately truncated list of legal rules and precedents. The Mapa Tlotzin (Aubin 2002) provides yet another story of origins and history. There are a considerable number of other pictorial documents as well, some related and some unrelated in content to these major documents. Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Pomar, and Torquemada provide lengthy alphabetic texts, along with myriad shorter works by other authors. This mass of documentation serves as an important crosscheck on the accuracy, bias, and completeness of other indigenous historical traditions, notably those of Tenochtitlan, Chalco, and Cuauhtitlan. In addition, Texcocan history offers the challenges of two dark periods, both thinly documented and not much investigated, that invite research and understanding. For the early colonial period, Guy Stresser-Péan (1995) has I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


explored how the fear of religious inquisition affected many areas of postcolonial life in the Texcocan empire, including the drafting of the Códice de Xicotepec. Lesbre (2007) and Douglas (2002, 2010) continue to make notable additions to our understanding of the period when most of the Texcocan documentation was created. One of the remaining mysteries to me is the lack of fit between the Mapa Quinatzin and the descriptions related to it or documents like it by Motolinia (1971), Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1975), and Torquemada (1969). Although both Lee and Diel discuss this document in chapters in this volume, neither (yet) addresses the apparent physical differences in appearance between this document and what these older sources describe. Taken together, the lack of fit between descriptions and known pictorial documents strongly suggests the existence of additional similar documents now lost. Patrick Lesbre (2007), revisiting the Mapa Quinatzin, also recently wrestled with this and more difficult problems. For the period 1410–50, far more work remains to be done. An important recent analysis is Carlos Santamarina Novillo’s (2005) excellent study of the original hegemonic power of the time, Azcapotzalco, although from a modified Mexica-centric point of view. Lesbre (1995, 2000) has pointed out special ties between the royal houses of Texcoco and Azcapotzalco in post-conquest times, as evidenced by the Códice Xolotl group of sources. A secret history of Azcapotzalco remains hidden in the Códice Xolotl that needs elucidation. In studying this turbulent period that led to the predominance of Tenochtitlan, we have to battle what historiographers call retrospective certainty. Was Tenochtitlan’s rise inevitable? How reliable are the data in the Crónica X sources, so expertly studied recently by Sylvie Peperstraete (2007)? Was Tenochtitlan’s conquest of one after another state a foregone conclusion or a process bound up with many contingencies, only some of which we may be able to discern from other sources? What was, for example, the sequence of events leading to Azcapotzalco’s and then both Tenochtitlan’s and Texcoco’s control over the eastern Basin of Mexico, with its relatively large, multiethnic population centers, strategic obsidian sources, and gateway to the ancient and enduring commercial routes to the Gulf Coast? RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES IN THE CÓDICE XOLOTL

In spite of the leadership and efforts of Charles Dibble and Marc Thouvenot, the most important collective failure of Texcocan scholars continues to be the neglect of the Códice Xolotl. Many investigators have written extensively 32


on Texcoco and its leading historian, Alva Ixtlilxochitl, without evincing sufficient knowledge of this foundational document. The Códice Xolotl, after all, is the source of a good portion of the writings of Alva Ixtlilxochitl, as well as those of Torquemada and of a small but deeply flawed portion of the Anónimo Mexicano. Building on the work of Dibble and Thouvenot, it is time to undertake a “Great Códice Xolotl Project” that would use current technologies to facilitate a scene-by-scene and line-by-line comparative examination of this document and its derivative texts: Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Torquemada, the Anónimo Mexicano, and a very small portion of the Anales de Cuauhtitlan. It would not be a complicated matter to create a browser-based platform that would “pop up” the relevant portion of these texts as a researcher “moused over” sections of the Códice Xolotl—or vice versa. Then the real work of meticulous research and investigation could begin among a dedicated group of researchers. Not only could we enter the world of the Nahua historiographer to a new and unprecedented degree, but we could also compare, as Peperstraete did with Tezozomoc and Durán, how religious Spanish colonial (Torquemada) and Nahua Spanish colonial (Alva Ixtlilxochitl) historians approached, understood, and reported on this deep historical document. What are the potential benefits of such a project? One is an improved understanding of the nature and history of Texcoco and the surrounding region, especially through recognition that we know much less about such things than we suppose. Another is the rehabilitation and proper appreciation of the work of Alva Ixtlilxochitl, whom it has long been fashionable to deprecate in uninformed and biased criticism. A third benefit would be greater insight into the world of the Nahua tlacuiloque (scribe) who produced what remains by far our best work of Nahua historiography in its original form. I can offer three small examples of what the Códice Xolotl has to teach us regarding our ignorance about Texcocan society and history.8 There is, for example, the feather work device called the cozoyahualolli.9 Justyna Olko (2005) and others have noted its widespread occurrence in pictorial documents as a marker for Chichimec origin or status. In a recent article in Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl (Offner 2011), I showed how, thanks to Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1975, 1: 332, 435–36, 2: 41), we know it has a deeper meaning as marker for the status of “legitimate successor” in Texcoco. In the Códice Xolotl, leaf 7 (X.070.C.43),10 we can see a ceremony involving the simultaneous “swearing in” of Ixtlilxochitl Ome Tochtli as ruler of Texcoco and of Nezahualcoyotl as his legitimate successor (figure 2.1). Again on leaf 10.1 (X.101.H.22) (figure 2.2), we see it indicating Nezahualcoyotl as the legitimate, but not yet sworn in, successor I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


Figure 2.1. The “swearing in” ceremony of Ixtlilxochitl Ome Tochtli and his son Nezahualcoyotl on Códice Xolotl, leaf 7. Courtesy, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

to Ixtlilxochitl Ome Tochtli. This practice of simultaneous succession is not reported in either Tenochtitlan or Azcapotzalco, signaling how different these ethnic groups were. We can, however, see a parallel ceremony in the Mapa de Metlatoyuca (figure 2.3) and something related in the Códice de Xicotepec (figure 2.4; Offner 2011: 265–74).11 Left unexamined for now is the important question of the relative ranking of the rulers of Huexotla, Coatlinchan, and Texcoco at the time of this ceremony. The installation ceremony—most directly involving Nezahualcoyotl, Ixtlilxochitl Ome Tochtli, and two important figures (Tozantzin and Tlanahuacatzin) whose names and statuses are variously described by Torquemada and Ixtlilxochitl (Offner 2011: 262–63)—is bracketed by a larger scene (figure 2.1). There, the rulers of Texcoco, Huexotla, Coatlinchan, Coatepec, Iztapalocan, and possibly Tepeapulco or Tepetlaoztoc are shown discussing a demand Tezozomoc of Azcapotzalco made that they weave cotton he provided in bundle form (ichcatlamamilli) into mantas (tilmatli). Two war leaders to the north (possibly from Huexotla, Tepetlaoztoc, or Tepeapulco) and south (from Iztapalocan) are indicated by the chimalli and macuahuitl symbols for 34


Figure 2.2. Nezahualcoyotl, with cozoyahualolli glyph attached, discusses the fate of disloyal kinsmen with two intermediaries on leaf 10.1, Códice Xolotl. Courtesy, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

war (yaotl).12 Determining the intent of the tlacuilo, or Nahua historiographer, who prepared this leaf of the Códice Xolotl and placed the succession scene within the larger tableau involving the discussion of the “cotton tribute” will require comprehensive understanding of the internal rules of composition of this document, as we can determine them now and as Alva Ixtlilxochitl and Torquemada determined them decades after its composition while in contact with surviving experts of the time. The Códice Xolotl is no “candy store” that can be easily or reliably raided to prop up positions and theories, although this will inevitably be part of its initial fate as it receives greater attention. A second example sheds a little light on the still incompletely understood leaf 10.1 of the Códice Xolotl. In the upper left of figure 2.5, a person with an elaborated stone-like glyph (te-) and with the title tziuhcoatl 13 is shown on leaf 6 at the funeral of Techotlalatzin (X.060.B). In figure 2.6, he is depicted in relationship to a cuicacalli tepan (X.101.F.11) as a body prepared for funerary rites (X.101.F.11). Also in the funeral scene on leaf 6 (figure 2.5), a Huitzilihuitzin appears with the toponym, ethnic glyph, or perhaps I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


Figure 2.3. The succession ceremony and the beginning of the Tlachco tlacamecayotl from the Mapa de Metlatoyuca, with two additional tlacamecayotl to the right. Courtesy, Trustees of the British Museum.

title Tetlanexco. He also reappears on leaf 10 associated with a tlacochcalco (X.101.F.14; figure 2.6). Códice Xolotl leaf 10.1 seems to be telling us that upon the death of the tziuhcoatl who held an important position related to the cuicacalli tepan and attended Techotlalatzin’s funeral, Coxcoxtzin succeeded him, probably with the authorization of the legitimate successor, Nezahualcoyotl. At the same time and in the same way, Huitzilihuitzin was also given an important position related to the tlacochcalli. Indeed, Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1975, 1: 371) refers to him in an imprecise interpretation as “asistente del consejo de Guerra” (assistant of the war council). As Dibble (1951: 92, 1965: 104) points out, on leaf 10.1 the dead tziuhcoatl title holder (which he called xiuhcoatl), his successor, Coxcoxtzin, and Huitzilitzin all wear head cloths similar to the one worn by Ixtlilxochitl and his son Nezahualcoyotl during the “swearing in” on leaf 7 (see figure 2.1). The head cloth is quite similar to that of many death bundles throughout the Códice Xolotl. One association of the head cloth, therefore, is with 36


Figure 2.4. Installation ceremony at Xicotepec, Section 12, Códice de Xicotepec. Photograph by Georges Massart; reproduced with permission of Claude Stresser-Péan.

people undergoing a change of status, whether from life to death or upon the assumption of an office. From this small exploration, we learn more about funerary and succession rites and we can see more detail than before regarding Nezahualcoyotl filling positions in his government. We also learn that we don’t know the meaning and function of the title and office of tziuhcoatl or its relationship to the cuicacalli tepan. Nor do we know where or perhaps what Tetlanexco was. Moreover, we do not know why the successions to these two government offices should be recorded at the same time here, nor do we know the full relationship of this scene and the persons involved to the funeral scene of Techotlalatzin. Further, we do not know why a similar succession ceremony shows up in the Mapa de Metlatoyuca, a document meant to be read in Nahuatl but from Totonac territory in an area probably never under Texcocan control. Once again, the more were learn about Texcoco from the Códice Xolotl, the more we realize what we don’t know about Texcoco. I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


Figure 2.5. Funerary rites for Techotlalatzin on leaf 6, Códice Xolotl. Courtesy, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Figure 2.6. Three figures on leaf 10.1, Códice Xolotl. Courtesy, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

A third example involves a problem I identified in 1979 regarding reports of the reign of Techotlalatzin in various sources dependent on the Códice Xolotl. In that article, I pointed out that Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s reading of the Códice Xolotl was superior to Torquemada’s and the Anónimo Mexicano’s and that the latter two authors’ reports of councils and proportional redistribution of peoples by Techotlalatzin were demonstrably false and mistaken readings of this document (see figures 2.7 and 2.8). My approach was, to the extent possible, one of nondestructive examination, leaving as many possibilities open for others to explore as possible. Recently, however, I identified an erroneous interpretation of another scene by the Anónimo Mexicano (whom Torquemada followed in many, but not all, respects). It involves the dream Tezozomoc had about Nezahualcoyotl. The Anónimo Mexicano (2005: 19–20) misinterprets several iconographic details on leaf 8 of the Códice Xolotl as the burial of Tenancaltzin of Tenayuca (see figures 2.9a and 2.9b). Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s (1975, 1: 349, 440, 538; 2: 54) descriptions accord far more closely with the pictorial content: Tezozomoc is relating his dreams I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


Figure 2.7. Erroneous reading of Códice Xolotl, leaf 5, by the Anónimo Mexicano and Torquemada. Courtesy, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Figure 2.8. Correct reading of Códice Xolotl, leaf 5, by Ixtlilxochitl. Courtesy, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

of Nezahualcoyotl to his son Maxtla and others. The Anónimo Mexicano’s mistaken description of a burial is unique in Aztec literature. Torquemada (1969, 1: 87) makes interesting use of the description of Tenancaltzin’s burial in the Anónimo Mexicano: he uses many details of it to describe the cremation of Quinatzin, again described nowhere else. Torquemada does report the dreams of Tezozomoc accurately (ibid.: 117–18), perhaps following Alva Ixtlilxochitl or his Azcapotzalco source, Alonso Axayaca (Lesbre 1995; Bierhorst 1992b: 88). This discovery of further errors by the Anónimo Mexicano strengthens the case that other interpretations and reports in this text are erroneous and shows again that without Alva Ixtlilxochitl, our understanding of the Códice Xolotl would be rudimentary and error-filled. It is also an interesting refutation of the assumption that texts written in Nahuatl must somehow be more authentic and accurate than texts written in Spanish and is further affirmation of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s superior relationship to, and insight into, the indigenous culture of his time.



Figures 2.9a and 2.9b. The Dream of Tezozomoc on leaf 8, Códice Xolotl. Courtesy, Biliothèque nationale de France.


The historian Alva Ixtlilxochitl has been, and continues to be, more criticized than understood. A large portion of his work is in fact a linear alphabetic translation of the great Nahuatl historiographic text, the Códice Xolotl.14 Nevertheless, critics, wholly or mostly ignorant of the content of this basic text, have besieged him with accusations of incompetence, naïveté, bias, and, essentially, dishonesty. This approach is much like condemning a translation of the Iliad or the Odyssey without having read the original Greek or—to take a recent success story as a model—attempting to understand, evaluate, and criticize the work of Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1549–1625), Spanish court historian of the Indies, without having read the numerous sources from which he draws, including Motolinia, Muñoz Camargo, and Las Casas.15 Perhaps one measure we could take to improve this situation is to contemplate a small matter each time we are proposing to make claims of historical “manipulation” by Alva Ixtlilxochitl: the typical surrounding of preconquest rulers by stories and legends in the pre-conquest period. For example, Xihuitlpopoca, the ruler of Zacatlan, figures prominently in Torquemada’s Totonac history (1969, 1: 278–81). The Totonac who reported the history to Torquemada regarded him as Chichimec, just as they did the Tenochtitlan invaders who came after him. So we cannot be sure of his ethnicity, but he may well have been a Nahuatl speaker. He was reported to have been born a full-grown man and could change his form from child to man, to woman, and to an old man. The Totonac offered him human hearts in tribute, which he ate with plenty of blood. He also foretold the arrival of the Spanish; fearful of them, he vanished completely. Additional legends are connected to other early rulers in Torquemada’s Totonac history, such as Umeacatl and Xatontan (Offner 2012). A number of these legendary abilities and behaviors sound very familiar and remind us how difficult it is to ascribe this or that legend to a post-conquest or pre-conquest context and origin. Lesbre (2000) has written on the intriguing and unfortunately truncated Coyohua legend cycle in Anales de Cuauhtitlan, with traces also in the Códice Xolotl. Additional well-known legends are attached to Nezahualcoyotl and other rulers in Alva Ixtlilxochitl and Torquemada, as well as in many other sources, but nothing like a complete or comprehensive set of those that existed. We cannot attribute all the legends surrounding Nezahualcoyotl to Alva Ixtlilxochitl and a few inventive minds of the post-conquest period. Instead, these reported legends were clearly a continuation of pre-conquest practice,



and the advancement of notions regarding Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historiography and rewriting of Texcocan history needs to be done with the greatest circumspection. We can’t lay everything and anything in the way of historical emendations at the feet of this remarkable and devoted ethnographer and historian. Clearly, something distinctive had been going on with legends and Texcocan (and other) rulers for well over two centuries before Alva Ixtlilxochitl began his investigations and writing—and for much longer than that. We need to face the fact that Alva Ixtlilxochitl knew far more than we do about Texcocan history, languages, and cultures; and we should not mistake the few documents left to us by history (largely thanks to him, in any event) for the totality of the cultural context of the time, much less the totality of what he knew and understood. To reiterate one point: How much of the Códice Xolotl, for example, would we understand—accurately—without Alva Ixtlilxochitl? RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES: THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE INDIGENOUS HISTORIOGRAPHERS

What was the life of a Texcocan historiographer like? Certainly, he possessed expertise in the physical aspects of his craft—how paper, skin, cloth, ink, pigments, and other materials were properly made and sourced. He developed appropriate glyphic, figural, and landscape painting along with page or scene composition skills. The historian tlacuilo learned and memorized in great detail histories recorded in many manuscripts, including their written and oral components and their relationship to songs and legends of the time. Beyond these basic but varied and massive skills, how was he situated in court and in society, and how did he cooperate with others in creating the histories of his time? An examination of these questions in the context of the considerable documentation from the Basin of Mexico is outside the scope of this chapter, but Torquemada (1969, 2: 181) does give a compact description of Totonac historiographers that provides us with many things to consider about this fascinating career.16 Torquemada describes a class of priests, resembling cloistered monks, dedicated to the important Totonac deity Cinteutl. He characterizes them as celibate, beyond reproach, and praiseworthy (in spite of being blinded by idolatry). They wore the skins of foxes and coyotes and “jackals,”17 had long braided hair, and ate no meat. They were not chosen until they were more than sixty years of age and had to have been both married and permanently widowed. The people, recognizing their virtue, visited them and trusted them to make requests to Cinteutl and the other gods for the nation and communities. 44


The High Priests (Summos Pontifices) of the Totonac (Torquemada describes this office on the preceding page)18 consulted them regarding secret and difficult matters. Besides the High Priest, these monks could only talk to visitors, who crouched before them, eyes on the ground, and poured out their difficulties and problems, seeking advice. The priests of Cinteutl replied humbly and briefly with their best counsel. Torquemada concludes his description of these priests’ situation, not unlike his own life’s circumstances, in this fashion: “The work of these singular and cloistered men was to write with figures many histories, which put into proper style and well arranged they gave to the High Priests, who referred to them afterward in their talks and sermons to the communities and towns” (ibid.).19 The use of this description is not to imply that Texcocan historians shared these biographies or other attributes. Instead, it provides evidence of how Totonac priests gathered information that would have gone into their “many histories” and how Texcocan historians might have obtained their information. In addition to their considerable life experience, in pursuits that may or may not have been similar to their final occupation, Totonac historians learned about contemporaneous political affairs through their consultations with the High Priest over “secret things and difficult affairs” and from the petitioners who visited them for advice about a wide variety of difficult life situations. They could thus include many details in their histories and shape them to fit the political complexities of their time. It is noteworthy that they did not share their histories directly with the public. Instead, they gave them to the Totonac High Priest so he could communicate them to the communities and towns. Unfortunately, Torquemada does not provide the suggestions, negotiations, accommodations, and disagreements that took place among the priests of Cinteutl, the High Priests, and very likely also the rulers over what went into these histories. As is evident in Torquemada’s report of Totonac history, the historian monks knew of such things as rivalries and disputes among rulers and between polities, as well disputes over land and other resources (Offner 2012). They were aware, through their contact with lower-level petitioners, of locales where the populace in general or individual ethnic groups were particularly stressed or endangered. Their “historias” were distillations of the important details of these matters, carefully crafted so they could be productively interpreted for uncertain futures in a world of constantly shifting hegemonies among polities and ethnic groups. These historias were not just histories but records of the settlement of legal disputes or claims to rights to resources arising from wars. They also included special biographical and legendary materials I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


regarding local leaders, comparable to the Coyohua stories in the Códice Xolotl, the legends surrounding Nezahualcoyotl, and the legends in the Totonac history reported by Torquemada. As discussed below, they could also be sources of information for analysis and a process for dealing with future uncertainty regarding what could come to pass in the world of diplomacy, statecraft, and war. RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES: RECOVERING THE ART AND SCIENCE OF NAHUA HISTORIOGRAPHY

This matter of indigenous communication of history and related political matters invites further research. Katarzyna Mikulska’s recent article on a “secret” or specialized language among Central Mexican priestly specialists, and its reflection in both alphabetic and pictorial sources, provides a roadmap for investigation into this key area. Mikulska develops a hypothesis that a special or secret oral language, as evidenced in the alphabetized sources, is reflected carefully and systematically in certain Central Mexican calendar-religious pictorial manuscripts. She points out that the oral language is marked by metaphors, paraphrases, redundancy, accumulation of significant elements, compositional freedom, and frequent diphrasisms—for example, in icxitl in maitl, “the foot, the hand,” for “human being” (Mikulska 2010: 345). The pictorial written counterpart contains more metonyms, instances of synecdoche (the use of a part to represent the whole), and digraphisms (the written counterpart of diphrasisms, e.g., necklaces of hands and feet for “human body”). The meaning intended by the pictorial documents, then, arises from the interplay and synergy of the oral and pictorial components of the performance. Mikulska (ibid.: 356) concludes: “The question remains as to whether this system—with its great potential as a form of expression, ranging from graphic representations of diphrasisms (or digraphisms) to the inclusion of a huge repertoire of ‘visual rhetorical resources’—should be classified only as ‘iconography.’” Two important lessons for present purposes emerge from this important and perspicacious study: (1) that multiple meanings, often with the intent to deceive or obscure (especially in battles between individual adepts), were designed into and were a deliberate product of this system; and (2) that most or all of the information on a single page of a codex relates to most or all of the other information on that page. Further, although it has become commonplace to mention the interplay between written and oral components, this study produces far greater insight into the processes actually at work. 46


There is a very good chance that we will be able to identify traces of a specialized language, or, more likely, a set of languages—in both alphabetic and pictorial historical documents, varying by geography and intended audience—that was used to communicate historical affairs. With regard to visual content, Nahua historical/genealogical documents utilize, for example, figure positioning, gestures, footprints, lines, and dotted lines for certain kinds of kin relationships in ways that are not always visually obvious. It is clear from working with one example of this genre, the Códice Xolotl, that de-contextualization of details is a very difficult task. The “message” of such documents is the entire page and indeed, for complex documents, the entire set of pages taken together. Further, the events depicted on the page can produce a multiplicity of accounts during interplay with the oral presentation of the document. The accounts must ultimately derive from certain facts on the page, such as names, places, dates, and actions shown; but an oral rendering can approach such documents from many points of view. This makes this medium of communication both a storehouse of strategic information and a vehicle and method of analysis for diplomacy, war, kinship and martial alliance, negotiation, and other statecraft. Judging from Torquemada’s Totonac report, there were very probably specialized methods of presentation depending on the audience: fellow adepts, rulers, priests, warriors, merchants, and other categories of people. This variation in audiences could be related to the diversity of the surviving Texcocan pictorial manuscripts; it could also well be related to the production of songs and legends surrounding rulers and historical events. The Anales de Cuauhtitlan (Bierhorst 1992b), a town near Texcoco but part of the Tenochtitlan hegemony, contains traces of the character of this oral component of historical transmission. Not surprisingly, the older account of Tollan includes more fully integrated songs (ibid.: 34–35), but a report of an early joint action by the Tepaneca and the Culhua against the Mexica includes one stanza of a song that is embarrassing to the latter. By the time of the war that led to the fall of Azcapotzalco (ibid.: 100–101), only the information preserved in a song is recorded but not the song itself. Torquemada (1969 I: 258) and Ixtlilxochitl (see below) also mention the importance of songs in constructing their historical narratives. Lesbre (2000) has studied part of the Anales de Cuauhtitlan in detail. It appears to have ties to both the Azcapotzalcan and Texcocan courts and recounts in a personalized and legendary way the struggle between Tezozomoc of Azcapotzalco and Nezahualcoyotl. It contains many parallels to Tezozomoc’s dream, as discussed above and depicted in the Códice Xolotl. Lesbre I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


(ibid.: 63–69) provides a detailed study of features of the document that indicate orality, focusing on repetition of phrasing and narrative structure. The passage (Bierhorst 1992b: 83–90) begins in a formulaic, accumulative, repetitive fashion that sets it apart from the preceding text. There are special expressions of interest, such as the twice-repeated use of “has become a slave” for being assassinated or killed. Perhaps less surprisingly, the fire and water diphrasism for war—yn teoatl yn tlachinolli—appears twice in direct relationship to Nezahualcoyotl (Bierhorst 1992a: 49 [38: 23]; see also 48 [36: 36–37]). In fact, Bierhorst’s translation says that “sorcerers . . . anointed him with flood and blaze.” The opening of the passage also gives a hint about its purpose by saying it will tell, among other things, how assassinations began. Indeed, what is an entertaining tale of Nezahualcoyotl’s many escapes from Tezozomoc also serves as advice to listeners on how to recognize and avoid (or perhaps mount) assassination attempts. The curious guardian/trickster character Coyohua serves as the transformative vehicle for each of three escape episodes. His loyalty is of paramount concern as Tezozomoc tempts him twice with the prospect of possessing Nezahuacoyotl’s lands and income, using the terms mecatl and calpixque in combination each time (e.g., “you will have lands, you will plant by the mecatl.20 You will have two or three storekeepers” [Bierhorst 1992b: 88]). This same passage also includes a brief genealogy of Tezozomoc and his sons and ascribes the assassination of Ixtlilxochitl to marital and kinship disputes, providing material for contemplation to listeners regarding these types of causes of war. Such lessons in proper and cautious living bring to mind the huehuetlatolli of Nahuatl culture. In fact, one (unrelated) section of the Anales de Cuauhtitlan begins: “Here is related the Cuauhtitlancalque elders’ narrative” (Bierhorst 1992b: 53) [nican motenehua yntlatol yn quauhtitlancalque huehuetque (Bierhorst 1992a: 24 [16: 32])]. In contrast, another section of the manuscript is a highly organized, terse account of war, complete with detailed sequences of encounters, boundary marker lists, and rulers (Bierhorst 1992b: 57–63). The Anales de Cuauhtitlan, then, contains a considerable variety of historical accounts in different styles serving different purposes for different audiences. In her study of Crónica X sources, Peperstraete (2007: 153–54) identifies and comments on “stereotyped narrative structures used to relate the conquests and the rites” [structures de récit stéréotypées pour rapporter les conquêtes et les rites]. They are distinctive enough to survive the translation into Spanish. The Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca (1976) would also be a document inviting intensive study to discover corresponding visual and oral devices for reporting 48


historical matters. It is hoped that intensive textual analysis of these and other documents can uncover some of the lost specialized languages of historiography, court propaganda, and statecraft. Another issue worth reconsideration is whether religious and divination codices were the only pictorial media among the Nahua dealing with uncertainty about the future. The relative profusion of non-Texcocan migration pictorials, replete with mythical and religious content, obscures and distracts attention from the Códice Xolotl, its complexities, and its potential as a tool of political analysis and action. Its distinctly secular content seems no accident in this context. Even the Acolhuan migration document, the Mapa Tlotzin, is notable for its lack of religious and mythical content. Leaving aside the pictorial documents and their relationship to oral performance and alphabetic texts, it is clear that song and dance could also be used to negotiate, edit, and establish history without pictorial documents necessarily being involved. Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1975, 2: 168) reports on a dispute between two brothers of the ruler Nezahualpilli, who governed Texcoco starting at a very young age, from 1472 to 1515. The two brothers, Acapioltzin and Xochiquetzaltzin, had been successful to varying degrees in an expedition of conquest in the Huasteca region. They both developed songs and dances celebrating the primacy of their accomplishments, and on days marked for celebration of the expedition they performed them in their palaces before arriving with their performance troupes at the “plaza principal” in Texcoco to perform “almost in competition” with each other, to the extent that public order was threatened. Nezahualpilli decided to investigate and resolve the situation. When next the dances were performed, he and the most important people in his court went out into the plaza with their own dance (“con otra [danza]”) and supported Acapioltzin by performing alongside his troupe. Xochiquetzaltzin never again dared to enter into this kind of competition with his brother, and Nezahualpilli commanded that the song21 be entitled “Teotlan Cuextecayotl” to mark it as the accurate version of events in the Huasteca and the approved court version of history. Because Teotlan was the name of Acapioltzin’s palace, he was thereby awarded primary credit for the victorious expedition into the Huasteca. We do not know if the Texcocan court recorded this in a pictorial document. Sadly, this example serves to remind us that the surviving pictorial and written histories capture only a fraction of the historical knowledge of the Nahua. On the other hand, it is likely that some of this knowledge can be recaptured through careful comparative research. In addition, it is important to realize that Xochiquetzaltzin was the head of the Texcocan Council of Music, Arts, I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


and Sciences and so may have been in charge of the Texcocan historiographic enterprise. This report therefore gives some perspective on how historiographers were situated in the Texcocan courts and its politics and how disputes were settled in different venues, public and private—in this case, necessarily by the ruler. Certainly, rulers’ courts were productive places, and Western notions of individual authorship of songs or histories or government policies miss the complexity of their origins and the interplay between a ruler and his court. Many rulers of established polities become mere creatures of their own courts. In chaotic times, some rulers such as Nezahualcoyotl, doubtless with support from important people both inside and outside their court, draw upon court traditions and practices but reshape them, their policies, and their messages to address the challenges of a new age. Nezahualcoyotl was clearly a remarkable individual, but “Nezahualcoyotl” was also a label for, and a summation of, the overall Texcocan court enterprise—a court that played an important role in ending one world and beginning another in a small fraction of one lifetime. As we consider the accomplishments of Texcoco and its central figure, Nezahualcoyotl, the product of deliberate, coordinated, multimedia political communication should be taken into account, as well as the carefully structured preservation of information within a court that would maximize its claims to resources in the future. Many recent Texcocan studies focus on easily identifiable biases or contradictions in sources, while the more challenging content, meaning, and complexity of the data in the few remaining court products are only beginning to attract the level of attention they merit. The indigenous Central Mexican historians lived in an extremely complex world and produced a product attuned to that world, as have historians of all times, including our own. We cannot dismiss them as limited primitive incompetents or practitioners of simplistic bias or “chroniclers,” confidently comparing them adversely to the Spanish colonial historians and, implicitly, ourselves. We need to recognize that we comprehend only a fraction of their world and the content and integrity of their accomplishments. TEXCOCO: NO COUNTRY FOR FOLLOWERS

So where do we stand as confident and modern Western historiographers? It would seem that we stand on fairly unstable ground—only recently removed from powerful, advocacy-oriented Western ideological intrusions of the twentieth century and already beset by inevitable new academic trends and fashions. We do not understand the principal and central text of Texcocan



history—the Códice Xolotl and its dependent sources. We have little appreciation for the nature and accomplishment of indigenous Nahua historiography. We write about Texcoco and its sources with a disturbing combination of ignorance, ambition, and confidence, doubtless creating false landscapes of interpretation along with the good ones. Nevertheless, the opportunities for productive, substantive research are increasingly recognized and pursued. There is an increasing emphasis on understanding the Texcocan sources in their own terms. In addition, the marginalization and deprecation they have suffered as a result of the nowpassing Tenochtitlan-centric historiographic hegemony are being recognized and reduced. There is also increasing success in understanding and presenting the substance of Aztec and Nahua ethnography so that non-anthropologists can raise the level of their interpretations of post-conquest historiography by better understanding the very different pre-conquest cultural contexts. At the same time, modern historical methods are receiving increasing recognition and acceptance by anthropologists, and there has been a sharp movement away from adherence to Western-generated political ideologies as Procrustean beds for measuring and dismembering the remnant evidence of Aztec societies. An emerging trend among Spanish-language specialists based in American universities and interested in Texcoco—and more narrowly in Ixtlilxochitl— has perhaps the furthest to go in understanding and representing the indigenous milieu and its sources, both before and after the Spanish intrusion. Literary critics who engage in textual analyses of Ixtlilxochitl’s work often exhibit an odd prosecutorial tone in which Western Man and his observations and methodologies, whether colonial or modern, consistently emerge as the judge and proper measure of all things. Steeped in the culture of the mother country and uninformed regarding the richness and diversity of Mesoamerican cultures and their long history and cultural accomplishments, for many of these critics acculturation is too much a one-way street. In the end, these eager critics attack and at times ridicule Alva Ixtlilxochitl for attempting to interpret facts, solve puzzles, and write coherent histories they themselves cannot. With time and research, this situation should improve through the broadening of what is now a conveniently narrowed debate on Alva Ixtlilxochitl to include the substance and basic structures, processes of Aztec as well as colonial societies, and recognition that the facile observations regarding local bias, source contradictions, and data lacunae have been made— many long ago. Because Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s cultural context is inadequately understood by this group, their presentations of his choices, motivations, and I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


actions are of a lower order of probability and are as yet often unworthy of such a dedicatedly bicultural actor. As an additional part of improving our own historiographic efforts, we have in Texcocan pictorial manuscripts the opportunity to get at the “otherness” of a sophisticated and worthy Nahua historiographic school, although we have only a few samples of its depth and variety. If we extend Camilla Townsend’s (2009) observations that the Nahua were well aware of diversity in historiographic content and opinion and had means—public and private—to sort out such differences, we gain further insight into the relatively rich store of Texcocan pictorial documentation. In the case of the Mapa Tlotzin (Aubin 2002)—mostly a simple migration, foundation, and genealogical document—we see the inclusion of other polities, including Chalco, Azcapotzalco, Tenochtitlan (with Huitzilihuitl and his wife), and Culhuacan (with Coxcox and his wife). In contrast, Tenochtitlan pictorials are far more self-absorbed, assigning for the most part only two roles for other polities: those of victim and subject. In the Mapa Quinatzin (Mohar Betancourt 2004), we also see the inclusion of other polities (e.g., Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan), once again contrasting with the mono-vocal, mono-linear narratives typical of Tenochtitlan sources. It is, however, in the Códice Xolotl that we see the full flowering of the multilinear, multi-vocal historiography of the Texcocan school. Only the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca (1976) and Mapas de Cuauhtinchan begin to approach it in complexity—and certainly nothing from Tenochtitlan does. The Códice Xolotl exhibits the distillation of multiple processes in pre-conquest times (and perhaps in early post-conquest times as well) similar to those described by Townsend in her recent work, with a singular, deliberate recording and compilation of the multiple points of view involved. This is a remarkable historiographic technology, and it would have served as a powerful tool in diplomatic dealings, political and military planning, and statecraft in general.22 The Códice Xolotl is the best surviving example of this technology. Its meticulous and comprehensive recording of a successful shaping of history is very probably what led to its careful assembly23 and preservation in the immediate post-conquest era based on documents equally carefully preserved for nearly a century after the events in it come to an end in about 1430. It was a success story; it constituted a manual for survival, revolution, and statecraft. So for those intent on the destruction or diminution of Texcocan exceptionalism, here is an additional challenge. Why is the Códice Xolotl unique? What are its distant origins—in the tlacuiloque shown arriving in the Texcocan pictorials themselves, or in an earlier Azcapotzalco or Huexotla or Coatlinchan 52


school of tlacuiloque? Which Aztec historiographic school of which we have evidence would you like to have providing backup if you were entering into a dispute? Would the Totonac historians have produced histories more closely resembling in complexity and multiplicity of points of view those of Texcoco or those of Tenochtitlan? Perhaps it is merely a matter of what documents survive from Tenochtitlan and other cities. Or perhaps multivocality in historiography fares better in non-dominant states as an essential means of preserving claims to resources in a constantly shifting world of micro-polities. Or was it also possession of a specialized expertise that persisted in Texcoco, of which we find traces in the sources, such as the one that follows? The Crónica X source, through Tezozomoc, tells us this about Nezahualcoyotl (and I would argue it tells us about Nezahualcoyotl as an individual and as the label for the Texcocan court enterprise): the remnant Azcapotzalca at Coyoacan sent ambassadors to solicit aid against the Mexica, and Nezahualcoyotl, said to be in Texcoco at the time, refused them. The text states: “This Nezahualcoyotl was a great necromancer and he knew what would be in the future” [esta Necahualcoyotl era grande yngromántico24 y sabia lo que adelante seria] (Peperstraete 2007: 277). In the immediately preceding sentence, the Crónica X, a Mexica source and to many the Mexica source, emphasizes that the Mexica, in contrast, had no inkling that all this was going on. The existence of a courtly support apparatus based in Acolhuacan and capable of wielding an intelligence and historiographic technology only partially distilled in, and represented by, the Códice Xolotl goes a long way in explaining why Nezahualcoyotl came to be regarded as “knowing what would be,” to the extent of possessing magical abilities. We learn a little more about Nezahualcoyotl through his reported political philosophy in a text translated by Arthur Anderson and Susan Schroeder. Nezahualcoyotl was approached by the ambassadors of the Tlatelolca to see if he would join in a strike against Tenochtitlan just before Tlatelolca’s conquest by that city: “When the messengers [of Tlatelolco] heard this, they at once went to Texcoco to inform Nezahualcoyotl. But he only said to them: ‘I stand on both sides. If all are to be endangered because of the lord of the Mexica Tenochca, I shall go in favor of the lord of Tlatelolco. But if all are to be endangered because of the lord of Tlatelolco, I shall go in favor of the lord of the Mexica Tenochca’” (Anderson and Schroeder 1997, 2: 45). I suggest that all of us follow this philosophy attributed to Nezahualcoyotl and “stand on both sides” by minimizing further argument over flawed work and eschewing indulgence in new episodes of position defense and advocacy, I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


particularly while we still stand on such shaky foundations. Perhaps we can consider instead, in the broad realm of statecraft, as evidenced in legal and historiographic affairs, some considerable measure of Texcocan exceptionalism and, at base, significant differences between not only Tenochtitlan and Texcoco but the other polities of Aztec times as well. Isabel Bueno Bravo (2005), for example, does an excellent job of distilling the distinctive reputation of the commercial expertise of the Tlatelolca. Clearly, exceptional things were occurring in Texcoco, as in other cities, but they have been lost or mistranslated through the centuries, as Lesbre has become so adept at showing. Our task should not be to deny them or minimize them but to understand them more clearly so we can celebrate the immense complexity of Aztec culture both before and after the Spanish conquest. Again, we should not view a culture as less than it was merely because nearly all of its material remains are lost. Consider again the depth of knowledge and expertise that Williams and Harvey managed to discover regarding Texcocan surveying, mathematics, and soil science; and consider that many other areas of this culture must have accomplished similar marvels. Texcoco is a land of research opportunity. People who study Texcoco are for the most part an adventurous lot, and they have a less convenient and less advantageous route than those who study Tenochtitlan. Nevertheless, the relative richness of Texcocan documentation, along with the liminal, outsider perspective of Texcocan researchers, can provide the potential for distinctive improvements in understanding Postclassic Nahua and Aztec Mesoamerica. NOTES

First, I wish to highlight Jongsoo Lee’s courage and execution in conceiving, searching out funds for, and organizing the best Texcocan symposium in the discipline’s history, well attended by prominent researchers from several nations. It has had a significant impact on the advancement of the field of Texcocan studies. I thank Anastasia Kalyuta, Patrick Lesbre, Katarzyna Mikulska, and Gordon Whittaker for their generosity in providing comments, corrections, improvements, and fresh ideas during the extended process of writing and preparing this chapter for publication. I thank Galen Brokaw for his patience and skill as an editor during this process. I wish to acknowledge the long labors of Charles Dibble and Marc Thouvenot, without whom there would be nothing here. 1. See, for example, Wallerstein 2004: 1–22. 2. Blanton (1996) provides an excellent summary, analysis, and critique of competing hypotheses during the collapse and fragmentation of the larger ideologies. 54


3. Susan Kellogg (1995) traces postcontact legal changes that throw considerable light on this adaptation to new social and economic exigencies in everyday, indigenous Tenochtitlan. 4. Rather than adhere strictly to chronology, I have selected works that best represent the accomplishments or original thinking of these earlier researchers. In most cases, they can represent only a fraction of the work and insights these authors produced. 5. Whittaker’s 2009 article is an important retort to claims of “discovery” of Nahua glyphic decipherment by the Mayan linguist Alfonso Lacadena. It also provides a state-of-the-art treatment of Nahua glyphic writing, especially from the Texcoco area. 6. Although in Wright (2008) most of what is said regarding the Texcocan ruler Techotlalatzin should be disregarded (see below and Offner 1979). 7. See Offner (2007) for a review of this troubled work that nonetheless contains the best modern reproduction of this document. 8. Readers accustomed to linear alphabetic texts may find that this section requires far more effort to understand because of the pictorial nature of the Códice Xolotl. Dibble (1951) requires many pages to describe only in small part the content of each single leaf of this document. The “steep learning curve” involved has discouraged many investigators from appropriate research in this work, with many preferring instead (to criticize) the works of Ixtlilxochitl or (to rely on) the work of Torquemada. 9. See Offner (2010b) for a fuller treatment of the cozoyahualolli. 10. The modern notation of Marc Thouvenot and his associates is used to identify items in the Códice Xolotl. See Thouvenot (1987) and Thouvenot et al. (n.d.). 11. The Codex de Xicotepec has its origins in the Texcocan subject cities of Xicotepec and, to a lesser extent, Cuauhchinanco. These two cities are located beyond the gateway city Tulancingo and the eastern Basin of Mexico on the ancient commercial route to the Gulf of Mexico plains. See Offner (2010b) for a fuller treatment of this pictorial document. The Mapa de Metlatoyuca comes from the small town of Taxco, municipio de Tetela de Ocampo, Puebla, Mexico. Unfortunately, I did not have time to change the location I provided for the origin of this document in Offner (2011), but I am preparing a publication on this new location (Offner 2010a). 12. See Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1975) I: 327–32, 434–36, II: 41; Torquemada (1969) I: 109. 13. Not to be confused with the title Cihuacoatl; this is the preferred reading of Thouvenot instead of Dibble’s xiuh-. See Thouvenot’s text relating to Theme 05.06.42, Element ornement_04 in Tlachia for Códice Xolotl. 14. Ixtlilxochitl, like Dibble centuries after him, takes many pages to report on the content of each leaf of the Códice Xolotl. Ixtlilxochitl’s reports, nevertheless, represent only a fraction of his understanding of this document. Ixtlilxochitl worked up a linear translation not in the sense meant by Galarza and his followers but in a very different and broader sense, described below. I M P ROV I N G W ES T ER N H I S T O R I O G R A P H Y O F T EXCO CO


15. See Cuesta Domingo, Rojas y Gutiérrez de Gandarilla, and Jiménes Garcés (2009), in which the authors carry out precisely these tasks. 16. Torquemada, who spoke Totonac, lived in Zacatlan in about 1600 and reported on a Totonac pictorial source explained to him by leaders from Mizquihuacan (modern San Francisco Ixquihuacan, Puebla) (1969, 1: 278–81). Perhaps he learned about the life of Totonac historiographers from them, or perhaps his understanding was supplemented by other sources. The document or documents they presented employed a Nahuatl glyphic apparatus. See Offner (2012) for a close examination of this report of Totonac history by Torquemada. 17. “adives”; cf. Karttunen1992 [1983]: 43, entry for cōyo-tl, which references both “coyote” and “adive.” 18. Torquemada describes a system of six important priests (“Sacerdotes”) among the Totonac. They maintained a rank order, with the highest-ranking priest the “Pontifice Maximo,” “Pontifice,” or “Sacerdote Sumo” and the next-ranking priest succeeding him upon his death. 19. “El exercicio de estos Hombres singulares, y recogidos era escrivir por figuras, muchas Historias, las quales puestas en estilo, y bien concertadas las daban á los Summos Sacerdotes, los quales las refiriau [sic, for refirian] despues, en sus platicas, y sermones, á las Republicas, y Pueblos” (Torquemada 1969, 2: 181). 20. Bierhorst suggests either “a certain measure of land” or “a cord for measuring land” as a translation, following Molina. The mecatl, unfortunately, is a unit not mentioned by Harvey or Williams in the Texcocan (or apparently Tenochcan) land measurement systems. 21. Ixtlilxochitl here uses “canto,” although the antecedent grammatically seems to be “danza.” It is not clear whether Nezahualpilli’s or Acapioltzin’s dance received this name or if a song (perhaps with a dance as an integral part of the intended performance) was composed with this name. 22. For example, Western alphabetic linear texts in modern times are far less efficient in communicating the complexities depicted in the Códice Xolotl and often must resort to maps and charts—analogues to the structure of the Códice Xolotl itself. 23. The Códice Xolotl is not the work of only one or two scribes, and it may well be an assemblage of fragments from several related historiographic workshops in the eastern Basin of Mexico (cf. Douglas 2010, who takes a less complex and more conventional view while failing to adduce any new evidence regarding the origin of the Códice Xolotl, instead lumping it together for no compelling reasons with the origin and production of the Mapa Quinatzin and Mapa Tlotzin, themselves probably not as closely related as he proposes). The history in this work stops about 1430. In other words, its account of history ends about a century before it was put into the form we know today. 56


24. “Nigromántico” or “necromancer” is intended, although the details involved are obscure. WORKS CITED

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Offner, Jerome. 2007. “Review of Códice Mapa Quinatzin: justicia y derechos humanos en el México antiguo by Luz María Mohar Betancourt.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 38: 511–14. Offner, Jerome. 2010a. “Eliciting Totonac History and Discovering the True Origin of the Mapa de Metlatoyuca.” Paper presented at Consejo Europea de Investigaciones Sociales de América Latina, Toulouse, France, Summer. Offner, Jerome. 2010b. “Un segundo vistazo al ‘Códice de Xicotepec.’” Itinerarios 11: 55–83. Offner, Jerome. 2011. “A Curious Commonality among Some Eastern Basin of Mexico and Eastern Mexican Pictorial Manuscripts.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 41: 259–79. Offner, Jerome. 2012. “Exploring Three Sixteenth-Century ‘Totonac’ Pictorial Manuscripts.” In Mesoamerican Memory: Enduring Systems of Remembrance, ed. Amos Megged and Stephanie Wood, 141–71. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Olko, Justyna. 2005. Turquoise Diadems and Staffs of the Office: Elite Costume and Insignia of Power in Aztec and Early Colonial Mexico. Warsawa: Ośrodek Badań nad Tradycją Antyczną w Polsce i Europie Środkowowschodniej Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego (OBTA UW). Parsons, Jeffrey R. 1970. “An Archaeological Evaluation of the Códice Xolotl.” American Antiquity 35 (4): 431–40. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/278115. Parsons, Jeffrey R. 1971. Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the Texcoco Region, Mexico. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. Peperstraete, Sylvie. 2007. Chronique X. Reconstitution et analyse d’une source perdue fondamentale sur la civilisation Aztèque, d’après l’Historia de las Indias de Nueva España de D. Duran (1581) et la Crónica Mexicano de F. A. Tezozomoc (ca. 1598). BAR International Series 1630. Oxford: Archaeopress. Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1950–82. Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain. 13 vols. Trans. Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J.O. Anderson. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Sanders, William T. 1994–2000. The Teotihuacan Valley Project, Final Report. 5 vols. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Department of Anthropology. Santamarina Novillo, Carlos. 2005. “El sistema de dominación azteca: El Imperio Tepaneca.” Tesis Doctoral. Madrid: Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Smith, Michael E., and Frances Berdan, eds. 2003. The Postclassic Mesoamerican World. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Spitler, Susan. 1998. “The Mapa Tlotzin: Preconquest History in Colonial Texcoco.” Journal de la Société des Americanistes 84 (2): 71–81. http://dx.doi.org/10.3406/jsa.1998 .1717. 60


Stresser-Péan, Guy. 1995. El Códice de Xicotepec: Estudio e interpretación. México: Gobierno del Estado de Puebla, Centro Francés de Estudios Mexicanos y Centroamericanos, and Fondo de Cultura Económica. Thouvenot, Marc. 1987. “Codex Xolotl. Étude d’une des composantes de son écriture: les glyphes. Dictionnaire des éléments constitutifs des glyphes.” Thèse de doctorat. Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Thouvenot, Marc, et al. n.d. “Pohua/Tlachia,” “Temoa,” “Chachalaca,” “G.D.N.,” and “CEN.” Editions sur Supports Informatiques. http://www.sup-infor.com. Torquemada, Fray Juan de. 1969. Monarquía Indiana. 3 vols. México: Porrúa. Townsend, Camilla. 2009. “Glimpsing Native American Historiography: The Cellular Principle in Sixteenth-Century Nahuatl Annals.” Ethnohistory 56 (4): 625–50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00141801-2009-024. Valle Pérez, Perla. 1993. Memorial de los indios de Tepetláoztoc ó Códice Kingsborough. 2 vols. México: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-Systems Analysis. An Introduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Whittaker, Gordon. 2009. “The Principles of Nahuatl Writing.” Göttinger Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft 16: 47–81. Williams, Barbara J., and Herbert Harvey. 1997. Códice de Santa María Asunción: Facsimile and Commentary: Households and Lands in Sixteenth Century Tepetlaóztoc. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Williams, Barbara J., and M. del Carmen Jorge y Jorge. 2008. “Aztec Arithmetic Revisited: Land-Area Algorithms and Acolhua Congruence Arithmetic.” Science 320 (5872, April 4): 72–77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1153976. Medline:18388287. Wright, David Carr. 2008. “La Sociedad Prehispánica en las Lenguas Náhuatl y Otomí.” Acta Universitaria (Universidad de Guanajuato) 18 (1): 15–23. Wright, David Carr. 2009. “Semasiografía y glotografía en las inscripciones de dos esculturas mexicas.” In Estudios acerca de las Artes: Análisis, técnicas y reflexión, ed. Benjamin Valdivia, 226–53. Guanajuato: Universidad de Guanajuato.



3 In scholarship on Prehispanic Mexico, the dominant view has maintained that the Aztec empire consisted of a Triple Alliance among the city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan, which distributed land and tribute among themselves. This collaboration of the three city-states has received considerable attention from scholars working on Prehispanic Mexico, and numerous studies have focused on the Triple Alliance and the Aztec empire. In the mid-twentieth century, Robert H. Barlow’s (1949) The Extent of the Empire of the Culhua Mexica attempted for the first time to identify the extent of the political and tributary domain of the Aztec empire province by province; since then, studies of the Aztec empire have proliferated. In the 1980s, Nigel Davies (1980, 1987) and Ross Hassig (1985, 1988) focused on the role of the imperial center Tenochtitlan, while Jerry Offner (1979, 1983, 1984) and Frederic Hicks (1978, 1982, 1984a, 1984b, 1991, 1992) dealt with the regional center of Texcoco. Since the 1990s, research in this field has been more productive than ever. In 1992 Frances F. Berdan and Patricia R. Anawalt published a facsimile version of the Codex Mendoza (1992) with introductory studies. Subsequently, Pedro Carrasco’s (1996) ambitious study of the Aztec Triple Alliance entitled Estrucura políticoterritorial del imperio tenochca1 examined the entire empire from the perspective of the imperial center; while Frances Berdan, Richard E. Blanton, Elizabeth Hill Boone, Mary G. Hodge, Michael E. Smith, and Emily Umberger published a two-volume collection of articles titled Aztec Imperial Strategies (1996) that looked at the empire from the perspective of the periphery.2 While these studies take for granted the existence of the Triple Alliance, as early as 1971 Charles Gibson

The Aztec Triple Alliance

A Colonial Transformation of the Prehispanic Political and Tributary System Jongsoo Lee

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c003


(1971: 389) suggested the possibility that it was a post-conquest fabrication designed to enhance the status of Texcoco and Tlacopan in the new colonial order. Following up on Gibson’s comments, Susan Gillespie (1998) has denied the existence of the Triple Alliance. Like previous scholars, she noted that some of the earliest documents consistently group the three cities, but she argued that most of the sources that refer to the Alliance came from Texcoco and Tlacopan. According to Gillespie, Spanish chroniclers and sources from other regions contradict the existence of the Triple Alliance, and modern researchers have not been able to provide a clear account of land and tribute distribution among the three member cities. Gillespie (1998: 255–56) concluded that there was a special relationship among Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan but that it did not constitute a Triple Alliance of the type described by Texcocan and Tlacopan sources. Because her article focused on the colonial context in which the Texcocan sources appeared, Gillespie did not examine the actual nature of the complex political relationship among these three cities in the Prehispanic period. In an attempt to fill this gap, here I demonstrate that at the beginning stage of the Aztec empire in the fifteenth century, Texcoco started out in a subordinate position to Tenochtitlan; through the close kinship of Texcocan rulers such as Nezahualcoyotl with Mexican rulers, Texcoco was able to serve the imperial center of Tenochtitlan as a collection point for warriors, military provisions, and imperial labor drafts. I argue that colonial Texcocan chroniclers used this status as the basis for transforming Texcoco into an independent political center that shared power and tribute with Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan to claim more privileges under Spanish colonial rule. REEXAMINING NEZAHUALCOYOTL’S TEXCOCO AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE

Scholars agree in general that Tenochtitlan played a leading role in the Aztec empire. Pedro Carrasco (1999: 30) argues that Tenochtitlan was the director of the Triple Alliance, and for this reason he calls it the Tenochca Empire in his The Tenocha Empire of Ancient Mexico. However, even those who espouse, or have accepted, this view often disagree on the origin of the Triple Alliance. Charles Gibson (1971: 384–85) argues that during Nezahualcoyotl’s reign Texcoco was stronger than Tenochtitlan but that after his death Tenochtitlan intruded into Texcoco’s territorial domain. Jerry Offner (1983: 93–95, 233–38) also suggests that Texcoco might have been stronger at the beginning stage of the alliance but that this dominance must have been very brief. He explains 64


that Nezahualcoyotl’s successor, Nezahualpill, inherited the throne at a very young age and that his Mexica uncles took advantage of their young nephew to expand their own influence over the Texcocan domain. Mary G. Hodge (1996: 21), Richard Townsend (1992: 72), and others also agree that originally each of the three capitals may have governed its domain independently, but later Tenochtitlan made itself the center of an empire that subordinated the other two cities. A more comprehensive reading of the historical and political context of the first half of the fifteenth century, however, reveals that the Mexica of Tenochtitlan actually installed Nezahualcoyotl as the leader of Texcoco as a political strategy designed to secure the land of the Chichimeca descendants known as Acolhuacan in the eastern basin. I argue that Texcoco was able to emerge as one of the leading cities in the basin only after its alliance with the imperial center of Tenochtitlan. According to the Texcocan pictorial sources, such as the Códice Xolotl (Dibble 1996: plate 8), the Mapa Quinatzin (2004: leaf 1), and the chronicles of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 426, 2: 22) and Juan de Torquemada (1986, 1: 73–74), Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin founded and ruled Texcoco in the first half of the fourteenth century. The Códice Xolotl, Alva Ixtlilxochitl, and Torquemada maintain that Quinatzin was the legitimate heir of the legendary Xolotl, who dominated both the eastern and western basin at the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth century.3 In these sources, Texcoco appears as the most powerful city in the basin during Quinatzin’s reign, and its dominant position over its neighboring cities, such as Coatlichan and Huexotla, continued until Tezozomoc of Azcapotzalco assassinated Quinaztin’s grandson Huehue Ixtlilxochitl and conquered Texcoco in the year 5 Reed (1419). About ten years later, in 1428, Huehue Ixtlilxochitl’s son, Nezahualcoyotl, recovered the lost kingdom by killing Tezozomoc’s son Maxtla and reconquering the major cities in Acolhuacan. Such Texcocan-based history seems to suggest that Nezahualcoyotl might have had substantial support from his old vassals, but in any case his conquests of major Acolhua cities constituted a recovery of the land and vassals his father had lost to Tezozomoc.4 As Angel Palerm and Eric R. Wolf suggest, however, contrary to the claims made in Texcocan sources, Texcoco was not a powerful city before Nezahualcoyotl’s reign (Palerm and Wolf 1954–55: 338–39). Prior to the establishment of the alleged Triple Alliance, Texcoco did not maintain a dominant position over the Acolhua region. The relatively late foundation of Texcoco compared with Coatlichan and Huexotla seems to have impeded its political and cultural development. The nomadic Chichimec Texcoca adapted to the sedentary lifestyle of the Tolteca far later than their T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


neighbors, and in the process of this acculturation, civil wars broke out between the founder Quinatzin and his sons, who objected to the new lifestyle (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1997, 2: 30). It appears that the city-state of Texcoco was in one way or another subordinate to the more politically and culturally advanced Coatlichan and Huexotla from the very beginning. As the Códice Xolotl depicts, in the fourteenth century Coatlichan seems to have saved Texcoco in the wars against ferocious Chichimec invaders, such as Yacanex and Ocotochtli from the Tepetlaoztoc area (Lee 2008: 76–80). Later, during the war against the Tepaneca of Azcapotzalco in 1 Reed (1415), Texcoco sided with Caotlichan, Huexotla, Coatepec, and other cities in the eastern basin. During this conflict, the Texcocan ruler Huehue Ixtlilxochitl was killed by the Tepaneca.5 The Tepanec invasion drastically changed the Texcocan political environment. Royal families split into factions according to their own political interests. Huehue Ixtlilxochitl’s sons fought each other to acquire the Texcocan throne. In the Mesoamerican tradition, the ruler of a conquered city-state could maintain his status as long as he recognized the authority of the conqueror and acquiesced to his demands. If a conquered ruler was not cooperative, he was executed or replaced with a more cooperative royal family member or noble, who usually had a blood tie to the conqueror through his mother.6 Tezozomoc, the ruler of Azcapotzalco, executed Huehue Ixtlilxochitl and replaced him with two of this Texcocan king’s sons, Yancuiltzin and Tochpilli, whose mother had a connection to the Tepaneca from Azcapotzalco (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1997, 1: 371, 2: 76, 85). Other royal families and nobles who refused to recognize Tepanec authority were persecuted or exiled to Huexotzinco and Tlaxcala.7 The Mexica persuaded Tezozomoc to spare Nezahualcoyotl’s life and exile him to Tenochtitlan (ibid. 1: 348). Another version records that the Mexica king Itzcoatl rescued Nezahualcoyotl from Tepaneca persecution (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 86–87). In Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s version, the Mexica saved Nezahualcoyotl because his mother, Matlalxochitl or Matlalcihuatzin, was a daughter of the Mexica king Huitzilihuitl. But this intervention by the Mexica to rescue Nezahualcoyotl could also have been part of a well-planned Mexica strategy to secure their dominance over Texcoco after the Tepanec War. After that war, Tezozomoc divided the eastern basin into several regions, took Coatlichan for himself, and gave Huexotla to the Tlatelolca and Texcoco to the Mexica. It is not clear under what conditions he gave this newly acquired city to the Mexica, but their rights may have been limited to the collection of tribute. What is clear is that the Tepaneca selected and 66


supported the ruler of Texcoco. In this context, the Mexica may have been keeping Nezahualcoyotl in the wings in case an opportunity arose that would allow them to replace the Tepaneca-supported ruler. In fact, the alliance between the Tepaneca and the Mexica did not last long because of civil war among the Tepaneca after the death of Tezozomoc. This provided the perfect opportunity for the Mexica to make their move and install Nezahualcoyotl as ruler of Texcoco. The Tepanec civil war between Tezozomoc’s sons, Tayauh and Maxtla, rapidly broke down the Tepanec alliance. Maxtla took the crown of the Tepanec empire away from Tayauh, and during the civil war he killed the Mexica kings Chimalpopoca of Tenochtitlan and Tlacateotzin of Tlatelolco, both of whom had supported Tayauh. Later, Maxtla initiated a war against the Mexica, but the Mexica leaders Itzcoatl, Tlacaelel, and Huehue Moctezuma fought back against Maxtla and finally defeated him in 1 Flint (1428). This victory was probably made possible by a Mexica alliance with anti-Maxtla Tepanec cities such as Tlacopan (Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin 1998, 1: 387) and Cuauhtitlan (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 99). In contrast, Texcocan sources such as Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles record that Nezahualcoyotl made a decisive contribution to the victory in the Tepanec-Mexica war by capturing Maxtla with his own army and sacrificing him (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1997, 1: 364–71, 2: 79–81). Such a claim, however, seems improbable because in the year 12 Rabbit (1426), when the conflict between the Mexica and the Tepaneca began, Nezahualcoyotl was living as a refugee in Tenochtitlan under Mexica protection. According to the Annals of Cuauhtitlan (1992: 95–97), Nezahualcoyotl played an important diplomatic role by convincing Huexotzinco and Tlaxcala to participate in the war on the side of the Mexica. However, this description also appears inconsistent with the historical context in which the war occurred. If the Huexotzinca and Tlaxcalteca really participated in the war, they must have had a considerable number of warriors; but all the routes for such a large Huexotzincan and Tlaxcalteca force to enter the basin were blocked. The Acolhua city-states of Coatlichan, Huexotla, Texcoco, Coatepec, and Acolman supported Maxtla, or at the very least they were hostile to the Mexica. Thus they would not have allowed the Tlaxcalan and Huexotzincan troops to pass through their land to help the Mexica. Moreover, the Texcocan leaders were particularly hostile to Nezahualcoyotl and even tried to kill him (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1997, 2: 76). Likewise, Chalco to the south was extremely hostile to the Mexica. They tried to kill Mexica ambassadors such as Huehue Moctezuma and other nobles (ibid. 1: 373, 2: 76–78; Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin 1998, 1: 377–85, 2: 71). I T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


argue that if warriors came from Tlaxcala and Huexotzinco, they must have been the Texcocan refugees exiled to Tlaxcala and Huexotzinco during the Tepanec-Acolhuacan war, and they must have been a rather small group, not the large force Alva Ixtlilxochitl claims had a decisive effect on the outcome of the Tepanec-Mexica war (Lee 2008: 104). The Mexica victory over Azcapotzalco was a turning point in the history of the basin. After defeating the Tepanec capital city of Azcapotzalco, the Mexica began to conquer the city-states that had previously belonged to its empire. They conquered another Tepanec stronghold, Coyoacan, and other cities such as Xochimilco and Cuitlahuac. Before advancing to conquer the eastern-basin cities whose leaders were appointed by the Tepanec rulers Tezozomoc and Maxtla, the Mexica thoroughly prepared their invasion, and they crowned Nezahualcoyotl the king of Texcoco in Tenochtitlan in 4 Reed (1431) (Anales de Tlatelolco 1948: 55). The Texcocan chronicler Juan Bautista Pomar (1993: 198) recorded that the Mexica leaders Itzcoatl and Huehue Moctezuma helped Nezahualcoyotl recover his city. Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 377–78) recorded that Itzcoatl, Huehue Moctezuma, and Nezahualcoyotl conquered the major cities in the western basin: Coatlichan, Huexotla, Chiconauhtla, Tepechpan, Acolman, Teotihuacan, and many others. But he omits the Mexica collaboration in his later chronicles by arguing that Nezahualcoyotl alone restored or appointed the rulers of these cities. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan (1992: 98) record that Nezahualcoyotl conquered Coatlichan, Huexotla, and Acolman with the Huexotzinca, the Tlaxcalteca, and the Chalca. Among these various versions, Pomar and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s claim that Nezahualcoyotl conquered Acolhua cities with his Mexica uncles Itzcoatl and Huehue Moctezuma seems more plausible because the Relaciones geográficas from the conquered cities, such as Coatepec (Acuña 1982–88 [1985] 6: 143), Acolman (ibid. [1986] 7: 223–24, 226), Teotihuacan (ibid.: 234–35), and Tequistlan (ibid.: 240), recorded that Nezahualcoyotl with his Mexica uncle Huehue Moctezuma tyrannized their cities or appointed their rulers. By discretely selecting Nezahualcoyotl among many candidates, appointing him Texcocan ruler, and helping him conquer his neighboring cities, the Mexica built Nezahualcoyotl’s Texcoco as part of their political strategy at the beginning stage of their empire. It is significant that the Mexica rulers even asked Nezahualcoyotl to return to his city, Texcoco (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1997, 1: 444; Torquemada 1986, 1: 145). The Mexica appointment of Nezahualcoyotl as ruler of Texcoco would greatly benefit Tenochtitlan. Several cities in the Acolhua region recorded that Nezahualcoyotl handed over land and tributes to Mexica rulers. The “Tratado del principado y nobleza del pueblo de San Juan 68


Teotihuacan” (Guzmán 1938) shows that Nezahualcoyotl divided Teotihuacan lands among the rulers of Tenochtitlan and Colhuacan. The Relación geográfica de San Juan Teotihuacan (Acuña 1982–88, 7: 234–35) also confirms the land distribution carried out by Nezahualcoyotl and Huehue Moctezuma. The Relación geográfica de Cempoala (ibid. 6: 75) records that Nezahualcoyotl gave three of four towns in Cempoala (Cempoala, Tlaquilpa, and Tecpilpan) to Itzcoatl and took only one town, Tzacuala, for himself. The Relación geográfica de Epazoyuca (ibid.: 85) records that Nezahualcoyotl began to share tributes from Epazoyuca with Itzcoatl upon the latter’s request. A reexamination of the establishment of Nezahualcoyotl as the ruler of Texcoco reveals that Texcoco started as a junior partner of the Mexica. The record suggests that if the Triple Alliance existed in one form or another, it emerged from the political maneuvering of the Mexica. Texcocan as well as Mexica sources coincide with regard to much of the historical and political context in which Nezahualcoyotl first appeared as the ruler of Texcoco. Both traditions record that Nezahualcoyotl was rescued by Mexica nobles during the Tepanec-Acolhuacan war when he was very young and that he spent many years in Tenochtitlan before the Mexica recovered Texcoco. Both sources even record that the Mexica crowned Nezahualcoyotl ruler of Texcoco while he was in Tenochtitlan. The major discrepancy between the two traditions has to do with the nature of the political hierarchy between Texcoco and Tenochtitlan at the beginning stage of the Triple Alliance. Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 445– 56, 2: 86–88) records that Nezahualcoyotl defeated Itzcoatl; since then, the Mexica paid tribute to Texcoco. In addition, Nezahualcoyotl made Texcoco, Tenochtitlan, and Tlacopan the only three head city-states (cabeceras) from all his lands. The Mexica sources narrate the same event from a completely opposite point of view. According to Mexica sources, such as the chronicles of Tezozomoc (1987: 61–62) and Durán (1984, 2: 125–30), Nezahualcoyotl and the members of his court voluntarily submitted to Tenochtitlan, but Tlacaelel suggested a fake war between Texcoco and Tenochtitlan in which Nezahualcoyotl burned his temple as a symbolic gesture of subordination. Considering that Nezahualcoyotl’s Texcoco was built by the Mexica, the Mexica version seems more probable. In addition, the Chalcan historian Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin (1998, 1: 249, 2: 75) repeats the Mexica version, and Torquemada (1986, 1: 146), who relied heavily on Texcocan sources, also describes Tenochtitlan as the “cabecera mayor y suprema.” Furthermore, Motolinia (1971: 212), whose chronicle is one of the first sources about the Aztecs, presents Tenochtitlan as “cabeza y señora de esta tierra.” T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E



Most scholars who study the Triple Alliance agree that Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan shared political power as well as tribute based on a geographical division of the Aztec empire. According to this view, Tenochtitlan dominated the south-central region of the empire, Texcoco the northeast, and Tlacopan the northwest. Each of these cities also received tribute primarily from its respective area. If they jointly conquered a city, the spoils and tribute were divided with a fixed distribution rate.8 This typical version of the Triple Alliance corresponds to the information in Texcocan sources, such as Motolinia’s (1971: 394–96) “Memorial tetzcocano”9 and the chronicles of Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997), and Tlacopan sources, such as the “Memorial de los pueblos de Tlacopan” (Paso y Troncoso 1940). Mexica sources paint a very different picture. According to those sources, Tenochtitlan presided over land and tributaries all over the basin. Its tributaries included, for example, Cuauhtitlan, Cuauhacan, and Atotonilco in the Tlacopan domain and Acolman, Tepechpan, and Tepetlaoztoc in the Texcocan region. The geographic distribution of Tenochtitlan’s subordinate cities in the basin challenges the notion that a clear geographic division existed among the three city-states of the alleged Triple Alliance. Furthermore, the cities that received tribute were not limited to the three cities of the Triple Alliance but also included cities subordinate to them. For instance, the Tlacopan subject city Cuauhtitlan had land at Tezoyucan in the Texcocan domain, while the Mexica cities of Colhuacan, Ixtapalapa, and Mexicaltzinco had land and tributaries in Cuauhtitlan in the Tlacopan domain (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 112, 123). According to Pedro Carrasco (1999: 200), Cuauhtitlan also acquired land in Chalco and Matlatzinco. In the eastern basin, nobles from Tepechpan, known as a subject city of Texcoco, had lands in Toltitlan, Azcapotzalco, and Xochimilco (Gibson 1964a: 264). Tepetlaoztoc from the Texcocan domain also recorded its land and tributaries in the Chalco area (Códice de Tepetlaoztoc 1994: plate 2B). If each of the three allied cities—Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan—independently controlled both the politics and the tribute economy of a specifically defined geographic region, as is widely accepted in Aztec studies, the fact that the city-states subordinate to Texcoco and Tlacopan maintained tributaries outside of their respective regions cannot be explained. In other words, the political boundaries of each of the three cities do not correspond to their tributary boundaries, which means Tenochtitlan’s political dominance in the south-central region of the empire, Texcoco’s in the northeast, and Tlacopan’s in the northwest did not work as traditionally assumed. 70


I suggest that this overlapping of political and tributary boundaries makes more sense in a model in which Tenochtitlan functions as the central political power controlling the distribution of land and tribute among those who participated in the conquests through which they were incorporated into the empire. For instance, when Cuauhtitlan was conquered by the Mexica, some of its lands were distributed to Colhuacan, Ixtapalapa, and Mexicaltzinco. Later, during the reign of Huehue Moctezuma and Axayacatl, Cuauhtitlan participated in Tenochtitlan’s conquest of Chalco and Matlatzinco, and in return it received lands in these areas (Carrasco 1999: 200). In this imperial system, Texcoco and its subject cities and Tlacopan and its subject cities participated in the conquests and received land and tribute from the imperial center, Tenochtitlan. This model explains why Tenochtitlan maintained tributaries and lands all over the empire, including areas within what would have been considered the geopolitical territories of Texcoco and Tlacopan. However, Tlacopan and Texcoco played a major role that other cities did not in the Aztec empire. I argue that Texcoco and Tlacopan did not control imperial lands and tribute but rather served as political regional centers that facilitated military campaigns, public works, and other imperial activities organized by Tenochtitlan. Recent studies demonstrate that the Mexica drew a distinction between the tributary and political systems. Mary Hodge (1996) shows that the political hierarchy functioned independently from the collection of tribute in the central provinces within and near the basin. Under the political hierarchy, the city-states in the central provinces were required to provide goods and services to Tenochtitlan that included “supplies and warriors for military campaigns, labor and materials for building public works, and items consumed at imperial festivals” (Hodge 1996: 23–25). In this system, Texcoco and Tlacopan appear as regional capitals to which subordinate cities sent warriors, laborers, and materials that were then forwarded to the imperial capital, Tenochtitlan. Under the tribute-collection hierarchy, Tenochtitlan divided the central basin into seven tributary provinces without regard to the alleged tripartite political division of the Triple Alliance, and it appointed imperial calpixque (tribute collectors) to collect tribute from these areas. In this tribute-collection hierarchy, Mexica calpixque crossed freely back and forth over the political boundaries of the Texcoco and Tlacopan regions to collect tribute for the imperial center. If Hodge distinguishes between the political and tributary systems using a top-to-bottom approach, Frederic Hicks does the same using a bottomto-top approach. By examining the legal litigation between Tepechpan and Temazcalapan located in the Texcocan domain, Hicks (1984a) illustrates that T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


there were two types of obligations, political and tributary, from the subject cities to the imperial center, Tenochtitlan. Under the political subjugation, a town was obligated to serve a tlatoani with military service and coatequitl (public works) and to provide the necessary materials for this service; but such service was considered a gift, not tribute. In contrast, under the tributary subjugation, a town was obligated to serve its tlatoani through labor tribute in the name of personal services and to pay tribute in goods. In Hicks’s study, Texcoco appears as the regional political center that dominates Temazcalapan through Tepechpan under political subjugation, while Cempoala was the regional center under tributary subjugation, examined in detail later. The respective approaches taken by Hodge and Hicks do not contradict each other; rather, they both provide important clues for understanding the true nature of the Aztec imperial system. Hodge’s political hierarchy corresponds to Hicks’s political subjugation, while Hodge’s tribute hierarchy corresponds to Hicks’s tributary subjugation. The role of Texcoco as the center of the eastern basin in the political hierarchy or political subjugation, not in the tributary hierarchy or tribute subjugation, can be confirmed at the central as well as regional and local levels. At the imperial center, Texcoco was frequently called upon to participate in military campaigns and public works projects and to contribute the necessary goods involved. When Mexica rulers planned a war, they first notified the rulers of Texcoco and Tlacopan and those of neighboring towns and ordered that they prepare warriors and military supplies (Florentine Codex 1950–82, 8: 52). To name just a few, the cities of Texcoco, Tlacopan, Xochimilco, Culhuacan, Chalco, Cuitlahuac, and Azcapotzalco participated and provided provisions for Moctezuma Ilhuicamina’s conquest of Tepeyacac (Durán 1984, 2: 156; Tezozomoc 1987: 307). For Axayacatl’s campaign against Michoacan, the rulers of Texcoco and Tlacopan and those of Chinampa, Chalco, and Tlalhuic were called upon and provided warriors and provisions (Durán 1984, 2: 281; Tezozomoc 1987: 419). When Mexica rulers planned public works (coatequitl), Texcoco actively participated in them. For instance, when Moctezuma Ilhuicamina decided to construct the Templo Mayor, he involved the rulers of Texcoco and Tlacopan and other cities, as follows: Texcoco and its provinces built the front, Tlacopan and its provinces the back, Chalco the right, and Xochimilco and Chinampan the left; Otomí towns and those of the Tierra Caliente provided sand and lime (Durán 1984, 2: 384–86; Tezozomoc 1987: 551–53). In some cases, Texcoco took charge of public works in Tenochtitlan. Moctezuma Ilhuicamina charged Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco with the task of building a dike, and he did so with the help of the rulers of Tlacopan, 72


Colhuacan, Itztapalapan, and Tenayuca (Torquemada 1986, 1: 157–58). The famous Nezahualcoyotl’s dike was built as a part of the coatequitl the imperial center required of its subject cities. These examples demonstrate that Texcoco and Tlacopan appear as regional political centers for military campaigns and public works projects in the eastern and western basins. Motolinia’s (1971: 394–96) “Memorial tetzcocano” and the anonymous “Memorial de los pueblos de Tlacopan” (Paso y Troncoso 1940) suggest the role of Texcoco and Tlacopan as regional political centers. Motolinia’s (1971: 394) “Memorial tetzcocano” records that major cities such as Coatlichan, Huexotla, Tepechpan, and Acolman in the eastern basin paid “no tribute other than labor to build and repair the houses and works of the king and the temples.” This Texcocan source records only public works and does not mention that Texcoco and its subject cities sent workers to Tenochtitlan to participate in the labor projects known as coatequitl. The “Memorial de los pueblos de Tlacopan,” however, more clearly shows that Tlacopan and Texcoco served as centers for military campaigns and coatequitl for Tenochtitlan. The “Memorial” records: “The towns which obeyed Tlacopan, in which they got together here for the wars and here they divided tributes and collected and brought lime, stone, and lumber, petlatl, bowls, plates, everything and other materials, are the following cities with their subjects: Azcapotzalco, Coyouacan, Tlaçuivayan, Tepanouayan, Atlappolco, Xalatlauhco, Quauhtitlan, Toltitlan, Tepotzotlan, Tepexic, Tzompanco, Çitlaltepec” (Paso y Troncoso 1940, 14: 118–19)”10 This “Memorial” reports that war preparations and major public works were organized in Tlacopan, and major cities in the western basin such as Azcapotzalco, Coyoacan, Cuauhtitlan, Toltitlan, Tepotzotlan, Tzompanco, and Citlaltepec sent soldiers and construction materials to Tlacopan for these projects. The “Memorial” also reports that these major cities did not pay tribute to, but rather shared the tribute with, Tlacopan. Both Motolinia’s “Memorial” and the Tlacopan’s “Memorial” indicate that Texoco and Tlacopan functioned as regional centers for war preparation, public works, and maintenance of temples and palaces. The Aztec legal structure further corroborates the argument that Texcoco and Tlacopan were regional political centers. As Jerome Offner (1983) demonstrates, the Aztec world was a highly legalistic society. All political, religious, economic, and social systems—such as the selection of the ruler, duties of the priests, the nature of tribute, and crimes and punishments—were governed by certain rules and regulations. The Aztec empire established legal systems, which included standards for the organization of courts and the selection of judges. The depiction in the Mapa Quinatzin (2004) of the ruler of Texcoco T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


as the head of the supreme court indicates that important legal issues were treated with significant attention. Thus the courts in the Aztec empire could have exercised sufficient power and authority to act independently from, and possibly even contrary to, their cities’ rulers. According to Motolinia (1971: 352), courts only existed in three cities: Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan; and the court in Tenochtitlan was the head of the other two. Motolinia suggests that the Aztec empire was divided into three jurisdictions corresponding to these three cities, with Texcoco and Tlacopan being regional courts. This explains why the Mexica sources record that the rulers of Texcoco and Tlacopan frequently appear following the ruler of Tenochtitlan in important political and religious events, such as inaugurations and funerals of Mexica kings (Durán 1984, 2: 295–97; Tezozomoc 1987: 431–32) and human sacrifices (Durán 1984, 2: 193). Placing regional courts in Texcoco and Tlacopan appears to have been a Mexica political project following the Tepaneca-Mexica war. As Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 344–47) records, Tezozomoc of Azcapotzalco placed regional courts in Acolman and Coatlichan after the victory over the Acolhua cities, but the Mexica moved the supreme court to Tenochtitlan, replaced Acolman and Coatlichan with Texcoco in the eastern basin, and established a new regional court in Tlacopan.11 The Mexica reorganization of regional courts distinguished Texcoco and Tlacopan from their neighboring cities and changed their political status. Coatlichan and Acolman in the eastern basin and Azcapotzalco and Tenayuca in the western basin were once more powerful than Texcoco and Tlacopan, but under Mexica rule they served the regional capitals of Texcoco and Tlacopan (Lee 2008: 107). At the imperial center, tributary subordination was clearly distinguished from political subordination. The Codex Mendoza, which records the major Mexica tributaries, divides the empire into thirty-eight provinces inside and outside the basin. Within the basin, Tenochtitlan established seven regional centers whose primary function was to serve as tribute-collection points: Petlacalco, Tlatelolco, Cuauhtitlan, Hueypochtlan, Citlaltepec, Acolhuacan, and Chalco. Imperial calpixque (tribute collectors) working out of Tenochtitlan collected tribute from these centers (Hicks 1992: 5–6; Hodge 1996: 41). Neither Texcoco nor Tlacopan appears to have been a tribute-collection center. According to the Codex Mendoza (1992: 21–22r), Acolman appears as the main tributecollection center in Acolhuacan, which includes most Texcocan subject towns, such as Tepechpan, Cempoala, Tepetlaoztoc, and Tezoyucan; and Cuauhtitlan and Hueypochtlan served as tribute-collection centers for the Tlacopan region. This exclusion of Texcoco and Tlacopan as tribute-collection centers does not 74


mean, however, that these cities did not receive tribute from their own subject cities described in the Codex Mendoza. As the political centers of the eastern and western basin responsible for providing warriors and provisions, Texcoco and Tlacopan must have received land and tributaries from Tenochtitlan. Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 2: 108) clearly mentions that the entire income from the jointly conquered lands was carried to Tenochtitlan, and the Mexica ruler divided it among the three allied cities according to the merit they deserved. Alva Ixtlilxochitl states that the spoils were divided among three rulers, but it appears that all the rulers who participated in the conquest benefited. In the middle of the sixteenth century, many of the legal conflicts in the Texcocan and Tlacopan domains demonstrate that regional and local towns were clearly aware of the difference between the two systems. In the early 1550s, Texcocan nobles petitioned the Audiencia to maintain Acolhua towns such as Huexotla, Coatlichan, Tenayuca, and Chiauhtla as subject cities. Texcocan nobles insisted that all Acolhua towns before the conquest had been subject to Texcocan rulers, but they repeatedly reported that they lost their dominant position over those cities during the colonial period (Gibson 1964a: 51–52). Texcoco initiated legal suits against these cities in 1551–52. The case against Huexotla provided particularly important insights about the Prehispanic political and tributary systems. Against the Texcocan claim that Huexotla had been a subject city to Texcoco, representatives from Huexotla insisted that they had been independent from time immemorial and that their only obligation to Texcoco related to labor on public works. In addition, they mentioned that the kinds of control Nezahualcoyotl and his son Nezahualpilli exercised over tlatoani communities in the Acolhua area were different from the colonial cabecera-sujeto system, in which a cabecera controlled a sujeto politically and received tribute. The representatives of Huexotla essentially explained that Huexotla was subject to Texcoco in the Prehispanic political system but not in the tributary system. They accepted that Huexotla had an obligation to Texcoco for public works, which could be identified as a kind of subjugation within the political hierarchy, but they adamantly denied that they had any tribute obligation to Texcoco. Another legal case in the Acolhua area more clearly demonstrates that two different systems, political and tributary, existed at the regional and local levels before the conquest. In 1552 Temazcalapan, located in the northern part of Tepechpan, entered into a legal battle to free itself from subjugation to Tepechpan and establish itself as an independent cabecera (Diel 2008: 88–90; Gibson 1964a: 53–54; Hicks 1984a; Offner 1983: 92). Temascalapan witnesses insisted that Temascalapan recognized two types of obligations: it served T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


Tepechpan, which in turn served Texcoco in war and in public works projects (coatequitl); and it paid tribute (various types of blankets, cacao beans, and personal services) to Cempoala that would eventually go to Tenochtitlan. As Gibson (1964a: 53) notes, “In all these ways the terms of the dispute strikingly resemble those of the dispute between Texcoco and Huexotla.” In other words, the Temascalapan and Huexotla legal cases demonstrate that the political and tribute systems of the imperial center were clearly reflected and distinguished at the regional and local levels in the Prehispanic Aztec empire. Some other city-states and villages also confirm the distinction between the political and tributary systems. The Relación geográfica de Acolman records that the people of Acolman became subject to Texcoco after they were conquered by Nezahualcoyotl and Huehue Moctezuma but that their only obligation to Texcoco was to send warriors for military campaigns (Acuña 1982–88, 7: 226). The author of the relación asserts that Acolman had an obligation to Texcoco under the political, not the tribute, hierarchy. The Codex San Andrés demonstrates that the village of San Andrés, which was subject to Cuauhtitlan in the Tlacopan domain, had the same relationship Temascalpan did with the imperial center of Tenochtitlan. According to Hodge (1984: 74–77), San Andrés provided Tenochtitlan with labor and goods, such as mantas, turkeys, tortillas, and cacao beans, through Cuauhtitlan, which functioned as a regional tribute center. In addition, San Andrés sent warriors and laborers for imperial activities to Tlacopan, which functioned as the regional political center. In both the Texcocan and Tlacopan domains, the imperial political and tributary systems seems to have been well distinguished and established. The distinction between the political and tributary systems in the Aztec empire was clear to the center, as well as to regional and local towns, during Prehispanic times. However, some services and material supplies provided as part of the political system were easily confused with the tribute system. In the political hierarchy, in addition to warriors and laborers to maintain the rulers’ palaces, subject cities also provided the supplies related to these activities, such as food, firewood, and so forth. As the regional center of the eastern basin, Texcoco was in charge of all of these political obligations. In many cases, Texcoco served as a facilitator that transferred warriors and materials from the Acolhua area to Tenochtitlan, but Texcocan sources such as the Mapa Quinatzin, Juan Bautista Pomar, and Alva Ixtlilxochitl record that in some cases Texcoco itself requested that its subject cities in the political hierarchy provide materials and labor for certain projects. As shown in the legal cases of Temascalapan (Hicks 1984a, 1991), the witnesses considered such obligations of a subject city to its tlatoani gifts, not tribute. According to Gibson (1964a: 76


220), public works that required mass labor in the Prehispanic indigenous tradition “might be considered rewarding as a shared and pleasurable experience.” In this context, the perception that the subject city considered its service a gift to its tlatoani seems understandable. This indigenous form of political subjugation, however, underwent a significant transformation under Spanish colonial rule, which relied on Prehispanic political and tributary systems but unified them in a single system called the cabecera-sujeto system. PREHISPANIC POLITICAL AND TRIBUTARY HIERARCHIES AND THE CABECERA-SUJETO SYSTEM

After the conquest, the Spaniards introduced the cabecera-sujeto system, already functioning in Spain as the basic political institution at the interface between the local and regional levels, and they imposed it on the existing Prehispanic political and tributary hierarchies. As James Lockhart (1992: 15–16) explains, the basic social and economic institution before the conquest was called altepetl, in which a hereditary ruler, tlatoani, governed several subject towns or cities. Before the conquest, each altepetl in the basin had its own tlatoani, but there was only one Hueytlatoani (“supreme” or “great” ruler) in Tenochtitlan. In the cabecera-sujeto system, the leading altepetl became a cabecera and its subject cities became sujetos. Under this system, a sujeto was required to provide tribute and services to its cabecera (Gibson 1964a: 44). The sources that record the Prehispanic tribute system of Texcoco, which began to appear in the middle of the sixteenth century, anachronistically project these colonial obligations of sujetos to cabeceras back onto Prehispanic times. By doing so, they try to justify Texcoco’s right to collect tribute from its neighboring cities, but at the same time these sources also contain evidence pointing to the existence of two different systems before the conquest—one political, the other tributary. The five major sources that record Texcocan subject cities and tributaries are Motolinia’s “Memorial tetzcocano,” the Mapa Quinatzin (2004), the Annals of Cuauhtitlan (1992), the chronicles of Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997), and those of Torquemada (1986). Even though Motolinia’s “Memorial tetzcocano” and the Annals of Cuauhtitlan indicate that the three members of the Triple Alliance shared the tribute collected from some towns, many cities in the Acolhuacan region rendered service and tribute exclusively to Texcoco. The five sources provide six lists: Alva Ixtlilxochitl includes two lists (I and II), and each of the other sources contains one. Four of these six lists—Motolinia’s “Memorial tetzcocano,” the Mapa Quinatzin, the Annals of Cuauhtitlan, and T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list I (table 3.1)—divide Texcoco’s exclusive tributaries and subject cities into two groups according to their political status: tlatoani towns (Group I), which had their own rulers, and calpixqui towns (Group II), which did not have rulers but were controlled by calpixque sent by Texcoco. Meanwhile, the two remaining lists, Torquemada’s and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list II, divide Texcocan subject cities into three and four groups, respectively, according to the types of tribute they paid (table 3.2). Motolinia’s (1971: 394–96) “Memorial tetzcocano,” the oldest known Texcocan source dealing with tributaries and based on a pictorial text, lists many towns subject to Texcoco. The memorial presents fourteen towns with tlatoani, each of whom was married to a daughter of Nezahualcoyotl (Group I). It also presents sixteen towns that did not have tlatoani and were governed by old people and nobles (mayores y principales) (Group II). These towns were renters of lands controlled by Texcocan rulers. The Mapa Quinatzin, which was probably contemporary with Motolinia’s memorial, depicts fourteen rulers in the Texcocan domain. On leaf 2, the map depicts fourteen rulers who sat on the icpalli (authority mat) inside the court of Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli. Each of those rulers governed his own city (Group I). Outside of the court on the left margin there appear eight towns, each depicted as a little mountain pierced by a huictli (digging stick) on a rectangle. These towns represent the lands subject to Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli. Nezahualcoyotl’s name glyph appears between Ahuatepec and Axapochco, and Nezahualpilli’s name glyph is between Axapochco and Tepepulco. These eight towns, only six of which were identified by glyph, paid rents to the Texcocan rulers (Group II) (Douglas 2010: 74; Mohar Betancourt 2004: 265–66; Offner 1983: 61–64). The Annals of Cuauhtitlan (1992: 129–31) record the cities, rulers, and tribute in the realms of the major city-states in Prehispanic Central Mexico around the year 1518. According to this source, during the reigns of Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli, Texcoco had fifteen cities in its entire realm (Group I) and forty-six cities or towns as tributaries (Group II). The source does not mention whether the cities of the first group had tlatoani, but considering that the annals record the names of the rulers of Chiconauhtla, Acolman, Teotihuacan, Otompan, Huexotla, and Coatlichan, the cities of Group I seem to have had their own tlatoani. In his list I, Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 380–81, 2: 89–91) divides the Acolhua cities in almost the same way but with more extensive information. He also mentions that Nezahualcoyotl reorganized the political and tributary structure in the Acolhua region after he returned to Texcoco as ruler. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Nezahualcoyotl named rulers for fourteen cities that served as subject cities of, and paid tributes to, Texcoco (list 78


Coatepec Iztapalocan Papalotla Xaltocan Ahuatepec Oztoticpac Cuauhtlatzinco Axapochco Aztaquemecan Tizayocan Tlahuanapa [Tlallanapan] Tepepulco Cempoala Coyohuac Oztotlatlahuacan Achichilacachocan

Group II: nontlatoani towns (16)

Huexotla Coatlichan Chimalhuacan Tepetlaoztoc Chiauhtla Tezoyucan Teotihuacan Otompan Acolman Tepechpan Chiconauhtla Tolantzinco Cuauhchinanco Xicotepec

Group I: tlatoani towns (14) Cuauhtlatzinco Ahuatepec Axapochco Tepepulco Coyohuac Aztaquemecan Unidentifiable (2)

Group II: towns with huictli (8)

Mapa Qinatzin

Huexotla Coatlichan Chimalhuacan Otompan Teotihuacan Tepetlaoztoc Acolman Tepechpan Tezoyucan Chiauhtla Chiconahutla Tolantzinco Cuauhchinanco Xicotepec Pantlan

Coatepec Iztapalocan Papalotla Xaltocan Ahuatepec Oztoticpac Axapochco Aztaquemecan Tizayucan Tlallanapan Tepepulco Coyohuac Achichilacachocan + 33 towns

Cuauhtitlan Annals

Group I: Texcocan realms Group II: Texcocan (15) tributaries (46)*

*13 of 46 towns are mentioned at least once as Groups II in the other three sources (table 3.2).

Huexotla Coatlichan Chimalhuacan Otompan Teotihuacan Acolman Tepechpan Tezoyucan Chiauhtla Chiconahuatla Tolantzinco Cuauhchinanco Xicotepec Pahuatlan

Group I: tlatoani towns (14)

Motolinia’s “Memorial”

Table 3.1. Divisions of Texcocan subject towns

Huexotla Coatlichan Chimalhuacan Tepetlaoztoc Acolman Tepechpan Chiconauhtla Tezoyucan Otompan Teotihuacan Chiauhtla Tolantzinco Cuauhchinanco Xicotepec

Group I: tlatoani towns (14)

Texcoco Atenco Cuauhtlatzinco Tetitlan Coatepc Iztapalocan Tlapechhuacan Tecpilpan Xaltocan Tepepulco Cempoala Aztaquemecan Ahuatepec Axapochco Oztoticpac Tizayocan+ many others

Group II: calpixqui towns (16+)

Alva Ixtlilxochitl List I

Texcoco Huexotla Coatlichan Chiauhtla Tezoyucan Papalotlan Tepetlaoztoc Acolman Tepechpan Chiauhtla Xaltocan Chimalhuacan Iztapalocan Coatepec

Group I: 14 towns

Otompan Teotihuacan Aztaquemecan Cempoala Axapochco Tlallanapan Tepepulco Tizayocan Ahuatepec Oztoticpac Cuauhtlatzinco Coyohuac Oztotlatlauhcan Achichilacachocan Tetliztacan

Group II: 15 towns


Tolantzinco Xicotepec Cuauhchinanco Pauhtlan Tlacuilotepec Papaloticpac+ others

Group III: 6+ towns

Table 3.2. Torquemada’s list and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list II

Huexotla Coaltichan Coatepec Chimalhuacan Iztapalocan Tepetlaoztoc Acolman Tepechpan Chiconauhtla Teyoyocan [Tezoyucan] Chiauhtla Papalotla Xaltocan Chalco

Group I: 14 towns Otompan Teotihuacan Tepepulco Cempoala Aztaquemecan Ahuatepec Axapochco Oztoticpac Tizayocan Tlallanapan Coyohuac Cuatlatlauhcan Cuatlaeca Cuauhtlatzinco

Group II: 14 towns Calpolalpan Mazaapan Yahualiuhcan Atenco Tzihuinquilocan

Group III: 5 towns

Alva Ixtlilxochitl List II

Tolantzinco Cuauhchinanco Xicotepec Pauhtlan Yauhtepec Tepechco Ahuacayocan Cuauhnahuac

Group IV: 8 towns

I–Group I). After appointing the rulers to those cities, Nezahualcoyotl divided the rest of the cities and lands into eight regions, placing calpixque in each of the cities and lands to collect tributes and rents. Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 380) records that Nezahualcoyotl placed his calpixque in these towns: Coatepc, Iztapalocan, Xaltocan, Tepepulco, Cempoala, Aztaquemecan, Ahuatepec, Axapochco, Oztoticpac, Tizayocan, and many others. Later, he included a shorter version: Texcoco, Atenco (with its eleven unnamed towns and villages), Tepepulco (with its thirteen unnamed towns and villages), Axapochco (with its thirteen unnamed towns and villages), Cuauhtlatzinco (with its twenty-seven unnamed towns), Ahuatepec (with its eight unnamed towns and villages), Tetitlan (including Coatepec, Iztapalocan, and Tlapechhuacan and their villages), and Tecpilpan (with its eight unnamed towns and villages) (ibid. 2: 89–90). I have grouped these towns as Alva Ixtlilxochitl list I–Group II because they did not have tlatoani and were controlled by calpixqui.12 Motolinia’s “Memorial tetzcocano,” the Mapa Quinatzin, the Annals of Cuauhtitlan, and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list I exhibit some common patterns in the way they divide Texcocan subject towns and tributaries (see table 3.1). Group I includes major cities, while Group II contains smaller towns and villages located in the region of the eastern basin traditionally known as Acolhuacan. Based on their political status, the members of Groups I and II seem to have had different obligations and services. Motolinia’s (1971: 394) “Memorial tetzcocano” records that the tlatoani towns of Group I served the temples and palaces, providing them only with materials such as lime, stone, and lumber for building maintenance and also providing firewood for half a year as part of their tribute obligation. In contrast, the calpixqui towns of Group II served Texcocan rulers by cultivating their land and paying tribute. Motolinia does not list all of the materials or tribute these renters paid to Texcoco, but he states that in addition to cultivating land and paying tribute, they also provided the palace with firewood for another half a year. The Mapa Quinatzin (2004: leaf 2) does not depict the obligations of the calpixqui towns of Group II, but it does describe the obligations of the fourteen tlatoani towns. In the center of Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli’s court, the map depicts two flaming braziers, and written under them appears this text: matlatepetl omey oncan tlahuia in ce xihuitl [Thirteen cities here light up with firewood for a year]. These thirteen cities are not identified by name, but they must be thirteen of the fourteen tlatoani cities depicted inside the court because the fourteen tlatoani-governing cities are facing the braziers below which is written the phrase just cited. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan do not record the obligations of the tlatoani towns; rather, they simply mention that the calpixqui towns paid tribute without further specification. T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


In contrast to the lists discussed earlier, Torquemada’s list and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list II divide Texcocan subject towns into several groups based on the nature of their tribute obligations rather than on their political status (see table 3.2). Torquemada (1986, 1: 167) divided Texcocan subject cities into three groups. The first group consists of fourteen towns, the second group of fifteen towns, and the third group of six towns. According to Torquemada, the first two groups served royal houses and palaces, providing foodstuffs (cacao, chicken, chili, tomato, beans, and vegetables), mats, and firewood for half a year each. They also brought water and swept royal houses and palaces. The towns of the third group maintained local royal houses in which the Texcocan king could stay when he visited the towns and in which they collected tributes and goods the king needed. Even though Torquemada’s list provides important clues about the obligations of the Texcocan subject towns, an examination of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s (1997, 2: 114–15) account suggests that Torquemada misinterpreted his sources. The Texcocan chronicler reorganized most of the cities, towns, and villages that appeared in his first list, dividing them into four groups (see table 3.2). The first two groups (list II–Group I and Group II) served royal recreational palaces by decorating and cleaning them for half a year each; the five towns of list II–Group III served royal houses, and the eight towns of list II–Group IV worked in the gardens and forests. Torquemada’s three groups appear very similar to those of Alva Ixtlilxochitl. Torquemada’s Group I and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list II–Group I differ only in that Torquemada includes Texcoco instead of Chalco (see table 3.2). In addition, Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list  II– Group II and Torquemada’s Group II are the same with the exception of Cuatlatlauhcan and Cuatlaeca, which appear only in Alva Ixtlilxochitl, and Oztotlatlauhcan, Achichilacachocan, and Tetliztacan, which only appear at the end of Torquemada’s list. Moreover, four of the six towns in Torquemada’s Group III (Tolantzinco, Xicotepec, Cuauhchinanco, and Pahuatlan) appear in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list II–Group IV as the mountainous provinces that, according to this chronicler, serviced Nezahualcoyotl’s gardens and woods. The other two towns in this group (Tlacuilotepec and Papaloticpac) could have been part of the mountainous provinces because they were located near Pahuatlan, Xicotepec, and Cuauhchinanco. These similarities show that Torquemada and Alva Ixtlilxochitl seem to have used the same source. Their interpretations, however, appear quite different: Torquemada states that the thirty-five cities of the three groups paid tribute and served royal houses in the capital city Texcoco, while Alva Ixtlilxochitl has all those cities rendering services to regional palaces or servicing local gardens 82


and forests, which Nezahualcoyotl maintained for recreational purposes. Of these interpretations, Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s appears more convincing. The towns of Torquemada’s three groups were divided according to their geographic location. All cities in Group I are located within the basin, those of Group II within the Teotihuacan Valley, and all cities in Group III farther away, in the northeastern mountainous region. The six cities in Group III (Tolantzinco, Xicotepec, Cuauhchinanco, Pahuatlan, Tlacuilotepec, and Papaloticpac) were located too far from Texcoco to serve that city with the labor and food Torquemada claims. Thus Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s statement that the towns of each group locally paid service to regional palaces, gardens, and forests sounds reasonable. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s lists I and II, the tlatoani towns and the calpixqui towns fulfilled different duties. The tlatoani towns rendered labor tribute in the form of maintaining, decorating, and cleaning regional and local palaces and working in forests and gardens along with some calpixqui towns. The calpixqui towns of Texcoco, most of which appear in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s list I, Group II, had daily obligations to supply the palace and the court with corn, beans, tortillas, cacao, chickens, salt, chili, tomato, and similar products according to fixed cycles of seventy, sixty-five, and forty days (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1997, 2: 89–90). The obligations of tlatoani towns and calpixqui towns, as reported in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles and other Texcocan sources, indicate that Texcocan rulers controlled the leading cities through regional tlatoani and directly dominated other parts of their kingdom through calpixqui. The obligations tlatoani towns and calpixqui towns paid to Texcoco were quite clear. The former were mostly dedicated to public services, such as maintaining temples and palaces and supplying materials such as firewood and charcoal to maintain fires in these buildings. The latter provided food, other necessary goods, and personal services for the palaces, court, and royal families. I argue that obligations such as maintenance of the palace and temple the tlatoani towns had to fulfill refer to those imposed by the political hierarchy before the conquest. In Prehispanic times, a conquered city normally built and maintained a royal house or temple for the conqueror as a symbolic act of submission. When the Mexica defeated the Tepaneca in 1429, the latter promised to construct palaces and temples (Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin 1998, 1: 247). Also, when Huehue Moctezuma asked neighboring cities in the basin to send Tenochtitlan construction materials such as stone and lime to construct the Templo Mayor, the Chalca refused to follow the Mexica order and were destroyed (Durán 1984, 2: 135–36). In addition, continual maintenance of the palaces and temples seems to have been one of the important obligations of a conquered city. Specifically, four of the five sources that record T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


Texcocan tribute mention that an enormous amount of firewood was supplied to Texcoco by its subject cities governed by tlatoani. As Patrick Lesbre (2007) explains, the fire in the Texcocan palace depicted in the Mapa Quinatzin symbolically represents political supremacy; thus the cities subject to Texcoco provided firewood to show their respect for Texcocan political dominance. It is important to recall that the subject cities in the Prehispanic political hierarchy did not consider their services or obligations to their regional or imperial center as tribute but rather as a “gift,” as demonstrated in the testimonies of the Temascalapan and Huexotla witnesses. However, Motolinia’s memorial and Alva Ixtlilxochitl did not distinguish between tribute and gift before the conquest but rather recorded both obligations as “tribute.” The cabecera-sujeto system instituted after the conquest caused this confusion. The Spaniards generally converted a town, which had its own tlatoani, into a cabecera and its subject cities into sujetos. With the exception of Pahuatlan, all fourteen leading Acolhua cities that had their own tlatoani in Motolinia’s “Memorial tetzcocano” and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles became cabeceras (Gibson 1964a: 43; Smith and Berdan 1996: 290–91). After the conquest, the Spaniards replaced the Mexica as the head of the former empire, and in this new context many of the obligations of tlatoani towns under the political hierarchy (e.g., the provision of war supplies and palace and temple maintenance) disappeared.13 In addition, the tributary system operated by calpixque also disappeared as a result of the reorganization of lands by the Spanish conquerors, which deprived indigenous rulers of lands beyond their geographic boundaries. After the conquest, then, each tlatoani was responsible for collecting tributes for the Spaniards as well as for his own administration only within the boundaries of his ruling city (Hicks 1992: 7–8). The regional political centers of Texcoco and Tlacopan, however, continued to impose some of the Prehispanic obligations (e.g., the maintenance of rulers’ houses) upon their neighboring cities. As the existing sources demonstrate, either they argued that the construction materials and maintenance services should be rendered to them without mentioning that, under the old system, those materials and services would have gone to the imperial center of Tenochtitlan, or they misrepresented the Prehispanic political and tributary systems by eliminating the distinction between tlatoani towns and calpixqui towns: that is, they counted tlatoani towns as calpixqui towns from which they had a right to collect tribute. Such Texcocan and Tlacopan claims were recognized to some extent by Spanish colonial officials, who drafted indigenous laborers for massive colonial projects based on the Prehispanic political system (Gibson 1956, 1964b). 84



Tenochtitlan seems to have commanded large territories at the beginning of the Aztec empire. As a subordinate city of Azcapotzalco, Tenochtitlan participated in the conquest of many cities, such as Tolantzinco, Chimalhuacan, Acolhuacan (Coatlichan), and Otompan (Carrasco 1984a; Santamaría 2006). As close allies of Tezozomoc, the Mexica adopted many systems of the Tepanec empire (Carrasco 1984a: 88–89). An antecedent of the tripartite governing system seems to have already existed in the Tepanec empire. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 344), Tezozomoc elevated the political status of the two Mexica cities, Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, after the Tepanec-Acolhua war by establishing a political alliance with Azcapotzalco. Under this alliance, Azcapotzalco, Tenochtitlan, and Tlatelolco would govern all the lesser cities, but the ruler of Azcapotzalco as the supreme city would be the head of the other two. Tenochtitlan seems to have adapted this tradition to the Aztec empire, taking into consideration geographic, ethnic, and political factors. As an island in the basin, Tenochtitlan selected Texcoco and Tlacopan among the possible candidates: Texcoco, whose rulers had a blood tie with the Mexica and could represent the Acolhua group in the eastern basin, and Tlacopan, whose ruler sided with the Mexica during the Tepanec-Mexica war and who belonged to the Tepaneca ethnic group in the western basin. This does not mean Tenochtitlan awarded these two regional centers absolute power to control tlatoani towns and tribute in their political jurisdictions but rather that these two centers could request from tlatoani towns warriors, labor for public works, and materials and services for public building maintenance. Through these two regional centers, Tenochtitlan exercised political control over the empire: it drew warriors and laborers from subject cities for military campaigns and the construction of public words, respectively. And it collected tribute through its own calpixque. As Gillespie (1998: 235) argues, colonial institutions after the conquest, such as the cabecera-sujeto system, had a significant impact on native memories of Prehispanic Mexico. The regional political centers of Texcoco and Tlacopan attempted to change their dependent position in relation to Tenochtitlan by presenting the Triple Alliance as a Prehispanic institution. In the mid-sixteenth century, Texcocan and Tlacopan royal families began producing lists of the tributaries of the Triple Alliance and claiming that these tributaries were geographically divided into three parts. They had a common purpose: to maintain their cities as political centers (cabeceras) and thus secure more tributaries. Sometimes, the nobles of both cities made



the lists together to present them to Spanish authorities (Carrasco 1991: 95; Gibson 1964a: 51). Their efforts seem to have paid off because the Spanish authorities recognized the Prehispanic political rather than tributary hierarchy in making their decisions. In the legal cases Texcoco v. Huexotla and Tepechpan v. Temascalapa, the Audiencia granted the petitions submitted by Texcoco and Tepechpan. The Aztec empire clearly exhibited a tripartite division in which Texcoco and Tlacopan served Tenochtitlan as regional political centers before the conquest, but they were not in a position to be able to control tribute and land as much as sixteenth-century Texcocan and Tlacopan documents insist. In other words, the form of the Triple Alliance as traditionally understood constitutes a transformation of the Prehispanic political and tribute systems by means of which Texcoco and Tlacopan attempted to bolster their political status and acquire more tributaries in colonial New Spain. NOTES

1. An English translation was published in 1999. All quotations here come from the English version. 2. José Luis de Rojas and Michael E. Smith call this year a revolution in Aztec studies (Rojas and Smith 2007: 82). 3. Here I follow the Texcocan chronology suggested by Alfonso Caso (1966): Xolotl (1172–1232), Quinatzin (1298–1357), Huehue Ixtlilxochitl (1409–18), Nezahualcoyotl (1431–72), and Nezahualpilli (1472–1515). 4. Many scholars such as Eduardo Douglas (2003), Susan Spitler (1998; 2000), and myself (Lee 2008: 39–41) point out the Texcocan ambition to aggrandize its past in the central basin of Mexico. 5. For more detailed information on Texcocan cultural and political history before Nezahualcoyotl’s reign, see Lee (2008: 49–72). 6. Pedro Carrasco (1984b) and Mary G. Hodge (1996: 42) examine how arranged marriages and polygamy worked in relation to political power and alliance before the conquest. Camila Townsend’s chapter in this volume examines in detail the same issue in Texcocan history. 7. The exodus of Texcocan nobles and those of other Acolhua cities is well recorded in the Códice Xolotl (Dibble 1996: plate 7) and the chronicles of Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 342–43). 8. Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997, 1: 409) states that Tenochtitlan and Texcoco took twofifths each, with a single fifth going to Tlacopan. Zorita (1999, 1: 146) records the same ratio. Torquemada (1986, 1: 146) claims that Tenochtitlan received eight-fifteenths, 86


Texcoco four-fifteenths, and Tlacopan three-fifteenths. Most modern scholars agree that Tenochtitlan received more tribute than the other two cities. 9. This document was published in Motolinia’s (1971: 394–96) Memoriales without a specific title. In this chapter I call it “Memorial tetzcocano” following Pedro Carrasco’s (1999: 50) labeling of the document. 10. Los pueblos que obedecían a Tlacupan que se juntaban aquí para las guerras y, daquí los repartían los tributos y buscaban y traaín cal, piedra y madera, petlatl, escudillas, platos, a todos y los demás los materiales, son los siguientes con lo a ellos sus sujetos. Azcapotzalco, Coyouacan, Tlaçuivayan, Tepanouayan, Atlappolco, Xalatlauhco, Quauhtitlan, Toltitlan, Tepotzotlan, Tepexic, Tzompanco, Çitlaltepec (Paso y Troncoso 1940: 118–19). 11. Durán (1984, 2: 122–23) also records the political reorganization of the basin during Itzcoatl’s reign. According to him, Itzcoatl took “señorío” away from Azcapotzalco and Coatlichan when he made Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan the three leading cities in the basin. 12. Nezahualcoyotl’s political and economic reorganization of some of these cities has been examined by Hodge (1984) and Evans (2001). They show how Nezahualcoyotl appointed the rulers and calpixque, focusing on Teotihuacan and Otompan, respectively. 13. Even though most obligations the tlatoani towns had to pay to the imperial center disappeared after the conquest, the Spaniards took advantage of some of these obligations, such as public works. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish drafted indigenous labor several times in what was called a llamamiento for agricultural projects and the construction of works to prevent flooding in Mexico City (Gibson 1956). WORKS CITED

Acuña, René, ed. 1982–88. Relaciones geográficas del siglo XVI: México. 10 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (hereafter UNAM). Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de. 1997. Obras históricas. 2 vols. Ed. Edmundo O’Gorman. Mexico City: UNAM. Anales de Tlatelolco. 1948. Ed. Heinrich Berlin-Neubart. Mexico City: Antigua Libería Robredo. Annals of Cuauhtitlan. 1992. In History and Mythology of the Aztecs: The Codex Chimalpopoca, trans. John Bierhorst, 17–138. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Aztec Imperial Strategies. 1996. Ed. Frances F. Berdan, Richard E. Blanton, Elizabeth Hill Boone, Mary G. Hodge, Michael E. Smith, and Emily Umberger. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks.



Barlow, Robert H. 1949. The Extent of the Empire of the Culhua Mexica. Berkeley: University of California Press. Carrasco, Pedro. 1984a. “The Extent of the Tepanec Empire.” In The Native Sources and the History of the Valley of Mexico, ed. Jacqueline de Durand-Forest, 73–79. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. Carrasco, Pedro. 1984b. “Royal Marriages in Ancient Mexico.” In Explorations in Ethnohistory, ed. Herbert R. Harvey and Hanns J. Prem, 41–81. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Carrasco, Pedro. 1991. “The Territorial Structure of the Aztec Empire.” In Land and Politics in the Valley of Mexico, ed. Herbert R. Harvey, 93–112. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Carrasco, Pedro. 1996. Estructura político-territorial del imperio tenochca: La Triple Alianza de Tenchtitla, Tetzcoco y Tlacopan. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Carrasco, Pedro. 1999. The Tenochca Empire of Ancient Mexico: The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, and Tlacopan. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Caso, Alfonso. 1966. “La época de los señores independientes.” Revista mexicana de estudios antropológicos 20: 147–52. Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, Domingo Francisco de San Antón Muñon. 1998. Las ocho relaciones y el memorial de Colhuacan. 2 vols. Trans. Rafael Tena. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Letras. Codex Mendoza. 1992. Ed. Francis F. Berdan, and Patricia Rieff Anawalt. Berkeley: University of California Press. Códice de Tepetlaoztoc. 1994. Ed. Perla Valle. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Davies, Nigel. 1980. The Toltec Heritage: From the Fall of Tula to the Rise of Tenochtitlan. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Davies, Nigel. 1987. The Aztec Empire: The Toltec Resurgence. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Dibble, Charles, ed. 1996. Códice Xolotl. 2 vols. Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas. Diel, Lori. 2008. The Tira de Tepechpan. Austin: University of Texas Press. Douglas, Eduardo de. 2003. “Figures of Speech: Pictorial History in the Quinatzin Map of about 1542.” Art Bulletin 85: 281–309. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3177345. Douglas, Eduardo de. 2010. In the Palace of Nezahualcoyotl. Austin: University of Texas Press. Durán, Diego. 1984. Historia de las Indias de Nueva España e Islas de la Tierra Firme. 2 vols. Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa. 88


Evans, Susan Toby. 2001. “Aztec-Period Political Organization in the Teotihuacan Valley.” Ancient Mesoamerica 12 (1): 89–100. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017 /S0956536101121139. Florentine Codex. 1950–82. Trans. Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles Dibble. 12 vols. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Gibson, Charles. 1956. “Llamamiento General, Repartimiento, and the Empire of Acolhuacan.” Hispanic American Historical Review 36 (1): 1–27. http://dx.doi. org/10.2307/2508623. Gibson, Charles. 1964a. The Aztecs under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519–1810. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Gibson, Charles. 1964b. “The Pre-Conquest Tepanec Zone and the Labor Drafts of the Sixteenth Century.” Revista de Historia de América 57-58: 136–45. Gibson, Charles. 1971. “‘Structure of the Aztec Empire.” In The Handbook of Middle American Indians, ed. Gordon F. Ekholm and Ignacio Bernal, vol. 10, 376–94. Austin: University of Texas Press. Gillespie, Susan D. 1998. “The Aztec Triple Alliance: A Postconquest Tradition.” In Native Traditions in the Postconquest World, ed. Elizabeth Hill Boone and Tom Cummins, 233–63. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks. Guzmán, Euralia. 1938. “Tratado del principado y nobleza del pueblo de San Juan Teotihuacan.” Ethnos 4–5: 89–103. Hassig, Ross. 1985. Trade, Tribute, and Transformation. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Hassig, Ross. 1988. Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Hicks, Frederic. 1978. “Los Calpixque de Nezahualcoyotl.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 13: 129–52. Hicks, Frederic. 1982. “Tetzcoco in the Early 16th Century: The State, the City, and the Calpolli.” American Ethnologist 9 (2): 230–49. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/ae.1982 .9.2.02a00020. Hicks, Frederic. 1984a. “La posición de Temazcalapa en la Triple Alianza.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 17: 235–60. Hicks, Frederic. 1984b. “Rotational Labor and Urban Development in Pre-Hispanic Texcoco.” In Explorations in Ethnohistory: Indians of Central Mexico in the Sixteenth Century, ed. Herbert R. Harvey and Hanns J. Prem, 147–74. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Hicks, Frederic. 1991. “Gift and Tribute: Relations of Dependency in Aztec Mexico.” In Early State Economics, ed. Henri J.M. Claessen and Pieter van de Velde, 199–213. New Brunswick: Transaction. T H E A Z T E C T R I P LE A LLI A N C E


Hicks, Frederic. 1992. “Subject States and Tribute Provinces. The Aztec Empire in the Northern Valley of Mexico.” Ancient Mesoamerica 3 (1): 1–10. http://dx.doi.org /10.1017/S095653610000225X. Hodge, Mary G. 1984. Aztec City-States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Museum. Hodge, Mary G. 1996. “Political Organization of the Central Provinces.” In Aztec Imperial Strategies, ed. Frances F. Berdan, Richard E. Blanton, Elizabeth Hill Boone, Mary G. Hodge, Michael E. Smith, and Emily Umberger, 17–45. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Lee, Jongsoo. 2008. The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Lesbre, Patrick. 2007. “Los fuegos del palacio real de Tetzcoco (Mapa Quinatzin): Una alusión a la realeza sagrada?” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 38: 101–27. Lockhart, James. 1992. The Nahuas after the Conquest. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Mapa Quinatzin. 2004. In Códice Mapa Quinatzin: Justicia y derechos humanos en el México antiguo, ed. Luz María Mohar Betancourt. Mexico City: Grupo Editorial Miguel Angel Porrúa. Mohar Betancourt, Luz María. 2004. Códice Mapa Quinatzin: Justicia y derechos humanos en el México antiguo. Mexico City: Grupo Editorial Miguel Angel Porrúa. Motolinia, or Toribio de Benavente. 1971. Memoriales o Libro de las cosas de la Nueva España y de los naturales de ella. Mexico City: UNAM. Offner, Jerome A. 1979. “A Reassessment of the Extent and Structuring of the Empire of Techotlalatzin, Fourteenth Century Ruler of Texcoco.” Ethnohistory 26 (3): 231–41. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/481560. Offner, Jerome A. 1983. Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Offner, Jerome A. 1984. “Household Organization in the Texcocan Heartland.” In Explorations in Ethnohistory, ed. Herberg R. Harvey and Hanns J. Prem, 41–81. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Palerm, Angel, and Eric R. Wolf. 1954–55. “El desarrollo del área clave del imperio texcocano.” Revista mexicana de estudios antropológicos 14: 337–49. Paso y Troncoso, Francisco del, ed. 1940. “Memorial de los pueblos de Tlacopan.” In Epistolario de Nueva España 1505–1818, vol. 14, 118–22. Mexico City: Antigua Librería de José Porrúa e Hijos. Pomar, Juan Bautista. 1993. Relación geográfica de Texcoco. In Poesía Nahuatl, ed. Angel María Garibay K., vol. 1, 149–219. Mexico City: UNAM.



Rojas, José Luis de, and Michel E. Smith. 2007. “El imperio de la Triple Alianza (Tenochtitlan, Texcoco y Tlacopan) en el siglo XX.” Revista Española de Antropología Americana 37 (2): 81–97. Santamaría, Carlos. 2006. “Acolhuacan bajo dominio Tepaneca. Un capítulo de la expansión de Azcapotzalco.” Anales del mueso de América 14: 9–26. Smith, Michael E., and Frances F. Berdan. 1996. “Appendix 4: Province Descriptions.” In Aztec Imperial Strategies, ed. Frances F. Berdan, Richard E. Blanton, Elizabeth Hill Boone, Mary G. Hodge, Michael E. Smith, and Emily Umberger, 265–349. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks. Spitler, Susan. 1998. “The Mapa Tlotzin: Preconquest History in Colonial Mexico.” Journal de la Societe des americanistas 84 (2): 71–81. http://dx.doi.org/10.3406/jsa .1998.1717. Spitler, Susan. 2000. “El equilbrio entre la veracidad histórica y el propósito en los códices de Texcoco.” In Códices y documentos sobre México: Tercer Simposio Internacional, ed. Constanza Vega Sosa, 617–31. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Tezozomoc, Fernando Alvarado. 1987. Crónica Mexicana. Ed. Manuel Orozco y Berra. Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa. Torquemada, Juan de. 1986. Monarquía indiana. 3 vols. Ed. Miguel León-Portilla. Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa. Townsend, Richard F. 1992. The Aztecs. London: Thames and Hudson. Zorita, Alonso de. 1999. Relación de la Nueva España. Ed. Ethelia Ruiz Medrano, Wiebke Ahrndt, and José Mariano Leyva. Mexico City: Conaculta.



4 The mid-sixteenth-century Nahua historian from Cuauhtitlan bent to his task: he was in the midst of transforming a traditional pictorial xiuhpohualli into a set of annals written out using the Roman alphabet. “It was in [the year] Three Rabbit that Nezahualcoyotzin came forth, accompanied by Huexotzinca, Tlaxcalteca, and Chalca. It was then that Nezahualcoyotzin sought out the sons [or descendants] of Tezozomoctli in all the places where they were ruling; conquests were made in as many places as they were [found]” (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 57).1 He went on to describe the first place, the second, the third, and the fourth. He even gave the names of the sitting chiefs who were killed. What he did not mention was that a number of the ruling men were either Nezahualcoyotl’s half-brothers or the sons and husbands of his half-sisters. He did not intend to keep that fact a secret from posterity; to him, it was obvious and did not need to be stated explicitly. He could not have realized that the realities—indeed, the very significance—of polygyny would be almost entirely lost on future generations. Despite the great forward strides in our understanding of the Nahuas in the second half of the twentieth century, the subject of polygyny has remained to some extent taboo. Having come to grips with the principle of gender complementarity—the idea that both men and women understood that both their roles were of paramount importance—it gradually became, if anything, more difficult to make room in the scholarly imagination for a woman who was not an honored wife but rather a prisoner of war.2 As a result, even some facts about a woman who was a “first wife” were overlooked—most crucially, that her status was

Polygyny and the Divided Altepetl

The Tetzcocan Key to Pre-conquest Nahua Politics

Camilla Townsend

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c004


not necessarily fixed but potentially mutable. In political terms, a principal wife was not the woman a chief married first; she was the woman whose sons would inherit the chieftainship. If an altepetl (ethnic state) or family lineage not her own rose in power and eclipsed hers, she might face the sad prospect of watching someone else’s boys receive what she had once expected would go to her own.3 What this signified in a broader sense was that a typical altepetl was more deeply divided from within than we have tended to acknowledge. As is often the case, we know more about Tetzcocan examples than we do about any others, for the Tetzcocan sources are extensive and scholars have made good use of them (Offner 1983: 222–421; Diel 2007). In the case of a study of polygyny, the Tetzcocan sources thus become key to making significant progress in our understanding of the nature of altepetl politics. We have narrations in Spanish by Spaniards, narrations in Spanish and in Nahuatl by indigenous people and mestizos, and images in codices that any or all of them may have consulted. The richest accounts in Spanish that shed light on this matter are the successive works of don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, as well as of fray Juan de Torquemada and Juan Bautista Pomar. In Nahuatl we have the Codex Xolotl and certain other pictorial annals with alphabetic annotations, the Annals of Cuauhtitlan (which includes extensive coverage of the entire Basin of Mexico, including Tetzcoco), as well as some genealogies presented by Tezozomoc, a set of annals and a petition copied out by Chimalpahin, and the verbal exchanges recorded by Horacio Carochi now known as “The Bancroft Dialogues.” Of course, the crux of the matter is the question of how to use our variegated materials. In our deeper collective past, scholars took them all almost literally, occasionally ignoring some to skirt obvious discrepancies or contradictions but generally assuming they were peering through direct windows onto the pre-conquest world. In our more recent past, scholars have begun to see each colonial indigenous account as a kind of propaganda, deviously designed to highlight the contributions and further the aims of the writer’s own altepetl, and each Spanish account as the work of someone naive enough to give credence to a particular propagandist and egocentric enough to insist on understanding indigenous stories in terms of Spanish mores.4 It seems to me there is now general consensus that we as a field are ready to move toward a third way. We are capable of dissecting all our sources with equal caution, noting the contexts in which their authors operated, with the goal not of disposing of them as useless in our search for recognizable preconquest patterns but of learning what we can from each by comparing all. Imaintain, however, that speakers who still thought in Nahuatl and wrote for 94


Nahuas must be privileged witnesses. It is not that they always told “the truth”; but if they still lived within the Nahua world to such a degree as to write in the language, then as products of the world whose expectations and assumptions we are trying to glimpse, what they had to say deserves our closest attention. Speakers who wrote in Spanish for Spaniards may provide crucial clues or useful assessments (outsiders often see a situation more clearly than insiders in some ways, as we all know), but we cannot rely on them to reveal any kind of template of pre-conquest patterns of thinking. By no means is this a subtly embedded argument to exclude the sources in Spanish. Torquemada and Alva Ixtlilxochitl approached their work with a true sense of their role as scholars, within the context of their century. Both claimed to have in their possession painted codices and alphabetic texts and to have consulted elders. They assuredly did. Torquemada often quarreled with the work of Juan de Acosta, which he said was not based on careful research, and he expressed frustration with post-conquest indigenous generations who had their forebears’ painted codices in their possession but were rapidly losing the ability to interpret them: “The Indians of olden times . . . had more information about their histories than the young ones who came after them, and have come since, among whom there are scarcely any who can tell anything, or even give the etymology or explain the significance of a name” (Torquemada 1975, 1: 149). Alva Ixtlilxochitl mentioned some of his informants by name and, even more interesting, criticized other writers on antiquities for being too gullible in their dealings with native elders. He told the story of an old man who used to say that Nezahualcoyotl’s grandfather had been a giant eagle because he liked to give people the kind of answers they seemed to require, “especially the Spaniards” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 286, 288). But despite their scholarly savvy in many respects, both Torquemada and Alva Ixtlilxochitl were far removed from the deeper Nahua past in their day-to-day lives, and both deeply desired to make certain points to Spanish audiences and avoid other subjects in their hearing. Their works, then, can only take on their full value when read together with works written by Nahuatl speakers for other Nahuas. In the work that follows, I have tried to demonstrate how much can be gleaned about pre-conquest patterns when all the sources are read together and in light of each other. Specifically, what we see in Tetzcoco when we approach the matter this way is that polygyny caused almost a century of warfare prior to the Spanish conquest. Three generations in a row resorted to the battlefield when it came time to decide which of a man’s several sets of sons by different women would rule after him. When Huehue Ixtlilxochitl,5 king of Tetzcoco, tried to leave his P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


son Nezahualcoyotl as his heir, the region was engulfed in the Tepanec Wars. When Nezahualcoyotl died, Nezahualpilli fought hard for his right to inherit. After Nezahualpilli, the potential heirs Ixtlilxochitl (later known as Cortés Ixtlilxochitl) and Cacama (the latter with Tenochtitlan’s backing) fought so bitterly as to leave the area still divided when the Spanish arrived. We have assumed that ethnic strife was at the heart of pre-colonial warfare in these cases as in others, and, of course, in many ways it was. But what allowed these ethnic differences to take root even within a single altepetl and to produce the devastation they sometimes did was fratricidal conflict. Today, we certainly would not imagine that we could understand, for example, the Dirty Wars of Cold War–era Latin America by looking only at the US Department of State’s interventionist role; we are well aware that we must also understand internal schisms and class differences within a particular nation. Likewise, we cannot understand the seriousness of the wars between pre-colonial altepetl if we do not understand the extent to which they were also civil wars. FIRST GENERATION: THE TEPANEC WARS

In the course of the early-fifteenth-century Tepanec War, the Tepanec people of Azcapotzalco struggled to protect their primacy in the region but eventually were forced to cede power to the Mexica. No one in the area could maintain neutrality for long. Our traditional understanding of Tetzcoco’s role in the drama has been something along these lines: during the time the Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco were attaining a stranglehold over the region’s other altepetl, the young Nezahualcoyotl was forced to watch the enemy murder his father, Huehue Ixtlilxochitl, from his hiding place in the branches of a tree (or perhaps a cave). He fled and lived as a wanderer until he was able to lead his people in ejecting the hated outsiders from his homeland. In fact, I maintain, the war took hold in Tetzcoco as a vicious civil war between different branches of the altepetl’s noble family that had been formed by polygyny—with loyalties generally following the mother. The key to understanding this historical tale lies with two centrally important facts. The first is that the king of Tetzcoco, Huehue Ixtlilxochitl (Nezahualcoyotl’s father), had either a sister or an aunt (his father’s sister) who married an Azcapotzalcan lord, either a literal or a figurative son of the Azcapotzalcan king Tezozomoc (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 45–46).6 In fact, given the power of that city-state, it is very possible, even likely, that both his father’s sister and his own sister married Azcapotzalcan noblemen. In any case, the Tetzcocan lady (in one source called Iztacxochitzin, White Flower, 96


in another Cuauhcihuatzin, Forest Woman) found her life in Azcapotzalco a misery, and she fled home and married another man. The traditional history-tellers must have liked this part of their recitation, for it allowed for some of the beloved dialogue they could deliver with a flourish: “Now, when Tezozomoc found out that his daughter-in-law had married, had taken Zacancatlyaomitl [as a husband] in Tetzcoco it made him furious. He summoned his captain named Tecolotzin and a few others who came along, too, and he said to them . . . ‘I have heard, I have learned, that Zacancatlyaomitl of Huexotla has bedded the former wife of your comrade, Chalchiuhtlatonactzin. He has slept with her. O my lords, you who are here before me, hear me! I am angered by it, I am insulted by it’ ” (ibid.: 46–47).7 Later, this woman’s son Cihuacuecuenotzin, Huehue Ixtlilxochitl’s nephew and Nezahualcoyotl’s cousin but also a close relation of Tezozomoc, would play a key role in supporting Nezahualcoyotl over the Azcapotzalca—despite his own Azcapotzalco blood on his father’s side—bringing his sons and their friends along with him. Allies of Azcapotzalco would claim to be shocked: “They immediately became angry and said, ‘What is Cihuacuecuenotl saying? What a scoundrel! Would anyone want to make war on his own father?’ ” (ibid.: 44).8 The second important fact readers need to focus on to make sense of the situation is that Huehue Ixtlilxochitl, the king of Tetzcoco, had among his wives both a daughter of Tezozomoc and a lady from Tenochtitlan (probably a daughter of the king Huitzilihuitl, thus the sister of the current ruler, Chimalpopoca), and he decided in this same period that it would not be his sons by the Azcapotzalcan woman who would inherit but rather those of the Tenochca woman. The Codex Xolotl portrays the situation graphically (figure 4.1). Ixtlilxochitl was taking a political stance, and the action would cost him dearly. The Tepanec of Azcapotzalco invaded and eventually hunted him down and killed him. His son by the Tenochca princess (usually called Matlalcihuatzin, Blue Green Woman) was the famous Nezahualcoyotl. He would eventually lead one faction in the civil war that followed, while his half-brothers (and at least one half-sister) by the Azcapotzalca mother fought bitterly to protect their power and wealth in Tetzcoco.9 The ferocity of the war Huehue Ixtlilxochitl faced (and in which he eventually died) is also portrayed in the Codex Xolotl and brought to life in the language of his descendant, the historian don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl: “At this time from the direction of the lake in the lands of Huexotla, the Tepanecs came, crossing the lake with a great army . . . they arrived at dawn, and that day there were great and cruel battles, with many dying on both sides, and at night they returned in their canoes, which were still in the lake” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


Figure 4.1. Huehue Ixtlilxochitl’s wives from Azcapotzalco and Tenochtitlan, Codex Xolotl, plate 6.

1975–77, 2: 332–33). This was apparently when the king’s forces decided to send the Azcapotzalcan-fathered young man, Cihuacuecuenotzin, to try to make peace with some of Azcapotzalco’s allies, but to no avail; he was killed. Soon the king, Huehue Ixtlilxochitl, was killed by the Tepanecs. Whether Nezahualcoyotl was really watching from a tree or a cave, all sources agree that he was apprised of what had happened and fled with supporters, including Cihuacuecuenotzin’s sons. Tezozomoc immediately instated his own Tetzcocan grandsons (Nezahualcoyotl’s half-brothers, his father’s children by his Azcapotzalcan wife) and his granddaughter’s husband as heads of various chiefly lines in the region. They had fought hard to protect their right to rule and acquired both friends and enemies along the way. Thus some locals were content with this while others were not. According to one story, in deciding who needed to be eliminated, Tezozomoc had his people ask children ages two to nine who their rightful ruler was. He destroyed those families who had not taught their children that his choices were legitimate (ibid.: 343).10 As was customary, the allies who had worked together to vanquish a region divided up the spoils. Azcapotzalco assumed direct political control of Cohuatlychan, Tlatelolco of Huexotla, and Tenochtitlan of Tetzcoco proper.11 This arrangement was a fortunate one for Nezahualcoyotl, as his maternal relatives governed in Tenochtitlan. He was able to both seek shelter and nurture his relationship with them. Or perhaps it was they who sought to nurture their relationship with him, as they chafed under the power of Azcapotzalco. The latter seems likely, as Nezahualcoyotl also spent a significant portion of his early manhood in the Tlaxcala/Huexotzinco region, and only later (when tensions between Tenochtitlan and Azcapotzalco were rife) can we say with certainty that he became a favorite of the Tenochca chief.12 The situation developed as a result of the death of the Azcapotzalcan king Tezozomoc and the subsequent struggle over succession between his sons by different women. Chimalpopoca, the Tenochca king, had the misfortune to side with the loser. The forces of Maxtla (the winning contender) killed Chimalpopoca, desecrated his body, and took Tenochca women as concubines, not wives (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 354–55, 1985: 117; Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 44–45; Torquemada 1975, 1: 122–26). Which Azcapotzalcan king violated which Tenochca woman varies, but the point is clear. Stories of the difficulties Nezahualcoyotl had with the heinous Maxtla abound, always showing him as the clever underdog, the trickster. Some smack a bit of Spanish influence as well, but there is no doubt that the tradition of these tales existed in the Nahua world. In the Annals of Cuauhtitlan, Maxtla calls Nezahualcoyotl P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


“this little Chichimec,” a classic Nahuatl insult. When others receive lavish gifts from Maxtla, he does not: “What was given to him was just a tilma” (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 49).13 That was a public slap in the face indeed, and Nezahualcoyotl responded by rising against Maxtla with his now close connection on his mother’s side, Itzcoatl, the new Tenochca king. Itzcoatl was the son of a slave, not of a woman who had expected her heirs to inherit, but the chaos of the moment created opportunities for such sons. He latched onto his young relation, Nezahualcoyotl, and thereby won the loyalty of a significant segment of the Tetzcocan region. Nezahualcoyotl was apparently proclaimed king of Tetzcoco in a ceremony in Tenochtitlan in about 1431 and was actually able to return home to rule in about 1433 (ibid.: 59–60). What we can be sure of is that the declared intent to rule preceded his real ability to do so by some period of time. With Tenochca aid and that of his still-existing supporters in Tetzcoco in this blood feud, he fought battle after battle. His full sister was married to a king of Chalco, and they sent some warriors to accompany him, too (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 363–67, 1985: 113).14 After winning back Tetzcoco proper, he moved against the other chiefly lines in the area: “It was then that Nezahualcoyotzin sought out the sons of Tezozomoctli in all the places where they were ruling; conquests were made in as many places as they were” (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 57).15 The noble households of Coatlichan especially had been taken over by his half-brothers. Years before, his father had apparently gambled that his son by his Tenochca wife, with Tenochtitlan as an ally, would be able to take the succession, leaving the kingdom less subservient to Azcapotzalco. It took Nezahualcoyotl years to prove his father right, but he finally did so. His hated half-brothers and all their connections were dead. SECOND GENERATION: THE ASCENSION OF NEZAHUALPILLI

The next generation’s fratricidal conflict remained a tad embarrassing to all existing chiefly lines in Tetzcoco at the time of the Spanish conquest, so it is more difficult for us to get a sense of the facts of the case. But its broad outlines are clear enough upon due reflection. The crux of the matter is that we have been asked to believe (by several sources in Spanish) that when Nezahualcoyotl died in his seventies, having sired approximately sixty sons and fifty-seven daughters, he had no appropriate heir except a seven-yearold child, Nezahualpilli (sometimes said to have been nine years old). This is patently ridiculous. The nobles who ruled Tetzcoco at the time of the Spanish conquest were all descendants of Nezahualpilli; for obvious reasons, there 100


were certain subjects they preferred not to discuss in recounting their region’s history, among them the fact that it had not always been assumed that their progenitor had the right to rule. Yet we can piece together at least part of what they did not like to discuss. Torquemada grappled with the issue within his European frame of reference. He narrated a compelling drama that has often been repeated—but which is wildly unbelievable within the context of Nahua culture. He argued, with an entirely straight face, that Nezahualcoyotl had never thought to legitimize any of his many sons, they being merely the children of his vassals’ sisters and daughters. Then in his declining years he fell in love with a daughter of the king of Tlacopan (a Tepanec town, the only one left with any power after the Tepanec Wars), who unfortunately was betrothed to another Tepanecan lord. Nezahualcoyotl sent that man to his death in the front lines of battle, an action Torquemada explicitly compared to the treatment afforded to Urias by King David. By this girl, whom he married, Nezahualcoyotl fathered Nezahualpilli. When he lay dying, he made his eldest son swear to uphold his young brother’s right to rule. Torquemada alluded on only one page to troubles the child-king’s faction had in establishing control after his father breathed his last (Torquemada 1975, 1: 146–55, 173–74, 180). There was, as we might expect, a kernel of a distinctly Nahuatl tale enveloped in Torquemada’s version. Looking at the Tira de Tepechpan and reading between the lines in Alva Ixtlilxochitl, scholars can see that the ruler of Tepechpan, traditionally a subordinate state within the region of Tetzcoco, took a high-ranking Tenochca noblewoman as his principal wife in an effort to raise his kingdom’s status by becoming a direct vassal of Tenochtitlan rather than Tetzcoco. Nezahualcoyotl responded by having the man killed, taking his Tenochca bride to be his own, and forcing the new king of Tepechpan to marry a daughter of his after all. Nezahualpilli was purportedly the son of this now well-known and high-ranking Tenochca lady (Diel 2007: 262–66, 2008: 60–62).16 Unlike the former version of the story, we can almost hear the latter version recounted by Nahua history-tellers. (The telling would vary, naturally, depending on whether the circle of listeners was from Tepechpan or Tetzcoco.) Indeed, elements of this drama made their way into popular song.17 There are still problems for us, however, regarding the inheritance issue: first, Torquemada is not the only one to have insisted that Nezahualcoyotl had an heir by a Tlacopan woman (Alva Ixtlilxochitl sometimes said the same); and second, the story does not clear up the mystery of why a young child, between seven and nine years old, inherited. According to both the Tepechpan P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


annals and Alva Ixtlilxochitl, the events of the dramatic story occurred in the middle of Nezahualcoyotl’s long reign, not toward the end. Or, even supposing the story did unfold toward the end after all, why would all the preexisting sons have been eliminated as possible heirs? Alva Ixtlilxochitl, who clearly thought about everything he wrote, chose to elaborate toward the end of his career: he said that Nezahualcoyotl’s queen had indeed had a much older son named Tetzauhpiltzintli (Prince Terrifying), but his father was forced to put him to death for horrendous crimes; the lady ceased to bear, leaving the king deeply saddened, until at last omens predicted the birth of Nezahualpilli, who was born shortly thereafter. His older brothers by other, lesser wives swore to uphold him, though some of them did make trouble for him (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 557, 1985: 158–60). The idea that a powerful Nahua king with at least sixty sons, many of them by noble women, would nevertheless mourn the fact that he was without an heir because a particular woman had failed to give him one for many years asks us to suspend disbelief to an extent appropriate only in novels. Obviously, he had had plausible heirs for years before Nezahualpilli was born. Exactly who they were and what happened to them is a mystery and undoubtedly must remain so, as Nezahualpilli’s descendants were not interested in talking about this issue; but there are many interesting references to the kingdom’s tangled polygamous past for us to ponder. Both Torquemada’s and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s narrations contain detailed stories of a young son of Nezahualcoyotl’s named Axoquentzin, who displaced his older brothers by displaying extraordinary skill in battle, much as David did when he slew Goliath, as Torquemada explicitly notes (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 545–46, 1985: 161–63; Torquemada 1975, 1: 151–52). But European interpretations aside, the existence of multiple versions of stories about a boy displacing his much older brothers, told specifically in connection with the sons of Nezahualcoyotl, is particularly interesting. The popular songs mentioned earlier might even be interpreted as being about Nezahualcoyotl sending a spurned son to his death. In a related vein, three different statements by Ixtlilxochitl and one by Torquemada refer to exactly four older brothers of Nezahualpilli being made to renounce any claim to the throne and/or being punished. Their names vary, although with some overlap (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 446–47, 547, 1985: 177–78; Torquemada 1975, 1: 165). In one case, Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1985: 177–78) explicitly says that these four brothers were the children of another mother, who was (in his view) a concubine and an envious troublemaker. Tetzauhpiltzintli (the prince mentioned previously, whose name resembles that of Ivan the Terrible), although once named as one of the four (Alva 102


Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 446–47), is elsewhere referred to as a much older full brother of Nezahualpilli who committed violent crimes, was bellicose, did not obey, and so on, and thus was put to death (ibid.: 404, 1985: 158–60).18 It seems likely that parts of both stories were true—that is, that Tetzauhpiltzintli was not in fact a child of the same mother as Nezahualpilli and that he was determined not to give up the succession without a fight (hence, perhaps, his name). In his last work, the Historia de la nación chichimeca (1985), Alva Ixtlilxochitl explicitly says that the young man’s crime was the accumulation of armaments. This source says it was his uncles (loosely defined), the kings of Tlacopan and Tenochtitlan, who insisted that Tetzauhpiltzintli die, while his father wept over it. Common sense tells us that Nezahualpilli’s mother must certainly have been a Tenochca noblewoman with close ties to the current royal family—regardless of whether she was the one who originally married the Tepechpan king. It rings true that the current Tenochca king would have insisted on the death of rival heirs who threatened her children’s inheritance. When Nezahualpilli ascended at age seven (or perhaps nine), we know that Axayacatl sent warriors to Tetzcoco to support his claim (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1985: 175–76).19 When Nezahualpilli took the reed mat, his faction survived not only because they had the support of Axayacatl but also, apparently, because they paid off certain brothers very heavily indeed, assigning them tribute-paying lands in perpetuity (ibid.: 177–78).20 One of the factors motivating most of the kinsmen to make peace among themselves was that they were soon facing a fierce war with Huexotzinco. The causes of this war are obscured in the Spanish-language sources but not in the Nahuatl Annals of Cuauhtitlan. In the former, we find startling statements that some of Nezahualpilli’s jealous older brothers chose to instigate Huexotzinco to bring war upon their own people (ibid.: 190; Torquemada 1975, 1: 183). In the latter, we are given some needed facts and a new perspective. The Nahuatl annals explicitly state that when the exiled Nezahualcoyotl was wandering in the lands of Tlaxcala and Huexotzinco as a young man, he sired three sons: Tlecoyotl, Tliliuhquitepetl, and Tlahuexolotl (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 45). The families of these boys had kept Nezahualcoyotl alive at a crucial juncture in his career. They had undoubtedly worked well with him for years and benefited while he was king in Tetzcoco, probably even going to war side by side with some of his other older sons (who were now displaced). With Nezahualcoyotl’s death, the star of their much younger brother Nezahualpilli rose in ascendance over theirs, and the wealth of his kingdom helped to support his good friend and benefactor, Axayacatl of Tenochtitlan, not them. They fought back with extraordinary determination. What we have long seen as a P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


sudden and somewhat inexplicable war between two altepetl was more than this; it, too, was a war between half-brothers. Perhaps it was specifically because the power balance had been in flux and Nezahualcoyotl had fathered so many different potential heirs at different stages of his life—by different noblewomen from Tenochtitlan, Tlacopan, Tlaxcala, and Huexotzinco—that Axayacatl and the Tenochca were able to promote successfully the youngest contender of all, a seven-year-old, as heir. But the fact that there had been so many possibilities, indicative of potential chaos, was soon largely forgotten and even rendered invisible to posterity for many years. THIRD GENERATION: WAR BETWEEN CORTÉS IXTLILXOCHITL AND CACAMA

The last of the civil wars is the one best known to us; indeed, it is already well-known to have been a fratricidal conflict. Historians are familiar with it because it was still ongoing when the Spanish arrived and thus made its way into their records. In fact, it made its way into the conquest itself, for the Spanish used the civil war to their own advantage, as we have also long known. We have, however, tended to interpret the civil war as an example of a subject altepetl (here, Tetzcoco) attempting to rise against the power of the Mexica by choosing an heir different from the one favored by Tenochtitlan. In fact, however, little evidence supports such an interpretation. This war, too, seems to have been almost entirely motivated by the hatred existing between sets of brothers born of different mothers—mothers who were all, almost certainly, Tenochca. As before, Torquemada’s version of events is the most far-fetched. In this case, he was not simply interpreting, as would almost anyone whose imagination had been constituted in Europe; he was, in addition, implicitly defending the actions of the Spanish conquerors. They had at first assumed that a particular contender for the throne, Nezahualpilli’s son Cacama, was the one with the greatest right to the reed mat and later had moved to support other brothers instead who became early Christians, most famously the one called Cortés Ixtlilxochitl. Rather than acknowledging either that the conquerors had been duped at certain points or that they had rather shamelessly played into an existing war, he simply concluded that Cacama was the eldest legitimate son but that Nezahualpilli never actually named him as his heir and in fact seemed to prefer the children of a younger concubine. Thus when he died, “Cada cual queria ser Rei” [Everyone wanted to be King]. He ignored the problem that, 104


according to his own information, Cacama—supposedly the eldest son of an aged king and the eldest of many at that—was only in his teens when his father died. The Spanish met him in 1519 as a young man in his early twenties (Torquemada 1975, 1: 184, 216–17, 220–23).21 Naturally, the historian don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, a descendant of Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, understood the situation differently. In his view, Cacama had no real right to rule, being the son of a lowborn half-sister of Moctezuma. Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, on the other hand, was born to lead. In addition to being nobly descended through all lines, he was a remarkable child who was clearly meant to assume power. When he was only three, for example, he killed his wet nurse with his bare hands because she had broken the law (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 450, 1985: 185–86, 205). In reading some of the stories don Fernando told, we cannot help but think of Herculean myth and other elements of the classical tradition within which he had certainly been educated; but, on the other hand, it does seem more than likely that he had truly grown up hearing dramatic stories of his illustrious ancestor. As was the case in his father’s time, Nezahualpilli probably experienced genuine uncertainty during his lifetime as to who his principal wife was: the political situation determined which woman’s heirs would succeed, and the political terrain shifted repeatedly. It was not enough to have the backing of Tenochtitlan, for the ruling family there experienced its own form of conflict. A new king of Tenochtitlan might want his own full sister, not his uncle’s or cousin’s, to mother Tetzcoco’s heirs. Or a new Cihuacoatl (the king’s highestranking officer) might have his own plans. Or the different quadrants or subaltepetl within Tenochtitlan, each of which had probably provided brides to Tetzcoco, might themselves rise or fall in influence. Numerous highly dramatic stories are associated with Nezahualpilli’s wives. They deserve our attention, each in turn, for they are revealing. Literally all sources agree that a sister or daughter of the Tenochca king Axayacatl was wed to Nezahualpilli relatively early in his career. Her name is given as Chalchiuhnenetzin.22 In 1498 (or thereabouts), she was executed for adultery. Two Nahuatl-language sources mention a Maxtla of Tezayocan as her lover and others as well, including one named Huitzilihuitl. In a litany of wars and afflictions, the Annals of Cuauhtitlan (1992: 72) recounts: “In the year 6 Rabbit . . . Chiauhcoatl, Huitzilihuitl, and Maxtla died. They had cuckolded Nezahualpilli of Tetzcoco.”23 Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1985: 195) goes into more lurid detail concerning the woman’s voracious sexual appetite and general cruelty to her lovers (e.g., turning them into statues), but perhaps we can take these elements with a grain of salt. Certainly, however, there was a grand public P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


spectacle in which she and numerous others were executed and thousands watched. An old woman from Tetzcoco later offered to Horacio Carochi, the Jesuit linguist, her memory of the event: Bad behavior . . . is no longer punished as it used to be long ago, when they forthwith strangled24 and destroyed people. For I saw it myself and it happened before my eyes, when the daughter of the lord Axayacatl, ruler of Mexico Tenochtitlan, committed adultery with Maxtla of the house of Tezonyohcan, and with Huitzilihuitl, that it was done on a grand scale and countless people were punished, who were strangled and crushed with stones along with the lady: some stewards, some artisans, and some merchants, and also the elder sisters [ladies-in-waiting] and dependents of the lady. All the world assembled. People came from the towns all around to see; the ladies brought along their daughters, even though they might still be in the cradle, to have them see. Even the Tlaxcalans, and the people of Huexotzinco and Atlixco, although they were our enemies, all came to see; the whole roof of the house of the Cholulans [merchants’ or foreigners’ quarters] was brimful. And as to how the lord ruler Nezahualpilli fed people, there were all the containers with hollow bases, the reed baskets, and the sauce bowls, by which the Mexica were very much put to shame. (Karttunen and Lockhart 1987: 154–55)25

It seems to me, despite all the fanfare, that we will never know whether Chalchiuhnenetzin really took lovers and involved so many people in her crimes. For might we not be seeing here the destruction of one political faction by another? Or might not both be true? That is, perhaps the queen did take lovers but would have gotten away with it under other political circumstances. Axayacatl (whether he was her brother or her father) had died in the 1480s, and Ahuitzotl was now king. Tlacaelel, the longtime Cihuacoatl, also seems to have died. And there were other wives (each with her own supporters) waiting in the wings. Only one man ever actually said as much. Juan Bautista Pomar (1991: 50) commented: “The order of succession was preserved among the kings of this city until it broke in the time of Nezahualpilli, in that, because he had no legitimate son by his legitimate wife, whom he killed for adultery, the government of his state moved in the direction of elections among the children he had by different mothers.” Perhaps among the hopeful wives was Cacama’s mother. Cacama would, in fact, have been born around 1498, given as the year of the crisis. But if so, his mother was certainly not the only one to have had ambitions. Others seem to have had even greater expectations. The historian don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, as we know, used many sources and contradicted himself on numerous occasions. But he clearly 106


had in his possession several rigidly memorized genealogies for his ancestor Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, the consistency of which in several important regards suggests that they were accurate in ways that may be helpful to us. According to his information, Nezahualpilli had a certain high-born wife, a product of the Tenochtitlan royal dynasty. Her name never appeared exactly the same way twice. One can almost see Alva Ixtlilxochitl—or his informants—struggling with the glyphs or perhaps failing to understand that a woman might have had multiple names or have shared a name with a kinswoman; modern scholars have been subject to confusion for similar reasons. She was named Azcaxochitzin, or she was the daughter or the sister of Azcaxochitzin, who was Nezahualpilli’s mother.26 Or she was named Tlacoyehuatzin, Middle One.27 Her lineage had ties in Azcapotzalco or, more often, Atzacualco, one of the four quadrants of Mexico.28 In any case, what was consistent in all of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s sources was that this lady had eleven children, whom his informants could always name precisely (presumably having been alive at the same time as they were, as children when they were old). They could explain who each of the four daughters had married and could tell what had happened to each of the seven sons.29 There were three older boys, among whom one might have expected to find an heir, if indeed this woman’s sons were worthy of carrying on the lineage. (After them followed a passel of sisters, and then came four younger boys.) Numerous sources agree that the eldest of the three, Huexotzincatzin, created quite a sensation and had to be executed. Or we should perhaps say, he was accused of quite a crime and was killed. Among his father’s favorite concubines was a woman from Tula, apparently a gifted poet-singer. Huexotzincatzin was said to have flirted openly with her, composing songs in her honor. His father seemed to believe there was more between them than this. Regardless of whether this was true, perhaps if times had been different—if another wife’s backers had not been rising in power—the father would not have had his son killed for engaging in public performances in this particular way. The same elderly woman who remembered the execution of Chalchiuhnenetzin also recalled the death of Huexotzincatzin and had this to say: “I saw how they strangled the lord Huexotzincatzin, who was the eldest son of the lord ruler Nezahualpilli; he was punished just for composing songs to the lady of Tula, his stepmother, one of the wives of the lord. And Nezahualpilli came back and shut himself up in his palace; the lord Nezahualpilli named the palace ‘the place of tears’ because he wept greatly over the death of his beloved son” (Karttunen and Lockhart 1987: 157).30 We must also ask, what of the other two relevant brothers, Tetlahuehuetzquititzin and Cuauhtliztactzin? Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1975–77, 2: 549) said the P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


first was “very peaceful.” (This often happened in royal families; such sons became priests or other high officials and supported their warrior brothers.) He also said the second was disobedient and established a household without his father’s permission, for which he had to be punished. The old woman who remembered Huexotzincatzin’s death mentioned this as well (Karttunen and Lockhart 1987: 157).31 The crime seems strange indeed; there may have been more to the story. A surviving document written by a son or grandson of Cuauhtliztactzin in the 1560s makes it clear that the two were married to two blood sisters and that Cuauhtliztactzin struck a financial deal with Cacama when he inherited, the latter giving them houses and land (Schroeder 1997, 2: 211–17). The four younger sons apparently went to live with their childhood caretakers, presumably their mother’s people. Years later, they would challenge Cacama. They were Yotontzin, Nonohualcatzin, Coanacochtzin, and Ixtlilxochitzin (later known after the conquest as Cortés Ixtlilxochitl). They certainly did not always agree among themselves; later, for example, when the Spanish came, they advocated for dramatically different courses. But they were united in their opposition to Cacama. Their cause must have been considered legitimate by their peers, for despite the support the young Cacama received from the Tenochca king, so many fought for Cortés Ixtlilxochitl’s brothers’ right to rule that eventually the kingdom split in two. Cacama and Coanacochtzin each governed half, the south and the north, respectively, with Cortés Ixtlilxochitl war chief of the northern segment.32 It would certainly seem that Cacama’s backers had attempted to have the family of sons with the greatest expectations set aside so that Cacama could take the throne. But is there more than circumstantial evidence for such an interpretation? The answer is “yes,” though it is perhaps not a resounding affirmative. The king whom we call Moctezuma II, son of Axayacatl, took his seat in 1503 and then embarked on a series of conquests, as all new kings did. In 1511, his power relatively secure, he seems to have launched a political marriage campaign of sorts. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan tells us that in that year he gave a daughter in marriage to the king of Colhuacan, and in 1512 he married another daughter to the king of Cuauhtitlan. Clearly, the point was that their children would inherit the rulership of each altepetl: the annalist notes in his entry for 1513 that “the daughter of Moctezuma in Colhuacan had a child” (Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 75). In 1515 some people from Huexotzinco came to Moctezuma for protection, their need for help probably stemming from their altepetl’s internal divisions; they brought with them an important woman relation, “their elder sister” (ynhueltiuh, a term for a politically significant female 108


connection), apparently hoping to offer her as one of his principal wives and seal a political deal. Unfortunately for them but in keeping with his obvious strategy, Moctezuma decided to reject their overtures and take the woman as a concubine instead, a sexual partner whose children would never be particularly honored. In 1517 Moctezuma killed the king of Cuitlahuac “and all his sons,” as the annalist mentions not once but twice. Who was placed in the line of succession in their stead is not made clear, but presumably it was a connection of his. In the midst of all this, in 1515 Nezahualpilli died. In the entry for the next year, 1516, the writer tells us, “In this year Cacamatzin was inaugurated as ruler of Tetzcoco” (ibid.: 76). Moctezuma II may well have been the brother of the executed Chalchiuhnenetzin, so he could conceivably have been paying back old scores, as has sometimes been said. Equally or more important, in backing Cacama, he was backing a staunch supporter. The Spaniards understood Cacama to be his nephew. Highly specific genealogies say his mother was actually the daughter of Moctezuma’s “Tlacochcalcatzintli,” his close cousin and high officer of war, who was the son of Tlacaelel, the longtime Cihuacoatl who hailed from a subunit of Tenochtitlan quite distinct from Atzacualco, where Cortés Ixtlilxochitl’s mother was from. Cacama’s mother’s brother was the new Cihuacoatl (Tezozomoc 1949: 122–23). Cuauhtliztactzin’s son, petitioning the heads of the lineage in the 1560s for some land, emphasized repeatedly that the eleven were true siblings, the children of one father and one mother, in contrast to Cacama, who was not their full brother. The loyalty full siblings owed each other became almost a refrain: “Did they not have one and the same father? Did they not have one and the same mother?” (Codex Chimalpahin; Anderson and Schroeder 1997, 2: 214–15).33 Now, the petitioner said, he was being cut from the family’s resource pool just because his uncle Tetlahuehuetzquititzin’s wife—his own mother’s sister—became envious of him, decided she hated him, and started the rumor that Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, while he ruled, had never meant to distribute any permanent lands to the family of his older brother Cuauhtliztactzin but only to let them profit from certain fields during his lifetime. It seemed stunningly unjust to him, since his father’s other siblings received lands in perpetuity. Conceivably, the family was actually cutting out the descendants of the brother who had struck a deal with Cacama and accepted a payoff from him all those years ago. If so, the son felt he had more than paid for his father’s mistake in temporarily allying with the son of a different mother. He threw his alliance with the newly arrived Spaniards in his relatives’ faces and at the same time used a very old image: “Now for twenty-five years I have lived in poverty and P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


torment, in misfortune and misery, and if the priests of Saint Francis had not laid paper and pen in my hands, perhaps I would have sold myself [into slavery]” (Codex Chimalpahin; Anderson and Schroeder 1997, 2: 236–37).34 The language of the petitioner’s lengthy discourse demonstrates beyond doubt not only the cultural importance of siblings having the same mother but also that Cortés Ixtlilxochitl had become a revered family icon in the early colonial era. He saw immediately that the arrival of the Spaniards might well allow his family of brothers to regain all of Tetzcoco, and he quickly forged an alliance with the newcomers. In the years following the conquest, his relationship with the Spanish became more complex. He resisted when they wanted to execute his brother Coanacochtzin, who had decided to side with the Mexica against the arrogant Spanish rather than attempt to use them. (Or perhaps the Mexica had vowed to break the peace of the bifurcated kingdom and destroy Coanacochtzin if he did not go to Tenochtitlan and take a stand with them.) Later, the Spanish executed Coanacochtzin anyway, in Acalan, on the way to Honduras, along with Cuauhtemoc. For a number of years after 1521, other younger brothers (sons of other mothers) ruled while Cortés Ixtlilxochitl served as “steward” in the Spanish terminology; perhaps he did not want to be the one officially responsible while the caxtilteca established control. Later, though, he did rule, wielding extensive power and rewarding his family members with land and houses, as he had always hoped to be able to do (Townsend 2006b: 126–32). As it had for the generations before his, the blood feud had been hard-fought. One wonders if Cortés Ixtlilxochitl thought it was worth it in the end. Unlike many other noblemen, he became a proponent of monogamy. He is known to have been the first to marry one woman in a Christian ceremony rather than holding out to protect his right to multiple wives, as some did. Of course, this could have been merely an act of public acquiescence to his allies the Spaniards, in a matter of great import to them and conceivably of little import to him. He might also, however, have been enacting a public statement to his own people. In theory, polygyny protected a noble family in multiple ways, and it certainly prevented any possibility of the line’s dying out. It also, however, bred civil wars born of visceral hatred and envy, as Cortés Ixtlilxochitl knew, to his pain. He understood his people’s history in ways we ourselves are only beginning to. NOTES

1. Side 45, lines 28–32: yn ipan 3 tochtli ypantic yn iquac quiçaco yn neçahualcoyotzin yn quihaulhuicaque huexotzinca tlaxcalteca yhuan chalca ye yquac ynyn neça110


hualcootzin huel ompa quinmattia yn ompa yzquican tlatlatocatia yn ipilhuan teçoçmoctli yzquican tepehualloco. Of course, we do not know if the text of the Annals of Cuauhtitlan was actually prepared by a man who was looking straight at the traditional glyphs and interpreting them himself or if, as is more likely the case, the producer of the surviving text was stringing together older alphabetic annals, which had been written down by people listening to recitals made by elders who knew the glyphs. I have tried to leave that aspect open-ended in the vignette I present. 2. The literature on gender complementarity is a must-read for students of the Nahua. To begin, see Burkhart 1997; Clendinnen 1991; Kellogg 1995; McCafferty and McCafferty 1988. 3. A crucial article on this subject is Carrasco 1984. Carrasco demonstrated clearly how altepetl used conjugal relations both to reify and attempt to shift political relations between states: a dominant chief would expect vassals to take his daughters (or sisters) to mother their heirs, while he would take women from those places as concubines whose children would never inherit. A recent study is my own Townsend 2006a. A classic illustration of the principle that a woman’s marital status depended not on what kind of ceremony had been held but on whether her children would inherit is found in one of Ixtilxochitl’s early works: a father whose daughter had been raped is reassured that she has by no means been dishonored, as the resulting child shall be the heir (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 276). 4. Marcus (1992) intervened in an important way by underscoring the propagandistic nature of the surviving texts and asking scholars to take them less literally. Since then, the pendulum has perhaps swung further in that direction than she ever intended. For a thoughtful recent exploration of what we can and cannot learn from our texts, see Leibsohn 2009. 5. “Ixtlilxochitl” was already an old Tetzcocan name when it was used by Nezahualcoyotl’s father, and it is the name used to refer to two other figures in this study. To avoid confusion, I will call Nezahualcoyotl’s father “Huehue Ixtlilxochitl,” his greatgrandson who allied with the Spanish “Cortés Ixtlilxochitl,” and his even more distant descendant, the seventeenth-century historian, “Alva Ixtlilxochitl.” 6. Interestingly, Torquemada (1975, 1: 110) was also fully aware of Huehue Ixtlilxochitl’s relationship with Cihuacuecuenotzin and the reasons for it. It is he who says the bride was Huehue Ixtlilxochitl’s sister, while the annals identify her as his aunt, his father’s sister. Alva Ixtlilxochitl, who clearly had heard or seen numerous references to this matter, seems to have been confused by it early in his career (see Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 342, 357, 361, 371). In his later magnum opus, he recounts it accurately (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1985: 116). 7. Side 35, lines 9–19: auh yn iquac oconmat yn teçoçomoctli yn içihuamon yn oonmocchoti yn oconan çacancatl yaotl [sic] yn tetzcoco çenca huel yc quallan yn P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


teçoçomoctli . auh niman connoz in tiachcauh y[n] ytoca tecolotzin yhuan çequintin quihuicaque quimilhui tecolotze chachatze . teuctzintlei çihuaxochitze ca noconmati noconcaqui yn amoteycauh chalchiuhtlatonac yzihuauh catca onicma oquitecac yn huexotla yn çacancatl yaomitl oytlan coch—tla xicmocaquiltican nopilhuane can iz ancate ca ça yc niqualani ça yc nonoyollitlacohua. 8. Side 32, lines 39–41: çan niman quallanque quitoque tleyn quitoa yn çihuacuecuenotl ca tlahueliloc acçin [sic] itatzin quiyaochihuaznequi. 9. Interestingly, while the Nahuatl annals above, along with Torquemada, emphasize the loyalty of the Azcapotzalcan-fathered sons to their Tetzcocan mother’s people, it is Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s sources (among them the Codex Xolotl) that emphasize the other segment of the equation: the loyalty of the Tetzcocan-fathered sons to their mother’s people in Azcapotzalco (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 326, 371). From either vantage point, the loyalty of the others was implied but not directly discussed. Just as Alva Ixtlilxochitl only mentions Cihuacuecuenotzin somewhat confusedly, Torquemada mentions Nezahualpilli’s half-brothers by an Azcapotzalcan mother (ibid. 1: 135–36) but without seeing the issue as terribly important. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan literally combines the two conflicts into one story: Tezozomoc is upset by the actions of his daughter-in-law—but then goes to fight in Tetzcoco in an obvious bid to defend his family’s territorial interests, not merely their honor. 10. On the more general point of Tezozomoc setting up as rulers his own descendants through the prior Tetzcocan marriages, see Torquemada 1975, 1: 135–36; and Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1985: 103–15. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan (1992: 46, 56–58), as always, focuses on the other dimension of the civil war: in a list of seven altepetl in the Tetzcocan region, each ruled by a son or descendant of Tezozomoc, only the fifth was omitted from a list of towns destroyed by Nezahualcoyotl, presumably because this was the territory that had been assigned to Tezozomoc’s fifth son, Chalchiuhtlatonactzin, whose Tetzcocan-mothered sons had sided with Nezahualcoyotl. 11. By “Tetzcoco proper” I mean the altepetl or city-state of that name, which was traditionally the leader of the set of altepetl sometimes known collectively, then and now, as “Tetzcoco.” Huexotla, Cohuatlychan, and Cohuatepec were separate altepetl yet subservient to the altepetl of Tetzcoco. One might conceivably think of the grouping (of eight subunits in total) as part of one greater, complex altepetl. As always, this is something of a gray area, not only because the information that survives is limited but also because the nature of the political relationship between units was subject to contention even then. On the way defeated altepetl were generally divided up, see Carrasco 1999. For more on Tetzcoco’s division at this time, see Torquemada 1975, 1: 114; and Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 346–47. It is frequently implicit in the Annals of Cuauhtitlan. 12. On Nezahualcoyotl being protected by his mother’s Tenochca family, see Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 348, 374–75, 536–38; Annals of Cuauhtitlan 1992: 47–48; Torque112


mada 1975, 1: 115, 135. Both of the former two sources emphasize the support Nezahualcoyotl received from the Tlaxcala/Huexotzinco region over that from the Mexica, leaving room for the possibility that Mexica interest was a later development. 13. For other stories of the much-abused but clever young Nezahualcoyotl, see Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 350–51, 358; Torquemada 1975, 1: 123–31. 14. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan mentions several times the inclusion of Chalca warriors, though without giving an explanation. 15. See note 1. All sources mention his victory over Tetzcoco proper and the surrounding towns. See, for example, Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 370; Torquemada 1975, 1: 135–36. 16. Alva Ixtlilxochitl gives varying accounts, but the most detailed version is found in the Historia de la nación Chichimeca (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1985: 155–58). Diel (2008) discusses all angles of the multiple accounts, including the probable reasons behind Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s apparent discomfort with the events that primarily concerned Nezahualpilli’s desire to bring Tepechpan to heel. 17. A version of the drama appears several times in the Cantares mexianos and the Romances de los señores de Nueva España. It has been discussed in León-Portilla 1992: 109–11. In a fascinating reference, Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1985: 156–57) himself indicated that he was well aware of the songs. 18. Juan Bautista Pomar (1991: 57) echoes the same story in his “Relación de Tetzcoco.” Torquemada had heard some version of it, though he did not give any names and confused his crime with that of a son of Nezahualpilli (see section III, Torquemada 1975, 1: 165). 19. Torquemada (1975, 1: 181) also refers to the tightness of their alliance at the time of the ascension, and in the Annals of Cuauhtitlan (1992: 67) the inauguration of Nezahualpilli is listed as one of Axayacatl’s accomplishments. 20. Alva Ixtlilxochitl is not the only one to make this claim. A specific reference in a mid-sixteenth-century Tetzcocan statement alludes directly to Nezahualpilli having shown his worth as a leader by demonstrating his love for his elder brothers in assigning lands to them (Codex Chimalpahin; Anderson and Schroeder 1997, 2: 190–91). The descendants exhibited no self-consciousness about that fact whatsoever, so it must have been common practice, as is indeed logical. 21. Cacama also appears on numerous occasions in the second and third letters of Hernando Cortés (1986). 22. The name literally means “Emerald [Turquoise, Jade] Vagina.” Historical annals also tell us that a queen of Tlatelolco who was later accused of adultery was likewise named “Chalchiuhnenetzin.” It seems safe to assume that women accused of this crime found themselves called “Chalchiuhnenetzin” from that time on, whatever their original name had been. P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


23. Side 59, lines 17–19: 6 tochtli . . . çan no ypan xihuitl micque chiyauhcoatl yhuan huitzilyhuitl yhua[n] maxtla quitlaxinq[ue] yn neçahualpilli tetzcoco. The other reference in Nahuatl is in the Bancroft Dialogues (Karttunen and Lockhart 1987). 24. The verb is mecania. We cannot be sure if the strangling occurred by hanging or by tightening a cord from behind. 25. Karttunen and Lockhart recently prepared an updated electronic version of their translation and commentary, which is available upon application to Karttunen. It offers both a literal and a figurative meaning, thus rendering the process of translation perfectly clear to any reader and effectively eliminating the need for further consideration. For this reason, I am not including the full Nahuatl text here. 26. Azcaxochitzin was a classic name in Aztec myth-history (Gillespie 1989: 70–78). 27. Almost all Nahua women were known in their own families by such a name, whatever other names they bore (Lockhart 1993: 118–19). 28. A 1560s legal document by the woman’s grandson referred to her twice as a lady of Atzacualco (Codex Chimalpahin; Anderson and Schroeder 1997, 2: 209, 235). 29. Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 408, 449–50, 549, 1985: 185–86. Juan de San Antonio’s “Letter” in Codex Chimalpahin implicitly bears much of this out in its discussion of the sons’ later lives. It seems to me that Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s early (and only occasional) interpretation that the wife was Tepanec can safely be ignored. Almost certainly someone was misreading the glyph for Atzacualco as Azcapotzalco or crossing story lines with some episode that truly concerned a Tepanec wife. In this era, the question could never have been whether a Tenochca-born woman would mother the heirs but only which one would. 30. See also Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1985: 186, 200; Pomar 1991: 58; Torquemada 1975, 1: 189–90. The sources vary in their assumption of guilt or innocence. Torquemada has Huexotzincatzin’s mother pleading for him, to no avail. Alva Ixtlilxochitl says the Lady of Tula herself was a talented poet-singer. No others comment on this angle, but it seems to me quite likely. In the context of the courtyard performance culture, it would make sense that a public flirtation could be carried out. 31. Alva Ixtlilxochitl says he was “killed,” but the old woman who claimed to have been witness to the event said he was “punished.” He definitely was not actually executed, as he went on to have a long and busy life. See Juan de San Antonio’s “Letter” in Codex Chimalpahin (Anderson and Schroeder 1997). 32. Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1975–77) gives extensive treatment to this period, and it is also discussed in Codex Chimalpahin (Anderson and Schroeder 1997, 2: 187–207). Nonohualcatzin is the only one whose name almost never appears and who was not involved in later legal wrangling. He presumably died young. 33. cuix hamo çaz cen yntatzin cuix hamo çaz cen ynnantzin. This phrase, and others closely related, is repeated frequently. The contrast with their relation to Cacamatzin is made on pp. 216–17. 114


34. ca ye axcan yn cempoualxiuitl omacuilli ninotolinitinemi yn nitlaihiyouitinemi yn ompa onquiztinemi yn cococ in teopouhqui, auh ca intlacamo yehuantzitzin sant franco teopixqui nomac quimomaniliani amatl yhuan yn nomac quimotequiliani tlacuiloloni aço oninonamacani. WORKS CITED

Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de. 1975–77. Obras históricas. 2 vols. Ed. Edmundo O’Gorman. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de. 1985. Historia de la nación chichimeca. Ed. Germán Vázquez. Madrid: Historia 16. Anderson, Arthur J.O., and Susan Schroeder, eds. 1997. Codex Chimalpahin. 2 vols. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Annals of Cuauhtitlan. 1992. Codex Chimalpopoca: The Text in Nahuatl. Ed. John Bierhorst. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Burkhart, Louise. 1997. “Mexica Women on the Home Front: Housework and Religion in Aztec Mexico.” In Indian Women of Early Mexico, ed. Susan Schroeder, Stephanie Wood, and Robert Haskett, 24–54. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Carrasco, Pedro. 1984. “Royal Marriages in Ancient Mexico.” In Explorations in Ethnohistory: The Indians of Central Mexico in the Sixteenth Century, ed. Hans Premm, 41–81. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Carrasco, Pedro. 1999. The Tenochca Empire of Ancient Mexico: The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco and Tlacopan. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Clendinnen, Inga. 1991. Aztecs: An Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cortés, Hernando. 1986. Letters from Mexico. Ed. Anthony Pagden and John H. Elliott. New Haven: Yale University Press. Diel, Lori Boornazian. 2007. “Till Death Do Us Part: Unconventional Marriages as Aztec Political Strategy.” Ancient Mesoamerica 18 (2): 259–72. http://dx.doi.org /10.1017/S0956536107000181. Diel, Lori Boornazian. 2008. The Tira of Tepechpan: Negotiating Place under Aztec and Spanish Rule. Austin: University of Texas Press. Gillespie, Susan. 1989. The Aztec Kings. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Karttunen, Frances, and James Lockhart, eds. 1987. The Art of Nahuatl Speech: The Bancroft Dialogues. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publications. Kellogg, Susan. 1995. “The Women’s Room: Some Aspects of Gender Relations in Tenochtitlan in the Late Pre-Hispanic Period.” Ethnohistory 42 (4): 563–76. http:// dx.doi.org/10.2307/483143. P O LYG Y N Y A N D T H E D I V I D ED A LT EP E T L


Leibsohn, Dana. 2009. Script and Glyph: Pre-Hispanic History, Colonial Bookmaking and the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks. León Portilla, Miguel. 1992. Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Lockhart, James. 1993. The Nahuas after the Conquest. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Marcus, Joyce. 1992. Mesoamerican Writing Systems: Propaganda, Myth and History in Four Ancient Civilizations. Princeton: Princeton University Press. McCafferty, Sharisse, and Geoffrey McCafferty. 1988. “Powerful Women and the Myth of Male Dominance in Aztec Society.” Archaeological Review from Cambridge 7: 45–59. Offner, Jerome A. 1983. Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pomar, Juan Bautista. 1991. “Relación de Tetzcoco.” In Relaciones de la Nueva España, ed. Germán Vázquez, 19–99. Madrid: Historia 16. Tezozomoc, Fernando Alvarado. 1949. Crónica Mexicayotl. Mexico City: Imprenta Universitaria. Torquemada, fray Juan de. 1975. Monarquía Indiana. 3 vols. Ed. Miguel León Portilla. Mexico City: Porrúa. Townsend, Camilla. 2006a. “ ‘What in the World Have You Done to Me, My Lover?’ Sex, Servitude, and Politics among the Pre-Conquest Nahuas as Seen in the Cantares Mexicanos.” Americas 62 (3): 349–89. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/tam.2006 .0048. Townsend, Camilla. 2006b. Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.



5 The central leaf of the Mapa Quinatzin, painted in 1542, presents a symbolic and idealized image of the Texcocan palace and larger Acolhua domain under the consecutive reigns of Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli (see figure 5.1, bottom). The two rulers are shown seated in a throne room in the Texcocan palace while fourteen subordinate lords are gathered in the courtyard below them. While Texcoco had a number of territories under its control, these fourteen lords and their associated territories are typically described as the most elite, those that were ruled by hereditary lords and those who advised Texcoco’s rulers. In this chapter I track some of these lords in other sources, and, in so doing, I show that the Quinatzin’s idealization of Texcoco and its rulers also extended to the fourteen lords presented as Texcoco’s subjects. Related to the Texcocan rulers through blood or marriage, these subordinate lords were specifically chosen for inclusion here to communicate the political stability of Texcoco and its subject territories. In recent years, scholars have increasingly questioned the stable and orderly image of the Texcocan domain as presented in Acolhua sources, and the Quinatzin’s idealized image of Texcoco is further undermined when the points of view of some of its subject cities are better taken into account.1

The Mapa Quinatzin and Texcoco’s Ideal Subordinate Lords Lori Boornazian Diel


Based on colonial-era histories of the Aztec empire, Nezahualcoyotl (Fasting Coyote) and Nezahualpilli (Fasting Nobleman) must have epitomized Texcoco’s glorious pre-conquest past, its golden age. 2 The

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c005


Figure 5.1. Migration and palace scene, Mapa Quinatzin, leafs 1 and 2; courtesy, Bibliothèque National de France.

illustrious deeds of these two rulers are recounted in a number of sources, but they are particularly emphasized in those from Texcoco. These sources are the mid-sixteenth-century pictorial cartographic histories, such as the Codex Xolotl (for Nezahualcoyotl) and the Mapas Quinatzin and Tlotzin, as well as alphabetic chronicles written by mestizo descendants of the Texcocan ruling family, such as those by Juan Bautista Pomar (writing in the later sixteenth century) and Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl (writing in the early seventeenth century). In the Quinatzin image, the two rulers are the main focus compositionally. They sit together in a room that still stands out in a now-faded red, and they are identified with their iconic name glyphs of “Fasting Coyote” on the right for Nezahualcoyotl and “Fasting Nobleman” on the left for Nezahualpilli. The speech scrolls that issue from their mouths identify them as tlatoque, the Nahuatl term for rulers (tlatoani, singular), which literally means speaker. Moreover, they wear white cotton cloaks, which as items of woven clothing signify elevated social status in the Aztec pictorials, whereas their ancestors, shown above, wear coarse animal-skin clothing associated with nomadic Chichimec peoples (see figure 5.1, top). Father and son also sit on tepotzicpalli, or woven mat thrones with full backs, a sign of rulership in Aztec pictorials, and the long lengths of their reigns—combined, they ruled for eighty-six years—are indicated with numerical signs in Aztec script above the palace. The implication is that the two ruled sequentially over a settled land and over a long period of time marked by peace and stability, a time in which rule passed seamlessly from father to son. Nevertheless, Nezahualpilli’s inheritance of the throne of Texcoco was surely contentious, just as the succession following his death would be as his children and rival heirs fought among each other for the throne (Hicks 1994; Townsend, this volume). Moreover, controversies over succession continued to impact Texcoco in the first decades after the conquest, the time at which the Mapa Quinatzin was painted (Douglas 2003; Lee 2008: 38–39; Lopes Don 2008). These controversies are ignored in the Quinatzin, which collapses time and, in so doing, freezes Texcoco at the height of its powers. Also, as Eduardo Douglas (2003: 298–302) has argued, the composition of the Quinatzin palace image subtly communicates messages about the sacred nature of Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli’s power. The upper quadrant of Mesoamerican maps is typically associated with the east, the direction of sunrise, creation, and rebirth; thus the placement of the two suggests that they were conceived as the human embodiments of the sun. Further signifying the idea of rebirth is the inclusion of the sign for the year 4 Reed (1431) in T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


the courtyard below. In many Acolhua sources, this year is associated with Nezahualcoyotl’s restoration to the throne of Texcoco after he helped his allies, the Mexica of Tenochtitlan, defeat Azcapotzalco, the most powerful city in Central Mexico until that time. This conflict, known as the Tepanec War, was a key event in Central Mexican history, for it led to the establishment of the Aztec empire. Though ostensibly a “Triple Alliance” of Texcoco (associated with the Acolhua people), Tenochtitlan (associated with the Mexica people), and Tlacopan (associated with the Tepaneca people), Tenochtitlan was clearly the reigning force in the empire (see Lee, this volume). Nevertheless, only slight reference is made to Texcoco’s allies in the Quinatzin image, with small place name signs for Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan included in a palace room at the bottom left. Greater precedence is given to the icons within the palace’s other buildings, which reference law and justice, military strength, music and ceremony, and trade. Thus the emphasis here is on Texcoco and its rulers, whose judicial, military, cultural, and economic achievements are communicated and celebrated. Put together and in light of the migratory history that appears above it, the palace image suggests the rebirth of Texcoco and its transformation into an autonomous state through the stewardship of its idealized rulers. Seated in the palace courtyard below are fourteen additional lords, identified also as tlatoque by the speech scrolls that issue from their mouths. These men must have been important historical figures because each man is identified with a name glyph, which is transliterated in an associated alphabetic annotation. The men wear the same cotton mantles as Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli and also sit on petate (woven reed) mats; but, tellingly, they do not sit on the same full-backed thrones as Texcoco’s rulers. The multiplicity of these lords, their smaller stature and seats, and placement outside, underneath, and oriented toward Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli suggest their lower status relative to Texcoco’s rulers. Thus the subordinate lords may have been tlatoque and each may have ruled over his own altepetl (city-state), but Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli were Hueytlatoque who ruled over a huey altepetl, great rulers of a great city-state. Nezahualcoyotl’s control over these lords was not just political but also familial, for he was said to have provided his daughters as their wives. In a description of a painting that seems to have been a close cognate of the Mapa Quinatzin, the Spanish friar and historian known as Motolinia wrote: “Of these towns named and painted here the head and principal rulership is Tetzcoco, and the others have their names [indicated]: they were all subject to the king (señor) of Tetzcoco, and each town had a king after he married a 120


daughter of the king of Tetzcoco, and that is why these women are painted here: all were daughters of a great king of Tetzcoco, called Nezahualcoyotzin, who, together with his daughters, gave rulership to their husbands” (cited in Carrasco 1999: 136). Motolinia’s comments suggest that Texcoco’s subordinate lords owed their positions to Nezahualcoyotl and to their marriages with his daughters. As Douglas (2003: 300) surmises, “Positioning the fourteen provincial rulers as he did, the artist imaged their subordination to, and dependence on, Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli, in part by means of a formal allusion to a genealogy, with the children arrayed in a line below their parents . . . Together, father and sons or sons-in-law, rulers and ruled, represent the properly ordered family and state.” In his interpretation of the Quinatzin or a close cognate, Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997 1: 380, 2: 89) also suggests that these fourteen lords owed their positions to Nezahualcoyotl. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl, after Nezahualcoyotl’s defeat of Azcapotzalco and return to Texcoco in 4 Reed (1431), he restored a number of subordinate lords to their respective thrones: Tlazolyaotzin over Huexotla, Motoliniatzin over Coatlinchan, Tetzcapoctzin over Chimalhuacan, Cocopintzin over Tepetlaoztoc, Motlatocacomatzin over Acolman, Tencoyotzin over Tepechpan, Techotlalatzin over Tezoyucan, Tezozomoctzin over Chiconauhtla, Quauhtlatzacuilotzin over Chiautla, Quetzalmemalitzin over Teotihuacan, and Quecholtecpantzin over Otumba. He further relates that over time, Nezahualcoyotl conquered Tollantzinco and installed a man named Tlalintzin as its ruler, and at the same time he restored Nauhecatzin to Quauchinanco and Quetzalpaintzin to Xicotepec after those territories peacefully surrendered (ibid. 2: 106). These rulers correspond to the fourteen subordinate lords in the Quinatzin. Elsewhere, Alva Ixtlilxochitl (ibid.: 94) indicates that these lords had a more prestigious place within the Acolhua empire as members of the Texcocan king’s ruling council. Nevertheless, he emphasizes that they were subjects of Texcoco and that their territories had to provide service to the Texcocan palace. The image of two bundles of firewood in the center of the Quinatzin courtyard may indicate their service obligations.3 Though the Mapa Quinatzin and Alva Ixtlilxochitl present a rather unproblematic and idealized view of the Acolhua domain, scholars have noted discrepancies between the Texcocan sources and those from other centers (Carrasco 1999: 139; Lee 2003: 243, 2008: 114–15). For example, the Codex Mendoza (1992: f69r), created in Tenochtitlan around 1540, includes an image of the palace of Moctezuma II, the ruler of Tenochtitlan at the time of the conquest. To the right of his throne room is a house where the rulers of Texcoco and Tlacopan T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


resided, while to the left was another house where the lords of Tenayuca, Chiconauhtla, and Culhuacan were lodged. All are described as friends and allies of Moctezuma II. Whereas the Mapa Quinatzin includes the ruler of Chiconauhtla as a subject of Texcoco, the Codex Mendoza suggests instead that the city had a special relationship with Tenochtitlan, on par with Texcoco itself. Moreover, the Relación de Chiconauhtla (in Paso y Troncoso 1905–6, 6: 173), compiled in that city around 1580, describes Chiconauhtla as a subject of Moctezuma and makes no mention of its subordination to Texcoco. Its association with Tenochtitlan rather than Texcoco is also supported archaeologically, as Deborah Nichols and colleagues (2009: 466) have shown that the palace occupants at Chiconauhtla obtained much of their pottery from Tenochtitlan and relatively little from Texcoco. Indeed, the general flow of goods from west to east, from Tenochtitlan to the Acolhua region in the east, suggests Tenochtitlan’s economic dominance of the area (ibid.: 467). In fact, some of the other subordinate territories included in the Mapa Quinatzin are shown as tribute payers to Tenochtitlan in the Codex Mendoza (1992: f22r); they are Tepechpan, Tepetlaoztocc, Tulantzinco, and possibly Acolman.4 The implication is that Tenochtitlan was a dominant force in the Aztec empire and that, over time, its control encroached upon Texcoco’s own subject territories. Nevertheless, the Quinatzin image suggests otherwise. Here, eighty-six years of Texcocan history are collapsed into a static and idealized image of a strong and stable Texcoco, a message undermined by considering some of its subject lords in more detail. TENCOYOTZIN OF TEPECHPAN

Despite the familial ties between Texcoco and its subordinate territories, political relations between the two were tenuous. As Jerome Offner (1983: 113) has pointed out, though Texcoco tried to restrict the power of its subordinate lords, “they continued to plot and conspire to increase their power. Ties of kinship often proved less important than political ambitions.” Such plotting can be traced through the history of one of these subordinate territories in particular. Tepechpan is included as a subject of Texcoco in the Mapa Quinatzin, as well as the Codex Xolotl and many other sources, including the Relación Geográfica for Tepechpan, which states: “It [Tepechpan] is in the province of Texcoco and was an independent town until Nezahualcoyotzin, lord of Texcoco, tyrannized over it and made it a subject of Texcoco” (Nuttall 1926: 50). Later in the same Relación, the people of Tepechpan claimed that Tenochtitlan had tried 122


to subjugate them but that they defended themselves and instead became confederates through marriage (ibid.: 71). Thus it seems likely that Tepechpan had once been subject to Texcoco, but this subjugation is never directly mentioned in the extensive pictorial history created in late-sixteenth-century Tepechpan known as the Tira de Tepechpan (Diel 2008). The Tira is one of the most extensive Aztec histories extant, covering historical events from 1298 to 1596. A continuous line of indigenous year signs runs the length of the manuscript, with the upper register recording the history of Tepechpan and the lower register focusing on Tenochtitlan. The only references to Texcoco in the manuscript are found in alphabetic annotations added at a later date. Through the Tira, Tepechpan presents itself as a key ally of Tenochtitlan and effectively denies its subject status relative to Texcoco. The Mapa Quinatzin, meanwhile, includes a ruler of Tepechpan named Tencoyotzin (Coyote Lips) among the fourteen subordinate lords seated in the courtyard; he is shown at the middle, left. Following Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s (1997 2: 89) interpretation, if the lords pictured in the courtyard were those Nezahualcoyotl reinstated to their respective thrones after his defeat of Azcapotzalco and his own restoration to Texcoco’s throne in 1431, then the Quinatzin image suggests that Nezahualcoyotl had returned Tencoyotzin to Tepechpan’s throne around 1431 or soon after. However, according to the Tira de Tepechpan, two men named Tencoyotzin ruled Tepechpan, but neither was ruler at this time. According to the Tira, the first Tencoyotzin was installed as Tepechpan’s ruler in the year 6 Rabbit (1394), and he died in 12 Rabbit (1426). The representation of his death is one of the most dramatic and elaborate images in the Tira (see figure 5.2). Tencoyotzin I appears on the upper register linked to the year 12 Rabbit (1426), and he is identified with a name glyph consisting of a human head with a coyote snout (a similar “Tencoyotzin” name glyph identifies Tepechpan’s ruler in the Mapa Quinatzin courtyard). He is shown being brutally beaten by four men. Footprints from a man on the lower register lead to the four assassins, indicating that they were sent on his orders. This man sits on a tepotzicpalli and wears a turquoise diadem, signs of rulership in this manuscript. He is identified with a name glyph of a loincloth, for “Maxtla,” and above him floats a place name glyph of an ant in a circle of sand, for Azcapotzalco (Ant Heap). The Tira, then, communicates that the ruler of Azcapotzalco ordered the death of Tepechpan’s ruler. Sandwiched between the image of Maxtla and the Azcapotzalco place glyph is an icon of a shield over an obsidian club, which functions as an ideogram for warfare in Aztec pictorial writings. This icon for war is linked to a speech scroll T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


Figure 5.2. Death of Tencoyotzin I, Tira de Tepechpan, after Aubin (1849–51)

that issues from the mouth of Tenochtitlan’s ruler, Itzcoatl (Obsidian Serpent), who is linked to the year 1 Flint (1428). The message is that Itzcoatl declared war on Azcapotzalco, and the presentation of these events in the Tira suggests a causal relationship, that the war between Tenochtitlan and Azcapotzalco was, at least in part, a result of the assassination of Tepechpan’s ruler. A man named Quaquauhtzin, or Wooden Stick, appears on the upper register immediately after the killing of Tencoyotzin I, and footprints lead from him to a place glyph for an unknown territory, which communicates his exile from Tepechpan. Quaquauhtzin’s appearance here and his exile indicate that he was the heir to the Tepechpan throne and accordingly Tencoyotzin I’s son, as rule typically passed from father to son in Tepechpan.5 Quaquauhtzin reappears a few years later, now seated on a small petate mat, and footprints from him lead directly into the time line at 4 Reed (1431). As the lower register of this manuscript is generally associated with Tenochtitlan, the message may be that Quaquauhtzin journeyed to Tenochtitlan to help fight Azcapotzalco, which according to the Tira was finally defeated some years later, in 12 Reed (1439). The “Ant Heap” sign for Azcapotzalco appears under this sign and floating above an image of a smoking temple with an overturned summit, an ideogram for conquest in Aztec pictorial writings. The very next year, Quaquauhtzin was officially installed on the Tepechpan throne, as communicated by his image above the year 13 Flint (1440) and now wearing a turquoise diadem and seated on the tepotzicpalli. The fact that Quaquauhtzin had to wait until after the defeat of Azcapotzalco to be officially inaugurated further suggests his participation in the war. From Tepechpan’s perspective, then, the defeat of Azcapotzalco, and the subsequent establishment of the Aztec empire, was a result of the allied forces of Tenochtitlan and Tepechpan (Diel 2008: 51–56). 124


Returning to the Mapa Quinatzin, if the subordinate lords included in the palace courtyard were those installed by Nezahualcoyotl soon after the defeat of Azcapotzalco, then Quaquauhtzin should have been included as Tepechpan’s ruler. Nevertheless, I suspect that the painter of the Mapa Quinatzin chose not to include Quaquauhtzin because he was not an ideal subordinate lord. Quaquauhtzin’s disloyalty to Texcoco can be traced to his ill-fated attempt to establish a marital alliance with Tenochtitlan. The painter of the Tira combined Quaquauhtzin’s accession statement with a marriage statement, thereby highlighting the Tepechpan ruler’s political maneuvering (see figure 5.2). Quaquauhtzin’s wife appears above her husband, and she is identified with a flower (xochitl) name glyph. Typical of women in Aztec pictorials, she is shown in a kneeling position and wearing her hair in an intricately braided and wrapped style. She is linked to Quaquauhtzin with a dotted line, indicating their marriage, while another dotted line leads from her to the lower register, where it extends back a number of years and ends at her father, Temictzin (Dreamer). Her identity is confirmed by an alphabetic annotation that reads “y temictzin ychpoch mexico ynçihuauh quaquatzin” [This is Quaquauhtzin’s wife, the daughter of Temictzin of Mexico]. Chimalpopoca (Smoking Shield), ruler of Tenochtitlan, is shown just above Xochitl’s father, and solid lines from the two of them join together and extend back into time, eventually ending at Chimalpopoca’s predecessor, Huitzilihuitl (Hummingbird Feather). The implication is that Chimalpopoca and Temictzin were the sons of the Tenochca tlatoani Huitzilihuitl, and, accordingly, the Tepechpan queen was an important Tenochca noblewoman, the granddaughter and niece of Tenochca rulers. Lineage statements like this were not typically included in Aztec annals; therefore, the Tira’s painter went out of his way to highlight this information. Moreover, the Tira pictures the wives of only three of Tepechpan’s fourteen rulers. Thus those wives included in Tepechpan’s history must have played important political roles for the city. Clearly, this marital alliance was significant for Tepechpan. In fact, as a subject of Nezahualcoyotl, Quaquauhtzin’s marriage to a Tenochca noblewoman would have been unorthodox. In the Aztec empire, marriage served a political function, as superordinate rulers typically gave their daughters in marriage to their subordinates (Carrasco 1984; Townsend 2006; Diel 2007). Therefore, as a subject of Texcoco, Quaquauhtzin would have been expected to marry a daughter of the Texcocan ruler. By selecting a Tenochca noblewoman as his wife instead, Quaquauhtzin sent a strong political statement, communicating a new alliance between Tepechpan and Tenochtitlan and denying Tepechpan’s subjection to Texcoco. T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


In the Tira, an arrow pierces Quaquauhtzin’s funerary bundle just three years after his inauguration and marriage statements, which points to the consequences of his political machinations. The terse record in the Tira is elaborated in a number of alphabetic histories recorded in the colonial period, which suggests it was a popular cautionary tale.6 The definitive version of the story is Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s (1997 1: 544–45, 2: 117–20) romanticized account, according to which Nezahualcoyotl had learned that the woman promised to him in marriage had mistakenly married another man. Feeling “muy gran tristeza y melancolía” [very great sadness and melancholy], he undertook a journey through his territories and eventually came to Tepechpan, where Quaquauhtzin received him and had his fiancée serve him refreshments. Upon first sight, Nezahualcoyotl fell in love with the young woman and, determined to have her, secretly arranged his adversary’s death. Nezahualcoyotl ordered Quaquauhtzin into battle, while surreptitiously telling some of his allies that he had committed a crime and needed to be killed. Soon after, Nezahualcoyotl married his betrothed.7 Because royal marriages were visual statements of political alliances, Quaquauhtzin’s decision to take a Tenochca noblewoman as his principal wife would have been a public proclamation of his break in ties with Texcoco and establishment of new ties with Tenochtitlan. In fact, Alva Ixtlilxochitl mentioned the elaborate gifts Tepechpan’s ruler gave his bride’s father to secure her in marriage; they included gold, precious stones, feathers, and slaves. Thus Quaquauhtzin made a great economic investment to secure this particular bride and, through her, an alliance with Tenochtitlan. Nezahualcoyotl’s subsequent retaliatory actions, though masked by the romantic tale, would have harshly punished Quaquauhtzin for his insubordination while sending a message to any other territories wishing to defy him. Ultimately, Texcoco’s reassertion of control over Tepechpan must have been successful because the next ruler of Tepechpan, also named Tencoyotzin (the Second), apparently did marry a daughter of Nezahualcoyotl. Tencoyotzin II’s installation is shown in the Tira in the year 11 Reed (1451), though his wife is not pictured in the Tira until his death statement (see figure 5.3). A wrapped funerary bundle topped with a turquoise diadem and marked with the Coyote-Lips name glyph of Tencoyotzin II is shown above the year 2 Reed (1507). Above this floats a representation of a woman identified with a “2 Rabbit” name glyph for Ome Tochtzin. A line from her joins another from Tencoyotzin II and then ends three years later at a representation of another ruler installation in Tepechpan. This composition suggests that Ome Tochtzin and Tencoyotzin II were husband and wife and that their son would 126


Figure 5.3. Death of Tencoyotzin II, Tira de Tepechpan, after Aubin (1849–51)

eventually rule Tepechpan. Moreover, an associated alphabetic gloss tells us that Ome Tochtzin was a daughter of Nezahualcoyotl: “Y onmetochtzin cihuapillin netzahualcoyotzin ychpoch tezcocon” [This is Ome Tochtzin, a noblewoman and the daughter of Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco]. Thus, in Texcoco’s eyes, Tencoyotzin II represented a proper Acolhua ruler, and the Tencoyotzin shown in the Mapa Quinatzin courtyard image must be this man, the second by the name Tencoyotzin to rule Tepechpan, though he became ruler two decades after Nezahualcoyotl’s famous restoration to the throne. Though Ome Tochtzin’s Texcocan lineage was added by a knowledgeable interpreter of the Tira, the manuscript’s painter made no direct mention of this woman’s link to Texcoco, in contrast to the lineage statement included for the previous Tepechpan queen—which linked her, and, accordingly, Tepechpan, to Tenochtitlan. Instead, the image of Ome Tochtzin is linked by a dotted line to her funerary bundle thirteen years later, shown above the year 2 Flint (1520) and linked to a seated man covered in dots, indicating the outbreak of smallpox in that year (see figure 5.3). As her bundle is marked with a turquoise diadem, I suspect she is included in the Tira not for her Texcocan lineage but because she acted as a ruler of the city during the interregnum noted in the Tira after her husband’s death and presumably again after the death of her son in 9 Rabbit (1514). This son was also named Wooden Stick, or Quaquauhtzin II; like his namesake, Quaquauhtzin II also had a short T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


reign, which may suggest something amiss. Perhaps by taking the name of his rebellious ancestor, Quaquauhtzin II was sending his own signals of a wish to reassert Tepechpan’s independence. Though the circumstances of his death are unstated in the Tira, the reassumption of control over the troublesome city-state by his mother, a daughter of Nezahualcoyotl, may have been yet another attempt by Texcoco to reign in Tepechpan and squelch its aspirations for independence. The significance of Nezahualcoyotl’s marriage to Quaquauhtzin I’s widow is underscored by the fact that she was the mother of Nezahualpilli, who later inherited the Texcocan throne. Though Quaquauhtzin I was killed in 1443 and the marriage between his widow and Nezahualcoyotl was said to have taken place soon after, Nezahualpilli was not born until twenty years later. Sometime before this, Nezahualcoyotl’s wife was said to have had another child. As a firstborn son, he should have been heir to the throne, but he never did become Texcoco’s ruler because he was accused of treason against his father, who was forced to order his execution (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1997 1: 447, 2: 121–23; Bautista Pomar 1991: 57; Townsend, this volume). The dramatic nature of this event begs a question: could this son’s parentage have been in doubt? That is, was his father truly Nezahualcoyotl, or could his father have been the martyred Quaquauhtzin I? The Tira shows Quaquauhtzin I and the Tenochca noblewoman in a clear marriage statement, and the two were together at least three years before his death—sufficient time to conceive a child, even though Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s assertion that she was still quite young and simply Quaquauhtzin’s fiancée would have served to preserve the woman’s purity and deny the question of her son’s paternity. Nevertheless, any perceived ambiguity in his parentage may have caused this son to be seen as yet another threat to Nezahualcoyotl that had to be neutralized. Nezahualcoyotl’s dramatic marriage was a popular tale, and multiple versions of the story have been recorded. They convey conflicting information, which I suspect sheds light on a desire on the part of Texcoco’s colonial elite to downplay the city’s previous association with Tenochtitlan. For example, the Spanish friar Juan de Torquemada (1986, 1: 154–55) tells the same melodramatic tale of Nezahualcoyotl’s suffering before finding love at first sight with his future wife, the fiancée of a subject lord. In this account, however, the subject lord is named Temictzin and was said to have been the ruler of an unnamed city that was part of Tlatelolco. Moreover, his fiancée was not from Tenochtitlan but instead was a daughter of Tlacopan’s ruler, Totoquihuatzin. The marriage of this subject lord to a daughter of the ruler of Tlacopan would still have been unconventional, but Torquemada clarifies that though Temictzin 128


was a vassal of Nezahualcoyotl, he was a great warrior and a great friend of Totoquihuatzin, hence his unconventional marriage. In fact, elsewhere and in contradiction to his other accounts, Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997 1: 447) also claims that Nezahualcoyotl’s wife was a daughter of the ruler of Tlacopan. When studying Texcoco, it is often difficult to determine exactly who were the mothers and wives of Texcoco’s latest rulers (Carrasco 1999: 48–52; Townsend, this volume). Elsewhere, I have argued that this ambiguity can be traced to a desire on the part of Texcoco’s historians to obscure links between the rulers of Texcoco and Tenochtitlan (Diel 2005: 101, 2007: 267). The alternative versions of the story coalesced with Texcoco’s agenda to assert its independence from Tenochtitlan, and one way of doing so was by obscuring the familial ties between the two city-states. At the same time, subordinate territories like Tepechpan were trying to assert their own independence from Texcoco through similar means. TLAZOLYAOTZIN OF HUEXOTLA

Huexotla was another troublesome territory for Texcoco and one of the larger and more powerful cities included as its subject in the Mapa Quinatzin. The placement of its ruler Tlazolyaotzin in the first position just below Nezahualcoyotl in the palace courtyard indicates his superior status; according to Texcocan historical tradition, Huexotla, Coatlinchan, and Texcoco were the three most illustrious Acolhua towns in the years preceding the war with Azcapotzalco. The early foundations and genealogies of Huexotla and Coatlinchan are included in the Mapa Tlotzin, and these towns are clearly shown in a dominant position in the Codex Xolotl (1996), which focuses on the years before Nezahualcoyotl’s reign. The importance of these towns is also confirmed through archaeological investigations that show these three cities had relatively large populations compared with other cities in the area (Parsons 1971: 236–39; Smith 2008: 152). Despite the Quinatzin’s depiction of Huexotla as a subject of Texcoco, the sources are ambiguous. Tlazolyaotzin’s father ruled Huexotla at the time of the Tepanec War and died during the battle, making Tlazolyaotzin Huexotla’s new ruler. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997 2: 84–85), both Tlazolyaotzin and his father had sided against Nezahualcoyotl, and after his restoration, Tlazolyaotzin fled in fear of his wrath; but because of his benevolent nature, Nezahualcoyotl restored him to his throne and, presumably in so doing, earned his loyalty and respect. However, non-Acolhua sources suggest a more bellicose relationship. For example, the author of the Anales de Cuauhtitlan (1992: T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


98) mentions Nezahualcoyotl’s conquest of Huexotla in 1430, and the Spanish friar and historian Diego Durán (1994: 290) stated that Huexotla had rebelled against Texcoco during the reigns of Axayacatl and Nezahualpilli. Durán’s dating of the rebellion places it sometime between 1468 and 1481, which would have coincided with the reign of Tlazolyaotzin and would imply that he did not peacefully accept Huexotla’s subordination to Texcoco. One of the key pictorial sources on Huexotla is the Primeros memoriales (Sahagún 1993), compiled by the Spanish friar Bernardino de Sahagún between 1558 and 1561. The Primeros memoriales includes rulers’ lists for Huexotla, Tenochtitlan, and Texcoco (see figures 5.4, 5.5, and 5.6). The inclusion of Huexotla here is confusing, as Sahagún compiled much of the manuscript in—relying on native informants from—Tepepolco, a town in the Acolhua domain rather far from Huexotla (Nicholson 1997: 3–4; Quiñones Keber 1997: 32). At the very least, the inclusion of Huexotla’s rulers in the manuscript suggests that the city and its rulers were significant to the Tepepolco informants. Slight iconographic shifts in the kings’ lists communicate the relative political and social status of each city’s rulers, such that one could conceivably interpret the image as emphasizing Huexotla’s antiquity and autonomy. The earliest rulers of each city-state are shown seated on bundled grass seats and wearing a headpiece, called a cozoyahualolli, associated with tribal, Chichimec status and legitimate succession (Offner, this volume) in Aztec pictorials. These elements, then, communicate tribal rule, and an elevation in status is suggested in this work by trading the cozoyahualolli for a xihuitzolli, or turquoise diadem, and the bundled grass seat for a tepotzicpalli (Nicholson 1967: 73). For each of the city-states, the headgear changes with the first ruler in power after the Tepanec War. For Tenochtitlan, the shift comes with Itzcoatl (see figure 5.4), for Texcoco with Nezahualcoyotl (see figure 5.5), and for Huexotla with Tlazolyaotzin (see figure 5.6, right column). Moreover, Itzcoatl and Nezahualcoyotl are the first rulers of their respective cities to sit on the tepotzicpalli. However, in Huexotla, the shift from the bundled grass seat to the tepotzicpalli happens at an earlier date, three generations before Tlazolyaotzin’s reign. The shift at Huexotla coincides with Yaotzin, who must have ruled during the fourteenth century (see figure 5.6, left column). The alphabetic annotation here says that in his time, Huexotla began to pay tribute to the Tepaneca (Sullivan 1997: 191). Thus, upon Yaotzin’s reign, Huexotla experienced an elevation in status based on its affiliation with the Tepaneca, though the headgear and annotation suggest that the city was not yet autonomous; that elevation would not come until Tlazolyaotzin’s reign and the defeat of Azcapotzalco. The accession of Yaotzin also brought a shift in clothing for 130


Figure 5.4. Tenochtitlan’s rulers, Primeros memoriales, folio 51r; courtesy, Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid.

Figure 5.5. Texcoco’s rulers, Primeros memoriales, folio 52r; courtesy, Real Academic de la Historia, Madrid.

Figure 5.6. Huexotla’s rulers, Primeros memoriales, folio 53r–53v; courtesy, Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid.

Huexotla’s rulers; no longer do they wear coarse animal skins but instead fine cotton garments. The early rulers of Texcoco also wear coarse animal skins (though spotted rather than striped), but they do not begin wearing finer clothing until the reign of Nezahualcoyotl. Animal-skin cloaks are often associated in the pictorials with a more nomadic, lower status, as are bows and arrows, which the earliest rulers of both Huexotla and Texcoco also carry. Nevertheless, T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


Texcoco’s rulers do not give these up until the reign of Nezahualcoyotl, whereas Huexotla’s rulers give them up after only two generations. Based on the visual imagery here, one could easily see Nezahualcoyotl as a mere upstart ruler of a fairly new city-state (Texcoco) and Tlazolyaotzin as hailing from an ancient and civilized bloodline and territory. In fact, only three tlatoque preceded the reign of Nezahualcoyotl, while eight rulers preceded Tlazolyaotzin, his contemporary; Sahagún’s informants calculated that Texcoco’s rulers reigned for 384 years, whereas the antiquity of Huexotla was far greater: 562 years. The alphabetic annotations further state that the founders of Huexotla were the first arrivals in the area and that only during Tlazolyaotzin’s reign were “the mat, the seat”—a metaphor for autonomous rule—set down in Texcoco (ibid.). The theory that Tlazolyaotzin did not accept his subservience to Texcoco peacefully is also suggested by the associated annotation: “When Nezahualcohyotl was installed as lord, [he and] Tlazolyaotzin of Huexotla contended against each other” (ibid.: 192). Thus the message sent here is that the rulers of Huexotla were autonomous leaders and not subject to Texcoco; indeed, they are shown as Texcoco’s equals, if not its superiors.8 Troubles between Huexotla and Texcoco continued after the conquest, when Huexotla fought its placement as a subject of Texcoco. During the 1530s and 1540s, Huexotla continued to have its own native ruler and acted as a cabecera (head town), though Texcoco claimed it was its sujeto (Gibson 1964: 52–53). By the 1550s, a legal conflict between the two emerged. Huexotla’s defense was that it had always been independent and had a long line of rulers by direct descent. Texcoco countered that Huexotla had been its subject for time immemorial. By picturing Huexotla’s Tlazolyaotzin as a subordinate lord, the Mapa Quinatzin ignores Texcoco’s troubles with Huexotla and sends the message that Huexotla had once been (and should still be) an obedient subject of Texcoco. COCOPIN OF TEPETLAOZTOC

Cocopin of Tepetlaoztoc is included as a subordinate lord in the Mapa Quinatzin, and he also appears in a pictorial manuscript from Tepetlaoztoc. The Codex Kingsborough consists of a series of documents, in pictorial and alphabetic script, compiled in Tepetlaoztoc in relation to a lawsuit for excessive tribute demands the city brought against its encomendero in the 1550s (Valle 1993: 8). While mostly focusing on tribute and poor treatment, the Codex Kingsborough also includes a rulers’ list for Tepetlaoztoc, which visually sets Cocopin apart from his predecessors (see figure 5.7). In the manuscript, Cocopin’s immediate predecessor is shown as a Chichimec, or nomadic hunter, 134


Figure 5.7. Tepetlaoztoc’s rulers, Codex Kingsborough; courtesy, Trustees of the British Museum.

considered of a lower social status than more settled peoples. Accordingly, Cocopin’s predecessor holds a bow and arrow and wears a course garment tied around his torso and the cozoyahualolli headpiece. In contrast, Cocopin wears an elegantly embroidered cotton mantle tied at the shoulder, and he no longer holds a bow and arrow, nor does he wear the cozoyahualolli. Moreover, he sits on the tepotzicpalli. Thus Cocopin is shown as an autonomous ruler of the city-state and not a tribal leader like his predecessors. The associated alphabetic annotation also distinguishes Cocopin from his predecessors, saying that they lived “sin policia” (without laws), whereas Cocopin brought law to the land as well as the payment of tribute. No mention is made here of Cocopin being restored to the throne by Nezahualcoyotl; instead, he simply inherited the throne from his father. Also, according to this manuscript, Tepetlaoztoc was founded 440 years earlier, before Texcoco. We learn elsewhere in the codex that Cocopin’s wife was a daughter of the lord of Texcoco, which suggests that Tepetlaoztoc was indeed a subject of Texcoco. Nevertheless, this woman, like Ome Tochtzin of Tepechpan, only seems to be mentioned here because she became Tepetlaoztoc’s ruler after Cocopin’s death. Cocopin is also included in the Codex en Cruz, but his representation in this manuscript suggests that its historian did not see him as Tepetlaoztoc’s autonomous ruler but instead as an underling of Nezahualcoyotl. The Codex en Cruz is a pictorial annals history likely composed in a town called Chiauhtla, another territory subject to Texcoco and close to Tepetlaoztoc (Dibble 1981 1: 59). The tepotzicpalli, in this manuscript, communicates elevation in political rank. For example, when Nezahualcoyotl is pictured in the 13 Reed (1427) year column, he appears just above the Tenochca ruler Itzcoatl, who sits on the throne while Nezahualcoyotl does not, which communicates that he was an underling of Itzcoatl at that time (see figure 5.8a). Upon his official installation in 4 Reed (1431), Nezahualcoyotl sits on the full-sized throne, communicating that he is now an autonomous ruler (see figure 5.8b).9 Cocopin is shown in this same year column just above Nezahualcoyotl and just under the place name sign for Tepetlaoztoc. Tellingly, Cocopin does not sit on a throne; therefore, he is not considered an autonomous ruler but instead an underling of Nezahualcoyotl. The representation of his death, in 10 House (1489), depicts his funerary bundle but still without the throne, unlike other ruler deaths in the same manuscript (see figure 5.8c). Above Cocopin’s funerary bundle and linked to his name sign is a seated woman, identified with a name glyph of an azcaxochitl plant along with the “Fasting Coyote” sign for Nezahualcoyotl. The woman must be Cocopin’s widow, a daughter of Nezahualcoyotl, and she acted as 136


Figure 5.8. Installations of Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco and Cocopin, Azcaxochitl, and Tlilpotonqui of Tepetlaoztoc, Codex en Cruz; courtesy, Bibliothèque National de France.

ruler of Tepetlaoztoc after her husband’s death, as explained in an alphabetic annotation in the Codex Kingsborough (1993: f2v). The text in the Codex Kingsborough goes on to state that Azcaxochitl’s grandson Tlilpotonqui (Black Dust) assumed rule upon her death. He is included in the Codex Kingsborough rulers’ list, where he is distinguished from Cocopin only by the designs on his cotton mantle and the addition of speech scrolls. In the Codex en Cruz, however, Tlilpotonqui is further distinguished from his grandfather through his placement on the tepotzicpalli (see figure 5.8d). Thus, according to the Codex T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


en Cruz, Tepetlaoztoc did not have an independent ruler until Tlilpotonqui’s installation, which suggests that his blood ties to both Tepetlaoztoc and Texcoco helped Tepetlaoztoc earn its elevation in rank. For Tepetlaoztoc, Cocopin’s significance was tied to the fact that he brought law and tribute—in short, civility—to his people, whereas for Chiauhtla and Texcoco, his significance was tied to his links with Texcoco, as an underling and son-in-law of Nezahualcoyotl. In the past, the earliest Acolhua migrants married elite Toltec women to establish a noble bloodline for Texcoco’s rulers and to ensure their legitimacy. Later, Nezahaulcoyotl’s daughters became the new “ennoblers,” creating new bloodlines for the subject territories and suggesting that political legitimacy now came through links with Texcoco. Considered in light of the colonial era in which these documents were created, the Acolhua sources emphasize that all current rulers were ultimately connected by blood to Texcoco, whereas for Tepetlaoztoc, its rulers alone brought civility to the ancient and autonomous city. QUAUHTLATZACUILOTZIN OF CHIAUHTLA

Chiauhtla’s ruler, Quauhtlatzacuilotzin, was also included on the Mapa Quinatzin palace image (right, second from bottom), but this ruler was unique because he was a son of Nezahualcoyotl. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl (1997 2: 137), he was Chiauhtla’s first ruler, and indeed he is the first ruler of the city shown in the Codex en Cruz, which Charles Dibble (1981 1: 59) has suggested was likely made in Chiauhtla itself. Nevertheless, the dating in the Codex en Cruz is problematic: the birth of Quauhtlatzacuilotzin is shown in the year 10 Rabbit (1502), while his death is shown just thirteen years later, in 10 Reed (1515). Though Quauhtlatzacuilotzin’s inauguration is not recorded, his funerary bundle is depicted on top of a tepotzicpalli, which suggests the painter of the codex considered him an autonomous ruler. As Dibble (ibid.: 42–44) has argued, the birth statement of Quauhtlatzacuilotzin was most likely a mistake and would make more sense in the previous fifty-two-year cycle, which would place it in 10 Rabbit (1450) instead. Nevertheless, this would still contradict Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s interpretation of the Mapa Quinatzin, as Nezahualcoyotl could not have placed him on the throne soon after his defeat of Azcapotzalco because he was not born until two decades later. Thus Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s statement and the Quinatzin image imply a longer antiquity for Chiauhtla, but in actuality this seems to have been a rather young and quite small altepetl (Smith 2008: 152). As a son of Nezahualcoyotl, the placement of Quauhtlatzacuilotzin on the throne of this city decades after the restoration of Nezahualcoyotl’s other 138


subordinate lords to their respective thrones does imply a shift in the way Texcoco controlled its subordinate territories. Early in his reign, Nezahualcoyotl retained local tlatoque but secured their loyalties by marrying them to his daughters; however, he may have later perceived a problem with this form of influence and remedied it by placing his son directly on Chiauhtla’s throne, a form of more direct control (Carrasco 1999: 141). The same shift took place in Tenochtitlan, whose rulers began placing their sons directly on the thrones of subordinate territories to establish more direct control (ibid.: 100). This suggests that Texcoco was trying to exert greater domination of its subordinate territories over time, which presumably was necessary because of increasing unrest among them. QUETZALPAINTZIN OF XICOTEPEC AND NAUHECATZIN OF QUAUHCHINANCO

Two other subordinate cities included in the Mapa Quinatzin are also the focus of the Códice de Xicotepec, a sixteenth-century pictorial history created in Xicotepec but also with a large amount of history devoted to Quauchinanco (Stresser-Péan 1995; Offner 2010). The names of these cities’ rulers in the codex do not match those in the Mapa Quinatzin, perhaps because its dynastic history begins after the Tepanec War. Though both towns are included as subjects in the Mapa Quinatzin, the painters of the Códice de Xicotepec seem to distinguish Xicotepec as a subject of Texcoco, with its ruler even marrying a daughter of Nezahualpilli (section 19), while the ruler of Quauchinanco married a daughter of Tenochtitlan’s ruler Ahuitzotl (section 18; Offner 2010: 74–75). Nevertheless, the codex suggests that both Texcoco and Tenochtitlan were making incursions into each other’s territories. In an earlier scene (sections 16, 17), Nezahualcoyotl appears to be brokering a marriage alliance with Quauchinanco, and in a later section the Tenochca ruler Moctezuma II seems to be making incursions into Xicotepec (ibid.: 74–75, 79). Though the meanings of the pictorial imagery in this codex are not entirely clear, the codex does suggest yet again that Texcoco’s hold over its territories was not as strong and stable as the image in the Mapa Quinatzin would suggest and that its main competitor was Tenochtitlan. OTHER SUBJECT TERRITORIES

Unfortunately, it is difficult to trace many of the other lords pictured in the Mapa Quinatzin in other sources. The Relaciones geográficas for some of the T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


territories are extant, and many of them downplay Texcoco’s dominance in their affairs. For example, the Relación de Chimalhuacan mentions the same ruler pictured in the Mapa Quinatzin and describes him as having a long and bellicose reign, with no reference to the city’s subjection to Texcoco. The implication is that it had always been independent (Paso y Troncoso 1905–6, 6: 70–72). The Relaciones geográficas for Acolman and Teotihuacan relate their conquest by Texcoco but also discuss an alliance between Nezahualcoyotl and Motecuhzoma I (Nuttall 1926: 63–64, 68). Meanwhile, the later Relación del señorio de Teotihuacan (ca. 1621) suggests close ties between it and Texcoco (Pérez-Rocha and Tena 2000: 379–404). According to this source, Teotihuacan’s ruler at the time of the Tepanec War was Quetzalmemalitzin, who is also pictured in the Mapa Quinatzin.10 He married a daughter of Nezahualcoyotl, and their firstborn son eventually inherited the throne and also married a Texcocan noblewoman, the daughter of Nezahualpilli. After the conquest, the ruling families of Texcoco and Teotihuacan were closely linked; in fact, Alva Ixtlilxochitl lived there for a time. This close connection between the two cities and their ruling families may explain Teotihuacan’s higher status (it was distinguished as a center of justice) and more important placement (at the top, just underneath Texcoco’s rulers) in the Mapa Quinatzin. CONCLUSION

The exact political relations between Texcoco and its subjects are often ambiguous because they were dynamic, with jockeying for position and shifting alliances marking both the pre-conquest and early colonial periods. The Quinatzin palace image presents a decidedly Texcocan view of its past golden age, a time in which its subjects were properly ordered and obedient, whereas this study has revealed the rebellious nature of some of Texcoco’s subordinate lords (Tepechpan and Huexotla) and the heavy hand Texcoco played in their affairs, with Nezahualcoyotl going so far as to order the death of one for insubordination (Quaquauhtzin of Tepechpan). In addition, the placement of Nezahualcoyotl’s son on Chiauhtla’s throne suggests that Texcoco needed more direct control over its subject territories, surely in light of their subjects’ desire for independence but also because of incursions made by Tenochtitlan. This direct control is also reflected in the fact that two of Nezahualcoyotl’s daughters ruled their adopted hometowns. Though not directly pictured in the Quinatzin image, another way for Texcoco to maintain control over its subjects was through marriage, with Nezahualcoyotl’s daughters playing a significant role in consolidating the 140


Acolhua domain and creating noble lineages for the subject territories, making the Quinatzin palace scene a foundational image as well. These marriages mimic the earlier marriages between the migrant Chichimecs and the more civilized Toltecs that are typical fodder in the beginnings of Aztec histories. The implication is that in Texcoco’s eyes, its subordinate territories did not have noble lineages and political legitimacy until they were restored by Nezahualcoyotl and married into the Acolhua royal family, just as the earlier Chichimec migrants could not found new dynasties until they added Toltec blood to their bloodlines. Accordingly, their descendants in the colonial period owed their status and traced their bloodlines to Texcoco. In the end, the Mapa Quinatzin is more idealized than actual, a state to which the patrons of the manuscript, working in the early colonial period, would have liked to return. Texcoco was clearly unhappy with its situation in the early colonial period; the town petitioned the Crown for privileges based on its ancient and noble pedigree and alliance with Spain. It also bemoaned the loss of its subject territories and complained that the territories it was granted (Huexotla, Coatlinchan, Chiauhtla, and Tezoyucan) did not pay it proper obedience. In his response to Texcoco’s Relación Geográfica, Juan Bautista Pomar (1991: 23–24) complained that Texcoco’s current holdings did not compare to the extent of its territories in the past. He also mourned Texcoco’s past glory days by emphasizing the many accomplishments of Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli (ibid.: 27–28). Hence, the Mapa Quinatzin palace image is a glorified picture of Texcoco frozen at the height of its powers, an idealized and stable view of the city and its domain. From the perspective of its subject territories, though, the hold Texcoco maintained over them was far more complex and tenuous. NOTES

Many thanks to Jongsoo Lee for organizing the symposium on Texcoco that sparked this volume and to him, Galen Brokaw, and the anonymous reviewers for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this chapter.

1. Many scholars have devoted a great deal of attention to this image; for examples, see Charles Gibson (1956), Jerome Offner (1983: 97–109), Pedro Carrasco (1999: 161– 66), Eduardo Douglas (2003, 2010), and Jongsoo Lee (2008: 39–40, 114–16). My interpretations focus mostly on the subordinate lords and build on these previous studies, to which I direct readers for more thorough analyses of the Mapa Quinatzin as well as the other Texcocan pictorials and the larger Acolhua domain. T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


2. For more thorough analyses of these rulers and what they tell us about Texcocan historiography, see Martínez (1972), Offner (1983), León-Portilla (1992: 70–97, 112–30), Velazco (1998), Spitler (2000), Lee (2003, 2008), and Douglas (2010). 3. See Lesbre (2007) for an analysis of these fires focusing more on their sacred significations, and Lee, this volume, for more on the nature of the Aztec tributary system. 4. A place glyph of water (atl) and arm (colli) is annotated as Acolhuacan, perhaps signifying the entire Acolhua region, or the glyph may have been intended to be read as Acolman. 5. A letter from Azcapotzalco, written in Latin and addressed to the king of Spain, claimed that Quaquauhtzin was actually a son of Tezozomoc of Azcapotzalco and that his father had placed him on Tepechpan’s throne (in Pérez-Rocha and Tena 2000: 213–24). This same information is contained in the Anales de Tlatelolco (1948: 22). Nevertheless, the version of events presented in the Tira denies this. If Quaquauhtzin were Tezozomoc’s son, he would have had no reason to flee Tepechpan after Tencoyotzin’s death. Though it is impossible to know the truth, the Tira goes to pains to establish the continuity of Tepechpan’s ruling dynasty, going so far as to repeat rulers’ names despite the premature deaths of so many of them. 6. See León-Portilla (1992: 99–111) for a poem said to have been composed by Quaquauhtzin, though it contains little information about the events leading to his death. 7. Some have noted the similarity of this tale to the biblical story of David, Uriah, and Bathsheba. As Salvador Velazco (1998) and Jongsoo Lee (2003) have argued, Alva Ixtlilxochitl may have enhanced the similarities between David and Nezahualcoyotl in an attempt to make Texcoco appear the true place of the Christian faith and Nezahualcoyotl a Christian hero, a civilized Acolhua foil to the barbaric Mexica (see also Kauffmann, this volume). 8. Interestingly, when much of this same information was added to Sahagún’s (1959–82, 8: 13–14) later project, the Florentine Codex, the point about Tlazolyaotzin and Nezahualcoyotl contending against each other was dropped. 9. The painter of this manuscript does not use the turquoise diadem as a marker of rule. In fact, the turquoise diadem does not appear in the Texcocan pictorials and is more a Tenochca sign for rulership (Diel 2008: 29–30). Its use by the painter of the Tira de Tepechpan further relates that city to Tenochtitlan. 10. He must have had a long reign, as he was ninety-five years old when he died. Moreover, many of Texcoco’s subordinate lords had long reigns, most exceeding fifty years, which suggests a time of relative peace and stability following the Tepanec War.




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Durán, Diego. 1994. The History of the Indies of New Spain. Ed. and trans. Doris Heyden. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Gibson, Charles. 1956. “Llamamiento General, Repartimiento, and the Empire of Acolhuacan.” Hispanic American Historical Review 36 (1): 1–27. http://dx.doi.org /10.2307/2508623. Gibson, Charles. 1964. The Aztecs under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519–1810. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Hicks, Frederic. 1994. “Texcoco 1515–1519: The Ixtlilxochitl Affair.” In Chipping Away on Earth: Studies in Prehispanic and Colonial Mexico in Honor of Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble, ed. Eloise Quiñones Keber, 235–39. Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos. Lee, Jongsoo. 2003. “A Reinterpretation of Nahuatl Poetics: Rejecting the Image of Nezahualcoyotl as a Peaceful Poet.” Colonial Latin American Review 12 (2): 233–49. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10609160032000153210. Lee, Jongsoo. 2008. The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. León-Portilla, Miguel. 1992. Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Lesbre, Patrick. 2007. “Los fuegos del palacio real de Tezcoco.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 38: 101–27. Lopes Don, Patricia. 2008. “The 1539 Inquisition and the Trial of Don Carlos of Texcoco in Early Mexico.” Hispanic American Historical Review 88 (4): 573–606. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00182168-2008-001. Martínez, José Luis. 1972. Nezahualcóyotl: vida y obra. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Nichols, Deborah L., Christina Elson, Leslie G. Cecil, Nina Neiverns de Estrada, Michael D. Glascock, and Paual Mikkelsen. 2009. “Chiconautla, Mexico: A Crossroads of Aztec Trade and Politics.” Latin American Antiquity 20 (3): 443–73. Nicholson, Henry B. 1967. “The Royal Headband of the Tlaxcalteca.” Revista Mexicana de Estudios Antropológicos 21: 71–106. Nicholson, Henry B. 1997. “Introduction.” In Primeros memoriales, by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, 3–14. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Nuttall, Zelia. 1926. “Official Reports on the Towns of Tequizistlan, Tepechpan, Acolman, and San Juan Teotihuacan Sent by Francisco de Castaneda to His Majesty, Philip II, and the Council of the Indies, in 1580.” Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University 11 (2): 45–83. Offner, Jerome. 1983. Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 144


Offner, Jerome. 2010. “Un segundo vistazo al Códice de Xicotepec.” Itinerarios 11: 55–83. Parsons, Jeffrey. 1971. Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the Texcocan Region, Mexico. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology. Paso y Troncoso, Francisco del. 1905–6. Papeles de la Nueva España publicados de orden y con fondos del govierno mexicano. 7 vols. Madrid: Establecimiento Tipográfico Sucesores de Rivadeneyra. Pérez-Rocha, Emma, and Rafael Tena. 2000. La nobleza indígena del centro de México después de la conquista. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Quiñones Keber, Eloise. 1997. “An Introduction to the Images, Artists, and Physical Features of the Primeros memoriales.” In Primeros memoriales, by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, 15–37. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1959–82. Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain. 13 vols. Ed. and trans. Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J.O. Anderson. Santa Fe: School of American Research / University of Utah. Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1993. Primeros memoriales. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Smith, Michael E. 2008. Aztec City-State Capitals. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Spitler, Susan. 2000. “El equilibrio entra la veracidad histórica y el propósito en los codices de Texcoco.” In Códices y documentos sobre México: Tercer Simposio Internacional, ed. Constanza Vega Sosa, 617–31. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Stresser-Péan, Guy. 1995. El Códice de Xicotepec: Estudio e interpretación. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Sullivan, Thelma D. 1997. Primeros memoriales by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún: Paleography of Nahuatl Text and English Translation. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Torquemada, Juan de. 1986. Monarquía Indiana. 3 vols. Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa. Townsend, Camilla. 2006. “ ‘What in the World Have You Done to Me, My Lover?’ Sex, Servitude, and Politics among the Pre-Conquest Nahuas as Seen in the Cantares Mexicanos.” The Americas 62 (3): 349–89. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/tam .2006.0048. Valle, Perla. 1993. Memorial de los Indios de Tepetlaoztoc o códice Kingsborough. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Velazco, Salvador. 1998. “La imaginación historiográfica de Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl: etnicidades emergentes y espacios de enunciación.” Colonial Latin American Review 7 (1): 33–58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10609169885007. T H E M A PA Q U I N ATZ I N A N D T EXCO CO ’ S I D E A L S U B O R D I N AT E L O R D S


6 The Spanish conquest of ruling polities in the Valley of Mexico in 1521 had two consequences that forever obscured the history of science in the New World.1 One was decimation of the indigenous population within a span of three generations. The other was wholesale destruction of native libraries, not only by Spanish conquerors and priests, who thought them to be the works of the devil, but also by individuals of the native population who sought to avoid prosecution for idolatry. Probably lost in the book burnings, particularly of the royal library in Texcoco, was evidence underpinning Acolhua mathematical and scientific thought of government-educated specialists. Areas of expertise included land surveying, metrology, civil engineering, agro-hydrology, pedology, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, medicine, and metallurgy. Interestingly, the Texcocan chroniclers Juan Bautista Pomar (1941 [1582]: 3–4, 38–39) and Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl (1975–77 [1608] 1: 406–7) mention only some of these. Certain categories of traditional hieroglyphic painting continued well into the early colonial period. However, except for Bernardino de Sahagún’s (1963 [1577]) Florentine Codex (in particular Book 11) and the Martín de la Cruz (1940 [1552]) herbal, pictorial compilation of pre-Colombian scientific knowledge in general was overlooked, and its loss was compounded by the precipitous population decline. For example, in the early 1580s, when Pomar (1941 [1582]: 39) interviewed surviving elders to preserve the cultural memory of the Acolhua, they lamented to him that as their specialists in the sciences died, their knowledge died with them.

Evidence of Acolhua Science in Pictorial Land Records Barbara J. Williams and Janice K. Pierce

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c006


Over time and heightened by acculturation processes, indigenous ability to translate extant paintings was lost. Such was the fate of the Códice de Santa Maria Asunción2 (CSMA) and the Códice Vergara3 (CV) from Tepetlaoztoc, a city-state (altepetl) in Acolhuacan 8 km northeast of the capital of Texcoco in the eastern Valley of Mexico. Drawn two decades after the conquest (1543–44 CE) but clearly based on pre-Contact format and protocols, these codices once formed a single manuscript painted in the context of a tribute dispute between the natives of Tepetlaoztoc and their Spanish encomenderos Gonzalo de Salazar and his son and heir, Juan Velásquez de Salazar. To gather information for the pending case, in 1543 the viceroy ordered Judge Pedro Vázquez de Vergara to visit Tepetlaoztoc to enumerate household population and landholdings and to assess their ability to pay the Salazar levies. These codices probably resulted from the visit, for both are signed (but not dated) by Vázquez de Vergara (Williams and Harvey 1988: 341; Williams and Hicks 2011). The CSMA records information for 12 localities, 258 households, and 823 agricultural fields, which pertained to the present-day Tepetlaoztoc barrio (ward) of Asunción. The CV registers 110 households and 607 fields for 5 localities, 4 of which were located in the barrio then known as San Jerónimo and one in Asunción (Williams and Harvey 1988: 347). Data for each locality are divided into three sections: (1) a household census, glossed tlacatlacuiloli or tlancayotl (humanity, multitude of people); (2) a milcocolli section (land shapes, contours), which depicts individual land parcels pertaining to each household, with number symbols on their perimeters and a glyph in the center; and (3) a second land register of the same fields, tlahuelmantli (leveled, equalized), composed of abstract rectangular drawings with a tab in the upper right (much as a manila file folder) with lines in the tab, lines on the bottom margin, or lines and dots in the center, along with a central glyph. After a hiatus of over 400 years, the meaning of the perimeter number signs in the milcocolli, the content of the tlahuelmantli section, and readings of the central parcel glyphs were deciphered through research beginning in the 1970s (Harvey and Williams 1980). From these records, various studies have uncovered previously unknown Acolhua accomplishments in the scientific domains of land-survey metrology, mathematics, and pedology, which we summarize below. Contrary to fears of the elders mentioned by Pomar, this scientific knowledge has not died: the surviving paintings continue to speak for the Acolhua specialists.




The milcocolli cadasters record field perimeter measurements in Acolhua line-and-dot numerical notation. Vertical lines represent one linear unit, and groups of five bundled by a horizontal connecting line equal five units. Dots (filled circles) represent twenty linear units. Number symbols are always arranged from largest to smallest and written either from right to left or left to right. The same line-and-dot notation (the “milcocolli convention”) also denotes property dimensions on other extant Acolhua land documents: the Oztoticpac Lands Map of AD 1540 (Cline 1966; Harvey 1991), the Cadastral Fragment of the Ramírez Collection (Williams and Hicks 2011: appendix II in color facsimile), the Humboldt Fragment VIII (Seler 1904), and on a landsale document in the Papeles de la Embajada Americana (Williams and Hicks 2011: figure 10). Thus the milcocolli convention appears to have been the typical notation system used by Acolhua surveyors to express linear measurements. It is noteworthy that these number glyphs in the Acolhua documents differ from those of the neighboring Tenochca of Tenochtitlan, who used a small filled or unfilled circle for one and a flag for twenty. In the milcocolli convention, the lines and dots refer to units of the Acolhua standard linear measure, a tlalcuahuitl (land rod). Alva Ixtlilxóchitl’s (1975–77 [1608] 2: 92–93) description of the relationship between Indian and Spanish measures of the palace of Nezahualcóyotl provides the basis to equate the tlalcuahuitl to 2.5 m.4 Further, relic square fields detected by soil discolorations on an air photo of Tepetlaoztoc appear to have perimeters consistent with this unit of measure (Harvey and Williams 1980: 505, n. 29). Field perimeter measurements in the milcocolli convention also sometimes include a glyph of an arrow (cemmitl), a heart (cenyollotli), or a hand (cemmatl ) at the end of the lines and dots, never two of the same glyph nor in combination. These glyphs are “monads” denoting linear measures, which are unitary, non-divisible units shorter than the tlalcuahuitl. The intended meaning of the monad glyphs is “so many standard measures plus a smaller measure,” rather than, as Howard Cline first suggested, an indication of the unit to which the lines and dots referred (Cline 1966; Williams and Harvey 1997: 26). A seminal study by Victor Castillo Farreras (1972) of Nahua dimensions and their equivalents recorded in ethnohistorical sources and an in-depth analysis of Tenochca land documents by Marcos Matías Alonso (1984) show that the monad distances confounded both Indian and Spanish translators in the sixteenth century. Difficulties arose from attempts to reconcile Indian measures with Spanish metrology (both of which were loosely based on stature and



body parts) and from expression of monads as fractions of the Spanish vara or braza (whose dimensions varied) or as fractions of an assumed native standard measure. Studies suggesting a variety of both Spanish and metric equivalents have been flawed by that confusion and also by unrecognized variation in native metrology that existed in the Valley of Mexico. Metric equivalents of the Acolhua monads shown in table 6.1 have been proposed based on empirical evidence resulting from calculation of quadrilateral field areas using the recorded perimeters in the CV milcocolli sections compared with the recorded areas in the tlahuelmantli sections (described in greater detail below) (Williams and Jorge y Jorge 2008). These calculations show that the arrow/cemmitl is half of a “land rod,” and therefore, with the proportion of 2 arrows to 1 land rod, it equals 1.25 m. This computationally derived value is consistent with colonial period dictionaries and land-document texts, which equate the arrow/cemmitl to “one-half a standard linear measure” (Castillo Farreras 1972; Matías Alonso 1984). The heart/cenyollotli in calculations with CV data indicate an Acolhua ratio of 5 hearts to 2 tlalcuahuitl, thus equaling 1.0 m. Interestingly, whereas the hand monad/cemmatl in Tenocha metrology symbolized their standard linear unit equal to 2 Spanish varas (1.67 m), for Acolhua surveyors the hand was a shorter-than-standard distance. Evidence from calculations indicates that 5 hands equaled 3 land rods (3/5 tlalcuahuitl), or 1.5 m. Two other Acolhua monads, apparently used in their mathematics, are not depicted on the Tepetlaoztoc codices but are present on the Oztoticpac Lands Map of the same vintage. One is the arm/cemacolli, whose value in Acolhua calculations is 1/3 of a tlalcuahuitl, or 0.83 m. This coincides with the distance value in Tenochca texts as a “media braza,” 1/2 × 1.67 m = 0.835 m. Although the metric length of the arm is similar in both metrologies, it is derived from different proportions of different standard lengths. Because the Tenochca standard measure corresponded to 2 Spanish varas, the ratio of arms to cemmatl was 2:1, whereas the Acolhua standard measure corresponded to 3 Spanish varas, so the arms-to-tlalcuahuitl ratio was 3:1. The other Oztoticpac Lands Map monad glyph is the bone/cemomitl, which is used several times in CV calculations in a ratio of 5:1, 1/5 of the tlalcuahuitl (0.5 m), a value slightly longer than the measure suggested by other researchers (see especially Clark [2010] for a discussion of alternative interpretations for this and other linear measurements). With the exception of 3:1, the Acolhua monad proportions resonate with the Mesoamerican vigesimal (base 20) number system as submultiples of 20—5:3, 5:2, 5:1, and 2:1. In addition to line-and-dot numerical notation combined with proportional values for monads to express linear measurements, two extraordinary findings 150


Proportion of Monads to Standard “Land Rods” (T)

Fractional Equivalent of (T)

Metric Equivalent (1T = 2.5m)

Cemmatl (one hand)



1.5 m

Cenyollotli (one heart)



1.0 m

Cemomitl (one bone)



0.5 m

Cemacolli (one arm)



0.83 m

Cemmitl (one arrow)



1.25 m

Nahuatl Glosses

Monad Glyphs in Acolhua Land Documents

Table 6.1. Monad glyphs, proportions to the standard Acolhua “land rod” tlalcuahuitl (T), and metric equivalents inferred from calculations of recorded field areas. Illustrations of hand, heart, and arrow are from the CV. Bone and arm from the Oztoticpac Lands Map are tentatively proposed glyphic referents for proportions 5:1 and 3:1 (Williams and Jorge y Jorge 2008: 74).

about Acolhua metrology were revealed by Herbert R. Harvey’s decipherment of the tlahuelmantli sections of the two codices (Harvey and Williams 1980). Of importance to the history of mathematics, New World knowledge and application of the area concept were documented empirically for the first time. The tlahuelmantli sections demonstrate that the Acolhua surveyors determined surface area in square tlalcuahuitl (T2) of the fields depicted in the milcocolli registers. In contrast, the Spaniards of the era typically expressed the size of an agricultural tract in terms of its agricultural yield or amount of seed EV I D EN C E O F ACO LH UA S C I EN C E I N P I C T O R I A L L A N D R E CO R D S


sown (Gibson 1964). Second, the surveyors/scribes recorded area information by an abstract method using a modified form of positional notation. A third finding (arguably) was the use of the “zero” concept. To record area in T2 of milcocolli fields, drawings of abstract rectangles with a tab in the upper right-hand corner serve as a frame for line-and-dot number symbols whose value is determined by position within the rectangle (figure 6.1). Numbers in the tab (position 1) range from 1 to 19 and are expressed by lines each multiplied by 1, denoting units of 1 T2 each. On the bottom margin (position 2), each line of 1 T2 is multiplied by 20. The values recorded in the second position range from 20T2 to 380 T2 shown by 1 to 19 lines. Total area of a field is the sum of the values in the second and the first positions. If the area of a field is equal to or greater than 400 T2, number symbols are entered in the center of the field (position 3) and in the tab. Unlike positions 1 and 2, dots appear here in addition to lines. Again, number symbols are each multiplied by 20, giving a range of 400 T2 (1 dot = 20T × 20T) to sometimes over 1,000 T2 for very large parcels. For fields over 400 T2, total area is the sum of the values in the third and first positions (in Figure 6.1a, area = 126T2; in Figure 6.1b, area = 810T2). Linguists will note that the three tlahuelmantli positions conform to the structure of Nahuatl number words (Payne and Closs 1986). The tab registers units composed of number words 1 through 4 (ce, ome, ei, nahui) in combination with roots reflecting the secondary numerical base-5: (macuilli [5], matlactli [10], and caxtolli [15]). The bottom margin records numbers of poalli, “counts, scores” (base-20 to the first power), while the center depicts numbers of tzontli (400), that is, base-20 to the second power, as well as poalli. The shift from entries in position 2 on the bottom margin to entries in position 3 in the center of the rectangle corresponds to the linguistic shift from poalli to tzontli in the spoken language, which, in turn, coincides mathematically with change in the numeric powers of 20. Tied to this notational system is the hypothesis that these codices exhibit the mathematical concept of “zero.” It comes into play when field areas are less than 400 T2, for then there is no entry (“zero”) in the third position. To signify “zero,” a corncob glyph/cintli usually appears just below the upper field margin. The indication of “zero” not only is important in the system of positional notation, but it also strongly suggests that these fields were special, that is, smaller than “one areal measure,” or “one count “ of land (20T × 20T = 400 T2, cempoalli × cempoalli). Thus “one [square] count” is analogous to land measures of one acre or one hectare (e.g., “one count” [400 T2] equals 0.2500 ha). Most likely, the standard areal unit was closely linked to tribute assessment. That is, 152


Figure 6.1. Recording of field areas in square tlalcuahuitl by positional notation.

land may have been taxed according to the number of “counts” held, probably what the Spaniards reported as “medidas.” Such is suggested by the Códice de Otlazpan (Leander 1967), where abstract field drawings in a tabular format with dimensions of 20 by 20, 20 by 40, 20 by 60, and so on, are depicted with a tax of one, two, and three cacao beans, respectively, indicating a tax rate of one cacao bean per “one count” of land (Williams and Harvey 1997: 38). The CV, the CSMA, and other Acolhua land documents show that their surveying procedures could produce linear precision to within 0.5 m and that they determined area to within 1 square tlalcuahuitl (6.25 m2). The question of how the Acolhua surveyors derived land area has led to several studies of the CV exploring Acolhua mathematics, a topic addressed below. MATHEMATICS

In the CV and the CSMA, the important surveyor data to investigate Acolhua mathematics consist of milcocolli side-lengths in tlalcuahuitl (T) and EV I D EN C E O F ACO LH UA S C I EN C E I N P I C T O R I A L L A N D R E CO R D S


Figure 6.2. Paired drawings of perimeter dimensions and recorded areas of three fields in the Códice Vergara.

monads (when present) and the recorded tlahuelmantli area (T2) of matching milcocolli fields (figure 6.2). Shapes of the milcocolli fields are not drawn to scale, nor are true angular relationships between sides-lengths indicated, so apparently the Acolhua surveyors did not use trigonometry to figure land area. In studies of CV quadrilateral fields with complete field side-length and area data, practical algorithms from the simplest to more complex have been tested to reproduce the Acolhua recorded areas, which are always in integers of T2 (Williams and Jorge y Jorge 2001, 2008). Computations assume base-20 and incorporate proportions of monads to tlalcuahuitl. Five algorithms and one miscellaneous category exactly reproduce 287 of the Acolhua recorded areas (RAs) in a database of 367 quadrilateral fields: Rule (1) multiplication of length by width, which accounts for nearly one-third of the RAs of CV quadrilaterals; Rule (2) multiplication of the average length of one set of opposite sides by an adjacent side, requiring operations of addition, division, and multiplication; Rule (3) with side-lengths denoted as a, b, c, and d, the Surveyors’ Rule approximates an area by multiplication of the average lengths of opposite sides (Area = (a + c)/2 × (b + d)/2) ; Rule (4) the Triangle Rule, in which a quadrilateral is divided by a diagonal so that area equals the sum of half the product of adjacent sides: Area = ab/2 + cd/2, or ad/2 + bc/2, using the right or left diagonal, respectively; Rule (5) the PlusMinus Rule, which tends to “square up” field shapes by adding or subtracting the same unit to or from adjacent sides and multiplying the modified sidelength numbers. In addition to possible Acolhua algorithms, area calculations also reveal an “Acolhua average.” That is, in Acolhua arithmetic an average between two numbers could result not only in a fraction of ½, as in Western mathematics 154


(2:1 arrows to tlalcuahuitl), but also other fractions such as 2/5 or 3/5, treated as proportions 5:2 or 5:3. Thus the Acolhua monads such as arrow, heart, and hand assumed dual roles as distances in linear metrology and as ratios (fractions) in their system of congruence arithmetic. Below are exemplars demonstrating the “Acolhua average” in RA calculations. Arrow. Consider the quadrilateral with sides a, b, c, d with dimensions of 36, 12, 37, and 12 and a RA of 438 T2. The Surveyors’ Rule achieves the RA thus: (36 + 37)/2 = 36 + a, (12 × 12)/2 = 12, (36 + a) × 12 = 432 + 12 × a = 432 + 6 × (2 × a) = 432 + 6 = 438 T2, where a = arrow and (2 × a) is the number of arrows in 1 land rod. Substitution of 1/2 (arrow) by a hand. Given the quadrilateral with sides 15, 25, 17, and 34 and a RA of 470 T2, the Triangle Rule gives the RA as: (34 × 15)/2 = 255, (25 × 17)/2 = 25 × (8 + a) ~25 × (8 + hd) = 200 + 25 × hd = 200 + 5 × (5 × hd) = 200 + 5 × 3 = 215, 255 + 215 = 470 T2, where a = arrow, hd = hand, and a proportion of 5 hands = 3 land rods. Substitution of 1/2 (arrow) by a heart. Given sides 22, 20, 23, and 21 and a RA of 448 T2, the average of one pair of opposite sides times an adjacent side gives: (21 + 20)/2 = 20 + a~20 + ht, 22 × (20 + ht) = 440 + 22 × ht = 440 + 4 × (5 × ht) + 2 × ht = 440 + 4 × 2 + 2 × ht, rd = 448 T2, where a = arrow, ht = heart, a proportion of 5 hearts = 2 land rods, and rd = round down to the integer. Congruence principles were long used in Mesoamerica to synchronize solar, lunar, and Venus calendars, so it is not surprising that the Acolhua would use the same principles in their everyday arithmetic. By calculating areas using Acolhua congruence arithmetic, it becomes clear that their methods achieved the same results as using fractions, which provides new data relevant to this long-debated question in Nahua numerology. Because hundreds of their recorded areas can be reproduced exactly, it seems improbable that the surveyors used a grid or some other physical procedure for area approximation, especially given the large size of many fields. In the absence of arithmetic worksheets to corroborate Acolhua methodology for area determinations, it is speculative to conclude that the “five rules” were indeed native algorithms. Nevertheless, the computational methods that derive the same areas as the tlahuelmantli records support the hypothesis that they are functionally equivalent to Acolhua procedures. These algorithms are commonly applied in utilitarian Western metrology, and they suggest that the Acolhua surveyors categorized field shapes similarly (squares, rectangles, and right triangles), with ascribed geometric properties not unlike European ones. Acolhua mathematics yielded accurate land area results judged from both their cultural perspective (emic) and that of modern mathematics (etic perspective).5 Regarding the latter, a recent quantitative assessment of area EV I D EN C E O F ACO LH UA S C I EN C E I N P I C T O R I A L L A N D R E CO R D S


accuracy finds that for quadrilateral fields in the CV, three-quarters of the recorded areas are within 5 percent of the maximum possible area, and 85 percent are within 10 percent ( Jorge et al. 2011). By comparison, nearly a century later in England, a 1613 map of Manningham shows a 10 percent discrepancy between the surveyor’s recorded land areas and those depicted on his survey map. By mid-century, English survey errors continued to reach as much as 25 percent (Atwell 1658; Bower 2009). Across the Atlantic, area errors abounded in seventeenth-century surveys of the southern American colonies (Kain and Baigent 1992: 265–71), and resurveys in the eighteenth century revealed cases of overestimation by 150 percent and underestimation by 42 percent (Earle 1975). Yet another century later in Mexico, a 1757 property measurement upon resurvey in 1872 was found to be overestimated by 8.9 percent (Nickel 2010). Despite the more sophisticated tools of Western surveyors, the error margin of Acolhua land areas clearly falls within the range reported for their professional counterparts several centuries later. SOIL SCIENCE (PEDOLOGY )

“Book 11: Earthly Things” of the Florentine Codex (Sahagún 1963 [1577]) includes a number of paragraphs describing different kinds of soils and their attributes recognized by Nahua informants. Charles Gibson (1964: 300) noted that some of these soil types were recorded in the land drawings of the CV, the CSMA, and the Humboldt Fragment VIII. The Cadastral Fragment of the Ramírez Collection should also be included in the list. These soil glyphs imply that the soil properties the Nahua used to differentiate one soil from another must have been part of the surveyor’s knowledge domain or that of another accompanying specialist. Presaging those of modern soil scientists, key attributes noted in the Florentine Codex encompassed soil texture, consistence, color, moisture retention, permeability, organic content, chemistry (alkalinity), and fertility. Other defining properties included location, agricultural practices, and indicator plants for nonproductive soils. Nahua lexemes suggest a quasi-taxonomic structure of the soil domain, which is revealed by several combinations of key attributes that define generic soil classes and subtypes. Descriptions attest to a basic working knowledge of soil formation (e.g., organic decomposition in woodland soil/quauhtlalli), of soil productivity, and of plant nutrient requirements. Unlike most folk or nontechnical soil classifications, only one Nahua soil class in the Florentine Codex is labeled by color, “yellow soil/tlalcoztli; good, fine, fertile, fruitful, esteemed” (Williams 2006: 22). 156


In the CSMA and the CV, most glyphs in the central portion of milcocolli and tlahuelmantli drawings indicate that the Acolhua soil classifiers shared ideas of Nahua soil properties and attributes of soil classes described in the Florentine Codex that were applicable to the physical environment of the barrios of Santa María Asunción and San Jerónimo in Tepetlaoztoc. The piedmont setting includes steep slopes of the south flank and spurs of the Sierra Patlachique, alluvial/colluvial sediments on the lower slopes and valley floor, and several small volcanic domes. Permanent and intermittent streams are few. Thus this environment is not conducive to formation of some described soil types, such as salt-laden soils (tequixquitlalli) or wind-blown loess (teuhtlalli). Studies of the glyphs in the CSMA and the CV, coupled with the Florentine Codex texts, dictionary entries, comparative ethnographic descriptions, soil sampling and mapping in Tepetlaoztoc, and field interviews with informants in Nahuatl- and Spanish-speaking communities, provide the basis for a proposed Acolhua soil taxonomy composed of seven generic classes, presented below in order of class productivity. 1. Alluvium/atoctli: The glyph is composed of water/atl and a green cornstalk/toctli and refers to riverbank deposits. It is not recognized as a soil type in Tepetlaoztoc today but is a class label in Milpa Alta, a Nahuatlspeaking community in the Valley of Mexico (Williams 1982: 211). Within the taxon are three species-level subgroups: xalatoctli (sandy alluvium), gravelly alluvium (aluvión pedregosa), and clayey alluvium (aluvión arcillosa), and one varietal-level taxon—gravelly, sandy alluvium (aluvión arenosa arcillosa) (figure 6.3, a–e). 2. Clay/tezoquitl: The glyph is composed of a stone/tetl grapheme pierced by a spine with phonetic value of -zo. It corresponds to the contemporary folk taxon “black soil” tierra negra. Species-level subgroups include sandy clay (tierra arcillosa arenosa) and gravelly clay (tierra arcillosa pedregosa) (figure 6.3, f–h). 3. Yellow soil/tlalcoztli: The glyph depicts a stone/tetl with dots emanating from an opening or “mouth.” The reading of these glyphic elements as tlalcoztli probably used near homophones. It corresponds to the Tepetlaoztoc folk taxon tierra amarilla, a silty loam of moderate depth and loose consistency. Two CV species-level subtypes include irrigated yellow soil (tierra amarilla de riego) and clayey yellow soil (tierra amarilla arcillosa). 4. Sandy soil/xallalli: Glyphed by a circle of dots, xallalli corresponds to a folk class of tierra arenosa in the region today. 5. Tepetate/tepetlatlalli: Its reading derives from tetl/stone and petlatl/mat glyphs. Composed of a cemented soil horizon exposed on the surface



Figure 6.3. Examples of taxonomically structured soil classes recorded by Acolhua surveyors in the Códice de Santa María Asunción. through erosion, in Tepetlaoztoc tepetate is a non-soil type, but it is reclaimed through pulverization of the hardpan. In pre-Colombian times and continuing today, sediments and organic matter are added to improve fertility. Two species-level subtypes are sandy tepetate (tierra tepetatosa arenosa) and clayey tepetate (tierra tepetatosa arcillosa), and there is one varietal subtype: clayey, sandy tepetate (tierra tepetatosa arenosa arcillosa) (figure 6.3, j–m). 6. Hill-slope soils/tlaixtli: The glyph depicts a hill/tepetl and an eye/ixtli to read ‘face, slope of a hill or ridge.’ In the CSMA and the CV, it is a glyphically unambiguous taxon in both land cadasters, but it has no soil class counterpart in Tepetlaoztoc today. 7. Stony soil/tetlalli: It is indicated by many variants of the stone/tetl symbol. More than a few subclasses were probably recognized because glyphs vary even between fields of the same household. Also, possibly some glyphic variants do not refer to defined soil classes but rather are descriptive phrases. These stony soils are formed from the detritus of the volcanic domes, and perhaps variations noted in the codices have to do with the degree of weathering of the material. Tepetlaoztoc informants recognize the stony soil class but do not taxonomically categorize subclasses (figure 6.3, i). 158


A small number of miscellaneous glyphs do not fit into the taxonomic structure outlined here, and many glyphs have numerous variants. For example, a total of 104 different glyphs are recorded for the 200 ha of the CSMA. Although not all represent distinctive soil types, many variants probably intend to express some meaningful aspect of a particular soil (Williams and Harvey 1997: 30). Furthermore, not all of the central glyphs in the land parcels relate to soil type. Fallowed land is shown either by shading or by a zacatl/grass glyph. Several depict streams, one with a stone dam. One found only in the CV, composed of corncob/cintli or olotl, teeth/tlantli, and land/tlalli graphemes, may mean inherited land/tlacemolotlalli (López Corral 2011: 157). Others show roads or paths crossing properties. Still others are later additions to the records, usually denoting a change of landholder. Acolhua procedures to determine soil classes are a matter of conjecture. Presumably, the classifier had categories in mind based on his training, experience, and familiarity with the place-specific soil environment. Especially in the CSMA, soil glyphs drawn on milcocolli fields do not always match those of the tlahuelmantli record. Explanation of the discrepancies may involve recording procedures. For example, the two field registers of a community may not have been drawn at the same time, causing a mismatch in milcocollitlahuelmantli paired fields. Or discrepancies may stem from varying classification judgments between different classifiers or even by a single classifier. Soil scientists who do field grading of soil texture (assessing percentages of sand, silt, and clay particles in a handful of soil by touch of the fingers) can attest to how difficult soil judgments can be. Also conjectural is the underlying impetus for development of standardized soil knowledge expressed in written form. Indeed, these soil glyphs are unique in the New World. Perhaps soils were subjects of intrinsic interest as “earthly things” consistent with the reported tradition of intellectual inquiry associated with the court of Nezahualpilli and his father, Nezahualcóyotl, in the Acolhua capital of Texcoco (Pomar 1941 [1582]; Alva Ixtlilxóchitl 1975–77 [1608]). At the local level, defined soil types were clearly useful as property descriptors to identify individual fields, as well as for evaluation of household economic resources and thereby for tax assessment. One suspects that needs of public administration were considered well served by the practices of soil classifiers. In post-Contact time, soil glyphs as property descriptors were replaced by glyphs of cultivars such as wheat and maguey, and Acolhua-type soil classifications depicted in the Tepetlaoztoc codices and described in the Florentine Codex became simplified as linguistic acculturation occurred and the specialists EV I D EN C E O F ACO LH UA S C I EN C E I N P I C T O R I A L L A N D R E CO R D S


died. Rural depopulation and agricultural transformations further attenuated the once-sophisticated knowledge of the soils domain (Williams 1992: 491). CONCLUSION

Acolhua land-survey sciences and protocols appear to have been ahead of their time compared with certain practices of Western surveyors. They measured side-lengths of cultivated fields with a precision equivalent to 0.5 to 2.5 m and expressed surface area in square units to within one square tlalcuahuitl rather than in crop yields, seeds sown, or other imprecise variables used by colonial Spaniards. When assessed by modern mathematical standards, their land area records show error margins comparable to those reported for Western surveyors postdating Acolhua work by several centuries. Modern soil classification began in Russia in the nineteenth century. In contrast, an Acolhua system was in place three centuries earlier, using many criteria consistent with modern concepts. A major difference between the two systems is that, understandably, the Acolhua frame of reference for soil classification was the two-dimensional surficial soil of most significance to cultivators rather than a three-dimensional model used in modern pedology to account for soil changes with depth. As attested in the Florentine and (arguably) the Cruz-Badianus Codices, the Nahuas also observed such changes, but they were taxonomically unimportant. No information has come to light about the procedures followed to produce the population and land registers from Tepetlaoztoc. Did a single individual possess all of the requisite knowledge to gather the entire corpus of data, or were tasks divided among a multidisciplinary team of several specialists: a census taker, a surveyor with assistants to take measurements, a mathematician who calculated areas, a soil specialist who classed the soils, and a painter who recorded the information? Glyphic style suggests that the CV was drawn by only one painter, whereas the CSMA was apparently the work of four (Williams and Harvey 1997: 50–53). Soil glyphs in the CSMA are somewhat different than those in the CV, but it is difficult to interpret whether they represent scribe or classifier choices by multiple or single individuals. Also, the recording of dimensional monads varies somewhat from community to community, suggesting perhaps that different crews of surveyors were at work following slightly different protocols. The codex data show that metrology, mathematics, and pedology were foundational sciences of specialists serving as civil servants whose records were crucial for public administration of government at local and state levels. They 160


provided specific information for land redistribution stemming from statelevel property grants, local inheritance, and in- or out-migration; for taxation whether by head, by soil quality, or by amount of household land (or all of these), and population data required for labor drafts. The records lead to the conclusion that Acolhua sciences were part of the mundane, practical culture of local-level polities and not just the domain of specialists in astronomy, astrology, calendrics, or philosophy of the intellectual elite. Perhaps because their practice was so ubiquitous and commonplace, these sciences were not described by chroniclers, or perhaps they were never fully understood.6 Worthy of further investigation is the observation that a single metrology did not characterize the Valley of Mexico at Contact. There were at least two, those of the Tenochca and the Acolhua. Given interaction in various matters of state, such as tribute collection and interspersed territories, it would be expected that they shared the same standard linear measure and number symbols with the same values. Yet the Acolhua tlalcuahuitl equaled three Spanish varas, whereas the Tenochca cemmatl equaled two. Differences in monad distances flow from this divergence. Acolhua number signs of lines (1 unit), dots (20 units), and positional notation for 400 units contrast with the Tenochca dot (1 unit), the pantli/banner (20 units), and tzontli/feather (400 units). One senses from extant pictorial documents that a process of accommodation may have been in progress in the Contact period. For example, the Oztoticpac Lands Map records a large property with dimensions denoted in both standards, the tlalcuahuitl and the cemmatl. Likewise, the Codex Kingsborough (Valle Pérez 1994), also from Tepetlaoztoc, employs both Tenochca and Acolhua number symbols. As scholarly research on early colonial Nahua land documents and associated texts continues to grow, comparative studies of the corpus may soon provide insight into the regional dynamics of metrology as a science in 1521, an issue books in the burned libraries may well have addressed at the time. NOTES

1. These polities included the Mexica (Tenocha) of Tenochtitlan, the Acolhua of Texcoco, and the Tepanec of Tlacopan. Although they were mainly Nahuatl-speaking peoples and culturally shared much in common, variation in traditions and achievements existed between them. For some research topics such as this one, it is important to avoid presumption of cultural homogeneity. 2. Located in the Fondo reservado, Ms. 1497bis, Biblioteca Nacional de México, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico City. EV I D EN C E O F ACO LH UA S C I EN C E I N P I C T O R I A L L A N D R E CO R D S


3. Located in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Ms. Mexicain 37–39, Paris. 4. “Tenían las casas de longitud que corrían de oriente a poniente, cuatrocientos y once medidas y media, que reducidas a nuestra medida, hacen mil doscientos treinta y cuatro varas y media, y de latitud que es de norte a sur, trescientos veinteséis medidas que hacen novecientos y setenta y ocho varas” (Alva Ixtlilxóchitl 1975–77 [1608] 2: 92–93). A Spanish vara was equal to 0.835 m; see Clark (2010) for a detailed analysis of this passage. 5. See Lett (1990) for a discussion of emic and etic concepts. 6. For example, Alonso de Zorita (1963: 110) observed: “[This principal] has pictures on which are shown all the parcels, and the boundaries, and where and with whose fields the lots meet, and who cultivates what field, and what each one has. The Indians continually alter these pictures according to the changes worked by time and they understand perfectly what these pictures show.” Apparently, Zorita is describing cadastral maps (in contrast to cadastral registers) showing spatial arrangement of individual parcels with toponyms and name glyphs of cultivators. It is implausible that such maps would be drawn without some concept and expression of linear dimensions, that is, an indigenous metrology. In light of the Tepetlaoztoc land registers, the ambiguous phrase “what each one has” leaves the reader wondering if soil types, surfaces areas, or some other information might have been indicated but left unexplained. WORKS CITED

Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, Fernando de. 1975–77 [1608]. Obras históricas. Ed. Edmundo O’Gorman. 2 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas. Atwell, George. 1658. The Faithful Surveyor. London: Ralph Needham at the Bell in Little Britain. Bower, David I. 2009. “A Method of Estimating Mean Errors in Areas on a Map from the Errors in Point Separation.” E-Perimetron 4(3): 161–67. Castillo Farreras, Victor M. 1972. “Unidades nahuas de medida.” Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 10: 195–223. Clark, John E. 2010. “Aztec Dimensions of Holiness.” In The Archaeology of Measurement: Comprehending Heaven, Earth and Time in Ancient Societies, ed. Iain Morley and Colin Renfrew, 150–69. New York: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511760822.017. Cline, Howard F. 1966. “The Oztoticpac Lands Map of Texcoco, 1540.” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 23 (2): 77–115.



Cruz, Martín de la. 1940 [1552]. The Badianus Manuscript (Codex Barberini, Latin 241) Vatican Library: An Aztec Herbal of 1552. Ed. Emily Walcott Emmart. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. Earle, Carville V. 1975. The Evolution of a Tidewater Settlement System: All Hollows Parish, Maryland, 1650–1783. Chicago: University of Chicago, Department of Geography. Gibson, Charles. 1964. The Aztecs under Spanish Rule. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Harvey, Herbert R. 1991. “The Oztoticpac Lands Map: A Reexamination.” In Land and Politics in the Valley of Mexico: A Two-Thousand-Year Perspective, ed. Herbert R. Harvey, 163–85. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Harvey, Herbert R., and Barbara J. Williams. 1980. “Aztec Arithmetic: Positional Notation and Area Calculation.” Science 210 (4469, October 31): 499–505. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.210.4469.499. Medline:17841389. Jorge, María del Carmen, Barbara J. Williams, C. E. Garza-Hume, and Arturo Olvera. 2011. “Mathematical Accuracy of Aztec Land Surveys Assessed from Records in the Codex Vergara.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108 (37): 15053–57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1107737108. Kain, Roger J.P., and Elizabeth Baigent. 1992. The Cadastral Map in Service of the State: A History of Property Mapping. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Leander, Birgitta. 1967. Códice de Otlazpan. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Lett, James. 1990. “Emics and Etics: Notes on the Epistemology of Anthropology.” In Emics and Etics: The Insider/Outsider Debate, ed. Thomas N. Headland, Kenneth L. Pike, and Marvin Harris, 127–42. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. López Corral, Aurelio. 2011. “Los glifos de suelo en códices Acolhua de la Colonia Temprana: un reanálisis de su significado.” Desacatos 37: 145–62. Matías Alonso, Marcos. 1984. Medidas indígenas de longitud. Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social. Nickel, Herbert J. 2010. Agrimensura y Cartografía en México, 1720–1920 (DVD, CD-ROM). Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinaras en Ciencias y Humanidades–UNAM and El Colegio de México. Payne, Stanley E., and Michael P. Closs. 1986. “A Survey of Aztec Numbers and Their Uses.” In Native American Mathematics, ed. Michael P. Closs, 213–35. Austin: University of Texas Press. Pomar, Juan Bautista. 1941 [1582]. “Relación de Tetzcoco.” In Nueva colección de documentos para la historia de Mexico, vol. 3, ed. Joseph García Icazbalceta, 1–69. Mexico City: Editorial Chávez Hayhoe. EV I D EN C E O F ACO LH UA S C I EN C E I N P I C T O R I A L L A N D R E CO R D S


Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1963 [1577]. Florentine Codex, General History of the Things of New Spain: Book 11, Earthly Things. Ed. and trans. Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J.O. Anderson. Santa Fe: School of American Research and University of Utah Press. Seler, Eduard. 1904. “Mexican Picture Writings of Alexander von Humboldt.” In Mexican and Central American Antiquities, Calendar Systems, and History, ed. and trans. Charles P. Bowditch, 127–229. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. Valle Pérez, Perla. 1994. Códice de Tepetlaoztoc (Códice Kingsborough), Estado de México. Toluca: El Colegio Mexiquense. Williams, Barbara J. 1982. “Aztec Soil Glyphs and Contemporary Nahua Soil Classification.” In The Indians of Mexico in Pre-Columbian and Modern Times, ed. Maarten E.R.G.N. Jansen and Ted J.J. Leyenaar, 206–22. Leiden: Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde. Williams, Barbara J. 1992. “Tepetate in 16th Century and Contemporary Folk Terminology, Valley of Mexico.” Terra: Suelos volcánicos endurecidos 10: 483–93. Williams, Barbara J. 2006. “Aztec Soil Knowledge: Classes, Management and Ecology.” In Footprints in the Soil: People and Ideas in Soil History, ed. Benno P. Warkentin, 17–41. New York: Elsevier. Williams, Barbara J., and Herbert R. Harvey. 1988. “Content, Provenience and Significance of the Codex Vergara and the Códice de Santa María Asunción.” American Antiquity 53 (2): 337–51. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/281023. Williams, Barbara J., and Herbert R. Harvey. 1997. The Códice de Santa María Asunción: Households and Lands in Sixteenth Century Tepetlaoztoc. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Williams, Barbara J., and Frederic Hicks. 2011. El Códice Vergara, Edición facsimilar. Comentario: Pintura indígena de casas, campos y organización social de Tepetlaoztoc a medios del siglo XVI. Mexico City: UNAM, Instituto de Investigaciones Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas. Williams, Barbara J., and María del Carmen Jorge y Jorge. 2001. “Surface Area Computation in Ancient Mexico: Documentary Evidence of Acolhua-Aztec Proto-Geometry.” Symmetry: Culture and Science 12 (1–2): 185–200. Williams, Barbara J., and María del Carmen Jorge y Jorge. 2008. “Aztec Arithmetic Revisited: Land-Area Algorithms and Acolhua Congruence Arithmetic.” Science 320 (5872, April 4): 72–77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1153976. Medline:18388287. Zorita, Alonso de. 1963. Life and Labor in Ancient Mexico, the Brief and Summary Relation of the Lords of New Spain. Ed. and trans. Benjamin Keen. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.



7 When reflecting on the sixteenth-century conquest and subjugation of extensive and far-flung sections of the Americas, it has generally been emphasized that the European presence in Mesoamerica followed the steady overseas expansion of the Spanish kingdoms. Thus colonial domination may be explained in part as a mercantilist venture through which the Iberian kingdoms annexed first one territory and then another, along with the people who inhabited them. Nonetheless, it should also be emphasized—as others have done—that the rights and symbolic acts “legitimating” the incorporation of the American colonies to the Crown of Castile stemmed as well from the attempt to annex them not as mere colonies but as veritable kingdoms. This legal and juridical distinction is critical, for it underlies the further understanding that the integration of Spanish America into the royal patrimony of Castile carried with it a broad-scale effort to legitimate Castilian rule over the long term.1 From this vantage point, the incorporation of far-off territories, as well as the creation of the juridical mechanisms needed to bring them under effective control, are key elements in the unfolding of a universal political project. Moreover, this project was hardly an empty gesture. On the contrary, the imperial policies implemented by the Crown in its European and American kingdoms encompassed lands, governments, and population centers as diverse and removed from each other as, for example, the cities of Tezcoco, in Mexico, and Ghent, in the Low Countries. On February 14, 1540, Emperor Charles V made a triumphal entrance into the city of Ghent, accompanied by a large retinue that included his sister, a high-placed

Don Carlos de Tezcoco and the Universal Rights of Emperor Carlos V Ethelia Ruiz Medrano English Translation by Russ Davidson

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c007


papal envoy, and numerous princes and noblemen from the Low Countries, Spain, and Germany. The royal procession, behind which a powerful army inched its way forward, exhausted more than six hours before reaching the city (Brandi 1993: 336). However, in visiting the land where he had spent his early childhood, the emperor was doing more than paying a courtesy call on his subjects. At that time, revolutionary agitation was sweeping Ghent. In the recent past, a sister city, Antwerp, had overtaken it as a center of wool production, seriously damaging Ghent’s economy. Like all cities and kingdoms under the rule of Emperor Charles V, Ghent was obliged to pay a series of steep taxes to the Crown, which desperately needed such revenue to finance an ongoing war with France. The government of the Low Countries was in the hands of Charles V’s sister, Queen María, who had delegated to leading members of the Flemish nobility the task of requesting, through representatives of the city, payment of the taxes owed by Ghent. The city, however, had been refusing to make such payments since before 1539 (ibid.: 235). Ghent, while subject to the governing authority of the Low Countries, was itself governed by a special council or tribunal composed of nobles, as well as by “three members,” or corporate bodies, that represented the city’s citizens, guilds, and weavers. These representatives argued that both the Flemish nobility and the queen failed to take Ghent’s former privileges into account and requested—in light of its depressed economy—that the city be relieved of this fiscal burden. Their objections did not stop at simply lodging a protest but flowered into open rebellion, capped by the city’s attempt to form an alliance with the emperor’s immediate enemy, the French king, Francis I (ibid.). During the autumn months of 1539, Ghent’s citizens went to the extreme of burning the constitution Charles V had granted them in 1515: “pieces of the ripped up document were set on fire in hats and coats while people, carrying on and yelling, waved them about.” These heretofore loyal citizens of the empire also directed their ire at Queen María, publicly proclaiming that she would do better to confine herself to a convent than to govern them (ibid.: 235–36). The revolt that flared in Ghent threatened to extend across the entire region of Flanders. Faced with this danger, the emperor decided to march against the city. On February 17, 1540, with his troops positioned in different parts of Ghent, he commanded that all of the rebellion’s ringleaders be sought out and taken prisoner. In response, the city—through its council—made a last attempt at standing on the dignity of its traditions, refusing to placate the emperor by justifying to him the reasons for its revolt. 166


The city’s defiant gesture cost it dearly. March 3 witnessed the beginning of the juicios de tormento (trial of offenders that involved torture) and summary executions. The brutal crackdown unleashed by the emperor left Ghent’s representatives no alternative but to swallow their pride and appeal directly to Queen María for clemency. In doing so, they decried the abuses committed by both the emperor’s own troops and the mercenary forces he had engaged to help subdue the city, describing—as an instance of such abuse—how the imperial army had laid waste to an entire district, not stopping to spare even its church, to construct a fortress. Their appeal elicited no more than a vague response. On April 29, Charles V handed down his final verdict: as punishment for rebelling against its king, Ghent was to be stripped of its former rights and freedoms, its public property, its coat of arms and weaponry, and the bells of its main church. What is more, anxious to make an example of Ghent for all his subjects, Charles insisted that the city humble itself and recant its errors. The representatives of Ghent’s municipal government were obliged to file out of the town hall dressed in black, bareheaded, unshod, each with a rope tied around his neck that a hangman had placed there. The procession had to make its way to the royal castle, at which point all were required to fall on their knees and humbly beg the emperor’s forgiveness. As Karl Brandi summed up the tableaux: by means of this set-piece, medieval Ghent was once and for all consigned to the grave (ibid.: 236–37). The shocking and violent punishment meted out to Ghent was mapped onto Emperor Charles V’s greater political design—to establish, with firmness and clarity, the rights and sovereignty he held over his territories, both in strict military terms and in the realm of political theory. The emperor’s campaign to defend and assert his sovereignty was thus mounted as well in the ideological sphere. With respect to the Spanish empire in America, this dual focus meant that over the course of the sixteenth century, the political landscape would be shaped by the Castilian monarchy’s need to define and establish the nature and substance of its rights and jurisdiction over its new lands. Beginning in the middle of the century, various missionaries, among whom the Dominican Bartolomé de Las Casas2 was perhaps the most prominent, as well as certain royal officials, such as New Spain’s Audiencia judge, Alonso de Zorita,3 made notable contributions in this area. For them, as their writings make clear, the fundamental question facing the Crown and its representatives was to determine as precisely as possible the position occupied by the Indians—how far they had advanced—on the scale of their own historical evolution. The issue under discussion did not revolve around the innate human qualities of the Indians but rather concerned, as Edmundo O’Gorman D O N CA R L O S D E T EZ CO CO A N D T H E U N I V ER S A L R I G H T S O F EM P ERO R CA R L O S V


(1967) has clearly shown, the level of their social and political advancement at the time of the conquest. Thus in the Apologética, for example, Las Casas endeavored to prove that the native inhabitants of America were indeed fully rational human beings (Pagden 1990: 15). The consideration of these issues had its origins in the fiery sermon delivered by fray Antonio de Montesinos, which set the framework for a long juridical and theological debate, the outcome of which played directly into the parallel question of determining the Crown’s right to rule over the Indians. Not surprisingly, the monarchy was preoccupied with this problem, since it went to the heart of its putative right to benefit from conquered New World lands (and their treasure), as well as from the labor their native inhabitants could supply (ibid.: 16). Through the third decade of the sixteenth century, for Crown interests at least, the issue of rule over the Indians tended to be resolved—without undue complication—in favor of the conqueror. By then, however, the conquest and early colonization of the Mesoamerican and Andean regions was largely consolidated. But the subordination of the Aztec and Inca empires to the Spanish Crown injected greater complexity into the emperor’s claim of legitimate sovereignty over the New World because in his eyes the Aztec and Incan empires had elaborated more complex and sophisticated political systems than the ones that prevailed among the native inhabitants of the Antilles (ibid.: 5–6). As a result of this problem, the Spanish metropolis took on a unique characteristic. The transcendent theme of the monarchy in this century was to define its role as guardian of a universal Christianity, a role the Castilian monarchy arrogated to itself. To act at all times in accordance with Christian politicoethical principles became a matter of central importance to the Crown. The task prominent jurists and theologians faced was to establish, debate, and set down these principles (ibid.: 16). This quest for ethical and political legitimacy inspired a wave of thinking aimed at finding reasons to uphold the rights of the Crown over America and likewise contributed to the airing of views regarding the rights and claims to justice enjoyed by the native population. The Dominican Francisco de Vitoria, from his post at the University of Salamanca in 1539, authored the most celebrated treatise on this problem. He presented it as a lectio (series of readings) at Salamanca under the title De Indis (ibid.). Among other things, Vitoria argued that the Indians—in both their public and private lives—maintained mastery over their own possessions and goods (among which were counted their lands) and that neither their supposed cannibalism nor practice of sacrifice nor paganism constituted a valid argument for despoiling them of their possessions (ibid.: 20). Furthermore, 168


Anthony Pagden has noted that in his lectures, Vitoria pointed out very clearly that the Indians in the New World maintained a “definite order in their affairs”: they lived in cities, maintained recognizable social institutions such as marriage, had judges and governing officials, engaged in commerce and industry, and observed laws. All of these features and elements, in his opinion, required the use of reason (ibid.). At the conclusion of his readings, however, Vitoria highlighted two weak points within New World native society: he averred that the absence among the Indians of a suitably developed system of agriculture was an indicator of their level of civilization, and he observed that the “backwardness” in which their societies languished resulted from the lack of education, for which reason they could be compared to children, since, in this sense, they were plausibly the inheritors of a state of true reason (ibid.). Repeating a conclusion reached by other savants, the Dominican expressed the opinion that the Indians possessed rights but were not capable of exercising them. As a result, he argued, the Castilian Crown had the right to bring Indian pueblos and their lands under its tutelage until such time as the Indians reached the “age of reason.” This act, as Vitoria represented it, was one of royal beneficence (ibid.). Throughout his exposition, Vitoria ceded to the Crown the possibility of laying claim to jurisdictional dominion over America, but one that precluded the right of ownership since—in accord with the principle of ius gentium—this right, in his eyes, would be valid only in the unlikely case that the Indians should wittingly and decisively “slander” the Spanish, a development that would precipitate, and provide grounds for, a “just war” (ibid.: 22). It is interesting in this context to underscore a point Pagden makes about Vitoria; namely, that he really had no great interest in matters pertaining to America but at bottom was interested in refuting the Lutherans, who claimed that people living in a state of mortal sin were prevented from exercising dominion over their possessions, from which it followed that the paganism practiced by the Indians divested them of their rights. The historical underpinnings of this extended debate are well-known. Since it was the Crown of Castile that initially sponsored and underwrote the so-called discovery of America, the discovered lands were incorporated politically into it. In 1493, moreover, Pope Alexander VI issued a bull through which temporal sovereignty over the Americas was granted, by divine right through the Roman pontiff, to both Castile and Portugal. The papal grant carried an obligation that the inhabitants of the new continent be converted to Christianity (Góngora 1975: 33–40). The process of incorporating the Indies into the kingdom of Castile went through several juridical phases between the years 1492–93 and 1516. As of 1492, the newly discovered lands belonged to D O N CA R L O S D E T EZ CO CO A N D T H E U N I V ER S A L R I G H T S O F EM P ERO R CA R L O S V


the monarchs of Castile and Aragón because—according to rights laid down in the Partidas4 and as was abundantly clear to all other European powers— they had been discovered as part of an undertaking by these monarchs. The 1493 papal bulls granted these lands to the sovereigns, stipulating that upon their death, they were to be inherited solely by the rulers of Castile and León and not those of Aragón. Thus when Ferdinand the Catholic died in 1516, the Indies formed part of the patrimony inherited by Princess Juana la Loca and her son, Charles V.5 The territory of America passed into the sovereign dominion of Castile as an inalienable possession. For example, when the procuradores (attorneys) of several New World cities secured a series of provisions in 1519, 1520, and 1523 that confirmed this inalienability, it was only the royal corroboration and ennoblement of the cities that allowed them to take effect: for a Castilian city to be “free” meant it belonged to the king. To form part of the royal patrimony and not be subject to any other governing authority was a mark of honor and a guarantee of freedom during this period (Góngora 1975). This privilege of the Crown was the bedrock of its sovereignty over the Indians of America and also dictated their status as its vassals. Throughout the sixteenth century, the problem of the jurisdiction and rights of the Castilian monarchy over America was decisive in determining the forms of government instituted across the new colonial possessions. For a majority of theologians and jurists, the papal concession fully justified Castile’s title over America, and since this concession had been granted in part to facilitate the conversion of the Indians to Christianity, the king was obliged to issue a series of orders to guarantee such conversion, as well as the proper treatment of the indigenous population (Hanke 1988). Not surprisingly, the French and English contested most vigorously the Castilian king’s claims to titular rights over America, claims defended by various Spaniards throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Nevertheless, inside the kingdom of Castile were voices—such as that of fray Francisco de Vitoria—that questioned the nature and reach of the king’s titles, using a critique of Lutheranism as a point of departure. Still other important thinkers expressed these same reservations after surveying the enormous loss within the native population caused by its contact with the Spanish. The most prominent representative of this current of thought was fray Bartolomé de Las Casas. These discussions carried the possibility that a doubt might exist or surface concerning the legitimacy of the Castilian monarch’s right over the Indies. For all these reasons, the existence of a legal plane of apparent protection of the indigenous population helped in large measure to buttress and sustain the 170


Crown’s rights within its overseas territories (Pagden 1990: 5–6). Yet whatever its “higher” purposes, the Crown’s exercise of dominion in the New World had to be not only legitimate but profitable as well. In this context, the problem of Crown legitimacy benefited the Indians because it won them “official” royal protection—relative to other factors—which, in turn, implied respect for indigenous practices and customs as long as they were not idolatrous or did not pose a threat to the exercise of royal jurisdiction. The year 1539 thus brought a notable coincidence: it marked both the burning of Charles V’s constitution by the citizens of Ghent and the questioning by fray Francisco de Vitoria, through his Lectio, of the conquest as the foundation upon which to affirm the emperor’s titular claims over the Indies. I have described the emperor’s reaction to the challenge posed to his sovereignty by the citizens of Ghent. In the case of Vitoria’s Lectio, Charles also took firm action. On November 10, 1539, he ordered the prior of Salamanca’s San Esteban Monastery to collect and submit all writings that referred to the Crown’s rights over the Indies and prohibit all discussion regarding this topic absent a royal license. Obviously, if the rights of the Crown over the Indies could be called into question, the same could be done with respect to the Low Countries (Wagner 1967: 106n37). It is important to emphasize the concurrence of the events I have outlined here—they all took place during the fall of 1539. Moreover, in Mexico City in that same season of the year, far from both Ghent and Salamanca, a member of the highest rank of the traditional Indian nobility suffered a punishment comparable to that suffered by the city of Ghent. On November 30, 1539, five months before Ghent’s inhabitants endured their own punishment, an Indian nobleman from Tezcoco, a descendant of the line of Nezahualcoyotl, suffered the same fate as befell some of the citizens of Ghent: he was executed before the authorities of New Spain for having symbolically questioned the power of the imperial Crown. During his 1539 trial, this person declared his “ancient” name to be Don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli (Gómez de la Puente 1910), further swearing that he was a direct descendant of the tlatoqueh (rulers) of Tezcoco and one of the many legitimate sons of Nezahualpilli, the former lord of that altepetl, or city-state (Gibson 1984: 172–73). Contemporary scholars have maintained that his notorious execution stemmed from an accusation of heresy, an idea—still undisputed—that first emerged from the study of his case by Richard Greenleaf in 1962 (Greenleaf 1962).6 My intent is to demonstrate that, in reality, this Indian nobleman was executed not for the crime of heresy but for that of questioning the legitimacy of the emperor’s rights over New Spain and, furthermore, that his challenge arose at precisely D O N CA R L O S D E T EZ CO CO A N D T H E U N I V ER S A L R I G H T S O F EM P ERO R CA R L O S V


the moment Charles V’s rights were being called into question, as we have seen, in other parts of his kingdom. Prior to the Spanish conquest, Tezcoco’s political domain had been one of the three altepetl that made up the celebrated Triple Alliance. Its former prominence enabled it to obtain certain privileges during the first decades of colonial rule: it served as the encomienda of the king himself, rather than of any private individual, and it secured the titles and privileged status of a city. Nevertheless, in concert with other important indigenous city-states, its leaders gained power thanks to the alliance they formed with the conquistadors. Thus Don Hernando Ixtlilxochitl, who was a son of the tlatoani Nezahualpilli and who later become known as Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, assumed the rulership of Tezcoco with the approval of Hernan Cortés, whom he had assisted in the reconstruction of Tenochtitlan and accompanied on the expedition to Honduras. When Cortés Ixtlilxochitl died in 1531, two other sons of Nezahualpilli, Don Jorge Yoyontzin and Don Pedro Tetlahuetzquintzin, became the rulers of Tezcoco. Shortly before the latter died in 1539, he made another brother—Don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli—his successor as the tlatoani of Tezcoco (Greenleaf 1962). On Sunday, June 22, 1539, an Indian nobleman from Chiconautla (in the present state of Mexico), Francisco Chichimecatecuhtli, turned up at the church of Santiago Tlatelolco to denounce his uncle, Don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli of Tezcoco. The two men who interpreted his testimony were fray Antonio de Ciudad Rodrigo, provincial of the Order of San Francisco, and the renowned fray Alonso de Molina. Don Francisco was the son of Don Alonso, the cacique (ruler) of Chiconautla and also the brother-in-law of Don Carlos of Tezcoco, who was married to Don Alonso’s sister, María. Don Carlos’s nephew let it be known to Tlatelolco’s Franciscan missionaries that Chiconautla had been suffering from a serious drought, in light of which his uncle had been telling its residents to “pay no heed to fasting, to Church doctrine, or to undertaking processions in calling for rain, as the territory’s provincial had advised” (Gómez de la Puente 1910: 1–3). His nephew’s denunciation led to an order for the arrest of Don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli, and on July 4, 1539, his goods and possessions were confiscated. That same month, a process of interrogation was begun in the pueblo of Chiconautla, for which the cleric Father Joan González acted as interpreter (ibid.: 4). From the trial testimony, published in 1910, it is not entirely clear whether Don Carlos’s nephew provided additional information to the missionary friars about why his uncle opposed Catholic processions. Nonetheless, I suspect that in conversations with fray Juan de Zumárraga and especially 172


with colonial civil authorities (the viceroy and members of the Audiencia), they discussed some meetings held by Don Carlos and other Indian noblemen at which plots were hatched against royal power. This likelihood becomes greater when one considers the speed with which Don Carlos was arrested, combined with the fact that the confiscation of his possessions was out of proportion to the allegation originally made against him by his nephew. The idea of a conspiracy becomes yet more probable in light of a series of accusations subsequently directed against Don Carlos, his Chiconautla relatives, and other Indians. Specifically, Indians from Chiconautla lodged a complaint that in June, Don Carlos had visited the drought-ridden pueblo, where he stayed in the house of the community’s ruler, his brother-in-law. He wasted no time in ordering that various nobles from Chiconautla as well as Tezcoco come to see him in his abode, which they immediately proceeded to do. Among the assembled group were the rulers of México, Tacuba, and Tula (ibid.: 5, 42–43. As Patricia López Don (2008: 598) noted in a recent article, Don Carlos—employing refined language in the style of the traditional huehuehtlatolli—stressed to the gathering of nobles that they should not obey the civil and religious authorities: If the viceroy or the bishop or the provincial commands something of you, no matter how small it might be, how great shall you grow in stature: listen to what my nephew, Lorenzo de Luna [governor of Tezcoco] says, I know not what is being said nor do I understand it: in times past there was no one who accused my grand-father, or my father, or Moctezuma or the lord of Tacuba, no one who stood against them. (Gómez de la Puente 1910: 42)

He likewise emphasized that the commoners, the macehualtin and tenant peasants, did not render the obedience owed to him and his ilk. For him, such dereliction of duty meant the Indians’ world as it had been before the conquest was now turned upside down, with those who ought to obey doing so no longer: “Nephew Don Alonso [ruler of Chiconautla and his brother-in-law], let there be none among us who takes a dissenting view: let us flee from the religious fathers and do that which our ancestors did, and may no one stand in our way: in times past the commoners did not seat themselves on either mats or leather chairs, now each one of them does so and says what he pleases: there was no one who got in our way nor contravened what we wished to do” (ibid.: 42–43). What, it bears asking, were the assembled lords of Tezcoco, México, Tacuba, and Tula up to? The only possible answer is that they were conspiring against the civil and religious powers of the Castilian Crown in New Spain. Don Carlos’s words to the nobles gathered before him point clearly to this conclusion: D O N CA R L O S D E T EZ CO CO A N D T H E U N I V ER S A L R I G H T S O F EM P ERO R CA R L O S V


And an angry Don Carlos said: “here I am and here is Yoanizi, ruler of México—pointing over there with his finger—and there is Tezapili, ruler of Tacuba and there Tlacahuepantli, ruler of Tula—pointing his finger at each one—and we are Mexicans, and our grandfather was Huizilihui, ruler of México, and not one needs to be among us, our ancestors were none but lords and governed this domain neither wrongly nor dishonorably, but rather as it befitted them, and in every respect as natural lords of the land: who is there among us who is not our relative or was not born with us?” (ibid.: 46)

When the civil authorities learned of it, this rebellious speech doubtless put them on notice that a conspiracy was brewing among certain members of the native nobility. Earlier, as mentioned, during the confiscation of Don Carlos’s possessions, an attempt was made to link him to a case of heresy. There were also recent indications that problems clearly existed within the extensive Texcocan royal family when Don Pedro anointed his brother Don Carlos as his successor, passing over other brothers and nephews (López Don 2008: 584–86). This fact would explain that the person denouncing Don Carlos was his nephew and that among the witnesses and relatives testifying against him were his brother-in-law and his sister. Even more compelling an explanation, however, is that some of Don Carlos’s relatives seized upon the fact that he was perhaps conspiring against Spanish power to rid themselves of him. His sister María noted that he was a bad Christian and had always wanted to control the domain of Tezcoco: “that said don Carlos has always striven to command and lord it over others by force, and [wanted] to be lord of Tezcoco” (Gómez de la Puente 1910: 33–34). Don Pedro’s widow accused him of wanting to abuse and violate her—an act that doubtless related to the tradition of successors taking the widows of former rulers as a way of symbolizing and legitimizing their newly acquired power (ibid.). The charges New Spain’s bishop, fray Juan de Zumárraga, brought in accusing Don Carlos of heresy are what has most captured the attention of scholars because of their connection to the ancient Indians’ religious tradition and practices. Yet among the charges leveled against him, they are the ones that least demand to be analyzed. During the interrogation carried out in Tezcoco, the community’s Indian governor, Don Lorenzo de Luna, explained that in a nearby mountainous area was a stone idol, called tlalocatepetl, to which—prior to the conquest—all of the Indians in the region were accustomed to make offerings as a way of asking for the provision of water and rainfall. He also noted that before the arrival of the Spanish, when wars broke out among the Indians of México, 174


Tlaxcala, and Huexotzinco, the latter had shattered the image of the deity and that Moctezuma’s uncle Ahuizotl had returned to repair the image of Tlaloc, placing it back on its site, “and afterwards they again held it in great reverence and venerated it, because it was most ancient.” Don Lorenzo assured his interrogators that in light of this ritual practice, he had gone to the mountain to find the image and destroy it as an act of fidelity to his new Christian religion (ibid.: 22–23). His action, he claimed, was badly received. Several Indian merchants from México, Chalco, Tlaxcala, and Huexotzinco reproached him for having smashed the image, insisting that this deed was the cause of the great drought now afflicting the region (ibid.: 20). The governor of Tezcoco also indicated that many Indians from Huexotzinco had recently gone into the mountains to conduct ceremonies and carry out sacrifices before the image of Tlaloc, for which reason he had posted sentinels to watch over the area and prevent such idolatry from taking place. His conscientiousness had borne fruit, for it uncovered the fact that Indians from Huexotzinco had—in keeping with pre-conquest tradition—been clearing and tidying up the paths that surrounded the ancient places of worship in the mountains, as well as carrying out sacrifices to call down rainfall (ibid.: 16–17, 21–22). In spite of this detailed account, no evidence was ever introduced that tied Don Carlos either to the practice of these sacrifices or to the celebration of indigenous worship in the mountains. Furthermore, the trial record gives no indication that either the Indians of Huexotzinco, who had been directly accused by Don Lorenzo de Luna, or any other Indian involved in acts of native worship was ever called upon to testify; nor does it appear as though any attempt was made to verify that the alleged offenses were actually committed. The various declarations made against Don Carlos, however, served as a legal screen for the seizure of his possessions, as ordered by fray Juan de Zumárraga on July 4, 1539. A house he had in the community of Oxtoticpac was taken away from him. The authorities who searched it found nothing but bows, arrows, and what seemed to be a religious codex, which witnesses identified as “the painting or [visual] account of feasts for the devil which the Indians are accustomed to celebrating” (ibid.: 7). In another house maintained by Don Carlos they discovered two Prehispanic shrines, or small temples, containing the images of ancient deities. Don Carlos, however, did not live in this house but had given permission to a maternal uncle, Don Pedro Yzcutecatl, to do so. The latter swore that he had nothing to do with the images and only used the house as a place to sleep. He admitted that the house had served as a place of native worship before the conquest but insisted that since the Spanish settled in the area, it had ceased to have this purpose (ibid.: 8–11). D O N CA R L O S D E T EZ CO CO A N D T H E U N I V ER S A L R I G H T S O F EM P ERO R CA R L O S V


The trial of Don Carlos made two things perfectly clear: first, he had not lived in the house, and second, his uncle—despite the fact that he used it as his dwelling—was not punished or even detained by the authorities. On the basis of the Indians’ statements, fray Juan de Zumárraga delivered a “speech” to the Indians of Tezcoco, a doctrinal lesson, translated by a priest into Náhuatl. After noting that idols had been found in Don Carlos’s house, he ordered that all who still had Prehispanic images hidden away hand them over, in return for which he would treat them with “mercy” (ibid.: 15–16). It thus remains to ask, why—when all of Tezcoco’s Indians were treated in this sensible and “merciful” way, was Don Carlos, the ruler of Tezcoco, not treated similarly? When questioned on July 15, 1539, Don Carlos denied that he was guilty of the charges brought against him. Among those present at his interrogation, in addition to the court interpreter, were the Franciscan missionary friars Antonio de Ciudad Rodrigo and the future compiler of the Florentine Codex, Bernardino de Sahagún. The next-to-last question put to Don Carlos is particularly interesting, since it strongly suggests that he was not really being tried for committing heresy. That charge, as we have seen, lacked any solid evidentiary basis. Instead, he found himself on trial for political reasons, suspected of conspiring against royal power: “questioned whether he has communicated about these matters with various individuals or with the ruler of México or of Tacuba or of Tula or with others among his relatives, or with whom he has had conversations on the matter, this confessant replied that he had not” (ibid.: 60–61). Furthermore, Don Carlos was not the only person imprisoned over these charges in the “chambers” of Zumárraga. He was accompanied by a brother-in-law named Pedro and by one of his uncles, Lorenzo Mixcoatl or Mixcoatylaylotla (Mixcoatlailotla? The Mixcoatl that returns?)—who was also from Tezcoco and apparently frequented, with other relatives of Don Carlos, the house occupied by Yzcutecatl (ibid.: 73–77). There is no record that any of these Indians under arrest, much less anyone else from Tezcoco, were judged as harshly as Don Carlos. Moreover, it is notable that when the death sentence was handed down against Don Carlos on the first day of August 1539 in Mexico City—he was sentenced to be burned at the stake—it was pronounced by provisor (diocesan judge) Juan Rebollo in the name of fray Juan de Zumárraga, who was not present (ibid.: 61). Zumárraga’s absence was surprising, as was the hastiness with which the trial was conducted, along with the lack of any proof—from the beginning of the trial to its conclusion—that any acts of heresy had in fact been committed. Efforts to extend the process so witnesses could be called 176


to testify on behalf of the accused were unsuccessful—although the record indicates that such testimony was available and ready to be presented. The proceedings ended on November 11, 1539 (ibid.: 80). On November 20 the judgment was presented to Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza, as well as to the judges of the Audiencia, so it could be read in its entirety and discussed. The provincials of the Orders of San Francisco and Santo Domingo were also present at this session, and the method by which Don Carlos was to die occupied everyone’s attention. On Sunday, November 30, Don Carlos was taken out of the jail, dressed in a “San Benito” (a form of dress that symbolized the public shaming and penance of the accused). Carrying a candle, he marched to the scaffold that had been readied in the city’s main square. There, amid a throng of Indians and Spaniards and with the viceroy, Audiencia members, and Bishop Zumárraga ensconced in a special place, the bishop preached a sermon. The errors of faith into which Don Carlos had fallen were read in Spanish and Nahuatl, after which Don Carlos—speaking in Náhuatl—told the assembled Indians “that they should follow his example and abandon idolatry, and that he had taken his sentence in a spirit of good will” (ibid.: 81–84). Yet while he assuredly spoke these words, Don Carlos said nothing about repenting for his earlier declaration that the domain of New Spain belonged to those tlatoqueh who had descended from the ancient ruling lineages. Although various authors have noted that the Crown rebuked fray Juan de Zumárraga for permitting Don Carlos to be burned at the stake, their observation is completely inaccurate because the Crown maintained a complicit silence with respect to this punishment. It was not the monarchy but the inquisitor general of Castile who, on November 22, wrote to Bishop Zumárraga from Madrid, reprimanding him for having sentenced Don Carlos to death and for condemning him to be burned at the stake (ibid.: xiii). The Crown never indicated at any point that it was disturbed by this punishment. Nor do I believe it can be argued that the impetus for punishing Indians less harshly than old Christians because they were neophytes in the faith was derived from this celebrated case. This distinction was drawn only around 1571, more than thirty years after Don Carlos was consumed in the flames, and dated to the establishment of the tribunal of the Inquisition in New Spain. My own view is that the distinction in treatment served as a marker, helping to frame the discussion bearing on the designation of miserable that was attached to the Indians in their status as neophytes or persons uninitiated in the faith. Not long after Don Carlos was burned at the stake, several Indians— some of whom had not been baptized—were found guilty of having made D O N CA R L O S D E T EZ CO CO A N D T H E U N I V ER S A L R I G H T S O F EM P ERO R CA R L O S V


sacrifices to images of their pagan gods. Their only punishment was to be whipped. The lightness of their sentence contrasts sharply with the misfortune suffered by the unlucky Don Carlos (ibid.: 85–89). Along similar lines, in 1544 the Spanish discovered that the yya, or caciques, of Yanhuitlán in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca had been making numerous offerings and carrying out human sacrifices to their pantheon of ancient gods. Not one of these indigenous rulers was sentenced to more than the punishment of paying a substantial fine, which in the end was actually paid by the Spaniard whose encomienda encompassed the region (Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City, 1544–47: nos. 5, 7–10). Whatever the circumstances of these cases, the unsparing punishment meted out to Don Carlos of Tezcoco seems to have been linked to a fear that the descendants of traditional tlatoques were conspiring against Spanish power. During these same years, Jerónimo López, the encomendero of Ajacuba (Tacubaya, present-day Mexico City), composed a long letter to Emperor Charles V in which he claimed that there were signs that New Spain’s Indians wanted to rebel against the Spanish (López 1939). In 1541, just eighteen months after the death of Don Carlos and lending credence to this notion, the indigenous War of Mixtón broke out, a rebellion that inflamed the region of Nueva Galicia and was only put down when a powerful army composed of Spaniards and native forces aligned with them marched into the region, led by the viceroy himself. In large measure, this uprising was provoked by the brutal way the Indians of this region had been treated by the conquistadors, encomenderos, and Viceroy Mendoza since the time of Nuño de Guzmán (Ruiz Medrano 1994). In sum, I contend that, like the subjects of Ghent and the decision to draw a wall of silence around Vitoria’s Lectio, Don Carlos was made the object of an exemplary punishment for having dared to challenge the rightful titles held by Emperor Charles V over New Spain, and I also believe Don Carlos did indeed perhaps conspire with other noble descendants of legitimate traditional tlatoqueh to free themselves from the yoke of Spanish power. Only thus can one make sense of the excessive punishment he suffered at the hands of an emperor who could tolerate the local power of native rulers but could not countenance sharing his own. NOTES

For the translation, I deeply thank my colleague and dear friend Russ Tobias Davidson, curator emeritus of Latin American and Iberian Collections, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. 178


1. With respect to the incorporation of the native inhabitants of the Americas into the Crown of Castile and to their juridical designation as its vassals, see Góngora 1975 and Ots Capdequí 1946; studies of a similar bent that emphasize in particular the Indians’ social and juridical state as vassals are Woodrow Borah 1985a, 1985b, and Ruiz Medrano 2006. For the centralizing and imperial role of the Castilian monarchy, see Elliott 1964. For a classic seventeenth-century treatment of the rights to which the Crown of Castile laid claim within its American possessions, see Solórzano y Pereyra 1979 [1648]. 2. For a classic (though controversial and now superseded) study of Las Casas and the wider theological debates, see Hanke 1988. Hanke’s thorough, critical analysis of sources was especially valuable. See also Hanke 1977. For a suggestive and well-written interpretation based on the same sources, though not entailing a critical assessment of them in the manner of Hanke, see Pagden 1988. Other essential work in this vein includes MacLachlan 1984 and O’Gorman 1976. 3. On Alonso de Zorita, see Ruiz Medrano 1999. 4. The Siete Partidas (or simply Partidas) is a set of legal codes issued in Castile during the reign of Alfonso X (1252–84) with the intention of imposing a certain juridical uniformity on the kingdom. The codes, originally the Libro de las Leyes, came to be known just prior to the fourteenth century as the Siete Partidas because of the seven sections into which they are divided. 5. Beginning in 1516, the roster of royal titles includes (along with the names of other places) “King of the Indies, islands and terra firma of the Ocean Sea.” The king of Castile became known as “Emperor of the Romans” as a result of the election that took place in Frankfurt at the end of June 1519. Charles V’s coronation by the pope, however, did not actually occur until 1530, when the ceremony was carried out in Bologna. Because of Hapsburg dynastic practices, the Spanish Crown inherited the “Roman” universalist designation that had been passed down since the Middle Ages (Góngora 1975: 44). 6. Patricia López Don (2008) has found forty-three separate citations referencing Greenleaf ’s attribution of the trial to the charge of idolatry. WORKS CITED

Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City. 1544–47. Inquisición, vol. 37, records 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Borah, Woodrow. 1985a. El Juzgado General de Indios en la Nueva España. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Borah, Woodrow. 1985b. “El status jurídico de los indios en Nueva España.” America Indigena 45 (2): 257–76.



Brandi, Karl. 1993. Carlos V. Vida y fortuna de una personalidad y de un imperio mundial, 2nd ed. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Elliott, John H. 1964. Imperial Spain: 1469–1716. New York: St. Martin’s. Gibson, Charles. 1984. Los aztecas bajo el dominio español, 8th ed. Mexico City: Editorial Siglo XXI. Gómez de la Puente, Eusebio, ed. 1910. Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco. Mexico City: Archivo General y Público de la Nacion. Góngora, Mario. 1975. Studies in the Colonial History of Spanish America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greenleaf, Richard. 1962. Zumárraga and the Mexican Inquisition: 1536–1543. Washington, DC: Academy of American Franciscan History. Hanke, Lewis. 1977. Cuerpo de documentos del siglo XVI, 2nd ed. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Hanke, Lewis. 1988. La lucha por la justicia en la conquista de América. Madrid: Ediciones Istmo. López, Jerónimo. 1939. “Carta al Emperor Carlos V.” In Epistolario de Nueva España 4, 1540–1546, ed. Francisco del Paso y Troncoso. Biblioteca Histórica Mexicana de Obras Inéditas, 2ª serie, vol. 4, 166–67. Mexico City: Antigua Librería Robredo de José Porrúa e Hijos. López Don, Patricia. 2008. “The 1539 Inquisition and Trial of Don Carlos of Texcoco in Early Mexico.” Hispanic American Historical Review 88 (4): 573–606. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1215/00182168-2008-001. MacLachlan, M. Colin. 1984. Spain’s Empire in the New World: The Role of Ideas in Institutional and Social Change. Berkeley: University of California Press. O’Gorman, Edmundo. 1967. “Introducción.” In Apologética Historia Sumaria by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, ed. Edmundo O'Gorman, 1, vii-lxxix. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Intituto de Investigaciones Históricas. O’Gorman, Edmundo. 1976. La idea del descubrimiento de América, 2nd ed. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Ots Capdequí, José María. 1946. El Estado español en las Indias, 2nd ed. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Pagden, Anthony. 1988. La caída del hombre. El indio americano y los orígenes de la etnología comparativa. Madrid: Alianza Editorial. Pagden, Anthony. 1990. Spanish Imperialism and the Political Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press. Ruiz Medrano, Ethelia. 1994. “Versiones sobre un fenómeno rebelde: la Guerra del Mixtón en Nueva Galicia.” In Arqueología y etnohistoria del occidente y norte



de México, ed. Eduardo Williams, 355–78. Zamora, Michoacán: El Colegio de Michocán. Ruiz Medrano, Ethelia. 1999. “Proyecto político de Alonso de Zorita, oidor en México.” In Relación de la Nueva España by Alonso de Zorita, ed. Ethelia Ruiz Medrano, José Mariano Leyva, and Wiebke Arhndt, vol. 1, 59–92. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. Ruiz Medrano, Ethelia. 2006. Shaping New Spain: Government and Private Interests in the Colonial Bureaucracy, 1535–1550. Boulder: University Press of Colorado. Solórzano y Pereyra, Juan de. 1979 [1648]. Política Indiana. 2 vols. Mexico City: Secretaría de Programación y Presupuesto. Wagner, Henry Raup. 1967. The Life and Writings of Bartolomé de las Casas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.



8 In 1539, don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli, member of the ruling family of Tetzcoco and son of the great Tetzcoca tlatoani (ruler) Nezahualpilli (r. 1472–1515), was convicted by the Holy Office of the Inquisition of heretical dogmatizing and burned at the stake (see figure 8.1). Mexico’s first bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, presided over don Carlos’s Inquisition trial, where several of his neighbors and family members—including his sister, wife, and son—testified against him for encouraging them to abandon the Christian faith and return to the customs of their indigenous ancestors.1 It was also reported that don Carlos possessed several “idols” from the precontact period. He was convicted of the charges and turned over to the secular authorities for execution, which was carried out after a public auto de fe (ecclesiastical sentencing ceremony) in Mexico City’s main square, with Viceroy don Antonio de Mendoza (r. 1535–50), the members of the Audiencia (High Court of Mexico), and local Spaniards and indigenous people looking on (Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco 1910). The trial and execution of don Carlos has long fascinated students of colonial Mexico and continues to capture the scholarly and public imagination. In 2009, the organizers of the fifty-third International Congress of Americanists (ICA), held in Mexico City, included copies of a new facsimile edition of a 1910 transcription of the don Carlos Inquisition trial in attendees’ welcome packets (Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco 2009). Interestingly, this transcription was also distributed 100 years earlier at the 1910 Mexico City ICA meeting. Luís González Obregón, paleographer for the 1910 edition, clearly states in his introduction

Beyond the Burned Stake

The Rule of Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin in Tetzcoco, 1540–45 Bradley Benton

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c008


Figure 8.1. Ruling family of Tetzcoco, selected genealogy.

that his interest in the don Carlos trial was tied to the centennial celebrations of Mexican independence in that year.2 For González Obregón and others, the anti-colonial, idolatrous don Carlos represented something of a Mexican proto-patriot. In 2009, the ICA organizers no doubt found that the don Carlos story resonated with scholars and the public once again as Mexico’s bicentennial independence celebrations approached. Don Carlos’s story of rebellion, idolatry, and execution is certainly fascinating. The portrayal of don Carlos, however, as some kind of martyred protonationalist is an anachronistic, overly simplistic picture of the executed noble, one that reinforces an outdated and inaccurate Spaniard-versus-Indian paradigm and obscures the complexities of local society and government in the early colonial period. His story has eclipsed other notable aspects of early Tetzcoco, especially the important process of colonial negotiation and adaptation in which the local indigenous nobles were engaged. While don Carlos rejected the newly imposed Christian religion and the political power of its Spanish sponsors, other members of his family more actively engaged the Spanish presence in central Mexico. Much of the attention paid to don Carlos stems from the general scholarly consensus that he was the tlatoani (sometimes called cacique, an Arawak equivalent employed by Spaniards throughout the Americas) of Tetzcoco at the time of his death. Such seminal works as those of Richard Greenleaf (1961) and Robert Ricard (1966) make this assumption.3 However, this claim to power has never been accepted fully. Charles Gibson (1964: 170, 511), for example, asserted that don Carlos merely “proclaimed himself successor,” and Howard Cline (1966: 86) stated plainly that don Carlos “was never a ruler.” Recent work by David Tavárez (2011: 43–48), based on a close reading of the 184


Figure 8.2. Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin; Humboldt Fragment VI, detail. Courtesy, Trustees of the British Museum.

Inquisition trial record, confirms the ambiguity of don Carlos’s official position in Tetzcoco, noting that other prominent Tetzcoca—many of them his close relatives—contested his claim to rulership. I follow these latter scholars’ view that don Carlos was not tlatoani of Tetzcoco but rather no more than one of the many—ultimately unsuccessful—pretenders to the office at the time of the last ruler’s death. The tlatoani position actually passed to don Carlos’s half-brother, don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin, who ruled from 1540 to 1545 (see figure 8.2).4 Here I argue—drawing on don Antonio’s will—that don Antonio, rather than the more infamous don Carlos, is much more important for understanding both the indigenous history of early colonial Tetzcoco and the new challenges and strategies of indigenous nobles across New Spain in the post-conquest period. Whereas don Carlos’s strident rejection of the Spanish colonial order ultimately did little to advance the interests of indigenous peoples in New B E YO N D T H E B U R N ED S TA K E


Spain, don Antonio’s careful, pragmatic leadership led the Tetzcoca nobility on a narrow path between precontact social and political traditions and new colonial realities to ensure Tetzcoco’s future prosperity. If we are to understand Tetzcoca history in the sixteenth century, we must move beyond don Carlos’s burned stake and give don Antonio’s role a thorough examination. MESOAMERICAN HEREDITARY NOBLES IN THE EARLY COLONIAL PERIOD

The response of indigenous nobles in Mesoamerica to the Spanish invasion was complex and varied. Though some communities fought fiercely against the Spanish conquerors, many groups instead sought actively to ally themselves with the Spaniards and use them to further their own interests. The most famous case is that of the Tlaxcalteca, whose assistance—after a brief initial period of resistance—was essential to the Spaniards’ defeat of Tlaxcala’s traditional enemy, Mexico Tenochtitlan, in 1521 (Gibson 1967: 21–27). In Tetzcoco, existing divisions within the ruling family were exacerbated by the Spanish presence; some remained loyal to the Mexica, while others fought against them on the Spanish side.5 After conquest—especially following the arrival of New Spain’s first viceroy, don Antonio de Mendoza (r. 1535–50)—the Spaniards largely left intact or restored traditional indigenous social and political structures (Connell 2011: 17).6 In fact, the Spaniards relied heavily on the tlatoque (plural of tlatoani) of Central Mexico to collect tribute from the newly conquered population and exploit indigenous labor for their benefit. The Spanish encomiendas, or grants of labor, awarded to conquistadors and other early colonists corresponded more or less to existing altepetl (Nahua city-states), and existing tlatoque and their relatives and descendants became crucial intermediaries through which the Spaniards operated (Lockhart 1992: 28–31). The Spanish colonial administration did attempt to shape the local government of indigenous towns in the image of Spanish institutions, however. By the mid-sixteenth century, indigenous communities had adopted Spanishstyle municipal town councils, called cabildos, composed of members of the precontact ruling nobility. These councils were presided over by gobernadores, or governors. Initially, the community’s tlatoani held the gobernador position for life. As the century progressed, however, the two positions, gobernador and tlatoani, were divorced from each other, and the gobernadores were elected or appointed to the position for shorter, fixed terms. This separation led to a gradual decline in tlatoani authority and power, as many of the functions of 186


that office were performed by the gobernador (Gibson 1964: 167–72; Lockhart 1992: 30–35). Thus while Spaniards relied on indigenous nobles in the colonial period to maintain control of the large sedentary native population, they also introduced institutions that altered the precontact balance of power. In fact, the hereditary rulers of many altepetl in Central Mexico were increasingly excluded from political offices and decision-making in the course of the sixteenth century. In Mexico Tenochtitlan, for example, non-nobles increasingly exploited new viceregal institutions to oust political opponents and place themselves in positions of power (Connell 2011: 55–66).7 The experience of the Tetzcoca indigenous nobles in the early colonial period was similar to that of leaders throughout the Valley of Mexico. In 1515, after the death of the powerful Tetzcoca tlatoani Nezahualpilli, some controversy arose about who would succeed to the Tetzcoca rulership. According to Nahua custom, a group of high-ranking nobles would meet to choose the next tlatoani from a small group of acceptable candidates. These candidates could be the late tlatoani’s sons, brothers, or even nephews. The principal contenders in 1515 were all sons of Nezahualpilli: Cacama, Coanacoch, and Ixtlilxochitl. Cacama received the support of his uncle Moteucçoma Xocoyotzin (r. 1502–20) in Mexico Tenochtitlan and was confirmed as tlatoani. But his half-brother Ixtlilxochitl, intolerant of Mexica intervention in Tetzcoca politics, believed he was the more qualified candidate and raised a rebel army in the eastern provinces of the Tetzcoca realm, which he ruled de facto until the Spaniards arrived in 1519. Cacama was killed (apparently without heir) by the Spaniards in the early stages of the conquest campaign. His half-brother Coanacoch assumed the tlatoani position and continued to fight against the Spaniards until Mexico Tenochtitlan fell in 1521. Cortés killed Coanacoch—along with the Mexica tlatoani Cuauhtemoc—on his trip to Honduras in 1525. Meanwhile, Ixtlilxochitl took advantage of the Spanish presence to further his own political agenda. He allied himself with Hernando Cortés, who served as Ixtlilxochitl’s sponsor at the time of his Christian conversion and baptism (he received the baptismal name don Fernando Cortés as a result). Ixtlilxochitl offered his services and resources to the Spaniards in their final siege of Tenochtitlan, based in Tetzcoco.8 Disease ravaged Tetzcoco’s ruling family during the first few decades after conquest. In the fewer than twenty years between the conquest in 1521 and the time don Antonio assumed the leadership of Tetzcoco in 1540, at least four of his brothers—including Ixtlilxochitl—had been named tlatoani and B E YO N D T H E B U R N ED S TA K E


died while in office (Cline 1966: 83, table 1). And in 1539, the now infamous execution of his brother Don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli was carried out in Mexico City. The years leading up to don Antonio’s ascension to the tlatoani post, then, were a time of instability and change for the Tetzcoca hereditary nobility. The Spaniards had replaced the Mexica as the dominant political force in Central Mexico, don Antonio’s tlatoque brothers were dying one after the other in quick succession, and the Inquisition publicly executed a member of the ruling family. Don Antonio’s time in office, however, seems to have been more stable, as he shrewdly reasserted the ruling authority of the Tetzcoca hereditary nobility within the new framework of colonial institutions and politics. THE RULE OF DON ANTONIO PIMENTEL TLAHUITOLTZIN

Information on don Antonio is scarce. While the lengthy Inquisition trial of his brother don Carlos has provided scholars with scores of folios from which to construct that episode, the historical record has so far yielded only a few references to don Antonio. Nonetheless, the few references that do survive suggest that don Antonio was a dynamic leader who deftly negotiated the complexities of the ever-changing political landscape of the early colonial period. One of the most intriguing of these references is the Humboldt Fragment VI, now housed in Germany’s Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (see figure 8.3). This pictorial manuscript depicts litigation between don Antonio and a Spaniard over the Oztoticpac palace compound in Tetzcoco. The palace compound was seized along with the rest of don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli’s property by the Inquisition following don Carlos’s auto de fe (ibid.: 90). Also of note—and considerably less studied—is don Antonio’s will, dated July 20, 1545, which survives in Mexico City’s Archivo General de la Nación (AGN). The AGN copy of the will is a Spanish-language translation of the original Nahuatl-language document—now lost—and is held within the Tierras document group.9 Don Antonio’s will, when analyzed in conjunction with the Humboldt Fragment, provides important information about the Tetzcoca government and sociopolitical environment in the 1540s following the death of don Carlos. From this document, we see pressure on the Tetzcoca leadership in a variety of areas. Like the traditional hereditary nobles across New Spain, the Tetzcoca nobles also felt the strain of the nascent colonial system increasing as the sixteenth century progressed. The will alludes specifically to three threats to the old ruling house of Tetzcoco and don Antonio’s efficacy as ruler. 188


Figure 8.3. Humboldt Fragment VI. Courtesy, Trustees of the British Museum.

The first threat to the leadership of Tetzcoco in the 1540s was the possibility of continued support for don Carlos’s religious and political agenda among the ruling family and people of Tetzcoco. According to the Inquisition case, Don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli openly encouraged a return to the old, Prehispanic ways of worship and political organization and rejected the Christian social order established by the Spaniards (Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco 1910: 5–6). But as don Carlos’s trial and execution demonstrated, the Spaniards had little patience for this type of behavior at that time. Continued aversion to Christianity among Tetzcoco’s leaders would undermine their position as crucial intermediary players in the Spanish colonial enterprise in New Spain and perhaps leave them vulnerable to more direct Spanish intervention in local politics. Don Antonio knew don Carlos’s position was hazardous; don Antonio’s will provides several indications that don Antonio took a decidedly different approach from that of his brother in matters of religion and made a concerted effort to embrace Christianity and the social order it represented. This support for Christianity is most clearly illustrated in the rhetoric of the will itself, B E YO N D T H E B U R N ED S TA K E


which emphasizes the Tetzcoca tlatoani’s subordinate position to the will of the Christian god and the Spanish emperor. Don Antonio implored his successor to continue to assume this same subordinate position in the politicalreligious hierarchy of the colonial period. “He who is to be lord [after me],” he wrote, “firstly and before all things, with all care, respect, and reverence, must live in compliance with Our Lord God, doing that which is his will, and the same with his Majesty the Emperor our lord, under whose protection we are and who governs us” (AGN Tierras, vol. 3594, exp. 2, 3v–4r).10 In addition, don Antonio was concerned that churches in the Tetzcoco jurisdiction be properly built and that the communities around those churches be well ordered (ibid., 5r–5v). Such concerns reflect a sharp distinction in the goals of don Antonio and the heretical don Carlos. The socio-political order advocated by don Antonio kept Christian churches in the center of neatly arranged indigenous communities according to the desires of Spanish authorities. Don Antonio’s religious leanings are also manifest in the close relationship he maintained with the famed Franciscan missionary known as Motolinia (fray Toribio de Benavente). We know this because in 1551 Motolinia’s patron, the Count of Benavente, don Antonio Alfonso Pimentel, petitioned the crown to allow the Tetzcoca rulers to use his coat of arms (Peñafiel 1979: 6–8). Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin also took the count’s name. Motolinia spent much time in Tetzcoco, and don Antonio likely appealed to his patron to represent the ruling house of Tetzcoco at court in Spain and to serve as their baptismal sponsor. This close relationship between don Antonio and Motolinia further distanced the tlatoani from his unorthodox brother and demonstrated at least an outward embrace of Christianity. In addition to embracing Christianity, don Antonio also recognized that he and his successor had to continue to provide for the general welfare of those they governed if they wished to maintain power and avoid future challenges to the social order, heretical or otherwise. Don Antonio’s will instructed his successor to care for all those who suffered want and misery and, more specifically, to address the problem of a lack of water in the area called Acoculco and the dire circumstances the people there faced as a result. Don Antonio charged the next tlatoani with the duty of constructing a proper water delivery system and providing basic services to this population (AGN Tierras, vol. 3594, exp. 2, 4v–5r). Lack of basic human necessities like water and land would likely lead to discontent with the Tetzcoca leadership and undermine its ability to govern. If the Tetzcoca rulers were to prevent a more widespread rejection of the Christian-colonial social order, then don Antonio’s successor had to work—as don Antonio did—to continue to provide for the people of Tetzcoco. 190


A second threat to Tetzcoca government discernible in don Antonio’s will is the challenge to tlatoani authority by various indigenous groups, both Tetzcoca and non-Tetzcoca. In his will, don Antonio complained that, first, the calpolli (constituent political units of Tetzcoco) continued to dominate certain lands in Calpulalpa that don Antonio claimed for the government of Tetzcoco, and they refused to recognize the tlatoani’s right to them. Second, non-Tetzcoca nobles in the area had begun to unlawfully work lands that belonged to the government of Tetzcoco. Third, native officials and merchants in and around Tetzcoco refused to recognize the government of Tetzcoco and render tribute to it, as they had under don Antonio’s father and grandfather. Don Antonio, therefore, had seen outsiders encroach upon the effective power of the Tetzcoco tlatoani since his father’s death, and, in his will, don Antonio implored his successor to continue the fight to reassert Tetzcoca royal authority (ibid., 2v–3v). These challenges to tlatoani power in Tetzcoco reflect larger pressures on indigenous leaders throughout New Spain generally, who faced the potentially destabilizing presence of the Spanish government, courts, and settlers.11 Don Antonio was a fighter, however, and other documents from this period show that he was unwilling to passively accept these affronts to his authority. In addition to the above-mentioned Humboldt Fragment VI, don Antonio was also involved in the production and patronage of several other pictorial manuscripts. Howard Cline, for instance, identified the Humboldt Fragment as related to another document, the Oztoticpac Lands Map, which he also dates to around 1540 and from Tetzcoco. Both of these cadastral-style maps were part of the legal battle to reclaim Tetzcoca seigniorial property seized by the Inquisition after don Carlos’s execution (Cline 1966: 87, 91). While don Antonio’s will does not mention these documents, his involvement in their production or use attests to his active push for maintenance of the local nobility’s traditional rights and his ability to engage the viceregal government to that end. Don Antonio is actually depicted in the Humboldt Fragment acting out the process of litigation (see figure 8.3). Eduardo Douglas has also demonstrated that several other pictorials from Tetzcoco come from the 1540s and were likely commissioned by don Antonio. The first of these is the Mapa Quinatzin, which Douglas dates to 1542, two years into don Antonio’s tenure as tlatoani. This document touts the combination of barbaric Chichimec and cultured Toltec heritage that characterized the Tetzcoca nobles. The Mapa Quinatzin’s intended audience seems to have been a local indigenous one, and indigenous readers would have readily understood the pictorial conventions the artist employed as a means of B E YO N D T H E B U R N ED S TA K E


reinforcing the Tetzcoca nobles’ right to high status and respect (Douglas 2003: 286, 289, 302).12 Also dating from don Antonio’s tenure are the Codex Xolotl and the Mapa Tlotzin (Douglas 2010: 24–26). Though different in their content and form from the Mapa Quinatzin, the Codex Xolotl and the Mapa Tlotzin nonetheless also attempt, as Douglas contends, to shape the history of precontact Tetzcoco in such a way as to “assert the rights and privileges of their colonial patrons, descendants of the rulers whose achievements they commemorate and extoll” (ibid.: 162). All of these pictorial manuscripts—the Humbolt Fragment VI, the Oztoticpac Lands Map, the Mapa Quinatzin, the Codex Xolotl, and the Mapa Tlotzin—therefore, can be seen as representations of don Antonio’s active push not only to restore property to the government and royal family of Tetzcoco but also to restore the image of Tetzcoca magnificence in Central Mexico. The third and perhaps most dangerous threat the rulers of Tetzcoco faced was the political instability caused by disease, death, and rapid succession within the royal family. We see evidence that the demographic collapse under way since contact among the indigenous population of the Americas as a whole also affected the Tetzcoca aristocracy. By 1545, in the Tetzcoca ruling family alone, at least four rulers had died in the twenty-five years since the Spanish conquest. Don Antonio proved just as susceptible as his brothers before him, dying of an illness or disease just five years after taking office (AGN Tierras, vol. 3594, exp. 2, 1v). The rapid succession in Tetzcoco that resulted from illness and death was particularly destabilizing for local politics because of the large number of potential heirs and the possibility of factional disputes among them at times of succession. Among the Nahuas of Central Mexico, it was possible for power to pass both linearly from one generation to the next and also co-laterally between members of the same generation (Carrasco 1984: 43). All of don Antonio’s surviving brothers, therefore, were potential heirs to the throne of Tetzcoco, as were any surviving children of the quickly growing number of recently deceased rulers. Recognizing the potential threat his brothers posed to a peaceful transition of power, don Antonio began his testament with the matter of his successor. “In order that the nobles [of Tetzcoco] and the Tetzcoca [commoners] not be neglected,” he said, “and that there be no confusion among them, I name as my successor don Hernando Velazquez [Pimentel] to be señor.”13 Don Hernando was don Antonio’s nephew, the son of don Antonio’s half-brother don Pedro de Alvarado Coanacoch, who was killed along with Cuauhtemoc by Cortés in Honduras (see figure 8.4). Noting that illness could claim don Hernando’s life 192


Figure 8.4. Ruling family of Tetzcoco, selected genealogy.

as well, don Antonio named a second candidate for the position should don Hernando die: don Hernando’s younger brother don Pedro (AGN Tierras, vol. 3594, exp. 2, 1v–2r). It may appear odd that don Antonio would nominate his nephews over his brothers or sons. But don Antonio knew that in Tetzcoco, potential successors to the office of tlatoani had to be confirmed by a group of senior nobles (ibid., 6v–7v). His choice of don Hernando suggests that don Hernando was more likely to be confirmed by the other nobles than were don Antonio’s sons or brothers. Don Hernando’s popularity may have stemmed from the fact that he was the son of don Pedro de Alvarado Coanacoch, the last independent tlatoani of Tetzcoco before the Spanish victory in 1521. It may also have come from his potential to engage the Spanish colonial bureaucracy; once in office, don Hernando wrote extensively to the Spanish Crown and was responsible for securing a coat of arms for the ruling family and Tetzcoco’s designation as ciudad, or city, within the Spanish municipal classification system.14 Whatever don Hernando’s specific qualifications, don Antonio undoubtedly had them in mind when choosing him as his successor. Don Antonio’s foresight and leadership in this matter helped to ensure a peaceful, stable change of power. Don Antonio also reminded his brothers of their role under the next tlatoani. He cautioned them that it was their responsibility to “take very B E YO N D T H E B U R N ED S TA K E


particular care to correct [his successor] and teach him, accompanying him always on the straight road of truth, for we have always had our good laws and laudable customs from time immemorial since the origin of the señorío” (ibid., 5v–6r). Their role was not to antagonize but to assist and advise. Political stability and continuity in Tetzcoco depended on their acceptance of don Antonio’s successor and on their aid in government.15 Some of the responsibility also fell to the newly elected don Hernando, however. According to don Antonio, the new ruler had to reward good service to the altepetl with gifts of land and properties, as was the custom (ibid., 4r). By naming a successor and clearly outlining his expectations for both the successor and any potential rivals, don Antonio helped to preserve harmonious government in Tetzcoco and diminish the destabilizing effects of disease and death within the royal household. From don Antonio’s will, then, we get a sense of the issues confronting the Tetzcoca indigenous leadership in the years immediately following don Carlos’s notorious execution. First, we see that another don Carlos–style rejection of Spanish authority could threaten the ruling family’s ability to govern. Second, we see that the authority of the position of tlatoani was challenged by various groups in and around Tetzcoco. Third and perhaps most important, we see the threat to political stability represented by factional competition within the Tetzcoca ruling family in this period of continued population decline. Don Antonio’s responses to these issues and threats represented a careful negotiation between Prehispanic traditions, on the one hand, and the new realities of Spanish political dominance in New Spain, on the other. Outward displays of Prehispanic religious devotion were no longer tolerated in Tetzcoco, and don Antonio—unlike his brother don Carlos—advocated respect for the Christian god and the Spanish monarch. He cultivated a relationship with Motolinia and was also concerned that Tetzcoca communities be well-ordered, church-centered settlements. At the same time, however, don Antonio promoted a traditional system of government in which the Tetzcoca tlatoani was responsible for the provision of basic human needs and the general welfare of those he governed. Respect for the office of tlatoani in Tetzcoco had diminished under Spanish rule, yet don Antonio used traditional painted manuscripts with Prehispanic pictorial conventions to reassert the Tetzcoca royal family’s right to high status and respect by drawing on a local, indigenous reverence for Tetzcoco’s political might and for ancient Toltec and Chichimec cultures. He also actively litigated in the viceregal courts in an effort to reclaim improperly seized patrimonial lands. 194


In an attempt to avoid factional in-fighting among the Tetzcoca nobles, don Antonio named a successor to the tlatoani position. This individual, don Hernando Pimentel, was the most likely candidate to be confirmed by the other Tetzcoca nobles after don Antonio’s death and to enjoy the legitimacy required for effective rule. This prudent decision, along with his insistence on traditional forms of social interaction within the royal family, showed don Antonio’s desire to avoid conflict among his relatives and promote the political health of this illustrious altepetl. In hindsight, his choice of don Hernando seems wise; don Hernando’s twenty-year rule was peaceful and stable. Don Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli’s radical rejection of the colonial social order led to his trial and burning at the stake and cast doubt on the indigenous nobility of Central Mexico’s continued ability to govern. But don Antonio’s moderation and judicious negotiation of the new colonial order in which he found himself ensured the Tetzcoca royal family’s continued existence, authority, and prosperity. NOTES

I would like to thank those individuals who helped get this chapter into print. First, thanks to Professors Patrick Lesbre and Katarzina Mikulska for organizing the Nobleza indígena panel at the fifty-third International Congress of Americanists in Mexico City in July 2009, where an early version of this chapter was presented. I would also like to thank Dra. María Castañeda de la Paz of the UNAM for her critical comments and help with the Spanish translation of that presentation. In 2010, a revised version was presented at the Texcoco Symposium held at the University of North Texas. I thank the symposium participants for their helpful comments and Professors Jongsoo Lee and Galen Brokaw for organizing both the symposium and this resultant volume. At UCLA, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Erin Brown, Regan Buck Bardeen, Kevin Goldberg, Edward Schoolman, Courtney Spikes, and Dana Velasco Murillo, all of whom read various versions of this piece. This project would not be possible without the advice and support of Professor Kevin Terraciano. Thanks also to Neely for her encouragement and critiques. All translations from Spanish are my own, unless otherwise noted. In spelling don Carlos’s Nahuatl name, I follow the orthography of the 1539 Inquisition trial. 1. For a more detailed account of the kin relationships between don Carlos and his accusers, see Don 2008. 2. “This will be of interest to those individuals who form the XVII International Congress of Americanists that is to convene in this city of Mexico on the occasion of the celebration of the declaration of our independence” (Proceso 1910: vii). B E YO N D T H E B U R N ED S TA K E


3. Tavárez (2011: 45) notes that this understanding of don Carlos’s role in local government comes from the writings of Chimalpahin, the early colonial indigenous annalist from Chalco, and recent scholarship continues to adhere to this traditional view. See, for example, Don 2010; Ruiz, this volume. 4. Though Cline spells don Antonio’s Nahuatl name Tlahuilotzin, fray Bernardino de Sahagún’s Nahua collaborators give his name as Tlahuitoltzin, which is more consistent with don Antonio’s name glyph as drawn in the Florentine Codex and Humboldt Fragment VI: a bow, or tlahuitolli in Nahuatl. For this reason, I employ Sahagún’s spelling here (Cline 1966: 83, table 1; Sahagún 1978: 10). 5. For a discussion of pre-conquest tensions in Tetzcoco, see Hicks 1994. To see these tensions play out in the course of the conquest, see Cortés 2001: 97–98, 177, 180. 6. Connell (2011) demonstrates that Mendoza’s arrival brought an end to the capricious, conquistador-dominated First Audiencia and ushered in a more predictable, disinterested form of royal control. To accomplish this, Mendoza rather ironically restored to power in Mexico Tenochtitlan the traditional ruling lineage of the precontact tlatoque. 7. Gibson (1967: 193–94) demonstrated that by the 1590s the Tlaxcalan native leaders had lost much of their control as a result of changes in population, labor organization, and tribute demands. Horn (1997: 228) notes that the ruling family of Coyoacan lost its exclusive grip on local power early in the sixteenth century. For a regional view, see Lockhart 1992. 8. For a concise history of the events in Tetzcoco immediately prior to and during the conquest and a discussion of the many, somewhat contradictory, sources on which it is based, see Douglas 2010: 9–10, 196–97nn39–43; also Lesbre 1996: 572–600. 9. Archivo General de la Nación (AGN) Tierras, vol. 3594, exp. 2, 1v–6r; also transcribed in Horcasitas 1978: 149–52. The history of this copy of don Antonio’s will is a history of noble indigenous politics in itself. It was originally drawn up in Nahuatl, and in 1621, nearly eighty years after the will was made, one of don Antonio’s kinsmen, the noted chronicler don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, submitted the Nahuatl document to the Audiencia so an official translation into Castilian might be made. That seventeenth-century Spanish-language copy was then presented as evidence more than 200 years later in a nineteenth-century lawsuit involving the descendants of the old Tetzcoca nobles. The document’s authenticity could reasonably be questioned given such a lapse in time and given that the document was presented as part of a nineteenth-century lawsuit. Yet the will makes no claims that would suggest it was a fabrication from a later period. In fact, the will is full of rather mundane detail that would likely only be of concern to coeval readers. Moreover, the will is referenced in an early colonial Nahuatl-language document collected by Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin (1997: 203). 196


10. Y el que hubiere de ser tal señor Primeramente, y ante todas cosas con todo cuidado, respecto y reverencia, han de vivir ante el acatamiento de Dios Nuestro Señor, haciendo lo que es su voluntad y lo mismo con la Magestad de el Emperador nuestro señor debajo de cuyo amparo estamos y nos gobierna. 11. See note 7. 12. For a discussion of the importance of pictorial writing and pictorial histories among the Nahuas and the vocabulary and grammar of the pictorial system employed by native artists in the precontact and early colonial period, see Boone 2000. 13. Por que no se descuiden los principales y los tescucanos, ó halla alguna confucion entre ellos: Yo nombro por mi subsesor á D. Hernando Velazquez para que sea Señor. 14. Archivo General de Indias (AGI) México, ramo 168, nos. 51, 56, 86, 88; Horcasitas 1978: 152–56; Peñafiel 1979: 3–11. 15. There is evidence that some of don Antonio’s brothers were unhappy with his choice. In an anonymous Tetzcoca source collected by Chimalpahin (1997: 187–207), some of the surviving sons of Nezahualpilli express displeasure with the choice of their nephew don Hernando Pimentel and suggest that don Antonio’s will might have been falsified or written perhaps as a result of coercion (ibid., 203). Even if don Antonio’s choice of don Hernando was, in fact, the result of fraud, the rest of the will seems not to have been fabricated. See note 9. WORKS CITED

AGI Archivo General de Indias, Seville. AGN Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City. Boone, Elizabeth Hill. 2000. Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs. Austin: University of Texas Press. Carrasco, Pedro. 1984. “Royal Marriages in Ancient Mexico.” In Explorations in Ethnohistory: Indians of Central Mexico in the Sixteenth Century, ed. Herbert R. Harvey and Hanns J. Prem, 41–81. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, don Domingo de San Antón Muñón. 1997. Codex Chimalpahin, vol. 2. Trans. and ed. Arthur J.O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Cline, Howard F. 1966. “The Oztoticpac Lands Map of Texcoco, 1540.” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 23: 77–115. Connell, William. 2011. After Moctezuma: Indigenous Politics and Self-Government in Mexico City, 1524–1730. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Cortés, Hernán. 2001. Letters from Mexico. Trans. and ed. Anthony Pagden. New Haven, CT: Yale Nota Bene.



Don, Patricia Lopes. 2008. “The 1539 Inquisition and Trial of Don Carlos of Texcoco in Early Mexico.” Hispanic American Historical Review 88 (4): 573–606. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00182168-2008-001. Don, Patricia Lopes. 2010. Bonfires of Culture: Franciscans, Indigenous Leaders, and the Inquisition in Early Mexico, 1524–1540. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Douglas, Eduardo de J. 2003. “Figures of Speech: Political History in the Quinatzin Map of about 1542.” Art Bulletin 85 (2): 281–309. http://dx.doi.org /10.2307/3177345. Douglas, Eduardo de J. 2010. In the Palace of Nezahualcoyotl: Painting Manuscripts, Writing the Pre-Hispanic Past in Early Colonial Period Tetzcoco, Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press. Gibson, Charles. 1964. The Aztecs under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519–1810. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Gibson, Charles. 1967. Tlaxcala in the Sixteenth Century. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Greenleaf, Richard E. 1961. Zumárraga and the Mexican Inquisition, 1536–1543. Washington, DC: Academy of American Franciscan History. Hicks, Frederic. 1994. “Texcoco 1515–1519: The Ixtlilxochitl Affair.” In Chipping Away on Earth: Studies in Prehispanic and Colonial Mexico in Honor of Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble, ed. Eloise Quiñones Keber, 235–39. Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos. Horcasitas, Fernando. 1978. “Los descendientes de Nezahualpilli: Documentos del cacicazgo de Tetzcoco (1545–1855).” Estudios de Historia Novohispana 6: 145–85. Horn, Rebecca. 1997. Postconquest Coyoacan: Nahua-Spanish Relations in Central Mexico, 1519–1650. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Lesbre, Patrick. 1996. “Tezcoco-Aculhuacan face à Mexico-Tenochtitlan d’après les sources historiques, 1431–1521.” 2 vols. PhD dissertation, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. 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. Peñafiel, Antonio, ed. 1979. Manuscritos de Texcoco. México: Editorial Innovación. Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco. 1910. Publicaciones de la Comisión Reorganizadora del Archivo General y Público de la Nación 1. México: Eusebio Gómez de la Puente. Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco. 2009. México: Congreso Internacional de Americanistas. 198


Ricard, Robert. 1966. The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico: An Essay on the Apostolate and the Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain, 1523–1572. Trans. Leslye Byrd Simpson. Berkeley: University of California Press. Sahagún, fray Bernardino de. 1978. Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain. Book 8. Santa Fe: School of American Research and University of Utah. Tavárez, David. 2011. The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico. Stanford: Stanford University Press.



9 It is consoling to think about the paths the fusion of the two cultures was taking. But it embitters that solace to see that tradition was not able to emerge from those early attempts and that its flight toward the heights of an authentically literary production was broken by a thousand circumstances.1

The Alva Ixtlilxochitl Brothers and the Nahua Intellectual Community Amber Brian

Ángel María Garibay K.

Ángel María Garibay K. concludes the two-volume Historia de la literatura náhuatl (Garibay K. 1971 [1954]) with the suggestively titled chapter “Vuelo Roto,” in which he uses don Bartolomé de Alva (b. ca. 1597), the younger of the two Texcoca brothers this chapter addresses, to embody his concept of a “broken flight” in Nahuatl literature. For Garibay, Bartolomé de Alva’s translations into Nahuatl of three Spanish Golden Age dramas exemplify an emergent, though truncated, Nahuatl-language literary tradition. Volume 2 of Historia de la literatura náhuatl traces the historical circumstances and social institutions that supported the writings and activities of dozens of Nahuatl-speaking and Nahua-identified intellectuals from colonial New Spain by focusing on relationships between various Nahua intellectuals, particularly with regard to their involvement with the Colegio Imperial de Santa Cruz de Santiago Tlatelolco. He does, however, make mistaken assumptions about some of these connections. For instance, Garibay insists on erroneously referring to Bartolomé de Alva as the third child of don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl (ibid., 2: 308, 340), though it is now clear they were brothers. He also asserts quite confidently that Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl (ca.

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c009


1578–1650) studied at the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Santiago Tlatelolco along with don Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc and don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin (ibid.: 228–29), though many scholars now dispute that claim.2 Even after acknowledging these discrepancies with current scholarship, it is important to note that Garibay’s study makes great strides in attempting to understand the nature and significance of the Nahua intellectual tradition in New Spain, and his discussion of the “broken flight” provides a useful starting place for analyzing the Ixtlilxochitl brothers. The way Garibay creates a pre-Colombian and colonial-era Nahuatl literary corpus emerges out of a mid-century, nationalist, humanist project. He established the foundations for studying Nahuatl texts as part of a specifically Mexican literature, a project carried on by his student and protégé, Miguel León-Portilla. 3 León-Portilla (1992: 167) outlines the biographical and intellectual formation of his teacher and mentor in “Ángel Ma. Garibay K. (1892– 1992), en el centenario de su nacimiento,” where he summarizes Garibay’s scholarship by commenting that “he was a genuine humanist who rediscovered, with a critical sensibility, the universal value and the great richness of the literary legacy of the Nahua community” [fue él un genuino humanista que redescubrió con sentido crítico el valor universal y la gran riqueza del legado literario de los pueblos nahuas]. A student of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian, German, English, Nahuatl, and Otomí, Garibay sought to understand the literary production of many cultures; as León-Portilla points out, Garibay’s earliest study of Nahuatl letters, La poesía lírica azteca (Aztec Lyric Poetry), was published in 1937, the same year as his translation of Aeschylus’s Oresteia (ibid.: 171). Garibay’s Historia de la literatura náhuatl is a testament to his attempts to gain appreciation for Nahuatl texts within the framework of world literature, and he clearly saw in the figure of Bartolomé de Alva Ixtlilxochitl a kindred spirit who could showcase the mixing of European and Nahua traditions. Though our approach to literature and the Nahuatl texts Garibay studied has changed in the past fifty years, his classic study still offers an important model of how to reconstruct the cultural significance of the many and diverse works produced in Nahuatl or by Nahua writers. More specific to the concerns of this chapter, Garibay remains one of the few scholars to have offered an extended study of Bartolomé de Alva and is one of the first and the few to have considered Nahuatl letters in a context of intellectual community. The Alva Ixtlilxochitl brothers’ works and lives were defined by a series of cultural and linguistic negotiations between the República de Indios and the República de Españoles. This process was undertaken not in isolation but rather 202


as part of multiple intellectual communities. The sharing of knowledge, cultural heritage, and forms of identity that define a community is central to both Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historical works and Bartolomé de Alva’s theater translations. There is clear evidence within both men’s texts that the Texcoca and other Nahuatl-speaking communities to which they belonged played a central role in the creation and circulation of their rich and varied oeuvres. INTELLECTUAL COMMUNITIES

Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl is, and has been for centuries, one of the most cited and studied Amerindian, or mestizo, chroniclers from colonial New Spain. Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora addressed him as “the Cicero of the Nahuatl language,” though all of his known texts are in Spanish. He was a respected source for such eighteenth-century historians as Mariano Fernández Echevarría y Veytia and Francisco Xavier Clavijero.4 William Prescott, the nineteenth-century US historian, praised him as the “Livy of Anahuac.” Don Bartolomé de Alva, however, has garnered significant attention only in the past decade and that only from specialized scholars, though Alva’s Guide to Confession, his translations into Nahuatl of three Golden Age Spanish plays— including The Great Theater of the World by Calderón de la Barca, The Mother of the Best by Lope de Vega, and The Animal Prophet and the Fortunate Patricide by Antonio Mira de Amescua—and his work with Horacio Carochi on the Grammar of the Mexican Language are tremendously compelling examples of intellectual production in seventeenth-century New Spain. Like his brother, Bartolomé de Alva negotiated between the European and Nahuatl linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions in his written works, but, significantly, don Bartolomé did not take up don Fernando’s cause of defending Texcoco’s legacy. In fact, Texcoco does not appear to define the younger brother culturally or ethnically, as it does all of Fernando de Alva’s historical relations. Don Bartolomé’s version of the Nahua world is rendered in terms relevant to the lived experience of the Nahuatl-speaking population of seventeenth-century New Spain. He hedges away from the reexamination of pre-Colombian history for which don Fernando is most renowned. The two brothers’ perspectives on the lived and historical experiences of the Nahuas are distinct, though complementary. By looking at them together, the reader is compelled to re-imagine their works within the context of the cultural traditions and intellectual communities that engendered them. Bartolomé de Alva should press us to look more closely at the ways texts and knowledge systems moved between the Nahua and European intellectual T H E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L B RO T H ER S A N D T H E N A H UA I N T ELLE C T UA L CO M M U N I T Y


spheres. There are histories to these texts and how they were read, distributed, and then reproduced; the material history of the text is no less important, I suggest, than the close reading of the work itself. Stephen Greenblatt (2010: 2) recently argued for the need to look more closely at the issue of cultural mobility in order, as he says, “to formulate new ways of understanding the dialectic of cultural persistence and change.” He advises patient charting of specific instances of cultural mobility, not in an attempt to construct new grand narratives but to generate detailed and intellectually vital engagements with specific cases. All of the ancillary materials associated with known texts—such as annotations, marginal notes, the reviews of censors, petitions to the Crown— provide evidence for the ways don Bartolomé and don Fernando participated in intellectual communities that were central to how they each, individually, reconstructed Texcoca knowledge. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl closely identified with his Texcoca heritage and community. The collection of native texts and codices he amassed during his life and his lifelong attempts to document Texcoca history attest to his close ties to the homeland of Nezahualcoyotl. Bartolomé de Alva moved further afield from his family roots, and the role of his family’s altepetl is secondary to the more broadly defined Nahua world in his projects. Emerging out of Texcoco, the fabled pre-Colombian center of Nahua learning, the great-great-grandsons of Cortés Ixtlilxochitl demonstrate a range of possibilities for seventeenth-century Nahua intellectuals in terms of their activities and legacies. Our ability to see the discursive processes at work in their texts is lost when we orient the discussion of native authors toward issues tied to race. For example, Jesús Bustamante (1995: 92–95) argues that Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl and Bartolomé de Alva represent two sides of their social position as the “Indian” and the “white.” Though Bustamante recognizes a certain fluidity of identities in viceregal New Spain, ultimately he continues in a tradition of viewing colonial figures through essentialist terms. Recall, however, that though Bartolomé de Alva was educated and professionalized in a system created for European men, both in the university and in the church, it was his knowledge of Nahuatl that garnered him acceptance into the clergy. In a similar fashion, Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s access to, and familiarity with, the histories of his Texcoca ancestors provided the material for his own writings, yet he was concerned with broadcasting the history of Texcoco to a wider audience informed by European concerns. It is crucial to view both brothers as part of the two cultural realms present in seventeenth-century New Spain: they both derived their knowledge and understanding of their societies from Nahua and European traditions. To persist in asking who was more Indian 204


is to be blind to the reality in which they lived. We should instead be more concerned with how they negotiated between the two republics and what that process can tell us about the colonial experience. Carolyn Dean and Dana Leibsohn offer a provocative meditation on the power and pitfalls of viewing cultural mixing through the theoretical lens of hybridity (Dean and Leibsohn 2003: 21). Though their focus is on paintings, textiles, and architecture rather than the written word, the questions they ask and the insights they suggest are pertinent to this discussion of the Alva Ixtlilxochitl brothers and their works. Playing on the title and their area of expertise, the authors emphasize that the culturally mixed nature of certain objects—such as the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca and the Santo Domingo church in Cuzco—is not always visible upon casual glance: “What is at stake is the very real possibility that hybridity—in spite of current desires to identify and name it—may be largely invisible. This, we believe, raises the stakes for discussions of authorship and identity, and it places surface appearances in a new light” (ibid). Central to their endeavor to make sense of the layers of cultural influence is looking at the manner in which maps, manuscripts, buildings, and paintings came to be created. This emphasis on material process, not just the final product, is a useful model for how to reevaluate the Ixtlilxochitl brothers. Both don Fernando and don Bartolomé were deeply involved in intellectual communities in seventeenth-century New Spain, and looking at the ways their works relied on collaborations with other individuals and multiple traditions, both within and outside the República de Indios, is key to understanding the process of their creation. Understandably, Garibay focused on one of the Ixtlilxochitl brothers in his final essay of the Historia de la literature náhuatl. Both don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl and don Bartolomé de Alva demonstrate the possibilities of the fusion of two cultures, as he termed it, yet Bartolomé is the only one known to have written in Nahuatl. Though offspring of the same parents, the names and communities that define don Fernando and don Bartolomé are significantly different. Bartolomé de Alva did not adopt as a surname the name of his great-great-grandfather Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, as his brother did, and though they were both active, public figures in seventeenth-century New Spain, Bartolomé moved in circles much further outside the family cacicazgo (landed estate) in San Juan Teotihuacan. In these brothers we have two different models of bicultural authors: though they both demonstrate that mestizo writers, as colonial subjects, absorbed both European and Nahuatl intellectual and cultural traditions, don Fernando and don Bartolomé show different approaches to representing Texcoco and the Nahuatl world more broadly. T H E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L B RO T H ER S A N D T H E N A H UA I N T ELLE C T UA L CO M M U N I T Y



Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl has served as a source for understanding pre-Colombian Mexico since the seventeenth century for such disparate historians as Clavijero, Bustamante, and Prescott. He even inspired a curious historical novel entitled The Fair God or, the Last of the ’Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico (1926 [1873]) by Lew Wallace (1827–1905), the same nineteenth-century US author who penned Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880). The Fair God is constructed around the premise that the author translates a set of manuscripts belonging to, as Wallace says, “Fernando de Alva, a noble Tezcucan, [who] flourished in the beginning of the sixteenth century. He was a man of great learning, familiar with the Mexican and Spanish languages, and the hieroglyphics of Anahuac” (Wallace 1926 [1873]: xi). Up to this point Wallace follows don Fernando’s biography, except, of course, for the assertion that he flourished at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Next, though, Wallace actively fictionalizes his subject: “The MSS. were found among a heap of old despatches from the Viceroy Mendoza to the Emperor. It is quite probable that they became mixed with the State papers through accident; if, however, they were purposely addressed to His Majesty, it must have been to give him a completer idea of the Aztecan people and their civilization, or to lighten the burdens of royalty by an amusement to which, it is known, Charles V was not averse” (ibid.: xiii). Though riddled with historical inaccuracies, such as the role of Viceroy Mendoza whose reign preceded Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s birth by a quarter century, The Fair God offers an extreme illustration of how Alva Ixtlilxochitl has come to serve and support other authors’ literary and historical narratives. Whether in Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico, Carlos María de Bustamante’s Independence-era chronicles, Echevarría y Veytia, Clavijero, or Sigüenza, Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl has been entwined in other authors’ narrative trajectories for centuries. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s primary function vis-à-vis other writers’ projects has been less that of intellectual creator than of conveyor, as in Lew Wallace’s novel. Wallace constructs his character “don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl” as the forgotten Amerindian chronicler whose works—which lay moldering in a forgotten archive—provide a link to the Prehispanic world. This portrayal of Alva Ixtlilxochitl as the point of transmission of native knowledge from the Nahua world to a non-Nahua context is prevalent in other texts and historical studies as well. The most frequently cited relationship of this sort is that between Fernando de Alva and the seventeenth-century Creole don Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora. For example, in his meticulously detailed 206


account of the evolution of Creole consciousness, David Brading (1991: 367, 371) points to Sigüenza’s inheritance and stewardship of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s collection of manuscripts and codices as his greatest contribution, one that allowed those materials to be used by eighteenth-century historians. This analysis does a clear disservice to Sigüenza by making him simply a courier, but it also offers a deceptively simple understanding of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s collection of Nahua texts. Fernando de Alva’s own writings and the other manuscripts and codices that were part of his collection did not offer a singular and static representation of Anahuac. Rather, we must imagine that the individual scripted and pictorial texts Alva Ixtlilxochitl collected were products of a cultural negotiation similar to what is evident in the chronicler’s own historical narratives. Even the pictorial texts, as Eduardo de J. Douglas recently argued so well, should not be perceived as representing a pristine version of pre-Colombian Nahua culture.5 Furthermore, as Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s archive became disseminated after the Texcoca chronicler’s death, the texts were reconfigured, depending on the place, period, and discourses operating at the moment. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl offers a history of Texcoco in his four historical relations and the culmination of his research and history writing, Historia de la nación chichimeca (ca. 1625), which spans the history of the altepetl from the birth of Christ until the arrival of Hernán Cortés.6 Throughout his writings, Alva Ixtlilxochitl works to reconcile the history of his Amerindian ancestors with the dominant political, religious, and intellectual currents from Western Europe. Though rather lengthy, a close reading of the following passage offers a clear representation of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historical project: Since my adolescence, I have always had a great desire to know about things that had occurred in this New World, which were no less important than those deeds of the Romans, Greeks, and Medes and other great gentile republics that have had fame in the universe; though through the passage of time and the fall of the realms and states of my ancestors, their histories remained buried; for which reason I have achieved my great desire with much work, searching, and utmost diligence in bringing together the pictures of the histories and annals, and the songs with which they observed them; and most of all to understand these histories by bringing together many of the principals of New Spain who held fame for knowing and understanding those stories to which I have referred. (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 525)7

Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl aimed to reconstruct the history of Anahuac, specifically Texcoco, within a model of European humanist historiography. T H E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L B RO T H ER S A N D T H E N A H UA I N T ELLE C T UA L CO M M U N I T Y


He projects himself as Texcoco’s own Herodotus, assiduously collecting materials that he then presents as carefully and accurately as he is able in his own relations. The history of Texcoco is then placed in the same category as ancient Rome, Greece, and Persia. The corollary to the representation of Texcoco as yet another grand though gentile republic was that the deeds of its rulers and nobles could offer the reader the same illustrative lessons as those of the Greeks and Romans that proved foundational to the European Renaissance. Significantly, don Fernando emphasizes not only the range of materials he consulted but also the knowledge he gleaned from members of his community who maintained an understanding of pre-Colombian history and traditions. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s diligence and hard work in collecting and then interpreting the native sources points to his active engagement with other Nahua intellectuals. Jongsoo Lee (2008: 30–31) points out that “most of the sources originated from Texcoco,” including don Hernando Pimentel and Juan de Pomar. Alva Ixtlilxochitl also clearly drew from three Texcoca pictorial texts: the Codex Xolotl, the Quinatzin Map, and the Tlohtzin Map (ibid.: 37). Eduardo de J. Douglas (2010: 16) offers a contextualization and critical analysis of these pictorial works in his excellent study, In the Palace of Nezahualcoyotl. Douglas emphasizes that the production of these maps and codex was part of the colonial “double-consciousness” of the patrons and painters.8 Don Fernando, who also exemplifies this dual awareness of Nahua and European mores, “had access to and eventually possession of the pictorial histories of Tetzcoco and in great part he based his Spanish-language accounts of Tetzcoco’s past on this archive. From his text, it is clear that he had before him, among other documents, the Codex Xolotl, the Quinatzin Map, and the Tlohtzin Map” (ibid.: 18). Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s effort to draw together pictorial and scripted Texcoca texts and to narrate their stories is central to his approach to history writing.9 His reliance on sources native to his altepetl also points to the urgent need in seventeenth-century New Spain to write local histories because of the changing demographics and political situation. Susan Schroeder (1997, 1: 6) has commented on these conditions and their effect on native chroniclers: “at the turn of the century there was surely a keen sense of urgency to keep to tradition while securing vestigial positions of high status within the colonial system.” In New Spain, there was a notable decline in the autonomy of Amerindians and their communities during the seventeenth century, and Alva Ixtlilxochitl worked to maintain his and his family’s privileged position within viceregal society—in part through his extensive historical relations, which emphasized his ancestors’ important contributions to the colonial government. In laying 208


claim to his ancestors’ deeds, Alva Ixtlilxochitl subscribed to the formal and pragmatic characteristics of the relación de méritos y servicios, in which an individual hoped to parlay service to the Crown into a set of privileges by writing an account of events that emphasized the great merit of those actions or deeds, including those of his ancestors.10 In addition to the immediate goal of securing and maintaining special favors from the Crown, Alva Ixtlilxochitl and other seventeenth-century Nahua chroniclers sensed an urgent need to record their slowly vanishing indigenous past. THE TENUOUS PRESENT

Don Bartolomé de Alva was not motivated by the same exigencies found in his brother’s works. He did not represent Texcoco to the Crown and did not make himself responsible for his ancestors’ historical legacy. As a young man, don Bartolomé left the República de Indios and immersed himself in studies within the walls of European institutions in New Spain—first at the university in Mexico City and then in the Catholic Church. He was a bachiller and then a practicing secular priest. His translations of Calderón and Lope, along with his Guide to Confession, are as much a product of those centers of learning and knowledge as they are of his childhood in San Juan Teotihuacan. If his Guide to Confession and the range of sins it offers is any basis for judgment, seventeenth-century Nahua communities were rife with alcoholism and excessive libido. Alva announces in the title that the volume is committed to instruct the confessor on how to speak “against the superstitions of idolatry that nowadays remain with the natives of this New Spain” [contra las Supersticiones de idolatria que el dia de oy an quedado a los Naturales desta Nueva España] (Sell and Schwaller 1999: 51). Though there is a focus on holdover idolatrous practices from pre-conquest times, a mainstay of the guide is how to respond to confessions related to drunkenness and unsanctioned sexual behavior. The pre-Christian past is only referenced in the context of battling the sins of living Nahuatl speakers. This emphasis on the contemporary Nahua world, rather than a historical narrative of the pre-Colombian or conquest-era past, is a key difference between don Bartolomé’s text and his brother’s works. Bartolomé de Alva’s theater translations offer further illustration of the ways the younger Ixtlilxochitl brother engaged with the Nahua and Nahuatlspeaking communities around him. Alva’s Nahuatl versions of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s The Great Theater of the World, Antonio Mira de Amescua’s The Animal Prophet and the Fortunate Patricide, and Lope de Vega’s The Mother of the Best reflect the linguistic and cultural legacies of his Texcoca ancestors.11 As T H E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L B RO T H ER S A N D T H E N A H UA I N T ELLE C T UA L CO M M U N I T Y


the title of Amescua’s play announces, the work centers around Saint Julian the Hospitaler, known for divining from a dying stag the prophecy that he would kill his parents. Louise Burkhart comments in her introductory essay that Alva’s translation of The Animal Prophet would have had clear resonance for a Nahua audience: Alva uses the Nahuatl names Malintzin, Tizoc, and Colhua Teuctli, though they are detached from any specific historical personage; the hero travels from one unnamed altepetl to another; there are implicit references to the Chichimecs; and the alcoholic beverage of choice is octli, or pulque (Sell, Burkhart, and Wright 2008: 40–45). Though Alva does not use the play as a way to re-elaborate the history of Texcoco within a European paradigm as his brother does in his historical relations, Alva is clearly cognizant of making linkages between the lives of a presumably Nahua audience and the play’s original characters and plot line. Throughout the theater translations we find examples of native flora and fauna that give the plays a specifically Nahua ambience. The opening lines of Alva’s translation of The Animal Prophet evoke the smells, sights, and sounds of summer in Texcoco, and Malintzin remarks on the chachalaca bird and its song and various flowers indigenous to Alva’s childhood home. The manuscript folios of the The Animal Prophet offer the most vivid examples of the collaborations that were part of this re-making of Baroque Spanish theater in the Nahua world. Barry Sell notes in his introductory essay, “the orthographic practices and handwriting styles of the Alva pieces, while not perfectly consistent, reinforce the conclusion that various people were involved in the writing and editing of the plays” (ibid.: 30). The editors suggest that the “marginalia, intertextual notations, diacritics, and some punctuation . . . appear to be in Carochi’s hand and added later” (ibid.: 165n1). We find a superscripted note early in the play announcing “Don Fernando does not understand this. It looks like something is missing” [esto no entiende d. fern. d parece que falta algo] (ibid.: 171). Sell and others assume this is a reference to don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, presumably in Horacio Carochi’s hand and on don Bartolomé’s manuscript. Alva’s translations were reviewed and commented on by multiple colleagues, which offers clues to the collaborative nature of the cultural and linguistic translation process. The notes and emendations provide a window into the community of intellectuals who worked to make the Spanish Baroque play relevant to seventeenth-century Nahuas. For Ángel María Garibay K., Bartolomé de Alva’s translation of Calderón’s The Great Theater of the World is the best illustration of an embryonic form of Nahuatl literature. Alva’s Nahuatl version of this auto sacramental is “the height of his efforts” [la cumbre de su empeño] (Garibay K. 1971 [1954]: 210


351), and it most adeptly translates the Nahua world into European letters. Elizabeth Wright suggests that this was the last of the three translations made and was likely composed around 1635, while the other two were written a decade or two earlier (Sell, Burkhart, and Wright 2008: 8). The Great Theater of the World is a one-act religious play that “[builds] on this iconographic and literary tradition of the ‘theater of the world’ [and] moves in new artistic directions by using the physical and human resources of a professional theater company to dramatize the Catholic doctrine of good works as the route to salvation” (ibid.: 18). Curiously, Alva’s translation of The Great Theater of the World is the earliest-known version of Calderón’s auto sacramental (ibid.). In don Bartolomé’s version, however, the characters and setting are recognizably Nahua. Among the cast of characters we find a king [Ce tlatoani Rey], the only one of the allegorical figures to be translated into Nahuatl while retaining the original Spanish name. The linguistic and cultural translation of the tlatoani/Rey presents a compelling example of how Alva’s work offers a counterpoint to the adulatory treatment of Texcoca leaders found in Fernando de Alva Ixtlixochitl’s histories. As in The Animal Prophet, Alva includes rich and evocative descriptions of elements of nature that are specific to New Spain. We encounter lists and descriptions of birds and flowers that far outnumber the references to those creatures in the original, but in the king’s lines we find a simpler and reduced version of Calderón’s Spanish dialogue. The king incarnated not only political power but also religious authority in seventeenth-century Europe. In the Spanish version, midway through the play the stage directions indicate that Religion begins to fall and the King reaches out to support Her, declaring, “I will be the one to uphold Her” [Llegaré a tenerla yo] (ibid.: 108). The editors offer a useful footnote indicating the mutual support of religion and politics under the Habsburgs (ibid.: 108n43). However, religion is excised from Alva’s translation. The stage directions are eliminated, and the Ruler announces more generally “I will shoulder all of that burden” [Tlato Moch nicnomamaltiz] (ibid.: 109). The editors comment on this modification: “Alva’s Nahuatl version of the play lessens the semantic repercussions of this connection [between politics and evangelization] because it makes no direct link between Discretion and religion, nor does Discretion comment on the King’s sustaining power” (ibid.: 108n43). I would add that this is a point in the play when we witness the translator changing the king’s essential significance by removing specific powers from the figure of the ruler. The adjustment to the potency of the Nahuatl king is not limited to his relationship with religion. On the following page, there is further evidence T H E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L B RO T H ER S A N D T H E N A H UA I N T ELLE C T UA L CO M M U N I T Y


that Alva consciously limited the scope of the king/tlatoani’s powers. In the Spanish text, the king remarks on his vast empires, “mis Imperios” (ibid.: 110), and he begs support from the heavens to govern well “such a shifting, strong, / and many-headed monster” [tan desigual, tan fuerte / monstruo de muchos cuellos] (ibid.). This is an important moment in the text when a subject of the far-flung empire of King Phillip IV (r. 1621–65) had before him the opportunity to inscribe the powers of a pre-Colombian tlatoani into the Nahuatl translation of Calderón, but Alva demurs. Whereas the Spanish text emphasizes the act of the king holding and ruling a vast empire, Alva’s translation focuses on a description of the tlatoani’s holdings of vassals and riches. Alva could have insinuated a tlatoani with Texcoca attributes into his translation. Presumably, he would have had access to his brother’s lengthy relations on the esteemed “poet-king” Nezahualcoyotl, whom don Fernando represents as a monotheist before the arrival of Christianity. Fernando’s rendition of Nezahualcoyotl would have provided ample possibilities for describing a Texcoca leader in terms acceptable to a Catholic audience, and yet Bartolomé de Alva’s tlatoani is devoid of any specific characteristics that could be viewed as reminiscent of a pre-Colombian hero like Nezahualcoyotl. However, one small change in the translation may refer to the lost Nahua political and cultural dominance. After reaching out to support Religion, Calderón concludes the king’s discourse with the forward-looking lines “and grant me knowledge, that I may better rule, / as it is impossible to tame / with one yoke so many necks” [ciencia me den, con que a regir acierte, / que es impossible que domar se puedan / con un yugo no mas tantas ceruizes] (ibid.). This passage evokes the many territories over which King Phillip IV reigned in the early seventeenth century, and the lines suggest that the Spanish empire comprised an incoherent assortment of languages, peoples, and traditions. Significantly, this explicit imperial context is lost in the Nahuatl. In a much reduced version of the original passage, Alva orients his translation toward the past: “It all just passes away. How am I to rule my altepetl?” [ça yxquich polihui yn quenin nichuicaz yn nauh yn notepeuh] (ibid.: 111). This line offers a rare and thus poignant moment of pathos in the text and in Alva’s oeuvre. The “yxquich,” or “it all,” in this passage could be interpreted within a Nahua context as their pre-1519 political dominance or the declining autonomy of the postconquest native communities. It could also be construed within the religious allegory represented in the text and in that sense reference the fleeting powers of any human leader in the eyes of God. The intended—or even unintended— double meaning of the line “It all just passes away” would not have been lost in the context of a theater production presented to a Nahuatl-speaking audience 212


in seventeenth-century New Spain. Undoubtedly, the figure of the tlatoani/ Rey and the sense of loss he expresses would have resonated with the public. Alva’s translations of three Spanish plays by Lope, Calderón, and Amescua are tantalizing examples of the potential for Nahua intellectual production in seventeenth-century New Spain. It is still somewhat unclear, however, exactly what prompted him to undertake such a project. Significantly different from the Franciscan evangelical theater of earlier decades, these plays represent, at a minimum, an attempt to capture seventeenth-century Nahuatl language. Barry Sell has found evidence that Alva’s translation of Amescua’s The Animal Prophet was one of three major sources that provided Horacio Carochi with examples for his 1645 grammar (ibid.: 27). Yet Alva’s efforts seem to have been motivated by more than just a linguistic exercise. Decades ago, Garibay thought Alva’s painstaking work of translating the language and content of the Spanish plays to a Nahua context represented a new turn in Nahuatl writing, one aimed at literary enjoyment among those conversant in Nahuatl. In more recent years, Burkhart and Schwaller have echoed the contemporary appeal of Alva’s Nahuatl plays (ibid.: 35; Schwaller 1994: 396). If indeed these plays were produced, we can begin to imagine a tenuous but living lettered Nahua community, interested in reconstructing and representing the linguistic and cultural legacies of their ancestors within seventeenth-century viceregal society. That prospect has consequences for how we look at texts written by Nahua intellectuals and, perhaps more important, the way those texts emerge out of, and engage with, a Nahua intellectual community. CONCLUSION

Garibay’s discussion of the broken flight of Nahuatl letters is circumscribed by a sense of frustration and sadness over the loss of Mexican patrimony, and he is particularly disturbed by the fact that Bartolomé de Alva’s manuscripts had been sold to a foreigner and were then placed in the collections of a US library. It is true that for various reasons and through varying means, many of the unpublished manuscripts written by Nahua intellectuals came to rest in repositories outside Mexico. The manuscripts of Bartolomé de Alva’s translations of plays by Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, and Mira de Amescua are now housed in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.12 The autograph manuscripts of historical relations by his brother, don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, are now part of the Bible Society Library at Cambridge University, though numerous transcriptions of them were made before the manuscripts were ferried off to England in exchange for a set of T H E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L B RO T H ER S A N D T H E N A H UA I N T ELLE C T UA L CO M M U N I T Y


Protestant Bibles.13 The lost manuscripts and the lost promise of a Nahuatl literary tradition define Garibay’s discussion of the “broken flight.” Garibay found in Bartolomé de Alva an example of a Nahua intellectual who could, quite literally, translate a European literary genre into the Nahuatl tongue. The sense of the literary that defines Historia de la literatura náhuatl is connected to a notion of literature as a universalizing force, allowing for cross-cultural communication, but it is also grounded in the early cataloging of pre-Colombian and colonial-era Nahua texts as part of a nationalist literary tradition. While those impulses to universalize and at the same time nationalize the Nahuatl corpus have been critiqued, or at least muted, since the early 1990s, Garibay’s project remains an important touchstone for reevaluating texts written by and for members of the Nahua community. Perhaps we can use Garibay’s lament over a lost Nahuatl literary tradition as an invitation to re-think how, why, and in what context don Bartolomé de Alva executed his translations of Spanish plays. By focusing on the process of creation and circulation of Alva’s Nahuatl versions of The Animal Prophet and The Great Theater of the World, we then must also look closely at those texts within the context of don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s writings and Horacio Carochi’s, among others. By studying the Alva Ixtlilxochitl brothers as part of intellectual communities capable of fostering and producing literary and historical texts of compelling interest, the multiple cultural influences begin to resonate outside of the texts themselves. The Alva Ixtlilxochitl brothers’ works do not simply represent a corpus of knowledge about the history, language, and traditions of Texcoco and the Nahua world. Both don Fernando and don Bartolomé demonstrate in their texts that the living seventeenth-century Nahua community informed the creation and circulation of their written works. NOTES

1. This and all other translations are my own, unless otherwise indicated. The original text reads: “Es consolador pensar los rumbos que iba tomando la fusión de las dos culturas. Pero amarga el consuelo ver que no se pasó de estos conatos y que ese vuelo hacia las alturas de la producción legalmente literaria quedó roto, por mil circunstancias” (Garibay K. 1971 [1954], 2: 351). 2. Susan Schroeder (1991: 13) makes clear that it would have been impossible for Chimalpahin to have studied at the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Santiago Tlatelolco. John Frederick Schwaller is equally dubious about Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl having studied there (Sell and Schwaller 1999: 5). Rocío Cortés explores the Nahua intellectual community through a study of the Franciscan school at Tlatelolco and the 214


tradition it spawned. She places Tezozomoc, Chimalpahin, and the Ixtlilxochitl brothers in the “post-Colegio generation” that was “connected to the intellectual FranciscanJesuit circle on native research” (Cortés 2008: 98). 3. Ignacio Sánchez Prado (2005) addresses the hispanist and nationalist foundations of Nahuatl literary studies. He emphasizes León-Portilla’s dominant place in the formation and articulation of the field of Nahuatl literature. While this is certainly true, particularly after the 1957 foundation of the Seminar on Nahuatl Culture within the History Institute at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, we must turn to Garibay to locate the beginnings of the tradition. 4. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra analyzes how some eighteenth-century historians of New Spain drew from Alva Ixtlilxochitl, among other sources. He asserts that Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s writing “guided most of Echevarría y Veytia’s history” (Cañizares-Esguerra 2001: 222). See Cañizares-Esguerra’s chapter “The Making of a ‘Patriotic Epistemology’ ” (ibid.: 204–65) for additional observations about the connection between eighteenthcentury Creole scholars and the seventeenth-century Texcoca chronicler. 5. See Douglas (2010) for an analysis of the mediations evident in the pictorial texts. Other art historians have also recently made important contributions to the discussion of cultural influence and interference in visual culture. See Mundy (1996) and Leibsohn (2009). 6. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s works circulated in manuscript form during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and were first published in volume 9 of Lord Kingsborough’s Antiquities of Mexico, published in 1848. Edmundo O’Gorman’s 1975– 77 two-volume edition of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s five texts is excellent. It does not, however, take into account Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s autograph manuscripts, as their whereabouts were still unknown at the time. 7. Edmundo O’Gorman includes this dedication in his edition of the Sumaria relación de la historia general, but the brief text and the prologue that follow accompany the text known as Historia de la nación chichimeca in the Bible Society Manuscript. The original Spanish reads: “Desde mi adolescencia tuve siempre gran deseo de saber las cosas acaecidas en este Nuevo Mundo, que no fueron menos que las de los romanos, griegos, medos y otras repúblicas gentílicas que tuvierno fama en el universo; aunque con la mudanza de los tiempos y caída de los señoríos y estados de mis pasados, quedaron sepultadas sus historias; por cuya causa he conseguido mi deseo con mucho trabajo, peregrinación y suma diligencia en juntar las pinturas de las historias y anales, y los cantos con que las observaban; y sobre todo para poderlas entender juntando y convocando a muchos principales de esta Nueva España, los que tenían fama de conocer y saber las historias referidas” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 525). 8. Douglas borrows the term double-consciousness from Barbara Mundy. He explains her usage of the expression by citing a passage from The Mapping of New T H E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L B RO T H ER S A N D T H E N A H UA I N T ELLE C T UA L CO M M U N I T Y


Spain (1996): “Patrons, painters, and manuscripts witness what Barbara Mundy has termed ‘double-consciousness’: they ‘[work] to satisfy an immediate local audience and [labor] with a set of expectations about the colonizers’ ” (16). 9. The role of pictorial texts in the writing of scripted histories is a topic raised and explored from various disciplinary perspectives by other contributors to this volume. See, for instance, the chapters by Jongsoo Lee and Lori Boornazian Diel. 10. See Pablo García Loaeza, this volume, for an analysis of the importance of genealogy in our study of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s works. 11. The critical and multilingual edition of Bartolomé de Alva’s theater translations edited by Sell, Burkhart, and Wright (2008) offers an exemplary model of how to represent colonial-era manuscripts. Each of the editors brings tremendous knowledge and critical acumen to the fields of study relevant to the transcription and analysis of the three plays. Sell and Burkhart are well-versed in classical Nahuatl and the cultural milieu out of which the translations emerged. In addition, Sell had worked previously on the 1999 edition of Alva’s Guide to Confession. A specialist in Golden Age theater, Wright brought to the project her rich understanding of Lope, Calderón, Amescua, and the traditions of which they were a part. 12. John Frederick Schwaller (1994) has addressed the location and history of these manuscripts. He also suggests that a manuscript found at the Newberry Library, incorrectly identified as Martín de León’s Camino del cielo, may also be attributable to Alva (ibid.: 394). 13. The Bible Society Ms. 374 (Alva Ixtlilxochitl n.d.) consists of three bound volumes, cataloged as Historical Works by Ferdinando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl and Other Historical Material. The third volume contains chronicles written or transcribed by don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin. See Schroeder (1994) for a study of how and why these manuscripts came to be part of the Bible Society Collection. The handwriting used in the Alva Ixtlilxochitl texts in the Bible Society manuscripts matches that in a seventeenth-century manuscript copy of the Relación de la ciudad y provincia de Tezcoco (Pomar 1986 [1582]; 1985–86) by another Texcoca chronicler, Juan Bautista de Pomar (1527?–1609?). The Pomar manuscript is now housed at the Benson Library at the University of Texas. René Acuña, who edited a 1986 edition of the text, asserts that without a doubt Fernando de Alva was the copyist for the Pomar manuscript. He points to entries enumerating the birth of Fernando de Alva’s children as the clearest indication of the person whose hand penned the text.




Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de. 1975–77. Obras históricas. 2 vols. Ed. Edmundo O’Gorman. Mexico City: Universidad Nactional Autónoma de México (hereafter UNAM). Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de. n.d. Bible Society Manuscript no. 374. 3 vols. Cambridge: Bible Society Library, Cambridge University. Brading, David. 1991. The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492–1867. New York: Cambridge University Press. Bustamante, Jesús. 1995. “Professional Indian, Professional Criollo: Nahuatl Versions of Classical Spanish Theater.” In Shifting Cultures: Interaction and Discourse in the Expansion of Europe, ed. Henriette Bugge and Joan Pau Rubiés, 71–95. Münster, Germany: Lit Verlag. Cañizares-Esguerra, Jorge. 2001. How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Cortés, Rocío. 2008. “The Colegio Imperial de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco and Its Aftermath: Nahua Intellectuals and the Spiritual Conquest of Mexico.” In A Companion to Latin American Literature and Culture, ed. Sara Castro-Klarén, 86–105. Malden, MA: Blackwell. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470696446.ch4. Dean, Carolyn, and Dana Leibsohn. 2003. “Hybridity and Its Discontents: Considering Visual Culture in Colonial Spanish America.” Colonial Latin American Review 12 (1): 5–35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10609160302341. Douglas, Eduardo de J. 2010. In the Palace of Nezahualcoyotl: Painting Manuscripts, Writing the Pre-Hispanic Past in Early Colonial Period Tetzcoco, Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press. Garibay K., Ángel María. 1971 [1954]. Historia de la literatura náhuatl. 2nd ed. 2 vols. Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa. Greenblatt, Stephen. 2010. “Cultural Mobility: An Introduction.” In Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, 1–23. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lee, Jongsoo. 2008. The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Leibsohn, Dana. 2009. Script and Glyph: Pre-Hispanic History, Colonial Bookmaking, and the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. León-Portilla, Miguel. 1992. “Ángel Ma. Garibay K. (1892–1992), en el centenario de su nacimiento.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 22: 167–80.



Mundy, Barbara. 1996. The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geográficas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pomar, Juan Bautista. 1985–86. Relación de la ciudad y provincia de Tezcoco. 3 vols. Ed. René Acuña. Mexico City: UNAM. Pomar, Juan Bautista. 1986 [1582]. Relación de Texcoco. Manuscript G57. Austin: Benson Library, University of Texas. Sánchez Prado, Ignacio. 2005. “The Pre-Columbian Past as a Project: Miguel León Portilla and Hispanism.” In Ideologies of Hispanism, ed. Mabel Moraña, 40–61. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Schroeder, Susan. 1991. Chimalpahin and the Kingdoms of Chalco. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Schroeder, Susan. 1994. “Father José Maria Luis Mora, Liberalism, and the British and Foreign Bible Society in Nineteenth-Century Mexico.” Americas 50 (3): 377–97. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1007166. Schroeder, Susan. 1997. “Introduction.” In Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Culhuacan, and Other Nahua Altepetl in Central Mexico, ed. and trans. Arthur J.O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder. 2 vols. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Schwaller, John F. 1994. “Nahuatl Studies and the ‘Circle’ of Horacio Carochi.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 24: 387–89. Sell, Barry D., Louise M. Burkhart, and Elizabeth Wright. 2008. Nahuatl Theater, Volume 3: Spanish Golden Age Drama in Mexican Translation. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Sell, Barry D., and John F. Schwaller, eds. and trans. 1999. Don Bartolomé de Alva, Guide to Confession Large and Small in the Mexican Language. Critical edition of 1634 ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Wallace, Lew. 1926 [1873]. The Fair God or, the Last of the’Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.



10 Todo hombre noble generoso o hijodalgo debe saber hacer relación de aquel linaje donde desciende al menos hasta su cuarto abuelo. Y el que esto no sabe es de reprobar y tachar como aquel que no sabe dar razón de quién es.1

Feranto Mexía (1492)

Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Texcocan Dynasty Nobility, Genealogy, and Historiography Pablo García Loaeza

It is most difficult and even impossible to ascertain those antiquities; for, it plainly appears, the greatest part of them are inventions of modern authors, who wrong their works by mixing spurious and fabulous stories in them, which makes them look rather like poets than historians.

Thomas Richers (1724)

Feranto Mexía, a nobleman of arms and letters in fifteenth-century Jaén, wrote his Nobiliario (1492) to demonstrate that the essential ingredient of nobility is old blood, that noble status is determined primarily by a lineage’s antiquity. Two hundred years later Mexía would have found no cause to reprove Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, who dedicated significant effort and expense to tracing his ancestry well beyond his fourth grandfather on his maternal grandmother’s side.2 Thus Alva Ixtlilxochitl knew full well how to explain who he was: a legitimate descendant of the prestigious Royal House of Texcoco. By doing so, he also meant to make his family’s entitlement plain to the colonial authorities in New Spain. In the comprehensive introduction to Alva’s Obras históricas, Edmundo O’Gorman identified the Compendio histórico del reino de Texcoco in particular

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c010


as a memorial de méritos y servicios, intended to confirm and assert seigniorial rights based on the venerable stature and notable deeds of his ancestors (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 211). In fact, all of Alva’s texts, from the Relación sucinta en forma de memorial to the extensive Historia de la nación chichimeca, are extended nobiliarios, family histories intended to call attention to his lineage’s nobility. However fleshed out with narrative anecdote, the skeleton is consistently genealogical, following the dynastic succession of Texcoco’s legitimate rulers from Xolotl, the legendary founder of the southern Chichimec empire, by way of the renowned Nezahualcoyotl to don Fernando Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, a key Spanish ally in the military and spiritual Conquista de México. Nobiliarios typically follow the family’s genealogy as far into the past as possible, stressing any link to kings of old, because, as Mexía pointed out, “one is more noble or less noble contingent on how far and how high the dignity or lordship of one’s lineage is or how near a relative or close to royal blood one is” (Mexía 1492: n.p., L. 2º, C. vii, Concl. iii).3 According to Mexía, numerous classical authorities starting with Aristotle, as well as multiple legal codes, emphasize ancestry as the defining feature of nobility: The Philosopher, in the second [book] of rhetoric, calls nobles those who come or carry nobility from their parents, Boethius according to what is said in the third [book] of Consolation, Livy in all three of his Decades, Tullius in the [book] on Duties and in the Paradoxes, Seneca, Ovid in his Metamorphoses . . . Virgil in his Aeneid (in the seventh book), Lucan, Leomarte, Pompeius Trogus, Vegetius, Leonardo d’Arezzo, Master Raymond, and all the other authors, philosophers, poets, orators, and historiographers ancient and modern, and all the laws, especially the Partidas, affirm it . . . and infinite others, which would make it impossible to finish.4 (ibid.: ii)

However, Mexía’s notions about the connection between nobility and genealogy can be more precisely traced to the twelfth century, when throughout Europe the landed aristocracy sought to establish a patrimonial claim to their titles and estates. It was also around that time that genealogy became the organizing principle of European historiography. In his work on the formation of the French nobility in the Middle Ages, Georges Duby (1977) finds that prior to the tenth century there were no lineages or any systematic concern with ancestry. Instead, family relations were dispersed horizontally in the present, and alliances were determined as much by marriage as by blood. Over the course of the tenth and eleventh centuries, the spread of hereditary fiefdoms and the institution of primogeniture promoted the development of vertical structures; patroclinous bloodlines became 220


bound to patrimonial estates (Bloch 1986: 68, 73). At the same time, family names and titles acquired significance in relation to their antiquity. By the twelfth century a man who wanted to demonstrate his nobility “had first to lay claim to known ancestors and to be able to refer to a genealogy” (Duby 1977: 147). Gabrielle Spiegel suggests that at about the same time, genealogy intruded into medieval historical narrative as noble lineages sought to legitimize and extend their political positions by exalting their ancestries. For royal houses in particular, genealogy created dynastic myths in which continuity of succession was a key element. Eventually, genealogy was transformed into a narrative mythos, a symbolic form governing both the form of the past and its significance through the disposition and reinterpretation of historical events according to a model of filiation suggested by genealogy itself (Spiegel 1983: 47–48). Robert Folger (2004: 49, 57–58) confirms that the same process was occurring simultaneously in peninsular historiography, where genealogical series came to serve as the backbone of regal histories such as the Crónica de 1344 by the Conde de Barcelos and Alfonso Martínez de Toledo’s Atalaya de las Coronicas. The genealogical structure and concerns of medieval historiography were still current in seventeenth-century Spain. In the Catalogo real y genealogico de España (Méndez de Silva 1656 [1639]), the cronista general Rodrigo Méndez de Silva recounts the history of Spain as the succession of its rulers from the time of Tubal, son of Japheth, son of Noah. Across the Atlantic, genealogy was also exhibited as proof of genuine nobility, especially when it was contested or might strengthen a position or a legal case. Fray Bonifacio Cortés del Rey (1792 [1670]) offered his Noviliario genealogico to his brother Valerio, who was sargento mayor in the province of New Vizcaya, not merely to flatter him but as vindication because, as he put it, “in the Indies, the best actions shipwreck on blood and reputation; a true sign that in these realms, in spite of their station, commoners try to make a show of nobility (since disproving such claims is very unlikely), even as they malign those whose nobility is well-known in Spain; and through this (so to speak) plundering, they undermine good blood, at least among the gossip-mongering rabble”5 (ibid.: 4). And so, Cortés del Rey sought to demonstrate his family’s noble status by tracing his lineage back to the kings of Lombardy. Likewise, shortly before departing to serve as viceroy of Peru, don Diego de Benavides (1660) presented a Memorial to Felipe IV that was meant to remind the king about the notable antiquity and exceptional quality of the Benavides family tree, whose roots in the Royal House of León were over 400 years old. In case the record failed to speak for itself, the text summarizes the six reasons why don Diego’s pedigree merits F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


royal favor: ancient and regal origins, the primogeniture of his branch, the continuous possession of profitable estates, the antiquity of its noble titles, a lengthy history of service, and connections through marriage to other equally illustrious bloodlines (Benavides 1660: f. 58r–v). Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historiography displays preoccupations that coincide with those expressed by both Cortés del Rey and don Diego. His works were intended to validate his family’s noble status and adduce the privileges appropriate to its rank. As an educated aristocrat, don Fernando confidently chose the conventional medium to accomplish these goals. However, the Texcocan lineage celebrated by Alva Ixtlilxochitl was alien to the tradition of nobility Cortés del Rey and Benavides claimed for themselves. Yet his assertions were allegedly based on an equally long and well-documented indigenous tradition. Alva’s representation of Texcoco’s ancient history has caused much debate regarding his reliability as a historiographer. His detractors accuse him of falsifying the Prehispanic past to match Western standards, while his supporters proclaim the incontrovertible character of his indigenous sources. The terms of this debate miss the mark, not merely because of the “mestizo” character of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historiography but because of the connection between the form and the function, the structure and the purpose of his genealogical narratives. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Texcocan dynasty begins with the Gran Chichimeca Xolotl, who entered Anahuac shortly after the collapse of the Toltec empire, took possession of the land without contest, and proceeded to distribute it among his vassals. This redistribution of space establishes a fundamental connection between land and nobility in a genealogically defined landscape. The Sumaria relación de las cosas de la Nueva España tells how the Gran Chichimeca sent his lords across the realm “settling it all, as their descendants settled it next, naming each town after the noble who settled it” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 296).6 Geography and genealogy were also substantially integrated through arranged marriages that originated land-bound dynasties. Xolotl gave his daughter Cuetlaxochitl to Aculhua together with Azcapotzalco, the first city of the Tepanec kingdom; his second daughter, Cihuaxochitl, he gave to Chiconcuauh, who became Lord of Xaltocan. Through such unions, all of Anahuac’s noble houses became interrelated over time. In medieval Europe, such self-sustaining associations among aristocratic families resulted in the perception of social value as inherent within a fixed social hierarchy. In other words, nobility appeared to be the innate quality of a closed caste (Bloch 1986: 85–86). In line with this vision, Alva exposes the elitism of his own genealogical undertaking in the Historia de la nación chichimeca when he explains that 222


“these lineages are mentioned because they were the origin of the most noble [lords] of New Spain” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 25).7 Another important consequence of consanguinity among the ruling houses was that most of the conflicts that arose in the region and affected the course of its history were family affairs. The Tepanec usurpation of Texcoco is a particularly long and eventful family feud that illustrates the significance of genealogical connections in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s narrative. According to the Historia,Tezozomoc, Aculhua’s successor to the Tepanec throne, conspired against Huehue Ixtlilxochitl (Ixtlilxochitl Ome Tochtli), the fifth dynastic Gran Chichimecateuctli (Chichimec lord), by claiming that “the empire’s succession belonged to him with good reason, since he was Xolotl’s grandson” (ibid.: 39).8 As is clear from the story thus far, such reasoning is patently invalid since Tezozomoc issued from a secondary, female line. The claim is rather a sign of the usurper’s deviousness, which is confirmed by the foul murder of the legitimate Chichimecateuctli under a flag of truce. After many years of tyranny, Tezozomoc died, leaving his son Teyatzin as his designated successor. Disregarding the tyrant’s wishes, Maxtla seized his brother’s inheritance, “thinking that it was more rightfully his because he was older and possessed all the necessary qualities to govern an empire such as the one left by his father” (ibid.: 55).9 The assertion is partly ironic since Maxtla’s deeds, including fratricide, reveal him as an heir worthy of Tezozomoc, an unworthy ruler. Moreover, the misapplication of primogeniture, not only against his father’s wishes but because of his own disreputable character, underscores the unlawfulness of his position. Meanwhile, Nezahualcoyotl, Huehue Ixtlilxochitl’s son and heir, was laboring to reclaim his rightful throne in Texcoco. When he finally did, his uncle Itzcoatl, the king of Mexico, challenged his decision to reinstate the lords who had betrayed him. The legitimate king of Texcoco countered that “they were obliged to grant them honor, status, and preeminence because they all descended and issued from his House and lineage . . . besides which it was a mark of greatness for kings and rulers to have others beneath them” (ibid.: 88).10 Like Tezozomoc’s and Maxtla’s claims to power, the argument exhibits a keen awareness of genealogical assumptions that must obviously be attributed to Alva Ixtlilxochitl. Coeval readers, too, would have appreciated the justice of Nezahualcoyotl’s defense of aristocratic privilege because, according to a wellestablished tradition of medieval origin, a natural and indissoluble tie linked a noble house to its domain. Nezahualcoyotl’s reply to Izcoatl also underscores the interrelatedness of the aristocratic sphere outlined in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Historia, in which Xolotl’s F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


direct descendants appear to be first among equals. Since individual potential and access to power are determined by birth, the contention to superiority is essentially based on the quality of the pedigree, which combines Anahuac’s most illustrious bloodlines. The main branch of the Great Chichimec’s progeny issued from his son Nopaltzin’s marriage to Azcatlxochitl, the daughter of Pochotl, son of Topiltzin, the last Toltec emperor (ibid. 1: 298–99, 399–400, 423, 2: 18). This union was of particular significance, as it not only validated Chichimec jurisdiction over the recently acquired territories of the former Toltec empire but also joined Xolotl’s line to the lords of Tollan, traditionally regarded as the cradle of culture and refinement. The link to the prestigious Toltec heritage was materially reflected in the splendor achieved by Texcoco, which became the definitive seat of the lineage under Nopaltzin’s grandson Quinatzin and developed into a new Tollan under Nezahualcoyotl.11 The city’s own ancestry mirrored the lineage of its rulers, since, according to the Historia, Texcoco was built on the ruins of Catlenihco, a Toltec city (ibid.: 28). Toltec dynastic history looms relatively large in Alva’s historiography. Although the account varies in detail across his works, all of its versions follow the same basic genealogical structure. The first king, Chalchiuhtlanetzin, is credited in several texts with a Chichimec origin (ibid. 1: 269, 397, 419). He was succeeded by his son Tlilcuechahuac, who was followed by his son Huetzin, and so forth. The four-year reign of an interim queen named Xiuhtlaltzin (ibid.: 272, 398, 419) or Xiuhquentzin (ibid. 1: 530, 2: 11) constituted the only break in the patrilineal succession. The lineage persisted until the ill-fated Topiltzin, who issued from an adulterous relationship and whose illegitimacy appears revealingly as the efficient cause of the empire’s downfall (ibid. 1: 420, 2: 12). Even so, he was of royal Toltec blood, a substance rich in symbolic value that passed through his granddaughter to the rulers of Texcoco as a further mark of distinction. Thus Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s works chronicle “the kings of Tezcuco by legitimate succession and direct descent from the House of Xolotl, settler and ruler of this land, and from the House of the great Topiltzin, Toltec ruler,” following their trials and achievements over the course of five centuries (ibid. 1: 305).12 The House of Texcoco’s antiquity was a measure of its stature since, as Mexía noted, degree of nobility was proportionate to distance in time. As would any other genealogically inclined historiographer, Alva Ixtlilxochitl sought the most removed ancestor to ennoble the Texcocan lineage. His appreciation of the importance of deep historical roots is exposed in the Compendio histórico when he justifies having written about Xolotl at length by stating: “since he is the origin and foundation of my business, it has been necessary to show clearly who the first settler of this land after the destruction of the Toltecs was” 224


(ibid.: 427).13 The search for the earliest ancestor could easily move beyond historical territory into the realm of the legendary and the mythic, especially when dealing with royalty, whose legitimate possession of the crown could make up for genealogical breaks. Cortés del Rey’s Nobiliario, for instance, begins with Noah after the flood. In his History of the Royal Genealogy of Spain,14 the enlightened Thomas Richers (1724: iv–v) critically remarked that “most Spanish authors are fond of beginning their history from the Creation of the World.” Nonetheless, he could not help but recognize that in France and England, many persons also have “chimerical notions of a Samothes, or Mesech, Son of Japhet, first King of the Gauls, and of a Brutus, King of Britain, Son of Silvius, and Grandson of Aeneas, and many other Kings and Heroes of their own Invention” (ibid.: v). While Xolotl was not of Alva’s invention, the original Great Chichimecateuctli plays the same role as the founding ancestors mentioned by Richers. It is instructive to consider the case of Brutus as told in the twelfth century by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the History of the Kings of Britain, which has a number of remarkable parallels to Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s history of the kings of Texcoco.15 Brutus, like Xolotl, is an exiled leader of a warrior people who arrives in a desirable land that he finds uninhabited except for a few giants and proceeds to distribute it among his subjects.16 After settling Albion—renamed Britain after himself—and building Troia Nova (the future city of London), Brutus “presented it to the citizens by right of inheritance, and gave them a code of laws by which they might live peacefully together. At that time the priest Eli was ruling in Judea and the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines. The sons of Hector reigned in Troy, for the descendants of Antenor had been driven out. In Italy reigned Aeneas Silvius, son of Aeneas and uncle of Brutus, the third of the Latin Kings” (Monmouth 1969 [1136]: 55). This description of Brutus’s last deeds matches in essence the summary portrayal of Xolotl’s heir in Alva’s Compendio histórico. In this text, Nopaltzin, the second Great Chichimecateuctli, “governed for thirty-two years in great peace and tranquility . . . He enacted seven laws in a Court he held, which were good for the well-being of his people . . . He died in the year and sign called macuilli acatl, reed, number five, that according to our [calendar] was the year 1105 of the incarnation of Christ our Lord, the sixth of the papacy of Paschal the Second, and forty-eight [years] into the empire of the same Henry the Fourth, and in Spain, the last years of the monarchy of the same Alfonso the Sixth”17 (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 427). Since the promotion of peace and prosperity through legislation is a traditional quality of good monarchs, these passages reveal more about the F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


conventions of genealogical historiography than about history—more so since we know that Monmouth’s Brutus is pure fiction. The same excerpts exemplify a standard dating system that not only displays the spiritual and secular chronologies that marked the rhythm of Western history but further exposes genealogy as a longstanding principle of European historiography, which for centuries told time by the passage of kings. Another important aspect of genealogically plotted time is that it unfolds as a necessity (Ingledew 1994: 678). Genealogies are built in hindsight; therefore, their chronological narration moves forward along a seemingly unavoidable and predictable course. In the case of national histories such as Monmouth’s and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s, necessity appears as the revealed destiny of a chosen people.18 Brutus learned from the goddess Diana that his royal line was fated to rule a global empire (Monmouth 1969 [1136]: 47). The Spanish conquest precluded such a grand future for Xolotl’s descendants. Nevertheless, the House of Texcoco plays a crucial role in the fatal path leading to the advent of Christianity in Anahuac as laid out in the Historia de la nación chichimeca. The prophecy is first issued by an apostolic Quetzalcoatl, restated many generations later by the blessed Nezahualcoyotl, and fulfilled through his grandson Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, whose efforts were instrumental to the establishment of la ley evangélica in New Spain (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 8, 132).19 At the time of Cortés Ixtlilxochitl’s birth, Texcoco’s royal astrologers warned that he would turn against his people and advised King Nezahualpilli to have him killed. In the spirit of his father Nezahualcoyotl, the king countered that “it was impertinent to go against what had been determined by the God who had created all things, since by His mysterious and secret will, He was giving him such a son at a time when his ancestors’ prophecies drew near” (ibid.: 174).20 Soon thereafter, events unfolded as foretold. It could not have been otherwise because it was ordained not by divine providence but by the genealogical scaffolding of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historiography, which connects the past to the present one king at a time. Cortés Ixtlilxochitl’s position is unique not only as the ultimate hero of prophecy but also as an exception in the otherwise smooth flow of the Texcocan dynasty from one ruler to the next. Alva Ixtlilxochitl offers different versions of the complicated affair that pitted Nezahualpilli’s sons against each other. As told in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Historia, the eighth Chichimecateuctli died without having designated an heir—a surprising lapse for a king renowned for his foresight. His sons Cacama, Coanacochtli, and Ixtlilxochitl vied for the right to succeed their father. Cacama had no valid case since he was born of a concubine, illegitimate, and therefore ineligible. Nevertheless, his mother 226


happened to be the sister of Mexico’s king Moteuczoma, who managed to set his nephew upon Texcoco’s throne. Coanacochtli did not contest this imposition, but Ixtlilxochitl “could not bear the tyranny and extortion being committed against the legitimate party” and undertook to defend his prerogative by force (ibid.: 191).21 The Spanish arrived before the situation was resolved. Never before had such internal discord seriously undermined the Texcocan succession. The kingdom had twice been usurped by relatives in the past. The first time, Aculhua, the ruler of Azcapotzalco, returned it to his greatgrandnephew Quinatzin because, according to the Relación sucinta, he recognized that by withholding the kingdom from the legitimate heir, he was guilty of “agravio y tiranía” (ibid. 1: 402). Aculhua’s heir, Tezozomoc, was not as equitable when he kept the throne from Nezahualcoyotl after his father’s injurious murder. However, as in the previous instance, the identity of the rightful successor was never in doubt, and he eventually regained the throne. Thus by Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s account, in spite of every obstacle, the title of Great Chichimecateuctli passed from father to the most eligible son without fail for eight generations.22 Documented cases of such extended patrilineal succession are rare. However, even though the sequence ultimately tends to break down, extensive kingly series are common in traditional royal genealogies (Henige 1971: 379).23 David Henige warns that a long list of seamless transitions may be evidence of strategic patterning devised to validate a certain pedigree (ibid.: 383). There can be no doubt that Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s aim was to certify the quality of his lineage. One collateral effect of such strict serial design is the tendency to equate reigns with generations, which, in combination with the will to push a bloodline’s antiquity as far back as the genealogical record allows, results in unnaturally long-lived kings (ibid.: 389). By Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s reckoning in the Historia, Xolotl governed his empire for 112 years, as many as his greatgrandson Quinatzin, whose son Techotlalatzin ruled for 104 years (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 23, 33, 38). Even more impressive, the Tepanec tyrant Tezozomoc had been in power for 188 years at the time of his death (ibid.: 54). Another consequence of serialization is a certain uniformity among the various rulers in the dynasty, all of whom are conventionally valorous, wise, and just. Nezahualpilli in particular is equal to his father Nezahualcoyotl in wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice. Patrick Lesbre (2001: 219) has noted that Alva Ixtlilxochitl attributes to the former deeds that Juan de Torquemada (1943 [1615]), who had access to many of the same sources for his Monarquía indiana, ascribes to the latter. Even in Alva’s own texts, they can seem interchangeable. In the Relación sucinta, Nezahualpilli is the one credited with F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


predicting the coming of the Spaniards and disdaining “his crown and his power, saying that all things end and will not last forever” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 408).24 In the Historia, however, it is Nezahualcoyotl who foretells the conquest and postulates the fleeting nature of earthly power (ibid. 2: 132). Alva Ixtlilxochitl himself remarked on the coincidences between father and son, noting that Nezahualpilli “had no less courage and virtue than his father, and rightly speaking, he followed very much in his footsteps” (ibid.: 188).25 The resemblance between individuals along the family line reinforces continuity, a fundamental feature of genealogical narrative. In generation after generation the son replicates the father, adding an indispensable link to a chain that connects every individual back to the founding ancestor whose essence is passed along with the family’s titles and estates (Bloch 1986: 86). Each successor updates the past that validates his position, which, in turn, reinforces its power to do so. In other words, at any given time, the lineage’s history justifies the tenure of the living heir while his tenure verifies the historical authority of the lineage. Moreover, as keeper of the ancestral spiritual and material legacy, every individual member maintains a genetic, organic, and participatory relationship to the property that passes through him (ibid.: 84). The notion of natural lord (señor natural), which by the thirteenth century was fully established in Castilian law, encapsulated the deep-rooted relationship among lord, land, and birthright. A natural lord’s right to rule came in part from inherent superior qualities, birth into a superior social station, and lengthy possession of dominion. The latter consideration was particularly important when the concept was applied in the Indies, where established native lords were acknowledged as natural lords who, once integrated into the imperial apparatus, could help ensure the subjection of the indigenous masses (Chamberlain 1939: 130–33). The native lords, however, quickly turned the imported legal codes in their favor as their cacicazgos (chiefdoms) became embroiled in endless legal battles. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s own family had had to defend the cacicazgo of San Juan Teotihuacan against numerous challengers over the years, including some who denied their indigenous identity.26 As part of his efforts to support his lineage’s standing, Alva Ixtlilxochitl diligently collected and preserved documents related to Texcoco affairs that exhibited a firm grasp of the stipulations imposed by the colonial regime. The Sumaria relación, which is actually a sourcebook rather than an original work, illustrates the self-recognition of Texcocan nobles, stating in no uncertain terms that they were “lords and local-born, and earlier than Mexico . . . [and] the best Indians in New Spain, and those with the most right to be the lords of what we had” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 392).27 The argument, which was based on 228


the logic of ascendency according to which a noble’s rights were a part of his natural heritage, also rationalizes Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historiographic advocacy on behalf of the descendants of Huehue Ixtlilxochitl and Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, assuming the name as a symbolic family heirloom. At a time when European aristocracy was consolidating its status through genealogy, the family patronymic developed as the most evident symbol, and eventually legal proof, of the relationship among nobility, titles, and property (Scott, Tehranian, and Mathias 2002: 13). After the conquest of Mexico, the name Ixtlilxochitl was kept by his descendants as proof of their identity and a guarantee of their inheritance rights. When, for reasons undetermined, Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl changed his name from Hernando de Peraleda Ixtlilxochitl, he held on to the name that obviated his distinguished indigenous ascendancy.28 The official appointment to the governorship of Texcoco in 1612 recognizes him as “nigh and legitimate successor of the kings of the aforesaid city and a person capable and qualified to hold that post” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 335).29 A Real Cédula from 1620 ordered that “Don Fernando de Alva Ixtilsúchil receive favor and benefits” and be assigned “functions and duties . . . appropriate to his station and qualification” (ibid.: 342).30 These documents confirm the consequential weight genealogical notions of nobility could have on the Spanish empire’s management in general and the success of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s genealogical historiography in particular.31 It is difficult to know for certain if the concept of natural lord was totally new to the Nahua or merely a new way to describe analogous indigenous structures in which genealogy also played a determinant role. In the early sixteenth century, don Carlos Chichimecateuctli, Lord of Texcoco,32 was tried for sedition. Among the many charges leveled against him, he was accused of saying “this is our land and our property, and our jewel, and our possession, and the lordship is ours and belongs to us, and who comes here to rule us and subjugate us? [Those] who are neither our relatives nor of our blood, and [yet] they are insolent; well, here we are, and no one shall mock us” (Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco 1910: n.p.).33 The implications and force of such arguments are reflected in the trial’s outcome (Ruiz Medrano, this volume). In 1539, don Carlos was condemned to burn at the stake, a rare and exemplary punishment. As Eduardo de J. Douglas (2010: 95) notes, don Carlos’s claim to rulership was based on genealogy. Yet the record of his interrogation states that he denied ever uttering the seditious words attributed to him. Does the allegation reflect an alien anxiety or a local tradition? José María Muriá (1973: 208) sees a manifest predominance of “conceptos medievalizadores” in colonial texts that describe Nahua society, especially when dealing with political or administrative topics. F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


On the other hand, available evidence suggests that the distinction between nobility and commoners, as well as access to most positions, was theoretically a birthright in Anahuac (Berdan 2005: 51). Book 10 of Bernardino de Sahagún’s General History of the Things of New Spain begins its survey of “the people” by reviewing the qualities of the noble person: one who is of good lineage (teiiolloimecaio), who “has a mother, a father” and resembles his parents (Sahagún, Anderson, and Dibble 1950, 10: 15). Rulers generally ascended to power by virtue of their birth and passed their title and property, including land, to their heirs (Berdan 2005: 56). In his Relación de la Nueva España, Alonso de Zorita explains that in olden days there were different modes of succession, but in Mexico, Texcoco, and Tlacopan it was commonly “by blood and by direct descent from fathers to sons,” with preference generally given to the eldest son of the most important wife (Zorita 1999: 321–22).34 Frances Berdan (2005: 77) estimates that “by the sixteenth century one could easily speak of dynasties in Central Mexico.” Nevertheless, there is also evidence that Nahua royal lineages were afflicted by all manner of discontinuities, including those caused by family strife (Townsend, this volume). As Susan Schroeder (1991: 159) remarks, the notion that “each altepetl was ruled by a royal, titled dynasty that could be traced back centuries, with noble sons succeeding kingly fathers who always stayed and ruled only in the kingdoms of their forefathers,” was a historiographic idealization. Considering the writings of Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin, Schroeder notes that even as the seventeenth-century historian paints such a neat picture, he cannot help revealing many exceptions to patrilineal male rule, including queens, regencies, and ruin. However, Chimalpahin’s concern with continuity may reflect a preoccupation dating back to Prehispanic times. In fact, the emphasis on stability may be what allowed native rulership (toltecayotl) to persist, together with altepetl integrity, well into the colonial period (ibid.). Like Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Chimalpahin was a writer of dynastic histories with a partisan devotion to Chalco, alleging descent from its nobility and privileged access to authentic sources about its past. However, unlike his Texcocan contemporary who wrote in Spanish, Chimalpahin wrote in Nahuatl, which has lent his texts an added measure of historical authority. For his part, Alva Ixtlilxochitl bolstered his credibility by pointing out, as he does in the Sumaria relación, that through much effort and diligence he had managed to gather many paintings and oral traditions, as well as elite informants “with whose help I was then able to understand all the paintings and stories without difficulty and translate the songs according to their true 230


meaning” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 525).35 Alva’s known sources included painted accounts such as the Codex Xolotl, the Quinatzin Map, and the Tlotzin Map, which were produced in the mid-sixteenth century but may be based on Prehispanic originals. While these documents display “demonstrable errors arising from faulty copying and interpretation, scribal standardization, and political interference in the indigenous and colonial historiographic process,” Jerry Offner (1983: 19) asserts that “they remain a valuable record of what Texcocans themselves, both pre-colonial and post-colonial, viewed as significant in their history and imperial development.” If so, pre-colonial interest in legitimacy and lineage is remarkably similar to that found in medieval Europe.36 The painted texts relate a dynastic tradition that is the result of inventive reconstruction, which explains in part why, in spite of extensive research, the Texcocan ruling line remains obscure (ibid.: 18). Nigel Davies (1980: 97) sees in the Codex Xolotl a combination of twelfth-century legend and thirteenth-century history intended “to confect a long history of glamorous ancestors” in which the Great Chichimec Xolotl represents less a precise historical personage than a concept of imperial authority and lineage. If the purpose of the Codex Xolotl is clear, its reading is complicated by the marked influence of foreign cultural notions. Much the same can be said of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s other historical maps. In an adroit reading of the Quinatzin, Douglas (2003: 290) asserts that the well-born painter “epitomized, objectified, and reordered the past in light of Spanish political and religious concerns and categories of knowledge that, as aristocrats, must have informed their public behavior.” In other words, the document purposely adapts indigenous form and content to fit colonial strictures, eliminating, for instance, every ostensible reference to indigenous religion (ibid.: 286). Douglas maintains that the resulting ambiguity, which is at the heart of the colonial experience, cannot be overcome and thus must be accepted (ibid.: 291). In the case of the Tlotzin Map, the tlacuilo has manipulated the historical narrative to assert Texcoco’s regional preeminence both before and after the conquest. The manuscript not only represents an idealized version of the past but offers a charter for how things should be (Spitler 1998: 76). Authentically indigenous in form and content, it conveys a clear message suited to its purpose and circumstance. Susan Spitler sees the map’s streamlined genealogy as a post-conquest innovation intended to demonstrate to the Spanish authorities a tradition of unbroken legitimate rule por línea recta (ibid.: 77). The legal force of such an argument stems from long-established genealogical conventions that were seized straightaway by the local aristocracy, perhaps because of a comparable preexisting framework. Barbara Mundy F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


(2005: 377) observes that by placing a genealogy in a determinate space, the map’s visual narrative presented the “structural bond between an elite group and the land.” The European image of the family tree illustrates just such an attachment since a lineage, both as symbolic construct and as a historical process, was organically bound to the land from which it issued. As Alva Ixtlilxochitl transliterates the Codex Xolotl, the Quinatzin Map, and the Tlotzin Map, he reiterates their purpose as well as their ambiguities, which are compounded by the very process of rendering them into a lineal alphabetic narrative. Spiegel (1983: 44) theorizes that the medieval chronicler regarded his text as a transparent window into the past and therefore apprehended history as a perceptual field to be seen and represented instead of constructed and analyzed. In other words, he was a painter of pictures as much as a writer of words (ibid.). It follows that “the ‘images’ residing in the perceptual field of history were perceived and transcribed in accordance with the prevailing techniques of pictorial illustration . . . that is, by a multifocal, ‘cyclical’ method rather than as a unified field” (ibid.: 45). Like Spiegel’s chronicler, Alva wrote what he saw as he literally scanned the historical panorama presented by the Texcocan maps. The maps themselves provided the “perceptual grid” (ibid.: 46) that allowed him to systematize their narrative interpretation by focusing on the unfolding of the Texcocan dynasty. The same type of genealogical framework helped shape vernacular historiography in thirteenth-century Europe (ibid.: 47). However, in seventeenth-century New Spain, Alva Ixtlilxochitl had to contend with a particular chronological problem a medieval historian did not face. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s solution confirms an affinity with medieval historiography even as it adds a measure of complexity to his own. The painted maps seem to intentionally underplay chronology, displaying events on an atemporal plane to emphasize Texcoco’s timeless eminence (Spitler 1998: 79). On the other hand, Alva seeks to historicize events by locating them precisely in time so as to add a measure of credence to his narrative, but to do so effectively he must coordinate fundamentally different calendars. The result is a curious aggregating of Nahua and Western calendar dates and referential events, as in the dating of the death of Nopaltzin quoted above. The difficulty of the endeavor is attested by the discrepancies that plague Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronology. The death of Huehue Ixtlilxochitl, for example, is assigned a different date in each of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s texts.37 O’Gorman finds in such inconsistencies a regularity that reveals the conscientious work of the historian in search of the truest facts (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 87). Even so, the dates do not seem to have a significant impact on the narrative structure, which is decidedly consistent. 232


Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s dating system appears as a conventional, haltering imposition on a discourse that flows along the genealogical journey that forms the core of his historiography. The same can be said of medieval dynastic histories in general. In such texts, chronology had symbolic value and in the case of the remote past could be readily adjusted to match the needs of the story, as in the dating of Brutus’s death, also quoted above. A more significant distinction from medieval genre conventions that Alva drew from his painted sources is a symbolic genealogical patterning based on a cyclical conception of time. In a fascinating study, Susan Gillespie argues that Mexica royal genealogy was adapted in the early sixteenth century to accommodate the Spanish conquest within indigenous cosmology. The strategy included the post-conquest ascription of similar qualities and events to rulers who served as boundary markers of recurrent cycles. Working backward, Moteuczoma II was equated with Moteuczoma I—thus renamed based on his position in the patterned genealogy—and both with Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, a boundary figure of an earlier era (Gillespie 1989: 167, 171).38 In the same way, the conquest could be integrated as a repetition of past events, most conspicuously the destruction of the Toltec empire (ibid.: 173). It also became possible to conceive of Spanish dominance as a transient crisis that, according to a cyclical logic, would be followed by a more auspicious period. The Texcocan dynastic pattern may have had a similar intent. As Douglas (2010: 113) points out, “Every third generation of Xolotl’s heirs experiences or effects a crucial transition.” The deaths of Tlotzin and Huehue Ixtlilxochitl, for example, resulted in usurpations that their respective sons, Quinatzin and Nezahualcoyotl, struggled to reverse.39 Nezahualcoyotl’s grandson Cortés Ixtlilxochitl also fits neatly into this pattern, making it easy for Alva Ixtlilxochitl to present him and his deeds as the stuff of prophecy. Cortés Ixtlilxochitl might have lost an earthly empire, but his efforts on behalf of the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries secured the advent of la ley evangélica to New Spain (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 463). Were his descendants not justly entitled to rewards and benefits commensurate with his stature and sacrifice? Unfortunately for Cortés Ixtlilxochitl’s posterity, the conflicts among Nezahualpilli’s children impeded a straightforward succession. Yet this disruption highlights the system’s regularity up to that point. Barring the conquest, had the story been written two or three generations later, it seems likely that, to maintain the semblance of continuity, the winner of the contest would have been cast as the legitimate heir and the losers as unlawful pretenders who in the end received their just deserts. Alva Ixtlilxochitl is already engaged in such a process of normalization in favor of his direct ancestor, asserting F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


that, in spite of the upheaval that followed Nezahualpilli’s death, which was only compounded by a meddling Hernán Cortés, the kingdom always recognized Cortés Ixtlilxochitl “por cabeza principal” (ibid. 2: 190–91, 242). In the Compendio histórico’s last relación, Alva goes further to avow his greatgreat-grandfather’s entitlement. The passage, which relates to Cortés’s fateful expedition to Hibueras,40 brings Alva’s Texcocan dynasty to a telling close, summing up several features of genealogical historiography already discussed. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Cortés Ixtlilxochitl’s journey with the bungling conquistador was an unprecedented ordeal: In sum, greater than any suffered by his ancestors . . . Xolotl wandered far and wide but did not suffer like this prince. His grandfather Nezahualcoyotzin . . . also suffered greatly and wandered for many years, but at least it was within his homeland and kingdom; and so it seems to me that for the most part he was a second Topiltzin in terms of wandering, struggles, and ultimate destruction of the empire, since the Toltec empire ended with him after 572 years, and the same happened with Ixtlilxúchitl, for his death meant the end of the southern Chichimec empire, which lasted as many years.41 (ibid. 1: 514)

Thus, by equating Topiltzin with Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, Alva brings the story full circle, exemplifying the goal of genealogical historiography, which is “to establish the most ancient ancestry possible and to create the most coherent continuity between this mythic beginning and the present” (Bloch 1986: 81) in order to legitimate a family’s identity and status. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Texcocan dynasty meets all the stipulations of nobility Diego de Benavides mentions in his Memorial. Its origins were truly ancient and more than regal, since it was founded by the first Great Chichimecateuctli Xolotl in the tenth century. The hereditary rulers of Texcoco constituted the main, patrilineal branch of his descendants. Except for transitory periods of illegal usurpation, they possessed the territory Texcoco for centuries and held the title of Great Chichimecateuctli for eight generations. Although indirect in its early stages, their long history of service begins with Xolotl, who established a rich and civilized empire; it includes Nezahualcoyotl’s monotheistic intuition, which prepared the way for Christianity and, evidently, the aid provided by Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, which was instrumental to the success of the Spanish conquest. Finally, the lords of Texcoco had connections through marriage with all the noble lineages of Anahuac, including the royal Toltec line—the most illustrious of all. As with Benavides’s Memorial, medieval historiography undoubtedly provided the narrative model for Alva’s texts, but the genealogical structure may 234


come as much from an old Spanish institution, represented by many contemporary memoriales and nobiliarios, as from a local tradition reflected in Alva’s painted sources.42 However, it is important to bear in mind that these genuinely indigenous documents were neither strictly historical nor impervious to innovation. Indigenous conventions regarding genealogy, property, and status would have been both invigorated and distorted by the need to produce legal documentation in the intense competition for land and prominence following the conquest. Three generations later, Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s works still sought to confirm and take advantage of an aristocratic indigenous character by appealing to the past through appropriately archaizing forms drawn from New and Old World materials. Yet the process is not equivalent to the mixing of español and indio that produces a mestizo. In other words, the product does not result from the mere aggregation of Spanish and indigenous elements. The former are purposefully adapted to fit a new setting, even as the latter are filtered to match new perspectives. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s portrayal of Texcoco’s dynasty is clearly influenced by imported traditions, but some of these came directly from his indigenous sources, which reveal an earlier stage of the same transformational process at work. As with the Texcocan maps, any apparent ambiguity in Alva’s texts is the product of modern perceptions. Alva Ixtlilxochitl wrote true to his interpretation—however biased—of the historical records—however revised—he was using. Likewise, his writing conforms to the principles of genealogical historiography, which include the incorporation of myth and legend as significant narrative components (Duby 1977: 156). Thus, as Gillespie’s study of the Aztec kings suggests, the question of historical accuracy fails to encompass the symbolic realities manifested in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s attempt at synthesis also corresponds to a wider development that was well under way by the mid-seventeenth century and to which his genealogical narrative is eminently well suited: the consolidation of a distinctive local identity defined in part by its link to the Prehispanic past. The genealogical impetus of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s historiography helps explain why it was so attractive to later generations of criollo intellectuals engaged in the process of consolidating Mexican identity. In addition to a portrait of a splendid local antiquity, Alva Ixtlilxochitl offered a model of continuity with longstanding symbolic and political merit for the patriotic spirit seeking ways to root itself in the land. Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora at the end of the seventeenth century, Francisco Xavier Clavijero in the late eighteenth, and Carlos María de Bustamante in the early twentieth all benefited from Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work as they strove to forge the historical basis for Mexico’s F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


political autonomy. Through the ongoing adaptation of the genealogical historiographic model employed in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Obras históricas, Anahuac’s ancient rulers became the forefathers of the criollo nation. Such notions were integrated into Mexico’s national history, and today many Mexicans conceive of themselves, in one way or another, as descendants of the Aztecs. The biological reality of this claim is less important than its symbolic value, and it owes a greater debt to Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s dynastic history of Texcoco than is generally acknowledged. NOTES

Research for this chapter was funded in part by an Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship from Indiana University’s Lilly Library.

1. Every man who is noble, generous, or highborn must be able to account for his lineage, at least to his fourth grandfather. And he who does not know this is to be rebuked and reproved as one who cannot explain who he is (Mexía 1492: n. p., L. 2º, Punto x, Concl. iii). 2. Alva’s connection to the House of Texcoco was through his mother’s mother; the rest of his grandparents were Spanish. 3. Aquel es más noble o menos noble cuanto de más lejos y de más alta dignidad o señorío trae su linaje o cuanto más pariente será o más allegado a la sangre real (sn. p., L. 2º, C. vii, Concl. iii). Spelling and punctuation have been standardized throughout in accordance with modern conventions. 4. El filósofo en el segundo de los retóricos llama nobles aquellos que vienen o traen la nobleza de sus progenitores, el Boecio según es dicho en el tercero de consolación, el Tito Livio en todas sus tres décadas, el Tulio en el de los oficios y en las paradojas, el Séneca, el Ovidio en sus metamorfoseos . . . el Virgilio en su Eneida en el libro seteno; Lucano, Leomarte, Trogo Pompeo, Vegecio, Leonardo de Arecio, el maestro Raymundo y todos los otros autores filósofos, poetas, oradores e historiógrafos antiguos y modernos, y todos los derechos y las leyes especialmente las partidas lo afirman . . . y otros infinitos que sería imposible acabar (Mexía 1492: n. p., L. 2º, C. vii, Concl. ii). 5. En las Indias los mejores procedimientos padecen naufragio en la sangre y reputación; argumento cierto de querer en estos parajes aun lo plebeyo blasonar de nobleza, por estar tan remota su probanza, siendo detractores de quien la tiene notoria en España, y con este (digámoslo así) modo de rapiña, descoloran la buena sangre, por lo menos entre el vulgo parlero (Cortés del Rey 1792 [1670]: 4). 6. Poblando toda ella, como después sus descendientes la poblaron, poniendo a cada pueblo el nombre del noble que la poblaba (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 296). 236


7. Hácese mención de estos linajes por haber sido origen de lo más ilustre de la Nueva España (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 25). 8. Según buena razón a él le competía la sucesión del imperio, pues era nieto de Xólotl (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 39). 9. Pareciéndole pertenecerle más aína por ser mayor, en quien concurrían las partes y requisitos de poder gobernar un imperio como el que su padre dejaba (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 55). 10. Tenían obligación de darles honras, estado y preeminencias, pues eran todos descendientes y procedían de su casa y linaje . . . a más que era de mayor grandeza de los reyes y soberanos señores tener otros que fuesen sus inferiores (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 88). 11. In the Sumaria relación de todas las cosas, Nopaltzin is credited as the first to have made Texcoco the kingdom’s capital. Stricken by homesickness he moved back to Tenayuca, leaving the city to his son Tlotzin Pochotl, who wasn’t happy there either and did not stay long (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 305). Once he became Great Chichimecateuctli, Tlotzin made his son Quinatzin king of Texcoco (ibid.: 308). However, according to both the Compendio histórico and the Sumaria relación de la historia, Texcoco had originally been granted to Quinatzin by his great-grandfather Xolotl (ibid.: 426, 533). 12. Los reyes de Tezcuco por línea recta de la casa y descendencia por legítima sucesión de la casa de Xólotl, poblador y monarca de esta tierra, y de la casa real del gran Topiltzin, monarca tulteca (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 305). 13. Por ser la raíz y fundamento de mi negocio, ha sido forzoso para que más claramente se vea, quien fue el primer poblador de esta tierra después de la destrucción de los tultecas (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 427). 14. The full title of Richers’s text gives an idea about the currency genealogical historiography still had in early-eighteenth-century Europe: The History of the Royal Genealogy of Spain or, an Abridgment of What Has Passed in That Great Monarchy from the Creation of the World to This Present Time, with a Chronological Table of the Successions of Its Kings, to Philip the Fifth, Now Reigning, by the Translator of Mariana’s History of Spain from the Spanish into French, Made English from the French Copy Printed at Leyden in the Year 1718. 15. At least two Spanish copies of Monmouth’s History have been found in Spain, one dating from the late twelfth century and another from the early 1400s (Hammer 1942: 236). Monmouth’s work was also known indirectly through Wace’s Roman de Brut, which provided material for the Libro de las generaciones, a thirteenth-century genealogy of Iberian rulers that was highly influential in the development of peninsular historiography (Folger 2004: 53–54). 16. There were also giants in Anahuac. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl, the quinamehtin were destroyed by the earthquakes at the end of the Tlachinotatiuh (earth sun) world age (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 264, 529, 2: 7). F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


17. Gobernó treinta y dos años con gran quietud y paz . . . Constituyó siete leyes en unas cortes que hizo, muy buenas para el bien de sus vasallos . . . Murió en el año y figura llamado macuilli ácatl, caña, número cinco, que conforme a la nuestra fue en el de 1105 de la encarnación de Cristo nuestro señor, al sexto del pontificado de Pascual segundo, y los cuarenta y ocho del imperio del mismo Enrique cuarto y en España, a los últimos años del reinado del mismo Alfonso sexto (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 427). 18. Here, “national” does not refer to the much disputed modern concept of nation but rather to the idea expressed in the title of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Historia de la nación chichimeca: the history of a people, generally articulated through the deeds of its leaders. Another classic example is Virgil’s Aeneid (Ingledew 1994: 671). 19. Quetzalcoatl, who visited Anahuac “algunos años después de la encarnación de Cristo señor nuestro,” is described as an “hombre bien dispuesto, de aspecto grave, blanco y barbado” dressed in a long tunic (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 8–9). Nezahualcoyotl’s heavenly recognitions include an angelic visitation announcing the birth of his son Nezahualpilli, who was to inherit the throne (ibid.: 125). The Historia’s available text is incomplete. A full account of Prince Ixtlilxochitl deeds as a Christian knight appears in the last relación of the Compendio histórico. 20. Era por demás ir en contra de lo determinado por el Dios creador de todas las cosas, pues no sin misterio y secreto juicio suyo le daba tal hijo al tiempo y cuando se acercaban las profecías de sus antepasados (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 174). 21. No pudo sufrir la tiranía y extorsión que se hacía a la parte legítima (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 191). 22. For Alva, legitimacy was obviously the foremost consideration. The most suitable heir was the firstborn except in two cases: Quinatzin and Nezahualpilli. However, Quinatzin and Nezahualpilli were both exceptionally talented youngest sons, so there may be an inverted pattern at work here. 23. David Henige offers examples from Africa, India, and Polynesia. 24. Sus reinos y señoríos, diciendo que todas las cosas se acaban y no han de durar para siempre (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 408). 25. No tuvo menos valor y virtud que su padre, y si bien se considera le siguió casi los mismos pasos (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 188). 26. The cacicazgo of San Juan Teotihuacan was held by Alva Ixtlilxóchitl’s family through the marriage of Ana Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando Cortés Ixtlilxochitl’s daughter, to Francisco Verdugo Quetzalmamalitzin, who was confirmed as cacique by the Real Audiencia in 1533 (Munch 1976: 11). However, the charge was not unfounded at the time it was made since the cacica, Alva’s mother, was a mestiza and thus theoretically barred from holding the title. A number of documents related to the suit are included in the apéndice documental O’Gorman prepared for his edition of Alva’s Obras Históricas (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 265–402). 238


27. Señores y naturales, y primero que México . . . [y] los mejores indios de la Nueva España, y los que con mejor título éramos señores de lo que teníamos (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 392). 28. O’Gorman notes that Alva’s birth name is known from his grandmother’s testament (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 17, 2: 289). 29. Propincuo y legítimo sucesor de los reyes que fueron de la dicha ciudad y ser persona capaz y suficiente para ese ministerio (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 335). 30. Don Fernando de Alva Ixtilsúchil reciba merced y favor; en oficios y cargos . . . que sean de su calidad y suficiencia (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 342). 31. Establishing a patronymic link to Prehispanic aristocracy was not uncommon; the name choice depended on genealogy as much as on circumstance and opportunity. Alva’s elder brother, Francisco de Navas Pérez de Peraleda Huetzin, who was in line to assume Teotihuacan’s cacicazgo, kept the name that connected him to its hereditary rulers. According to Alva’s Historia, once reinstated on his rightful throne, Nezahualcoyotl gave Quetzalmamalitzin “el señorío de Teotihuacan que había sido de Huetzin su padre ya difunto, y le dio título de capitán general del reino de la gente ilustre” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 2: 89). 32. Other Texcocan aristocrats, including some close relatives, contested Don Carlos’s claim, and he may not have actually ruled in Texcoco (Benton, this volume). 33. Ésta es nuestra tierra y nuestra hacienda y nuestra alhaja y nuestra posesión, y el señorío es nuestro y a nos pertenece; y quien viene aquí a mandarnos y a sojuzgarnos, que no son nuestros parientes ni de nuestra sangre y se nos igualan, pues aquí estamos y no ha de haber quien haga burla de nosotros (Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco 1910: n. p.). 34. Por sangre y línea recta de padres a hijos (Zorita 1999: 321–22). According to Alan Covey (2006: 188), “Accounts of royal Inka succession by primogeniture appear to be the result of feedback during the colonial period, especially after the Inka kinglist had become codified.” 35. con cuya ayuda pude después con facilidad conocer todas las pinturas e historias y traducir los cantos en su verdadero sentido (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 525). 36. Likewise, Barbara Mundy (2005: 376) finds that the genealogical maps of the Mixtec tradition parallel medieval maps in the way the correspondence between the geographic and social orders is displayed. 37. The introductory materials to O’Gorman’s edition of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s works include comparative chronological tables (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 88–116). 38. Gillespie (1989: 155) argues that Topiltzin and Quetzalcoatl were in fact the same recurring character. 39. While Alva Ixtlilxochitl offers a detailed account of the first usurpation in the Compendio histórico (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 428–29), he presents a much watered-down F ER N A N D O D E A LVA I X T LI L XO C H I T L’ S T EXCO CA N D Y N A S T Y


version in the Historia (ibid. 2: 27), perhaps in an attempt to further smooth out the Texcocan succession. 40. Cuauhtemoc, Coanacochtli, and Tetlepanquetzal, the last pre-colonial rulers of Mexico, Texcoco, and Tlacopan, respectively, were hanged by order of Cortés during the expedition (1524–26). 41. En suma mayor que ninguno de los que padecieron sus antepasados . . . Xólotl peregrinó mucho pero no padeció lo que este príncipe. Su abuelo Nezahualcoyotzin . . . también padeció mucho y peregrinó hartos años, pero con todo esto fue dentro de su patria y reino, y así me parece, que en casi todo fue otro segundo Topiltzin en lo que es peregrinación, trabajos, y última destrucción de imperio que en él se acabó el imperio tulteca, que duro quinientos setenta y dos años, y lo mismo ha sido en Ixtlilxúchitl, que se acabó en su muerte el imperio chichimeca meridional que duró otro tanto tiempo (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 1975–77, 1: 514). The alleged duration of the Toltec empire is a symbolic number, since it adds up to eleven xiuhmolpilli (year-bundle) of fifty-two years each. 42. Eugenio del Hoyo (1957: 354–55) insists that Alva Ixtlilxochitl resorted to the Estoria general de España for the composition of his Obras históricas, as evidenced by the general composition and analogous treatment of the historical material. However, Alva would not have had to consult the Crónica directly to produce a comparable text. Numerous Spanish historiographic texts are modeled after the Estoria, which has an eminently genealogical structure (Folger 2004: 62). Del Hoyo’s essay does not grant Alva’s painted sources their proper due. WORKS CITED

Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de. 1975–77. Obras históricas. Ed. Edmundo O’Gorman. 2 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (hereafter UNAM). Benavides, Diego. 1660. Memorial en que representa al Rey Nuestro Señor la antiguedad, calidad, y servicios de sus casas. Madrid: n.p.. Berdan, Frances F. 2005. The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Thomsom Wadsworth. Bloch, R. Howard. 1986. Etymologies and Genealogies: A Literary Anthropology of the French Middle Ages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Chamberlain, Robert S. 1939. “The Concept of Señor Natural as Revealed by Castilian Law and Administrative Documents.” Hispanic American Historical Review 19 (2): 130–37. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2507437. Cortés del Rey, Bonifacio. 1792 [1670]. Noviliario genealogico. Mexico City: Viuda de Bernardo Calderón.



Covey, R. Alan. 2006. “Chronology, Succession, and Sovereignty: The Politics of Inka Historiography and Its Modern Interpretation.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 48 (1): 169–99. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0010417506000077. Davies, Nigel. 1980. The Toltec Heritage: From the Fall of Tula to the Rise of Tenochtitlán. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Douglas, Eduardo de J. 2003. “Figures of Speech: Pictorial History in the ‘Quinatzin Map’ of about 1542.” Art Bulletin 85 (2): 281–309. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3177345. Douglas, Eduardo de J. 2010. In the Palace of Nezahualcoyotl: Painting Manuscripts, Writing the Pre-Hispanic Past in Early Colonial Period Tetzcoco, Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press. Duby, Georges. 1977. The Chivalrous Society. Trans. Cynthia Postan. Berkeley: University of California Press. Folger, Robert. 2004. “A Genealogy of Castilian Historiography: From Nomina Regum to Semblanzas.” La Corónica 32 (3): 49–68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/cor .2004.0038. Gillespie, Susan D. 1989. The Aztec Kings: The Construction of Rulership in Mexica History. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Hammer, Jacob. 1942. “Some Additional Manuscripts of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae.” Modern Language Quarterly 3 (2): 235–42. http://dx.doi .org/10.1215/00267929-3-2-235. Henige, David P. 1971. “Oral Tradition and Chronology.” Journal of African History 12 (3): 371–89. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021853700010835. Hoyo, Eugenio del. 1957. “Ensayo historiográfico sobre D. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl.” Memorias de la Academia Mexicana de Historia 16 (4): 339–60. Ingledew, Francis. 1994. “The Book of Troy and the Genealogical Construction of History: The Case of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regnum Britanniae.” Speculum 69 (3): 665–704. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3040847. Lesbre, Patrick. 2001. “Chant de Tenantzin: traditions préhispaniques acolhua et chroniques coloniales.” Caravelle 76–77: 212–22. Méndez de Silva, Rodrigo. 1656 [1639]. Catalogo real y genealogico de España. Madrid: Doña Mariana de Valle. Mexía, Feranto. 1492. Nobiliario. Seville: Peter Brun and Juan Gentil. Monmouth, Geoffrey of. 1969 [1136]. The History of the Kings of Britain. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. London: Folio Society. Munch, Guido. 1976. El cacicazgo de San Juan Teotihuacan durante la colonia (1521– 1821). Colección científica 32. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología de Historia.



Mundy, Barbara E. 2005. “At Home in the World: Mixtec Elites and the Teozacoalco Map-Genealogy.” In Painted Books and Indigenous Knowledge in Mesoamerica, ed. Elizabeth Hill Boone, 363–81. New Orleans: Middle American Research Institute. Muriá, José María. 1973. Sociedad prehispánica y pensamiento europeo. Sep/Setentas 76. Mexico City: Secretaría de Educación Pública. Offner, Jerome A. 1983. Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Proceso inquisitorial del cacique de Tetzcoco. 1910. Publicaciones de la Comisión Reorganizadora del Archivo General y Público de la Nación. Mexico City: Eusebio Gómez de la Puente. http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra/antigua/3252/ (accessed July 21, 2011). Richers, Thomas. 1724. The History of the Royal Genealogy of Spain. London: James Round. Sahagún, Bernardino de, Arthur J.O. Anderson, and Charles E. Dibble. 1950. General History of the Things of New Spain: Florentine Codex. 13 vols. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research. Schroeder, Susan. 1991. “Indigenous Sociopolitical Organization in Chimalpahin.” In Land and Politics in the Valley of Mexico: A Two-Thousand Year Perspective, ed. Herbert R. Harvey, 141–62. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Scott, James C., John Tehranian, and Jeremy Mathias. 2002. “The Production of Legal Identities Proper to States: The Case of the Permanent Family Surname.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 44 (1): 4–44. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017 /S0010417502000026. Spiegel, Gabrielle M. 1983. “Genealogy: Form and Function in Medieval Historical Narrative.” History and Theory 22 (1): 43–53. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2505235. Spitler, Susan. 1998. “The Mapa Tlotzin: Preconquest History in Colonial Texcoco.” Journal de la Société des Americanistes 84 (2): 71–81. http://dx.doi.org/10.3406/ jsa.1998.1717. Torquemada, Juan de. 1943 [1615]. Monarquía indiana. 3 vols. México: Salvador Chávez Hayhoe. Zorita, Alonso de. 1999. Relación de la Nueva España. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes.



11 In The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics (2008), Jongsoo Lee points out the vast gap separating the figure of Nezahualcoyotl as represented in colonial histories from the actual historical figure that must have existed. He shows how this ruler’s past and present reputation relies largely on early colonial texts written by European friars and by the bilingual and bicultural Texcocan chroniclers who followed them. Among this latter group, he notes, the writing of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl takes a preeminent place (Lee 2008: 19–45). For Salvador Velazco (1998: 34–35), another scholar of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work, Nezahualcoyotl represents an important link in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s project of fitting the history of Anahuac into the stream of Christian universal history. Both Lee and Velazco highlight the similarity Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Nezahualcoyotl bears to the Old Testament David, as well as his (supposed) belief in a single god (dios desconocido) and his function as a prophet of Christendom and the conquest (Velazco 2003: 68–88; Lee 2008: 5). Lee, however, is interested in approaching a more accurate understanding of Nezahualcoyotl as a historical figure, while Velazco’s goal is to understand Alva Ixtlilxochitl as a writer. For Velazco, “Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s works, rather than ‘true,’ are . . . acts of enunciation, cultural and political practice, in a specific historical moment” (Velazco 1998: 34).1 This chapter aims to advance both of those scholarly projects by supplementing the vision of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s “Christianized” Nezahualcoyotl with a focus on the Nahua symbolism that also attends his figure. Although clearly molded in accordance with

The Reinvented Man-God of Colonial Texcoco

Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Nezahualcoyotl

Leisa Kauffmann

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c011


the European-sponsored ideas, influences, and political exigencies of the colonial period, the figure of Nezahualcoyotl in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s writings also manifests an unmistakable identification with Nahua cultural traditions. Indeed, when regarded in light of anthropological literature on Nahua religiosity, Nezahualcoyotl’s status as a link between Nahua and European cultural contexts becomes more complex. Understanding both dimensions of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s colonial (re)construction of Nezahualcoyotl helps us come closer to an understanding of the historical figure per se, as well as of Alva Ixtlilxochitl as historian and writer. As Eduardo Douglas has pointed out with respect to the tlacuilo of the Mapa Quinatzin and Patrick Lesbre has implied throughout his work on Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s writing, the Nezahualcoyotl of the Historia de la nación chichimeca, examined below, is best understood in the light of the dual cultural legacy of which Alva Ixtlilxochitl was heir and the “double consciousness” that comes with being a member of a non-dominant culture in a colonial context (Lesbre 1999, 2000, 2001; Douglas 2003: 282).2 THE RULER AS MAN-GOD

I begin my analysis with a brief explanation of a few concepts in Mesoamerican religiosity important for identifying Alva Ixtlilxochtil’s encoding of Nezahualcoyotl in Nahua terms. Louise Burkhart (1989: 37) has used the term polytheistic monism to describe Nahua religiosity, defining it as a theology in which “a single divine principle—teotl—was responsible for the nature of the cosmos . . . [and it] manifested itself in multiple forms.” While everything on the earthly plane of the cosmos contained this principle or divine force (often referred to as a divine fire), the Nahua ruler (tlatoani) was a “man-god,” a quasi-divine being who had entered into a pact with the tutelary divinity of the ethnic political body (López Austin 1973: 117). As representatives or spokespersons of the deity in their communities, Nahua rulers served as crucial intermediaries between the earthly plane and the realms of the gods and were responsible for ensuring that the power of the deity they represented translated into benefits for the community (e.g., victory in warfare, rains for good harvests) (López Austin 1984: 460). According to Alfredo López Austin, the man-god was, in essence, a nahual, that is, a person whose body became the sheath or the covering, the receptacle, of the divine fire or force of the tutelary god (López Austin 1973: 118–21). In Nahua cosmovision, the deities accessed the terrestrial plane through conduits or passageways in the natural world. As López Austin explains it, hollow trunks of trees, which in mythology are seen holding up the four 244


corners of the earth, were traveled by the gods, as were reeds or twisted vines. Mountains bearing caves were considered to be bringers of rain and were, like lakes and springs, thought to be sacred access points and abodes of the rain gods. These places—large trees, caves, lakes, springs, and mountaintops—took on particular importance as sites of religious pilgrimage, where the rulers and priests practiced their arts and communicated with the gods and where the non-specialists left their offerings (López Austin 1984: 68–75). These conduits to the other realms of the cosmos, along with the divine fire of the gods embodied by the ruler and the ritual attire of the divinities the priests and rulers who represented their power donned, are all important indicators of the power of the ruler as man-god in the Nahua context. All of them,3 as I point out below, appear in the Historia de la nación chichimeca’s rendition of Nezahualcoyotl. ALVA IXTLILXOCHITL AS HISTORIAN: RELIGIOSIT Y AND COLONIAL HISTORIOGRAPHY

Before entering this part of my argument, however, it is important to put Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s (re)vision of the Acolhua past within the larger context of the colonization of Nahua history the Spanish initiated. Two points in particular flesh out our understanding of his historical narrative. First, it is not at all clear what Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s “Christianization” and “Europeanization” of the Prehispanic past meant in terms of what Neil Whitehead (2003: xi) has called “historicity,” that is, “the cultural schema and subjective attitudes that make the past meaningful.” Burkhart’s work in The Slippery Earth (1989), for example, shows how the adoption or translation of Christian terminology into a Nahua context did not always imply the wholesale adoption (or transmission) of a Christian/European worldview: issues of cultural and linguistic difference “missionized” the missionary and “conquered” Christianity. Second, Alva Ixtlilxochitl wrote as a privileged descendent of Nahua nobility who often acted as an intermediary (as a court translator and juez gobernador) between Spanish society and the Nahua towns or pueblos (O’Gorman 1985: 25–26, 31). As a bilingual and bicultural historian Alva Ixtlilxochitl had at his disposal two cultural systems as he composed his own accounts of that past. It can come as no surprise, based on the corpus of histories that have come down to us, that Nahua accounts of the past were varied and fluid, as writers like Alva Ixtlilxochitl drew upon these traditions in diverse ways. However, certain commonalities among colonial texts indicate the formation and consolidation T H E R EI N V EN T ED M A N - G O D O F CO L O N I A L T EXCO CO


of specific approaches to the pre-conquest past in colonial scholarly circles. Although at first glance it appears that Mexica and Acolhua sources contradict each other with respect to their treatments of the Acolhua rulers, such is not necessarily the case. Reading Alva Ixtlilxcohitl’s history against that of his Mexica-descended contemporaries enables a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of his particular contribution to, and negotiation of, the colonial approaches to the pre-conquest Nahua past. It is true that the figure of Nezahualcoyotl in Mexica-oriented sources does not bear the Christian overtones the Acolhua sources lend him. However, Nezahualcoyotl and his heir Nezahualpilli do stand out for their intimate knowledge of the religious arts, especially in contrast to the Mexica rulers, Moteuczoma in particular. Thus while Acolhua historical accounts Christianize the transcendent order to which the Acolhua rulers recur, they are not isolated in attributing to them a sense of religious exceptionalism, of extraordinary proximity to the world of the gods from which they derive their power. Parallel but contrasting scenes from two important Mexica-oriented sources demonstrate this fact. A scene from the mid-sixteenth-century Annals of Cuauhtitlan (by an anonymous author from the Mexica-allied Cuauhtitlan altepetl [Bierhorst 1992]) associates a young Nezahualcoyotl with the divine fire, while an episode from the 1598 Crónica mexicana by Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc (2003) emphasizes Moteuczoma’s alienation from that source of power. The first story, from the Annals of Cuauhtitlan, begins with the young Nezahualcoyotl and his elder brother fleeing from the Tepaneca assassins who had just murdered their father, the Acolhua ruler Huehue Ixtlilxochitl. As they are being rescued from hiding by their uncles, Nezahualcoyotzin, the narrative states, was “fooling around. And so he falls into the water there” (Bierhorst 1992: 48). It continues: Well, tradition has it that sorcerers came and seized him and carried him to the summit of Poyauhtecatl, there to perform a sacrament. And it used to be told that in that place they anointed him with flood and blaze [spirit of battle or war], charging him: “You shall be the one. We ordain your fate, and by your hand a nation shall be destroyed.” After that, the sorcerers carried him off, bringing him back to exactly where they had gotten him. And then Nezahualcoyotzin emerged. And when Itzcoatzin saw him, he marveled greatly and was astonished that Nezahualcoyotzin had reappeared. (Bierhorst 1992)

Here, Nezahualcoyotl undergoes initiation as a great warrior. His falling into 246


a lake and appearance at the top of a mountain display his ability at a young age to travel through the sacred conduits of the natural world and communicate with the divine forces. The mountain, as a bringer of rains, was the symbol for the Nahua ethnic-political entity known as the altepetl (a word composed of the Nahuatl words for “water,” atl, and “mountain,” tepetl), which Nezahualcoyotl, as a descendent of the now-dead Acolhua ruler, was being prepared to lead. Moreover, Poyauhtecatl, also known as Mount Tlaloc, the highest point on the continental divide separating the Valley of Mexico from the Valleys of Puebla and Tlaxcala, was an ancient site of worship of the rain god Tlaloc, near the urban center of the Acolhua-Nahuas, Texcoco. Both it and Tetzcotzingo, another mountaintop dedicated to the rain god, were key ceremonial places within the Acolhua territory; the initiation of Nezahualcoyotl on Poyauhtecatl implies his connection to the rain god and to his cult. His caretakers’ susprise at his return appearance indicates the marvelous and highly significant nature of the event. In a parallel but inverse scene in Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc’s Crónica mexicana, the Mexica ruler Moteuczoma arrives mysteriously at the top of a mountain in the great hall of a certain “señor de los señores.” This scene begins, however, with the kidnapping of a poor farmer who is lifted by his hair in the talons of a great eagle and taken to the great hall. Upon arriving, the great “señor” shows the farmer Moteuczoma’s inert and unconscious body lying on the floor, gives him a “perfumador” (a type of burner for sahumerio, or incense), and orders him to burn Moteuczoma’s thigh with it. After finally being convinced to do so, the farmer is taken back to his field and ordered to go tell Moteuczoma to put an end to his activities as ruler: “may he stop what he is doing now, as his term is finished; he himself with his own hands brought it on, such was the swiftness with which his will and desire was met” (Alvarado Tezozomoc 2003: 454).4 After listening to the farmer, Moteuczoma, indeed suffering from a burn wound to his thigh, orders him stoned to death under the assumption that he had been a party to some kind of witchcraft (ibid.: 455). While this scene is one of a number of “prophetic” episodes forecasting to Moteuczoma the end of his empire, it stands out for its clear intent to portray the Mexica ruler’s incapacity in the face of the cosmic forces that control the universe.5 While in the Annals of Cuauhtitlan Nezahualcoyotl’s transport through water to the top of a mountain shows his connection to the world of the gods, the scene from the Crónica mexicana emphasizes Moteuczoma’s alienation from that realm. Instead of being anointed by the divine fire of the gods, he is wounded by it, castigated by the deity who brought him there. T H E R EI N V EN T ED M A N - G O D O F CO L O N I A L T EXCO CO


In another scene from the Crónica mexicana, Alvarado Tezozomoc directly contrasts Moteuczoma’s lack of religious acumen with the prescience of Nezahualcoyotl’s heir, Nezahualpilli. Upon seeing a bright white cloud of smoke illuminate the night sky and after his own soothsayers fail to interpret its meaning, Moteuczoma calls upon Nezahualpilli for help: “Sir, king and father of mine, as someone with vast experience and wisdom of the stars and the heavens, what is going on in the world or in the sky?”6 he asks (ibid.: 440–41). The ensuing conversation between the two great rulers reveals not only Nezahualpilli’s superior ability to read the signs of the heavens and therefore to prepare for (and accept) the future but also, in Moteuczoma’s desperate desire to find a way to escape his fate, his doubts about his ability to find the means to do so. Nezahualpilli informs Moteuczoma that the gods have said that their rulership will come to an end but that his own imminent death will keep him from seeing it happen. However, he urges Moteuczoma (who would not be so lucky) to be valiant and “take these strokes of misfortune, because it is now a given that all this will end.”7 Hearing this, Moteuczoma begins to weep, thanking Nezahualpilli for his help: “Sir, my father, I am very grateful for your goodwill; and I, where shall I go? Should I become a bird and fly away or hide? Must I sit and wait for whatever the heavens decide to do with us?” (ibid,: 441).8 Moteuczoma’s eventual attempt to flee to Çincalco, the realm of the ancient Toltec ruler Huemac, is highly mediated by his priests and Huemac himself, who must instruct Moteuczoma in the proper purification rituals he must undergo to gain access and then offer to transport him there. Huemac’s plan, however, is abruptly halted by the great “señor” who is now calling the shots. The Crónica mexicana ends with a thwarted Moteuczoma receiving daily updates from his messengers about the advance of Cortés’s armies toward Tenochtitlan (ibid.: 455–64, 484). Although Nezahualpilli receives much more attention than his father, Nezahualcoyotl, in Alvarado Tezozomoc’s history, the narrative’s major focus is on the Mexica rulers per se and then on distinguishing them from the Acolhua rulers as a whole, especially with respect to their attitudes toward the imminent arrival of the Spanish. In this Mexica text, the Mexica rulers take center stage, but as dubious practitioners of the religious arts. In Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Acolhua text, on the contrary, the focus is on the Acolhua rulers as gifted interlocutors of the gods. The minimal role Nezahualcoyotl plays in Alvarado Tezozomoc’s history speaks more to the text’s prioritization of Mexica military glory and to explaining its loss to the Spanish than it does to Nezahualcoyotl’s (in)significance as a ruler. Moreover, as Pablo García Loaeza points out in this volume, even within the larger body of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work, the father and 248


son often seem interchangeable. In the end, what Alvarado Tezozomoc and Alva Ixtlilxochitl mutually accomplish is the elaboration and perpetuation of a colonial historical tradition that explains the conquest in part as a failure of Mexica rulership. Just as rulership relies for its validity on its special relationship with the divine forces, its breakdown in turn must be (or must have been) a result of the breakdown of that relationship. The Mexica, the most powerful altepetl in the Mesoamerican region and direct target of Cortés’s onslaught, resisted that invasion and lost. The Acolhua, although of divided opinion, allied with the victorious invaders and won at least the promise of tangible benefits. At the center of this explanation lies, of course, the very nature of the religious order to which the rulers answer and recur. Among other texts in the colonial historical corpus, both the Crónica mexicana and the Historia de la nación chichimeca present a Christian-like divinity. The characteristics of the “señor de los señores” who brings the unconscious Moteuczoma before his throne and has him burned, like those of the “dios desconocido” described by Alva Ixtlilxochitl, recall the traits of the latest god to arrive on the scene in Anahuac: supreme, all-powerful, and hostile to the politico-religious status quo. In this new, culturally hybrid construction of the religious supernatural, Moteuczoma’s failure is total. It is not a simple matter of refusing to ally himself with Christianity but rather of a breakdown of all of the ruler’s capacity to negotiate the divine forces in whatever form they manifest themselves. In Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s history, as well as the Crónica mexicana, Nezahualcoyotl’s and Nezahualpilli’s success lies in their continued connection to the divine, their ability to negotiate access to the supernatural and to gain the specialized knowledge (such as knowledge of the future) that ensures the ruler’s success and hence the succession of the rulership that guarantee the continuity of the altepetl. I now discuss the representation of Nezahualcoyotl in the Historia de la nación chichimeca. For while Alva Ixtlilxochitl clearly uses Nezahualcoyotl as a means of introducing Christian belief into the heart of Prehispanic Anahuac, the “Christianization” of the Nahua supernatural he undertakes is not as comprehensive as it might seem. NEZAHUALCOYOTL IN THE HISTORIA DE LA NACIÓN CHICHIMECA: THREE SCENES OF DISPLACEMENT AND REINVENTION

Three moments in particular demonstrate the way the signifiers of the power of the old “nigromántico” have not disappeared from the Historia de T H E R EI N V EN T ED M A N - G O D O F CO L O N I A L T EXCO CO


la nación chichimeca, Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s (2003) signature text. Instead, as I point out, they have undergone displacement and accompany the figure of Nezahualcoyotl like a shadow-world. In the first scene, Huehue Ixtlilxochitl, after finally being cornered by the Tepanecas, bids his young son Nezahualcoyotl goodbye. After long speeches and a final embrace, the young boy climbs up into the branches of a huge tree, where he is hidden from the warriors who confront and kill his father. Taking leave of his son, Huehue Ixtlilxochitl pleads with him to take back his reign and avenge his death: What I ask and plead of you is that you do not abandon your subjects and vassals or forget that you are chichimeca, taking back the empire that Tezozomoc so unjustly subjugates, and that you avenge the death of your stricken father and make use of the bow and arrows; the only thing left is for you to hide amid these trees so that the ancient empire of your ancestors does not end with your undeserved death. So many tears poured from the eyes of son and father that there was no way they could speak to each other any longer; and having embraced each other tenderly, the prince left his father’s side and climbed into the branches of a very leafy tree where he was hidden and from where he saw the end and ill-fated death of his father. (ibid.: 102–3)9

The fact that Nezahualcoyotl hides in the branches of a tree is not an arbitrary decision of narrative convenience. Rather, within the context of Nahua and Mesoamerican cosmovision, trees hold a special place as a cosmic axis uniting the underworld with the terrestrial realm and the heavens, as pathways of the gods, and as pillars holding up the four corners of the world (López Austin 1984: 66–68, 1997). Tradition has not completely Christianized Nezahualcoyotl, and Alva Ixtlilxochitl maintains his association with this pervasive symbol of the sacred in the Mesoamerican world. To hide Nezahualcoyotl in the branches of a tree is to suggest his association and communication with the divine forces. Soon thereafter, as Nezahualcoyotl wanders in exile, Tezozomoc, the Tepaneca ruler responsible for usurping the Texcocan throne (and many others), has an ominous dream about Nezahualcoyotl. According to Alva Ixtlilxochitl, The tyrant Tezozomoc dreamt one morning as the morning star rose in the east that he saw prince Nezahualcoyotzin turn into a golden eagle and that he was ripping up his heart into pieces and eating it; and another time he turned into a tiger, who with his claws and teeth tore his feet into shreds; he was [also]



entering into the water and into the mountains and hills, and turning into their heart; and with that he woke up frightened and terrified and carefully, in this manner, later had his soothsayers called in so that they could interpret the dream for him. They told him that the golden eagle ripping up and eating his heart meant that Nezahualcoyotzin was going to destroy his royal house and lineage and that the tiger meant that he would ruin and ravage the city of Azcaputzalco and all of its kingdom and that he would recover the empire that he [Tezozomoc] was tyrannizing and be its ruler: [they told him] that that was what was meant by him turning into the heart of the waters, lands, and mountains. (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 2003: 108)10

Moteuczoma’s religious advisers interpreted this dream to mean that Nezahualcoyotl would conquer him, and they tell him to have Nezahualcoyotl killed to avoid this fate. The dream symbolism, like that of the tree in which Nezahualcoyotl hid as a young boy, is filled with significance in the context of Nahua culture. The interpretation given by Tezozomoc’s counselors and recounted by Alva Ixtlilxochitl, however, provides only the moral of the story without explaining the implications of the symbolism that led to their interpretation. In Nahua myth, the morning star is associated with the deity Quetzalcoatl, while Tezcatlipoca is associated with the night and is rendered pictorially in terms of, and bears a mythical association with, the jaguar. “Tepeyollotl,” meaning the “heart of the mountain,” is another name by which Tezcatlipoca was known. In addition, the major military schools or orders within Nahua culture were referred to as Eagles and Jaguars. Thus Nezahualcoyotl, in the context of the dream, takes on the characteristics of Tezcatlipoca in his relationship to Quetzalcoatl. Above all, the dream indicates the strength of Nezahualcoyotl’s capacity to navigate natural elements of the terrestrial world and to negotiate the powers of the stars and the deities in general in their relationship to cosmic bodies. He is seen to represent these forces as the god (or man-god) himself. Thus the first metonymic association of Nezahualcoyotl with the Nahua spiritual universe—his placement in the tree, reminiscent of a cosmic tree holding up the four corners of the earth or the conduits of the powers of the gods—is followed by the dream symbolism that metaphorically identifies him with the sacred mountains (that of the altepetl) and the tutelary god, the very heart of the altepetl itself.11 Although the symbolism is obvious enough for those familiar with Mesoamerican (Nahua) tradition, Alva Ixtlilxochitl offers no explanation of these basic attributes of the Nahua spiritual universe for the uninitiated monolingual, mono-cultural reader. The prose that narrates Nezahualcoyotl’s re-conquest of T H E R EI N V EN T ED M A N - G O D O F CO L O N I A L T EXCO CO


the rulership of the Acolhua proceeds, rather, in a style that reverberates with the echoes of the popular Spanish fiction of the time, a sort of tragi-comic, novel-esque narrative centered on an idealistic wandering figure at odds with society who makes narrow and fantastic escapes from the clutches of his enemies and then wages improbably successful battles against them. Immersed in the adventures of the hero’s flight from his persecutors, the reader learns to appreciate Nezahualcoyotl’s unending ingenuity as he transforms himself from exiled orphan to conquering prince restoring the usurped rule of his father’s realm. As a narrative hero, from the perspective of a reader of popular peninsular literature of the time, Nezahualcoyotl combines the military prowess and high-minded idealism of the knight-errant with some of the misfortune and hard luck of the pícaro (rogue). Like both figures, Nezahualcoyotl could commit acts of trickery and even magic in escaping from and defeating his enemies. In the prose of the exile narrative, moreover, Alva Ixtlilxochitl evokes the nostalgic and sentimental tones common in both the chivalric romances and the pastoral literature of the day.12 It is here, however, in his depiction as a clever and idealistic hero, that the doubly encoded characterization of Nezahualcoyotl in the Historia de la nación chichimeca becomes most clear. Already associated with Tezcatlipoca in the dream sequence, Nezahualcoyotl (the adventuring hero) takes on this deity’s well-known characteristics as a trickster figure in his exploits to escape from the hands of his enemies and re-conquer his throne. In making his narrow escapes from the clutches of his Tepaneca persecutors, Nezahualcoyotl disguises himself as others or disguises others as himself (to die in his place) and climbs through (or makes) hidden or improvised passageways—escape hatches—out of buildings. For example, while visiting his uncle Chimalpopoca in prison, the latter warns him of plans to assassinate him, saying: “You will be the provisions and armament of the Mexicas and the Acolhuas; do not by your negligence abandon them, taking care that wherever you may be, that your seat and chair be perforated, in case the tyrant Maxtla at some point pronounces a death sentence against you; always be alert and go about your duties with caution” (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 2003: 114).13 Alva Ixtlilxochitl notes that Nezahualcoyotl took this advice not only metaphorically but literally as well, placing secret openings in the walls of his palaces where he kept his thrones (ibid.: 115). Then, returning to thank Maxtla for having released Chimalpopoca from prison, Nezahualcoyotl is almost taken captive but escapes by creating a hole in the straw roof of Maxtla’s palace (ibid.: 116). For this escape, Chimalpopoca is killed and Maxtla vows to take full control of the region by finally murdering Nezahualcoyotl. The latter avoids a second assassination 252


attempt by sending a lookalike into a trap and a third attempt by escaping through the holes he had placed in his palace walls (ibid.: 118–21). Fleeing to the countryside, Nezahualcoyotl begins to put his plans for re-conquest into place, gathering an army and making arrangements with his allies for the march to take back Texcoco as he hides from his enemies. To those unfamiliar with the Nahua tradition, Nezahualcoyotl remains a dispossessed but clever and quick-thinking king who successfully re-takes his father’s throne. To a Nahua audience or to those familiar with basic aspects of Nahua culture, Nezahualcoyotl manifests extraordinary but not unexpected powers of escape. Nezahualcoyotl’s disguises, doubles, and prolific use of escape hatches, like the tree in which he hid, signify his status as a ruler who represents the patron deity of his city. The disguises parallel the donning of the appropriate ritual attire in the representation of the gods, while the escape hatches stand in for the many elements of the sacred landscape—lakes, springs, and caves—that served as points of contact with the world of the divine forces. CONCLUSION

From a sacred spring or lake as conduit to the gods to the fabrication of an escape hatch through a dwelling’s wall or ceiling to the outside world, the openings—once entrances and exits to the sacred—are here displaced onto the material, human-made constructions of the earthly realm. What within a Nahua context was power rooted in communication with the gods has seemingly been transformed into a simple ability to outwit the enemy. But how can we interpret the significance of this transformation in the Historia de la nación chichimeca? What can it tell us about colonial historiography and its relationship to the Prehispanic past and about Alva Ixtlilxochitl as a historian? Complicating any potential answer to these questions is the fact that Alva Ixtlilxochitl was not the inventor of these events. Rather, he takes the three examples of signifiers of the man-god discussed above from his sources, such as the Codex Xolotl, where they exist in pictorial form (Dibble 1951).14 In this respect, Alva Ixtlilxochitl merely follows an established pattern of representing Nezahualcoyotl in the colonial Texcocan world. What can we conclude about the de-contextualized and “sanitized”15 nature of the representation of these events within the larger context of the narrative, however? As Patrick Lesbre (1999: 12) has pointed out, Alva Ixtlilxochitl seems intent on separating his own narrative production from the legends and “fábulas” of popular lore. As such, the displaced and seemingly now “innocuous” nature of the indicators of the man-god’s power to traverse realms, of contact and communication T H E R EI N V EN T ED M A N - G O D O F CO L O N I A L T EXCO CO


with the divine forces, could be viewed as Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s reinterpretation of their significance in a European-like “historical” direction or as a reflection of their already lost or changing meaning in the colonial order, as Lesbre (ibid.) argues. Certainly, Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Historia de la nación chichimeca reveals a historian who deftly negotiated colonial power dynamics to create a text that would ensure a laudatory place for Texcoco in the annals of Spanish historiography. As it accomplishes this goal, however, the work highlights important aspects of the Nahua historical tradition by exploiting parallel concepts or structures in the European tradition. By displacing the signifiers of the Nahua mangod and then, through narrative style and tone, eliciting the world of Spanish novelistic prose, Alva Ixtlilxochitl creates a rich (and seemingly beautifully orchestrated) play of meaning around the trickster-like hero (or anti-hero). For the reader with access to both Nahua and Spanish narrative traditions (perhaps an “indio ladino” like himself ), this double(d)-vision of the story’s protagonist adds yet another dimension to Nezahualcoyotl’s already grandiose power. The ultimate transgressor, he cannot be bound by culture or stopped by censors. He rules eternally precisely because he can cross boundaries and move freely through both walls and worlds. Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s “Christianization” of Nezahualcoyotl’s nevertheless still-exemplary religious prescience and communion (or communication) with the divine is simply a more obvious example of the way he changes the content but not the underlying form of the idea. In Lesbre’s words, “Through a skillful process of sanitization, Alva Ixtlilxochitl retains only the plot of the traditional stories, suppressing their pagan implications in order to reconstruct the great monarch” (ibid.: 20).16 The underlying structural principles defining and authorizing Nezahualcoyotl as a ruler in the Nahua tradition remain intact and untouched. He exemplifies rulership in both traditions simultaneously. This makes Alva Ixtlilxochitl himself something of a trickster as well. Because he was a descendent of Nezahualcoyotl and someone who mediated between the two “Repúblicas,” there is a compelling argument to be made in favor of this notion. It does not seem far-fetched to imagine that Alva Ixtlilxochitl would create a narrative that would mirror the world he lived in, in which the República de Indios represented a submerged but vital subtext especially for elite members of the República de Españoles. The fact that Alva Ixtlilxochitl had at least some interest in retaining (and perhaps reanalyzing) the image of Nezahualcoyotl as a trickster figure is indicated, moreover, by its more “innocent” rendition in the Franciscan friar Juan de Torquemada’s Monarquía indiana.17 In this work, the scenes of Nezahualcoyotl’s exile are 254


given less attention and detail than in the Historia de la nación chichimeca, their symbolic significance thus curtailed and diminished. First, in the incident where Nezahualcoyotl climbs into a tree, he is not placed there by his father but climbs into it as a last resort to elude the Tepanecas who had killed his father (Torquemada 1975: 113). Second, the dream sequence mentions only the eagle and the jaguar, leaving out the reference to Tepeyollotl (ibid.: 117). Finally, Nezahualcoyotl does not help Chimalpopoca escape prison, and when he himself needs to escape Tezozomoc’s palace, he does so by making an opening in a wall made of fibers. Absent in Torquemada’s version of this incident is the emphasis on Nezahualcoyotl’s cleverness and his escape through a ceiling, which elicits the sense of the vertical dimension through which the forces of the deities traveled (ibid.: 125–28). Whether Alva Ixtlilxochitl wrote in a playful, subversive spirit or with the seriousness of a Catholic intellectual interpreting the past in accordance with the norms of the present or both, there is no doubt that the submerged (but clearly still operative) universe of Nahua religiosity and its symbolism is an important presence in his narrative. In our quest to understand Nezahualcoyotl as a historical figure and Alva Ixtlilxochitl as a writer, this fact must be taken into consideration. In the former case, it seems necessary to pay attention to the Mexica and Acolhua accounts that consider the Acolhua rulers to be exceptional magicians. This in no way undoes its unfortunate effect on so much posterior scholarship, which Lee has pointed out, but Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s “Europeanization” and “Christianization” of Nezahualcoyotl seem less an inaccuracy than a reanalysis of an important characteristic by which he was known. Even here, however, Spanish colonialism and the history of the conquest impinge on Nahua histioriography (and historicities) in that the Acolhuas’ exceptionalism takes on its fullest significance only alongside the “incompetence” of the Mexica. NOTES

1. Las obras de Alva Ixtlilxochitl son, antes que “verdaderas” . . . actos de enunciación, práctica cultural y política, en un momento histórico determinado (Velazco 1998: 34). 2. My intent here has been to account for what Douglas (2003: 282), citing Mundy and Boone, has called “the range of cultural forms and ideological perspectives brought into being by the meeting of the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Worlds” and “to read in terms of the indigenous systems of meaning . . . [while] attending to the very public, primarily Spanish, context of production.” This chapter discusses many of the same issues in the writing of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl comprehensively addressed by Patrick Lesbre T H E R EI N V EN T ED M A N - G O D O F CO L O N I A L T EXCO CO


in his articles “Oublis et censures de l’historiographie acolhua coloniale: Nezahualcoyotl” (1999) and “Nezahualcóyotl, entre historia, leyenda, y divinización” (2000). In the former article, Lesbre shows how Alva Ixtlilxochitl systematically censures many of the “legendary” or “mythical” aspects of Nezahualcoyotl that would tie him to the “idolatry” of the Nahua supernatural. Above all, he notes, Alva Ixtlilxochitl, wishing to be viewed as a credible historian, creates a historical figure out of his sources, consistently editing them by means of omission, contextualization, or downplaying of selected “magical” events (Lesbre 1999). My focus is less on the censorship of these attributes than on their persistence, despite the process of “sanitization” Alva Ixtlilxochitl so carefully undertakes. I also read Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s efforts in conjunction with Mexica-centered histories to highlight them both as part of a larger strategy of justifying the Spanish conquest. 3. See Lesbre (1999) for other examples, not discussed in this chapter, of cosmological references in Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work. 4. que çese ya lo que agora anda haziendo, que ya es acabado su término, que él lo buscó por sus manos, que tal priesa dio a su boluntad y deseo (Alvarado Tezozomoc 2003: 454). Unless otherwise indicated, all translations into English are my own. 5. Note that the farmer is from Texcoco, that he is plowing atop a hill called “Quetzaltepetl” when he is taken by the eagle, and that, while this scene is taking place, Moteuczoma is looking out toward the direction of Texcoco from his rooftop patio when he sees a white cloud of smoke billowing up into the air from that direction (Alvarado Tezozomoc 2003: 453–54). 6. Señor, rrey y padre mío, como hombre que sois de tanta espiriençia y sagaz en las estrellas y los çielos, ¿qué es lo que ay en el mundo o en el çielo? (Alvarado Tezozomoc 2003: 440–41). 7. rresçibir estos golpes de fortuna, pues es ya permisión que esto se acabe (Alvarado Tezozomoc 2003: 440–41). 8. Señor y padre mío, mucho agradezco uestra buena boluntad, y yo ¿a dónde iré, eme de boluer páxaro, e de bolar o esconderme? ¿Abré de aguardar a lo que sobre nosotros el çielo quisiere hazer? (Alvarado Tezozomoc 2003: 441). 9. lo que te encargo y ruego es que no desampares a tus súbditos y vasallos, ni eches en olvido de que eres chichimeca, recobrando tu imperio, que tan injustamente Tezozómoc te tiraniza, y vengues la muerte de tu afligido padre; y que has de ejercitar el arco y las flechas; solo resta que te escondas entre estas arboledas porque no con tu muerte inocente se acabe en ti imperio tan antiguo de tus pasados. Fueron tantas lágrimas que los ojos vertían de hijo y padre, que de ninguna manera pudieron hablarse más, y habiéndose abrazado tiernamente, el príncipe se apartó de su padre y se fue a un árbol muy copado, dentro de cuyas ramas se estuvo allí escondido, y desde donde vio el fin y desastrada muerte de su padre (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 2003: 102–3). 256


10. el tirano Tezozómoc soñó una madrugada, cuando por el oriente salía la estrella del alba, que al príncipe Nezahualcoyotzin veía transformarse en figura de águila real y que le desgarraba y comía a pedazos el corazón y otra vez se transformaba en tigre, que con unas uñas y dientes le despedazaban los pies; se metía dentro de las aguas y lo mismo hacía dentro de las montañas y sierras convirtiéndose en corazón de ellas; con lo cual despertó espantado, despavorido y con cuidado y así hizo llamar luego a sus adivinos para que le declarasen este sueño. Los cuales le respondieron que significaba el águila real que le despedazaba y comía el corazón, que el príncipe Nezahualcoyotzin le había de destruir su casa y linaje; y lo del tigre, que había de destruir y asolar la ciudad de Azcaputzalco con todo su reino y que había de recobrar el imperio que le tenía tiranizado y ser señor de él: que eso significaba el convertirse en corazón de las aguas, tierras y montañas (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 2003: 108). 11. I am grateful to José Contel for his help deciphering the symbolic implications of this dream and of the earlier reference to (Nezahualcoyotl’s experience at) Poyauhtecatl from the Annals of Cuauhtitlan. 12. Irving Leonard documents the popularity of these genres in the New World in Books of the Brave. He writes, “Throughout the period of conquest and exploration the novel in its multiple manifestations, the picaresque, the pastoral and, of course, the adventurous and sentimental romances of chivalry, enjoyed immense popularity” (Leonard 1992: 106). 13. tú serás el bastimento y munición de los mexicanos y aculhuas, no por vuestra negligencia los desampararéis y advertido que por donde quiera que estuviéredes, vuestra silla y asiento esté trasminado, no en algún tiempo pronuncia sentencia de muerte el tirano Maxtla; andad siempre sobre aviso y con cuidado (Alva Ixtlilxochitl 2003: 114). 14. They can be found on Planchas VII, VIII, and IX. In Dibble’s (1951) reproduction, the descriptions fall on pages 97 (Nezahualcoyotl hides in a tree), 101–2 (Tezozomoc’s dream), and 110–11 (Nezahualcoyotl escapes through a hole in the wall of his palace). 15. I borrow the term from Lesbre (1999: 20). 16. Par un savant travail d’aseptisation des récits legendaires Alva Ixtlilxochitl n’en retien que la trame, taisant leurs ramifications paiennes, de façon à réhabiliter ce grande monarque (Lesbre 1999: 20). 17. See Lesbre (1999: 18–19), however, for a different perspective on Torquemada’s and Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s overall relationship to the “popular” legends circulating about Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli. WORKS CITED

Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de. 2003. Historia de la nación chichimeca. Madrid: Dastin. Alvarado Tezozomoc, Hernando de. 2003. Crónica mexicana. Madrid: Dastin. T H E R EI N V EN T ED M A N - G O D O F CO L O N I A L T EXCO CO


Bierhorst, John. 1992. “Annals of Cuauhtitlan.” In History and Mythology of the Aztecs: The Codex Chimalpopoca, 17–138. Trans. John Bierhorst. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Burkhart, Louise M. 1989. The Slippery Earth: Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Dibble, Charles E., ed. 1951. Códice Xolotl. Publicaciones del Insituto de Historia. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (hereafter UNAM). Douglas, Eduardo de Jesús. 2003. “Figures of Speech: Pictorial History in the ‘Quinatzin Map’ of about 1542.” Art Bulletin 85 (2): 281–309. http://dx.doi.org /10.2307/3177345. Lee, Jongsoo. 2008. The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Leonard, Irving. 1992. Books of the Brave: Being an Account of Books and of Men in the Spanish Conquest and Settlement of the Sixteenth-Century New World. Berkeley: University of California Press. Lesbre, Patrick. 1999. “Oublis et censures de l’historiographie acolhua coloniale: Nezahualcoyotl.” Caravelle 72: 11–30. Lesbre, Patrick. 2000. “Nezahualcóyotl, entre historia, leyenda y divinización.” In El héroe entre el mito y la historia, ed. Federico Navarrete Linares and Guilhelm Olivier. Mexico: Centro de estudios mexicanos y centroamericanos, 2000. http://books .openedition.org/cemca/1319 (accessed August 1, 2013). Lesbre, Patrick. 2001. “El Tetzcutzinco en la obra de Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl: realiza, religión prehispánica y cronistas coloniales.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl 32: 323–40. López Austin, Alfredo. 1973. Hombre-dios: Religión y política en el mundo Náhuatl. Mexico City: UNAM. López Austin, Alfredo. 1984. Cuerpo Humano e Ideología: Las concepciones de los antiguos nahuas. 2 vols. Mexico City: UNAM. López Austin, Alfredo. 1997. “El Árbol cósmico en la tradición Mesoamericana.” Monografía Jardín Botánico de Córdoba 5: 85–98. O’Gorman, Edmundo. 1985. “Estudio Introductorio.” In Obras Históricas by Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, ed. Edmundo O’Gorman, vol. 1, 1–257. 2 vols. Mexico City: UNAM. Torquemada, Juan de. 1975. Monarquía Indiana. 3 vols. Ed. Miguel León Portilla. Mexico City: Porrúa. Velazco, Salvador. 1998. “La imaginación historiográfica de Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl: etnicidades emergentes y espacios de enunciación.” Colonial Latin American Review 7 (1): 33–58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10609169885007.



Velazco, Salvador. 2003. Visiones de Anáhuac. Reconstrucciones historiográficas y etnicidades emergentes en el México colonial: Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, Diego Muñoz Camargo y Hernando Alvarado Tezozómoc. Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara. Whitehead, Neil L. 2003. “Introduction.” In Histories and Historicities in Amazonia, ed. Neil L. Whitehead, vii–xx. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.




BRADLEY BENTON is assistant professor of history at North Dakota State University. He received his PhD from UCLA, and his work focuses on Nahua-Spanish relations in the early colonial period. He is completing a book manuscript on the responses of Tetzcoco’s indigenous aristocracy to Spanish conquest and colonialism in the sixteenth century. AMBER BRIAN is an assistant professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Iowa and specializes in colonial Spanish American literature. Her publications include “Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Narratives of the Conquest of Mexico: Colonial Subjectivity and the Circulation of Native Knowledge” in The Conquest All Over Again: Thinking, Writing, and Painting Spanish Colonialism, edited by Susan Schroeder (2010). She is completing a monograph titled The Colonial Economy of Letters: The Circulation of Native Knowledge in Seventeenth-Century Mexico that takes as its point of departure the archive of native alphabetic and pictorial texts Alva Ixtlilxochitl consulted for his historical writings, which were later inherited by the Creole intellectual Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora and incorporated into an incipient patriotic discourse in seventeenth-century Mexico. GALEN BROKAW teaches in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Montana State University. He specializes in Prehispanic and colonial indigenous writing. He is the author of A History of the

Khipu (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and numerous articles on indigenous media and colonial historiography and literature. LORI BOORNAZIAN DIEL is an associate professor of art history at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth. Her research specializes on Aztec pictorial histories created after the conquest of Mexico. She is the author of The Tira de Tepechpan: Negotiating Place under Aztec and Spanish Rule and “Manuscrito del aperreamiento (Manuscript of the Dogging): A ‘Dogging’ and Its Implications for Early Colonial Cholula,” published by Ethnohistory. She has also published articles that focus more specifically on the role of women in Aztec history. PABLO GARCÍA LOAEZA is assistant professor of Spanish in the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics at West Virginia University. He holds a PhD from Indiana University, Bloomington. His main field of research is the early-modern historiographic literature of Spanish America; his work on the subject has appeared in Colonial Latin American Review, Colonial Latin American Historical Review, and Hispania. He is a contributor to The Cambridge History of Religions in America (2012) and to Lexicon of the Hispanic Baroque (University of Texas Press, 2013). LEISA KAUFFMANN earned a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2004 and is an assistant professor in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Her research and publications focus on Nahua-Spanish cultural interaction in colonial Mexico and contemporary feminist appropriations of Nahua mythology. JONGSOO LEE earned a PhD in colonial Latin American literature at Indiana University and is an associate professor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at the University of North Texas. His articles have appeared in the major journals of Latin American colonial and literary studies, and his book, Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics, was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2008.

JEROME A. OFFNER received his PhD in anthropology in 1979 from Yale University and published a book and numerous articles in the years immediately thereafter on Texcocan law, politics, kinship, religion, and history. His early interest in coordinating pictorial documents with alphabetic texts continues to the present day. A more recent wave of publications focuses on localization of pictorial documents to the east of the Basin of Mexico, Totonac history, Nahua historiography, and the Códice Xolotl. New directions involve an international collaborative project to study the indigenous historiography and



graphic communication system represented in that document. He recently accepted an affiliation with the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where he is associate curator of Northern Mesoamerica. JANICE K. PIERCE has a master’s degree in anthropology from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She conducted ethnological and archaeological fieldwork in the American Southeast and Desert Southwest and is an independent researcher-writer with particular interest in Contact period Aztec cultures of Central Mexico. ETHELIA RUIZ MEDRANO is a researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology in Mexico, a visiting professor at the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University in 2010, and the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006. She is the author of Mexico’s Indigenous Communities: Their Lands and Histories, 1500 to 2010 (University Press of Colorado, 2010, 2nd ed. 2011) and two more books, also published by the University Press of Colorado. CAMILLA TOWNSEND is professor of history at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is the author of a number of books, most recently Here in This Year: Seventeenth-Century Nahuatl Annals of the Tlaxcala-Puebla Valley (2010) and Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico (2006), as well as over a dozen articles. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she is hard at work on a complete study of the Mexican indigenous annals of the colonial period. BARBARA J. WILLIAMS is Professor Emerita of geography and geology at the University of Wisconsin–Rock County. She received her doctorate in geography with minors in anthropology and Ibero-American studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1970. Her field and archival research has focused on Nahua ethno-pedology, surveying and mathematics, and indigenous agriculture. Among her studies of Acolhuacan are, with H. R. Harvey, “Aztec Arithmetic: Positional Notation and Area Calculation” (Science 210, 1980) and a facsimile edition of the Códice de Santa María Asunción (University of Utah Press, 1997); “Contact Period Rural Overpopulation in the Basin of Mexico: Carrying Capacity Models Tested with Documentary Data” (American Antiquity 54, 1989); “Aztec Arithmetic Revisited: Land-Area Algorithms and Acolhua Congruence Arithmetic,” with María del Carmen Jorge y Jorge (Science 320, 2008); “Mathematical Accuracy of Aztec Land Surveys Assessed from Records in the Codex Vergara,” with María del Carmen Jorge y Jorge, C. E. Garza-Hume, and Arturo Olvera (Proceedings of the National Academy CO N T R I B U T O R S


of Sciences USA, August 2011); and a facsimile edition of the Códice Vergara with Frederic Hicks (National Autonomous University of Mexico, Institute of Research in Applied Mathematics and Systems, and Foundation for the Development of Archives and Libraries in Mexico, 2012).




Acapioltzin, 49, 56(n21) Achichilacachocan, 82 Acoculco, 190 Acolhua, Acolhua region, 7, 53, 120, 129, 138, 246; land measurements, 149–52; in Mapa Quinatzin, 117–21; mathematics, 153–56; political-legal system in, 75–76; scientific information in, 14, 147, 148, 160–61; soil science, 156–60; and Tepanec Wars, 67, 68; Texcoco’s role in, 3, 65; tribute system in, 74, 84 Acolhuacan (Coatlichan), 53, 85, 142(n4) Acolman, 3, 6, 67, 68, 73, 74, 140, 142(n4); as subject city, 70, 76, 78, 122 Acosta, Juan de, 95 Aculhua, 222, 227 Acuña, René, 6 adultery, of Chalchiuhnenetzin, 105–6, 113(n22) agriculture, 149, 169 agro-hydrology, 147 Ahuatepec, 81 Ahuitzotl, 106 Alexander VI, Pope, 169 alliances, 2–3, 12; marriage, 126–17, 139, 140–41, 223, 224; Tepanec, 67, 85; Tepechpan, 122–23, 124, 125 Alonso, Marcos Matías, 149 alphabetic texts, 28, 29, 31; specialized language in, 46–47. See also various codices

Alva, Bartolomé de, 15, 201, 202–3, 214–15(n2); intellectual community of, 204, 205; play translations by, 209–13, 216(n11, n12) Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 15, 31, 32, 49, 65, 68, 70, 74, 84, 85, 94, 95, 105, 111(n5), 113(n20), 119, 147, 196(n9), 201–3, 210, 214–15(n2), 237(n16), 239(n28, n30, n39); chronology developed by, 232–33; and Códice Xolotl, 28, 29, 33, 39, 41, 43, 44, 55(n14); family lineage of, 233–34, 236(n2); genealogical histories of, 222–28; Historia de la nación Chichimeca, 16, 103, 113(n16), 220, 239–40(n39); as historiographer/historian, 51–52, 206–9, 215(n4), 230–32, 235–36, 245–47, 253–55; inheritance rights, 228–29; intellectual community of, 204, 205; manuscripts by, 213–14, 215(n6), 216(n13); on Nezahualcoyotl, 66, 69, 101, 102, 123, 126, 129, 243–44, 249–53, 257(n16); on Nezahualpilli’s successor, 106–8, 114(n29, n31, n32); on nobility, 16, 17, 111(n6), 112(n9), 114(n29, n30); Obras históricas, 219–20, 236, 240(n42); on regional politics, 76, 121; on rulers, 34,

36, 138; and San Juan Teotihuacan, 228–29, lineages in, 98, 107, 112(n9), 142(n5); and 238(n26); on Tepanec Wars, 97, 99; on Tepanec Wars, 96–97, 99; Tezozomoc of, Texcoco’s tributary and subject cities, 75, 77, 47–48; war against, 66, 123–24 78, 79–80(table), 81, 82–83, 86(n8) Azcatlxochitl, 224 Alvarado, Pedro, 193 Azcaxochitl, 137 Alvarado Tezozomoc, Hernando (Fernando), Azcaxochitzin, 107 202, 214–15(n2), 249; Crónica mexicana, Aztaquemecan, 81 247–48 Aztec empire, 2, 10, 17, 63, 64, 120, 125, 168; Americas, and Spanish empire, 167–68 early research on, 25–27; legal structure, Amescua, Antonio Mira d’, The Animal 73–74; tribute system, 70–73 Prophet and the Fortunate Patricide, 203, 209, 210 “Bancroft Dialogues, The,” 94 Anahuac, 207, 222, 226, 237(n16). See also Bancroft Library, Alva’s play translations Texcoco in, 213 Anales de Cuauhtitlan, 33, 43, 94; on HuexotlaBarcelos, Conde de, Crónica de 1344, 221 Texcoco relations, 129–30; orality of, 47–48 Barlow, Robert, 5, 6, 63 Anales de Tlatelolco, 3, 142(n5) Baudot, Georges, 9 Anawalt, Patricia R., 63 Benavente, Toribio de. See Motolinia Andrews, J. Richard, 29 Benavides, Diego de, 221–22, 234 Animal Prophet and the Fortunate Patricide, Berdan, Frances, 12, 63 The (Amescua), 203, 209, 210 Bible Society Library (Cambridge Annals of Cuauhtitlan, 3, 11–12(n1), 103, 108, University), Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s manu112(n9); Nezahualcoyotl in, 67, 68, 99–100, scripts in, 213–14, 216(n13) 113(n14), 246–47; on Nezahualpilli, 105, Bierhorst, John, 8, 9, 10 113(n19); tribute system, 77, 78, 79(table), 81 Blanton, Richard, 12, 27, 28, 63 Anónimo Mexicano, and Códice Xolotl, 33, 39, Blue Green Woman. See Matlalcihuatzin 40, 41 Boone, Elizabeth Hill, 12, 63 Antwerp, 166 Boturini Benaduci, Lorenzo, 4 Apologética (Las Casas), 168 Brotherston, Gordon, 10 archaeology, 6–7, 122 Brumfiel, Elizabeth, 7, 28 arithmetic, Acolhua, 152–56 Brutus, 225 assassinations, 48, 65, 126; Maxtla’s attempts at, Bustamante, Carlos María, 4, 11, 235 252–53; of Tencoyotzin I, 123–24 Bustamante, Jesús, 204 astrology, 147 astronomy, 147 cabacera-sujeto system, 77, 84 Atalaya de Coronicas (Martínez), 221 Cacama, 96, 113(n21), 187; as Nezahualpilli’s Atenco, 81 successor, 104–5, 106–9, 226–27 Atlappolco, 73, 87(n10) cacicazgos (chiefdoms), 239(n31); defense of, Atotonilco, 70 228–29, 238(n26) Atzacualco, 107 Calderón de la Barca, Pedro, The Great Theater Aubin, Joseph Maurius Alexis, 5 of the World, 203, 209, 210–12 Axapochco, 81 calpixque system, 74, 78, 81, 83, 84 Axayaca, Alonso, 41 Cambridge University, Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Axayacatl, 71, 72, 106; and Nezahualpilli, 103, manuscripts in, 213–14, 216(n13) 104, 105, 113(n19) Campbell, R. Joe, 29 axis mundi, trees as, 250 Campos, Rubén, 5, 6 Axoquentzin, 102 Cantares mexicanos: Songs of the Aztecs, 8, 113(n17) Azcapotzalco, 2, 32, 53, 70, 72, 73, 74, 85, 87(n10), Carlos de Texcoco. See Chichimecatecuhtli, 222; Mexica defeat of, 68, 120; noble Carlos



Carlos V. See Charles V Carochi, Horacio, 94, 106, 203, 210, 214 Carrasco, Pedro, 12, 63, 64, 70, 111(n3) Caso, Alfonso, 5, 6 Castile: protection of indigenous peoples by, 170–71; and rights to New World, 169–70 Castillo Farreras, Victor, 7, 149 Catalogo real y genealogico de España (Méndez de Silva), 221 Catlenihco, 224 Cempoala, 3, 6, 69, 74; tributary system, 72, 76, 81 Chalca, 83, 93, 113(n14) Chalchiuhnenetzin, 109, 113(n22), 224; execution of, 105–6 Chalchiuhtlatonactzin, 97 Chalco, 3, 31, 52, 67, 70, 71, 72, 74, 82 Charles V (Carlos V), 170, 171, 178, 179(n5); in Ghent, 165–66; Ghent rebellion, 166–67 Charlton, Cynthia Otis, 7 Charlton, Thomas, 7, 28 Chavero, Alfredo, 5 Chiauhtla, 3, 75, 136, 141; rulers of, 121, 138–39 Chichimecatecuhtli, Carlos, 195, 239(n32); arrest and interrogation of, 172–73; conspiracy of, 173–74, 178, 189; as tlatoani, 184–85; trial and execution of, 14–15, 171–72, 175–77, 183–84, 188, 229 Chichimecatecuhtli, Francisco, 172 Chichimecs, 119, 141, 224; cozoyahualolli as marker of, 33, 130; in Tepetlaoztoc, 134, 136; in Texcoco, 2, 65–66, 222 Chiconauhtla, 68, 78, 121, 122, 172, 173 Chiconcuauh, 222 Chimalhuacan, 85, 121 Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, Domingo Francisco, 3, 69, 94, 214(n2) Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, Domingo de San Antón Muñón, 202, 230 Chimalpopoca, 67, 97, 99, 125, 252 Chinampa, 72 Christianity, 226; Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin and, 189–90; and native history, 243, 245; and native religion, 174–75, 177–78, 183; Spanish empire and, 168, 169–70 chronology, in Nahua texts, 232–33 Cihuacuecuenotzin, 97, 99, 111(n6), 112(n9) Cihuatecpan, 7

Cihuaxochitl, 222 Çincalco, 248 Cinteutl, priests of, 44–46 Çitlaltepec, 73, 74, 87(n10) city-states, 9, 120, 130; colonial period, 12–13. See also by name Ciudad Rodrigo, Antonio de, 172, 176 civil engineering, 147 civil wars, 13, 66, 112(n10); HuexotzincoTexcoco, 103–4; Tepanec Wars as, 67, 96–100 Clavijero, Francisco Xavier, 4, 203, 235 Cline, Howard, 28, 149, 184, 191 clothing, as status markers, 119, 130, 133–34, 136 Coanacoch, Pedro de Alvarado, 187, 192, 193 Coanacochtli (Coanacochtzin), 108, 110, 187, 226, 227, 240(n40) Coanacochtzin. See Coanacochtli Coatepec, 3, 34, 66, 67, 68, 81 coatequitl (public works), 72–73 Coatlichan, 65, 66, 67, 68, 73, 74, 75, 78, 85, 100 Coatlinchan, 34, 121, 129, 141 Cocopin, as Tepetlaoztoc ruler, 134, 136, 137, 138 Cocopintzin, 121 Codex Azcatitlan, 3 Codex Badianus, 160 Codex en Cruz, 3, 6, 160; on Tepetlaoztoc’s rulers, 136, 137–38 Codex Ixtlilxochitl, 8 Codex Kingsborough, 161; on Tepetlaoztoc rulers 134–36, 137 Codex Mendoza, 63, 74, 75; depictions of Tenochtitlan in, 121–22 Codex Mexicanus, 3 Codex San Andrés, 76 Códice de Otlazpan, 153 Códice de Santa María Asunción (CSMA), 14, 148; land measurements in, 149–53; mathematics in, 153–56; soil science, 156–60 Códice de Tepetlaoztoc, 3, 6 Códice de Xicotepec, 3, 6, 32, 34, 55(n11), 139; funeral scenes in, 35–37 Códice Ixtlilxochitl, 2, 6, 8 codices, 2, 3, 95. See also by name Códice Vergara (CV), 7, 14, 148; land measurements in, 149–53; mathematics in, 153–56; soil science in, 156–60 Códice Xolotl (Codex Xolotl), 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 28, 29, 47, 55(n8), 56(n22, n23), 65, 66, 94, 119,



122, 129, 192; Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s translation of, 43, 55(n14), 208, 231; funeral scenes in, 35–37, 38; historiography of, 52–53; on ruling lineages, 97, 98; simultaneous succession shown in, 33–35; statecraft in, 53–54; Tepanec Wars, 97, 99; Tezozomoc’s dreams in, 39–42 Cohuatlychan, 99, 112(n11) Colegio Imperial de Santa Cruz de Santiago Tlatelolco, 201, 202, 214(n2) Colhuacan, 69, 70, 71, 73 Compendio histórico del reino de Texcoco (Alva Ixtlilxochitl), 219–20, 224–25, 234, 239–40(n39) conquests, 49; Spanish, 186, 233 conspiracies, of Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli, 173–74, 178, 189, 229 Cortés, Hernán, 172, 187, 234, 240(n40) Cortés del Rey, Bonifacio, Noviliario (Nobiliario) genealogico, 221, 225 Cortés del Rey, Valerio, 221 Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando (Hernando), 1, 3, 96, 107, 108, 109–10, 111(n5), 172, 187, 220, 226, 229, 233, 234, 238(n26); as Nezahualpilli’s successor, 104, 105 cosmology, Nahua, 233, 244–45 cotton: as status marker, 133, 136; as tribute, 34, 35 courts, Aztec legal, 73–74 Coxcox, 52 Coxcoxtzin, 36 Coyoacan, 53, 68, 196(n7) Coyohua, 48 Coyohua legend cycle, 43 Coyouacan, 73, 87(n10) cozoyahualolli (feather work device; headpieces), 33, 35, 130, 136 Creoles, 3, 4, 11; and Nahua history, 206–7 Crónica de 1344 (Barcelos), 221 Crónica mexicana, 3, 249; Moteuczoma in, 247–48 Crónica X, 48, 53 Cruz, Martín de la, 147 CSMA. See Códice de Santa María Asunción Cuatlatlauhcan, 82 Cuauhchinanco, 55(n11), 82, 83 Cuauhcihuatzin (Forest Woman), 97 Cuauhtemoc, 110, 187, 240(n40) Cuauhtitlan, 3, 31, 70, 71, 74, 76



Cuauhtlatzinco, 81 Cuauhtliztactzin, 107–8, 109, 114(n31) Cuauhuacan, 70 Cuatlaeca, 82 Cuetlaxochitl, 222 Cuitlahuac, 68, 72, 109 Culhuacan, 52, 72, 122 cultural mobility, 204 CV. See Códice Vergara dance, historical narrative through, 49, 56(n21) Davies, Nigel, 7, 10, 63 Dean, Carolyn, 205 death bundles, 36 Dibble, Charles, 6, 27, 28, 29 dike, public works project, 72–73 disease, in Texcoco, 187–88, 192 Douglas, Eduardo, In the Palace of Nezahualcoyotl, 8 dreams, relating, 39–42, 250–51 Duby, Georges, 220–21 Durán, Diego, 69, 130 Durand-Forest, Jacqueline de, 6 Echeverría y Veytia, Mariano Fernández de, 4, 203 economy, 25, 27, 122 education, 169 elders, and historical interpretation, 95 encomiendas, 172, 186 Epazoyuca, 69 Estructura politico-territorial del imperio tenochca (Carrasco), 63, 64 executions: of Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli, 14–15, 171–72, 175–77, 183–84, 188, 229; of Chalchiuhnenetzin, 105–6; of Huehue Ixtlilxochitl, 66, 96, 99, 232, 233, 246, 250 exile, 66, 124 Extent of the Empire of the Culhua Mexica, The (Barlow), 63 Fair God or, the Last of the “Tzins: A Tale of the Conquest of Mexico, The (Wallace), 206 families: histories of, 219–20; Ixtlilxochitl, 109–10, 228–29, 233–34; Moctezuma II, 108–9; Nezahualcoyotl’s, 120–21, 136–37, 138; Nezahualpilli’s, 104–8, 111(n6), 113(n20), 114(n29, n30), 172, 174; noble, 93–94, 111(n3),

112(n9), 114(n30), 236(n4, n5); Texcoco’s ruling, 187–88, 192, 193, 222–28 feather work device (cozoyahualolli), depictions of, 33, 35 Felipe IV. See Phillip IV Ferdinand, 170 fields, measurements of, 148, 149–53, 154, 160, 162(n4, n6) Florentine Codex, 2; scientific knowledge in, 147, 160; soil properties in, 156, 157 Francis I, 166 Fuentes, Carlos, Terra Nostra, 10 funeral rites, in Códice Xolotl, 35–37, 38, 39 Galarza, Joaquín, 29 Gamio, Manuel, 5 Garcia, Pablo, 11 Garibay K., Ángel María, 8, 9, 15; on Alva’s play translations, 210, 213, 214; Historia de la literatura náhuatl, 201–2, 205 gender complementarity, 93–94 genealogies, 107, 109, 129, 233: nobility’s concern with, 220–22; in pictorial texts, 231–32, 239(n36); Texcocan ruling, 10, 121, 184, 193, 222–28; Tezozomoc’s, 48, 94 General History of the Things of New Spain (Sahagún), 230 Ghent: Charles V in, 165–66; rebellion in, 14, 15, 166–67 Gibson, Charles, 7, 12, 64, 156, 184; on tribute system, 76–77 gifts, 84, 100. See also tribute Gillespie, Susan, 12, 64 Gillmor, Frances, on Nezahualcoyotl, 27–28 González, Joan, 172 González Obregón, Luís, 183–84 government, Spanish organization of, 186–87 Grammar of the Mexican Language, The (B. Alva and Carochi), 203 Great Theater of the World, The (Calderón de la Barca), 203; Alva’s translation of, 209, 210–12 Guide to Confession (Alva), 203, 209 Harvey, Herbert, 151; on land cadasters, 28–29 head cloth, and change of status, 36–37 headpieces. See cozoyahualolli hearts, as tribute, 43 heresy: punishment for, 177–78, 183; trials for, 14, 174–75, 183

Hicks, Frederic, 7, 28; on Aztec empire, 63, 71–72 Histoire du Mechique, 3 Historia antigua de México (Clavijero), 4 Historia de la literatura náhuatl (Garibay K.), 201–2, 205, 214, 222–23 Historia de la nación Chichimeca (Alva Ixtlilxochitl), 16, 103, 113(n16), 207, 220, 226, 239–40(n39); Nezahuacoyotl in, 244, 249–54; noble relations in, 223–24, 228 Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, 48–49, 52, 205 historicity, of Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s work, 245–49 historiography, historiographers, 220; Alva Ixtlilxochitl as, 43–44, 51–52, 203, 206–9, 222, 231–33, 235–36, 245–47, 253–55, 255–56(n2); Alvarado Tezozomoc’s, 247–48; of Códice Xolotl, 52–53; of early Aztec researchers, 25–27; medieval, 234–35; Nahua, 30–31, 44–46; of Texcoco history, 29–30, 31–32, 33–42, 49–50; Western, 50–51 history, 15, 220; Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s sources used in, 230–31; Códice Xolotl as source, 33–42; dynastic, 222–28; language used in, 94–95; Mexican nationalist, 25–26, 235–36; Nahua approach to, 30–31; Nahua chronology and, 232–33; oral presentation, 47–49; pictorial texts and, 28–29; Texcoco, 27–28, 31–32, 204, 207–9, 215(n4); Texcocan sources, 29–30 History of the Conquest of Mexico (Prescott), 4 History of the Kings of Britain (Monmouth), 225 History of the Royal Genealogy of Spain (Richers), 225 Hodge, Mary G., 12, 63, 65, 71 Holy Office of the Inquisition, 32, 183, 191 Huasteca, 49 Huehue Ixtlilxochitl (Ixtlilxochitl Ome Tochtli), 48, 65, 111(n5, n6), 223, 229; execution of, 66, 99, 232, 233, 246, 250; noble relations of, 97, 98; succession, 95–96 Huehue Moctezuma, 67, 68, 71, 83 Huemac, 248 Huetzin, 224 Huexotla, 65, 66, 67, 68, 73, 75, 99, 112(n11); rulers of, 34, 121, 133, 134; succession of, 33, 34; and Texcoco, 129–30, 141; Tlazolyaotzin in, 129–30; tribute system, 76, 78 Huexotzinca, 93



Huexotzincatzin, 107, 114(n30) Huexotzinco, 66, 67, 68, 103, 112–13(n12), 175; and Moctezuma II’s protection, 108–9 Hueypochtlan, 74 Hueytlatoani, 77 Huitzilihuitl (Huitzilihuitzin), 35–36, 52, 66, 97, 105, 106, 125 Huitzilihuitzin. See Huitzilihuitl Huitzilitzin, 36 Humboldt Fragment VI, on Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin, 188, 189, 191 Humboldt Fragment VIII, 149, 156 ICA. See International Congress of Americanists idolatry: punishment for, 177–78; trials for, 14, 174–75, 183 indigenous population: royal protection of, 170–71; Spanish characterizations of, 168–69 Indis, De (Vitoria), 14, 168–69, 171 inheritance rights, protecting, 228–29 inquisition, 32, 183, 191 installation ceremony, in Códice Xolotl, 33–35, 36, 37 Institutional Revolutionary Party. See Partido Revolucionario Institucional intellectual communities: Spanish and Nahua, 202–5; Nahua, 213, 214 intermarriages. See marriages; polygyny International Congress of Americanists (ICA), and Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli’s trial transcription, 183–84 Itzcoatl, 67, 87(n11), 124, 130, 136, 223; and Nezahualcoyotl, 68, 69, 100 Itztapalapan, 73 Ixtlilxochitl, Ixtlilxochitzin, 13, 48, 96, 108, 111(n5), 187, 226, 227. See also Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando Ixtlilxochitl family, 228–29 Ixtlilxochitl Ome Tochtli. See Huehue Ixtlilxochitl Iztacxochitzin (White Flower), 96–97 Iztapalocan, 34, 81 Jiménez Moreno, Wigberto, 5–6, 27 Juana la Loca, 170 Karttunen, Frances, 29



labor service, 7, 30; for public works, 72–73 land, 30, 84; Nezahualcoyotl’s distribution of, 68–69; and noble lineages, 220–21; soil types on, 157–59; Texcocan, 78, 191; Triple Alliance, 70–71, 75 land rod. See tlalcuahuitl land surveys, 191; mathematics in, 153–56; measurement in, 56(n20), 149–53, 160, 162(n4, n6); Texcocan techniques of, 28–29, 147 language: specialized, 46–47; of writers, 94–95 Las Casas, Bartolomé de, 167, 168, 170 Leander, Birgitta, 9 legal system, 26, 75–76; Aztec, 73–74 legends, 47; of rulers, 43–44, 45–46 Leibsohn, Dana, 205 León-Portilla, Miguel, 9, 10, 202, 215(n3) Lesbre, Patrick, 8, 29, 32, 84; on Anales de Cuahutitlan, 47–48 libraries, destruction of, 147 lineages, 111(n3), 237(n10); Moctezuma II’s, 108–9; Nezahualcoyotl’s, 126–27, 184; Nezahualpilli’s, 100–101, 102–3, 104–8; nobility’s concern with, 220–22; noble, 93–94, 112(n9, n10), 114(n30), 125, 126–27, 138, 141, 219–21, 222–28, 230, 231, 236(n1, n4, n5), 237(n12); and Tepanec Wars, 96–100 literary tradition, 1; Nahuatl, 5, 8, 15, 201, 202, 215(n3) llamamiento system, 7 Lockhart, James, 29 Lope de Vega, The Mother of the Best, 203, 209 López, Jerónimo, 178 lords: Acolhua, 117, 118, 120–21, 125; rights to rule, 228–29 Low Countries, 166 Luna, Lorenzo de, 174, 175 Mapa de Metlatoyuca, 55(n11); simultaneous succession shown in, 34, 36, 37 Mapa Quinatzin (Quinatzin Map), 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 52, 56(n23), 84, 134, 208, 231; as historical document, 31, 32; and Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin, 191–92; regional politics and, 13–14, 30, 76, 77; rulership-subordinate imagery in, 117–21, 125, 127, 134, 138–40; and Texcoco, 65, 122, 134; Texcoco legal system, 73–74; on tribute system, 78, 79(table), 81 Mapas de Cuauhtinchan, 52

Mapa Tlotzin (Tlotzin Map), 2, 5, 8, 31, 49, 52, 56(n23), 119, 129, 192, 208, 231–32 maps. See pictorial texts; by name Maria, Queen, and Low Countries, 166, 167 marriages (intermarriages), 120–21; political alliances and, 123, 125, 126–27, 128–29, 138, 139, 140–41; Texcoco noble lineage, 223, 224. See also polygyny Martínez, José Luis, 9 Martínez de Toledo, Alfonso, 221 mathematics, Acolhuan, 28, 147, 152–56, 160–61 Matlalcihuatzin (Blue Green Woman), 66, 97 Matlalxochitl, 66 Matlatzinco, 70, 71 mats. See tepotzicpalli Maxtla, 41, 65, 67, 123, 223, 252–53, 257(n13); and Chalchiuhnenetzin, 105, 106; on Nezahualcoyotl, 99–100 medicine, 147 “Memorial de los pueblos de Tlacopan,” 70, 73 Memoriales (Motolinia), 2, 79(table) “Memorial tetzcocano” (Motolinia), 70, 73, 87(n9); tribute system in, 77, 78, 81 Méndez de Silva, Rodrigo, 221 Mendieta, Gerónimo de, 2 Mendoza, Antonio de, 177, 183, 186, 196(n6), 206 mercantilism, 165 mestizo discourse, 6, 8 metallurgy, 147 metrology, Acolhua, 147, 149–52, 160–61 Mexía, Feranto, 219, 220 Mexicaltzinco, 70, 71 Mexican Revolution, 5 Mexicas, 5, 53, 75; alliances, 66–67, 85; histories, 3, 246; land and tribute system, 71–72; legal system, 73–74; and Nezahualcoyotl, 112–13(n12), 120; rulership, 248–49; Tepanec Wars, 10, 96; and Texcoco, 67–68, 69, 104, 110 México, 173, 174, 176 Mexico City, executions in, 171–72, 183 Mexico Tenochtitlan. See Tenochtitlan Michoacan, 72 Middle Ages: historiography, 234–35; nobility and land tenure, 220–21 migration, 49; in Mapa Quinatzin, 118, 120 Mikulska, Katarzyna, 46

milcocolli: measurements of, 148, 149, 150, 152, 153, 154; soil classification in, 156–57 military service, 72 Mixcoatl (Mixcoatylaylotla; Mixcoatlailotla), Lorenzo, 176 Moctezuma II (Moteucçoma Xocoyotzin; Motecuhzoma II, Moteuczoma), 108, 187, 233, 246, 256(n5); allies of, 121–22; and Cacama, 105, 227; failure of, 247–48, 249 Moctezuma Ilhuicamina (Motecuhzoma I), 72, 140, 233 Mohar Betancourt, Luz María, 6 Molina, Alonso de, 172 Monarquía indiana (Torquemada), 2, 227, 254–55 Monmouth, Geoffrey of, 225 Montesinos, Antonio de, 168 Mother of the Best, The (Lope de Vega), 203, 209 Motolinia (Toribio de Benavente), 1, 32, 69, 74, 84; “Memorial tetzocano,” 70, 73, 77, 78, 81, 87(n9); on Nezahualcoyotl’s family, 120–21; and Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin, 190, 194 Motoliniatzin, 121 Nahua, 209; chronology, 232–33; historical truth, 30–31; intellectual communities, 203–5; literature, 5, 15; writing in, 94–95 Nahua culture, 30; deities in, 244–45; Nezahualcoyotl symbolism, 243–44; in translated plays, 209–13 Nahuatl, 29; Spanish Golden Age plays in, 15, 201, 209–13; writing in, 94–95 narrative structures, 48–49 nationalism, Mexican, 4, 11 Nauhecatzin, 121, 139 New World: Castile (Spanish empire) and, 168–71; protection of indigenous peoples in, 170–71 Nezahualcoyotl, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 26, 36, 37, 43, 50, 78, 81, 93, 95, 96, 97, 112(n10), 130, 137, 220, 223–24, 226, 233, 234, 238(n19), 239(n31), 240(n41), 248–49; alliances, 140–41; Alva Ixtlilxochitl on, 249–54, 255–56(n2), 257(n16); dreams about, 39–41; Gillmor biography on, 27–28; leadership of, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68–69, 112–13(n12), 142(n7); in Mapa Quinatzin palace image, 117–21, 122;



marriages and children of, 100, 101, 126–27, 128, 138–39, 140–41; and Maxtla, 99–100; Mexica support of, 68–69; in Monarquía indiana, 254–55; Nahua symbolism of, 243–44, 257(n10); and Nezahualpilli, 101, 227–28; political-legal control, 75, 87(n12); political philosophy, 53–54; public works projects, 72–73; religious exceptionalism of, 246–47; status markers for, 133, 134; subject cities, 83, 136; succession of, 33, 34, 35; and Tezozomoc, 47–48 Nezahualpilli, 3, 13, 49, 56(n21), 65, 75, 78, 81, 96, 128, 139, 187, 226, 238(n19, n22), 248; ascension of, 100–104, 113(n18, n19, n20); children of, 171, 172, 233–34; in Mapa Quinatzin palace image, 117–21; and Nezahualcoyotl, 227–28; successor to, 104–5, 106–9, 233–34 Nichols, Deborah, 7, 122 Nobiliario genealogico. See Noviliario (Nobiliario) genealogico nobiliarios, 16, 220 nobility, 16, 17, 66, 131, 236(n3); Huexotla, 129–30, 133; lineages, 111(n6), 112(n9, n10), 120, 219, 220–22, 231, 236(n1, n4, n5); marriage alliances, 125, 126–27, 138, 140–41; Moctezuma II’s family, 108–9; Nezahualpilli’s ascension and, 100–104; Nezahualpilli’s successor and, 104–8; political roles, 93–94; rights of, 228–30; during Spanish colonial period, 171–72, 173–74, 186–95; and Tepanec Wars, 96–100; Tepetlaoztoc, 134–38; Texcoco, 117, 118, 132, 192, 219–20, 222–28, 234, 237(n12) Noguez, Xavier, 6 Nonohualcatzin, 108, 114(n32) Nopaltzin, 224, 225, 237(n11) Noviliario (Nobiliario) genealogico (Cortés del Rey), 221 Obras históricas (Alva Ixtlilxochitl), 5, 219–20, 236, 240(n42) Ocotochtli, 66 Offner, Jerome, 7, 11–12, 231; on Aztec empire, 63, 64–65 O’Gorman, Edmundo, 6, 167–68, 215(n6, n7), 220, 232 oligarchy, Mexican, 25, 26 Olmos, Andrés de, 2



Ome Tochtzin, 126–27 orality: of Anales de Cuauhtitlan, 47–48 Otomí, 31 Otompan, 6, 31, 78, 85, 87(n12) Otumba, 121 Otumba Valley, 28 Oxtoticpac (Oztoticpac), 2, 28, 81, 175–76 Oztoticpac. See Oxtoticpac Oztoticpac Lands Map, 149, 150, 161, 191 Oztotlatlauhcan, 82 Pahuatlan, 82, 83 palaces, 83; in Codex Mendoza, 121–22; in Mapa Quinatzin, 117–21 Palerm, Angel, 65 Papaloticpac, 82, 83 Papeles de la Embajada Americana, 149 Papeles de Nueva España (Paso y Troncoso), 5 Parsons, Jeffrey, 7, 28 Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), 25, 26 Paso y Troncoso, Francisco de, 5 Patlachique, Sierra, 157 pedology, Texcocan, 28, 147, 156–61 Peraleda Ixtlilxochitl, Hernado de. See Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de Pesado, José Joaquín, 5 Petlacalco, 74 Phillip IV, 212, 221 pictorial texts, 29, 30, 33, 49, 52, 207, 239(n36); Códice Xolotl, 31, 55(n8), 56(n22); importance of, 11–12, 28; Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin’s commissioning of, 191–92; as ruling class histories, 231–32; specialized language in, 46–47 Pimentel, Antonio Alfonso, 190 Pimentel, Hernando Velazquez, 192–93, 195, 197(n13, n15), 208 Pimentel Ixtlilxochitl, Hernando, 1, 2 Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin (Tlahuilotzin), Antonio, 15, 196(n4, n9), 197(n15); as tlatoani of Texcoco, 185–86, 188–95 plays, Spanish Golden Age, 15, 201, 203, 209–13, 216(n11) Pochotl, 224 poetry, Nahuatl, 8, 9, 10 political hierarchy: Mexica, 71–72; and public works maintenance, 83–84; Texcoco in, 75–76; tributary system, 77–78

political obligations: within Aztec empire, 71–72, 121; Texcoco and, 76–77 political subdivisions, 74–75 political system, 2, 30, 66, 87(n11), 125; Nezahualcoyotl’s, 53–54, 87(n12); Prehispanic, 77–78; regional, 3, 12, 13–14, 76–77; Triple Alliance, 70–72; women’s roles in, 93–94 polygyny (intermarriages), 13, 93–94; and Nezahualpilli’s ascension, 100–104; and Nezahualpilli’s successor, 104–9; and Tepanec Wars, 96–100; and warfare, 95–96 Pomar, Juan Bautista, 68, 76, 94, 119, 141, 147, 208; on Nezahualpilli, 106, 113(n18); texts by, 2, 8, 31, 216(n13) Portugal, 169 Poyauhtecatl (Mount Tlaloc), 247 Prescott, William H., 4–5, 203 PRI. See Partido Revolucionario Institucional priests, 56(n18, n19); as Totonac historiographers, 44–46 Primeros memoriales (Sahagún), 2, 130; rulers listed in, 131–33 prophecy, of Spanish conquest, 226, 227–28, 247, 248 public works (coatequitl): obligations to, 72–73; subject cities, 82–83; tlatoani maintenance of, 83–84, 87(n13) Quaquauhtzin I, 124, 125, 126, 128, 140, 142(n5) Quaquauhtzin II, 127–28 Quauhchinanco, 121, 139 Quauhtitlan, 73, 87(n10) Quauhtlatzacuilotzin, 121, 138–39 Quecholtecpantzin, 121 Quetzalcoatl, 4, 226, 238(n19), 251 Quetzalmemalitzin, 121, 140, 142(n10), 239(n31) Quetzalpaintzin, 121, 139 Quinatzin (Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin), 2, 65, 224, 227, 233, 137(n11), 238(n22) Quinatzin Map. See Mapa Quinatzin Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin. See Quinatzin Ramírez, José Fernando, 5 Ramírez Collection, Cadastral Fragment of, 149, 156 rebellions, 178; in Ghent, 166–67 Rebollo, Juan, 176 Relación de Chiconauhtla, 122

Relación de Chimalhuacan, 140 Relación de la Nueva España (Zorita), 230 Relación del señorio de Teotihuacan, 140 Relaciones geográficas del siglo XVI: México, 3, 6, 139–40 Relación geográfica de Acolman, 76, 140 Relación geográfica de Cempoala, 69 Relación geográfica de Epazoyuca, 69 Relación geográfica de San Juan Teotihuacan, 69 Relación geográfica de Tepechpan, 122 Relación geográfica de Texcoco (Pomar), 2, 8, 68 Relación sucinta en forma de memorial (Alva Ixtlilxochitl), 220, 227–28 religion: and histories, 246–47; native, 174–75, 177–78, 183, 189, 244–45 religiosity: of Moteucozoma, 247–48; of Nezahualcoyotl, 246–47, 250, 252 Richers, Thomas, 225 Roman Catholic Church, 209; heresy against, 174–75; opposition to, 172–73; and Spanish empire, 169–70 Romances de los señores de la Nueva España, 8 royal houses, 50, 221. See also rulership, rulers rulership, rulers, 50, 78, 111(n3), 131, 238(n22), 239(n29); Huexotla, 129–30; intermarriage and, 120–21, 126–27; legends of, 43–44, 45–46; markers of, 133–34; Mexica vs. Acolhua, 248–49; Nezahualpilli’s, 100–104; noble rights to, 228–29, 230; polygyny of, 96–97; special powers of, 253, 254; succession and ranking of, 33–35, 36, 104–6; Tepechpan, 123–25; Tepetlaoztoc, 134–38; Texcoco, 66, 117–21, 132, 172, 174, 184–86, 187–95, 231, 239(n32); theatrical interpretation of, 211–13 sacredness, of rulers’ power, 119–20 sacrifices, 67, 175, 178 Sahagún, Bernardino de, 142(n8), 147, 176, 230; Primeros memoriales, 2, 130, 134 Salazar, Gonzalo de, 148 San Andrés, 76 Sanders, William T., 6–7, 28 San Jerónimo (Tepetlaoztoc), 157 San Juan Teotihuacan, defense of, 228–29, 238(n26) Santa María Asunción (Tepetlaoztoc), 157 Santamaria Novillo, Carlos, 32 Schroeder, Susan, 230 science, 14; Texcocan, 28–29, 147, 149–60



Segala, Amos, 10 Tayauh, 67 seigniorial rights, 220 Techotlalatzin, 39, 227; funeral of, 35, 36, 37, 38 shrines, Prehispanic, 175 Tecpilpan, 69 Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos, 3, 4, 11, 203, Temascalapan (Temazcalapan): political 206–7, 235 obligations, 71, 72, 75–76 Smith, Michael E., 12, 63 Temictzin, 125, 128–29 soil science, Acolhuan, 28, 147, 156–60 temples, 83, 175 songs, 113(n17); in historical narraTemplo Mayor, 83 tives, 47, 49, 56(n21); Nahuatl, 9, 10; of Tenayuca, 73, 74, 75, 122 Nezahualpilli’story, 101, 102 Tenocha empire, 64, 97, 161 sovereignty, Spanish, 170, 171–72 Tenochtitlan, 2, 3, 25, 52, 74, 142(n9), 186; Spain, importance of genealogy in, 221–22, 225 allies of, 121–22; and Aztec empire, 64, 85; Spaniards, 14, 30, 84, 86, 87(n13); alliances with, dominance of, 65, 71; historic sources from, 3, 109–10; and Texcoca-Mexica war, 104–5 3, 30, 31; land and tribute systems, 69, 71, Spanish colonial period: histories written 72, 73, 75; and Nezahualpilli, 101, 103, 104; during, 8, 11, 245–49; local government noble lineages in, 97, 98, 105; rulership, during, 186–87; nobility during, 171–74, 178, 130, 131; Spanish colonial government in, 187–95; in Texcoco history, 31–32; Triple 187, 196(n6); Tepanec War, 10, 67, 99; and Alliance in, 12–13 Tepechpan, 122–23, 124, 125; and Texcoco, 99, Spanish conquest, 186, 187, 233; native proph105, 128–29; tribute system, 76, 86–87(n8); ecy of, 226, 227–28, 247, 248 Triple Alliance, 12, 13, 63, 70, 85, 120 Spanish empire, 165, 172, 179(n5), 190; and Tencoyotzin I, assassination of, 123–24 Indian rights, 168–69; internal politics, Tencoyotzin II, 126–27 14–15; and rights to New World, 167–68, Teotihuacan, 3, 6, 7, 68, 78, 121, 140, 239(n31); 169–70 Nezahualcoyotl and, 69, 87(n12) Spanish Golden Age, plays of, 15, 201, 203, Teotihuacan Valley, 6, 7, 28, 83 209–13, 216(n11) “Teotlan Cuextecayotl,” 49 Spanish language, 95 Tepaneca, Tepanecs, 66, 83, 97, 222, 223; alliSpitler, Susan, 8 ance with Mexica, 66–67, 85 statecraft, in Códice Xolotl, 54 Tepanec-Acolhuacan war, 68, 69 status: change of, 36–37, 130; cozoyahualolli as Tepanec-Mexica war, 67–68, 85 marker of, 33–34 Tepanec Wars, 10, 13, 66, 67–68, 120, 129; Storia antica del Messico (Clavijero), 4 polygyny and, 96–100 Stresser-Péan, Guy, 6, 31–32 Tepanouayan, 73, 87(n10) subject cities, 87(n10); Ghent as, 166–67; Tepeapulco, 34 obligations owed by, 83–84; Tepechpan as, Tepechan, 73 122–23, 125–26; Texcoco’s, 78–84, 134, 136, Tepechpan, 3, 6, 30, 68, 74, 140; political 141; tribute system and, 77–78 obligations, 71, 72; ruling lineages in, 101, succession, 13; rites of, 36–37; simultaneous, 142(n5); and Temazcalapan, 75–76; as sub33–34, 35, 36 ject city, 70, 122–23, 124, 125, 126–28 Sumaria relación de las cosas de la Nueva Tepechpan v. Temascalapa, 86 España (Alva Ixtlilxochitl), 222, 230 Tepepolco, 130 surveying techniques, Texcocan, 28–29, 147, Tepepulco, 2, 6, 81 149–56, 160 Tepetlaoztoc, 7, 29, 66, 74, 148, 160; rulers of, 34, 121, 134–38; soil taxonomies for, 157–58; Tacuba, 173, 174, 176 as Tenochtitlan tributary, 70, 122 Tavárez, David, on Carlos Tepexic, 73, 87(n10) Chichimecatecuhtli, 184–85 Tepeyacac, 72 taxation: Spanish empire, 166 Tepeyollotl, 251



tepotzicpalli (mats), as signs of rulership, 119, 130, 136 Tepotzotlan, 73, 87(n10) Tequistlan, 68 Terra Nostra (Fuentes), 10 Tetitlan, 81 Tetlahuehuetzquititzin, 107–8, 109 Tetlahuetzquintzin, Pedro, 172, 174 Tetlanexco, 36, 37 Tetliztacan, 82 Tetzauhpiltzintli, 102–3 Tetzcapoctzin, 121 Texcoco (Tetzcoco, Tezcoco), 1, 2, 25, 47, 94, 110, 112(n11), 147; dominance of, 64–65; historical research potential on, 31–32; history of, 69, 204, 207–9; and Huexotla, 129–30; legal system, 26, 73–74; in Mapa Quinatzin, 117–21, 125; native religion in, 174–75; Nezahualcoyotl as leader of, 68–69, 100; political position of, 13–14, 65–66, 76–77; polygyny and warfare in, 95–96; public works projects, 72, 83–84; ruling lineage/dynasty, 93–94, 132, 133–34, 184–86, 187–95, 220, 222–28, 231, 236(n2), 237(n11, n12), 239(n32); subject cities, 75–76, 77–84, 134–41; and Tenochtitlan, 71, 99, 128–29; Tepanec Wars, 96–100; and Tepechpan, 122–23, 126–27; tributary system, 72, 74–75, 83–84, 86–87(n8); Triple Alliance, 12, 13, 63, 64, 70, 85–86, 172; warfare, 67–68, 103–4; in Western historiography, 50–51 Texcoco Council of Music, Arts, and Sciences, 50 Texcoco v. Huexotla, 86 texts, 111(n4); colonial period, 12–13; cultural mobility and, 203–4; pictorial and alphabetic, 1–2, 3, 28. See also alphabetic texts; pictorial texts; various codices Teyatzin, 223 Tezapili, 174 Tezcatlipoca, 251, 252 Tezcoco en los últimos tiempos de sus antiguas reyes (Bustamante), 4 Tezoyocan, 74 Tezoyucan, 70, 141 Tezozomoc, 2, 30, 34, 74, 85, 93, 94, 99, 223, 227, 256(n9), 257(n10); chronicles of, 69, 112(n9); dreams of, 39–42, 250–51; and Nezahualcoyotl, 47–48, 53, 100, 250–51;

and noble lineages, 96–97, 100, 112(n10), 142(n5); as ruler, 65, 66–67 Tezozomoctzin, 121 theater, Spanish Golden Age, 15, 201, 203, 209–13, 216(n11) Thomas, St., 4 Thouvenot, Marc, 6, 29 time, Nahua concept of, 233 Tira de Tepechpan, 3, 6, 8–9, 30, 101, 142(n9); political alliances in, 123–27; Quaquauhtzin II, 127–28 Tizayocan, 81 Tlacaelel, 67, 69, 106, 109 Tlacahuepantli, 174 Tlacateotzin, 67 Tlacopan, 52, 67, 87(n10); and Nezahualcoyotl, 69, 128–29; and Nezahualpilli’s lineage, 101, 103; and Tenochtitlan, 71, 121; tribute system, 72, 73, 74–75, 84, 86–87(n8); Triple Alliance, 12, 13, 63, 64, 70, 85–86, 120 Tlacoyehuatzin, 107 Tlacuilotepec, 82, 83 Tlaçuivayan, 73, 87(n10) tlahuelmantli sections, 150, 151–52, 157 Tlahuexolotl, 103 tlalcuahuitl (land rod), 149, 151, 153 Tlalhuic, 72 Tlalintzin, 121 Tlaloc, 175, 247 Tlaloc, Mount. See Poyauhtecatl Tlanahuacatzin, 34 Tlapechhuacan, 81 Tlaquilpa, 69 Tlatelolca, 53, 54, 66 Tlatelolco, 53, 74, 85, 99; Tepanec Wars, 67, 99 tlatoani system, 75, 77, 78, 81; public works maintenance, 83–84, 87(n13); Spanish colonial period and, 186–87, 188–95; theatrical interpretation of, 211–13 Tlaxcala, 66, 67, 68, 196(n7); Nezahualcoyotl in, 103, 112–13(n12) Tlaxcalteca, 93, 186 Tlazolyaotzin, 121, 129–30, 134 Tlecoyotl, 103 Tlilcuechahuac, 224 Tliliuhquitepetl, 103 Tlilpotonqui, 137–38 Tlotzin, 233, 237(n11) Tlotzin Map. See Mapa Tlotzin



Tochpilli, 66 Tolantzinco (Tollantzinco), 82, 83, 85, 121 Tollan, 47, 224 Tollantzinco. See Tolantzinco Toltecs, 2, 4, 138, 141, 224 Toltitlan, 70, 73, 87(n10) Topiltzin, 224, 234, 240(n41) Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, 233 Toribio de Benavente. See Motolinia Torquemada, Juan de, 2, 31, 32, 34, 56(n16), 65, 69, 86–87(n8), 94, 95, 111(n6), 112(n9), 114(n30), 227; and Códice Xolotl, 29, 33, 39, 40, 41; on Nezahualcoyotl, 128–29, 254–55; on Nezahualpilli’s ascension, 101, 102, 113(n18); on subject cities, 78, 80(table), 82–83; on Totonac historiography, 43, 44–46, 56(n18) Totonacs, 43, 56(n18, n19); as historiographers, 44–46 Totoquihuatzin, 128, 129 Townsend, Richard, 65 Tozantzin, 34 trees, as axis mundi, 250 trial, of Carlos Chichimecatecuhtli, 14–15, 171–72, 175–77, 183–84, 188, 229 tribute, tributary system, 7, 30, 43, 68, 73, 74–75, 87(n10), 148; imagery of, 34, 35; public works maintenance, 83–84; regional variations in, 75–77; subject towns and, 82–83; Tenochtitlan and, 71, 122; Texcoco’s, 77–78, 79–81, 191; Triple Alliance, 70–72, 85–86, 86–87(n8) Triple Alliance, 30, 69, 85–86, 120, 172; colonial views of, 12–13; scholarship on, 63–64; tribute and land system, 70–72, 77 Tula, 173, 174, 176 Tulantzinco, 122 turquoise diadem. See xihuitzolli Tzacuala, 69 tziuhcoatl, 35–36, 37 Tzompanco, 73, 87(n10) Umberger, Emily, 12, 63 Umeacatl, 43 Valle Pérez, Perla, 6, 29 Vázquez de Vergara, Pedro, 148 Velásquez de Salazar, Juan, 148 Velazco, Salvador, 8, 243 Vigil, José María, 5 Vitoria, Francisco de, 170; De indis, 14, 168–69, 171



Wallace, Lew, The Fair God, 206 War of Mixtón, 178 warriors: in Mexica campaigns, 72–73; in Tepanec-Mexica war, 67–68 wars, warfare, 13, 35, 36, 66, 69, 72, 178; against Azcapotzalco, 123–24; between Nezahualcoyotl and Tezozomoc, 48, 53; Nezahualpilli’s ascension and, 103–4; polygyny and, 95–97; Spanish conquest and, 104–5; Tepanec-Mexica, 67–68. See also Tepanec Wars White Flower. See Iztacxochitzin Whittaker, Gordon, 29 will, Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin’s, 188–91, 192–94, 196(n9) Wolf, Eric R., 65 women, political roles of, 93–94 worship, native, 174–75, 177–78, 189 Xalatlauhco, 73, 87(n10) Xaltocan, 81, 222 Xatontan, 43 Xicotepec, 37, 55(n11), 82, 83, 121, 139 Xihuitlpopoca, 43 xihuitzolli (turquoise diadem), 124, 127, 130, 142(n9) Xiuhtlaltzin, 224 Xochimilco, 68, 70, 72 Xochiquetzaltzin, 49–50 Xolotl, 1, 2, 10, 65, 220, 222, 223, 227, 234, 237(n11); as founding ancestor, 224–25, 231, 237(n13), 240(n41) Yacanex, 66 Yancuiltzin, 66 Yanhuitlán, 178 Yaonizi, 174 Yaotzin, accession, 130–31 Yotontzin, 108 Yoyontzin, Jorge, 172 Yzcutecatl, Pedro, 175 Zacancatlyaomitl, 97 Zacatlan, 43 Zorita, Alonso de, 2, 167; Relación de la Nueva España, 230 Zumárraga, Juan de, 172, 174, 175, 176, 177, 183