Mixpantli: Space, Time, and the Indigenous Origins of Mexico
Tue, 11/30/2021 – 10:48
On the evening of August 13, 1521, just over a year after the controversial death of Moctezuma II (Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin), Cuauhtemoc (Quauhtemoctzin), the young—and final—ruler of the Aztec Empire, made his way down the canals of war-torn Mexico-Tenochtitlan to negotiate peace with the invading Spaniards. Decades later, as an epidemic (huey cocoliztli) ravaged what had been rechristened as Mexico City, the capital of New Spain, Nahua historians committed to an ambitious world-sustaining project of their own: recording their knowledge and histories in an illustrated encyclopedia known as the Florentine Codex. Their account of the war (Book 12) begins with an omen—a pyramid of fire, a banner of clouds, piercing the heart of the sky—that appeared ten years before the Spanish arrived. This omen was a new axis around which a new era would be oriented; they called it Mixpantli.
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Five-hundred years later, as the world emerges from another devastating pandemic, Mixpantli: Space, Time, and the Indigenous Origins of Mexico contemplates the legacy of the works produced by Indigenous knowledge-keepers (tlamatinime) and artist-scribes (tlacuiloque) living under Spanish rule. Theirs is a story of creative resistance and resilience, of adaptation and negotiation, and of making the world anew. Wielding the generative, creative power of artistic practice, these tlacuiloque defined a new era, reorienting space and time through novel works of art—illustrated histories, featherworks, stone sculptures, and cartographic paintings—all which situate European Christendom within Indigenous cosmovision. Mixpantli is a symbol of the monumental clash of these two worlds, and the deftness with which Nahua artists imagined a dynamic and multifaceted future by becoming fluent in the cultural traditions of both.