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  • The Glories of the Republic of Tlaxcala: Art and Life in Viceregal Mexico
  • Michael J. Schreffler
The Glories of the Republic of Tlaxcala: Art and Life in Viceregal Mexico. By Jaime Cuadriello. Translated by Christopher J. Follett. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011. Pp. xxxv, 400. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. Photographs. $55.00 paper.

A translation of Cuadriello’s Las glorias de la República de Tlaxcala o la conciencia como imagen sublime, published in 2004 by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, this book’s primary object of inquiry is a late eighteenth-century manuscript acquired in 1996 by the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City. The manuscript, which consists of 20 quarto folios and includes four watercolors by Juan Manuel Yllanes del Huerto, provides a wealth of information about a series of paintings Yllanes made for the parish church of San Simón in Yehualtepec, 65 kilometers southwest of Puebla. The patron for the series was the cacique and parish priest Ignacio Faustinos Mazihcatzin Calmecahua y Escobar (ca. 1735–1803), a native of Tlaxcala who claimed descent from kings of Ocotelulco, a noble Tlaxcaltec family that collaborated with Hernán Cortés in the conquest of Mexico.

The author divides this compelling study of the manuscript, the paintings, and their patron into two parts. Part one, which includes seven chapters, draws from published sources and archival documents to trace the history of the Mazihcatzin family and the [End Page 137] parish of San Simón from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Cuadriello surveys Ignacio Faustinos Mazihcatzin’s patronage of architecture, liturgical ornaments, and religious imagery at his church in Yehualtepec and outlines the involvement of the priest, his two brothers, and other family members in the promotion of a number of important institutions in Tlaxcala. These chapters set the stage for the author’s main argument: the pictorial program Mazihcatzin installed in his parish church was conceived as a forceful statement about Tlaxcaltec identity and autonomy (tlaxcaltequidad) at a moment of crisis.

Part two centers on the paintings Yllanes produced for the parish church of San Simón. None of the canvases is known to have survived, but the Museo Nacional’s manuscript and other documents provide information about their local subjects, the circumstances of their production, and their installation in the church. The works depicted the apparitions of the Virgin of Ocotlán and Saint Michael of the Miracle to Indians; St. Thomas the Apostle preaching in Tlaxcala; and the martyrdom of three Tlaxcaltec children. Cuadriello calls this cycle “The Glories of the Republic of Tlaxcala,” thus accounting for his book’s title. He reconstructs the location of these and other works in the parish church in Yehualtepec and suggests that replicas of them were hung in the Royal Chapel in Tlaxcala. In chapters 10, 11, and 13 he examines the histories and iconographies of these themes, and in chapter 15 he presents an interpretation of the cycle as “the most explicit and eloquent illustration of the longing of upper-class Indians to see themselves as conquerors rather than conquered, as Christian visionaries in their own right rather than as peoples of marginal importance in the history of the faith” (p. 269).

The University of Texas edition of Cuadriello’s book differs in a number of ways from the 2004 publication. The subtitle to the Austin edition, Art and Life in Viceregal Mexico, takes the place of the Mexico City edition’s O la conciencia como imagen sublime, thus bringing to the forefront the New Historicist and microhistorical tendencies of Cuadriello’s project. “If one wishes to understand one of the most exciting and perturbing themes of colonial mythology and the ideology of ‘indigenous patriotism’,” he writes, “it would be enough to take a look at the documents accumulated in connection with the artistic efforts of the parish priest of San Simón Yehualtepec” (p. xxii). A brief forward by Susan Deans-Smith takes the place of those by María Teresa Uriarte and Graciela de la Torre in the Mexican edition. In other ways, however, the new edition is faithful to the Spanish-language edition. The text and references have...


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