Editor’s note: This content is archival.
February 1994, Number 17
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
- Nahua Newsletter News
- AAA Meeting News (in print version only)
- News Items
- Subject Index
- Geographical Index
- Institutional Index
- Book Reviews:
- Blood Ties: Life and Violence in Rural Mexico. By James B.
Greenberg. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989. Pp. viii+282. ISBN
0-8165-1379-1. Reviewed by Hugo G. Nutini.
- Bernardino de Sahagún’s Psalmodia Christiana
(Christian Psalmody). Translated by Arthur J. O. Anderson. Salt Lake City: University
of Utah Press, 1993. Pp. ix+375. ISBN 0-87480-373-X. Reviewed by Danièle
- Tariacuri’s Legacy: The Prehispanic Tarascan State. By
Helen Perlstein Pollard. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 1993. Pp. 266. ISBN
0-8061-2497-0. Reviewed by John Weeks.
- New World Encounters. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. ISBN 0-520-08020-3. ISBN
0-520-08021-1.Reviewed by John Frederick Schwaller.
- Illustrations in this Issue
- Directory Updates New
- New Subscribers
Welcome to the spring 1994 issue of the Nahua Newsletter, now in its ninth year of
publication. The newsletter is designed to facilitate communication and cooperation
among the world’s scholars and students who are interested in the culture, language,
and history of Nahuatl-speaking peoples. In this issue we have an addendum to the list
of dissertations on Nahua-related subjects published in the last issue, news items,
book reviews, and a directory update. In the fall issue we will reprint the entire
directory with current addresses of all subscribers.
As loyal readers of the Nahua Newsletter well know, we publish on a shoestring and
so member contributions are of critical importance to our continuance. The newsletter
is sent without charge to nearly 350 individual and institutional subscribers in 15
countries. This is a service that we would like to preserve if at all possible. If you
have been meaning to send along a contribution but have put it off, please consider
doing so now. Every donation is applied to the costs of producing the newsletter. Any
amount is welcomed and all contributions are tax deductible. It is the generosity of
readers of past issues that makes the current one possible.
In order to increase efficiency and reduce costs, we have moved operations for
printing and mailing the newsletter from Bloomington, Indiana, home of the Center for
Latin American and Caribbean Studies, to Fort Wayne, Indiana, academic home of the
editor. The Center will continue to sponsor and partially finance the newsletter but
like all entities in the state system of higher education, it is facing funding
limitations. Therefore, we must rely increasingly on readers to take up the slack.
We have taken several cost-cutting measures that will help ease the crisis.
University printing services are substantially less expensive in Fort Wayne. We are
also instituting bar-coded zip codes for domestic U.S. mailings, which reduces bulk
mailing costs. In addition, we are taking advantage of a new lower-cost service offered
by the U.S. Post Office for foreign mailings. The new rates cut postage expenses for
overseas mailings by over two-thirds. The only drawback is that foreign subscribers
will have to wait about a week longer than before to receive their newsletters. In all,
we have managed to reduce costs without reducing quality or quantity. If anybody has
additional suggestions for helping with our financial situation we would be very happy
to hear them.
We continue to offer a complete run of back issues of the newsletter for those who
wish to complete their collection. The cost is a modest $20 for issues one through 16
and all revenue supports future issues.
Please send correspondence, checks, news items, or suggestions to:Alan R. Sandstrom, Editor Nahua Newsletter Department of Anthropology Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne 2101 Coliseum Blvd.
East Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805
If the material you wish to appear in the Nahua Newsletter exceeds a few lines,
please send it on a 3.5-inch disk saved in WordPerfect, or as an ASCII text file. This
saves the editor the task of retyping and helps insure the accuracy of your
(1) William O. Autry writes that the American Society for Ethnohistory will hold its
1994 annual meeting in the Radisson Tempe Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe, Arizona. He has
issued a call for papers, organized sessions, special events, and speakers that treat
any world area. Abstracts of 50 to 100 words on appropriate submission forms and
preregistration fees of $45 (non-members), $35 (members), and $15 (students/retired)
are due by June 1, 1994. For submission forms, write to ASE Program Chair, Dr. Peter
Iverson, Department of History, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2501;
telephone: (602) 965-5778; fax: (602) 965-0310. Limited travel funds will be available
on a competitive basis for students presenting papers. Lengthier abstracts will be
required. Please write to the program chair for further details.
In another note, the 1993 Awards Committee of the American Society for Ethnohistory
is pleased to announce the recipients of the Society’s Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin and
Robert F. Heizer awards. For the best book length work in ethnohistory, the Erminie
Wheeler-Voegelin Prize was awarded to James Lockhart (Department of History, UCLA) for
his book The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of
Central Mexico, Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries. The book was published in 1992
by Stanford University Press. Members of the 1993 selection committee were Kathleen
Bragdon, chair (College of William and Mary), Michael D. Green (University of
Kentucky), and Jennifer S.H. Brown (University of Winnipeg).
For the best article in the field of ethnohistory, the Robert F. Heizer Prize was
awarded to John Steckley (Native American Studies, University of Sudbury) for his
article “The Warrior and the Lineage: Jesuit Use of Iroquoian Images to Communicate
Christianity.” The article was published in Ethnohistory 39(4):478-509 (Fall 1992).
Members of the 1993 selection committee were Mary Druke Becker, chair (Newberry
Library), Robert M. Hill II (University of Texas, San Antonio), and John F.S. Phinney
(Southern Methodist University).
For any additional information on these matters, please contact William O. Autry,
Secretary/Treasurer, American Society for Ethnohistory, P.O. Box 917, Goshen, IN
(2) Sarah Cline (Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara) has
recently published The Book of Tributes: Early Sixteenth-Century Censuses from Morelos
as part of the UCLA Latin American Center Nahua Studies Series. The publication is a
transcription, translation, and extensive analysis of a volume of the oldest known
larger corpus of written Nahuatl. The Morelos censuses, done ca. 1540, provide rich
material on the social, economic, political, and cultural situation of two Nahua
The Book of Tributes, is the earliest major collection in Nahuatl of
person-by-person, field-by-field household counts. The texts provide a unique
statistical base, multiple examples of early Nahuatl sociopolitical terms, an
illustration of the Nahuatl language still hardly touched by Spanish, and much human
flavor in a time less than a generation after first contact. The significance of the
Morelos censuses is widely recognized by ethnohistorians and anthropologists. Parts of
the material have been made available, but until now none of it had appeared in an
English edition. The present work contains the transcription and translation of one
whole volume of the originals, plus an extensive analysis. It is the first complete
volume to be published. The analysis includes thorough examination of household
structures, tribute items and categories, as well as baptismal information — a topic
of broad significance previously left untouched.
Nahuatl Studies Series, Number 4. Series Editor: James Lockhart; Associate Editor:
Rebecca Horn. 1993, 328 pp. ISBN 0-87903-082-8. $18.95 paper. Phone, fax, credit card,
and mail orders accepted.
Order from:UCLA Latin American Center 10343 Bunche Hall 405 Hilgard Avenue University of California Los Angeles, CA 90024-1447 Telephone: (310) 825-6634; fax: (310) 206-6859 E-mail: email@example.com
Simultaneously, Cline has published “The Spiritual Conquest Reexamined: Baptism and
Christian Marriage in Early Sixteenth-Century Mexico,” Hispanic American Historical
Review 73(3):454-82 (1993), which analyzes the baptismal and Christian marriage data
from all three volumes of the Morelos censuses.
(3) Peter Tschol writes from Germany, “I have recently published “13 Rohr [1479
A.D.] Es setzte sich auf den Thron Calizto, der nur 80 Tage regierte” in Mexicon
XV(6):115-18 (December 1993). The theme is the known anomaly in the “Anales de
Cuautitlan” regarding a precolonial ruler of Cuitlahuac with the Spanish name Calizto.
The most prominent and far-reaching explanation of this anomaly introduced by Kirchhoff
and elaborated by Davies involved a different correlation “Cuitlahuac A” with the
equation 13 acatl = 1519. There are internal conflicts with this interpretation and an
inspection of the data reveals that a whole group of entries on the sequence of rulers
of Cuitlahuac based on the reign of Calizto is misplaced. The problem results in
Ixotomahuatzin dying 25 years before ascending to the throne! Thus, what Kirchhoff
reported as the cornerstone of his multicorrelational model is misplaced by one circle:
13 acatl = 1479 + 52 years. The moral once again is that we need theory for
understanding, but it will never replace the data.”
(4) John Bierhorst writes, “Elsa Ziehm, linguist and ethnomusicologist, died October
15, 1993, at the age of 82. She had been living in Berlin. As the last in a long line
of Berlin Nahua scholars that began with Eduard Seler and continued through Walter
Lehmann and Gerdt Kutscher, she was best known for her three-volume edition entitled
Nahua-texte aus San Pedro Jícora in Durango (1968-76) based largely on texts
that had been collected earlier by Konrad T. Preuss. In her later years, Ziehm taught
Nahuatl at the Latin American Institute of the Free University of Berlin. Her
hand-corrected copy of the Nahua-Texte and a copy of her unfinished manuscript
“Grammatik und Vokabular der Nahua-Sprache von San Pedro Jícora in Durango” are
in the possession of John Bierhorst.”
(5) Doctoral Dissertations on the Nahuas and Related Subjects: Take II
John M. Weeks writes, “Publication of 97 dissertation titles relating to the
Nahua-speakers in the Nahua Newsletter (No. 16, November 1993) prompted several letters
from readers. Two comments brought to my attention the omission of eleven dissertations
from the University of Pittsburgh. Further search of existing electronic and other data
bases revealed additional dissertations as well as theses omitted from the first list.
There are probably many other titles that have not yet been identified. Some graduate
institutions do not submit dissertation information to University Microfilms
International, and geographical or ethnic subject tracings are often inadequate to
identify some titles, while bibliographic information for non-United States
dissertations is usually difficult to obtain. However, future lists of Nahua-related
dissertations and theses will be submitted to the Nahua Newsletter as these titles are
identified. I would appreciate any omissions being brought to my attention.”
Please communicate further additions to John M. Weeks, Subject Bibliography Unit, 5
Wilson Library, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455; telephone: (612)
624-5860; fax: (612) 626-9353; Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arnold, Philip P. 1992. The matter of understanding: ritual ecology and the Aztec
Tlalocan landscape. University of Chicago Divinity School. 263 p. Bell, Karen E.
1992. Kingmakers: the royal women of ancient Mexico. University of Michigan. 244 p.
Chick, Garry E. 1980. Concept and behavior in a Tlaxcalan religious
officeholding system. University of Pittsburgh. 260 p. Custodio Lopez, Gerardo.
1991. The event of Guadalupe as a model of acculturation. M.A., Catholic Theological
Union at Chicago. 214 p. Dvorak, Trisha R. 1974. Encounter with the gods:
Mexican mythology and the Spanish language student. M.A., University of Texas at
Austin. 79 p.
Elzey, Wayne. 1974. The mythology of the ages of the world: the significance of
cosmic cycles among the Aztecs. University of Chicago Divinity School. 252 p.
Erdman, Harley M. 1991. Nahuatl performances and performers: theatrical activity in
pre-Columbian Mexico. M.F.A., University of Texas at Austin. 119 p. Hicks,
Elizabeth E. 1979. Nahuatl-Spanish bilingualism and ethnic attitudes in different
communities: a comparison. M.A., University of Texas. Hoffman, Harold M. 1983.
Primary schooling in rural Tlaxcala, Mexico. University of Pittsburgh. 425 p.
Kellogg, Susan M. 1979. Social organization in early colonial Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco:
an ethnohistorical study. University of Rochester. 282 p. Kosuda, Kathleen L.
1993. Selected art forms used in the conversion of a sixteenth century Mesoamerican
indigenous population to Catholicism. M.L.A., University of South Florida. 87 p.
Luckenbach, A. 1979. The implications of Nahua lexical diversity for Mesoamerican
culture-history. M.A., University of Kentucky. 108 p. McGeorge, Susan. 1991.
Ambivalence toward twins: an ethnography of twinning in Tlaxcala, Mexico. University of
Pittsburgh. Markov, Gretchen K. 1983. The legal status of Indians under Spanish
rule. University of Rochester. 581 p. Mouille, David R. 1972. The Aztec
priesthood: priesthood as the cause of social unification. S.T.M., General Theological
Seminary, New York. 98 p. Mulhare, Eileen M. 1986. Occupation and choice: the
women of Totimehuacan, Mexico. University of Pittsburgh. 736 p. Murphy, Timothy
D. 1984. San Miguel Canoa: the structure of marriage, family, and kinship. University
of Pittsburgh. 341 p. Pohman, Lenora K. 1993. The rise of the hummingbird:
explaining the Mexica’s political expansion and dominance of the Valley of Mexico.
B.A., Knox College. 66 p. Rothstein, Frances. 1974. Factions in a rural
community in Mexico. University of Pittsburgh. 252 p. Slade, Doren L. 1973. The
mayordomos of San Mateo: political economy of a religious system. University of
Pittsburgh. 648 p. Stuart, James W. 1978. Subsistence ecology of the Isthmus
Nahuat Indians of southern Veracruz, Mexico. University of California, Riverside. 408
p. Thiem, Paula M. 1992. The Aztec concept of the life and death cycles as
represented in the visual arts, architecture and religion. M.L.A., University of South
Florida. 126 p. Torres-Trueba, Henry E. 1970. Religious and economic
implications of factionalism in Xalacapan: a study of some expressions of factionalism
in a Mestizo-Indian community of Zacapoaxtla, Sierra Norte of Puebla, Mexico.
University of Pittsburgh. 231 p. Vexler, Mona J. 1981. Chachahuantla, a
blouse-making village in Mexico: a study of the socio-economic roles of women.
University of California, Los Angeles. 446 p. Wilk, Stanley T. 1970. Salvador
del Monte: a study of political economy. University of Pittsburgh. 313 p.
Architecture, 11, 22
Art, 11, 22
Christianity, 4, 11
Cosmology, 6, 22
Deities, 1, 4
Economic organization, 16, 20, 23, 24
Guadalupe, Our Lady of, 4
Kinship, 10, 17
Land tenure, 14
Linguistics, 5, 8, 12
Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint, 4
Mythology, 5, 6, 11, 15, 22
Nican mopohua, 4
Political organization, 2, 3, 14, 18, 20, 25
Religion, 1, 3, 4, 5, 11, 15, 20, 22, 23
Social organization, 10, 17, 24
Valeriano, Antonio, 4
Women, 2, 16, 24
Los Parajes, 8
Salvador del Monte, 25
San Miguel Canoa, 17
Tlaxcala, 3, 9, 13
Catholic Theological Union at Chicago, 4
General Theological Seminary, New York, 15
Knox College, 18
Univ. of California, Los Angeles, 24
Univ. of California, Riverside, 21
Univ. of Chicago, Divinity School, 1, 6
Univ. of Kentucky, 14
Univ. of Michigan, 2
Univ. of Pittsburgh, 3, 9, 13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 25
Univ. of Rochester, 10, 14
Univ. of South Florida, 11, 22
Univ. of Texas at Austin, 5, 7, 8
Blood Ties: Life and Violence in Rural Mexico. By James B. Greenberg. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989. Pp. viii+282. $14.95 (paper). ISBN 0-8165-1379-1.
Violence in rural Mexico is a topic that has received considerable attention during
the past generation, but never with the insight and sophistication that James B.
Greenberg demonstrates in his description and analysis of this phenomenon among the
Chatino Indians and Mestizo population of the district of Juquila in the state of
Oaxaca. Greenberg’s account is not only analytically stimulating but descriptively
engaging and pleasurable to read, the kind of ethnography, rare nowadays, that is
properly committed without sacrificing objectivity. One of the things that impresses me
most about this book is that although Greenberg identifies himself — as all good
ethnographers do — with his subjects, he remains scrupulously objective in presenting
a fair assessment of violence in the region and the causes that entail it.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One records the life and tribulations of
Don Fortino, one of those rare informants with which ethnographers are occasionally
blessed: sophisticated, insightful, articulate, and desirous to make his culture
understood to an outsider. Of mixed Chatino and Mestizo parentage, Don Fortino’s life
history is a gripping account of the confrontation of traditional Indian culture and
society and the outside capitalist world. It provides Greenberg with a diachronic body
of data extending from the turn of the century to 1986, which chronicles not only the
most important events and experiences of Don Fortino’s life, but also a vivid panorama
of the anatomy of violence as the region’s reaction to outside forces unleashed by the
Mexican Revolution and its aftermath. The account may also be regarded as the testimony
of many Chatino lives and how they react and adapt to and cope with an encroaching
foreign world. Part One, in a nutshell, presents the basic human elements and
predicaments that configurates the matrix of violence and its antecedents positioned
for analysis with maximal effect.
Part Two constitutes the analysis of violence: its explanation, the forms it takes,
its historical antecedents, and the ideology that underlies it. One of the most
valuable chapters of the book is concerned with the various explanations of violence
that have been formulated by anthropologists, as well as Don Fortino’s own. With
respect to the latter, the contexts of conflict and violence and the main variables
(land, class and ethnicity, guns, alcohol, machismo, personal character, and ideology)
involved are ably interdigitated and the explanations that emerged are equitably
assessed. In interpreting these folk explanations, Greenberg is admirably aware that
conflict and violence are not exclusively triggered and perpetuated by external forces
to the region, but they also reflect the values and ideology of local culture and
society. With respect to the former, Greenberg assesses the various theories that have
been employed in Mesoamerica to explain violence (stemming from the psychological,
structural, and cultural idealist positions) and rightly finds them wanting or
inadequate. He settles for the historical approach as the most likely to generate
adequate explanations of the upsurge of violence in the region during recent
Beginning with pre-Hispanic forms of domination, Greenberg describes and analyses
Colonial, Republican, and contemporary forms of exploitation that have affected the
region. In this historical analysis he makes several important points that should be
heeded by anthropological ethnohistorians working in Mesoamerica, which may be
summarized as follows. First, and most encompassing, the several transformations
undergone by regional culture and society for more than 450 years have not been
passive. Rather, every confrontation between the Chatino and outside world has produced
actions and reactions, as economic, social, religious, and political inputs from the
outside have been differentially internalized and reinterpreted. Second, the effects of
centuries of domination and exploitation have perpetuate a local communal, egalitarian
ideology and imago mundi in sharp contrast to the contemporary individualistic and
stratified world view of the Mestizo world centered on capitalism. Third, it is in the
interplay of these conflicting ideologies that the roots of conflict and violence are
to be sought. Moreover, the adaptations that the folk society has made vis-à-vis
the external world has also been conditioned by the conflicting ideologies, whose main
functions are to protect a traditional way of life and to fend against undue
interference. Finally, Greenberg is well aware, particularly envisaged in the Afterward
of the book, that the ultimate transformation is on its way, as Chatino society is
slowly being incorporated into a Oaxacan version of the national culture. Or, as I
would put it, the traditional Indian-Mestizo dichotomy of the district of Juquila, like
Tlaxcala at the turn of the century, is being transformed into the modern
The last two chapters of the book deal respectively with the ideology of violence
and forms of conflict. Here again Greenberg makes a number of significant points. On
the one hand, he analyzes conflict and violence as the entailment of contradictions
between the Chatino moral order and Mestizo capitalism, and he highlights the high toll
violence exacts from the people in terms of loss of life and property, anxiety, and
suffering. On the other hand, he specifies the domains of conflict that lead to
violence in the manifold contexts of family life, the social structure, political
concerns, and economic interests. The analysis illustrates both the traditional imago
mundi, as a force for preserving the cultural integrity of the Chatino, and the
insidious effect of Mestizo capitalism, as a force that is accelerating the process of
integration into the national culture.
In summary, this is an outstanding, very rewarding book to read. It makes one
reflect on old problems and think of new ways of looking at the painful transition that
Mesoamerican Indians have been undergoing in the XX century. For example, it has made
me reflect and ask why Tlaxcala, since before 1900, has been transformed from a
traditional Indian society into a kind of rural proletariat without the conflict and
violence that is still so prevalent in the district of Juquila. And it has made me
think of alternate ways of conceptualizing the transition from situations in which the
Indian-Mestizo dichotomy obtains to the modernized-secularized context of the
Indian-Mestizo continuum. It should elicit similar reactions from anthropologists and
other social scientists working in Latin America. I most strongly recommended
Greenberg’s book to students of violence, change, and modernization everywhere.
Bernardino de Sahagún’s Psalmodia Christiana (Christian Psalmody). Translated by Arthur J. O. Anderson. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1993. Pp. ix+375. $39.95 (paper). ISBN 0-87480-373-X.
La Psalmodia Christiana editada hoy por Arthur J. O. Anderson es un libro importante
de Fray Bernardino de Sahagún. Sabemos que el famoso franciscano, nacido en 1499
o 1500 en España pasó a la Nueva España en 1529. A partir de 1547,
en Tepepulco, región tezcocana, empezó a reunir la materia que iba a
formar la “Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España.” Entre 1558 y 1561,
mientras seguía trabajando en la “Historia General,” redactó varias obras
en náhuatl destinadas a la evangelización de los indios: la Postilla, que
contiene evangelios del año, y la Psalmodia Christiana, que ofrece cantares o
cánticos para los indios en las fiestas del año. Más tarde,
Sahagún acompletó su obra evangelizadora con los Coloquios y Doctrina
cristiana y varios sermones.
De todas estas obras de Sahagún, la Psalmodia Christiana fue la única
publicada antes de nuestros días. Desde 1564, empezó a circular en forma
de manuscrito con la licencia del virrey, y Pedro Ocharte la sacó a luz en 1583.
De esa fecha en adelante, el libro siguió en uso hasta el siglo XVIII y
sobrevivió después en forma de copias en unas cuantas bibliotecas de
Estados Unidos, México, y Madrid.
Si la Psalmodia Christiana, por haber sido el único manuscrito del gran
franciscano publicado durante su vida, ocupa un lugar muy especial para los estudiosos
de la obra de Sahagún, también presenta gran importancia por su
contenido. En efecto, es conocido el interés de los primeros evangelizadores por
el canto y el baile prehispánicos, cuyos temas nos han llegado bajo los
títulos de Cantares Mexicanos y Romances de los Señores. Con su
Psalmodia, Sahagún quiso aprovechar una parte de la poesía antigua y
ponerla al servicio de la evangelización. Así es como el lector
encontrará en los días de Navidad, de la Resurrección y de las
estigmas de San Francisco unos cánticos detallando listas de flores,
pájaros y turquesas, al estilo prehispánico.
Otro interés de la Psalmodia es ofrecer una de las primeras sino la primera
traducción al náhuatl de vidas de santos. En efecto, el libro, empezando
en enero y terminando en diciembre, proporciona cánticos para las fiestas de
cierto número de santos del año (tres a nueve por més), en total
54 fiestas del año. Aquí se encuentran resumenes de las vidas de los
santos más importantes en la tradición franciscana.
La edición de Arthur J. O. Anderson ofrece el texto original con una
traducción excelente, y notas discretas y acertadas. La Psalmodia está
precedida por un prefacio, una introducción y una bibliografía
establecidas por Anderson. Aunque que no parezca muy clara la razón por la cual
el editor sintió la necesidad de redactar un prefacio aparte de la
introducción, ambas logran plantear el cuadro histórico y general. En
efecto, se presentan la lista de las copias de la Psalmodia existentes en las
bibliotecas del mundo, las circunstancias de su redacción, datos sobre las
danzas prehispánicas y su representación en las primeras decadas
después de la conquista, la poesía náhuatl y el lenguaje de la
Psalmodia. La importancia del texto para un estudio general de la aculturación
de la población indígena está útilmente subrayada y
vías para la investigación futura están señaladas.
Por mi parte, pienso que, por ser cronológicamente uno de los primeros
ensayos de traducción de vidas de santos, el libro proporciona una base para el
estudio de sermones más tardíos. Traté una comparación con
unos sermones anónimos del siglo XVII contenidos en el Manuscrito 58 de la
Bancroft Library. En la página 1 de dicho manuscrito, se encuentra una vida de
Santa Catarina, virgen y mártir, que se puede comparar con la vida de Santa
Catarina contenida en las páginas 335-39 de la Psalmodia. En primer lugar, esa
comparación pone de manifiesto que los cánticos de Sahagún no
contienen un relato detallado de la vida de la santa, sino más bien un resumen y
alabanzas. Al contrario, el manuscrito Bancroft 58 proporciona un relato detallado de
la vida de la santa. Sin embargo, las dificultades de traducción han sido
resueltas del mismo modo. Por ejemplo, el suplicio reservado a Santa Catarina por el
emperador es estar molida entre cuatro ruedas cubiertas de clavos agudos, dos encima y
dos abajo, dando vuelta en sentido contrario. Sahagún traduce
tepuz-quauh-te-malacatl (ruedas de madera con hierro). Te-malacatl (literalmente, “huso
de piedra”) representaba antes de la conquista una rueda de piedra en la que se
sacrificaban hombres a Xipe Totec. Quauh-te-malacatl se volvió después de
la conquista la palabra designando una rueda de madera, sea de carreta o de molino. Por
consecuencia, una rueda cubierta de puntas de hierro fue traducida por medio de la
palabra tepuz-quauh-te-malacatl. El Ms Bancroft 58 proporciona una descripción
más detallada, pero se apoya en la misma base: qui-chiua-s-que nauh-tetl
quauh-te-malacatl tepoz-tlaxichti-ca (van a hacer cuatro ruedas de madera con clavos de
hierro). Sigue una descripción del modo en que las ruedas giran (momalacachoa,
término ya usado por Sahagún). Este es un ejemplo de los estudios sobre
las traducciones, que se pueden hacer en base a la Psalmodia de Sahagún.
De modo general, el libro editado por Anderson es indispensable tanto para los
estudiosos de la obra de Sahagún como para los nahuatlatos y todos los que
preocupa la evangelización y la aculturación.
Tariacuri’s Legacy: The Prehispanic Tarascan State. By Helen Perlstein Pollard. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 1993. Pp. 266. $37.50 ISBN 0-8061-2497-0.
Tariacuri’s Legacy: The Prehispanic Tarascan State is the result of many years of
work by Helen Perlstein Pollard on the protohistoric and early historic Tarascans of
the Patzcuaro basin in western Mexico. The results of her research have appeared
steadily since the late 1970s and have been consistently excellent. The book,
essentially a chronicle of the expansion of the Tarascan kingdom from less than 1,000
sq. km to an empire of more than 75,000 sq. km, is organized in eight chapters, plus an
introductory essay and a series of descriptive appendices.
An introductory essay by Shirley Gorenstein, chairperson of Pollard’s dissertation
committee at Columbia University, offers the reader an excellent review of the
development of archaeological and ethnohistorical research pertaining to the Tarascan
Chapter 1 considers the Tarascan kingdom in its temporal and spatial context,
reviews the historical linguistics, available ethnohistorical and archaeological data
available for the Tarascans, environmental setting, and modern ethnography.
Chapter 2 summarizes archaeological research conducted by Pollard and others at
Tzintzuntzan, the Tarascan focal settlement situated on the edge of Lake Patzcuaro.
Topics covered include settlement size and population, urban land use, identification
of residential zones, manufacturing zones, and public zones. More sociological features
rely less on archaeological remains but are extracted primarily from the
Relación de Michoacan, and includes a discussion of kinship, family and lineage,
internal spatial differentiation into wards and districts, and social classes.
Chapter 3 offers ecological description of the Late Patzcuaro basin and inserts a
settlement study based on field investigations by Gorenstein and Pollard, other
archaeological surveys, and ethnohistorical documentation. The chapter considers
settlement location, size, and function, estimates population size and density, and
reconstructs the protohistoric regional organization of the basin through an analysis
of central-place functions.
Using primarily ethnohistorical information, Chapters 4 through 7 present a rather
basic but static historical ethnography of the Tarascans. Chapter 4 outlines the
spatial expansion of the Tarascan state from the Lake Patzcuaro basin to the frontier
of the Aztec empire. The next chapter discusses the economic organization of the
Tarascan state as a necessary precondition to support increased population size and
density. Chapter 6 presents the political organization of the state, including
territorial divisions, political power, class, and ethnicity. Finally, Chapter 7
explores the relationship of state religion and Tarascan intellectual tradition,
including state level cults and deities, cosmology, calendrics, sacred geography,
religious architecture, and art.
Chapter 8 places the Tarascan kingdom within the context of Mesoamerican prehistory
and attempts an integration of the preceding sections of the volume. Pollard reviews
Tarascan-Aztec political and economic relations, construction of Tarascan ethnicity,
and the emergence of West Mexican civilization. The author acknowledges that a number
of cultural features make the Tarascans an anomaly within Mesoamerica and, although as
she herself admits, “The precise means by which Michoacan was transformed from a
Mesoamerican periphery into a Mesoamerican core has yet to be understood.”
The narrative is followed by a series of descriptive appendices. The first appendix
summarizes results of an archaeological survey conducted by the author during the early
1970s. Many of the 120 site descriptions give little information beyond the existence
of surface scatters and are referenced to a map too small to be useful. Appendices 2
and 3 include a type-variety analysis of pottery and lithic artifacts recovered from
the settlement survey.
Helen Perlstein Pollard has produced another in a group of encyclopedic syntheses by
presenting an extensive summary of available ethnohistorical and archaeological
information pertaining to the Tarascans. Other examples of this genre include work on
the Mixtec by Ronald Spores, Quiche by Robert Carmack, Tzutuhil by Sandra Orellana, and
Pipil by William Fowler. Helen Perlstein Pollard’s book offers a provocative challenge
to archaeologists and ethnohistorians writing on Mesoamerican peoples. It calls for us
to incorporate more fully ethnohistorical insights into archaeological
A vast and thorough piece of scholarship, the book is at the same time an accessible
work for the nonspecialist. There is room for criticism: little attention is paid to
the impact of political and economic changes outside the Tarascan area, and more might
have been said in a traditional anthropological vein on processes of change in
language, religion, and social organization. Historical sources available for the
region are few when compared to other areas of Mesoamerica, such as central Mexico or
the Maya region. The author relies almost exclusively on Fray Jeronimo de Alcala’s
Relación de las ceremonias y ritos y población y gobierno de los indios
de la provincia de Michoacan. More discussion of the other historical sources would
have been useful and appropriate. Despite these quibbles, Pollard’s Tariacuri’s Legacy
is a welcome addition to the archaeological and ethnohistorical literature of
New World Encounters. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. $45.00 (cloth). ISBn 0-520-08020-3. $15.00 (paper). ISBN 0-520-08021-1.
This collection of essays on the encounter of European and native American
civilizations in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries presents serious attempts to
use the techniques of literary analysis on historical events. All of these essays were
previously published in the journal Representations. Following in the traditions of
deconstruction and discourse analysis these authors have brought critical theories to
bear on the writings of the participants in the European colonization of the Americas.
The scope of the collection is large, ranging from Christopher Columbus’ first comments
on the newly discovered lands, to the conquest of the Aztec and Inca civilizations, to
Raleigh, Camoes, and Jean de Lery. Of specific interest to scholars of Nahuatl are the
essays by Inga Clendinnen, Rolena Adorno, Anthony Pagden, and David Damrosch.
In her work, “Fierce and Unnatural Cruelty: Cortes and the Conquest of Mexico,” Inga
Clendinnen studies the differing interpretations of the conquest of the Nahuas by the
Spaniards. In particular she focuses on the characterization of Fernando Cortes by as
disparate authors as William Hickling Prescott and Tzvetan Todorov. She explains that
Prescott saw in Cortes “[t]he model of European man: ruthless, pragmatic, single-minded
and…superbly rational….” On the other hand, Todorov characterized the Spanish
commander as “practicing the art of adaptation and improvisation….A specialist in
communication….” By comparison, Prescott’s Aztecs and especially Moctezoma are
“despotic, effete, and rendered fatally indecisive by the ‘withering trait’ of an
irrational religion.” For Todorov, the Aztecs represent the “other” but specifically
their flaw was that “[d]ominated by a cyclical understanding of time, omen-haunted,
they are incapable of improvisation in the face of the unprecedented Spanish challenge”
(all p. 13).
Thus Prescott, in Clendinnen’s analysis, suffered from a racial and cultural myopia
which sympathized in the extreme with the Spaniards while Todorov, although thoughtful
and “intellectually sophisticated,” saw the defeat of the Aztecs as the result of a
failure to communicate. Two quite differing visions indeed.
Clendinnen gives an admirable overview of the Conquest, synthesizing the numerous
accounts. She goes on to note that most analyses of the Conquest have tended to focus
on the first phase of the effort, that is up until the “Noche Triste” when Cortes and
the Spanish were driven from Tenochtitlan. Clendinnen accepts this, but goes on to
focus on the basic differences in warfare between the Spanish and Aztecs. As we know,
Aztec warfare by the time of the arrival of the Spaniards had become largely stylized.
Battles took place between largely equal parties. There was no honor in defeating a
weaker opponent. Warriors would appear before a city and defenders come out to meet
them. Should the attackers prove victorious they would then enter the city and set fire
to the principal temple, capture and carry off the local deity, and plunder the city
and its inhabitants. Eventually the defeated leaders would sue for peace, and a tribute
relationship would be developed. Ambush was unthinkable. The Aztecs prepared physically
and spiritually for battle and in general avoided killing the enemy on the field of
battle, preferring to weaken an opponent until he could be carried away. Moreover the
native weapons cut cleanly, usually allowing for a recovery.
By contrast the Spaniards used weapons that struck from a distance with little or no
warning. They went about always prepared for battle. There was a preference for killing
the opponent. Only in the plunder of the conquered city and destruction of the temple
and deity did the Spaniards exhibit any similarity.
These differences resulted in an “endgame” which appealed to neither side. The
Aztecs suffered a siege, which was unheard of in their rules of warfare. Cortes was
forced to destroy the city in order to win it. The Tlaxcalans who were bound by the
same cultural traditions as the Aztecs proceeded to slaughter the inhabitants of
Tenochtitlan because they had lost their own cultural inhibitions in the war of
conquest. What results for Clendinnen was just the consequence of an odd conversation
in which neither side fully understood the other, and then reacted.
Rolena Adorno studies the narrative of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca in her
essay “The Negotiation of Fear in Cabeza de Vaca’s Naufragios.” The main thrust of the
essays is that Cabeza de Vaca, as a result of his odyssey through the American
southwest and northern Mexican frontier, came to a similar conclusion about the
conversion of the natives as did Las Casas. Cabeza de Vaca through experience had seen
that peaceful contacts with the natives usually rendered successful results — in his
case, he stayed alive. Also through eye-witness experience he saw the devastation and
destruction wrought by Nuño de Guzman. Most interesting in Adorno’s study was
the means whereby Cabeza de Vaca and his companions at first were subject to the whims
of the local natives but later became partners with one group, and finally became an
independent entity themselves. Critical in this process was the Spaniards’ ability to
effect cures. On the whole this is an excellent and fascinating essay. One inaccuracy
however is rather glaring. Adorno in comparing Cabeza de Vaca with Las Casas states
that the latter “was a layman when he undertook his 1521 peaceful conversion experiment
in Cumana” (p. 71). Las Casas was a priest even before his spiritual conversion and
entrance into the Dominican order.
In dealing with Las Casas, Anthony Pagden, in his essay “Ius et Factum: Text and
Experience in the Writings of Bartolome de las Casas” takes a look at the vocabulary of
cultural conquest. In the writings of Las Casas, Pagden sees two essential tenets:
“that the Indians were ‘men like us,’ and that only those ‘who had been there’ could
possibly have any significant understanding of American and its inhabitants” (p. 89).
He therefore sought to establish his voice as the true authority on conditions in the
New World and his texts as the definitive writings. Those texts were in turn based on
the established authorities of the Church and on his own first-hand experience. All of
this then sought to establish once and for all that the natives enjoyed true humanity
and all the rights and privileges thereunto appertaining.
David Damrosch in “The Aesthetics of Conquest: Aztec Poetry Before and After Cortes”
treads ground that has already been examined by the likes of Angel María
Garibay, Miguel León-Portilla, John Bierhorst, and others. Damrosch posits that
Aztec poetics should not be seen as a contrast or “a respite from the harsh realities
of Aztec political life” but rather “that Aztec aestheticism was in fact deeply
implicated in the carrying through of Aztec imperial policy” (p. 139). In his analysis,
Damrosch assumes that the major sources of Aztec poetry, the Cantares mexicanos and the
Romances de los señores de la Nueva España, are products not purely of
the period before 1520, but also of the period after. He holds that the poetry should
be read bivalently as products of an oral tradition, subject to changes inherent in the
Conquest, and then recorded later. Consequently the poetry manifests an image
repertoire which is essentially pre-Conquest in nature. Given these assumptions,
Damrosch then focuses on the displacement of the old Aztec pantheon by the Christian
religion within the poetry.
What Damrosch finds is often the mere substitution of the old deities for the new
Christian God, Mary, or parts of the Trinity. In other instances poems have been edited
to note that references to the old deity should be read as references to God. In some
cases the poetry seems to have been recast for the new religion, but in none as
completely as Sahagún in his Psalmodia Cristiana. If the poems in the
pre-Conquest era were used to maintain the imperial regime and the brutality it
institutionalized, in the post-Conquest era the poems helped “to strengthen the resolve
of a conquered people to resist their total destruction” (p. 154). At the same time the
poems suffered from and reported on the destruction of the Aztec polity. The poems must
then be read as multiple perspectives on past triumphs and present struggles.
The remaining essays deal with highland Peru, Brazil, and the British possessions in
the Americas, and so are outside of the realm of the Nahuas. In general this is an
excellent collection of essays. The authors are to be commended for bringing the skills
of literary analysis to historical issues. They offer some important insights into the
real issues of the conquest of the Americas, its effect on individuals, and how those
effects changed the lives of people.
The illustrations that appear in this issue were taken from The Slippery Earth:
Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico by Louise M. Burkhart
(Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989).
Editor’s note: For privacy reasons, Directory mailing lists are only provided on the print version. If you have any questions, please contact the editor.