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  • Mesoamerican Memory: Enduring Systems of Remembrance Edited by Amos Megged and Stephanie Wood
  • Jongsoo Lee
Mesoamerican Memory: Enduring Systems of Remembrance. Edited by Amos Megged and Stephanie Wood. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. Pp. 328. $55.00 cloth.

Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, indigenous people in Mesoamerica maintained collective memory by their own means, such as pictorial writing systems and oral traditions. Some aspects of this pre-Hispanic indigenous memory survived the conquest, negotiated colonial authority, and have continued to the present. Amos Megged and Stephanie Wood’s collection of articles provides insight as to how preconquest and postconquest Mesoamerican collective memory was created, survived, and continued through adaptations and transformations.

As Wood points out in the introduction, collective memory as a shared view of the past is not fixed or stable but constantly changes according to the needs of the present. Within this theoretical framework, the articles collected in the volume examine the collective memory that a specific ethnic group maintained or various ethnic groups of Mesoamerica shared. Some chapters focus on the indigenous ways of creating and preserving collective memory in religious rituals, artistic practices, and architectural structures before the conquest. Daniel Graña-Behrens focuses on a group of intellectuals called Itz’aat in Maya culture and tlamatinime in Nahua culture who were known as the creators and keepers of collective memory. In other chapters, Amos Megged and Ángel Julian García Zambrano study indigenous ways of creating political and indigenous memory. The former examines collective memory embedded in several rituals, such as tlaquimilloli (bundling), Ixiptla (godly representation) and the ceremony during Quecholli, as well as artistic acts such as the songs of the Cantares mexicanos, while the latter examines the sacred meanings of foundational landscapes as represented in architectural structures and pictorial scripts.

The majority of the articles in the volume examine the emergence of new collective memory and the transformation of pre-Hispanic collective memory in response to the colonial situation. Florine Asselbergs and María de los Ángeles Romero Frizzi focus on contradictory indigenous reactions to the conquest based on distinctive political needs. Asselbergs examines the pictorial codices of the Spanish allies from Quauhquechollan and Tlaxcala who tried to acquire colonial benefits by selectively recording the contributions of their community to the conquest. By focusing on the primordial titles of two different Zapotec towns, Frizzi finds some common features in the origin and genealogy of the ruling class, but also that the response of that class in the two towns to the conquest and colonial power were opposite, one violent and the other peaceful. The continuation of pre-Hispanic collective memory after the conquest served to maintain indigenous cultural identity as well as political status under colonial rule. Justyna Olko’s study of indigenous pictorial genealogy, Jerome Offner’s examination of Totonac texts, and Carlos Rincón Mautner’s analysis of Mixtec codices demonstrate that pre-Hispanic indigenous memory was used continuously, not only to promote [End Page 359] regional and ethnic cultural traditions but also to support the uninterrupted rights to resources and tribute collection after the conquest.

Alternately, other contributors examine how pre-Hispanic collective memory was used to justify political privileges as they were newly acquired during the colonial period. Hans Roskamp shows how the indigenous people of Pátzcuaro, which became a regional colonial capital after the conquest, manipulated their pre-Hispanic town history to justify their newly acquired superior status in regard to the pre-Hispanic regional capital Tzintzuntzan. By examining the inquisitorial trial of the Texcocan noble, Carlos Ometochtli, León García Garagarza demonstrates how other Texcocan nobles took advantage of preconquest and postconquest religious practices in Mount Tlaloc in order to persecute their political rivals and indigenous people of neighboring cities in collaboration with colonial authorities.

The remaining articles of the volume trace indigenous collective memory from the colonial period to the present. Ethelia Ruiz Medrano studies the continuity and manipulation of the collective memory of Santa María Cuquila in Oaxaca. Even today, the indigenous people of the town selectively use their collective memory for certain political and economic interests. Bas van Doesburg examines three documents from the Oaxaca region...


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pp. 359-360
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