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Mexican codex map
Mexico, late 16th century
This document is a map showing details of the foundation of two towns in Mexico, Santa Barbara Tamasolco (1547) and Santa Ana (1616). It illustrates the impact of the Spanish conquest of Mexico and the resulting interaction between Spanish colonialists and Mexican natives.
Painted on rough native Mexican paper known as amatl, it has text written in Nahuatl, the main pre-Hispanic Mexican language, but using the European alphabet.
In the centre a tree is flanked by two imposing churches named after the two Christian saints: Santa Barbara on the left and Santa Ana on the right. These dominate a landscape of roads, water-courses and houses, one of which is indicated as being an inn by the phrase tecali techialoyan – ‘the place where one meets people’.
The landholders of defined plots of land around Santa Barbara are indicated by name. Four human figures are depicted and some named in the Nahuatl text, including Don Antonio de Mendoza, referred to as the Viceroy and ‘great governor’. Another of the individuals named is a scribe, probably involved in the production of the codex, Mateo Auauhtli, whose name combines a Christian saint’s name with a local Nahuatl one.
In this one document, the profound interaction – both on a religious and social level – between the Spanish colonialists and native Mexicans is shown.
The local language is used in an adapted form, with an imported alphabet, while Spanish and native names are combined, Spanish landowners celebrated and Christian churches established.