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Conquered Conquistadors

The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, A Nahua Vision of the Conquest of Guatemala

By Florine Asselbergs

Publication Year: 2008

"This book is truly a pathbreaking work. No Mesoamericanist or scholar of the Conquest can afford to be without it." —The Sixteenth Century Journal

"Asselbergs . . . is the first scholar to identify the map as depicting the Quauhquecholteca invasion of Guatemala and to offer an accurate, detailed, and fully contextualized analysis of the document. Asselberg's book, however, is far more than an art-historical analysis of a single map. Her discussion of the lienzo is so thorough and clearly presented as to make her study possibly the best book yet published on the Spanish (or Spanish-Nahua) conquest of Guatemala."—Hispanic American

In Conquered Conquistadors, Florine Asselbergs reveals that a large pictorial map, the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, long thought to represent a series of battles in central Mexico, was actually painted in the 1530s by Quauhquecholteca warriors to document their invasion of Guatemala alongside the Spanish and to proclaim themselves as conquistadors. This painting is the oldest known map of Guatemala and a rare document of the experiences of indigenous conquistadors. The people of the Nahua community of Quauhquechollan (present-day San Martín Huaquechula), in central Mexico, allied with Cortés during the Spanish-Aztec War and were assigned to the Spanish conquistador Jorge de Alvarado. De Alvarado and his allies, including the Quauhquecholteca and thousands of other indigenous warriors, set off for Guatemala in 1527 to start a campaign against the Maya. The few Quauhquecholteca who lived to tell the story recorded their travels and eventual victory on the huge cloth map, the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan. Conquered Conquistadors, published in a European edition in 2004, overturned conventional views of the European conquest of indigenous cultures. American historians and anthropologists will relish this new edition and Asselbergs's astute analysis, which includes context, interpretation, and comparison with other pictographic accounts of the "Spanish" conquest.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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Title Page, List of Related Works, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

Our series Mesoamerican Worlds is pleased to present Florine Asselbergs’s excellent and precise study of a colonial pictorial, which focuses on a topic that we have not emphasized before—the conquest of Mesoamerica. Further, Asselbergs goes beyond the “vision de los vencidos” narrative of the terrible, destructive, yet creative events of the early sixteenth century that were made available to...

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pp. xiii-xv

Many people and institutions have supported me in my research and have made it possible for me to write this book. I do not have the words to thank them enough. I will mention them here, hoping I have not forgotten anybody. First, I would like to thank the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO) and the Research School for Asian, African...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-20

Conquest: the word brings up violent images of war and destruction and their related horrors—the tension before each battle, the blood and screams of the dying, and the sickening silence when at last the victorious have conquered. It is a story told over and over throughout history. And regrettably, it is one that will in all likelihood be told many more times before humankind finds peace...

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2. Theory and Methodology

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pp. 21-33

Codices and lienzos form an indispensable corpus of sources about the history of the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. They present a firsthand visual account of what happened in the indigenous communities from their own point of view. But even more interesting, they transmit this account by means of a medium the indigenous peoples themselves developed, felt comfortable with, and knew how...

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3. Quauhquechollan

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pp. 35-71

The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan is an account by and about people from the community of Quauhquechollan in Puebla, Mexico. It tells about the establishment of an alliance between the Quauhquecholteca and the Spaniards and the role of Quauhquecholteca captains and soldiers in Spanish campaigns of conquest. The aim of this chapter is to achieve insight into the historical, political,...

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4. The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan: The Document

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pp. 73-80

The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan is the most impressive and complex of the Quauhquechollan pictorials. The story told in this document concerns Quauhquecholteca conquistadors who set out for Guatemala in 1527. In subsequent chapters I will present a reading and interpretation of this narrative. First, however, I look into the history and whereabouts of the pictorial, previous studies,...

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5. The "Spanish" Conquest of Guatemala

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pp. 81-121

The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan deals with the Spanish-Quauhquecholteca alliance and tells the story of Quauhquecholteca conquistadors who set out with their encomendero, Jorge de Alvarado, to participate in the conquest of Guatemala. To comprehend this pictographic account, it is necessary first to understand the circumstances in which it came into being. This chapter therefore...

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6. Basic Pictographic Conventions Used in the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan

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pp. 123-136

The story told in the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan is communicated through Nahua pictorial writing. To read this story, a basic knowledge of Nahua pictorial conventions is therefore required. Some of the images in the Nahua script are direct representations of the persons or objects concerned. Examples of this kind of image include horses, trees, and mountains, among others. These images are...

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7. The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan: A Reading

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pp. 137-201

This chapter presents my reading of the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan. The decipherment of the pictographic narrative is based primarily on (1) what is presently known of Nahua pictorial conventions1 and (2) the extant information on the history of the participation of the Quauhquecholteca and others in the conquest of Mesoamerica (contextualization). My description starts at the initial scene at Quauhquechollan in the upper-left...

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8. The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan: Interpretation

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pp. 203-230

In my study of the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, I chose to employ the classical iconographic approach as the central method. In previous chapters I have dealt with the pictorial elements, the analysis of the meaning of those elements, and the identification of the scenes in their historical context (Panofsky’s first two steps). This chapter, in turn, focuses on an exploration of the rhetoric of the...

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9. Other Pictographic Accounts of the "Spanish" Conquest

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pp. 231-249

The Quauhquecholteca were not the only Central Mexican allies of the Spaniards who recorded their experiences in a pictorial manuscript. The Tlaxcalteca left various conquest pictorial accounts as well. There are also references to yet other communities who once had conquest pictorials in their possession, although unfortunately none of these other records seems to have survived...

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10. Conclusions

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pp. 251-258

This book’s primary purpose has been to provide a reading and interpretation of the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan. When I started my research, the contents of this document were barely known. Only parts of the initial scene had been identified: the place glyph for Quauhquechollan and the images of Cortés and Malintzin. Furthermore, since the story presented clearly dealt with the Spanish conquest of...


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pp. 259-296


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pp. 297-336


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pp. 337-359


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pp. 361-372

E-ISBN-13: 9780870819926
E-ISBN-10: 0870819925
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870818998
Print-ISBN-10: 0870818996

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 49 b/w photos, 42 b/w illlustrations
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 646835476
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Conquered Conquistadors

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Guatemala -- History -- To 1500.
  • Guatemala -- Early works to 1800 -- Maps -- Facsimiles.
  • Manuscripts, Nahuatl -- Guatemala.
  • Aztecs -- History -- Sources.
  • Mexico -- History -- Conquest, 1519-1540.
  • Lienzo de Quauhquechollan.
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