Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives

Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives


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Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives presents an in-depth, highly nuanced historical understanding of this major indigenous Mesoamerican city from the conquest through the present. The book argues for the need to revise conclusions of past scholarship on familiar topics, deals with current debates that derive from differences in the way scholars view abundant and diverse iconographic and alphabetic sources, and proposes a new look at Texcocan history and culture from different academic disciplines.

Contributors address some of the most pressing issues in Texcocan studies and bring new ones to light: the role of Texcoco in the Aztec empire, the construction and transformation of Prehispanic history in the colonial period, the continuity and transformation of indigenous culture and politics after the conquest, and the nature and importance of iconographic and alphabetic texts that originated in this city-state, such as the Codex Xolotl, the Mapa Quinatzin, and Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s chronicles. Multiple scholarly perspectives and methodological approaches offer alternative paradigms of research and open a needed dialogue among disciplines—social, political, literary, and art history, as well as the history of science.

This comprehensive overview of Prehispanic and colonial Texcoco will be of interest to Mesoamerican scholars in the social sciences and humanities.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781607322832
Publisher: University Press of Colorado
Publication date: 06/01/2014
Edition description: 1
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jongsoo Lee is an associate professor in the Department of World Languages, Literature, and Cultures at the University of North Texas. He specializes in the study of Prehispanic and colonial Mexico and he is the author of The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics (University of New Mexico Press, 2008). Galen Brokaw is associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Montana State University. He specializes in indigenous American cultural studies focusing on Mesoamerica and the Andes. He is the author of A History of the Khipu (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

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Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives

By Jongsoo Lee, Galen Brokaw

University Press of Colorado

Copyright © 2014 University Press of Colorado
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60732-284-9


Texcocan Studies Past and Present

DOI: 10.5876_9781607322849.c000


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 seventeenth-century 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 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 Monarquia 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, 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 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 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, 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 Stresser-Pean, 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 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.


Excerpted from Texcoco by Jongsoo Lee, Galen Brokaw. Copyright © 2014 University Press of Colorado. Excerpted by permission of University Press of Colorado.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures vii

List of Tables ix

Acknowledgments xi

1 Texcocan Studies Past and Present Jongsoo Lee Galen Brokaw 1

2 Improving Western Historiography of Texcoco Jerome A. Offner 25

3 The Aztec Triple Alliance: A Colonial Transformation of the Prehispanic Political and Tributary System Jongsoo Lee 63

4 Polygyny and the Divided Altepetl: The Tetzcocan Key to Pre-conquest Nahua Politics Camilla Townsend 93

5 The Mapa Quinatzin and Texcoco's Ideal Subordinate Lords Lori Boornazian Diel 117

6 Evidence of Acolhua Science in Pictorial Land Records Barbara J. Williams nice K. Pierce 147

7 Don Carlos de Tezcoco and the Universal Rights of Emperor Carlos V Ethelia Ruiz Medrano 165

8 Bevond the Burned Stake: The Rule of Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin in Tetzcoeo, 1540-45 Bradley Benton 183

9 The Alva Ixtlilxochitl Brothers and the Nahua Intellectual Community Amber Brian 201

10 Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl's Texcocan Dynasty: Nobility, Genealogy, and Historiography Pablo Garcia Loaeza 219

11 The Reinvented Man-God of Colonial Texcoco: Alva Ixtlilxochitl's Nezahualcoyotl Lena Kauffmann 243

List of Contributors 261

Index 265

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