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Reviewed by:
  • Nahuatl Theater, Volume 4: Nahua Christianity in Performance
  • Claudia Parodi
Nahuatl Theater, Volume 4: Nahua Christianity in Performance. Edited by Barry D. Sell and Louise M. Burkhart. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009. Pp. xvi, 405. References. Index. $49.95 cloth.

This excellent book is the last volume of this collection, which gathers plays written during viceregal times in New Spain. The volume contains seven eighteenth-century religious plays plus a fragment of an eighth. The editors of the series, the well known "nahuatlatos" Louise M. Burkhart and Barry D. Sell, located original texts in manuscript form in Mexican and American archives, transcribed them paleographically, and subsequently translated them into English. The volume includes a detailed, well-crafted index. In addition, the editors provide two well-rounded introductory essays on Nahuatl theater. The first, by Burkhart, focuses on the eighteenth century Nahuatl community theater. In it Burkhart explains the history and main characteristics of the genre. She elucidates how, where, and when it was performed, as well as its historiography. The second essay, by Sell, deals with the main goals of the whole series and points out exciting research possibilities that can be developed by using this important compilation.

The book is organized so that the plays are presented thematically, and include themes such as the birth of Christ, teatro de la pasión (plays that touch on Christ's death), other [End Page 110] biblical matters, and two plays that explore moral character. These latter plays are close to the huehuetlatolli ("the speech of the elders"), which Sell clarifies, "crops up in a variety of eighteenth century scripts" (p. 63). This is because the huehuetlatolli style survived in altered, syncretic form during the entire colonial period and beyond. In fact, the plays in this and in the three other volumes of Nahuatl Theater are evidence of the enduring Indian and Spanish cultural fusion characteristic of Mexican civilization. This series is a must for anyone interested in Nahuatl language and culture, theater, language contact, cultural studies, and performance studies.

Claudia Parodi
University of California
Los Angeles, California


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