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Painting the Aztec Past in Early Colonial Mexico: Translation and Knowledge Production in the Codex Mendoza

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2020

Daniela Bleichmar*
University of Southern California


The “Codex Mendoza” is one of the earliest, most detailed, and most important postconquest accounts of pre-Hispanic Aztec life. Nahuas and Spaniards manufactured the codex through a complex process that involved translations across media, languages, and cultural framings. Translations made Aztec culture legible and acceptable to nonnative viewers and readers by recasting indigenous practices, knowledge, ontology, and epistemology. Following a stratigraphic approach that examines the process through which natives and Spaniards created a transcultural manuscript, the article examines the multiple interpretations and negotiations involved in producing images, books, and information about the indigenous world in early colonial Mexico.

Copyright © Renaissance Society of America 2020

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My thanks to Frances Berdan, Davide Domenici, Jorge Gómez Tejada, Florence Hsia, Dana Leibsohn, Camilla Townsend, and Corinna Zeltsman for their helpful feedback and suggestions. This research was assisted by a Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars from the American Council of Learned Societies.



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