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In a letter dated Mexico City, April 28, 1770, the marques de Moncada, an impoverished Spanish aristocrat then resident in New Spain (colonial Mexico), complained bitterly about his rich colonial father-in-law and the primitive ways of the criollos, or American-born Spaniards. The marques begged his correspondent in France, the comte de Cely, to send him potable wine, books, and drawing materials. To satisfy the Frenchman's curiosity about the New World and its peoples, the marques included with his letter a fragment of a sixteenth-century indigenous pictorial manuscript from central Mexico (Fig. 1). (1)
He wrote: I cannot tell you anything about this country. If you wish to see a sample or token of its antiquity, I send the attached piece of paper with hieroglyphs, which they used to make in the time of Montisuma. The paper is made from cotton and aloe. You will judge for yourself whether they [the indigenous peoples of Mexico] were the barbarians, or we [the Spaniards], when their land, their goods, and their mines were stolen from them. (2)
For Moncada, the indigenous painter's ability to communicate pictorially manifested the "civilization" of New Spain's native peoples at the moment of contact, while the painting itself demonstrated their "antiquity," and thus their prior--presumably just--claim to the land. On the basis of an aesthetic response predicated on an Enlightenment notion of progressive cultural development, but without benefit of an informed reading or, indeed, knowledge of its original context, the Spanish aristocrat intuited the fragment's general intent, if not its specific subject. (3) The post-Conquest Quinatzin Map (Figs. 1-3), of which manuscript Moncada's fragment once formed a part, (4) sought to reveal the deep temporal and cultural roots of an indigenous polity, Acolhuacan, the Acolhua kingdom in the northeastern corner of the Valley of Mexico, and its capital, Tetzcoco. To do so, the manuscript's painter and patron, almost certainly colonial-period descendants of Tetzcoco's pre-Conquest kings, made use of "hieroglyphs," the so-called picture writing of pre-Hispanic central Mexico.
By means of iconic script--"picture writing"--pictorial manuscripts had ordered religious lore as well as the dynastic genealogies, political histories, and cadastres of cities and kings in pre-Hispanic central Mexico. (5) Indigenous rulers and priests had commissioned, painted, read, and guarded these repositories of thought, experience, and economy. Wartime destruction and evangelical fervor during and after the Conquest claimed the lion's share of pre-Hispanic manuscripts. The first colonial century, however, witnessed a last flowering of indigenous manuscript art. (6) Until 1577, when expressly forbidden to so by King Philip II of Spain, for instance, the missionary friars who spearheaded the effort to Christianize New Spain collected and commissioned indigenous-style pictorial manuscripts for purposes of ethnographic research. (7) In part to save their past from oblivion, and in part to secure economic and political advantage whenever and wherever possible, many native individuals and communities likewis e commissioned pictorial manuscripts, such as the Quinatzin Map, re-creating and replacing what had been forfeited to sword and cross.
Whereas Christian missionaries could both collect originals and request copies of every type of manuscript, at least until 1577, indigenous patrons had to be more circumspect. To European eyes, indigenous images almost always harbored idolatry, the seed of apostasy and sedition, and required vigilant supervision, if not outright suppression and destruction. Thus, indigenous patrons looked to the more seemingly secular genres, and they both openly possessed pre-Hispanic examples and ordered or themselves painted copies or adaptations of lost genealogies, histories, and property maps. (8) Like their ancestors, the scions of pre-Hispanic rulers were especially keen patrons. As the descendants of kings, at least in the early colonial period, they could and often did serve as privileged middlemen between the Spanish colonial state and the "Indian" masses whose sweat and tribute sustained it. (9) To justify this privilege, the princes were careful to place their royal blood in evidence by means of pictorial manuscr ipts.
In the Quinaizin Map, an indigenous pictorial history produced, or "re-created," after the fall of the Aztec Empire, we see the pre-Hispanic past from the perspective of the "Indian" living in and shaped by the sixteenth-century colonial present. In the case of Tetzcoco and at least part of its royal family, early and staunch allies of Hernan Cortes and the Spanish, conversion to Christianity and the adoption and adaptation of European culture were reasoned choices made at a time when these were indeed still choices rather than obligations. (10) Indigenous aristocrats had access to the colony's two theoretically if not always actually separate republics, one of indios and the other of espanoles, and its top rung quickly assimilated Spanish ways, becoming a hybrid of Indian fish and Spanish fowl while belonging fully to neither category. Although such ambiguity could and perhaps did cause cultural and psychic dislocation, it also allowed for an implicit redefinition of categories and an elasticity of conceptua l modes that rendered some indigenous aristocrats culturally and often linguistically bilingual.
Early colonial pictorial histories--iconic script texts--reflect the experience of their patrons and painters in their expression of the range of cultural forms and ideological perspectives brought into being by the meeting of the "Old" and "New" Worlds and the colonization and evangelization of the one by the other, including the frequently contrary motivations of class and culture. As suggested in the most recent scholarship on indigenous production in early colonial Spanish America, in order to comprehend a work's fullest range of signification, an interpreter today needs to do two things at once: read in terms of the indigenous systems of meaning inherent in its form and attend to the very public, primarily Spanish, context of production. (11) One might argue that what Barbara E. Mundy has termed the "double-consciousness of the colonized artist" accommodates the pre-Hispanic iconic form to the colonial social function of these manuscripts. (12) In the case of the Quinatzin Map,
an aristocratic commission , the colonized was also the colonizer and thereby potentially enjoyed the benefits both of Spanish power and indigenous literary culture, of Spanish culture and indigenous class privilege. Like its aristocratic patron and painter, the Quinatzin Map had to and could be two things at once: here, "double-consciousness" approximates the "mixed culture" or metissage defined by Serge Gruzinski. (13)
Because manuscripts such as the Quinatzin Map figure the past in iconic script and thus, I believe, through indigenous linguistic tropes, the reader must look beyond the "objective," empirical history of pre-Hispanic names, dates, places, and events--the narrative distilled by earlier manuscript scholarship and written explicitly for Spaniards--to the metaphoric subtext that recasts the history in light of a colonial poetics and politics of ambiguity or metissage. In fact, the only in-depth published studies of the Quinatzin as a whole, in Joseph Marius Alexis Aubin's 1849 Memoires sur la peinture didactique et l'ecriture figurative des anciens mexicains (revised and republished in 1885) and in Jerome Offner's 1983 Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco, read each panel of the manuscript as an independent linear account of pre-Hispanic history. (14) Art historians have investigated the Quinatzin for its stylistic or typological affiliations, but not for the linguistic structure and expressiveness--the cognitive an d ideological textures, perhaps--of its image text. (15) The most recent art historical and ethnohistorical work on the manuscript, however, envisions more sophisticated analyses and interpretations that take into consideration the colonial context, especially indigenous cultural practices under the Spanish and Catholic colonial regime. (16)
I here offer a reading of the entirety of the Quinatzin Map as a coherent yet multivalent linguistic utterance, although, as I will argue below, an utterance constituted from fragments. Furthermore, I situate both the form and the content of the image text within their specific historical matrix of cultures, of classes, and of economic and political interests. In so doing, I refine and expand on earlier, often incomplete, and almost always more literal readings and interpretations. By treating the Quinatzin and its pictorial history as a social representation formed by language and experience, I hope to contribute to ongoing efforts to better comprehend post-Conquest indigenous iconic script texts and the historical conditions that made them possible. As early colonial Mexico's often mutually hostile cultures--and classes--and the processes through which they interacted may be said to anticipate our own increasingly contentious, culturally heteroclite, and image-saturated world, the attempt to interpret its p ictorial discourses will better equip us to engage our own critically. (17)
Painting History in Colonial Tetzcoco
When Hernan Cortes, the "Conqueror" of Mexico, first saw the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan in 1519, the Valley of Mexico was the heartland of Nahua culture. The Nahuas--that is, native speakers of Nahuatl, "something that makes an agreeable sound," by extension, "true speech"--claimed to have descended from nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers, the Chichimecs, literally, "teat-suckling people," who had migrated to the valley from the northwest. (18) According to Nahua historical traditions, the migrants conquered, learned Nahuatl from, intermarried with, and became assimilated with the valley's civilized inhabitants. These the Chichimecs considered to be descended from the Toltecs of Tollan, the "Place of the Reeds," the fabled central Mexican city, a place of divine creation and the cradle of human civilization. (19) Each group of migrants and their mixed-blood progeny ultimately formed a distinct, self-identified ethnic and political unit, resulting in a mosaic of independent and, over time, variously allied alt epemeh ("water-mountains"), or towns. (20)
In 1429-30, three of these ethnic polities, Tenochtitlan of the Mexica people (today Mexico City), Tiacopan of the Tepaneca (now the Tacuba section of the Mexican capital), and Tetzcoco of the Acolhua, formed the Triple Alliance, the last and by far most successful of such tripartite military and political alliances to dominate central Mexico in the Late Postclassic period (ca. 1200-1519 C.E.). (21) By 1519 the Triple Alliance had conquered and was ruling a vast tribute empire, which we now refer to as the Aztec Empire. (22) Because of its military preeminence, Tenochtitlan served as the imperial capital, and its hereditary rulers as emperors. To soothe Acolhua civic and ethnic pride, Tetzcoco's rulers and historians conceived of their city as the empire's cultural capital, the true heir to Toltec civilization. (23) According to the official civic and dynastic histories such as the Quinatzin Map, recorded before and "reproduced" after the Spaniards arrived, the city's Acolhua inhabitants descended in part fro m the first Chichimec nomads to enter the Valley of Mexico and assimilate Toltec language ("true speech"), writing, political organization, religion, and artistic practices. Revered even today, Tetzcoco's most accomplished pre-Hispanic rulers, Nezahualcoyotl ("Fasting Coyote"), the warrior, lawgiver, and poet who reigned from 1431 to 1472, and his almost equally accomplished son and successor, Nezahualpilli ("Fasting Prince," reigned 1472-1515), exemplify the city's achievements. (24) These tlahtoqueh ("they [who] speak regularly," singular, tlahtoani), to use the Nahuatl word for the ruler of an altepetl, have given shape and texture to Acolhua history as envisioned and written from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century. At no time did the Tetzcocan tlahtoqueh and the world they represent figure so poignantly, or with such immediacy of purpose, as in the aftermath of the Spanish Conquest.
Exercising his inquisitorial powers in 1539, Juan de Zumarraga, New Spain's first Catholic bishop, tried Nezahualcoyotl's grandson, Nezahualpilli's son Don Carlos Ometochtzin ("Revered Two Rabbit") Chichimecatecatl ("Chichimec Person") on charges of sedition, concubinage, and apostasy--Carlos had been baptized and raised a Christian--and condemned him to death at the stake. (25) According to Carlos's accusers, among them many close relatives, the prince advocated indigenous self-determination and a return to the old religion. (26) Carlos allegedly claimed for himself the authority of the pre-Conquest rulers from whom he descended, specifically his grandfather Nezahualcoyotl and his father, Nezahualpilli, to both of whom he attributed visionary powers over and above knowledge of the true gods and true religion. (27) As evidence of his inclinations, witnesses at the trial alleged that Carlos owned pre-Hispanic divinatory manuscripts and had commissioned new pictorial manuscripts, apparently divinatory, in pre- Hispanic-style iconic script. (28)
Fearing Bishop Zumarraga, many indigenous nobles in central Mexico, particularly in Tetzcoco, destroyed the pre-Hispanic pictorial genealogies, histories, and maps still in their possession in 1539, after Don Carlos's trial and execution. (29) In spite of the potential risks, some of Carlos's royal relatives in Tetzcoco nevertheless commissioned pinturas, as the Spanish called the manuscripts, almost immediately after his condemnation and execution. In 1966 Howard F. Cline published a mid-sixteenth-century Nahua property map that he had found among the cartographic holdings of the Library of Congress (Fig. 4). (30) Known today as the Oztoticpac Lands Map, the plan explicates the extent and ownership of numerous properties in the vicinity of Tetzcoco, defining each plot as either transferable private property or inalienable patrimonial land tied to the Acolhua royal palace and family. Cline recognized the map's connection to Don Carlos, for it is his lands that are at issue. Painted in 1540, the Oztoticpac La nds Map argues for an indissoluble link between royal blood and royal land. Don Carlos's half brother Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuilotzin commissioned the map in an attempt to retrieve lands that Bishop Zumarraga had confiscated from the apostate and later sold to a Spaniard. Don Antonio and his relatives joined forces with Pedro Vasquez de Vergara, a Spaniard who had had a business partnership with Don Carlos, the alleged rebel against Spanish authority. (31) While Nezahualcoyotl's heirs hoped to demonstrate that the confiscated lands were not private property but royal patrimony, Vergara petitioned for the return of the European fruit trees and grafts that he had provided to Carlos as part of their joint venture.
Within a year or two of the Oztoticpac Lands Map, Don Antonio or other members of the royal family must have commissioned, and may themselves have painted, three extant sixteenth-century, pre-Hispanic-style iconic script histories of pre-Conquest Tetzcoco, the Quinatzin Map (Figs. 1-3), the Codex Xolotl (Fig. 5), and the Tlohtzin Map (Figs. 6-9), all now in the collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. (32) Given their focus on the city and its royal dynasty, especially Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli, and their almost certain provenance in the seventeenth-century collection of Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl (ca. 1578-1650), a mestizo descendant of the Tetzcocan kings, these manuscripts must date to just such a commission: at no other time and in no other place would anyone else have had so compelling an interest in recording, or need to record, the Acolhua past. (33) The litigation map of 1540 argued for the existence of inalienable royal patrimony; the Quinatzin, Tlohtzin, and Codex Xolotl es tablished its historical genesis, and thereby the legitimacy of the royal family and its claims, in an insistently indigenous format. Like the Oztoticpac Lands Map, the three pre-Hispanic-style pictorial histories met new challenges. As the marques de Moncada instinctively sensed in 1770, Tetzcoco's royal patrons and painters crafted a past that could assert indigenous rights in indigenous terms, the very thing that Don Carlos Ometochtzin Chichimecatecatl had purportedly done only a few years earlier, yet allay Spanish fears of apostasy and sedition.
Of the three manuscripts, the Quinatzin Map most subtly transforms the pre-Hispanic past and its "picture writing" into a colonial representation inspired by the "double-consciousness of the colonized." In its form the Quinatzin Map marks itself as part of that past, but any and every obvious assertion of an indigenous autonomy that excluded Spain and its colonists and any and every ostensible reference to past religion had to be excised, and all were. In this way the Quinatzin could communicate to a Spanish audience and in Spanish courts, as the Oztoticpac Lands Map had done in 1540, without compromising either painter or patron. The manuscript also had to communicate to an indigenous audience in indigenous terms, which it does by deploying uniquely indigenous systems of meaning and linguistic tropes. In contrast, works such as the Relaciones de Juan Cano, two reports transliterated and translated about 1531 from iconic script originals, probably pre-Hispanic in date, into alphabetic Spanish-language narrati ves, envisage and accommodate an exclusively Spanish audience. (34) From 1544 in Tetzcoco itself, Don Carlos Ometochtzin Chichimecatecatl's nephew Don Hernando Pimentel Nezahualcoyotzin wrote letters in Castilian Spanish to Charles V and later to Philip II, asserting his family's and city's rights to patrimonial lands. (35)
The Quinatzin purposefully composes an Acolhua royal image in iconic script, and the choice to do so locates the manuscript in the sphere of indigenous discourses and politics. But, as the dramatic structural and typological shifts from one panel to the next indicate, the Quinatzin's painter and patron fragmented and adapted several pre-Hispanic manuscript genres and narratives in order to constitute the new image text, and they did so in deference to the very Spanish and Catholic sensibilities that the indigenous aristocracy publicly assumed and shrewdly negotiated into economic and political privilege. Thus, in spire of its native forms, the Quinatzin is equally part of colonial discourses, and as such it anticipates distinctively colonial, Spanish-dictated cultural and social criteria. Nonetheless, metaphor, the primary trope of Nahua poetry as well as of Nahua aristocratic language, serves as the structuring principle for the new composite image. As I will argue below, the use of "picture writing" and met aphor furthers at one and the same time the "Spanish" expectations and "Indian" economic and political calculation of the colonial-period Nahua aristocracy.
The Quinatzin Map as Historical Reproduction
The Quinatzin Map originally consisted of three rectangular panels of amatl, native fig-bark paper, not cotton and aloe as the marques de Moncada thought. (36) Each panel measures approximately 15 by 173/4 inches (38 by 44 centimeters), and the three were glued together to form one tall, narrow, unified albeit tripartite pictorial field. It is the bottom third of this support and its image text that Moncada sent to the comte tie Cely in France. The vertical tira, or strip format, derives from pre-Conquest precedents, but the Quinatzin's scale and three-panel length suggest that it was meant as a token for intimate display and perusal, whether among friends or in a courtroom, rather than as part of a substantial mural decoration or an accordion-fold book, as would most likely have been the case in the pre-Hispanic period. In the manner of pre-Hispanic tlacuiloqueh, "they (who) write or paint something," or painter-scribes, the Quinatzin's painter primed the paper's surface overall with a thin layer of white li me plaster onto which he then laid vegetable and mineral pigments with a fine brush. (37) Employing a restrained palette of colors in flat, unmodeled passages closed in by an even black outline, the colonial-period artist articulated two-dimensional, composite views of bodies and objects from their most recognizable profiles, and he related one to another according to a principle of hierarchy rather than absolute proportions, all just as his pre-Conquest predecessors would have done (Fig. 13).
Donald Robertson, who pioneered the art historical investigation of post-Conquest indigenous Mexican manuscripts in the United States, believed that the Quinatzin Map and its closely related contemporaries, the Codex Xolotl and the Tiohizin Map--the core works of what he defined as the Tetzcocan school--retained more of pre-Hispanic pictorial style than most other extant sixteenth-century manuscripts from the Valley of Mexico. (38) Robertson distinguished the indigenous from the imported style through the difference between idea or belief on the one hand and image on the other. Whereas the indigenous tlacuilo (singular of tlacuiloqueh) working in the pre-Hispanic manner depicted what he knew or believed to be true rather than what he physically perceived, the sixteenth-century European artist recorded his optical experience of the world, in spite of what he knew to be true. (39) For Robertson, the more the Nahua painter-scribe turned from painting what he knew to what he saw, the greater had been his exposure to European pictorial style and his mastery of its basic principles. Moreover, given the iconic nature of indigenous central Mexican writing, the transition to recording vision as opposed to knowledge in tandem with the introduction of the Roman alphabet separated text from image, further disrupting native categories and motivating changes in native forms. (40)
As the Quinatzin Map and the other so-called Tetzcocan school manuscripts show little influence in their form, technique, and style from the art and culture of the new colonial overlords, they appear (and in the opinion of Robertson are) indigenous, conservative, and fundamentally pre-Hispanic. In contrast, many contemporary manuscripts from elsewhere in central Mexico, such as the Codex Mendoza (ca. 1541) from Tenochtitlan (Fig. 10), exemplify the transformation of indigenous "picture writing" and pictorial manuscripts into European illustrated books. (41) Painted on unprimed European paper and bound in true codex form, manuscripts such as the Codex Mendoza sever the image as such from its earlier function as written language. Furthermore, the Codex Mendoza brings together three distinct types of information: first, from folio 2 recto through 16 verso, a history (the founding of Tenochtitlan and the conquests of its successive rulers); second, a catalogue of tribute paid to Tenochtitlan by its subjects on fo lios 17 verso to 55 recto; and, third and last, from folio 56 verso to 71 recto, an apparently unprecedented ethnography of Mexica life. In short, the Codex Mendoza adapts indigenous pictorial forms and documentary genres to the European format and analytic categories dictated by its putative patron, New Spain's first Spanish viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza. The Tetzcocan manuscripts look antique in pictorial form and manner of expression and, because formally unacculturated, are fully "Indian" and pre-Hispanic, both genuine and true. Even their alphabetic glosses, in Nahuatl written in the Roman alphabet, are, I believe, subsequent and coincidental to the compositions, and they translate as necessary the originally fully pictorial iteration for a later indigenous reader unfamiliar with iconic script. (42)
However faithful, every reproduction or copy of an earlier image or text is at least partially motivated by a need or desire felt in the present in which the patron and / or artist chose to commission or produce it. Recent scholarship on Classical art, for instance, has recognized that Roman copies of Greek sculptures tell us as much if not more about Roman tastes and needs than about the nature and development of Greek art and artists. (43) In pre-Hispanic Nahua, especially imperial Aztec, art, a similar antiquarianism and a conscious manipulation of style and content articulated a genealogy between a "classical" Toltec past and the politically and socially contested Aztec present, justifying and legitimating the new dispensation by visually materializing its innate connection to the old."" In such cases, at least form and style are more calculated choices than either unreflexive ethnic traits or individual artistic inspirations, and together they materially fabricate a history for the object, the artist, an d the patron that effectively erases the actual circumstances of production. Ethnicity and truth value are the "content of the form," to quote Hayden White. (45)
According to its few indigenous-style dates and explanatory glosses, the Quinatzin Map dates to about 1542, twenty-one years after the fall and destruction of the Aztec Empire and its capital, Tenochtitlan. (46) By that time a generation of indigenous aristocrats, primarily the sons of the tlahtoqueh, had been educated, some even raised, in Franciscan monastic schools, where they studied subjects ranging from Latin, Castilian Spanish, and the catechism to the practical and fine arts. In fact, the earliest formal effort to teach Nahua children to speak Castilian and thereby indoctrinate them in Spanish and Catholic culture took place in Tetzcoco itself in 1523. (47)
The great Franciscan campaign to destroy indigenous ternpies and religious objects also began in Tetzcoco, on January 1, 1525. (48) That the first Nahua princes to renounce the royal polygamy of the pre-Hispanic period and plight each his troth to one wife in Christian matrimony--on October 14, 1526--were Tetzcocan gauges the extent to which such experiences and training shaped public observance and performance, if not private belief. (49)
The Quinatzin's painter and patron (both, I believe, from the highest rung of the native aristocracy) 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. While the manuscript's language or mode of utterance marks it as indigenous and aristocratic, its carefully selected content renders it acceptable to colonial, that …