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  • Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives ed. by Jongsoo Lee and Galen Brokaw
  • Mathias Bergmann
Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives. Edited by Jongsoo Lee and Galen Brokaw. Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2014. Pp. xi, 265. $70.00 cloth.

Lee and Brokaw have compiled an interdisciplinary collection of symposium papers that conveys the state of the field of Texcoco studies and calls for more innovative research. The first two chapters offer a sound overview of the existing literature on Texcoco, from the early codices through the twentieth century, and introduce areas of further research. Collectively, the various chapters do well in achieving the key objective "of sorting out prehispanic from the colonial" in Texcoco history and in offering a corrective to the "false landscapes of interpretation [that had emerged] along with the good ones" (51). Individually, the works aptly model ways to ferret out pre-Hispanic features from texts reshaped by Texcocans as they forged a position for their city-state in the new Hispanic world emerging around them.

As these articles reinforce, Texcocans took advantage of the upheaval of conquest to successfully refashion Texcoco as a preeminent city-state, by which means they hoped to carve out a powerful position within the Spanish empire. Jongsoo Lee demonstrates in Chapter 3 how the Texcocan chroniclers manipulated their city's past and status as a tribute collection site to portray it to the Spaniards as having once been an equal member of the Triple Alliance, when in reality it was a "junior partner" (69). No equality between Texcoco and Tenochtitlan had existed, Lee effectively argues, and Texcoco had been subordinate to Tenochtitlan in the Mexicas' political and tribute system and had only delegated powers to collect tribute from lesser cities. Early historians had been swayed by Texcocans' propaganda from the conquest era that conflated their tributary role with independence and projected back in time their supposed rule over other cities.

Several authors excel at revealing additional layers within well-known texts. Lori Diel demonstrates that the Mapa Quinatzin was a product of Texcocan ambition and that other texts from the Valley of Mexico contain deliberate omissions regarding the historic dominance of Texcoco. By "collapsing] time and, in doing so, freez[ing] Texcoco at the height of its power," the compiler offered an "idealized and stable view of the city and domain" (119, 141). Ethelia Medrano offers an intriguing analysis of the well-known inquisition trial and execution of don Carlos de Texcoco, arguing convincingly that subjects in Ghent, questioning the emperor's authority, shaped and [End Page 561] even predetermined Carlos V's response in 1539 to a typical resistance movement in New Spain. Leisa Kauffmann's chapter makes a compelling argument that despite its being heavy laden with European and Christian imagery, Alva Ixtlilxochitl's portrayal of Nezahualcoyotl retained Nahua cultural elements. Kauffmann convincingly argues that structural elements of the stories reveal coded cosmographic messages, like the role of trees or the means of communication with gods, that Nahuas would immediately recognize.

The chapters by Camilla Townsend, Amber Brian, Bradley Benton, and Pablo García Loaeza shed light on the intricacies of relations among the Texcocan elite. Townsend demonstrates well the role of polygyny behind the succession wars within the Aztec Empire. García Loaeza effectively argues that Alva Ixtlilxochitl's "genealogical historiography" was not merely an imported method nor a syncretic exercise but instead an indigenous reckoning of generations "purposely adapted to fit a new setting." Scholars should look not for inaccuracies in Ixtlilxochitl's work, he advises, but for the symbolism not readily apparent to "modern perceptions" (235). Collectively, the articles emphasize and reveal the indigenous agency of Texcocan elites during and after conquest as they resituated themselves in the new geopolitics of Spanish control.

Mathias Bergmann
Randolph-Macon College
Ashland, Virginia


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pp. 561-562
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