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Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire

Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition, Revised Edition

By Davíd Carrasco

Publication Year: 2000

"This book, rich in ideas, constituting a novel approach...represents a stimulating and provocative contribution to Mesoamerican studies...Recommended to all serious students of the New World's most advanced indigenous civilization."—Man

"[Carrasco] has significantly advanced our understanding of the complexities of Mesoamerican culture history, not least by demonstrating that there was a great deal more involved in religious belief than its purely iconic context."—American Historical Review

"The work of Carrasco, interesting and provocative, is conceived as a species of drama filled with literary signs."—Revista Interamericana de Bibliografia

"This book constitutes an interesting and challenging approach to the interpretation of Mesoamerican religion, urbanism, and archaeology."—Science

"Like J. Eric Thompson, Carrasco has applied an informed imagination to identify some of the ways that ideas could lie behind material form."—American Anthropologist

"A must for both professional and serious non-professional students in Mesoamerica. Those who are interested in complex society and urbanism in general, as well as students of comparative religion, will find it stimulating. Most importantly, for anyone interested in the history of ideas, the book illuminates the tremendously powerful impact and role of a complex deity/mythico-historical figure in shaping one of the world's great pristine civilizations."—Queen's Quarterly

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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Title Page

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p. vii


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p. viii

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pp. ix-xi

The return of Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition follows the pattern of the Plumed Serpent in Mesoamerican history, who returned time and again to renew the cosmos and the...

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Preface to the First Edition

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pp. xiii-xv

The return of Quetzaicoati and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition to print in 1992 is a timely event for at least two reasons. First, in the last decade many of the discoveries of the excavation of the Great Aztec Temple have been published...


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pp. xvii-xviii

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Introduction: Mosaics and Centers

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pp. 1-9

The story of ancient Mexico is the story of places and symbols of places. The little footprints crossing and looping the ancient maps suggest that archaic Mexicans visited such places as Teotihuacan, "Abode of...

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One The Sources: From Storybook to Encyclopedia

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pp. 11-62

The historian of religions working with primary sources representing Mesoamerican religions is faced with a distinctly complex relationship between the texts and their contexts. Not only is he faced with the problem of understanding the usual idiosyncratic influences of indigenous cultural and historical...

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Two Quetzalcoatl and the Foundation of Tollan

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pp. 63-103

This lament, sung and written down a full three hundred years after the events it describes, is a helpful point at which to begin our exploration of the meaning Quetzaicoatl had for the pre-Columbian city. Within the song's ambiguous complexities we find references...

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Three Other Tollans

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pp. 104-147

The story of ancient Mexico is the story of places and visions of places. Mexican storybooks, chronicles, histories, and encyclopedias are filled with place signs and place references of cities and towns which were...

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Four The Return of Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire

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pp. 148-204

When the Spaniards arrived in the Valley of Mexico and first saw the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in 1519, they were startled by its architectural wonders, social complexity, and spatial organization. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a sergeant in Cortes's troop, has left us this memorable first impression of the Aztec capital...

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Five When Strangers Come to Town: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and Millennial Discourse

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pp. 205-240

I think it was Jorge Luis Borges who said somewhere that there are only two stories really worth writing about - either "a stranger comes to town" or "someone leaves home." These comings and goings, especially the ones worth writing about, can sometimes alter the shape...


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pp. 241-263

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 265-273


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pp. 275-280

E-ISBN-13: 9781607321323
E-ISBN-10: 1607321327
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870815584
Print-ISBN-10: 087081558X

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 16 b&w line drawings
Publication Year: 2000

OCLC Number: 606484395
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Quetzalcoatl (Aztec deity).
  • Aztecs -- Urban residence.
  • Aztec mythology.
  • Sacred space -- Mexico.
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