Editor’s Note: This content is archival.
November 2000, Number 30
A Publication of the Indiana University Center for Latin American and Caribbean
With support from the Department of Anthropology
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
- Nahua Newsletter News
- News Items
- Book Reviews
- Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico
Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Culhuacan, and other Nahua Altepetl in Central
Mexico. 2 vols. Collected and Recorded by Don Domingo de San Antón
Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuantzin. Edited and translated by Arthur J.
O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. Vol. 1.
Pp. viii+248. $45.00 (cloth). ISBN 0-8061-2921-2. Vol. 2. Pp. vi+248/ $48.50 (cloth).
ISBN 0-8061 2950-6. Reviewed by Gordon Brotherston.
- Francis, Norbert. 1997. Malintzin: Bilingüismo y
alfabetización en la Sierra de Tlaxcala (México). Tomo I. Pp. 257. Tomo
II. Pp. 251. ISBN (set) 9-978043-33-0. Collección Biblioteca Abya-Yala, Nos.
54 and 55. Quito, Ecuador: Ediciones Abya-Yala. Reviewed by Jane H. Hill.
- Illustrations this Issue
- Directory updates
Welcome to the 30th issue of the Nahua Newsletter, now completing its 15th year of
publication in the interests of the culture, history, and language of Nahuatl-speaking
and related peoples in the Mesoamerican culture area. In this issue you will find a
declaration of religious freedom sent by Nahuas of the Chicontepec region of northern
Veracruz, as well as news items, book reviews, a commentary on Nahuatl linguistics, a
commentary on flint, and a directory update. Please enjoy this issue and participate in
the growing community of scholars and students who read the NN by sending news of your
activities, requests for information, comments, or calls for action. We reach nearly
400 readers in 15 different countries so please use the NN to create your own personal
The NN was begun in February 1986 by Brad Huber, now Associate Professor of
Anthropology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He assembled the initial
list of subscribers and succeeded in creating a community of scholars and students
linked by their common interest in the Nahuas and the Nahuatl language. Brad remains a
loyal reader, an active researcher, and a key player in Nahua studies.
To uninitiated outsiders, the NN may seem a little obscure. Those in the know
realize that more people speak Nahuatl than any other Native American language. They
also are aware that the ethnohistorical record for Nahuas is one of the richest in the
world. That record documents one of the greatest cataclysms in history as Europeans and
Native Americans confronted one another and changed each other in the process. The
launch of the NN coincided with a renewed interest in the peoples and cultures of
Mesoamerica. The past 20 years have witnessed significant progress in our understanding
of the history, languages, and contemporary cultures of the region.
The NN is sent free to subscribers, but it survives on donations to offset the costs
of printing and mailing. Our finances are relatively stable right now, and thanks to
the generosity of readers we have enough in the account for this issue and the next.
Donations are always gratefully received, however. We are a low-pressure operation that
has survived for a decade and a half on the generosity and good will of our readers. If
you would like to send money to be placed in the NN account, please make checks payable
to the Nahua Newsletter and send them to the address below. All funds are used to print
and mail the NN. There are no administrative costs.
We can be accessed on the Web at http://www.ipfw.edu/Soc/Nahua.htm. Our NN
Webmaster is Richard Sutter, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Indiana
University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. His e-mail address is SutterR@ipfw.edu. Eventually all previous issues will be
archived on the Web, but at this time only the recent past issues appear there. We are
unable to include the illustrations that appear in each issue because of copyright
laws. If you or your library would like a complete set of printed back issues, please
contact the editor at the address below to make arrangements. We charge $100 for a
complete set of back issues (a bargain for the amount of material included) and all
proceeds will be applied to printing and mailing of future issues.
Please send your news items, calls for cooperation, or commentaries to:The Nahua Newsletter
c/o Alan R. Sandstrom, Editor
Department of Anthropology
2101 Coliseum Blvd. East
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805
1. We received the following declaration from Lic. Arturo Gómez
Martínez on behalf of Nahuas from Ixcacuatitla, Chicontepec, Veracruz. Arturo is
a Nahuatl speaker who recently completed his tesis para licenciado en
anthropología at the Universidad Veracruzana, which is entitled “Tlaneltokilli:
La espiritualidad de los nahuas chicontepecanos.” The declaration was issued in Nahuatl
along with a Spanish translation.
Mahtlactli tonalli tlen noviembre metztli tlen 1999 xihuitl.
Nochi tlen tech tlacakiliah:
Ni tomasehualteotlahtol tlahuel yehyectzi huan itech ahcoketza, tech cahuiltehtokeh
tohuahcapayohua ihuan mehcatza maneltic ica teotlahtolli catalica, tohuanteh tihpia
totlaneltokil ica tlen titlanescayotiah tlen tlaelli pilsintzih, nohkia tihtlacualtiah
atl, ehecatl, tlitl huan tlalli, nochi ya ni yehyectlahtolli tlen tech yolcui huan tech
tlamaca, yeca titlatlacualtiah, titlatenohnotzah huan titlatlaliah ica se tlacualiztli
huan piotzih. Tihmahtokehya ica ni totiotzitzih tlanahuatiltlatilanah, amo nesih, amo
mopanextiah; inihuanteh chanitztokeh cahcampahuelli pan ni semanahuactli huan tech
mocuitlahuiah, kitlachiliah totekih huan tech tlatzacuitiah kemah ax titlatlepanitah
huan kemah ax titlatlacualtiah. Tech yocuitokeh totiotzitzih, kichihkeh ni semanahuac
huan nochi tlen tlaohonca, yeca no kinekih tlen titlaeliltiah huan kinekih se
tlatzotzontli, tlanohnotzalli, copalli, tlacualli huan tlaihtotilli. Yeca tohuanteh
timasehualmeh titlatlacualtiah ica amo icatomosisinihtoseh ni totecohuah, amo ma tech
tlatzacuilticah, yeca tikintlepanitah huan ica titlaneltocah, mehcatza tech cocoliah,
mehcatza tech ahuah ne totahtzitzih católicos, ne Testigos tlen Jeohován
huah sekimeh tlaneltokilmeh. Totiotzitzih tech palehuiah, inihuanteh kimahcahuah atl
ica ma tlaelli pan ni tlaltepactli yehyectzi itlahca se tlacualistli, ihkino amo ancas
mayantli, amo titlaihyohuiseh; tlahuel cualli ma tihtlepanitacah ni tlen huahcapatl
mochihua, ihkino amo tikincualaniseh totiotzitzi ihkino huelis tech palehuihtiaseh,
tlen ki ahcocuih Chicomexochitl ma amo kimahcahuacah, ma kitlacualticah ica se
tlacualli, xochitlatzotzontli, xochitl huan tlaihtotilli.
Itztokeh tlacameh tleh tech cuatotoniah ica ni totlaneltokil, tohuanteh amo ma
tikintlacakilicah, pampa tohuante no itechmoneki ma tih panexticah tlen titlaneltocah,
tlen hueli tech ihiliah panpa ni totiotzitzih amo tlacuah kemah se se kintlamanilia,
amo xikintlacakiliacah, inihuanteh tlahuel cuatlapolohtokeh, toteco kineki ma
timotlacuapilicah, ax san mech titlahtlanicah, nohkia ma tih macacah se achi tlen tech
maca; inmohuanteh tomasehualpoyohua xikihlamihkicah ica tlen tikinmacah ni totiotzitzih
no kiseliah huan ininhuaya timonechcahuiah ica copalpoctli, tlatzotzontli huan
tlanohnotzalli. Tohuanteh tihchihuah se cualli tlatlacualtiliztli, yeka tlaahuetzi
kemah titlahtlanih, yeca achi momanahuia tomilah.
Yehyectzi totlaneltokil huan mopanextia pan teoamatlatectli huan sekimen
teotlanahuatianeh tlen nohkia tikintocaxtia espíritus ni kinpalehuiah tlen
huehueyih totiotzitzih. Nohkia ma tikintlepanitacah campa titlatlacualtiah, tepemeh
malhuilmeh, nohkia amelli, tlaoztocomeh huan tzacualmeh tlen antiguatl.
Tlatlacualtilizmeh ma tikin ahcoketzacah, ma ti mo panoltilicah tlahtolli tlen
kenehcatza mochihua ni tlamantli ica ma ax polihui huan ma mopanexti yeyehca.
Nitotlaneltokil moneki ma tihtlepanitacah huan tohuantia ma tihyolpachocah, san yahyaya
ni tihpia tlen tomasehulpo, tlan tohuanteh ax tihtlepanitah sekinokeh tlen kiahuakeh
Ni xihuipahtli huan nochi tlen masehualpahtli tlatemoliztli tlahuel cualli para
tohuanteh ti masehualmeh, no tihpiah tohuaya to itztolis ihuan tlehaya ica timopahtiah.
Cualli timopahtiseh ica masehualtepatihketl, ya tech pahtis toyolcocolishua tlen mopa
coyotepahtihketl amo huelli kichihua pampa amo ki ixmati ni tlamantli, nohkia amo.
Tohuanteh timasehualmeh ma tih manelocah ipahui coyotepahtihketl ihuan tlen
masehultepahtihketl, ihkino achi cualli timochicahuaseh. Kemah ticocoxquetih ma
tikitacah tlachixketl, ya tech ihlis tlen tlamantli tihchihuaseh tlan se tlapahtiliztli
o tiaseh ne caltepahtiloya.
Tlatlacualtilismeh tlen tih chihuah ma tikintlepanitacah huan ma tikin ahcoketzaca
para ma ax polihui, ni ya ni tlen tech masehualnextia, huan tlahuel tech palehuia ica
titlacakiseh tlen cualli tlahtolli huan comuntlatlepanitalistli. Namictilismeh kin
olochoa insenchanitztocah, nohkia momasehualnamictiah pampa tlen tlanamictihketl
huehuetlacatl. Elotlamanaliztli tlahel yehyectzi huan ica tihtlascamatilia toteco huan
tlalli huan atl. Atlatlacualtiliztli moneki ma mochihua, tlan amo se kichihuas ni
tonatih tech tlamis kemah tlamis totlacualis.
Ni totiotzitzi tlen tikinescayotiah pan amatl moneki ma tikintlepanitacah huan ma
tikintlacualticah, tlen tech cocoliah amo ma tikintlacakilicah, san panimah sekimeh
nohkia masehualmeh huan ax kimatih tlen kichihuah, kineltokah kiahuac tlahtolli, amo
kicuamachiliah huan tlahuel axtlen kipiah, ax ki itah tlan san kintekihuah ica tlen ax
Ni teoamatlatecmeh ma cualli tikin ahcocuicah, ma tikintlacualticah, ma
tikinpopochuicah, ma tikintlamacacah huan kemah huelis ma tikintlatzotzonilicah. Tlen
kipiah ininxochical o calli tlen costumbre ma kimocuitlahuicah huan ma kitlachpanicah
huan tlen amo kipiah ma kichihuacah se, amo moneki ica tetl, mehcatza san ica cuahuitl
Ixcacuatitla, Chicontepec, Ver., 10 de noviembre de 1999.
A la opinión pública:
Las creencias que tenemos nosotros los indígenas son muy ricas, es herencia
ancestral y aunque combinamos cosas de la iglesia católica, tenemos nuestros
propios cultos, basados fundamentalmente en el maíz y su cultivo, también
rendimos culto al agua, al viento, a la lumbre y a la tierra; son todos ellos
expresiones sagradas que nos dan vida y sustento, por eso hacemos rituales, les rezamos
y les ofrendamos nuestros comestibles y aves. Sabemos que nuestros dioses son
poderosos, invisibles e impalpables; ellos habitan en diferentes partes del universo y
andan observando nuestras conductas, nuestros trabajos y nos castigan cuando nos
portamos mal o cuando no les ofrecemos ceremoniales. Los dioses nos han creado, crearon
el mundo y todo lo que existe en ella, ellos quieren que les entreguemos un poco de lo
que nosotros producimos, además exigen un poco de música, rezos, copal,
comidas y danzas. Estas son las razones por lo que nosotros los indígenas
celebramos los rituales, para que los dioses no se enojen, no envíen castigos,
por eso los respetamos y creemos en ellos aunque nos critiquen, nos regañen los
sacerdotes católicos, los testigos de Jehová y otras religiones. Nuestros
dioses son los que más ayudan, ellos envían las lluvias para que la
tierra sea fértil y para que las plantas comestibles crezcan y den buenos
frutos, de esta manera no habrá hambrunas, no sufriremos; es importante que
respetemos nuestras antiguas tradiciones, para no provocar la ira a las divinidades y
así continúen ayudándonos; los que custodian el
Chicomexóchitl que no lo abandonen, es prioritario que le ofrezcan rituales,
comidas, música, flores y danzas.
Existen personas que nos reprimen por nuestros cultos y creencias pero no debemos
hacerles caso, porque también tenemos derecho de manifestar nuestra fe, lo que
más nos critican es que los dioses no comen las viandas que les ofrecemos, pero
no les pongan atención, ellos son ilógicos, dios quiere reciprocidad con
nosotros, no únicamente debemos de pedirle, sino que también debemos
ofrecerle un poco de lo que recibimos; ustedes compañeros indígenas
piensen que las deidades si reciben lo que les ofrendamos y nos comunicamos a
través del humo del copal, la música y los rezos. Nosotros hacemos buenos
rituales por eso llueve cuando pedimos y se protege nuestra cosecha.
Nuestras creencias son hermosas y lo más palpable de ello tenemos los
recortes donde figuramos las deidades y demás fuerzas sobrenaturales, que
también llamamos espíritus, que también son ayudantes de los
más principales dioses. Es importante también que respetemos nuestros
sitios sagrados, los cerros son lugares delicados, al igual que los manantiales, las
cuevas y las ruinas arqueológicas (antiguas). Los ceremoniales debemos
reforzarlos transmitiéndonos el conocimiento en torno a su realización
para que de esta manera podamos preservarlas lo más original posible, sin
modificaciones. Nuestras creencias tenemos que comenzar a respetarlos y valorarlos
nosotros mismos, que es lo único que nos queda como indígenas, si no lo
hacemos, personas ajenas no lo harán.
La medicina tradicional y todo el sistema terapéutico indígena es muy
importante para nosotros los indígenas, pues tenemos nuestra propia cultura y
nuestros propios mecanismos de curación. Siempre es importante que nos atendamos
con los curanderos, él nos puede curar enfermedades espirituales que el
médico alópata no lo puede hacer, porque no conoce sobre esto,
además tiene otras creencias.
Nosotros los indígenas debemos de combinar las medicinas del médico
profesional y del curandero para que tenga más eficacia y sanemos pronto. Cuando
nos sentimos débiles consultemos al adivino (de maíz) para que nos diga
que debemos hacer, si un ceremonial de curación o acudir a la
Los rituales que nosotros celebramos, debemos de respetarlos y perpetuarlos para que
no se pierdan, ya que son parte de nuestra identidad, además nos ayudan mucho en
ciertos aspectos como la de unir formas de pensar y respeto mutuo. Los ceremoniales de
boda cohesionan a la familia y además se unen en matrimonio conforme la
tradición, debido a que los casa el sacerdote indígena o
huehuetlácatl. La ceremonia del elote llamado elotlamanaliztli, es muy hermosa y
con ello agradecemos el fruto a las divinidades y principalmente a la tierra y al agua.
El ritual para pedir lluvias llamado atlatlacualtiliztli es digno de celebrarse, por el
contrario el sol nos exterminaría, en tanto que nuestros alimentos se
Las deidades que figuramos en papel ceremonial tenemos que respetarlos y rendirles
culto, a los que nos critican no les hagamos caso, finalmente algunos de ellos
también son indígenas y no saben lo que hacen, profesan credos que ni son
de ellos, ni los entienden y además están más humildes que
nosotros, no se han dado cuenta de que los están usando y explotando.
Nuestras deidades figurados en papel tenemos que guardarlos bien, rendirles culto,
sahumarlos, ofrecerles alimentos y en ocasiones música. Los que tienen su
“xochicalli o casa de costumbre” que lo cuiden y que lo aseen y los que no la tienen
procuren edificar una, sin importar los materiales de construcción, ya sean de
madera o de concreto.
2. Jonathan D. Amith writes to alert readers to the Nahuatl Summer Language
Institute IV at Yale University, Summer 2001:
“Now entering its fourth year, the Nahuatl Summer Language Institute is part of a
comprehensive project to provide learning and research tools in this language and to
bring together experts in the field of Nahuatl language and culture. In addition to
discussing the institute’s progress to date and its plans for the immediate future,
this short report will hopefully encourage scholars who have worked on Nahuatl to
contact the institute and perhaps assist in its development. We welcome participation
by anyone interested in helping us meet the goals of advancing Nahuatl studies.
“One of the primary objectives of the institute is to create a learning environment
that will meet the needs of a wide range of students, including historians, art
historians, anthropologists, linguists, and heritage language speakers. Besides
receiving intensive instruction in modern Nahuatl (15-20 hrs/week for eight weeks),
students have attended invited lectures, workshops, and one-week supplementary seminars
by leading Nahuatl scholars from a variety of disciplines. Last year, James Lockhart
(emeritus, UCLA) conducted the one-week seminar on colonial Nahuatl. Shorter invited
lectures were presented by Louise Burkhart (SUNY, Albany), Willard Gingerich (St.
John’s University), and Alan Sandstrom (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort
“This coming summer the basic introductory course will again by taught by Jonathan
Amith. The basic text for the course, a reference/pedagogical grammar and lexicon of
the modern dialect spoken in Ameyaltepec, Guerrero, is organized to facilitate
comparison with colonial Nahuatl and to provide a basic understanding of Nahuatl
morphology and syntax that will be of utility to those studying any variant of
“This summer will also be marked by the completion of the first draft of a
10,000-entry lexicon of the Nahuatl spoken in Ameyaltepec. This will be used in the
course and provide a significant addition to the colonial sources already available. It
will also provide a lexical base for working with the modern grammar and learning
exercises. The dictionary will be placed online in the Fall of 2001 by the Linguistic
Data Consortium of the University of Pennsylvania. Guest lectures and workshops for the
2001 introductory course will be offered by Louise Burkhart, Willard Gingerich, and
John Justeson (SUNY, Albany). Michel Launey will give the special one-week invited
“Given the interest shown for the first three institutes (nine students in 1998, 13
in 1999, and seven in 2000), we are excited to announce that for 2002 we are now
planning to offer, with funding from the Center for Latin American Studies of the
University of Chicago, a five- or six-week institute for advanced instruction in
Nahuatl. This unique course will comprise a series of three workshops, each conducted
by a leading expert in Nahuatl. To date, James Lockhart and Michel Launey have agreed
to participate; each will be in charge of intensive instruction for two weeks. A third
individual will be invited to complete the team. Enrollment will be open to anyone who
has completed the introductory course during the first four years or to scholars who
can demonstrate a proficiency in Nahuatl equivalent to one year of study. The goal of
this new course is to provide, for the first time we are aware of, advanced instruction
in Nahuatl, thus enabling students to attain a high level of proficiency in this
language through direct intensive work with experts in the field. Details of this
workshop will be announced in Fall 2001, both in print and on the Website at http://www.yale.edu/nahuatl. The desire to offer this
advanced course represents a commitment of the institute to provide tools for training
the next generation of Nahuatl scholars.
“The development of an electronic database of Nahuatl and its placement online
represents another goal of the Nahuatl institute: to develop and make universally
available a set of research and pedagogical tools for research on and learning about
Nahuatl. Mark Liberman and Steven Bird of the Linguistic Data Consortium at the
University of Pennsylvania have provided invaluable assistance in developing a
prototype search engine for a Web-based Nahuatl lexicon of Ameyaltepec (at http//www.ldc.upenn/hyperlex) that will eventually
comprise over 10,000 entries (Nahuatl to Spanish and English). It will be linked to an
electronic version of the reference/pedagogical grammar in an effort to solve a major
problem for instructional material in less commonly taught languages, namely, how to
provide the grammatical and pedagogical context for a dictionary while furnishing the
appropriate lexical base for students to implement the language skills they learn
through a grammar. Interactive exercises will accompany each lesson, offering the
possibility of learning Nahuatl at a distance. A preliminary version of this effort can
be viewed at http://www.yale.edu/nahuatl.
“The U.S. Department of Education, through its International Research and Studies
Program, has granted two years of support to develop these materials for classroom and
research use as part of a Nahuatl Learning Environment. The final product will include
a lexicon, grammar, exercises, drawings and photographs, and sound files. Additional
support for the Nahuatl Summer Language Institute and the Nahuatl Learning Environment
has been provided by Yale University, the Latin American Studies Consortium of New
England, and the University of Chicago Center for Latin American Studies through
funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the U.S. Department of
“For more information, including application materials to attend the 2001 intensive
summer institute, please contact the coordinator of the institute by e-mail at
email@example.com (or by phone at 503-831-3151), or visit the institute Website
at http://www.yale.edu/nahuatl. Scholars who
have worked on Nahuatl and wish to discuss their possible participation in future
institutes or in jointly developing resource materials for research on and teaching of
Nahuatl are cordially invited to contact the institute or the Council on Latin American
Studies at Yale (firstname.lastname@example.org /
3. James W. Dow and Alan R. Sandstrom announce that their edited volume Holy Saints
and Fiery Preachers: Anthropological Views of the Turn to Protestantism in Mesoamerica
has been accepted for publication by Praeger Publishers Inc., a subsidiary of Greenwood
Publishing Group. The volume will be included in the Religion in the Age of
Transformation series (Anson Shupe, series editor). Following is the table of Index
“Preface” by Alan R. Sandstrom
1. “Protestantism in Mesoamerica: The Old Within the New” by James W. Dow
2. “Evangelicals in the Lower Mayo Valley” by Mary I. O’Connor
3. “Religious Affiliation in Indian Mexico” by Carlos Garma
4. “Demographic Factors Affecting Protestant Conversions in Three Mexican Villages” by
James W. Dow
5. “Looking for a System of Order in Life: Jehova’s Witnesses in Mexico” by Patricia
Fortuny Loret de Mola
6. “Godparenthood Ties Among Zapotec Women and the Effects of Protestant Conversion” by
7. “The Maya Pentecost” by Garrett Cook
8. “Reconsidering Protestant Growth in Guatemala, 1900-1995” by Henri Gooren
9. “Making One Our Word: Protestant Q’eqchi’ Mayans in Highland Guatemala” by Abigail
10. “Pastors, Preachers, or Prophets? Cultural Conflict and Continuity in Maya
Protestant Leadership” by David Scotchmer
11. “Conclusion: Anthropological Perspectives on Protestant Conversion in Mesoamerica”
by Alan R. Sandstrom
4. Esther Pasztory writes to inform readers about a special conference entitled
“West by Non West” that was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of pre-Columbian art
history. The conference was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from
November 10-12, 2000, and the brochure included the following information:
“The first Ph.D. in Pre-Columbian Art History was given half a century ago. Today,
art historians in the field number between fifty and a hundred. We work alongside
archaeologists and anthropologists, members of disciplines that are better represented
in the field and in academic publications than we are. While various groups of art
historians come together at College Art Association meetings, this will be the first
conference where we in the discipline of Pre-Columbian Art History will be able to
reassess a half century of scholarship while mapping out problems that may arise in the
“The particular theme of the West by Non-West conference is the conundrum of being
trained in Western methodology while studying non-Western cultures. Much scholarly work
has represented non-Westerners as the “other” while at the same time appropriated and
romanticized particular aspects of foreign cultures. Much of this discourse leaves one
with the sense that such constructions are more reflections of Western desire than the
culture studied. In studying pre-Columbian art are we in fact still studying Western
art? If so, to what extent do Western styles, such as Classicism, Modernism,
Conceptualism, or Earth Art affect collector’s choices and the critical perspectives of
the art historian?
“The aim of this exploration is not to vilify or separate the West from an
‘authentic’ Non West, but to inform our discourse by acknowledging and examining the
cultural matrices through which we understand pre-Columbian civilizations. We may find
that aspects of the ‘other’ are better revealed if Euro-American discourse is taken
into account. As we reevaluate the scholarly work of the last half century, do we learn
as much about ourselves as about pre-Columbian cultures?
“The West by Non-West Conference, particularly suited to the expertise and interests
of art historians celebrating their half-century of pre-Columbian studies, will also be
of interest to the archaeologists and anthropologists with whom we work, and to the
many non professionals who are interested in pre-Columbian art.”
Welcoming Lecture, Francesco Pellizzi, Editor of RES
Opening Remarks, Welcome and Presentation of Honors to Doris Heyden by Esther Pasztory,
“George Kubler’s contribution to Pre-Columbia Art” by Mary Miller, Yale
Theoretical Issues: “Views of Pre-Columbian Studies in Mexico” by Beatriz de la Fuente,
Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, UNAM, Mexico
“Not Like Us and All The Same,” by Cecelia Klein, UCLA
“Shield Jaguar and the French Academy” by Flora Clancy, University of New Mexico,
A presentation to be announced by Tom Cummins, University of Chicago
“Truth in Forgery: The Western Concept of Pre-Columbian Art” by Esther Pasztory,
“History of Art and Anthropology of Art” by Claude Baudez
Panel Discussion: “Problems in Interpretation, Iconography, and Meaning” moderated by
Mark Miller Graham, Auburn University, with panelists Dorie Reents-Budet, Smithsonian
Institute, Dana Leibsohn, Smith College, Rebecca Stone-Miller, Emory University
Problems of Historical Reconstruction: “Notions of Aztec History” by Emily Umberger,
Arizona State University
“Chichen Itza and the Toltec: Changing Persiller, Yale University
Panel Discussion: “Exhibiting the Non-West” moderated by Diana Fane, Brooklyn Museum of
Art, with panelists Richard Townsend, Art Institute of Chicago, Luis Cancel, Director
of Exhibitions and IT, Museum of the Americas Foundation
Closing Remarks by Carlos Fuentes
5. The NN has received notice of the following publication that will be of interest
Xipe Totec, Notre Seignor L’Écorché: Étude Glyphique d’un Dieu
Aztèque by Anne-Marie Vié Woher. México, D.F.: Centre
Français d’ Etudes Mexicaines et Centraméricaines (CEMCA), 2000. Vol. 1,
160 pp. with glossary; ISBN 968-6029-69-0. Vol. 2 contains 288 plates with 66 in color;
“The work, published in French with abstracts in English and Spanish, is dedicated
to the analysis of the representation of Xipe Totec, the deity well known for the
flaying ritual celebrated on his festival day. The first volume offers the method used
for the pictographic study and its application. The second one contains plates of
pictographs gathered in 44 pre- or post-Columbian manuscripts to illustrate the
deciphering method. Anne-Marie Vié Wohrer, French ethnohistorian, has been a
student at ENAH in Mexico and EHESS in Paris from which she was awarded a Ph.D. in
Social Anthropology and Ethnology. Formerly a researcher at the French Archaeological
Foundation in Mexico, she is now associated with a CD-ROM project for the Fonds
Mexicain of the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris. Besides work in epigraphy, she
does research in cognitive anthropology and linguistics.”
In Mexico, the address to purchase the set is: Centre Français d’ Etudes
Mexicaines et Centraméricaines (CEMCA), Sierra Leona 330, 11000, México,
D.F., México; tel.: 55 40 59 21 or 55 40 59 22 / fax: 55 40 59 23 / e-mail:
email@example.com. In France, the address to
purchase the set is: Anne-Marie Vié-Wohrer, 13 Place du Panthéon, 75005
Paris, France; tel.: 33 (0) 1 43 26 01 86 or 33 (0) 1 43 25 68 42 / e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. The NN has also received notice of two new publications in French by L’Harmattan
The first is Un plan pour Mexico-Tenochtitlan: Les représentations de la
cité et l’imaginaire européen (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles) by Dominique
Gresle-Pouligny. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000. Pp. 366. ISBN 2-7384-8521-9.
From the brochure: “L’absence d’images préhispaniques de Mexico-Tenochtitlan
impose de faire porter toute l’attention sur un plan attribué à Hernan
Cortés et publié à Nuremberg et à Venise, en 1524. A partir
d’un territoire restreint – l’ancienne capitale aztèque – porteur d’une forte
charge symbolique, l’ouvrage associe l’analyse de la sémiologie graphique de
plan, l’etude du contexte intellectuel de l’epoque et celle de la diffusion du
modèle reproduit comme archétype de Mexico pendant près de trois
siècles, en Europe. Solidement garanti par l’appui de l’archéologie et
des textes, le décodage des éléments de réalité
urbaine faorise une reconstruction de site indigène. Abordant l’histoire des
idées et des représentations mentales, l’auteur inscrit sa
réflexion dans le cadre des relations complexes établies entre la
perception et la représentation de l’espace et du territoire.”
The second book is entitled L’histoire ancienne du Mexique selon Mariano Veitia
(XVIIIe siècle) by Éric Roulet. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000. Pp. 242. ISBN
From the brochure: “La Nouvelle-Espagne connait au XVIIIe siècle un renouveau
dans la recherche sur le passé indien. Mariano Veitia (1718-1780) s’enscrit
pleinement dans ce mouvement grâce aux enseignements du collectioneur italien
Lorenzo Botorini Benaduci. Veitia compose son oeuvre historique, L’Historia antigua de
México, en privilégiant les sources, notament les chroniques des auteurs
indigènes et en particulier celles de Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, d’ailleurs
non sans en établir la critique, et les manuscrits pictographiques des anciens
Mexicains. Il vise rapprocher des modèles classiques de l’antiquité
méditerranéenne. Alors, cette oeuvre forte née du souci critique
donne un nouveau souffle à l’histoire de l’Amérique en même temps
qu’elle fournit un passé et donc une identité aux Espagnols de souche
américaine, les créoles.”
The address of L’Harmattan Press is: 7 rue de L’école-Polytechnique, 75005
Paris, France. The e-mail address is email@example.com.
7. Éric Roulet sent a copy of his new book entitled La conquête des
Amériques au XVIe siècle. Presses Universitaires de France, 2000. Pp.
126. ISBN 2-13-050075-7.
From the back cover: “1492: découverte ou redécouvert d’un noveau
monde? Des fouilles ont mis au jour de habitations vikings du Xe siècle á
Terre-Neuve. Des Irlandais ont peut être essaimé plus tôt,
dès le VIe siècle, vers le continent nord-américain. 1492 est donc
autant la découverte que la redécouverte des Amériques par les
Européens. Cet ouvrage analyse cette étape décisive dans sa
globalité géographique, culturelle et politique.”
8. Walden Browne writes: “My book, Sahagún and the Transition to Modernity
(Oklahoma Project for Discourse and Theory, Vol. 20. Pp. 260. Norman: Oklahoma Press,
2000. $34.95 (paper). ISBN 0-806-13233-7.) is being published by the University of
Oklahoma Press. Although many of my arguments will prove controversial in the eyes of
many of your readers, I believe they will would find it of interest, and I expect the
book will generate much discussion in the world of Sahagún and Nahua
9. The NN has received a notice about Altmexikanische Skulpturen der Sammlung Lukas
Vischer, Museum für Völkerkunde = Ancient Mexican Sculptures from the Lukas
Vischer Collection, Ethnographic Museum Basel by Gerhard Baer, Ulf Bankmann, and Stefan
Graeser. Basel, Switzerland: Wepf, 1990. Pp. 180, with 8 color plates and 66 pages of
black and white illustrations. ISBN 3-85977-094-2. The book can now be purchased at a
30% discount from the publisher; the approximate cost is US $49.50.
From the brochure: “Since 1844, the Lukas Vischer collection, which comprises a
large number of archaeological objects of stone, clay, and other materials, but also
examples of more recent craftmanship, has been in the possession of Basel University,
“The Origin of the Collection: After the collapse of Spanish rule in Mexico (1821),
the country became accessible to foreigners. People of different European nations began
to arrive in Mexico where many of them had economic interests. Evidence of the pre
Columbian past which Alexander von Humbolt had referred to in his publications shortly
before aroused some attention and stimulated collecting antiquities. As early as 1824,
William Bullock was able to hold an exhibition prepared for the London public of a
series of Mexican codices as well as original Mexican stone sculptures and casts. Two
of these men who came to Mexico in the same decade and started extensive collections
were the German Carl Uhde (1795-1856) and Lukas Vischer (1780-1840) from Basel. After
several years in North America, Vischer arrived in the Mexican port of Veracruz in 1828
from New Orleans. He was accompanied by the painter Ludwig Choris who, soon after his
arrival, was killed during an ambush on the journey from Veracruz to the capital of
“Some of Lukas Vischer’s letters and diaries dating from the time of his travels in
Mexico have been preserved, as well as a few drawings. His writings unfortunately
include no information about the circumstances of collecting, nor do they tell us
anything about the origin of individual pieces. It is most likely that Lukas Vischer
was able to acquire numerous objects in the capital of Mexico. These include chiefly
the best Aztec-style sculptures but also such an unusual work of art as the jadite mask
from Tizatlan, Tlaxcala. On the other hand, it may be assumed that Vischer took every
opportunity to extend his collection on his long journeys through the country. Certain
clues to this are afforded by the published parts of his diary. Under the heading of
November 14, 1834, we read, ‘Tula appears to once have been the residence of an Indian
chief. When I asked about antiquities, the people told me that there weren’t any around
the town but many in Salitre, the Tesoro, a nearby mountain about to be excavated.’
This is also the earliest reference to Tula as an archaeological site.”
Copies can be ordered from Wepf and Co. AG, Publisher, Eisengasse 5-CH-4001, Basel,
Switzerland; tel.: 41 (0) 61/311 95 76 / fax: 311 95 85 / e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. The University of Texas Press has sent announcements of two recently published
The first is From Moon Goddess to Virgins: The Colonization of Yucatecan Maya Sexual
Desire by Pete Sigal. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000. Pp. 368. $19.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-292 77753-1. $40.00 (cloth) ISBN 0-292-78737-5.
From the brochure: “For the preconquest Maya, sexuality was a part of ritual
discourse and performance, and all sex acts were understood in terms of their power to
create, maintain, and destroy society. As postconquest Maya adapted to life under
colonial rule, they neither fully abandoned these views nor completely adopted the
formulation of sexuality prescribed by Spanish Catholicism. Instead, they evolved
hybridized notions of sexual desire, represented in the figure of the Virgin Mary as a
sexual goddess, whose sex acts embodied both creative and destructive components.
“This highly innovative book decodes the process through which this colonization of
Yucatec Maya sexual desire occurred. Pete Sigal frames the discussion around a series
of texts, including the Books of the Chilam Balam and the Ritual of the Bacabs, that
were written by seventeenth and eighteenth-century Maya nobles to elucidate the
history, religion, and philosophy of the Yucatecan Maya communities. Drawing on
insights of philology, discourse analysis, and deconstruction, he analyzes the sexual
fantasies, fears, and desires that are presented, often unintentionally, in the
‘margins’ of these texts and shows how they illuminate issues of colonialism, power,
ritual, and gender.”
The second book is Michoacán and Eden: Vasco de Quiroga and the
Evangelization of Western Mexico by Bernardino Verástique. Austin: University of
Texas Press, 2000. Pp. 222. ISBN 0 292-78738-3. $19.95 (paper). $45.00 (cloth) ISBN
From the brochure: “Don Vasco de Quiroga (1477/8-1565) was the first bishop of
Michoacán in Western Mexico. Driven by his profound respect for Spanish
jurisprudence and the desire to convert the native Purhépecha-Chichimec to a
purified form of Christianity, he sought to establish New World Edens in
Michoacán by congregating the people into pueblo-hospital communities, where
clerics could more easily teach them the fundamental beliefs of Christianity and the
values of Spanish culture.
“In this broadly synthetic study, Bernardino Verástique explores Vasco de
Quiroga’s evangelizing project in its full cultural and historical context. He begins
by recreating the complex and not wholly incompatible worldviews of the
Purhépecha and the Spaniards at the time of their first encounter in 1521. With
Quiroga as a focal point, Verástique then traces the uneasy process of
assimilation and resistance that occurred on both sides as the Spaniards established
political and religious dominance in Michoacán. He describes the syncretisms, or
fusions, between Christianity and indigenous beliefs and practices that arose among the
Purhépecha and relates these to similar developments in other regions of
“Written especially for students and general readers, this book demonstrates how
cultural and geographical environments influence religious experience, while it adds to
our understanding of the process of indigenous appropriation of Christian theological
concepts in the New World.”
To order these books, contact the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin,
TX 78713-7819, or visit the Web site at: http://ww.utexas.edu/utpress/books/vermic.html.
Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Culhuacan, and other Nahua Altepetl in Central Mexico. 2 vols. Collected and Recorded by Don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuantzin. Edited and translated by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder. Norman: University
of Oklahoma Press, 1997. Vol. 1. Pp. viii+248. $45.00 (cloth). ISBN 0-8061-2921-2. Vol. 2. Pp. vi+248/ $48.50 (cloth). ISBN 0-8061 2950-6.
The first installment of a six-volume series, these two publications present
manuscripts by Chimalpahin that have been recently unearthed. The work of the late
Arthur J. O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder, they include meticulous transcriptions of
the original texts in Nahuatl and Spanish, facing translations into English, and a
useful apparatus of notes and indices.
The manuscripts in question were discovered in 1983 in the Bible Society Collection
at Cambridge University, having arrived there via the London-based British and Foreign
Bible Society. Gathered and bound in three vellum volumes, possibly by Sigüenza y
Góngora, the manuscripts required thorough editing, and include a few items that
are definitely not by Chimalpahin. They are a wonderful find, whose significance is
still being fully assessed, and the range of their subject matter is indicated in the
long title common to both the present volumes. The question of their relationship and
overlap with Chimalpahin’s previously known and published works, and with each other,
is complex enough to have deserved separate treatment in the subsequent volumes of the
series, along with the fraught matter of “original” authorship. Of themselves, these
manuscripts help to clarify long standing debates on the links between Chimalpahin’s
works and those of such other predecessors and contemporaries as Bernardino de
Sahagún, Ixtlilxochitl, and Alvarado Tezozomoc.
As Schroeder notes in her sober and informed introduction to each volume,
Chimalpahin writing at the turn of the seventeenth century continued to view the world
very much in his own native terms, despite the Christian and Old World allegiances that
his work demanded of him, as a cleric in the town of Chalco. As in the pictorial annals
of the pre-Cortesian period, the main concerns remain lineage and historical precedent,
and there are some fascinating insights into palace life at Texcoco, and into the
behavior and attitudes of the Mexica emperors themselves. It is remarkable how firmly
Chimalpahin conceives the continuity of political power in Mexico, despite the damage
wreaked by the Spanish invaders as much as a century previously. It is also remarkable
that still in his day he was able to consult native pictorial records directly. Several
passages in these accounts of Mexica migration make it clear that he was transcribing
from such a source.
As the first in the series concerned with Chimalpahin’s Bible Society Manuscripts,
these two volumes set high standards while providing materials of major scholarly
Francis, Norbert. 1997. Malintzin: Bilingüismo y alfabetización en la Sierra de Tlaxcala (México). Tomo I. Pp. 257. Tomo II. Pp. 251. ISBN (set) 9-978043-33-0. Collección Biblioteca Abya-Yala, Nos. 54 and 55. Quito, Ecuador: Ediciones Abya-Yala.
Malintzin is not primarily a study of the Nahuatl language as such, but is a
contribution to applied linguistics and especially to literacy in bilingual education,
centering on a case study of an experiment in bilingual education undertaken in the
Malinche Volcano town of San Isidro Buensuceso. When I did fieldwork on the Malinche
(including in San Isidro) between 1974 and 1982, there was absolutely no institutional
recognition given to the Nahuatl language (then universally called “Mexicano” by its
speakers). The schools were unequivocally seen as instruments for the
castellanización – synonymous with civilización – of Mexicano-speaking
students. Monolingual Spanish-speaking teachers coped heroically with huge classes in
kinder and primer where the majority of the children were either monolingual in
Mexicano or knew only a bare minimum of Spanish “to defend themselves.” Even
Nahuatl-speaking school personnel (and they did exist, right up to the level of system
directors) never spoke the language at the school and constantly urged families to
speak Spanish to their pre-school children – with considerable success, as Francis
finds. Only at the end of the 1980s – ironically, as language shift had begun in
earnest even in San Isidro, the most conservative Malinche town – did bilingual
education programs begin to appear, in the form of the Escuela Xicotencatl in San
Isidro, where most children still do speak Nahuatl, and the Escuela Xochitecalli in San
Bernardino Contla, where the indigenous language is only rarely spoken by people below
Francis reports that there was considerable resistance to the founding of the
bilingual program in San Isidro, with parents picketing the school and especially
objecting to the presence of bilingual educators from San Isidro itself. The resistance
continued; even at the end of Francis’s fieldwork in 1993, efforts to end the program
were continuing. In Contla, parents objected to a bilingual program in Nahuatl: if
there was to be bilingual education, why not have the second language be English?
However, my latest intelligence is that both programs continue in the year 2000, albeit
in a context of constant struggle for acceptance and serious underfunding. It is not
clear from Francis’s book exactly what the content is of the Nahuatl-language component
of “bilingual education.” My understanding is that a scarcity of materials means that
relatively little time is given to it. The major shift seems to be a change on the part
of school staff away from actively suppressing Nahuatl and even punishing children for
speaking it (even away from school), towards tolerating it and even encouraging it on
some occasions, such as the singing of the national anthem in Nahuatl and presentations
in Nahuatl during formal occasions such as graduations and celebrations of patriotic
Francis’s project included several dimensions. These included observation (only in
the first-year classroom at the Escuela Xicotencatl), and testing and interviewing of a
sample of 45 children (15 in each grade, about evenly divided between boys and girls)
from the second-, fourth-, and sixth-year classrooms. The total school population was
about 400 students. The subjects were selected by teachers and were intended to include
the full range of student abilities; four of the subjects are strongly
Spanish-dominant, but the majority are bilingual and include a number of
Nahuatl-dominant children. Francis set up a small “library corner” at the school, and
every two weeks brought students from the sample there to undertake a variety of
exercises intended to assess their ability in reading and writing Spanish and Nahuatl,
and to examine the impact of the bilingual program on these skills (the sixth-graders
had begun the bilingual program only in their second year of primary school). The study
focused especially on reading, and Francis used three instruments to assess this:
Miscue Analysis (where children’s reading miscues are analyzed for semantic and
syntactic conformity or non-conformity to the author’s text), Oral Re-narration (where
children read a story and are asked to re-tell it), and a Cloze test (where children
are asked to fill in words deleted from a text). For writing, the children were given a
picture book illustrating traditional stories and were asked to write a story to go
with the pictures. Francis undertakes a number of quantitative analyses of the results
of these tasks. The results are presented in graphic form, with students from the
different class years compared with Nahuatl and Spanish side by side on the same
In addition to these instruments, children were also assessed for their level of
bilingualism by standard tests and interviews, and were interviewed individually, in
informal style, to assess their language attitudes. Only this last interview was
conducted entirely in Spanish; in other interviews both Spanish and Nahuatl were
included (not always successfully – see below). Francis also interviewed teachers and
parents in the community. Francis’s findings are, on the whole, quite positive. He
finds that, even though materials on Nahuatl available to students and teachers are
scanty and relatively little time is given to Nahuatl compared to other subjects, the
students did make steady progress, acquiring Nahuatl-language skills at the same rate
(although slightly behind) as they improved their skills in Spanish. Especially notable
was the improvement of skills in written Nahuatl, which actually was ahead of their
spoken-language skills (at least as revealed in the oral evaluation tests such as
re-narration). Francis speculates that this may occur because the writing exercises
gave students time to think and plan more sophisticated texts.
He concludes that many inexpensive strategies are available to teachers that would
permit them to introduce the indigenous language into the classroom, and his final
chapter reviews these strategies. While Francis argues that there is no disadvantage in
bilingual education, one very interesting finding was that students who came to school
with a good background in Spanish did better throughout their school careers, with a
dramatic advantage over Nahuatl-dominant children hardly diminishing from the second
graders to the sixth graders in his sample. Furthermore, children who were better in
Spanish did better in Nahuatl as well. This observation, of course, reinforces the
near-universal belief in the communities that it is very important to speak Spanish to
preschoolers to prepare them for school. It is difficult, however, to tell exactly why
this effect occurs. Francis speculates (and I suspect that he is right) that parents
who encourage their preschoolers to speak Spanish are probably simply globally more
involved in their children’s education and have a more positive kind of involvement
with the school.
Acknowledging the realities of the Malinche communities, Francis takes a very
sensible approach to the construction of a bilingual education program. For instance,
he recognizes that Nahuatl immersion would be unrealistic. Nearly all the children are
bilingual, and accepting the sociolinguistic realities of the communities, where there
is a near-diglossia between Nahuatl and Spanish, is sensible. This reality manifests
itself in the school in a universal pattern of teacher-student interaction in Spanish.
Student-student interaction, especially in “off-task” contexts, is predominantly in
Nahuatl. This pattern, in fact, made it rather difficult for Francis to collect
interview materials in Nahuatl, but he might have tried using a peer or near-peer
interviewer, along the lines of William Labov’s (1972) use of African American college
students to interview African American children and teenagers in his studies in the
U.S. in the 1960s. However, by focusing on literacy in Nahuatl, the school can expand
the domains where the language appears in a positive direction. Furthermore, the use of
the two languages in school should generally heighten the children’s metalinguistic
sophistication, and broadly enhance their ability to think about textual materials at a
more abstract and decontextualized level.
Of most interest for readers of the Nahua Newsletter will probably be the many
passages of written Nahuatl extracted from student essays, and analyses of
language-contact phenomena such as u/o alternations in their written and spoken Spanish
– a major shibboleth in the communities that Francis correctly points out has very
little to do with the effectiveness of the children’s skills in Spanish-language
discourse more broadly. Readers should be warned that many of the Nahuatl passages are
not translated, which can make interpretation rather difficult, especially when the
written Nahuatl is the product of a second- or fourth-grade hand! Fortunately, since
many of these passages involve students telling the same traditional stories
(stimulated by the pictures that are given in the appendix), it is usually possible for
the practicing nahuatlahto to figure out what is intended. However, this will impair
the usefulness of the work for those readers who don’t know Nahuatl and may find it
difficult to understand the point of many examples.
Also useful for readers whose main interest is Nahuatl is a valuable update on the
condition of the language in the Malinche communities, where Francis compares today’s
situation to that reported, for instance, in my own reports of fieldwork in the late
1970s (cf. Hill and Hill 1986). One of the most noticeable changes is that many
speakers now use the word “Nahuatl” instead of “Mexicano” for the language. In the
1970s, the word was known to only one or two people. Francis finds, however, a number
of points of continuity. For instance, women are still more likely to have negative
attitudes about Nahuatl, a fact that is significant since they are especially active in
the local parents’ association. This last is a change. During my own field work the
Asociación de Padres de Familia was emphatically dominated by men, with mothers
hardly visible at any institutional level and not much in evidence even in informal
ways (they tended to stand in the back row of graduation spectators, heads bowed and
rebozos clutched in their teeth so as to hide much of their faces). A good deal of this
rather long pair of volumes is devoted to a literature review on issues in applied
linguistics, orality, and literacy. This feature will probably make the volume very
welcome in Latin America where the sources, both English and Spanish, are hard to come
by. It does mean, however, that the reader seeking information on the situation of
Malinche Nahuatl will have to read almost 150 pages of the first volume before
encountering this kind of material. One minor problem that should be pointed out is
that in the map of the Malinche towns on p. 13 in the first volume, the towns of San
Pablo and La Resurrección have been reversed.
Malintzin is an exceptionally thorough study of the classroom production of child
bilinguals, with careful analysis of a large body of data, richly exemplified. It also
is a very responsible and thorough critical overview of the theoretical literature in
the relevant fields. Volumes from Abya-Yala (which can be purchased at what are
generally bargain prices by North American and European standards) should make
Malintzin attractive to readers who wish to build personal and institutional libraries
on the sociolinguistic situation of the Nahuatl language.
Hill, Jane H., and Kenneth C. Hill. 1986. Speaking Mexicano. Tucson: University of
Arizona Press. [Also available in Spanish as Hablando Mexicano. José Antonio
Flores Farfán and José Gerardo López Cruz, transl. México,
D.F.: CIESAS, 1999.]
Labov, William. 1972. Language in the Inner City. Philadelphia: University of
University of Arizona
Mary Ritchie Key sends the Nahua Newsletter the following comment on her work among the Nahuas:
My Zacapoaxtla dictionary is referred to from time to time, and I presume, with some
puzzlement because of the recording of vowel length. The following is intended to
clarify the circumstances regarding the publication of my dictionary, which documents a
northern Sierra dialect in Puebla. Harold and I did our Aztec work in 1948-1955 when it
was not considered demure for a wife to accomplish anything on her own, so my work was
published under both names, with the husband’s name preceding. The 1953 article on
phonemes was also my work. This statement is prompted by the attention given to Frances
Karttunen’s An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl in a recent issue of the Nahua
A decade ago, on February 25, 1990, I wrote to her:
Dear Dr. Karttunen,
I am not sure of your address, but trust that this will be forwarded to you.
Some material has come from Denmark on the Copenhagen Dictionary Project, and this
worthy project prompts me to deal with Aztec phonology again! Specifically, I will
comment on Key and Key, 1953 Vocabulario Mejicano de la Sierra de Zacapoaxtla,
For the record: I will comment on length and glottal stop. The background is that I
did most of the work on the dictionary. I set up my word file and methodically went
through the list with visitors who dropped by so that I had a good sense of the
vocabulary being accepted in various dialect areas. I also went into town and checked
the Spanish with local, educated people there. So I think the actual meanings are
fairly reliable. My husband was working with our regular informant. I did not feel that
I had good control over “length,” so this aspect of the dictionary was turned over to
my husband and our very capable informant.
About the time it was to be published, we went into Mexico City to live for a while.
We had a good deal of illness in the family, as I remember… typhoid, paratyphoid…
memory dims for so long ago, but I do remember that I was not able to proofread the
final version. We were experimenting with a new printing process, in order to cut down
on expenses and make the dictionary affordable to the people in the villages and
markets. But some of my typing had to be redone. There are still pages where the actual
letters are difficulty to read. I had thought, through the years, that possibly some of
the mistakes in recording length were due to the retyping that was done after I had
turned it over to the publishing department.
A couple of years (or so) ago, I thought I would try to straighten it out, so I
spent some time comparing both sides of the dictionary and analyzing mistakes. Also,
many years ago I did a little comparison on most of the Aztec dialects on the recording
of length in the word for ‘star.’ To make a long and complicated story short: I found
no good answer to the problem of length which is exemplified in my dictionary.
I am now advising my students – and anyone else – to approach length from the point
of view of sociolinguistic/paralinguistic/extralinguistic articulation. The actual
number of minimal pairs is very small, so this distinctive feature of length is not a
great problem in “meaning” and quite possibly is used more in a paralinguistic sense
than in a suprasegmental sense.
Our informant was very capable and recorded length in his writing… but when he and
my husband went over the vocabulary file to write in length for publishing the
dictionary he probably just wrote it where it felt comfortable. For example, the
minimal pairs were probably pretty well documented (though this might have been changed
with the retyping.) Unfortunately, my husband has had a stroke, so it is not possible
to get any information from him.
Now for glottal stop: The Zacapoaxtla dialect does not have a phonemic glottal stop,
and this is clearly stated in the dictionary on page v. The “h” is an aspiration –
never a glottal stop. It occurs in /ehekat/ ‘wind’ etc. and it also occurs as a
morpheme (pages vii-viii-ix). Also, see IJAL 19.1: 53-56, where /h/ is described as a
continuant. The [¿] is mentioned on pages 55-56, where its status is clearly
In Harold Key, 1953, “Algunas observaciones preliminares de la distribucion
dialectal del Nahuatl….” Mexico, D.F.: Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología,
editors Ignacio Bernal and Eusebio Davalos Hurtado, Huastecos, totonacos y sus vecinos,
pp. 131-143, two dialects are listed where /¿/ occurs.
There is a lot more we can understand about Classical Aztec by looking closely at
contemporary dialects (see Stanley Newman’s article, e.g.). Also we can understand
laryngeals better by comparative studies of /h/ and /¿/ in Aztec dialects. It is
in the interest of understanding these things that I am writing to you – for the
Mary Ritchie Key
[End of 1990 letter to Karttunen]
In my dictionary of Zacapoaxtla Nahuat, which I take full responsibility for, the
recording of length is botched so badly! In fact, it is so magnificently inconsistent
that this fact may be the key to the use of length in the Zacapoaxtla dialect.
Several years ago, in an informal survey regarding length, (using the word ‘star’
/sitalin/), I canvassed the Aztecan dialects and languages and found a surprising
amount of ambiguity and confusion. This fits in with other remarks I have noted through
the years on how researchers confronted the problem of recording length. Phonemic
length, albeit the contrastive nature of it, is not always easily identifiable. I
remember asking Norman McQuown why he didn’t mention it in his article on one of the
dialects of Nahuatl, and he said forthrightly, that he didn’t hear it! Other
researchers in Nahuatl dialects have noted that vowel length is “quite erratic” and
difficult to hear.” In Pipil, “Vowel length is an important contrast, but it is
difficult to determine in many cases” (Campbell 1985:25, The Pipil Language of El
It is interesting that Campbell and Langacker used my entries with some measure of
success. When the entries were clearly correct in giving length, they used them in
their reconstructions. When my entries appeared to have problems, they put them aside.
It is to their credit that they used the data from the Zacapoaxtla dialect judiciously,
and it turned out to be useful in many cases, in spite of recognized flaws.
Some distinguishing features of the Zacapoaxtla dialect: lack of phonemic glottal
stop; the /-t/ formative, which corresponds to the /-tl/ and /-l/ of other Nahuatl
dialects; the /g/ in /tagol, tagat/; the unique example of initial /l-/ as in /lamat/
‘vieja.’ These anomalies suggest some deep-seated origins that have not been
identified, or a situation where “languages in contact” brought together two separate
linguistic systems, as I felt when I wrote a little piece for Stanley Newman (Key
1989). A thorough investigation could possibly throw light on the origins of the Aztec
In some of the lexicon, length is clearly contrastive, as shown by minimal pairs.
The following vocabulary illustrate vowel length in Zacapoaxtla Aztec:
yolik ‘he/she was born tepan ‘stone wall’
yolik ‘slowly’ tepan ‘on or over all the people’
sikpata ‘change it!’ kitoka ‘he/she chases it’
sikpata ‘melt it!’ kitoka ‘he/she plants it’
It appears to be the case that two languages came together and the resulting
language contains something from each – some words from a length language, and some
words from a non-length language. Both systems could overlap for a period of time. The
idea of a Creolized result should be considered here. Thus the new language managed two
ways of using length: one part of the language used length as a contrastive feature,
and it was considered at the phonemic level. The other part of the language used length
as one of the suprasegmentals that all languages of the world use, in a paralinguistic
and sociolinguistic sense of conveying emotional and attitudinal meaning to
interactions among speakers.
The length language would have had to give up some of the dominance of contrastive
length thereby down-playing and moving this linguistic distinctive feature into the
realm of paralinguistics and sociolinguistics.
Suprasegmentals and paralinguistic movement of pitches are the music of language,
supremely important and enigmatical, slippery, intriguing and challenging. I do not
know of any language in the world where the suprasegmentals are described to the
satisfaction of linguistic scholars. I once suggested that supersegmentals are like
quarks – you know they are there, for the effect you observe, but you can’t find
Previously I have dealt with semivowels and our limited Western perspective in
“hearing” these protean sounds (Key 1993). While editing some 150 Word Lists for the
Intercontinental Dictionary Series, I found that every single Word List/language
analysis had inconsistencies in the recording of semivowels! With regard to the
Zacapoaxtla dialect of Aztec, various articulations of /w/ and /y/ result from: place
in the syllable, contiguous sounds, stress, and paralinguistic features. In my field
notes, I have recorded [pwa] for [poa] or [powa]. A word such as /iwan/ has the
possibility of occurring in over 20 combinations of spelling, because it contains both
the high vowels (semi-consonants) /i [y]/ and /u [w]/.
The /w/ phoneme in Aztec is surely one of the most interesting sounds among any
phonetic system. The /w/ has a large repertoire of articulations, depending on where
the sound occurs in the stream of speech and who is speaking. We have recorded the
following phonetic actualizations of the /w/ phoneme: [W] [u] [ß] [F] [b] [p]
[ph] [f] [h]. The semivowel /y/ may also appear to disappear in fast speech: /piya/
> /pia/. A morpheme with initial /y/ + vowel may appear with only the vowel
maintained – until the linguist can get the speaker to “Slow down!” “Say it
In Zacapoaxtla Nahuat, a final vowel is closed off with a clearly articulated
glottal stop [-¿]. The glottal stop never occurs in contrast; and it is not
considered a phoneme. The morpheme /-h/ also occurs finally, but when I recorded the
lexicon, listeners and speakers reacted to the phonetic (non-meaningful) features more
often than they did to the meaningful phonemic feature.
When living in Xalacapan I did little experiments with Indian visitors; I had a list
of diagnostic types of words that would display the problems of /h/ (aspiration) and
glottal stop. When the words exemplified the final, phonetic [-¿], the Indians
struggled with the symbol problem and how to write the glottal stop. They experimented
with various letters: <g, gh, x, k> etc. More revealing was their body language:
perplexed and puzzled looks; questioning shoulder movement; raised eyebrows; and
hesitance in their appearance, with pencil in hand. They did not exhibit the same
puzzlement when they wrote words ending in /-h/, which could be either a morpheme
meaning ‘past tense’ or ‘plural.’ Even when they did not represent the morpheme /-h/
with a letter, they wrote the vowel preceding the final /-h/ in a relaxed manner.
Among the many linguistic experiences I have had in the past 54 years, this is the
only experience I have witnessed where the speakers had more concern over a phonetic
feature than for a phonemic feature.
These incidents have jumped into the present – out of my memories of the last half
century, as I have been thinking on the concepts of laryngeals and the part that they
play in comparative linguistics. In many languages these “throat” sounds are crucial in
historical/comparative studies. The involvement of aspiration at the glottis is of
great interest. Witness the attention paid in Indo-European studies to “laryngeal
Along with length, the Zacapoaxtla dialect may very well play an important part in
unfolding the history of the origins of the Aztec people in Mexico, if one can look at
aspiration and glottal involvement as laryngeals.
A weakness of language descriptions today is that the syllable may not be recognized
as a basis for description of the sounds that move about in the syllables. A “single”
sound takes a different form: when it occurs in a different location in the syllable;
when it is contiguous to various other sounds; when the syllables are articulated in
fast and in slow speech; when it occurs in precise speech vs. everyday
talk-to-your-family speech. Normal speech also permits fluctuations in pronunciation
which are handled with aplomb in actual language situations and speakers may not even
be aware of varying articulations.
In Zacapoaxtla Aztec, stress is a word marker. It occurs on the penultimate syllable
of the word (exclusive of enclitics), and mora count is relevant. The “exceptions” show
a subtle blend of syllable structures, stress, and mora count. It is a delicate
balance. When the stressed syllable has a short vowel and the final syllable has a long
vowel, phonetically the length appears more prominent than the stress. Note the
following, from Key and Key (1953a:55):
ihko.n ‘thus’ aksa. ‘somebody’
ta.gaci.n ‘man’ noho. n ‘that’
But a.ci.n ‘water’ is heard with the regular penultimate pattern.
In some ways Aztec is reminiscent of Old English, where quantity and quality
coalesce. The Old English scribes of that era devised a spelling system that even today
justifiably reflects a vowel system that is not common in languages of the world. This
feature, based on the count of mora, is one of the reasons our English spelling system
is superior and should not be replaced. English spelling of certain groups of words
reflects the quantity system of Old English, where the number of symbols reflects mora
count – length. The syllable nucleus in <beat> (CVVC) is longer than in
A little history: The publication of the Zacapoaxtla dictionary was a pioneering
venture. I think that the Key and Key dictionary (1953) was one of the first attempts
to write length in the dictionary of a modern dialect. The publishing department was
experimenting with new processes that they were attempting by using already typed copy.
The ribbon on my typewriter was not right for the duplicating process they were
beginning to use; so various pages were re typed in the publishing department. I was
not notified (probably because of the illnesses in the family) and thus was not able to
proof-read the re-typed pages. They were working valiantly to produce this early
Dictionaries of ancient varieties of American Indian languages were compiled from
the 1500s onward. Vocabulario Mejicano was among the first early dictionaries of
present-day speakers of American Indian languages. In fact, along with a small group, I
pioneered this type of linguistic publication in Mexico, following Herman Aschmann, who
preceded me with his Totonaco dictionary in 1949. While he was revising it, we talked
about dictionary-making. He was helpful and generous; and with his advice, we avoided
some difficulties. Years later I initiated the dictionary series in Bolivia. The Summer
Institute of Linguistics, in cooperation with the Dirección General de Asuntos
Indígenas, began a dictionary series in 1959, with Tarahumara, Número 1
(K[enneth] Simon Hilton); and Cora, Número 2 (Ambrosio McMahon and Maria Aiton
Pioneering efforts have the bravado of early works that serve as models for later
works which improve with experience; and they contain the defects of producing
“firsts.” Yes, it is hazardous to pioneer!
In those days – the middle of the century – the technology for inexpensive
publishing was limited, and we were experimenting with a way of reproducing material at
a price that the native speakers could afford to buy at the local markets. And indeed,
many of our dictionaries were carried on the backs of our neighbors to distribute in
the outlying markets and villages. I wonder how many of those 1953 dictionaries might
still exist in native homes?
Regarding the title of my Zacapoaxtla dictionary, on the recommendation of Mexican
authorities in education and academia we used the term “Mejicano,” where other
publications have used “Aztec, Nahuat, Mexicano.” Karttunen incorrectly cites the title
of the Zacapoaxtla dictionary twice (pages xvi, xviii).
Recently I have retraced my way through the voluminous pages of Aztec dictionaries,
grammars, reviews, replies, and replies to replies. In reviewing the materials, I
wonder why there is so little mention of Stanley Newman’s tight and scholarly
masterpiece? It is a model of forthright clarity, as is all his linguistic work in
other American Indian languages. He studied a dialect of Nahuatl when he was in Mexico
in the 1940s. He used my comparative material in a workshop at the University of
Chicago in 1954, during the Summer Institute of the Linguistic Society of America. And,
along with the ancient documents and other Aztecan studies, he used our material for
his article on Classical Nahuatl.
I have checked with various dictionaries and linguistic studies, and still I find
the glosses of the Zacapoaxtla dictionary to be in pretty good condition. It should be
reprinted – if not revised and reprinted – for historical purposes and intrinsic
interest, for the study of Aztec in a dialect which is similar to the ancient language
in many ways.
The dynamic vs. static nature of language is remarkably demonstrated in the bizarre
recording of length in the Zacapoaxtla dialect of Nahuat. Maybe the “mistakes” in my
Zacapoaxtla dictionary are leading us to a more important discovery: the matter of
changing systems of suprasegmentals in the various languages, as in “languages in
contact.” Think of length, then, as something yet to be discovered.
Aschmann, Herman P. 1949, 1950, 1956. Totonaco Dictionary. Mexico City: Summer
Institute of Linguistics.
Campbell, Lyle, and Ronald W. Langacker.1978. “Proto-Aztecan Vowels” [3 parts].
International Journal of American Linguistics 44(2):85-102; 44(4):262-79.
Karttunen, Frances. 1983. An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl. Austin: University of
Key, Harold. 1953. “Algunas observaciones preliminares de la distribución
dialectal del nahuatl en el area Hidalgo-Veracruz-Puebla.” In Huastecos, totonacos y
sus vecinos. Ignacio Bernal and Eusebio Davalos Hurtado, eds., pp. 131-43.
México, D.F.: Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología.
__________. 1960. “Stem Construction and Affixation of Sierra Nahuat Verbs.”
International Journal of American Linguistics 26(2):130-45.
__________, and Mary [Ritchie de Key]. 1953a. “The Phonemes of Sierra Nahuat.”
International Journal of American Linguistics 19(1):53-56.
__________, and Mary Ritchie de Key. 1953b. Vocabulario mejicano de la Sierra de
Zacapoaxtla, Puebla. México, D.F.: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano
and Dirección General de Asuntos Indígenas, Secretaría de
Key, Mary Ritchie. 1989. “Interpreting the Past from the Present: A Nahuat Example.”
In General and Amerindian Ethnolinguistics: In Remembrance of Stanley Newman. Mary
Ritchie Key and Henry M. Hoenigswald, eds., pp. 381-85. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
__________. 1993. “Interpretation of Semivowels.” In American Indian Linguistics and
Ethnography: In Honor of Laurence C. Thompson. Occasional Papers in Linguistics, No.
10. Anthony Mattina and Timothy Montler, eds., pp. 429-34. Missoula: University of
__________, and Henry M. Hoenigswald, eds. 1989. General and Amerindian
Ethnolinguistics: In Remembrance of Stanley Newman. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Newman, Stanley. 1967. “Classical Nahuatl.” In Handbook of Middle American Indians,
Vol. 5. Linguistics. Norman A. McQuown, ed., pp. 179-99. Austin, Texas: University of
Robinson, Dow Frederick. 1970. Aztec Studies II: Sierra Nahuat Word Structure.
Norman, Oklahoma: Summer Institute of Linguistics and University of Oklahoma.
Reconsidering Comments on Sahagún’s 260 Day Signs
Stocker and Dodge (1993) co-authored comments on the 260-day count of the Aztecs as
it was presented in Book 4 of Sahagún. The four illustrations published with
that article are reproduced here in part. One of the main finds of our analysis was
that the 12th sign on line 10 was a mistake. Instead of 12 Rain, it should have been 12
Water (Figs. 1 and 3). Why the mistake?
Our original thinking was that at least two scribes penned the 260 signs since the
second 130 day signs are done in a different, presumably older, style than the first
(Fig. 2). I am no longer convinced that this is the case. The reason for the shift in
style might be because of the need for variation. No sign in any category is
duplicated. This is easily seen with the sign House (Fig. 3). It would have been hard
for the scribe to impart singularity if one style were adhered to all of the time. Thus
there might have just been one scribe. Variation is also seen easily with the sign
Knife (Fig. 4). In the first group the bands run from left to right. In the second
group, the bands run from right to left. Each has minute variations.
The basic problem comes with the signs on each side of the mistake. Eleven Rabbit
has teeth, something none of the other rabbits in Fig. 1 have (see also Fig. 3). And 13
Dog is quite different from the other six portrayals with its round eye. One could
argue that these are only additional variations, which they definitely are, except for
the fact that they frame the mistake. This is a mistake a scribe should never have made
since he already had rain on that line. It remains a mystery. Could it have been done
on purpose, along with the signs on both sides? Other mistakes are mentioned in Stocker
My book A Walk Through an Aztec Dream will be published soon and a companion volume,
A Walk Through an Aztec Dream: The Aztec Horoscope, should be out early in 2001.
Stocker, T. and G. Dodge. 1993. “Comments on the 260-Day Calendar in
Sahagún’s Book of Soothsayers.” Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications
Stocker, T. 1999. “The Aztec 260 Day Count: An Augury Table Not a Calendar.”
Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers 23[27?]:175-86.
Ethnohistorical Input for the Mesoamerican Obsidian Industry
In “The Highland Sword and the Gulf-Coast Shell,” Stocker and Jackson (1983) attempt
to define which area of Mesoamerica had the greater trading power. Our conclusion,
based on a checklist of items mentioned in ethnohistorical sources, was the
lowland-coastal areas: feathers, seashells, jaguar skins, crocodile skins, etc. The
highlands were mostly represented by obsidian. The reason we chose the seashell to
represent the lowland inventory is that it required the least energy to procure and was
often traded and used in its natural state (see Stocker 1986, 1987).
Maybe this is why early civilizations, e.g., the Olmec, were located in the
lowlands. What would account for the rise of monumental centers in the highlands during
the classic period of Mesoamerica, e.g., Teotihuacan?
There can be little doubt of the value of the obsidian resources for Teotihuacan; it
had a “free” supply of obsidian with the nearby Otumba quarry. And with the invention
of eccentrics, apparently at Teotihuacan, the Teotihuacanos had a “free” source of
status items (Stocker 1981, Stocker and Spence 1973, 1974).
While the highlands had only one major trade item, it may have been control of this
resource that allowed certain centers to establish empires and maintain control by
force. The invention of the macuahuitl, the obsidian lined sword, would have given a
group a tremendous advantage over groups not possessing it (See Fig. 1). I do not want
to simplify military analysis by centering on one weapon. Military analysis is complex
(See Stocker 1982). But probably the most critical factor in the defeat of the Native
Americans by the Spaniards was a difference in their swords (see Oakeshott 1994).
Granted, the Spaniards had much more in their technological inventory such as cannons,
etc. But all encounters ended up at close range. The European sword with its sharp
point was lethal in close range combat. While an Aztec was raising his macuahuitl to
slash a Spaniard, he would have been dead. And with a European sword and a shield, a
soldier could literally pile dead Indians at his feet.
Healan (1993) interchanges macana and macuahuitl. This is not accurate. Macana is a
Spanish word referring to any club. Macuahuitl is a Nahuatl word referring to an
obsidian lined shaft. One would assume that the Spanish adapted macana from
In illustrations, the number of blades ranges from three to five. Some of the
illustrations tend to be a bit surreal. For example, in some illustrations the obsidian
blades are wider than the wooden shaft (Sahagún 1981, Fig. 54). The matter of
mistakes in Sahagún’s illustrations has been addressed (Stocker, this issue).
Indeed, the illustration Healan chose for the macuahuitl in World Archaeology has one
warrior carrying a shield decorated with a smiley face (maybe the first smiley face
recorded?). These three warriors are the bottom three of nine individuals depicted in
Sahagún (see Fig. 2). Notice the man on the top is carrying the devil on his
back. This is again obviously poking fun at the Aztecs. Figuring ten blades per sword,
1,000 swords (and that is a small army) requires 10,000 blades. The Aztecs also had an
obsidian-blade lined spear, the tlatzintepuzotilli (see Fig. 1).
Cheek (1977) proposed that much of Teotihuacan’s influence throughout Mesoamerica is
the result of direct military conquest, but military technology is not a consideration
in his evaluation. Also, Santley’s (1980:5) analysis of “Obsidian Trade and Teotihuacan
Influence in Mesoamerica” completely dismisses any consumption of obsidian artifacts,
e.g., projectile points, by the military complex of Teotihuacan. He proposes that all
the obsidian products at Teotihuacan either serviced the craft industries or were
traded. We are never provided a checklist of craftsmen utilizing obsidian; similarly
with Healan (1993) for Tula. Obviously these works are too reliant on just
archaeological remains and not ethnohistorical documents.
When was the macuahuitl invented? (Note that the macuahuitl was probably only an
adaptation, not an invention, by replacing biface-lined swords with blade-lined
swords.) Stocker and Jackson (1983) proposed sometime during the classic period at
Teotihuacan based solely on the shear density and tremendous increase in obsidian
workshops. If the obsidian wasn’t used for the production of the macuahuitl, then we
must list all the craftsmen that might have used that tremendous amount of obsidian,
not just have statements about generic craftsmen. Stocker and Jackson provided figures
that indicate craftsmen were not the major consumers of obsidian at Teotihuacan or
The argument against the existence of the macuahuitl at Teotihuacan is based on the
fact that it is not shown in Teotihuacan art. This argument is fallacious. If we did
not have codices, we would not know that the Aztecs had the macuahuitl.
Moving to Tula, we have more information based on the ethnohistorical record. In the
Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, one passage concerns the “Toltecas and Nonoualcas unidos
en Tula.” There is the statement: “Now the Nonoualcas were very mad and they went.
Later, still furious, the Nonoualcas placed and fastened knives (navajas) of obsidian
on poles…. Then the Nonoualcas grabbed their shields, swords of obsidian and
arrows…” (Berlin 1947:69). These same Nonoualcas supposedly migrated from Teotihuacan
to Tula (Stocker and Spence 1973).
Stocker and Jackson (1983) noted that most of the obsidian remains excavated by the
University of Missouri project were blade segments and not complete blades. Some of
these blade segments might have been used for military inventory, but we attempted to
delineate what crafts the blade segments might have been used for. Healan (1993)
provides quantitative data on the blade segments.
Sahagún (1961) notes that the Toltecs were responsible for the invention of
weaving in Mesoamerica. There is an undeniable fact with which archaeologists must soon
come to grips: there are no spindle whorls in Mesoamerica before the Postclassic and
Tula. The complexities of this issue are many (see Stocker 1993). But to address one,
I’m often asked, “What did people wear before the Postclassic?” I think the nakedness
of figurines before the Postclassic bespeaks a reality. Also, animal hides were
probably used. This might account for the high density of stamps during the classic
period. They would have been used to decorate hides. Once weaving became popular,
designs were incorporated into the weaving. Thus the rapid decline of stamps in the
Postclassic coincides with the rise of weaving.
It is also significant that the Aztecs credited the Tolteca with the domestication
of cotton. Cotton may have diffused to Mesoamerica from South America, and came in with
spindle whorls. Spinning could be a reason Tula was the center it became. Did they
control a cotton industry? Textiles certainly made Uruk Mesopotamia important. Aztec
merchants who dealt in slaves set the price in capes (Sahagún 1959:46). Cotton
is one of the tribute items paid by places around Tula in the 16th century (Feldman
1974:Table 12). Based on the ethnohistorical records we have to assume that one of the
commodities going from the highlands to the lowlands was cotton clothing.
Also in Sahagún’s description of the Toltecs are the following details about
feather working: “The Tolteca were skilled; it is said that they were feather workers
who glued feathers. In ancient times they took charge of gluing feathers, and it was
really their discovery, for in ancient times they used the shields, the devices, those
called apanecaiotl, which were their exclusive property. When the wonderful devices
were entrusted to them, they prepared, they glued the feathers; they indeed formed
works of art; they performed works of skill. In truth, they invented all the wonderful,
precious, marvelous things which they made” (Sahagún 1961:167).
In Sahagún’s (1959) The Merchants, more space is devoted to feather working
than any other craft. And yet we have no archaeological inkling of where a feather
workshop might be. One thing is certain, cutting a feather would have been much easier
with an obsidian blade than not. The ethnohistorical sources should be integrated more
thoroughly into reconstructions of the Pre-Columbian craft industries and the obsidian
Berlin, H. 1947. Historia Toltec-Chichimeca. México, D.F.:Porrua.
Cheek, C. 1977. “Excavations at the Palangana and the Acropolis, Kaminaljuya: A
Study in Prehistoric Culture Contact.” In Teotihuacan and Kaminaljuyu. W. Sanders and
J. Michaels, eds., pp. 1-204. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Feldman, L. 1974. “Tollan in Central Mexico.” In Studies of Ancient Tollan, Richard
A. Diehl, ed., pp. 150-89. University of Missouri Monographs in Anthropology, No. 1.
Columbia: Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri-Columbia.
Healan, D. 1993. “Local Versus Non-local Obsidian Exchanged at Tula.” World
Oakeshott, E. 1994. The Archaeology of Weapons. New York: Barnes and Noble.
Sahagún, Bernardino de. 1981. Ceremonies. Book 2, The Florentine Codex. A.
Anderson and C. Dibble, eds. Santa Fe: School of American Research.
__________. 1961. The People. Book 10, The Florentine Codex. A. Anderson and C.
Dibble, eds. Santa Fe: School of American Research.
__________. 1959. The Merchants. Book 9, The Florentine Codex. A. Anderson and C.
Dibble, eds. Santa Fe: School of American Research.
__________. 1954. Kings and Lords. Book 8, The Florentine Codex. A. Anderson and C.
Dibble, eds. Santa Fe: School of American Research.
Santley, R. 1980. “Obsidian Trade and Teotihuacan Influence in Mesoamerica.” Paper
presented at the Dumbarton Oaks Symposium on “Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study
of Mesoamerican Highland-Lowland Interaction.”
Stocker, T. 2000. “Reconsidering Comments on Sahagún’s 260 Day Signs.” Nahua
Newsletter (this issue).
__________. 1993. “Who Were the Toltecs and What Did They Do?” Paper presented at
the 13th meeting of the IAES, Mexico City.
__________. 1987. “Where is Coatepec?” Explorers Journal 65:126-29.
__________. 1986. “Where is Tollan?” Explorers Journal 64:76-81.
__________. 1982. “Chichimec Military Potential: The Teotihuacan Case.” Paper
presented at the meeting of the International Congress of Americanists, Manchester,
__________. 1981. “Obsidian Technology in Mexico.” Explorers Journal 59:176-81.
__________, and B. Jackson. 1983. “The Highland Sword and the Gulf Coast Shell.”
Paper presented at the SAA, Pittsburgh, Penn.
__________, and M. Spence. 1974. “Obsidian Eccentrics in Central Mexico.” In Studies
of Ancient Tollan, Richard A. Diehl. University of Missouri Monographs in Anthropology,
No. 1. Columbia: Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri-Columbia.
__________. 1973. “Trilobal Eccentrics at Teotihuacan and Tula.” American Antiquity
The illustrations in this issue were taken from Los oficios de las diosas:
Dialéctica de la religiosidad popular en los grupos indios de México by
Félix Báez-Jorge. 2nd edition. Xalapa, Veracruz: Universidad Veracruzana.