- The Tira de Tepechpan: Negotiating Place under Aztec and Spanish Rule, and: La Chronique X: Reconstitution et analyse d'une source perdue fondamentale sur la civilisation Aztèque, d'après l'Historia de las Indias de Nueva España de D. Durán (1581) et la Crónica Mexicana de F. A. Tezozomoc (ca. 1598)
With these two books, Western inquiry into Nahua historiography approaches the complexity of the subject under investigation. Lori Diel explores the palimpsestual nature of the Tira de Tepechpan, pointing out the four painters and multiple annotators involved in its long history of production. Diel rejects the historiographic hegemony of Tenochcan sources, treating them as equally subject to bias as Texcocan, Chalcan, and other historical traditions. She correctly maintains that comparison of sources will not necessarily arrive at an accurate accounting of events and that even sources with demonstrable bias and errors contain useful historical data in the form of such bias and errors.
Diel's presentation of multiple hands at work on the document is bold, well supported and candid regarding doubts and data shortcomings. Her description of the physical state of the document is exacting and informative. The presentation of the relationship of the content of the Tira to other sources, not designed to be comprehensive, is compact and well presented. Included is an excellent set of photographic plates of the Tira. High density images on DVD would have been preferable, but the plates, when scanned, hold up to considerable magnification.
Diel's principal theme is that the Tira was long in use by local civil authorities to negotiate for status and position among the bewildering changes of the postconquest era. Although the precise motivations remain undiscoverable, and are related to Tepechpan's interactions with Texcoco and Tenochtitlan, the Tira's producers chose to pair Tepechpan's history in an upper tier with the history of more powerful Tenochtitlan, rather than Texcoco, in a lower tier. Diel proposes that Tepechpan's denial of Texcocan ties, as well as its claims of an earlier higher status for Tepechpan and its ruling line than for Tenochtitlan and its rulers, were crafted to improve its standing in colonial times. She delineates the deliberate inclusion of evidence of political, military, cultural and religious allegiance to the [End Page 565] dominant power of the time, whether Tenochtitlan or Spain, as well as the insistence on a continuous ruling line, as key strategies for negotiation encapsulated in the Tira.
Diel encounters Nahua historiography late in its development, under stress from outsiders who little valued indigenous considerations. She contrasts the result only with an idealized conception of Western historiography. It is in reality hardly more flawed than the various schools of Western historiography, including the one prevalent among Mexican anthropologists of the middle twentieth century, whose own various allegiances produced an image of the Aztecs consistent with the one-party state in which they worked. The full character of Nahua historiography remains to be discovered and readers should not leave with the impression of an exclusively flawed approach to history.
Sylvie Peperstraete's investigation of the Crónica X and its dependent sources is a remarkable product for an emerging scholar because of its results and the breadth, depth and maturity of judgment wielded to achieve them. Peperstraete takes up the backbreaking challenge of Robert Barlow's 1945 observation that the works of Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc and Diego Durán were drawn from a common source, with both Nahuatl text and illustrations. In a valuable appendix, she reconstructs as much of the original text as possible through an exacting comparison of the two...