Amoxtli: Painted Histories of Indigenous Mexico

Forces of Change: The Transformations of Mexican Codices

Temporal Translations: Physical Manifestations of Colonialism

When studying historical objects from pre-contact and colonial (1521–1821) Mexico, we must examine the specific contexts in which they were created. The personal, social, and political circumstances that contributed to shaping each work help us to interpret it. This case highlights some of the material and stylistic transformations from pre-Hispanic to colonial indigenous codices.

Metamorphoses: Changing Codices

Indigenous pre-contact screenfolds gave way to colonial codices, and over time to other versions of the Mesoamerican past—including contemporary ones. The Codex Mendoza, a complex Mexica (Aztec) manuscript with an intricate history of multiculturalism and transformation through translation, presents the history, tributes, and culture of the pre-conquest Mexica people as seen from the early colonial past. Like other indigenous manuscripts, it provides a “usable history,” narrating the past for specific purposes in the present.