Editor’s note: This content is archival.
November 1993, Number 16
With support from the Department of Anthropology
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
A Publication of the Indiana University
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
- Newsletter News
- News Items
- Geographical Index
- Subject Index
- Institution Index
- Book Reviews
- History and Mythology of the Aztecs: The Codex Chimalpopoca. Translated by John Bierhorst. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992. Review by H.R. Harvey.
Codex Chimalpopoca: The Text in Nahuatl with a Glossary and Grammatical Notes. Edited by John Bierhorst. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992. Review by H.R. Harvey.
- Mesoamerican Elites: An Archaeological Assessment.
Edited by Diane Z. Chase and Arlen F. Chase. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma
Press, 1992. Review by Mike Pisani.
- Se tosaasaanil, se tosaasaanil: Adivinanzas nahuas de
ayer y hoy. By Arnulfo G. Ramirez, Jose Antonio Flores, and Leopoldo Vilinas.
México, D.F.: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en
Antropología Social and Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1992.. Review by
- Andean Cosmologies Through Time: Persistence and
Emergence. Edited by Robert V. H. Dover, Katherine E. Seibold, and John H. McDowell.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992. Review by Paul Proulx.
- Directory Update
Nahua Newsletter News
Welcome to the sixteenth issue of the Nahua Newsletter, your doorway to the exciting
world of research into the culture, language, and history of Nahuatl-speaking peoples.
In the past few years we have witnessed an explosion of scholarly interest in Nahuas
that parallels the far more publicized investigations of Maya language and history.
This newsletter is designed to act as a communication link between sometimes widely
separated scholars and to help create a sense of community among researchers based on
common interest in the Nahuas. Please feel free to make use of the newsletter to
request assistance or cooperation on problems, to make contact with others, and to keep
the international community informed about your research endeavors and findings.
The newsletter continues to attract interest from scholars, students, and
institutions from around the world. Our subscribers now number more than 340 and we
continue to grow with each new issue. The newsletter is distributed free of charge
thanks to contributions from readers, and the support of the Indiana University Center
for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and the Anthropology Program of
Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne. If you find the newsletter to be of value in your
work please consider making a contribution to underwrite the costs of printing and
mailing. Your tax-deductible contribution should be mailed to the editor (address
We have been very successful in selling back issues of the newsletter to both
continuing and new subscribers. Unfortunately, the charge of $10 for this thick packet
of material barely covers the costs of having the previous issues reproduced and
mailed, and so I am forced to raise the price to $20 for the complete run. If your
collection of the Nahua Newsletter is incomplete, please order the back issues now and
I will mail them right out to you. The money we earn will be put toward publication
costs of future issues.
In this issue you will find news items of interest, announcements, requests for
assistance, a list of U.S. doctoral dissertations on Nahuas and related groups, book
reviews, and an updated directory containing current addresses of subscribers. If you
know of errors in the directory, please contact me immediately so that I can make
Please forward to me all news, announcements, requests, suggestions, and ideas, and
I will be delighted to print them in the upcoming issue. If the text you send runs more
than a few lines, please send it in hard copy and on a 3.5-inch disk using WordPerfect
software (or send it as an ASCII text file). This saves the editor the task of retyping
text and insures that your message will appear accurately. I will be glad to print
material in Spanish, French, or Nahuatl in addition to English, so please write in the
language of your choice. My address is:
(1) Brad Huber sends the following news item: “I had the opportunity to speak with
Profesor Francisco Aurelio Patoni Severiano of San Andrés Hueyapan, Puebla, this
past July. I was very interested to learn that he will be teaching a course on Nahuat
to students at the Escuela Normal Rural “Carmen Serdan” in nearby Teteles beginning
this fall. Many graduates from this school will soon be teaching bilingual primary
school students throughout the Sierra Norte de Puebla. I told him that readers of the
Nahua Newsletter would be interested in learning about this. I also thought that some
might be willing to donate materials (dictionaries, grammars, workbooks, etc.) that
would help him in his work. I have found Profesor Patoni to be an extremely good and
conscientious teacher. He always encourages people to learn more about Nahuat, and the
history and culture of Hueyapan and the surrounding region. While he was Presidente
Municipal, he served as translator for a regional bilingual newspaper that came out
monthly, supported literary contests and traditional dances, promoted music of the
“If you live in Mexico, you might want to send donated materials directly to
Profesor Patoni at: Escuela Normal Rural “Carmen Serdan,” Clemente Viveros #1, Teteles
de A.C., Puebla, C.P. 73930 MEXICO. If you live outside of Mexico, donated materials
can be sent to Brad R. Huber, Dept. of Sociology-Anthropology, 66 George Street,
College of Charleston, Charleston, SC 29424. I will make sure they are forwarded to
(2) Mary H. Preuss wishes to inform readers about the serial publication, Latin
American Indian Literatures Journal: A Review of American Indian Texts and Studies
(ISSN 0888-5613) that she currently edits. She provides the following outline:
* Articles on Indian literatures and related topics
* Short texts in Indian languages with English translations, commentaries, and
* Book reviews
* Central Mexican pictorial manuscripts
* Rock art report
* Stories, myths, and poems by indigenous authors
Vol. 9 (1993)
No. 1 (Spring): The Sacred in the Andes
Guest editor: Elizabeth P. Bensen
No. 2 (Fall): Contemporary Maya Literature
Guest editor: Mary H. Preuss Vol. 10 (1994)
Tsachila Mythology (Western Tropical Lowlands of Ecuador)
Guest editor: Robert Mix
Annual subscription rates (two issues): individuals $25.00 U.S., institutions $35.00
U.S. Outside U.S.A. add $6.00 for surface mail and $13.00 for airmail per volume year.
Make checks payable to LAIL Journal. Send checks, manuscripts, and correspondence to
(3) Colleen Ebacher writes that she (in literature), Rebecca Horn (history), Doug
Thompson (history), and Mauricio Mixco (linguistics) have formed a Nahuatl Seminar at
the University of Utah. The weekly seminar encompasses both the study of the language
and secondary theoretical/critical materials from a number of disciplines. Please make
suggestions for materials that might be useful to the group or write for more
(4) Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano has written to inform readers that he and Thelma
Ortiz de Montellano have recently published a translation of Alfredo López
Austin’s 1990 book, Los mitos del tlacuache. The translation has been published by the
University of New Mexico Press under the title The Myths of the Opossum: Pathways of
Mesoamerican Mythology (448 pages, ISBN 0 8263-1394-9, $37.50 cloth). The book jacket
states that “this is the first major theoretical study of Mesoamerican mythology by one
of the foremost scholars of Aztec ideology. Using the myth cycle of the opossum and the
theft of fire from the gods as a touchstone, López Austin constructs a
definition of myth that pertains to all of Mesoamerican culture, challenging the notion
that to be relevant such studies must occur within a specific culture. Shown here is
that much of modern mythology has ancient roots, despite syncretism with Christianity,
and can be used to elucidate the pre-Columbian world view. Analysis of pre-Columbian
myths can also be used to understand current indigenous myths. Subtopics include the
hero and his place in the Mesoamerican pantheon, divine space and human space, mythic
event clusters, myth as truth, and the fusion of myth and history.” To order the book,
write to: University of New Mexico Press, Order Dept., 1720 Lomas Blvd. N.E.,
Albuquerque, NM 87131-1591.
Bernard is also in the process of publishing a translation of Leonardo López
Luján’s prize winning study entitled The Offerings of the Templo Mayor with the
University Press of Colorado. The book should be out next year. In addition, he is
currently working on a translation of Georges Baudot’s Utopia and Mexico: The First
Historiographers of the New World, as well as some articles dealing with Afrocentric
(5) Berthold Riese writes that Heidelberg University in Germany has received grants
to enhance teaching and research on Latin American Indians. The grants are administered
by Dr. Frauke Gewecke of the Romance Language Department. Part of the grant money is
being allocated to build up a small reference library of Nahuatl grammars, texts, and
dictionaries for use in teaching. As of 1993, an introductory course in Nahuatl
language and literature is being given by Berthold Riese. The Heidelberg anthropology
department has a requirement that students acquire a non-European language and they can
qualify by taking the Nahuatl course, even though the department has a regional
specialization in Southeast Asia.
There has been a tradition of Latin American studies at Heidelberg since the 1960s
and 1970s when Günther Lanczkowski taught Nahuatl and Erwin Walter Palm taught
Latin American art history. Mexican scholars Carlos Margáin and Paul Kirchhoff
have taught courses there too, supported by guest scholarships. This earlier phase of
Latin American studies was cut short with the retirement of Lanczkowski and Palm.
(6) Wiebke Ahrndt writes from Germany with a request from NN readers: “I am studying
with Prof. Prem and I am writing my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Bonn in the field
of Mesoamerican Studies. The topic of my thesis is a critical analysis of the work of
Alonso de Zorita, in particular the second and third book of the “Relación de la
Nueva España.” The purpose of the analysis is to identify and extract the
sources used by Zorita as well as to reconstruct the methods and intentions of the
author. In the second book, Zorita used several sources that are lost today, including
a. the Relación of Francisco de las Navas
b. “Suma de los tributos” (written in Latin)
c. “Suma de los señores de la Nueva España”
“The last two are written by Zorita himself and probably covered almost identical
topics, although it seems that the “Suma de los tributos” was more comprehensive. In
the course of my analysis I gathered all information mentioned by Zorita in the second
book of the “Relación de la Nueva España” concerning these three sources.
However, I still wonder if it is possible to get hold of one of the originals?
“I would like to ask if NN readers might help me track down additional information.
Is anyone in possession of an anonymous source that matches the topics listed
a. The “Relación of Francisco de las Navas” must have covered at least three
1. the pre-Hispanic succession rules of the Aztec Triple Alliance
2. the four pre-Hispanic maneras de señores, which are named señores
principales, tectecutlzin (= tetecutzin, pl. teutles), calpullec (pl. chinancallec),
3. the four pre-Hispanic maneras de tributarios, which were the teccallec, calpullec
(pl. chinancallec), mercaderes, and tlalmaytes
b. The topics of the two “Sumas” are the following:
1. una manera de señores, calpullec o chinancallec not contained in the “Suma de
los Señores” but instead covering the election and succession of rulers
2. the pre-Hispanic ruling systems that were still used in the early colonial period
because of their efficiency
3. the pre-Hispanic tribute system, mercaderes not contained in the “Suma de los
Señores,” mayeques, teccalleques/chinancalleques, in particular the structure of
land tenure, personal services, and the obligations of the nobles
4. the tasactiones in the colonial period, including how they were made, failures due
to the corruption of officials (missing in the “Suma de los Señores), and to
what extent the orders of the Spanish king were taken into consideration.”
Please write to Wiebke Ahrndt at Holstenstr. 110, 22767 Hamburg, Germany.
(7) Elizabeth Baquedano has written to inform readers that the Instituto de
Investigaciones Historicas of UNAM held an international symposium from August 31st to
September 3rd on the topic of death. The symposium was convened in Tlaxcala and
included the following participants: José Antonio Alvarez Lima (governor of the
state of Tlaxcala), Gisela von Wobeser, Marcos Winocur, Gordon Brotherston, Miguel
León-Portilla, Reyna Cruz Valdés, Miguel Angel Cuenya Mateos, José
Alcina Franch, John Carlson, Rubén Cabrera, Yolotl González Torres, Doris
Heyden, Agustín Grajales P., Everardo Rivera Flores, Angela Arziniaga
González, Jill Furst, Federico Nagel Bielecke, Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, Georges
Baudot, Mauricio Aceves, Susan Milbrath, Elizabeth Baquedano, María Agueda
Méndez, Alicia Bazarte M., Elsa Malvido, Rosalva Loreto López, Francis
Robicsek, Nancy Troike, Harold Haley, and Francisco Javier Cervantes Bello.
(8) Eileen M. Mulhare writes to inform readers who will attend the upcoming meeting
of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, D.C., that she has organized
a symposium entitled “Barrios and Other Customary Social Units in Mesoamerican
Community Organization.” The session will be held on Friday, November 19, at 1:45.
Following is a list of participants and their papers in order of presentation:
James Dow, “Collective Compadrazgo: Sierra Otomi Oratory Groups”
John Monaghan, “The Mesoamerican Community as a ‘Big House'”
Alan R. Sandstrom, “Center and Periphery in the Social Organization of Contemporary
Nahuas of Mexico
Frank Cancian, “The Hamlet as Community in Zinacantan”
Gregory F. Truex, “Between Household and Community: ‘Barrio’ as a Metaphor for Social
John K. Chance, “Barrios in the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley: The Case of Colonial
Eileen M. Mulhare, “Barrio Matters: Toward an Ethnography of Mesoamerican Customary
Discussant: Hugo G. Nutini
(9) John M. Weeks, social science bibliographer and anthropologist at the Wilson
Library of the University of Minnesota, has compiled the following list of doctoral
dissertations on subjects related to the Nahuas. As a service to Nahua Newsletter
readers, he has also complied geographical, subject, and institutional Indexes. He
writes, “This bibliography includes doctoral dissertations submitted to universities in
the United States between 1860 and 1992. Every effort has been made to obtain as
complete a listing as possible. A total of 97 dissertations from 39 academic
institutions is included. The recent production of doctoral dissertations has been
prodigious. A total of 80 or 82.5% of all dissertations in the list was produced since
1970, the decade when doctoral research in Nahua-related studies appears to have
plateaued. The output of Nahua-related dissertations has been stable throughout the
decade of the 1980s but will probably contract during the 1990s as a result of
diminishing professional opportunities for anthropologists and the increasing
restrictions on foreign projects in Mexico.
“Coverage for North American institutions is nearly comprehensive. Of these, six
institutions can be identified as the source of almost half of all doctoral degrees in
Nahua studies. These are Pennsylvania State University (N=10), Columbia University
(N=8), University of California, Los Angeles (N=8), Brandeis University (N=6),
University of California, Berkeley (N=6), and Harvard University (N=5). Since the
1970s, anthropologists from Pennsylvania State, Brandeis, and the University of
Rochester, have been involved in long-term archaeological research in the Teotihuacan
“The listing does not attempt to be critical since it was impossible to inspect
personally all of the titles. It attempts only to collect these together for whatever
reference value may accrue. The importance of these studies varies greatly. Some are
probably less useful today because they are out of date, contain third-hand source
material, or duplicate topics treated elsewhere. Many, however, are excellent and some
contain surprising amounts of original information.
“Access is provided by academic institution, geographical, and subject Indexes.
Categorization of dissertations and assignment of subject headings was based entirely
on the information supplied in the titles. The dangers inherent in this method should
Altschul, Jeffrey H. 1982. Spatial and Statistical Evidence for Social Groupings at
Teotihuacan, Mexico. Brandeis University. 342 p. Alves, Abel A. 1990. Taming Savage
Nature: The Body Metaphor and Material Culture in the Sixteenth-Century Conquest of New
Spain. University of Massachusetts. 310 p. Barbour, Warren T. D. 1976. The Figurines
and Figurine Chronology of Ancient Teotihuacan, Mexico. University of Rochester. 355 p.
Berdan, Frances M. F. 1975. Trade, Tribute and Market in the Aztec Empire. University
of Texas at Austin. 417 p. Berlo, Janet C. 1980. Teotihuacan Art Abroad: A Study of
Metropolitan Style and Provincial Transformation in Incensario Workshops. Yale
University. 863 p. Blanton, Richard E. 1970. Prehispanic Settlement Patterns of the
Ixtapalapa Peninsula Region, Mexico. University of Michigan. 524 p. Blucher, Darlena K.
1970. Late Preclassic Cultures in the Valley of Mexico: Pre-Urban Teotihuacan. Brandeis
University. 595 p. Boone, Elizabeth S. H. 1977. The Prototype of the Magliabechiano
Manuscripts: The Reconstruction of a Sixteenth-Century Pictorial Codex From Central
Mexico. University of Texas at Austin. 399 p. Borah, Woodrow W. 1940. Silk-Raising in
Colonial Mexico. University of California, Berkeley. 239 p. Brown, Betty A. 1977.
European Influences in Early Colonial Descriptions and Illustrations of the Mexica
Monthly Calendar. University of New Mexico. 384 p. Brumfiel, Elizabeth M. S. 1976.
Specialization and Exchange at the Late Postclassic Community of Huexotla, Mexico.
University of Michigan. 316 p. Burkhart, Louise M. 1986. The Slippery Earth:
Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Yale University. 282 p.
Carrasco, David L. 1977. The Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies of Quetzalcoatl.
University of Chicago.
Carrera, Magali M. 1979. The Representation of Women in Aztec-Mexica Sculpture.
Columbia University. 299 p. Castro de Delarosa, Maria G. 1992. Voladores and Hua-huas:
From the Pre-Columbian to the Present: An Ethnography and Ethnohistory. University of
California, Los Angeles. 497 p. Charlton, Thomas H. 1966. Archaeological Settlement
Patterns: An Interpretation. Tulane University. 235 p. Cooper Alarcon, Daniel F. 1992.
The Aztec Palimpsest: Discursive Appropriations of Mexican Culture. University of
Minnesota. 187 p. Couch, N. C. Christopher. 1987. Style and Ideology in the Duran
Illustrations: An Interpretative Study of Three Early Colonial Mexican Manuscripts.
Columbia University. 528 p. Croft, Kenneth. 1953. Matlapa and Classical Nahuatl: With
Comparative Notes on the Two Dialects. Indiana University. 142 p. Curtis, Sue A. 1977.
The Cultural-Ecology of Agricultural Systems in the Texcoco Area of the Valley of
Mexico, Mexico. Pennsylvania State University. 217 p. Dakin, Karen I. 1972. Verb-System
Change in Santa Catarina (Morelos) Nahuatl: Its Relation To Bilingualism. University of
Wisconsin, Madison. 139 p. Davila-Sanchez, Arturo G. 1990. En Busca de la Ciudad
Perdida Mexico en el Siglo XVI (1519-1575). University of California, Berkeley. 448 p.
Dossick, Jesse J. 1950. Education Among the Ancient Aztecs. Harvard University. 376 p.
Dow, James W. 1973. Saints and Survival: The Functions of Religion in a Central Mexican
Indian Society. Brandeis University. 335 p. Drewitt, Robert B. 1967. Irrigation and
Agriculture in the Valley of Teotihuacan. University of California, Berkeley. 304 p.
Drucker, R. David. 1974. Renovating A Reconstruction: The Ciudadela at Teotihuacan,
Mexico: Construction Sequence, Layout, and Possible Uses of the Structure. University
of Rochester. 358 p. Dumais, George A. 1992. The Raft of Simmias: Adaptive Explanations
and Three Theories of Cultural Evolution. University of Maryland, College Park. 410 p.
Durbin, Thomas E. 1970. Aztec Patterns of Conquest As Manifested in the Valley of
Toluca, the State of Mexico, Mexico. University of California, Los Angeles. 247 p.
Early, Daniel K. 1978. The Consequences of Dependence: Effects of the New York Coffee
Market on Remote Nahuatl Communities. Catholic University of America. 196 p. Elzey,
Wayne. 1974. The Mythology of the Ages of the World: The Significance of Cosmic Cycles
Among the Aztecs. University of Chicago. Ester, Michael R. 1976. The Spatial Allocation
of Activities at Teotihuacan, Mexico. Brandeis University. 286 p. Evans, Susan T. 1980.
A Settlement System Analysis of the Teotihuacan Region, Mexico, A.D. 1350-1520.
Pennsylvania State University. 439 p. Friedlander, Judith N. 1973. What It Means To Be
Indian in Cualpan, Morelos: A Study of Symbolic Exploitation. University of Chicago.
482 p. Gamio, Manuel. 1922. Traduction of the Introduction, Synthesis and Conclusions
of the Work the Population of the Valley of Teotihuacan. Columbia University. 95 p.
Gillespie, Susan D. 1983. Aztec Prehistory As Postconquest Dialogue: A Structural
Analysis of the Royal Dynasty of Tenochtitlan. University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. 551 p. Gingerich, Willard P. 1977. From Dream To Memory: A
Psycho-Historical Introduction to Nahuatl Myth and Moral Philosophy. University of
Connecticut. 432 p. Golde, Peggy J. 1963. Aesthetic Values and Art Style in a Nahua
Pottery Producing Village. Harvard University. Goodfellow, Susan T. 1990. Late
Postclassic Period Economic Systems in Western Morelos, Mexico: A Study of Ceramic
Production, Distribution and Exchange. University of Pittsburgh. 345 p. Hall, Clara S.
1962. A Chronological Study of the Mural Art of Teotihuacan. University of California,
Harvey, Herbert R. 1962. Cahuilla Settlement Patterns and Time Perspective. Harvard
University. Haskett, Robert S. 1985. A Social History of Indian Town Government in the
Colonial Cuernavaca Jurisdiction, Mexico. University of California, Los Angeles. 671 p.
Hassig, R. Ross. 1980. Trade, Tribute, and Transportation: Sixteenth-Century Political
Economy of the Valley of Mexico. Stanford University. 422 p. Hodge, Mary G. 1983. Aztec
City-States. University of Michigan. 312 p. Hodik, Barbara J. 1974. The Teotihuacan
Craftsman As Dreamer, Maker, and Reflecter: A Descriptive and Stylistic Analysis of
Formative and Classic Period Figurines. Pennsylvania State University. 184 p. Horn,
Rebecca. 1989. Postconquest Coyoacan: Aspects of Indigenous Sociopolitical and Economic
Organization in Central Mexico, 1550-1650. University of California, Los Angeles. 373
p. Huber, Brad R. 1985. Category Prototypes and the Reinterpretation of Household
Fiestas in a Nahuat-Speaking Community of Mexico. University of Pittsburgh. 313 p.
Hunter, William A. 1954. An Edition and Translation of A Nahuatl Version of the
Calderonian `Auto Sacramental’: `El Gran Teatro Del Mundo’. Tulane University. 185 p.
Ingham, John M. 1968. Culture and Personality in a Mexican Village. University of
California, Berkeley. 400 p.
Jimenez-Osornio, Juan J. 1991. Ecological Basis of Weed Management in the Chinampa
Agroecosystem. University of California, Riverside. 167 p. Johnson, Linda B. 1982.
Aztec Indian Music and Culture in the Middle School: Rationale, Method, and Content.
Washington University. 165 p. Kidd, Barbara A. 1982. From Priest To Shaman: A
Study of Colonial Nahuatl Nativism. Tulane University. 511 p. Klein, Cecelia F. 1972.
Frontality in Postclassic Mexican Two-dimensional Art. Columbia University. 371 p. Klor
de Alva, J. Jorge. 1980. Spiritual Warfare in Mexico: Christianity and the Aztecs.
University of California, Santa Cruz. Knab, Timothy J. 1983. Words Great and Small:
Sierra Nahuat Narrative Discourse in Everyday Life. State University of New York at
Albany. 543 p. Kolb, Charles C. 1979. Classic Teotihuacan Period Settlement Patterns in
the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico. Pennsylvania State University. 583 p. Kowalczyk,
Kimberly A. 1987. Flor y Canto: Poesia y Poetica Nahuatl. University of California,
Irvine. 271 p. Lewis, Leslie K. 1978. Colonial Texcoco: A Province in the Valley
of Mexico, 1570-1630. University of California, Los Angeles. 270 p. Lira-Gonzalez,
Andres. 1982. Indian Communities in Mexico City: The Parcialidades of Tenochtitlan and
Tlatelolco (1812-1919). State University of New York at Stony Brook. 631 p.
McClung de Tapia, Emily S. 1979. Plants and Subsistence in the Teotihuacan Valley, A.D.
100-750. Brandeis University. 508 p. Marino, Joseph D. 1975. Toltec Settlement Patterns
in the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico. Pennsylvania State University. 569 p. Marx, Joan F.
1985. Aztec Imagery in the Narrative Works of Elena Garro: A Thematic Approach. Rutgers
the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick. 186 p. Mason, Roger D. 1980.
Economic and Social Organization of an Aztec Provincial Center: Archaeological Research
at Coatlan Viejo, Morelos, Mexico. University of Texas at Austin. 403 p. Miller, Arthur
G. 1969. The Mural Painting of Teotihuacan, Mexico and an Inquiry into the Nature of
its Iconography. Harvard University. Neumann, Franke J. 1973. Time and Some
Symbols of Time in Pre-Conquest Nahuatl Religion. University of Chicago. 139 p.
Nichols, Deborah L. 1980. Prehispanic Settlement and Land Use in the Northwestern Basin
of Mexico, the Cuautitlan Region. Pennsylvania State University. 292 p. Nutini, Hugo G.
1962. Marriage and the Family in a Nahuatl-Speaking Village of the Central Mexican
Highlands. University of California, Los Angeles. O’Donnell, Kelly S. 1984.
Community Psychology in Missiological Context: Applications to Service Delivery and
Service Providers. Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University. 224 p. O’Neill,
George C. 1962. Postclassic Ceramic Stratigraphy at Chalco in the Valley of Mexico.
Columbia University. 338 p. Offner, Jerome A. 1979. Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco.
Yale University. 639 p. Parsons, Jeffrey R. 1966. The Aztec Ceramic Sequence in
the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico. University of Michigan. 777 p. Pasztory, Esther. 1971.
The Murals of Tepantitla, Teotihuacan. Columbia University. 409 p. Pittman, Richard S.
1953. A Grammar of Tetelcingo (Morelos) Nahuatl. University of Pennsylvania. 125 p.
Powell, Philip W. 1941. Military Administration of the Chichimeca Warfare in New Spain,
1550-1595. University of California, Berkeley. 239 p. Provost, Paul Jean. 1975. Culture
and Anti-Culture Among the Eastern Nahua of Northern Veracruz, Mexico. Indiana
University. 239 p. Quiñones Keber, Eloise. 1984. The Illustrations and
Texts of the Tonalamatl of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis. Columbia University. 542 p.
Rattray, Evelyn C. 1973. The Teotihuacan Ceramic Chronology, Early-Tzacualli to
Early-Tlamimilolpa Phases. University of Missouri, Columbia. 366 p. Roesler, Janet R.
1986. Control of Information and Ways of Speaking in an Indigenous Settlement in
Michoacan, Mexico. University of Texas at Austin. 377 p. Sandstrom, Alan R.
1975. Ecology, Economy, and the Realm of the Sacred: An Interpretation of Ritual in a
Nahua Community of the Southern Huasteca, Mexico. Indiana University. 381 p. Santley,
Robert S. 1977. Intra-Site Settlement Patterns at Loma Torremote and Their Relationship
to Formative Prehistory in the Cuautitlan Region, State of Mexico. Pennsylvania State
University. 517 p. Schroeder, Susan P. 1984. Analysis of the Work of a
Seventeenth-Century Nahuatl Historian of Mexico. University of California, Los Angeles.
295 p. Schwaller, John F. 1978. The Secular Clergy in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Indiana
University. 313 p. Seifert, Donna J. 1977. Archaeological Majolicas of the Rural
Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico. University of Iowa. 292 p. Sempowski, Martha L. 1983.
Mortuary Practices at Teotihuacan, Mexico: Their Implications for Social Status.
University of Rochester. 797 p. Sheehy, James J. 1992. Ceramic Production in Ancient
Teotihuacan, Mexico: A Case Study of Tlajinga 33. Pennsylvania State University. 873 p.
Sload, Rebecca S. 1982. A Study of Status and Function in the Xolalpan-Metepec
Community in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Brandeis University. 406 p.
Smith, Michael E. 1983. Postclassic Culture Change in Western Morelos, Mexico: The
Development and Correlation of Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Chronologies.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 608 p. Sokolovsky, Jay. 1974. The
Socioeconomic Basis of Political Change in a Nahuatl Pueblo in Mexico. Pennsylvania
State University. 231 p. Spencer, L. Anne. 1974. Aztec Elements in Twentieth Century
Mexican Drama. University of Kansas. 203 p. Storey, Rebecca. 1983. The Paleodemography
of Tlajinga 33: An Apartment Compound of the Pre-Columbian City of Teotihuacan.
Pennsylvania State University. 433 p. Taggart, James M. 1971. The Factors
Affecting the Developmental Cycle of Domestic Groups in a Nahuat-Speaking Community of
Mexico. University of Pittsburgh. 282 p. Townsend, Richard F. 1975. State and Cosmos in
the Art of Tenochtitlan. Harvard University. Tuggy, David H. 1981. The
Transitivity-Related Morphology of Tetelcingo Nahuatl: An Exploration in Space Grammar.
University of California, San Diego. 633 p. Umberger, Emily G. 1981. Aztec
Sculptures, Hieroglyphs, and History. Columbia University. 478 p. West, Stanley
A. 1973. The Mexican Aztec Society: A Mexican-American Voluntary Association in
Diachronic Perspective. Syracuse University. 361 p. Williams, Barbara J. 1970.
Landscape Lag: Modern Economy and Traditional Land Use in Huixquilucan, Mexico.
University of Wisconsin, Madison. 214 p. Wood, Stephanie G. 1984. Corporate Adjustments
in Colonial Mexican Indian Towns: Toluca Region, 1550-1810. University of California,
Los Angeles. 416 p. Yarborough, Clare M. 1992. Teotihuacan and the Gulf Coast:
Ceramic Evidence for Contact and Interactional Relationships. University of Arizona.
Coatlan Viejo, 62
Cuautitlan, 65, 79
Gulf Coast, 97
Huasteca, 74, 78
Ixtapalapa Peninsula, 6
Loma Torremote, 79
Morelos, 21, 33, 38, 72, 86
Tenochtitlan, 35, 43, 58, 91
Teotihuacan, 1, 3, 5, 7, 25, 26, 31, 32, 34, 39, 44, 55, 59, 60, 63, 70, 71, 76, 82-85,
89, 97 Tepantitla, 71
Tetelcingo, 72, 92
Texcoco, 20, 57, 69
Veracruz, 74, 78
Activity areas, 31, 85
Agriculture, 20, 25, 49
Archaeology, 1, 3, 6, 7, 11, 16, 20, 25, 26, 28, 31, 32, 34, 35, 38, 40, 43, 44, 49,
55, 59, 60, 62, 65, 68, 70, 76, 79, 82, 84, 85, 86, 89, 97 Architecture, 26
Art history, 5, 14, 18, 39, 44, 52, 63, 71, 91 Bilingualism, 21
Biological/physical anthropology, 83, 89
Christianity, 53, 81
Chronology, 3, 68, 70, 76, 86; Preclassic, 7, 44, 79; Classic, 44, 55; Postclassic, 11,
38, 52, 68, 86 Coffee, 29
Conquest, 2, 28
Cultural/social anthropology, 15, 24, 27, 29, 33, 37, 46, 48, 49, 50, 66, 67, 74, 78,
87, 90, 94-96 Cultural ecology, 20, 49, 78
Demography, 34, 89
Dialects, 19; Matlapa, 19; Santa Catarina, 21; Sierra Nahuat, 54; Tetelcingo, 72, 92
Documents, 8, 10, 17, 18, 47, 75
Domestic groups, 90
Economic organization, 4, 29, 42, 45, 62, 78, 87, 95 Education, 23, 50
Ethnohistory, 2, 4, 8-10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 22, 23, 30, 34-36, 41-43, 45, 47, 51, 53,
56-58, 61, 64, 69, 73, 75, 80, 81, 88, 96 Exchange, 11, 38, 97
Figurines, 3, 44
Garro, Elena, 61
Grammar, 72, 92
Historical archaeology, 82
Iconography, 63, 91
Land use, 95
Legal anthropology, 69
Linguistics, 19, 21, 54, 72, 77, 92
Magliabechiano manuscripts, 8
Metaphor, body, 2
Metropolitan Art Style, 5
Mortuary practices, 83
Murals, 39, 63
Mythology, 13, 30
Political anthropology, 41-43, 45, 69, 87
Pottery, 37, 38, 68, 70, 76, 82, 84, 97
Psychological anthropology, 48, 67
Religious organization, 12, 24, 51, 64
Sculpture, 5, 52, 93
Settlement patterns, 6, 16, 32, 40, 55, 60, 65, 79
Silk industry, 9
Social groups, 1
Social organization, 45, 62, 66, 83, 85, 87, 89, 94
Spatial analysis, 1, 31
Structural analysis, 35
Subsistence patterns, 59
Symbolic anthropology, 33, 64
Telleriano-Remensis, Codex, 75
Tribute, 4, 42
Biola Univ., 67
Brandeis Univ., 1, 7, 24, 31, 59, 85
Catholic Univ., 29
Columbia Univ., 14, 18, 34, 52, 68, 71, 75, 93
Harvard Univ., 23, 37, 40, 63, 91
Indiana Univ., 19, 74, 78, 81
Pennsylvania State Univ., 20, 32, 44, 55, 60, 65, 79, 84, 87, 89 Rutgers Univ.,
Stanford Univ., 42
State Univ. of New York at Albany, 54
State Univ. of New York at Stony Brook, 58
Syracuse Univ., 94
Tulane Univ., 16, 47, 51
Univ. of Arizona, 97
Univ. of California, Berkeley, 9, 22, 25, 39, 48, 73
Univ. of California, Irvine, 56
Univ. of California, Los Angeles, 15, 28, 41, 45, 57, 66, 80, 96 Univ. of California,
Univ. of California, San Diego, 92
Univ. of California, Santa Cruz, 53
Univ. of Chicago, 13, 30, 33, 64
Univ. of Connecticut, 36
Univ. of Illinois, Urbana, 35, 86 Univ. of Iowa, 82
Univ. of Kansas, 88
Univ. of Maryland, 27
Univ. of Massachusetts, 2
Univ. of Michigan, 6, 11, 43, 70
Univ. of Minnesota, 17
Univ. of Missouri, 76
Univ. of New Mexico, 10
Univ. of Pennsylvania, 72
Univ. of Pittsburgh, 38, 46, 90
Univ. of Rochester, 3, 26, 83
Univ. of Texas, Austin, 4, 8, 62, 77
Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, 21, 95
Washington Univ., 50
Yale Univ., 5, 12, 69
History and Mythology of the Aztecs: The Codex Chimalpopoca. Translated by John Bierhorst. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992. Pp. v + 238. $35.00 (cloth). ISBN 0-8165 1306-6.
Codex Chimalpopoca: The Text in Nahuatl with a Glossary and Grammatical Notes.
Edited by John Bierhorst. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992. Pp. 210. $50.00
ISBN 0-8165-1306 6.
The Codex Chimalpopoca, which consists of two Nahuatl documents, has long been
available in German or Spanish translations, but this is the first English translation
published. It is a welcome addition to the growing literature available in English of
important Nahuatl texts. Also, it is a careful scholarly translation which alerts the
reader to differences of opinion as to translation interpretations and paleographic
readings of the documents by previous scholars. Indeed, such issues are among the
subject matter of 613 footnotes.
The two Nahuatl texts that comprise the Codex Chimalpopoca are the Annals of
Cuauhtitlan and the Legend of the Suns. As the translator, John Bierhorst notes that
there is no pre Conquest history from the Valley of Mexico that survived, since most of
the native books and pictorials are thought to have been burned in 1530 or thereabouts
by Spanish missionaries. This event recalls similar action a century before when the
Mexica (in 1430) began to rewrite their history, thereby creating a new image to leave
for posterity. Cuauhtitlan was the 4th most important city state in the Basin of
Mexico, after those of the Triple Alliance cities (Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, Tlacopan).
Throughout the Annals, however, much emphasis is placed on its close association with
The Annals begin in the 7th century B.C., when the goddess Itzpapalotl gave
instructions to the Cuauhtitlan Chichimecs who were about to begin their migration from
Chicomostoc. While still on the move in the year 721, the Colhua Chichimecs established
their own nation. Five years later, they started their year count. They learned that
they were now in the 5th sun. The Toltecs began in 726 and in 752 they took a ruler,
Mixcoamazatzin, who initiated Toltec rule. Toltec rule lasted 339 years, but with the
suicide of their ruler Huemac in 1070, the Toltec’s time came to a close. The people
dispersed and began wandering the realm, some settling, others moving on.
The text tells us that the city of Cuauhtitlan was founded in 1348. The Chichimecs
had put the Colhuaque in the spot where the city was founded, then began to marry their
daughters to the new settlers in their domain until the two groups became intermingled.
It was only after they had achieved this that they began to plant crops and mark off
the boundaries of fields and define their calpulli lands.
Wars were fought with such peoples as the Chalca, Huexotzinca, Xaltocameca and
Tepaneca. They won some and they lost some. During the course of all this, the
sacrifice of captives was initiated. Assassinations, in particular of rulers, might
serve to trigger a war. Vassals would ally themselves and rise up against their lords.
There was continuous conflict. Finally, in 1430, Cuauhtitlan was sacked and burned. It
then allied itself with Mexico and Tetzcoco in the long war that resulted in the defeat
of the Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco. After that, the Mexica began their ascendancy. From
then on, Cuauhtitlan was on a winning streak with its new allies. It is a very detailed
account of the Tepanec War, the outcome of which was fundamental for Mexica expansion.
Also, the Annals cover other local histories of Valley of Mexico city states, among
them, Cuitlahuac and Xaltocan.
The Annals of Cuauhtitlan were drafted in 1570. The last published edition was in
Spanish in 1945, translated by Primo Feliciano Velázquez. The 1945 edition also
contains a photocopy of the original that was once in the Archivo Historico of the
Museo Nacional de México, but has been missing since 1949. Bierhorst used this
published photo facsimile for his paleography. To this copy, he tracked down and added
a final page that had long been missing. A copy made by León y Gama was in the
Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. With the latter, the manuscript is finally
complete in its entirety.
One advantage of Bierhorst’s edition is the way he set it up in two volumes. Volume
1 of the translated documents can be read along with volume 2, which contains the
Nahuatl text as a bilingual version. This is an especially important feature for
students of Nahuatl. In addition, the work contains a concordance to proper names and
titles. The list contains all occurrences of names (personal, place, etc.) in the
document, readily accessed by line, paragraph, and page references. This system is
effective and makes the work extremely easy to follow.
The second Nahuatl manuscript is an epic of creation and it begins “here are wisdom
tales made long ago, of how the earth was established, how everything was established,
how whatever is known started, how all the suns that there were began” [“In nican ca
tlamachilliztlatolcacanilli ye huecauh mochiuh inic mamaca tlalli, cencentetl in itla
mamaca inic peuh i can iuh macho iniqui tzintic in izquitet in omaca tonatiuh”], from
the Legend of the Suns. It was drafted anonymously in 1558 according to a statement in
the document. The translator feels that it is a narrative description prompted by a
pictorial prototype. In the details provided, it is very comparable to the Spanish
document of Pedro Ponce de León, Historia de los Mexicanos por sus Pinturas.
What is important about this publication, however, is that it is the first English
translation of the complete manuscript. It describes who the first people on earth
were, and what happened to them. It tells how corn was discovered, and how the sun was
created and how the gods nourish it with their own blood so that it will climb into the
sky. It speaks of the origin of the sacred bundle and the deeds of ce acatl, then the
fall of Tula and the history of the Mexica coming from Aztlan. It is one inclusive,
grand Aztec myth.
Mesoamerican Elites: An Archaeological Assessment. Edited by Diane Z. Chase and Arlen F. Chase. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. Pp. viii + 375. $39.95. ISBN 0-8061 2371-0.
Who were the pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican elites? How does one define “elite” in pre
Columbian Mesoamerica and in what ways does the archaeological record uncover the role
of elites? Mesoamerican Elites sheds light on these questions as well as many
This collection of timely and original essays on pre-Columbian Mesoamerican elites
written by leading Mesoamericanists originated in a session delivered at the American
Anthropological Association annual meeting in 1987. The editors of Mesoamerican Elites
compiled these writings “to stimulate an archaeological assessment of Mesoamerican
elites by combining the differing data bases, research designs, assumptions, and
interpretations of a broad spectrum of Mesoamerican archaeologists (p. xi).”
The nineteen essays included in this volume generally fall into one of the following
categories: 1) an in-depth study of a single archaeological site; 2) a comparative
study of different archaeological sites; and 3) a general discussion on the usefulness
of studying elites versus ranking and/or stratification in ancient Mesoamerica. More
specifically, Mesoamerican Elites is broken down into geographical zones with just over
fifty percent of the text devoted to the study of the ancient Mayan culture, whereas
twenty percent is designated to non-Maya Mesoamerica (Aztecs, Teotihuacanos, and
Zapotecs). The remaining text focuses on elite theory (within the context of
anthropology and archaeology).
The richness and diversity offered by Mesoamerican Elites can be seen by a quick
review of only three of the papers. In “Distinguishing the High and Mighty From the Hoi
Polloi at Tikal, Guatemala,” William A. Haviland and Hattula Moholy-Nagy look at the
question, “what was the archaeological signature of Tikal’s ruling class?” (p. 50).
Sifting through the archaeological record, Haviland and Moholy-Nagy argue that a clear
delineation between elite and commoner can be found by studying housing, burials,
belongings, and osteology.
After careful inspection of burial data, Haviland and Moholy-Nagy conclude that the
Tikal elite could be identified on examination of “the grave’s size and quality of
construction, the quantity and quality of objects placed within it, and the
impressiveness of the structure built above it” (p. 54). Within this context, the
authors interpreted data on the stature of the skeletal remains from the burial sites
to determine “life chances.” The elites of Tikal “were best able to realize their full
growth potential” (p. 57), whereas the non-elites did not. Therefore, a longer life
span was the usual privilege of the elite class.
Looking at housing, Haviland and Moholy-Nagy suggest that many of Tikal’s larger
structures (palaces and the Central Acropolis) served as elite residences — “the bulk
of the nobility resided at the civic and ceremonial heart of the ancient city” (p. 52).
To support their view of elites having lived in the larger structures at Tikal, the
authors compared refuse from elite and non-elite homes and discovered differences in
animal bone artifacts (more bones in elite waste, signifying a richer diet for elites)
and ceramics (where more polychrome pottery was found in elite trash).
Using the archaeological record, Haviland and Moholy-Nagy conclude that the elites
at Tikal ate better, lived longer, had better housing and greater personal space, and
commanded more power than the hoi polloi.
Joyce Marcus in “Royal Families, Royal Texts: Examples from the Zapotec and Maya”
uses ethnohistoric documentation to persuasively and forcefully argue that a two-class
endogamous system existed in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Specifically, Marcus focuses on
myth, writing, and iconography to illustrate the differences between noble and
commoner. The author compares the “separate descent” of elites and commoners according
to Maya and Zapotec origin mythology. Elites were connected to the heavens via noble
lineage and served as the conduit between commoner and god — “divine supernatural
beings” (p. 224). Commoners in Maya society, on the other hand, traced their lineage to
“earth mixed with dry grass” and “were thought to have been made from clay” (p. 225).
Thus, Marcus argues that class lines could not be bridged (because of separate descent)
and that the endogamous paradigm upheld the elite power structure in Mesoamerica.
To further solidify the gulf between commoner and elite, Marcus suggests that elites
monopolized the writing system and iconographic engravings. Most of the writing and
iconography was devoted “to linking themselves [elites] to royal ancestors, to powerful
supernaturals, and to deeds befitting powerful lords” (p. 228). Although the
ethnohistoric record is rich, it might not always be correct. As victors do today, the
Maya who wrote and commissioned iconography sought to tell their own story. Whereas
writing may have started out judiciously chronicling the past — births, deaths,
marriages, military campaigns, etc. — anomalies in royal lineage may have “required” a
juggling of history. Marcus notes that “the Maya elite were not trying to record the
truth, but to decide what the official version of the truth would be” (p. 237).
“Ranking and Stratification in Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica,” by William T. Sanders
briefly highlights the differences between ranked and stratified societies in
pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. And for the most part, Sanders agrees with Joyce Marcus that
a two-class division permeated pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. However, Sanders in this essay
keys in on the most evident exception — the pochteca of Tenochtitlan.
The pochteca or merchants of Aztec Tenochtitlan were a true middle class, “a class
of urban professional middlemen” (p. 285). Just in the Mexica capital alone “perhaps
15,000 20,000” pochteca existed in a city of 200,000 (p. 286). Sanders suggests that
the pochteca were distinct in many ways: they possessed “a distinctive name, unique
rituals associated with a patron god, and dress” and “as a class were characterized
by… an intermediate social position and a guildlike organization” (p. 283).
Furthermore, the pochteca were able to enroll their children in the calmecac (the
school for elite children), acted as imperial spies, and even celebrated at the sacred
Templo Mayor. Sanders notes that at a “banquet celebrating the completion of a trading
expedition, to which warriors and nobles were invited, purchased slaves were sacrificed
by the priests at the Templo Mayor and their bodies were eaten at the feast” (p.
The pochteca traveled over great distances sometimes leaving the security of
Tenochtitlan for months or even years. Often the pochteca would travel in large
caravans through unfriendly lands where they relied as much upon their skills as
warriors as they did as traders to return safely and profitably. The pochteca even
employed day laborers, the tlamene [tlamamah] (“professional burden bearer”), to keep
long distance transportation costs low and allow for a greater variety of goods to
reach market. The pochteca appear as the exception to the commonly held view among
Mesoamericanists of the elite-commoner class structure. As Sanders characterizes it,
“the presence of a large class of… merchants” was “a development clearly related to
the enormous size of the city [Tenochtitlan]” and empire “embracing some 5 to 6 million
people” (p. 282-83).
There are always pros and cons to edited works and Mesoamerican Elites is no
exception. My two greatest concerns with this book are overall balance and unreadable
maps. Although the title purports to be inclusive of all Mesoamerica, the real focus is
upon the Maya. A few more essays on central highland Mexico would have provided a much
needed balance. Also, whereas some of the maps and illustrations are exemplary, far too
often maps are not included when absolutely necessary to follow the text, or worse yet,
many maps are only intelligible if the reader possesses a bionic eye.
At times, the flow of the volume is interrupted with essays which seem to be out of
order. To ensure more fluidity and continuity of purpose, the editors of Mesoamerican
Elites may have considered providing: 1) an introduction to each essay; or 2) an
introduction to group sections of like essays. Lastly, an archaeological (cultural)
time line of Mesoamerica would have been helpful.
The pluses of Mesoamerican Elites, however, far outweigh any of the concerns
mentioned above. Mesoamerican Elites provides an excellent and much-needed discussion
of the topic of elites. In the aggregate, the essays written by leading
Mesoamericanists cover a vast time period (from the early Formative to the early
Colonial), a broad geographical area, and offer a good mix of opinions based on recent
archaeological research. The true value of this work is attributable to its diversity,
whether the topic is the comparison of a two-class versus a multi class society or is
simply a discussion of a working definition of elites. Mesoamerican Elites also has a
superior and up-to-date bibliography and is well Indexed.
This volume has been produced with the specialist in mind, and I heartily recommend
Mesoamerican Elites for advanced undergraduate students (particularly as a
supplementary text for a course on pre-Columbian Mesoamerican anthropology), for those
engaged in the general study of elites, and especially for the scholar of pre-Hispanic
Mesoamerica. Diane and Arlen Chase should be commended for compiling Mesoamerican
Elites; what they “have sought to do in this book [is to] identify past elites based on
a body of extremely incomplete `dead’ archaeological data” (p. 303). The Chases have
succeeded in their task.
Se tosaasaanil, se tosaasaanil: Adivinanzas nahuas de ayer y hoy. By Arnulfo G. Ramirez, Jose Antonio Flores, and Leopoldo Vilinas. México, D.F.: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social and Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1992. Pp. 11-87, 32 color plates. ISBN 968-496-223-1.
This book consists of thirty riddles published in the original Nahuatl with a
Spanish translation. The first eighteen riddles were taken from classic sources and the
remaining twelve were collected in the village of Xalitla, Guerrero. The principal
informant for the contemporary riddles appears as a co-author of the book; each riddle
is accompanied by an illustration on amate paper painted by Cleofas Ramirez Celestino,
also from Xalitla. Se tosaasaanil, se tosaasaanil: Adivinanzas nahuas de ayer y hoy
belongs to the established style of anthropological writing in Mexico that purports to
popularize indigenous culture among the general public; this particular publication is
intended to educate Spanish-speaking urban children about rural life and Nahuatl
traditions. In a short essay, the authors provide a brief overview of the indigenous
peoples of Mexico, they explain the concept of riddles and how to solve them, and they
briefly discuss the meaning of several Nahuatl words. The book concludes with a
one-page afterward outlining basic rules of Nahuatl pronunciation and an abbreviated
explanation of the answers to the riddles.
In considering this work in terms of the audience for which it is intended, I have
reservations about whether this book will successfully appeal to Mexican children.
Several of the riddles are readily comprehensible, but most of them require specific
knowledge and experience too alien to the lives of urban children for the riddles to be
meaningful to them. The introductory essay and additional texts are too short to
provide the necessary background and they patronize young readers who are capable of
assimilating concepts more readily than is assumed here. The brightly colored amate
drawings accompanying the riddles may be more successful in capturing the interest of
younger children. Indeed, because of their broad appeal, amate illustrations are
increasingly used to illustrate many kinds of children’s literature in Mexico.
In their introduction, the authors assert that because riddles reflect the daily
life of a community, outsiders can use them to learn about clothing, foods, and customs
that make up a culture. But the book doesn’t give the reader of any age enough material
to do this and it would have been greatly improved if more commentary were provided.
One way to do this in keeping with the present format would be through printing a
well-crafted explanatory paragraph beneath each riddle. This could bring out the
contrasts between village and urban life only alluded to in the introduction. It might
also relate the riddles more closely to the painted illustrations, which are somewhat
disembodied from the text. This would make the book more effective for children and
Further elaboration of the material would enhance the book’s value to scholars.
Missing is an explanation of why the authors chose to assemble a book of riddles and
how they selected these particular examples. It is also imperative that they identify
the sources for the pre-Hispanic riddles. This could be accomplished in an essay that
describes how the researchers collected the contemporary riddles and also examines when
Nahuas tell them today in their communities. If written in simple, direct language this
text would give interesting information for children as well.
The authors may plan to publish their analytical and interpretive insights on the
material they collected as separate articles. Based on my reading, I will suggest
several topics arising from the present publication that might be explored further. Se
tosaasaanil, se tosaasaanil: Adivinanzas nahuas de ayer y hoy clearly illustrates the
different cultural constructions of humor and it poses the problem of placing these
riddles in the larger social context. In their introduction, the authors note that many
of the riddles are based on common objects used in everyday life. This is an
interesting observation, one that leads us to ask why this aspect of collective
experience has invited humorous commentary. It would be revealing to contrast these
riddles and their role in Nahuatl life with more familiar forms of oral expression such
as jokes, story-telling, oral histories, and ceremonial speech. Finally, because the
authors included both pre-Hispanic and contemporary riddles in one book, some
systematic comparison between them might yield fruitful insights into the process of
cultural reproduction and historical change.
It is clear that considerable care and expense went into this publication. With a
bit more information this book could have been more valuable to Nahuatl scholars and
more successful in reaching the youthful public to which it is directed. As it stands,
the body of the text consists of thirty riddles taken from unidentified historical
sources or divested of contemporary social context. In this form the book will probably
be most valuable to scholars as a source for exercises to use in teaching Nahuatl
language; it might also be used for comparative work on the topics of humor and forms
of oral expression.
Reading the book for this review prompted me to reflect on the general issue of the
problems inherent in attempting to educate urban Mexicans about indigenous culture. It
would be an instructive exercise to collect and systematically evaluate the extensive
popularizing literature on the subject that can be found in Mexico. In my experience,
most of these materials represent a genuine investment of resources and intellectual
commitment and yet fail to accomplish their objectives. Why this is so requires serious
consideration. Certainly much of the difficulty lies in the great ambiguity found in
all levels of Mexican society over the continued existence of millions of ethnically
distinct, culturally indigenous peoples. Exploring how to communicate effectively the
richness and complexity of any native group to a non-anthropological public is a
relevant problem for the scholarly community committed to the study of indigenous
Andean Cosmologies Through Time: Persistence and Emergence. Edited by Robert V. H. Dover, Katherine E. Seibold, and John H. McDowell. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992. Pp. 274. $29.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-253-31815-7.
This book grew out of a symposium (of the same name) held in 1988 in Bloomington,
Indiana. However, it is exceptional among proceedings of symposiums in that several of
the papers represent very substantial and serious research — two evidently being
condensed versions of very impressive Ph.D. dissertations. It has a table of Index, an
introduction by Robert V. H. Dover (pp. 1-16), a list of contributors (p. 267), and an
Index (pp. 268-74).
One of the condensed theses is the second paper, “Water Ideology in Inca
Ethnogenesis” by Jeanette E. Sherbondy (pp. 46-66). Obviously, one cannot summarize a
synopsis. However, one point seemed to me to be of particular interest: her discussion
of the way in which the Andean peoples established fictive kinship (and by extension
justified political confederations) by claims that the confederates utilized the same
sources of water, or sources linked by a shared lake.
It is well established (e.g., Regina Harrison, Signs, Songs, and Memory in the
Andes: Translating Quechua Language and Culture, Austin: University of Texas Press,
1989, pp. 66 71) that there is a bipartite division of the Quechua world into wet
versus dry (see Santacruz Pachacuti’s ideogram copied from an original in the temple of
the sun in Cuzco, p. 34, this volume). The main associations of “wet” are descent from
the moon, the evening star, night, clouds, rain, lakes and springs, potatoes, the tree
(malki) of ancestors and descendants, and women. Putting the tree of the ancestors on
the female side of the diagram was already suggestive, but could perhaps have been due
to the fact that in the highlands, trees only grow near sources of water. Now, however,
we learn that shared lakes and springs are the Andean symbols of kinship. What this
says is that, when the original ideogram in the temple of the sun was designed, kinship
links within Quechua society were primarily established through women.
The second condensed thesis, perhaps even more revealing about Quechua ideology, is
“Textiles and Cosmology in Choquecancha, Cuzco, Peru” by Katherine E. Seibold (pp.
166-201). By learning to weave, and learning about weaving, and through extensive
discussions with the local shamans, Seibold brings out a wealth of information about
the symbolism of the Quechua. For example, the “dry” side of Pachacuti’s ideogram shows
descent from the sun, the morning star, daylight, stars, lightning, a rainbow, the
earth, corn, and men. And, the lightning is striking a river. What on earth is a river
doing on the “dry” side of the diagram? Well, in the course of explaining the symbols
in women’s weaving, Seibold shares with us the shamanistic knowledge that “the zigzag
water motif, representing lightning and the river, and the thin colored stripes,
representing the rainbow, connect the three worlds together” (p. 175) — that is, of
sky, earth, and water. The river, lightning, and rainbow are the “male” equivalents of
“female” springs and lakes. But instead of linking the society internally, the male
principle links it externally.
Seibold arrives at the same conclusion by a different path, in a discussion of sun
and moon motifs in weaving: “suns represent the masculine sun, the community of
Choquecancha to outsiders…. The moons…represent the moon, the woman weaver, her
family, and her ayllu within the community, all feminine elements. While the suns
identify external boundaries, the moons identify the internal boundaries, symbolizing
the exchange of women across those internal boundaries” (p. 194). Besides the three
worlds portrayed, Seibold discusses quadripartite designs, bilateral symmetry, and
design duality, bringing out the full complexity of the Quechua attitude toward
divisions, and thus avoiding any easy oversimplification.
These two papers alone make the book essential reading for any Andeanist, but
there’s more. Joseph W. Bastien’s “Shaman versus Nurse in an Aymara Village” (pp.
137-65) provides a wealth of deep insight into Aymara social structure and its relation
to Andean ideology. He, too, worked with shamans, and independently discovered much of
the same symbolism in their ceremonials that Seibold found in Quechua women’s weaving.
Another paper that shows deep fieldwork is John H. McDowell’s “Exemplary Ancestors and
Pernicious Spirits” (pp. 95-114), marvelously illustrated with extensive quotes in the
Those interested in change, and how it interacts with symbolic systems, will be
particularly interested in Joan Rappaport’s paper, “Reinvented Traditions: The Heraldry
of Ethnic Militancy in the Colombian Andes” (pp. 202-28). Inter alia, she shows how
social reaction sometimes requires the innovation of cultural symbols and signs, even
though they must appear to be traditional. Those interested in social hierarchies will
find something in Gary Urton’s paper, “Communalism and Differentiation in an Andean
Community” (pp. 229-66). Particularly insightful is his photograph and diagram of how
people sit to eat and talk in a communal work party, and his discussion of how it
reflects and reinforces differential status in the community. Those interested in the
impact of Spanish culture (and religion) on native thought will want to read Monica
Barnes’s paper, “Catechisms and Confessionarios: Distorting Mirrors of Andean
Societies.” Actually, the scope of her investigation is comparative, so some attention
is given to Mexico and other areas of Latin America. Particularly interesting to me was
her observation that “the tripartite universe of this world (kay pacha), the upper
world (hanac pacha), and the netherworld (ucu pacha) was taught to the Indians by
Spanish clerics, using those very words” (p. 79).
There are only two papers that were somewhat disappointing (one with the very good
excuse that it was unfinished when its author died). The first paper (by Zuidema, pp.
17-45) is an attempt to claim that the Inca Empire had three social classes, à
la Dumezil. It is not at all easy to follow, even for someone with a general knowledge
of the Andean area. Part of the problem seems to be that too much material is
compressed into too little space, leaving the impression that whole paragraphs have
been omitted between one sentence and the next. Beyond that, there is the intrinsic
difficulty of working with fragmentary historical sources. But the main problem, in my
view, is the author’s too easy acceptance of disparate and ambiguous evidence as
indicative of a particular hypothesis, and a total silence as to the rather obvious
For example, Zuidema’s claim for a tripartite cosmology begins with a discussion of
llama sacrifices at the feast of Capac Raymi Camay Quilla in Cuzco. He states that the
llamas in question are “old and black, middle-aged and of different colors, or young
and white” — symbolic of “three classes of people” (p. 22). But to achieve this
tripartite division, he has lumped two of the four sacrifices together: that of “ten
llamas of different colors” during the day of the full moon, and an earlier one of “one
hundred brown llamas with white heads and white lower legs.” He also finds his three
classes related to “the concepts of Collana, Payan, and Cayao” (p. 23). But elsewhere
(his “The Inca Kinship System: a New Theoretical View,” in Andean Kinship and Marriage,
Ralph Bolton and Enrique Mayer, eds., pp. 240-281), he requires a fourth member of this
conceptual group, Kara, to account for the sibling term chart in Gonzales Holguin.
He next goes to Huarochiri, where he finds “three cycles of two myths each” (p. 25).
However, as he later states, one of the six is a summary of the other five, giving a
pattern of 5 + 1. In these myths, the god classifies three birds and three land animals
(3 + 3): a pair of brothers-in-law compete in six challenges (6); there is a battle
between five brothers and a god who becomes one of them after his defeat (5 + 1); and
five brothers and a sister engage in a conquest (5 + 1). He then turns to Huamachuco,
and a myth in which the god Atagujo “first divided himself into three persons, then
created two servants. Besides these, he created Huamansuri.” This last was his servant
as well, so we end up with three gods and three servants (3 + 3). Now four is a
reasonable number to associate with the Inca capital in Cuzco, since the empire was
called Tawantinsuyu, “the four provinces.” But the other two sites are very far away,
and their peoples speak varieties of Quechua which are distinct enough from Cuzco to
possibly qualify as distinct languages. To my naive eye, at least, it would appear that
six was the more significant number for them. Within this universe of six, a
complementary or paired binary opposition yields the 3 + 3 pattern, while an unequal
one is symbolized by 5 + 1.
Carpenter also takes up the idea of numerical patterns in his paper,
“Inside/Outside, Which Side Counts?: Duality-of-Self and Bipartization in Quechua.” He
defines bipartization as “the tendency to categorize by twos or multiples of twos” (p.
118). I agree with his conclusion about multiples of twos, but find myself uneasy with
some of the evidence he cites for this and especially for duality-of-self (which is a
much more difficult problem). He presents some very fascinating linguistic examples of
switch reference in conditional clauses of commands (“if you’re sleepy DS, then go to
sleep”), which he takes as evidence for duality-of-self (presumably the “different
subject” marker means that the self that is sleepy is not the one who will go to
sleep). The least one can say is that the linguistic examples are puzzling, and do
require explanation. However, we are dealing with rather surprising and important
claims here, and it would be unwise to jump to conclusions too easily.
The use of the “different subject” marker in sentences where the subject remains
ostensibly the same has been discussed elsewhere (“Switch-Reference in Conchucos
Quechua” by Stewart, In Honor of Mary Hass: from the Haas Conference on Native American
Linguistics, William Shipley, ed., pp. 765-86. Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter, 1988).
Stewart concludes that “the DS marker is an attention-drawing device signaling
non-focal participants, actions or states of affairs which are peripheral to the main
event line or topic strand of the discourse” (p. 780). Presumably, a child’s statement
that she’s sleepy could then well elicit from her parent the response documented by
Carpenter, if it interrupted an ongoing discourse such as a linguistic or ethnological
interview. At least this seems plausible, and doesn’t necessarily require a duality
of-self explanation. Without the context, we simply can not tell. This would not
necessarily invalidate the observation by Carpenter’s informants that what is involved
here is the part of oneself over which there is no control. This part of oneself would
in fact be quite unlikely to often be the main topic of a discourse, and hence it would
likely be peripheral. But the evidence for this is the direct statement by the native
speaker and culture member, rather than the linguistic examples per se. A full account
of the discourse circumstances would be necessary to even begin to sort this out.
The next set of examples (p. 120) is even more puzzling, and again one would like
more context, more examples, and generally a more exhaustive treatment. One would also
like to know exactly what dialect and exactly what speakers produced these examples.
Some sound decidedly un-Quechua to me (for what little my intuition of the language may
be worth!), and deserve greater documentation. For example, judging by all the dialects
I am familiar with (e.g., see Cerrón-Palomino Gramática Quechua:
Junin-Huanca, Lima, Peru: Ministerio de educación, 1976; and Orr and Wrisley
Vocabulario Quichua del Oriente del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador: Instituto Linguistico de
Verano, 1965), mikunayan “I feel like eating” should be either transitive mikunayawan
or mikunayaciwan, with -wa- “first person object” (and sometimes causitive -ci) and
meaning roughly “something is making me want to eat.” Alternatively, it could be
intransitive mikunayani “I feel like eating” (e.g., see Quesada, Gramática
Quechua Cajamarca-Cañaris, Lima, Peru: Ministerio de educación, 1976),
with first person subject ni.
That “something” in the transitive verb may well be an other self over which one has
no control, but without context there is no way to tell. Could it be the sight or smell
of food? Hunger pangs? Some external force? The structure of the transitive verb is
suggestive, but no more than that. It might seem that the intransitive verb has a
willful actor and that the transitive one should therefore have one too. But it is far
from certain that the intransitive subject is willful. Do we choose to feel like
eating? Moreover, with some verb stems no volition is possible: Junin-Huanca Quechua
waakakaq watra-na-yka-n (“the cow is about to give birth”), where -naya contracts
before a consonant cluster; or tamya-na-ykaa-mu-n-ña (“now it’s wanting to
rain”). Some things are just natural processes to which we are subject, and there is no
one in charge but Mother Nature. Nor are such things limited to the Andean world.
Compare Menominee kat :w keme:wan “it’s going to rain” (lit. “it wants to rain”).
In a different example (p. 121), my reading of wawata urmachijun would make the
subject the mother (not some mysterious “it”): “she (the mother) causes the baby to
fall” (down the birth canal). There is no distinction of gender in Quechua, and no
pronoun would have been used in the field language, Spanish. The English “it” in the
author’s gloss is evidently a guess. There is much more to the paper, and it is
certainly worth reading. But some very detailed analysis and documentation will be
needed to take us beyond anecdote and speculation.
Illustrations this issue
The art work that appears in this issue has been taken from The Myths of the
Opossum: Pathways of Mesoamerican Mythology by Alfredo López Austin, translated
by Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano and Thelma Ortiz de Montellano. Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1993. The drawings are portrayals of opossums from the
Fejérváry Mayer Codex.