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Humanismo nahua y etnohistoria: Antonio Valeriano y una carta de los regidores de Azcapotzalco a Felipe II, 1561.

Nahua humanism and ethnohistory: Antonio Valeriano and a letter from the rulers of Azcapotzalco to Philip II, 1561 (1)

In February 1561 the native governors and rulers of Azcapotzalco wrote to the king of Spain to secure a number of privileges and exemptions for their town. (2) The document they produced has long been recognised as a unique source for the history of Azcapotzalco, the seat of the Tepanec empire which fell to the Mexica of Tenochtitlan, nearly a century before the Spaniards arrived in Anahuac. (3) The letter also provides evidence of the humanist learning some members of the Nahua elite had acquired by the mid-1500s. The present discussion will begin by outlining the argument of the letter and its historical significance (I) and highlighting its combination of European and Mesoamerican influences (II), before identifying Antonio Valeriano, a nephew of Moctezuma II, as the author on the basis of both stylistic evidence and independent testimony (III). This examination further suggests that Valeriano cannot have written the Nican mopohua, the first Nahuatl account of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which is sometimes still attributed to him (IV)--though a brief Postscript will propose that he may have been the anonymous translator of Aesop's fables from Latin into Nahuatl.


Several Nahua political leaders petitioned the Holy Roman Emperor and the Spanish crown for titles, pensions or the restitution of lost lands, usually in Castilian and sometimes in Nahuatl. (4) The appeal by the rulers of Azacapotzalco to Philip II, however, was written in Latin. (5) After its opening salutation, the text was divided into eight parts, Primum, Secundum, Tertium, and so on (here indicated by [1], [2], [3] etc.):

Salutatio [Greeting]

(a) Deliberation: Should Indians dare to address a king?

(b) Captatio benevolentiae [seeking reader's good will]: The king is kind and ready to hear requests from his subjects.

[1] Account of the constriction of Azcapotzalco's boundaries, as Spanish settlers and the people of Tlacopan have intruded into the town's traditional territory.

[2] The king is asked to issue a seal for the protection and preservation of the town's original boundaries.

[3] Plea for exemption from public labour on building in Mexico City and from farm work for the Spaniards.

[4] The issue of the town's frontiers is raised again: from ancient times the Azcapotzalca were able to cut wood and quarry stone anywhere within three days journey from their town, but now they are prohibited from doing so.

[5] A short account of Azcapotzalco's history as a great provincia under the rule of Tezozomoc and of its tributaries and settlements including Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, culminating in a plea for the town to claim the status of civitas, "city state".

[6] More about Azcapotzalco's heritage, with a request for insignia for the town.

[7] The writers ask for an academy to be established in Azcapotzalco for the teaching of Latin and Spanish.

[8] The final plea is for the town market, tianquizco, to be allowed on a second day in the week.

Valedictio beseeching a long life for the king.

As its text makes clear, the letter was originally presented with illustrations which are now lost: descriptiones, maps or drawings [1] and picturae, genealogical diagrams [2], showing Azcapotzalco's original settlements and the ancestors who ruled over them. (6) The writers' complaint about the usurpation of their land leads them to point out that their encomendero, Francisco de Montejo, is away in Yucatan and no longer able to defend their interests [1]. As Montejo's earlier campaigns in Yucatan had taken the lives of many conscripts from Azcapotzalco, a royal cedula of January 28 1550 reduced the tribute imposed on the town. (7) The mere mention of Montejo's name thus forges an implicit connection to the next request--for another 'royal seal' (regia cedula) to secure protection of the town's borders [2].

The rulers of Azcapotzalco next ask for the labourers of their town to be exempted from public works, particularly the construction of the church of the Virgin of Guadalupe [3]. The growing adoration of the Virgin at Tepeyac was promoted mostly by the episcopacy and secular clergy: while the Dominicans and Augustinians seem to have ignored the cult, the provincial of the Franciscans, Fray Francisco de Bustamante, denounced it in 1556 on the grounds that veneration of the Virgin's image was encouraging the Indians to practice idolatry. (8)

The letter gives a brief history of Azcapotzalco and its dominions [4], stating that the town had been founded 1 526 years before, in 35 AD --a date converging with a cautious estimate that would be made by the Franciscan chronicler Fray Juan de Torquemada. (9) Tezozomoc or Tezozomoctli is described as having ruled the town for 166 years, and it is affirmed that "there have been not more than one hundred and thirty three years since he departed from the living" [5]. The claim that Tezozomoc was thus born in 1262 AD and died in 1427 also seems to harmonise with Torquemada's account, and the Annals of Tlatelolco give the same date for his death. (10) Azcapotzalco's former greatness as a provincia under Tezozomoc's rule is then underlined. The fifth and largest part of the letter shows that the Tepanec empire under Tezozomoc in the early 1400s AD included satellite kingdoms ruled by his sons or sons-in-law, and that it benefited from more distant tributaries, as well as from alliances with other principalities. Pedro Carrasco made the important observation that very similar forms of domination and organization would be adopted by the Aztecs themselves, when their own triple alliance ran over the Tepanec dynasty in 1430, superimposing itself on virtually the same territories. (11)

As well as holding a number of populations paying tribute, the letter reveals that Azcapotzalco had ordained or founded settlements of its own, including Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco:
   Atque ut rem paucis aperiamus. Mexicani cum oppugnati fuere ab
   azcaputzalcanis iuxta montem nomine Chapoltepec in quem prius
   applicuere ex longa ac diutina peregrinatione, postea errabundi
   hinc inde pellebantur ignorantes omnino quem locum ad habitandum
   eligerent, eos miseratus dictus Tecocomoctli ea in parte loci ubi
   nunc est Tenuchtitla collocandos mandavit. Qui quidem mexicani
   octoginta annis serviere oppido nostro ei pro tributo persolvendo
   quae ex lacu capere poterant: pisces, ranas, anseres aliaque id
   genus aquatilia. Inter quos tandem orta nescio qua dissensione qui
   a communi consortio descivere vocati sunt tlatilolcani a quodam
   terre aggere in medio lacus posito. [5]

   So that we might reveal the matter in a few words: when the Mexica
   had been fought by the Azcapotzalca near the mountain called
   Chapultepec, on which the former had earlier settled after a long
   period of wandering, and were now again driven to wander about from
   place to another, having no idea where they should choose to live,
   the said Tezozomoc, taking pity on them, decreed that they could be
   settled in a part of the region where Tenochtitlan is now. And so
   the Mexicans served our town for eighty years, by paying as tribute
   the things they were able to gather from the lake: fish, frogs,
   ducks and other kinds of aquatic animals. In the end after some
   kind of conflict arose among them, those who fell away from the
   community were called Tlatilolcani after a certain mound of earth
   positioned in the middle of the lake.

This account diverges from the one given in Fray Diego Duran's Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espana, an early history of the Mexica, compiled later in the 1560s. Comparison of both sources highlights the tendency of each people to glorify their own past. (12) According to Duran, the Mexica had left Chapultepec and established themselves in Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco by the time that Tezozomoc, concerned about their growing independence, doubled their tribute of fish, frogs and vegetables. The Mexica maintained they paid the tribute for fifty years, not eighty, "pretending to be content and feigning obedience". Duran's providential narrative relates that the Mexica met the demand of the tribute by cultivating produce on floating rafts--prompting Tezozomoc himself to declare that they were "chosen people of their god [Huitzilopochtli] and that some day they will rule over all the nations of the earth"! (13) Unsurprisingly, the Azcapotzalca do not record anything like this in their version of events: instead they refer to the Mexica settlers who turned on their people as proditores, "traitors" [5].

The rulers and governors of Azcapotzalco next ask for the king's recognition of their coat of arms:
   6.m Penes nos sunt iam a multis annis quaedam nostri oppidi
   insignia, quae quominus ab aliquo irrita credantur confirmanda tua
   Caesarea authoritate maxime volumus, quippe optime nostrae
   Reipublicae statum declarant. In primis depingitur formica, nec abs
   re, quia a formica suum sortitur nomen nostrum oppidum: Paries vero
   qui turris pinnas videtur habere muros quorumdam mercatorum signat,
   fortissimos sane, quos tamen ob suam egregiam fortitudinem maiores
   nostri solo equavere. [6]

   6th. For many years now we have had a coat of arms for our town,
   which, so that they may not be thought worthless by anyone, we very
   much want to be endorsed by your Caesarean authority, since they
   very clearly signal the status of our republic. Foremost in them an
   ant is depicted, and not without significance, because our town
   happens to take its name from the ant; then a wall with battlements
   represents the walls of a market: naturally they are shown as very
   strong because our ancestors compared their exceptional strength to
   that of the ground itself.

Azcapotzalco means "Place of the ant hill" in Nahuatl. (14) The name glyph for the town of Azcapotzalco (Fig. 1) in the Codex Xolotl (c. 1542) and on the Stone of Tizoc (1481-1486) was a four-legged ant [azcatl]. (15) Other components of the desired coat of arms--the market walls, the heart and the indigenous head-dress "similar to the bishops' mitre"--would later appear in a heraldic emblem for Azcapotzalco in the seventeenth-century Codex Garcia Granados (Fig. 2). (16) Philip II ceded a coat of arms in 1565, probably in response to this very request. The corpus of the Cantares mexicanos preserves a song in Nahuatl to honour this event which was composed by the drummer-poet Don Francisco Placido, indigenous governor of Xiquipilco, who was one of the signatories of the 1561 letter. (17)

Philip's authority is also sought for the foundation of an educational institution in Azcapotzalco:
   nostro oppido convenientissimum iudicamus nos etiam musarumque domo
   donari debere, quam ut in hoc nostro oppido fundare valeamus,
   copiam a tua caesarea Maiestate expetimus, ubi etsi scientiarum
   omnium genera edoceri non debeat, at certe grammatica cum lingua
   hispana quae commodius praelegi possunt a quibusdam nostris qui
   sermonem latinum perinde ac hispani saepe sunt professi. [7]

   we consider it very advantageous for our town to be endowed with a
   home for the Muses, and we seek from your Caesarean Majesty the
   resources to enable us to found it in our own town. Although there
   may be no need for all the sciences to be taught there, instruction
   in Latin and the Spanish language can certainly be provided by some
   of us who have frequently taught it as well as the Spaniards have.

The idea for such an academy could well have been inspired by the College of Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco which was established to give Indians an advanced instruction in Latin. That institution had been inaugurated as an "Imperial College" (Colegio imperial) in 1536, six years after Charles I's coronation as the Holy Roman Emperor Germanicus Caesar, by Pope Clement VII in Bologna in 1530. The rulers of Azcapotzalco were writing in 1561, six years after Philip II had succeeded Charles to the Spanish throne in 1555. Thus both the timing of their request for a college and the evocation of Philip's imperial "Caesarean Majesty" in this context may not be coincidental.

Finally, after seeking permission for the town's market to be open on a second day in the week [8], the letter ends with a reprise of the captatio benevolentiae at its opening, trusting the granting of the petition to Philip's clemency, liberality and Christian faith.


It is not only the important historical information yielded by this petition which distinguishes it from other such appeals. The text is an accomplished example of Renaissance epistolography. It cannot be ascertained for certain to which particular treatises on letter-writing Nahua Latinists had access, but many of Erasmus' recommendations in his celebrated De conscribendis epistolis of 1522 were reproduced verbatim in Fray Maturino Gilberti's Grammatica Maturini printed in Mexico City in 1559. (18) The seventh and final section of that work, the first Latin grammar to be produced in the Americas, was a style guide entitled:
   Quaedam pro pueris linguae Latine salutandi, valedicendi,
   percontandi exercitamenta ac formulae ex Erasmo Roterodamo aliisve

   Some exercises and formulae of greeting, saying farewell and asking
   questions from Erasmus of Rotterdam and other learned authors.

The works of the Flemish grammarian and stylist Jan De Spauter or Despauterius were available to the students in the Imperial College of Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, along with texts by Cicero, Quintilian and Seneca, which provided stylistic models as well as precepts on compositional practice. (19) Sixteenth-century humanists recommended clear and succinct expression, an arrangement (dispositio) suited to the contents, refinement in Latin diction, and the adroit use of commonplaces and exempla to win over the reader. (20) The writers of the 1561 letter draw attention to their own recognition of the importance of clarity and brevity:
   Quare tua pietate freti modeste magis quam audacter tuae Caesareae
   Maiestati, quae animum ad scribendum impellere brevitate quam
   maxima fieri potuerit proponemus, quae omnia in ordinem redigentur
   quo clarius distinctiusque cognosci queant quae a tua clementia
   consequi conamur. [1]

   So then, relying on that piety of yours, more modestly than boldly,
   we shall set out for your Caesarean Majesty, in the greatest
   brevity possible, what incited our desire to write, all of which
   will be assembled in order so that the things we are trying to
   obtain from your clemency can be clearly and distinctly discerned.

Again, in the final Valedictio it is remarked that "the epistle should not leap past the appropriate measure or go beyond the pale" (Ne vero modum seu septa ut dicitur epistola transiliat iam hic finem capiet). At just over two thousand words, the length is in line with Erasmus's precept that the greatest amount of material be conveyed in the fewest words possible. While earlier manuals on letter-writing had recommended a classical structure (salutatio, captatio benevolentiae, narratio, petitio, conclusio), Erasmus and his associate Juan Luis Vives proposed that, after the opening salutatio or greeting, the main argument could be devised as the subject required. (21) The Azcapotzalca adopt the latter strategy: the salutatio to Philip II moves to a deliberation about whether the writers should even be addressing the king and culminates in a persuasive anticipation of his kindness and mercy, making an effective transition to the eight concerns which shape the rest of the letter.

The text is written in elegant Latin: classical terms are used to designate the categories and institutions in New Spain: senatus [4] and senatores [1] denote the Audiencia and its oidores; and vectigales [5] are terrazgueros or payers of tribute. The Azcapotzalca ask for their oppidum, i. e. pueblo, to be elevated to the status of a civitas, "city state" [5] and Tezozomoc's domain at its apogee is tactfully referred to not as an imperium, but as a provincia, the Roman term for a part of an empire. On the other hand, com[m]endatarius [1], which thrice serves as a translation for the Spanish encomendero, is barely attested in classical Latin. As a word in Christian canon law for someone who held an ecclesiastical benefice in commendam or "in trust", commendatarius is a reasonable approximation for encomendero and it was employed in an earlier petition by the native governor of Tlacopan. (22) The word chirographum in the request to the king for a royal seal (chyrographo [sic] munita "fortified in handwriting"[3]) is not an ornamental grecism but an expression common in classical Latin for a handwritten pledge or authentication. (23)

There is recurrent emphasis throughout this petition on the value of litterae, "letters": a term which connotes at once alphabetic letters, literacy and writing, as well as literature and literary learning, sacred and secular. For Renaissance grammarians and their ancient precursors, the littera, the letter, was also the fundamental, atomic element of grammatica--and grammar was tantamount to Latin, or language itself. (24) At the very opening of their appeal, the rulers of Azcapotzalco introduce themselves as "vassals ... who have not hailed letters, whether divine or human even from the portal" (nos mancipia [...] et litteras sive divinas sive humanas necdum a limine salutaverimus). They maintain that illiteracy was to blame for the primitive condition of their ancestors:
   praedecessores suae tempore gentilitatis fuere admodum rustici,
   abiecti, nudi et corporis et animae dotibus, inter quas primas
   habent virtutes ac litterae, quas profecto ne per somnium quidem
   novere. [Salutatio]

   Our forebears in the time of their paganism were altogether
   rustics, abject, bare of endowments for body and soul, amongst
   which the virtues and letters hold first place: things they did not
   even know in their dreams.

This characterisation of litterae recalls Antonio de Nebrija's affirmation that letters were necessary to adorn human life--an expression which had been recalled in a similar context by Fray Julian Garces, the Dominican bishop of Tlaxcala, in a Latin treatise he sent to Pope Paul III affirming the capacity of the Indians in Mexico to adopt the Christian faith. (25)

The writers of the letter also regard knowledge of litterae as a means by which "the hearts of Christians are greatly strengthened in the faith" (litterarum cognitione Xp[ist]ianorum corda in fide maxime corroborari [7]) in their request for an academy where Latin could be taught in Azcapotzalco. The rapid introduction of alphabetic literacy after the conquest would have revealed an astonishing range of new linguistic, intellectual and spiritual domains to those natives of New Spain who received a Christian humanist education. For that select few, the single term, litterae, which united such a variety of ideas and practices, may well have been a source of genuine fascination.

Commonplaces, mainly from ancient Roman authors, are strategically employed in the 1561 letter. The opening deliberation about whether it is appropriate for the Indian subjects to address their king echoes a verse from Virgil:
   Nunquam ne indis audendum cum principe, regeve aut imperatore? Imo
   vero, audendum quam maxime, ne extremae pusillanimitatis esse
   credamur, et si qua est animis insita timiditas est procul
   abigenda, audaces enim fortuna iuvat timidosque repellit.

   Should Indians never dare to speak with a prince, king or emperor?
   On the contrary, we must so dare to the utmost, in order not to be
   believed cowardly in the extreme--and if there is any timidity
   ingrained in our mind we should drive it far away, since "Fortune
   helps the bold and drives back the fearful."

The phrase Audentes fortuna iuvat "fortune helps the bold", from Virgil's Aeneid was popular in Spain: it had been employed by Hernan Cortes in his Carta de relacion to the Emperor of October 1520. (26) The last two words of the hexameter given here, timidosque repellit, "and drives back the fearful", were not authentic because Virgil's original line was unfinished. But they were in the verse as it was reportedly quoted in 1560, the year before the Azcapotzalca penned their letter, by the mutineer Pedro Alonso Casco on Aguirre's Amazon expedition. (27)

In the sentence following this quotation, litterae are invoked yet again, this time in the sense of "classical literature", which supplies the writers with a sustained exemplum to illustrate their own boldness, and to guide the king's response to their suit:
   Ad haec ausum non minimum prestat id quod litteris est proditum,
   nimirum principes non christianos solum, verum et ethnicos in suos
   subditos fuisse mites, benignos, clementes, eosdemque in suis
   querellis aut quibusvis petitionibus lubentissime audisse. Cuius
   rei argumento est Adrianus imperator, et is pro multis unus
   sufficiet, qui transiens in itinere a muliere quadam rogatus ut eam
   audiret, cum respondisset sibi ocium non esse, audivit ab ipsa
   muliere: Noli ergo imperare; tum conversus aequissimo animo eam

   Daring things like this is very well supported by what is shown in
   literature: there is no doubt that not only Christian princes but
   pagan ones too have been lenient, kind and merciful to their own
   subjects and they have been very willing to hear their complaints
   or suits of every kind. The emperor Hadrian is proof of this
   principle and this one figure will serve for many. On a journey he
   was making he was asked by a certain woman to hear her: when he
   replied that he did not have time, he heard that very woman say "In
   that case, do not be an emperor." At that he was moved to hear her
   very readily.

The recollection of this episode is remarkable because the story was not in Scriptores Historiae Augustae, containing the standard Roman biography of Hadrian which had circulated since the late middle ages. (28) But the anecdote was included in life of Hadrian by the Greek historian Cassius Dio, epitomised (also in Greek) nearly a thousand years after Dio wrote, by Joannes Xiphilinus, a monk from Constantinople. That epitome had been translated into Latin and published with the Scriptores in the early 1500s by the Italian humanist Giorgio Merula, and Robert Estienne or Stephanus printed an editio princeps of Xiphilinus in 1551. (29) Thus the anecdote found in the 1561 letter may have been gleaned from one or these printed editions, if not from a vernacular source: the popular Franciscan author Fray Antonio de Guevara included a life of Hadrian in his Decada de Cesares published in Valladolid in 1539. Whatever led the rulers of Azcapotzalco to the story, they deploy it to good effect. An exemplum like this does not constitute unalloyed flattery: the woman's reprimand to the Emperor could potentially be levied at the king should he not respond to his petitioners.

The invocation of Hadrian as a model for Philip II is appropriate, because he was one of the Roman emperors who was born in Spain. (30) A preoccupation with Iberia's classical past might also explain why the Azcapotzalca refer to the academy of Latin they want to establish as a Musarum domus "home for the Muses" [7]--a phrase which had been coined by the Roman poet Silius Italicus. (31) The widespread belief that Silius had been of Spanish origin caused him to be cited on other occasions: (32) Fray Julian Garces, for instance, had quoted a remark the poet made about the savagery of the pagan Spaniards of antiquity to convince the Pope that they had been far more barbarous than the Mexican Indians. (33)

The request for the establishment of an academy was introduced by an adage of unclear origin:
   Haud nobis est obscurum divinum illud oraculum: Sapientia cor
   stabilit, ventis pondus ponit, ex quo clarissimum omnibus redditur
   litterarum cognitione Xpistianorum corda in fide maxime
   corroborari, atque hos qui aliquando gentilitatis ventis agitati
   fuere, pondus in sua Xpistianitate habere. [7]

   The following divine oracle is not at all obscure to us: "Wisdom
   steadies the heart, giving it weight against the winds." From this
   it is rendered very clear to all, that the hearts of Christians are
   greatly strengthened in the faith through knowledge of letters, and
   that those who were at one time buffeted by the winds of paganism
   now have anchorage in their Christianity.

Although the phrase qui fecit ventis pondus, "[God] who made a weight for the winds", is in the Vulgate (Job 28: 25), this "divine oracle" could come from a pre-Hispanic tradition of oratory or song. For example, a traditional admonitory oration from a ruler to his sons in the Nahuatl text of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun in Book 6 of the Historia general contains an expression of disappointment, "wherever my heart goeth, it sinketh, it riseth" [in canin nemi noiollo, in temo in tloco], and a prescription, "do not rise up, do not blow as a violent wind against one" [ma tevic teoa, ma titehecavitivetz]. (34)

In their closing Valedictio, the rulers of Azcapotzalco use a couple of classical commonplaces to emphasise their lowly standing:
   licet Iro pauperiores atque alga viliores simus: sumus tamen
   S[acrae] C[atholicae] C[aesareae] Maiestatis servi fideles. for
   though we are poorer than Irus and cheaper than seaweed we are
   nonetheless loyal servants of your holy Catholic Caesarean Majesty.

The poverty of Irus, a character in Homer's Odyssey had become proverbial in Roman and Renaissance literature. (35) A shepherd in Virgil's Eclogues claimed he would be "pricklier than the butcher's broom plant and cheaper than seaweed [vilior alga]" if he were not telling the truth; a satire by Horace has the hero Ulysses remark that "breeding or virtue without wealth is cheaper than seaweed". (36) Both tags were later adopted in playful contexts by authors who normally used them to disparage others. In this letter to Philip II, however, these expressions serve as a vehicle of extravagant self-depreciation.

Yet Erasmus and other humanists criticised and parodied the obsequious salutations and valedictions that had been advocated for letter-writing in the medieval artes dictaminis. (37) Therefore, given the evident influence of Erasmus' prescriptions on their composition, the self-abasing manner in which the Azcapotzalca present themselves in the salutatio to Philip II may seem surprising:
   At cum nos mancipia et quidem humillima simus. annon temerarium
   omnino fuerit nos scribere non ad principem quemquam sed ad te
   talem ac tantum regem? Ut etiam si tuos servos ultro nos offeramus
   vix digni judicemur; qui enim aut quales sumus? Nempe pauperes,
   miseri, barbari, tales denique quorum praedecessores suae tempore
   gentilitatis fuere admodum rustici, abiecti, nudi et corporis et
   animae dotibus.

   But as we are vassals and indeed of the lowest sort. is it not
   altogether rash for us to write to any prince, let alone to a king
   such as yourself, so great, that even if we offer ourselves as your
   slaves of our own accord we may scarcely be judged worthy? Who,
   then, or what are we? Nothing but paupers, wretches, barbarians,
   such as whose forebears in the time of their paganism were
   altogether rustics, abject, bare of endowments for body and soul ...

The servile tone could be explained by the courtly style in which Nahua nobles may have expressed themselves, in formal contexts, in their own language. The passage quoted above is strikingly similar to the opening of a speech redacted in Nahuatl in 1564 under the direction of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun. The speech was supposed to have been made in 1524 by a delegation of high-ranking Aztec priests to the first Christian missionaries in Mexico:
   mach titlatin? ca can timacevaltonti, titlalloque, ticoquiyoque,
   tivaco[n] que titoxonque, ticocoque, titeuhpouhque, ca can otech
   tlaneuj, in tlacatl totecujo inic ipetlanacazco, ycpalnacazco otech

   Are we perchance something? Since we are only the poor class of the
   people, we are full of earth, we are of mud, we are ragged, we are
   wretched, we are afflicted, we are sorrowful; indeed the man, our
   lord only lent us the corner of his reed mat and the corner of his
   seat [where] he placed us. (38)

The prime position and the sense of the words mach titlatin, "Are we perchance something?," parallel those of the Latin rhetorical question qui enim aut quales sumus? "Who, then, or what are we?" with which the authors of the Azcapotzalco letter introduce themselves. The sequence of idioms in Nahuatl--"we are only the poor class of the people, we are of earth, we are of mud"--also matched the Latin writers' claim to be pauperes, miseri, barbari. Again, like the rulers of Azcapotzalco who signed themselves with their Spanish titles of "governor", "mayor", or "ruler", the Aztec priests' characterization of themselves as "the poor class of the people" and as "ragged" stood in contrast to their exalted social position and fine attire: in Sahagun's account of their exchanges with the missionaries they were called satrapes, "satraps", in Spanish (or quequetzalcoa, "feathered serpents", in Nahuatl).

There are other instances of Nahua Latinists introducing themselves in a similar way: a decade earlier in 1552 the native governor of Tlacopan, Antonio Cortes Totoquihuatzin, had stated in a letter to Emperor Charles III "we may be judged to be humans of the lowest condition and may seem to be of no worth in the eyes of Spaniards" [abjectissimae conditionis homines censeamur, nulliusque precii apud hispanos videamur]. (39) That same year Juan Badiano translated the dedication of Martin de la Cruz' Mexican herbal to the viceroy's son as follows:
   nos misellos pauperculos Indos omnibus mortalibus inferiores esse,
   et ideo veniam nostra a natura nobis insita parvitas et tenuitas

   we poor little wretched little Indians are inferior to all mortals,
   and the smallness and insignificance ingrained in us by nature
   therefore merits pardon. (40)

These expressions of self-depreciation may not be evidence of submissiveness on the part of craven subalterns, but something more like the reverse: they were replicating in Latin a style which had been a convention of courtly speech in classical Nahuatl. (41)

Other traces of Nahuatl vocabulary and usage are discernible in the 1561 letter. As well as the word tianquizco [8] and references to places by their indigeonous names rather than Spanish forms (e. g. Quauhnauac [5] for "Cuernavaca"), attention is drawn to the etymologies quoted above for the names of Azcapotzalco [5] and for Tlatelolco [6]. (42) In addition, Nahuatl idioms or categories could account for some of the Latin expressions or concepts. First, the phrase Atque ut rem paucis aperiamus, "So then in order that we might reveal the matter in a few words", [5] is deployed at a crucial juncture, prior to the important account of how the Azcapotzalca brought about the settlement of Tenochtitlan by the Mexica. Comparable usages are found in classical and Renaissance texts: Petrarch for example used the expression rem aperio, "I will reveal the matter." (43) But there is a similar solemnising formula in Nahuatl to signal the importance of the argument to follow: in axcan achitzin ic tictlapoa in itop iniipetlacal, "now we will open the coffer a little". (44) Even the image of the heart as the vitae fons et origo, "the fount and origin of life", on the coat of arms proposed for Azcapotzalco could also derive from pre-Hispanic tradition, as well as from classical Galenic medicine. (45) The organ symbolises the town's role as "the origin of all the nobility which was scattered among the peoples of New Spain" (origo totius nobilitatis quae in populis huius Novae Hispaniae est dispersa [6]).

In addition, the dating formula at the end of the letter may have a multicultural significance:
   Datae Azcaputzalci, quarto idus februarii, anno vero a Christo nato
   quingentessimo sexagessimo primo supra millessimum.

   Written in Azcapotzalco on the fourth day before the Ides of
   February in the true year, the one thousand five hundred and sixty
   first, from Christ's birth.

The Anno Domini system of numbering the year, for all that it is combined with the ancient Roman style of identifying the day of the month, signals unequivocal allegiance to the Christian faith. But the introduction of the word vero, "true", into this conventional formula hints at systems of reckoning the years which are not true. (46) That implicit disavowal of pre-Hispanic chronology serves as a subtle reminder that such chronology existed.

Finally, the first-person plural used throughout is common in Nahua petitions, chronicles and other kinds of discourse, but it is less regular in classical or Renaissance Latin epistolography: thus the choral "we" form here could be regarded as a marker of cultural hybridity. (47) The valedictio at the end, however, contains an exceptional use of the first-person singular before a prompt reversion to the first-person plural:
   Ne vero modum seu septa ut dicitur epistola transiliat, iam hic
   finem capiet, si tamen subiecero fuisse in votis ad Hispaniam duos
   ex nobis mittere qui negotia declarare possent, sed per proregem
   non licuit nec super ea re plus molesti esse voluimus, quod
   sciremus te etiam idem nolle.

   And so that this letter may not go beyond the appropriate measure
   or "go beyond the pale", as the expression goes, may it come to an
   end here, once I have added that it had been one of our wishes to
   send two of us to Spain so that they might represent these
   concerns, but this was not permitted by the Viceroy and we did not
   wish to cause any further trouble with this matter, because we knew
   you were equally unwilling too.

As well as being the only first-person singular form in the entire text, the future perfect subiecero "I will have added" has a performative role. It helps to engineer a speech-act, because the proposition to be added is made in the very same sentence. (48) That meta-textual comment, a remark in the letter about the letter, has allowed a single writer to step out of the frame of the "we" discourse, in order to indicate momentarily not only his existence as one individual, but also his control of that discourse ("may it come to an end here")--before he rejoins the plurality of azcaputzalcani whose collective sentiments are generally conveyed throughout. The way in which the writer calls attention to his presence is unobtrusive and easy to miss, but this is hardly the production of a scribe or amanuensis merely transcribing or translating someone else's words. It suggests the intervention of a canny author who signals that he is responsible for formulating all of the words himself.


It remains to establish the identity of that individual author. The names of the signatories with their titles (in Spanish) are on the final folio. After the two governadores, Don Hernando de Molina and Don Baltasar Hernandez, and the two alcaldes, Pedro Zacharias and Pedro Dionisio, Antonio Valeriano's name appears next to that of the poet Francisco Placido (Fig. 3), in the third of five lines of signatures and is placed above several other native rulers of rank, including four regidores, although at the time the letter was written, Valeriano held no formal title. (49) His talent for Latin though, which was already renowned, strongly suggests that he was the writer. That suggestion is supported by two external data which will be considered below: another Latin missive authored and signed by Valeriano with a couple of markedly similar stylistic and thematic features; and a testimony from Fray Juan de Torquemada that Philip II, to whom the 1561 letter was addressed, in his turn wrote to Valeriano.

The earliest testimony of Valeriano's calibre as a Latinist comes from a textbook published in 1554 by Franciso Cervantes de Salazar, a professor at the newly inaugurated Royal University of Mexico:
   Franciscanorum positum est monasterium, et in ipso Indorum
   collegium qui latine loqui et scribere docentur. Magistrum habent
   ejusdem nationis Antonium Valerianum nostris grammaticis nequaquam
   inferiorem, in legis christianae observatione satis doctum et ad
   eloquentiam avidissimum. (50)

   In the Franciscan monastery a college has been founded for the
   Indians who are taught to speak and write Latin. They have a
   teacher from their own people, Antonio Valeriano, in no way
   inferior to our own Latin instructors, learned in the observance of
   the Christian faith, and very devoted to cultivating eloquence.

The Nahuatl Chronica Mexicayotl also recorded Valeriano's capacity for Latin, implying that it was this, rather than his ancestry, which accounted for his marriage to Dona Isabel, daughter of Don Diego Huanitzin, king of Azcapotzalco, by Montezuma II's daughter Dona Francisca. The writer of the Chronica commented that Valeriano was "not noble [a[h]mopilli], only a Colegial student of Latin speech [zan hueymomachtiani Colegial Latin tlatolli]". (51) In fact Valeriano was himself descended from an eminent line of huei tlatoque or pre-Hispanic rulers: his father was Don Francisco Alvarado de Matlaccohuatl of Azcapotzalco, son of Tezozomoc Acolnahuacatl and brother of Montezuma II. (52)

Valeriano had trained at the college of Tlatelolco, where he became an instructor himself: Fray Bernardino de Sahagun credited him with being the "principal and most learned" of his Latinate collaborators on the production of his Historia general, compiled in Nahuatl in the 1560s, and later translated into Spanish. (53) Sahagun again acknowledged his help in rendering the Coloquios y doctrina cristiana from Spanish into Nahuatl in 1564 "in a polished and reasoned manner". (54) The friar listed "Antonio Valeriano, resident of Azcapotzalco" as the first of four students who "were the most capable and knowledgeable in the Mexican language and in the Latin language who up to now have been raised in this College".

The most effusive testimony of the native scholar's capacity for composition in Latin was provided by another Franciscan, Juan Bautista, who described Valeriano as "one of the greatest Latinists and rhetoricians to come out of [Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco] ... he spoke [Latin] ex tempore with such precision and elegance that he seemed like a Cicero or Quintilian". (55) Such hyperbolic comparisons were not unusual. (56) But to prove his point, Bautista copied out the last letter he received from Valeriano. This has long been believed to be the only surviving example of Latin writing by the Nahua scholar:
   Hic litterarum gerulus ad vestram Paternitatem portat, id quod mihi
   traducendum jussisti. Nescio profecto an in traductione ejus sim
   felix. Multa quippe in eo sunt praegnantia; ut nesciam in quem
   sensum meliorem verti debeant. Si quid est erratum parcas obsecro:
   & tuam gravem censuram adhibeas: & his litteris tam male formatis
   simul & ignoscas: illiturae enim videntur potius quam litterae. Nec
   mirum vestrae Paternitati videatur: manus namque jam vacillant:
   oculi caligant, & aures occlusae. Iterum & iterum parcas. Deus
   Optimus Maximus longaevam tuae Paternitati vitam concedat. De
   Mexico. Tui amantissimus, & si indignus. Antonius Valerianus

   This bearer of letters is delivering to Your Paternity the thing
   which you bade me translate. I know not for sure whether I am
   fortunate in my translation of it. Indeed there are many things in
   it weighty with implication, so that I do not know what is the
   better sense into which they should be rendered. I beg you to
   pardon anything done in error, and to apply to it your grave
   censure; and at the same time to overlook these badly formed
   letters: for they appear to be litterings rather than letters. And
   that should seem no wonder to Your Paternity: as my hands now
   quiver, my eyes grow dim and my ears are blocked. Again and again
   pardon. May God Best and Greatest grant a long life to Your
   Paternity. From Mexico City. Most devoted to you, though unworthy.
   Antonio Valeriano

Valeriano probably wrote, or meant to write, liturae, "blots", not illiturae which was the word transmitted by Bautista. (57) The original play on liturae and litterae had a classical source in Ovid's image of an epistle blotted with tears: littera suffusas quod habet maculosa lituras (Tristia 3.1.15). Tristia 3.1 was among the examples of Ovid's exile poetry which were recommended as models for students composing Latin verse--in New Spain as well as in Europe--during the 1500s. (58) The verse had also prompted similar puns in Latin by Erasmus, and, in English, by his associate John Colet, the founder of St Paul's School in London, who disparaged writing that "ratheyr may be called blotterature thenne litterature". (59) Thus reconstructed, the end of the sentence Valeriano intended to write--his litteris tam male formatis simul & ignoscas: liturae enim videntur potius quam litterae, "overlook these badly formed letters: in fact they look more like blots than letters"--leads nicely into the next. The ink blots would be a consequence of the trembling and diminishing vision of which he goes on to complain. If Valeriano really had written the ungrammatical illiturae in the first place, it is tempting to imagine that those very physical disorders were the cause of his mistake.

However that may be, the symptoms of old age listed--shaking hands, dimming eyes and blocked ears--echo specific phrases from Innocent III's late twelfth-century treatise (c. 1196), De miseria conditionis humanae, "On the misery of the human condition":
   Si quis autem ad senectutem processerit, [...] caligant oculi et
   vacillant articuli ..., et aures surdescunt.

   If anyone has proceeded to old age, [...] his eyes grow dim and
   joints quiver., and his ears go deaf. (60)

The De miseria had been composed in the 1190s and manuscripts abounded in European monasteries; a text was part of the 1540 edition of Innocent's work owned by Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, which probably passed to the Imperial College library at Tlatelolco. (61) The theme of longevity provides an associative link to the closing sentence wishing a long life for Fray Juan Bautista:
   Deus Optimus Maximus longaevam tuae Paternitati vitam concedat

   May God Best and Greatest grant a long life to Your Paternity

Valeriano here applies the pagan epithet of Jupiter, Deus Optimus Maximus, to the Christian God--exactly as he had for Philip II in the valedictio at the end of the 1561 letter to the king:
   a Deo Optimo Maximo tuae Caesareae Maiestati precamur vitam

   we beseech from God, the Best and Greatest, a long life for your
   Caesarean Majesty

That similarity, along with the recurrence of a self-referential preoccupation with litterae, helps confirm that both texts share the same author.

The letter to Bautista was written in Mexico City where Valeriano had served as a judge, and then as a governor for more than thirty years before his death in August 1605. The Codex Aubin compiled in the later 1570s, recorded the appointment of "Vareliano" [sic] as judge of Tenochtitlan, from 18 January 1573. (62) The accompanying illustration (Fig. 4) shows him sitting on a throne in the manner of a tlatoani wearing a turquoise xihuitzolli, the head-dress compared to a mitre in his 1561 letter [6], but he is also holding a Spanish staff of office. A glyph above the throne shows the three-pronged symbol for water, atl, below the image of a bird, tototl: the combined root forms of those words, respectively a- and to-, form an approximate phonography of "Anton". (63)

The fullest sixteenth-century source for the life of Antonio Valeriano was given by Fray Juan de Torquemada, in his account of the benefits of providing Mexicans with an advanced education:
   On account of that very aptitude they have been chosen as judges
   and governors in the colony [republica], and they have done better
   than others, as they are men who read, know, and understand things.
   We have a good example of this in the case of Don Antonio
   Valeriano, an Indian, a native of the town of Azcaputzalco, one
   league from this city, governor of the district of San Juan, which
   they call Tenuchtitlan. Having proved a good Latinist, logician and
   philosopher, he succeeded the masters named above [Fray Arnaud de
   Bassac, Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, Fray Andres de Olmos] as
   Lecturer in Grammar at the College for some years, and after that
   he was elected Governor of Mexico, and he governed the Indians of
   this city for more than thirty five years, to the acclaim of the
   viceroys and the edification of the Spaniards. And since he was a
   man of very great talent the king took notice of him and wrote him
   a very favourable letter, offering many kindnesses. He died in the
   year 1605, and at his burial which was at the convent of San
   Francisco, in the chapel of Saint Joseph, there were many people,
   both Indians and Spaniards; and members of the College took part,
   because he had been a lecturer there (as already stated) and all
   the community of the religious went out to receive his body, and
   carried it on their shoulders from the entrance of the courtyard to
   the tomb, as one deserving of such. I myself know very many of the
   particular aspects of his talent, because for some years he had
   been my master, in teaching me the Mexican language. I was present
   when he died and among other things he gave me his works, worthy of
   his knowledge, translations in the Latin language and also into
   Mexican: there was one of Cato, something very worthy of esteem,
   which (if God pleases) will be printed in his name. (64)

As well as revealing that Valeriano taught him Nahuatl, Torquemada provides three further items of information:

(i) The report that the king took notice of Valeriano and wrote to him suggests that Philip II's gift of a coat of arms to Azcapotzalco was in response to the 1561 letter addressed to the king.

(ii) Valeriano's place of burial in the chapel of Saint Joseph (San Jose) in the convent of San Francisco in Mexico City can be connected with some important information recorded by the Nahua chronicler Chimalpahin: the Cofradia de la Soledad, the Confraternity of Solitude, was instituted in that chapel on 12 April, Good Friday of 1591, and "gobernador don Antonio Valeriano" was inscribed as one of the nine founding members, amongst whom were Torquemada and Fray Francisco de Gamboa. (65) The Cofradia staged dramatic productions of an exemplary nature: Torquemada himself composed "comedias o representaciones" in Nahuatl, probably drawing from Valeriano's linguistic knowledge. (66)

(iii) The hint of Valeriano's "Mexican" translation of Cato is tantalizing, as there is no other contemporary attestation of this. Torquemada cited fragments of lost works by Cato the Elder (234-159 BC) elsewhere in the Monarchia indiana, but in this context he must be referring to the Disticha moralia. Those "moral couplets" attributed to Cato really dated from the third or early fourth century AD. (67) The proverbial sayings, each couched in two lines of Latin hexameter verse, showed no evidence of Christian thought but they did presuppose monotheism, and formed part of the Auctores octo morales, a medieval canon of Christian and classical texts, which also included Alain of Lille's Proverbs as well as Aesop's Fables. The collection came to dominate school curricula from the early fourteenth century until the mid-1500s. (68) Thus the Distichs of Cato frequently accompanied Aesop's Fables as a vehicle for rudimentary instruction in Latin: selections copied by hand must have circulated in New Spain, before editions by Nebrija and Erasmus became available. (69)

The edifying Distichs had prompted renderings in various European languages. A translation of the three examples beginning Book 1 gives an impression of their content:
   If god is a spirit, as the songs tell us, he is to be worshipped
   above all with a pure mind.

   Always be wakeful, be not given to sleep; for continuous idleness
   offers food for vice.

   Deem the first virtue to be holding one's tongue; he is close to
   god who knows how to be duly silent.

Such maxims might have had a particular resonance or appeal for indigenous Mexican scholars: after all, the Proverbs of Solomon, which are very comparable, were translated into Nahuatl in the sixteenth century. (70) Moreover, Valeriano's own Latin writing has a sententious quality, and he would have assisted Fray Bernardino de Sahagun in his redaction of the Nahuatl wisdom literature of the orations now known as the Huehuetlahtolli for Book 6 of the Historia general, entitled Rethorica, philosophia moral, theologia de la gente mexicana. (71)

There is now growing recognition of the importance of Antonio Valeriano's contribution to civic life in sixteenth-century New Spain as governor of Mexico City, as well as his role in the production of the Florentine Codex, Coloquios y doctrina cristiana, and liturgical works under the direction of Sahagun and other friars. (72) In relation to such monumental achievements, the surviving letters Valeriano penned in Latin are more modest. Nonetheless they reveal a depth of Latin culture which matches the writer's abilities as a Nahuatl translator. (73) The letters also exhibit a sensibility and tact appropriate for a statesman who was successful in mediating between Spanish and Nahua communities.


Frances Karttunen has tellingly remarked "Antonio Valeriano is not well known for the many accomplishments of his [...] career, but curiously enough he is credited with things he probably did not do." (74) One of the things he did not do, but for which he is so frequently acclaimed, was to write the famous Nahuatl narrative of a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the Lady of Guadalupe, to an indigenous Mexican named Juan Diego at Tepeyac in December 1531.

There is no firm evidence for the existence of this narrative (known by its opening as Nican mopohua, "Here it is related"), before it appeared in the Huei tlamahuicoltica, "Great Miracle", by the vicar of Guadalupe, Luis Laso de la Vega in 1649. That volume of Nahuatl texts came out a year after the Spanish account by Miguel Sanchez, the first printed source for the celebrated apparitions. (75) An initial connection between Valeriano and the Guadalupan tradition was made in 1675 by the priest and scholar Luis Becerra Tanco, who affirmed that a "Juan Valeriano" had recounted the miraculous events to his own uncle, Gaspar de Praves, who died in 1628. (76) Attribution of the Nican mopohua to Valeriano arose from Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora's claim that Fernando de Alva Ixlilxochitl possessed a manuscript of the miracles authored by Antonio Valeriano, which Ixlilxochitl translated into Castilian, adding further related accounts in Nahuatl. (77) This observation prompted an Italian antiquarian, Lorenzo Botturini Benaduci, to suggest, without mentioning Valeriano's name, that the manuscript Siguenza had ascribed to the Indian scholar could itself have been the same text that was published by Laso de la Vega. Botturini's supposition was enthusiastically endorsed as fact by the Jesuit Juan Jose de Eguiara y Eguren in his biobibliography of Valeriano, printed in 1755: (78)
   Let us wholeheartedly place a golden crown on the writings of our
   Valeriano, attributing to him alone the one published in the
   Mexican language in Mexico City in 1649. we attribute then this
   small but golden work to our Valeriano, by following the tracks
   [vestigia legentes] of our own most learned Arbiter and Historian
   [Critici et Historiographi eruditissimi nostri] Don Carlos de
   Siguenza. (79)

The attribution, which thus went through several stages, has proved highly influential, winning the acceptance of eminent historians such as Mariano Cuevas, E. J. Burrus and Edmundo O'Gorman, but there is no real evidence to support it. (80) Leaving aside the general problems of the historicity of the Guadalupan apparitions recounted in the canonical accounts of the 1600s, sixteenth-century sources for Valeriano make no mention of anything that could be easily identified with the Nican Mopohua.

Miguel Leon-Portilla, however, has found a way of reconciling Edmundo O'Gorman's hypothesis that Valeriano wrote the Nican Mopohua in 1556 with the complete lack of independent contemporaenous evidence for any of the events it relates. Leon-Portilla's suggestion is that Valeriano was sufficiently impressed by the neixcuitilli, the Franciscans' Nahuatl dramas, to develop a confabulation of his own: a relacion which combined the traditional style and content of the cuicatl or indigenous songs with the conventions of European miracle narratives. The purpose of the relacion was to celebrate and explain--in poetic rather than in historically veridical terms--the popular cult of Mary-Tonantzin at Tepeyac and the veneration of her image. (81) This conjecture, which could have been built on Chimalpahin's testimony that Valeriano belonged to the Cofradia de la Soledad, also accords with the view that had been expressed in the early 1800s by Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, the Dominican priest and hero of Mexican independence:
   the history of Guadalupe is a comedy of the Indian Valeriano,
   forged on Aztec mythology concerning Tonantzin, to be represented
   in Santiago [church of the College of Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco],
   where he was a professor, by the young Indian college students, who
   in that time were accustomed to represent in their language the
   farces that they called sacramental autos, which were in vogue in
   the sixteenth century. (82)

Teresa de Mier's idea was later to be elaborated by Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta, who noted that the Nican mopohua contained positive references to Tlatelolco and could be easily divided into acts for a dramatic performance. (83)

But as Franciscans at the time were expressly opposed to the veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, such a scenario--at Santiago de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco of all places--can hardly have been less likely. After all, one of the friars there was bold enough to inform Bishop Montufar, a promulgator of the veneration of the Virgin at Tepeyac, that it was "a cult which we all deplore". (84) For Valeriano, as a close collaborator with Sahagun, who condemned the linking of the Mother of God to Tonantzin as a Satanic invention, it would have been both inconsistent and disloyal to promote a cult which had the potential to foster such grave misunderstanding. (85)

Antonio Valeriano did make an oblique reference to the worship at Tepeyac in his letter of 1561:
   nulla transeat hebdomada quin in ea multi ex nobis, cum tamen
   perpauci simus, ad haec servitia impendenda distribuantur, triginta
   quidem ad structionem ecclesiae divi Dominici, viginti vero ad
   hispanorum predia, decem autem ad aedem sacratissimae Virginis
   archiepiscopalem, quinque etiam ad templum (quod vulgo Guadalope
   dicitur) virginis Mariae; inde fit ut ecclesiam quam iam a multis
   annis inceptam habemus ad finem usque protrahere minime valeamus,
   sed nec impresentiarum incipere monachorum monasterium, qui in
   quibusdam domibus satis humilibus commorantur apud nos. [3]

   no week passes in which many of us, few though we are, are not
   allocated to imposed labours: thirty men for building the church of
   St Dominic, twenty for the farms of the Spaniards, ten for the
   archepiscopal palace of the most sacred Virgin, and five again for
   a temple of the Virgin Mary (which is commonly called "Guadalupe").
   It has thus come about that we are in no way able to carry through
   to the end the church we have, which was begun several years ago,
   nor even at the present time to begin the monastery for the monks
   who are lodging among us in some very modest dwellings.

The purpose of this part of the paragraph is to seek exemption for the townsmen of Azcapotzalco from the labour required of them by the Spaniards.

A forthright expression of opinions about the cult would be neither relevant nor politic here, but this passage contains a couple of innuendos. The relative clause quod vulgo Guadalope dicitur, "which is commonly called Guadalupe" is in parentheses in the manuscript, and its antecedent is templum, not virginis Mariae. The moniker Guadalope is thus applied to the edifice, so that no mention is made of the Virgin of Guadalupe as such. The choice of the word templum for the site of Guadalupan devotion is telling in this context: the ancient Roman term carried connotations of pagan religion. (86) In contrast, the place of worship that still needs to be completed in Azcapotzalco is called an ecclesia--the Greek word adopted into Latin since late antiquity as the customary word for "church". Whilst templum could certainly be used for a site of Christian worship, the distinction between templum and ecclesia may have been pointed: after all Sahagun would remark that in Tepeyac, the site of the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, "the Mexicans used to have a temple [templo] dedicated to the mother of the gods". (87)

Valeriano was not so much employing these very delicate rhetorical effects to signal his personal views about the Guadalupan cult (which are bound to have been unfavourable), but to put into relief the seriousness of a need which the rulers of Azcapotzalco considered pressing: completion of the church of San Felipe and the construction of the adjacent monastery for the Dominican friars. That objective was achieved: both were built by 1565. (88)


The Azcapotzalco letter offers insight on the chronology, organization and spread of the pre-Hispanic Tepanec empire which was the model for later Aztec domination, and it reveals something of the preoccupations and privations of the town's native elite in the early colony. The granting of a coat of arms to the town, the completion of its church and monastery, and personal acknowledgment of Valeriano by the king show that the petition met with a measure of success.

The 1561 letter displays the qualities of literacy and learning, which are affirmed at its opening as accompaniments to human virtue and as a means of consolidating Christian belief. The influence of humanists such as Erasmus and Nebrija is evident in the conception and design of the missive. While no direct quotations from Scripture or from Christian sources are to be found, there are verbal echoes of the Roman poets Virgil, Horace and Silius Italicus, and apparent allusions to the Greek historian Cassius Dio and to Homer. Indigenous legacies are also interwoven into the form and content of this communication, which offers a remarkable example of cultural hybridity: as well as the words and etymologies discussed directly, the language and rhetoric show the latent influence of Nahua forms of thought. Irrespective of the consideration of Valeriano's authorship, the letter can be fruitfully analysed on its own merits.

A text is never best elucidated on the basis of an author's reputation alone: scholars since the eighteenth century have been more prone to praise and extol Valeriano's long cherished note to Fray Juan Bautista than to examine or analyse it. But to any reader who might impugn the quality of his Latin, the challenge issued by Jose Mariano Beristain has some justification: would Cicero or Dean Manuel Marti have written better Nahuatl, had they been conquered by Montezuma? (89) Valeriano's mastery of European humanist idiom is perhaps all the more salient if one reflects upon the image of the writer in traditional Mexican dress in the Codex Aubin. The samples of fluent, eloquent and occasionally playful expression in his Latin writings show why Antonio Valeriano's capacities were recognised by Vives's disciple, the humanist and rhetorician Francisco Cervantes de Salazar and by Philip II of Spain, as well as by the Franciscans Juan Bautista, Juan de Torquemada and Bernardino de Sahagun.


Valeriano did not write the Nican mopohua but he may have authored a text with a very similar title, Nican ompehua, "Here begin": the translations of forty seven of Aesop's fables from Latin into Nahuatl. (90) The Nahuatl fables survive in two anonymous, undated manuscripts, one in the National Library of Mexico (BNM Ms. 1628) and the other in the Bancroft Library (M-M 464). The manuscripts are copies of earlier versions and could have been produced in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries.

The fables in the BNM manuscript are in the same volume and written in the same hand as the transcriptions of the Nahuatl songs known as the Cantares mexicanos and of the Kalendario mexicano, latino y castellano, an account of native religious festivals. (91) The entire manuscript is likely to have originated in a Franciscan environment, and several scholars, discerning resemblances to Fray Bernardino de Sahagun's work, have conjectured that he himself was the translator. (92) Convergences between the Kalendario and the friar's treatment of native festivals in Book 2 of the Historia general provides some basis for this speculation. The Cantares mexicanos have been attributed to Sahagun too--but that raises the question, given the collaborative manner in which the Historia general and Coloquios y doctrina cristiana were produced, of what it means to call Sahagun an "author".

Antonio Valeriano, who is mentioned by name in the Cantares mexicanos collection, has been credited with its compilation as well, perhaps in collaboration with other literate speakers of Nahuatl who had Franciscan connections. (93) But Valeriano's connection to the Cantares prompts consideration of his potential role in producing the version of Aesop with which the songs were transmitted. The likelihood that the translation would have been made from a Latin object text rather than a Spanish one narrows the field--very probably to the indigenous Latinists whom Sahagun names as his collaborators: Martin Jacobita, Alonso de Vergerano or Antonio Valeriano. (94) Moreover, the translator would have to be a Latinist with an extensive command of Nahuatl --as the task would require the capacity for innovation as well as correctness of speech in a language which was already becoming corrupted. In that respect, on Bautista's testimony at least, Valeriano was also superbly qualified, whilst other native Latinists may well have found their command of Nahuatl diminished after being subjected as young children to the Franciscans' immersive teaching of grammatica in the Indian colleges. (95)

Finally, if Fray Juan de Torquemada was correct in recording that Antonio Valeriano produced a translation of Cato, it is very possible that he did the same for Aesop. But Torquemada may have been confusing Cato's Distichs with Aesop's Fables in any case: the sententious maxims of the former resemble the morals of the latter, and the pseudo-Catonian Disticha moralia had been presented with the Latin Aesop so commonly and for so long as components of the Auctores octo morales. By the mid-1500s, the Fables and the Distichs would have been regarded as effectively the same work.


Archive documents

AGI-LM Archivo General de Indias, Seville: Legajo Mexico

AGI-J Archivo General de Indias, Seville: Justicia

AGI-P Archivo General de Indias, Seville: Patronato

AGN-V Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico: Vinculos

JCB Codex/Ind John Carter Brown Library, Indigenous language codices

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ANDREW LAIRD Doctor en Literae Humaniores por la Universidad de Oxford. Catedratico de Letras Clasicas en la Universidad de Warwick (RU) y profesor visitante en la Universidad Brown (EU). Su campo de investigacion es el humanismo en la Europa renacentista y en la America colonial, en especial la Nueva Espana. Su interes actual se centra en el papel del latin en la historia novohispana y las transformaciones del saber y el pensamiento en las primeras decadas tras la incursion espanola.

(1) Versions of this paper were presented at the Instituto de Investigaciones Filologicas, UNAM in 2011, the London Institute of Classical Studies in 2012, and the Northeastern Group of Nahuatl Studies, Yale in 2015. Translations are my own unless indicated.

(2) Seville: AGI-LM 1842. I am grateful to Pilar Lazaro de Escosura, Jefe del Departamento de Referencias at the AGI for supplying a facsimile. Editions of the document are in Zimmermann (1970) and Perez Rocha and Tena (2000: 213-225) with translations, respectively into German and Spanish.

(3) Carrasco (1984) drew attention to the letter's historical value. Carrasco (1999: 41-50), Santamarina Novillo (2007), Castaneda de la Paz (2013) treat pre-Hispanic Azcapotzalco; Gibson (1964), Lockhart (1992), Gonzalez Gomez (2004) describe the town under Spanish rule.

(4) Zimmermann (1970), Perez Rocha and Tena (2000), and Restall, Sousa and Terraciano (2005) are collections of such appeals.

(5) Ricard (1966), Kobayashi (1974), and Osorio Romero (1990) are standard accounts of the Latin education given to youths of the Nahua nobility; SilverMoon (2007) and Laird (2015: 119-123, 134-135) challenge the long held view that this education was intended to train students for the priesthood.

(6) Zimmermann (1970: Tafel 1-5) reproduces diagrams accompanying other suits of this kind.

(7) Francisco de Montejo (1508-1565), son of the homonymous conquistador, conquered Yucatan: Landa (1973). Chuchiak (2007: 221 n. 58) mentions Azcapotzalco's involvement.

(8) Feliciano Velazquez (1931: 6-9, 41). Zumarraga's successor as Bishop of Mexico, Alonso de Montufar, oversaw the building of the first shrine of Guadalupe, served by secular priests. Ricard (1966: 188-191) explains the Franciscans' opposition to the Guadalupan cult. See n. 85 below.

(9) Torquemada (1975: 347) [Book 3, chapter 6]: "Segun la cuenta que tienen los de Azcapotzalco de la fundacion y origen de su ciudad (que fue en otros tiempos de las mayores poblazones que hubo en estos reinos) ha mil y quinientos y sesenta y uno anos que se fundo." Torquemada was writing in 1596: Carrasco (1984: 74).

(10) Torquemada (1975: 348); Annals of Tlatelolco (1980: 55) [para. 258]. Congruities with the 1561 letter in Torquemada's Monarchia indiana may be explained by Antonio Valeriano's role as the friar's informant (n. 64 below).

(11) Carrasco (1984: 88-89).

(12) Megged (2010: 184-248) explores the ways different groups in New Spain told stories to compete with "canonic narratives".

(13) Duran (1995: 98-104) [Tratado primero, chapter 6].

(14) Molina (2004: 10): "Azcaputzalli. hormiguero [ant hill]. Azcatl. hormiga [ant]." For -co as a locative suffix in Nahuatl, see n. 42 below.

(15) Codex Xolotl (1980: 2, plancha 6 E3); compare Lockhart (1992: 578, n. 15). Umberger (1998: 251 n. 9) notes a glyph on the Stone of Tizoc resembling an ant hill, with a fourlegged ant recalling the Azcapotzalco glyph in the Codex Xolotl.

(16) Glass (1964: 94-95, plate 50). The Codex Garcia Granados has the glyph for rock (tetl) which denoted the Tepanecs in the Azcatitlan, Boturini and Xolotl codices, either as an ideogram, "the people of rock", or to represent the first syllable of "Tepanec" (Santama rina Novillo 2007: 74).

(17) Cantares mexicanos (1985: 41r, 268-273). The song moves through the Creation, Flood, Incarnation and Resurrection to end with Azcapotzalco: such a broad narrative culminating in praise of the poet's patron or locality was common in European panegyrical poetry. A preface naming Valeriano as the town's governor in 1565 could suggest he transcribed Placido's song (Bierhorst 1985: 12). Placido's Christmas song (Cantares mexicanos 1985: 37v) performed in the house of Azcapotzalco's previous governor confirms Placido's association with the town.

(18) Gilberti (2003). Burton (2007), Henderson (2007), and Mack (2011: 90-96, 228-256) note the success of the treatise (Erasmus 1971) which first appeared in 1522. Green and Murphy (2006: 183-184) list scores of European printed versions during 1522-1587, most before 1550. Osorio Romero (1980: 24-540) examines grammars and rhetorical manuals imported to New Spain.

(19) Mathes (1982); George (2009) discusses specific holdings of the library in Tlatelolco, including a copy of Quintilian annotated by a collegian.

(20) Mack (2011: 228-256).

(21) Erasmus' Conficiendarum epistolarum formula of 1498 (Erasmus 1985: 261-262) opposed the conventional five-part format advocated in the earlier guides to letter-writing known as artes dictaminis; compare Vives (1989: 82).

(22) Seville: AGI-P 184, 45: Laird (2016: 152, 155).

(23) Chirographum, Latin equivalent of the Greek [phrase omitted], had that general sense in Cicero (Ad Atticum 2.20.5; Philipics 2.4.8) but later acquired the specific meaning of "bond" or "record of a debt" in Roman law (Digest 20.7.57) as it did in patristic Greek: Lampe (1961: 1522). Greek terms, mediated by Pliny and other authors, were in the 1552 Libellus de medicinalibus indorum herbis translated into Latin in Tlatelolco by the Nahua Juan Badiano: Cruz (1964).

(24) The four parts of grammar--litera, syllaba, dictio ("word"), and oratio--given in Gilberti (2003: 88) followed Perotti's 1473 Rudimenta grammatices. The partition ultimately derived from Priscian's Institutiones, Book 2.

(25) Nebrija (1492: Book 1, chapter 2): "Entre todas las cosas que por experiencia los ombres hallaron: o por reuelacion divina nos fueron demostradas para polir e adornar la vida umana: ninguna otra fue tan necessaria. que la invencion delas letras"; Garces, De habiliate et capacitate gentium (1537) in Laird (2014: 208, 220): nulla exterorum hominum notitia, nullo cultu, aut victu, aut vestitu, aliisque humanae vitae ornamentis praediti, nullo literarum commertio, "They had no word of other human beings, no education or any means of sustaining themselves or clothing, or other adornments of human existence, no dealings with letters?". Compare Nebrija (1488: 1r): "Si los otros subditos & vassallos de Vuestra Real Magestad que han dado obra al estudio delas letras asi miraran por el bien publico & ornamento de nuestra Espana, como yo que soy el meno de ellas."

(26) Virgil, Aeneid 10.284; Cortes (1986: 145). "La fortuna ayuda a los osados" was proverbial in Castilian after De Rojas' La Celestina (1499). The Jesuit commentator Juan Luis de la Cerda remarked on this verse: Quot huic germanae & cognatae sententiae?, "How many sententiae are germane or related to this one?" listing several parallels to the expression (La Cerda 1617).

(27) Simon (1942: 68). The words would also be quoted by the Venezuelan liberator Francisco Miranda (Miranda 1982: 224).

(28) Marshall (1982). In medieval and Renaissance Europe this story was far more often (if incorrectly) told about the emperor Trajan: Paris (1879), Boni (1906).

(29) Merula (1519) and (1521) was printed from editions of 1516, with the addition of Erasmus' annotations from a similar title printed in Basel in 1518: Merula's translation of Dio's lives of Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian had already appeared in Censorinus (1503). Stephanus (1551).

(30) Gonzalez Rodriguez (1981) and Lupher (2003) treat the complex associations between Spain, Rome and the New World; compare MacCormack (2006).

(31) Musarum aedes, "temple of the Muses", is the more conventional expression in classical Latin, but aedes, temple or sanctuary carries stronger connotations of pagan belief. The Flemish humanist Justus Lipsius (1584: 2.3) used musarum mihi domus, "my Muses' home", of his study.

(32) Silius Italicus, Punica 8.595 is the only place musarum domus is found in Roman literature. Nebrija championed Silius Italicus as a Spaniard, but had he been a native of Italica in Andalusia, his name would have been Italicensis: Campbell (1936).

(33) Laird (2014: 208): Feritas Hispanorum quondam tanta erat, vt Sylius Italicus ex Italica Bethicae ciuitate oriundus, dicat de maioribus suis eulogium inclytum. "The ferocity of the Spaniards was at one time so great that Silius Italicus who came from the city of Italica in Betica pronounces a hardly glorious eulogy of his own ancestors."

(34) Sahagun (1969: 91-92, 89). Compare the orations to Tezcatlipoca (1969: 7-10, 41-45) where priests pray for a calm temperament in adverse conditions.

(35) Homer, Odyssey 18.9f.; Ovid, Tristia 3.7.42: Irus et est subito, qui modo Croesus erat, "And one who was rich as Croesus is suddenly Irus"; Erasmus, Adagia 1.6.76 Iro pauperior, "poorer than Irus". Gilberti (2003: 666) followed Erasmus in using the Irus exemplum adversarially: Opes? At vel Iro ipso pauperiores, "Wealth? You are even poorer than Irus!".

(36) Virgil, Eclogues 7.42; Horace, Satires 2.5.8.

(37) Henderson (2007).

(38) Sahagun 1986, 148. The Latin from the Azcapotzalco letter quoted above actually resembles Sahagun's Nahuatl version more closely than the wording of his original Spanish: Nosotros que somos como nada, personas soezes y de muy baja condicio[n], y que por hierro nos [h]a[pu]esto n[uestro] senor en las esquijnas de su estrado y silla.

(39) Seville: AGI-P 184,45, 1; Laird (2016: 151).

(40) Cruz (1964: f. 1r-2v).

(41) Karttunen and Lockhart (1987: 22). The auto-humiliciacion in the Nahuatl passage above may have been a formulaic device (Johansson 2002: 226-227); Maxwell and Hanson (1992: 20-21) note that "constant potential for antonymic interpretation gives the Nahuatl author the power to say one thing but to mean another". Compare the self-characterisation of the Mexican priests in the impetrative orations in Sahagun (1969).

(42) Quauhnahuac, "[place] beside the trees" (Lockhart 2001: 23); Tianquisco "(at the) market place" (Karttunen 1992: 240); Tlatelolco "place of the earth mound" (Molina 2004: 135v). Compare Karttunen (1992: 35) and n. 14 above on "Azcapotzalco".

(43) Oxford Latin Dictionary (1996: 146): aperio, "To make known or clear by words etc., reveal, disclose, explain." Petrarch, Epistolae Familiares 4.1.

(44) Sahagun (1986: 148-149): in itop iniipetlacal, "the chest and the basket" = "coffer". Karttunen (1992: 293) translates tlapohuiliztli as "recitation" but also cites Molina (2004): "tlapouiliztli, opening, the act of unfastening".

(45) The heart was seen as the source of vitality after Plato: Singer (1997: xi-xii); Wear (1995) on Galenic theories of the circulation of blood. Sahagun (1961: 130) [Historia general Book 10, chapter 27, Nahuatl text] Toiollo teiolotia, tenemitia ... tecuini "Our heart. animates us, sustains us, pulsates." The Nahuatl for heart, yollotl is related to yoli, "live", "come to life": the diphrasis in ixtli in yollotl, "face and heart", conveys both the distinguishing characteristics and living essence of an individual (Karttunen and Lockhart 1987: 54-55; Leon-Portilla 2006: 190-192).

(46) Neither Erasmus' formulae for dating a letter (Erasmus 1971: 298-300) nor the summary in Gilberti (2003: 608) introduce vero "true".

(47) Examples include letters from the Nahua Cabildo of Tenochtitlan in 1554 and the nobles of Xochimilco in 1563 to Philip II (Restall, Sousa and Terraciano 2005: 64-71); orations in Sahagun (1986); poems in the Cantares mexicanos (1985); and the Annals of Tlatelolco in Lockhart (1993). Lockhart's title is apt: We People Here. Erasmus (1971: 266-276) opposed the use of the first-person plural in place of the singular in normal letters, but this was not recalled in the brief epitome by Gilberti (2003: 652).

(48) Austin (1971) distinguished "constative utterances" which describe a state of affairs from "performative utterances" which bring about a state of affairs: the classical version of the same distinction made by Quintilian, in the Institutio oratoria (12.10.43). The text was in the library of the College of Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco: George (2009).

(49) In a later letter to Philip II, written in Spanish in 1576 Valeriano would sign himself "Don Ant[oni]o Valeriano, g[obernad]or" (of Tenochtitlan): a facsimile and transcription is in Leon-Portilla (2015).

(50) Cervantes de Salazar (2001: 267r).

(51) Chronica Mexicayotl (1998: 171, 176). The text, long attributed to Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc, is now ascribed to Chimalpahin: Schroeder (2011).

(52) Castaneda de la Paz (2011) is an indispensable discussion, drawing attention to the Septima Relacion of Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin (1998: 183) and to an affirmation by Antonio Valeriano's grandson (of the same name) that Valeriano's father was Francisco Alvarado de Matlaccohuatl: AGN-V 110, exp. 2, f. 338v-339r. Castaneda de la Paz (2012: 54) presents a diagram of the genealogy.

(53) Sahagun (1982: 55): "In all of [the siftings of my book] my collaborators were collegians expert in grammar. The principal and most learned of them was Antonio Valeriano, of Azcapotzalco, and Alonso Vegerano of Cuauhtitlan; another was Martin Jacobita. I should add Pedro de San Buenaventura. All three were expert in three languages: Latin, Spanish, and Indian."

(54) Sahagun (1986: 75): Vegerano, Jacobita (future rector of Tlatelolco) are again named, after Valeriano, along with Andres Leonardo. Valeriano's hand in the Coloquios may account for the uncanny resemblance noted above between the excerpt from the Nahuatl text and the salutatio of the Latin letter.

(55) Prologue of Bautista (1606), in Garcia Icazbalceta (1954: 474-478).

(56) In a joint 1525 letter Bishops Garces and Zumarraga wrote that their opponent Gonzalo de Salazar was more eloquent than Demosthenes or Cicero: AGI-J 1018, ed. Mariano Cuevas (1939: 455-456).

(57) Illiturae "about to soil", future participle from illino, "besmirch with mud", does not construe in the Latin (translated above as "litterings", to parallel its assonance with litterae). Successive copyists, including Eguiara y Eguren (1986) in 1755, Beristain (1821) and Osorio Romero (1990) retained Bautista's reading. I am grateful to Roland Mayer for alerting me to the textual problem and to its solution.

(58) Tristia 3.1 was included in the first anthology of classical verse printed in New Spain: (Tam de Tristibus quam de Ponticis 1577: f. 23v-25r). Osorio Romero (1984); on the poem's place in curricula planned by the Jesuits see n. 69 below.

(59) Valeriano may have known the De conscribendis epistolis of Erasmus (1971: 211) which had illiterata literatorum turba, "an illiterate horde of literates". Erasmus (1993: 502) complained in Epigrams 44 about schoolmasters teaching illiteras litteras "unlettered letters". The quotation from Colet's 1509 statutes for St Paul's is in Lupton (1909: 280).

(60) Innocentius (1855: col. 706). This must be the text recalled by Valeriano, and not the erotic motif of Catullus 51 or Lucretius 3.152-59, as maintained in Gil (1990, 122 n. 75).

(61) Moore (1981) treats the diffusion of the De miseria which came to be included in Innocent's De sacro altaris mysterio (Innocentius 1540; Yhmoff Cabrera 1996: 2:154), a title owned by Bishop Zumarraga, much of whose library passed to the College (Mathes 1982: 25, 94).

(62) Compare Bautista (1606) quoted in Garcia Icazbalceta (1954: 475). A facsimile and translation of the text of the Codex Aubin is in Dibble (1963). Lockhart (2001: 119) notes Nahuatl has no "r", but some Spanish writers sometimes also confused "r" with "l".

(63) Lacadena (2008: 14); Whittaker (2009: 69).

(64) Torquemada (1975-83: 5:176-177) [Book 15, chapter 43]; earlier notice of Valeriano was in 2:361 [Book 5, chapter 10].

(65) Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin (1949-52: 3: f. 223).

(66) Torquemada (1975-83: 6:395) [Book 20, chapter 79] also states Bautista wrote comedias: Bautista quoted in Garcia Icazbalceta (1954: 476); Horcasitas (2004: 100-101).

(67) Leon-Portilla (2000: 34) suggests Valeriano translated Cato the Elder's De agri cultura, but such a technical study of farming in ancient Italy would have been of little interest, even if it had reached New Spain.

(68) Ziolkowski (2006: 114); Pepin (2000). The Auctores octo morales included the De contemptu mundi attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, of which there is an anonymous, undated Nahuatl translation (JCB Codex/Ind/23). For the Nahuatl translations of Aesop's fables see Postscript below.

(69) According to Osorio Romero (1980: 32), the Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico holds two Erasmian editions of the Disticha moralia (Erasmus 1559, 1567). Cato (i. e. the Distichs) was second after Aesop in a list of classics (including Vives, Cicero, Virgil, Valla, Ovid's Tristia) which the Jesuits sought to publish in Mexico. Viceroy Martin Enriquez reproduced the list in his license for the printing of Toledo (1577): Garcia Icazbalceta (1954: 297). From the copy of Tam de Tristibus (1577: f. A4r) in New York Public Library it appears that the lost preceding folio contained the same list.

(70) Mendieta 1997 mentioned Fray Luis Rodriguez's translation of the Proverbs; a manuscript has been located by David Tavarez (2013a).

(71) Latin text: Roos (1984).

(72) Karttunen (1995), SilverMoon (2007) and Tavarez (2013b) have considered Valeriano's role as a scholar-translator. Connell (2011) and Mundy (2015) emphasise his importance as a political leader; the latter putting Valeriano centre stage in the post-conquest history of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. See too the Spanish letter Valeriano wrote as governor of Tenochtitlan to Philip II in Leon-Portilla (2015), cited in n. 49 above.

(73) Bautista (quoted in Garcia Icazbalceta 1954: 475) consulted Valeriano about Nahuatl on "particular things, like etymologies and the meanings of words".

(74) Karttunen (1995: 117).

(75) Sanchez (1982).

(76) Brading (2001: 92).

(77) Poole (1997: 165-170) traces the transmission of Siguenza's claim.

(78) Eguiara y Eguren (1986: 287-292).

(79) Eguiara y Eguren (1986: 290-291).

(80) Cuevas (1931); Burrus (1979); O'Gorman (1986).

(81) Leon-Portilla (2000: 43-7).

(82) Teresa de Mier, (1981: 212), cited in Brading (2001: 222).

(83) Garcia Icazbalceta (undated: 67-69), in Poole (1997: 222).

(84) Ricard (1966: 190).

(85) Sahagun (1982: 90) [Historia general, Book 11, chapter 12] explained that at Tepeyac there had once been a temple to the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, whose name means "Our mother", and some preachers were encouraging the Indians to give that name to the Virgin; compare n. 8, above, and Karttunen (1995: 118).

(86) Palmer (1954: 186): "Even where it would have been possible to find a Latin equivalent [for a Greek Christian technical term], undesirable pagan associations often ruled it out of court. Vates or fatidicus could not do service for propheta nor templum or fanum for ecclesia."

(87) Sahagun (1982: 90).

(88) Ricard (1966: 70).

(89) Beristain (1821: 84): "Estoy muy lejos de comparar esta carta con las de Ciceron, ni con las de Vives, Angel Policiano, Lipsio y Manuel Marti; pero ruego al que la leyere que reflexione si habrian escrito mejor una carta en mexicano u otomi Marco Tulio y el dean de Alicante, si hubiesen sido conquistados por Moctezuma?" Poliziano, Lipsius and Vives were among the most eminent humanists of Renaissance Europe; Marti, Dean of Alicante, notorious for his anti-American polemic, was eighteenth-century Spain's most celebrated Latinist and antiquarian.

(90) Nahuatl text and translation: Kutscher, Brotherston and Vollmer (1987).

(91) Iguiniz (1918) is a text of the Kalendario; Garcia Icazbalceta (1954: 376-387).

(92) Penafiel (1900: 6); Garibay (1953-4: 2:184); Kutscher, Brotherston and Vollmer (1987: 222-223).

(93) Bierhorst (1985: 9). Compare n. 17 above.

(94) Aesop was available in Spanish, but the Latin fables would have been known as a school text (notes 68 and 69 above). The Nahuatl translations include a version of Aethiops, Aphthonius' Aesopic fable about the Ethiopian, which only widely circulated after the Latin text printed in Basel (Aesop 1524: 171). That or a later Frobenius edition, or an anthology based on it, was the Mexican translator's most likely source, not Accursius' earlier compilations of Aesop, as Brotherston (1972: 37-8) and Kutscher, Brotherston and Vollmer (1987) have suggested.

(95) Garcia Icazbalceta (1954: 474).

[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article.]

Caption: Figura 1. Name glyph for Azcapotzalco, Codex Xolotl

Caption: Figura 2. Glyph for Azcapotzalco, Codex Garcia Granados

Caption: Figura 3. Signatures of Valeriano and Placido, AGI 1842, f. 6

Caption: Figura 4. Antonio Valeriano depicted in the Codex Aubin (British Museum) f. 59v
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Author:Laird, Andrew
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Date:Jul 1, 2016
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