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The Tira de Tepechpan

The Tira de Tepechpan

Lori Boornazian Diel
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  • Book Info
    The Tira de Tepechpan
    Book Description:

    Created in Tepechpan, a relatively minor Aztec city in Central Mexico, the Tira de Tepechpan records important events in the city's history from 1298 through 1596. Most of the history is presented pictographically. A line of indigenous year signs runs the length of the Tira, with images above the line depicting events in Tepechpan and images below the line recording events at Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire and later the seat of Spanish rule. Written annotations amplify some of the images.

    In this volume, which includes color plates of the entire Tira, Lori Boornazian Diel investigates the motives behind the creation and modification of the Tira in the second half of the sixteenth century. She identifies the Tira's different contributors and reconciles their various histories by asking why these painters and annotators, working at different times, recorded the events that they did. Comparing the Tira to other painted histories from Central Mexico, Diel demonstrates that the main goal of the Tira was to establish the antiquity, autonomy, and prestige of Tepechpan among the Central Mexican city-states that vied for power and status in the preconquest and colonial worlds. Offering the unique point of view of a minor city with grand ambitions, this study of the Tira reveals imperial strategy from the grassroots up, showing how a subject city negotiated its position under Aztec and Spanish control.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79407-8
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The Tira de Tepechpan is an annals history created in Tepechpan, a relatively minoraltepetl,or city-state, in Central Mexico (plates 1–20). Painted by several historians working in the second half of the sixteenth century and then annotated alphabetically over a span of perhaps two hundred years, the main goal of this history was to establish the antiquity, autonomy, and prestige—political, religious, even intellectual—of the patron city.¹ To fulfill this goal, important events from 1298 through 1596 were written pictographically above and below a continuous line of indigenous year signs that runs the length of the Tira,...

  5. 2. The Tira de Tepechpan: Its Structure, Contributors, and History
    (pp. 13-22)

    Clearly a dynamic means of recording this community’s history and likely used in a variety of contexts, the Tira is a product of its previous contributors, interpreters, and even owners. Indeed, based on the manuscript’s pictorial and alphabetic content, it is likely that it was not created for any specific function but instead was a multipurpose document that, if and when necessary, could serve Tepechpan’s community interests in a variety of circumstances. This diversity of uses is reflected in the large number of artists and annotators contributing to the manuscript throughout the Colonial period.

    The Tira de Tepechpan was painted...

  6. [Plates]
    (pp. None)
  7. 3. Pre-Imperial History
    (pp. 23-50)

    According to Central Mexican historical tradition, after the fall of the esteemed urban center of Tula in the northern Valley of Mexico in the twelfth century, its noble Toltec descendants dispersed. Many of them settled in different communities around Lake Texcoco, with the greatest concentration said to have been at Culhuacan, which accordingly became known as the seat of Toltec nobility in the Late Post-Classic period. At about this same time, nomadic peoples called Chichimecs migrated from farther north and also founded communities around Lake Texcoco. To elevate their positions, the Chichimec leaders often married noblewomen from Culhuacan because of...

  8. 4. Imperial History
    (pp. 51-72)

    In the early fifteenth century, war broke out between the Tepaneca, the reigning power in Central Mexico, whose capital was at Azcapotzalco, and many of their subject cities. Clearly, this was a major event in Valley of Mexico politics for it receives a great deal of attention in many Aztec histories, in which the Tenochca stand out as the major combatants in the ensuing Tepanec War. However, it is unclear whether or not they had help, and if so, who their principal allies were; accounts vary depending on the local bias of the source. It is no surprise, then, that...

  9. 5. Colonial History of Painter A
    (pp. 73-92)

    In 1519, Spaniards arrived in the Valley of Mexico and began the conquest of the Aztec empire. In the Tira, the conquest barely touches Tepechpan; instead the military conquest is localized at Tenochtitlan, while a more peaceful, “spiritual” conquest unfolds in Tepechpan. Painter A’s record of the subsequent imposition of Spanish political and religious rule emphasizes Tepechpan’s acceptance of Spanish hegemony, and the pattern followed by Painter A in his preconquest history served him also through the arrival of the Spaniards. Just as the Tepechpaneca were shown with Mexica signs of power, they now take on Spanish signs of authority;...

  10. 6. Colonial Histories of Painters B, C, and D
    (pp. 93-112)

    After Painter A ceased working on the Tira, a succession of three different painters updated the manuscript until its end. Because each of these painters worked at a different time, the form and content of their histories had to change to effectively argue for Tepechpan’s rights and corporate integrity in the constantly evolving Spanish colonial system. Also, since they were working closer in time to the events they were recording, the later painters focused more on life under Spanish rule, especially events that affected the ability, or lack thereof, to fulfill increasingly burdensome tribute obligations. Though these additions to the...

  11. 7. The Alphabetic Annotations
    (pp. 113-124)

    Introduced by the Spaniards, alphabetic writing took on an almost fetishized role in New Spain, symbolizing the authority of the Spanish empire because of its overwhelming use in the political, religious, and judicial spheres (Lienhard 1991:5–10). Because colonial power rested largely on legal titles, ormercedes,which were written alphabetically on paper, the indigenous peoples could not ignore the administrative and judicial power of the written word. An alphabetic annotation, then, added a sense of authority to a pictorial text, fixing it with a unitary and, in the new colonial order, legitimate meaning that the imagery presumably lacked. Perhaps...

  12. 8. Indigenous Histories as Strategies for Survival
    (pp. 125-132)

    The Tira de Tepechpan certainly supports the notion that all politics is local. Though the Tira comments on the Aztec and Spanish empires and promotes Tepechpan as a key member of these empires, the point of view and bias always favors the local community. Created from the subject position, then, the Tira allows us to consider imperial strategy from the bottom up; it not only speaks to the imposition of Aztec and Spanish control over Tepechpan, but more important, it reveals how Tepechpan negotiated its position as a subject city under this control.

    Because of the similar underlying structures of...

  13. Appendix. Transcription and Translation of Annotator 1’s Glosses
    (pp. 133-136)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 137-144)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 145-154)
  16. Index
    (pp. 155-160)