Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico Kept Their History Alive

Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico Kept Their History Alive

by Camilla Townsend


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For many generations, the Nahuas of Mexico maintained their tradition of the xiuhpohualli. or "year counts," telling and performing their history around communal firesides so that the memory of it would not be lost. When the Spaniards came, young Nahuas took the Roman letters taught to them by the friars and used the new alphabet to record historical performances by elders. Between them, they wrote hundreds of pages, which circulated widely within their communities. Over the next century and a half, their descendants copied and recopied these texts, sometimes embellishing, sometimes extracting, and often expanding them chronologically.

The annals, as they have usually been called, were written not only by Indians but also for Indians, without regard to European interests. As such they are rare and inordinately valuable texts. They have often been assumed to be both largely anonymous and at least partially inscrutable to modern ears. In this work, Nahuatl scholar Camilla Townsend reveals the authors of most of the texts, restores them to their proper contexts, and makes sense of long misunderstood documents. She follows a remarkable chain of Nahua historians, generation by generation, exploring who they were, what they wrote, and why they wrote it. Sometimes they conceived of their work as a political act, reinstating bonds between communities, or between past, present, and future generations. Sometimes they conceived of it largely as art and delighted in offering language that was beautiful or startling or humorous.

Annals of Native America brings together, for the first time, samples of their many creations to offer a heretofore obscured history of the Nahuas and an alternate perspective on the Conquest and its aftermath.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190628994
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 11/11/2016
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Camilla Townsend is Professor of History at Rutgers University. A Guggenheim Fellow, she is the author of Malintzin's Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico and Here in This Year: Seventeenth-Century Nahuatl Annals of the Tlaxcala-Puebla Valley, among other books.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Old Stories in New Letters (1520s-1550s)
Chapter Two: Becoming Conquered (the 1560s)
Chapter Three: Forging Friendship with Franciscans (1560s-1580s)
Chapter Four: The Riches of Twilight (c. 1600)
Chapter Five: Renaissance in the East (the 17th century)
Epilogue: Postscript from a Golden Age
The Texts in Nahuatl
Historia Tolteca Chichimeca
Annals of Tlatelolco
Annals of Juan Bautista
Annals of Tecamachalco
Annals of Cuauhtitlan
Chimalpahin, Seventh Relation
Don Juan Bautista Buenaventura Zapata y Mendoza
Annals of Puebla

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