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These codices depict Africans as active participants of Spanish colonization. They suggest that indigenous people perceived them as part of the invading force. We can perceive both loathing and admiration in these depictions; loathing for the enemy, admiration for the warrior. However, as some scholars have pointed out, we cannot forget that these codices were mediated by Spaniards who were interested in Fig. 4. Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, 16th century, detail. © Casa de Alfeñique, Puebla, Mexico. “conquering” indigenous culture and minds. Part of that ideological conquest was having indigenous people retell the story of the Spanish territorial “conquest,” normally from the Spanish perspective, which is what we see in these codices. We must ask, therefore, to what extent do these codices and their depiction of Africans represent the indigenous worldview? Are these depictions at the service of advancing another Spanish agenda; that of fostering animosity between Africans and indigenous people, in order to undue the bond they forged as colonial subjects? The final known depiction of Africans in a Mesoamerican codex may answer that question affirmatively (figs. 6 and 7).

Fig. 5. African Warrior, Quauhquechollan Cloth, 16th century, detail. © Casa de Alfeñique, Puebla, Mexico.

Fig. 6. Execution of African Rebel, Codex Telleriano-Remensis, circa 1565, folio 45 recto, detail. © Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

black rebels who “elected a [black] king and planned to kill all the Spaniards and take over the land.” This report and the image from the codex concords more with the colonial anti-black rhetoric found in colonial records than with the alliances the records show indigenous people and people of African-descent forged in colonial Latin America. So, we must read these codices with caution. If they show loathing and admiration, where is each emotion coming from, and in what degree of intensity.

This is how the Codex Telleriano-Remensis depicted how the leader of a supposed slave rebellion plot in Mexico City in 1537 was executed. Figure 9 shows how Spanish inter­ vened in these codices. According the only existing account of the plot, the indigenous population also conspired with the black rebels who “elected a [black] king and planned to kill all the Spaniards and take over the land.” This report and the image from the codex concords more with the colonial anti-black rhetoric found in colonial records than with the alliances the records show indigenous people and people of African-descent forged in colonial Latin America. So, we must read these codices with caution. If they show loathing and admiration, where is each emotion coming from, and in what degree of intensity. (Check out Miguel’s footnotes and bibliography online at quepasaohiostate.tumblr.com)

Fig. 7. Summary of the Year 1537, Codex Telleriano-Remensis, circa 1565, folio 45 recto, detail. © Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Autumn ’16

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Autumn 2016  

"Experiences and Realities" ¿Que Pasa, Ohio State? Making space for Latinx Scholarship and Community

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