Thèse : A fragile coalition: The “Relacion de Michoacan” and the compiling of indigenous traditions in sixteenth-century Mexico


  • Stone, Cynthia Leigh
  • Adorno, Rolena. Directeur


Three hundred years before the establishment of the discipline of anthropology, a h and ful of friars in sixteenth-century Mexico set out to record the customs and beliefs of the principal Mesoamerican peoples and civilizations. With the assistance of multilingual indigenous youths, they transcribed oral testimonies, translated them into Castilian, added written commentary. They also typically elicited pictorial testimonies in the form of colored drawings that were included in the final manuscripts. Some of these works, especially those on the traditions of the Nahua and the Maya, have received a good deal of attention from historians, anthropologists, and literary scholars. The text I have chosen as the focus of my study–the Relacion de Michoacan–is less widely known, although it presents a number of distinctive features that highlight the participation of the indigenous collaborators. I look at the circumstances that made the production of this particular text possible from about 1538 to 1541, the motivations of the anonymous Franciscan compiler, of Viceroy Mendoza, who commissioned the work, of the principal indigenous informants, and of the anonymous scribes and painters. I also discuss the stages of production, the relationship between the prose and pictures, the tensions between the various points of view represented, the combination of European and Amerindian stylistic conventions, the overlap as well as the divergence between the meanings attributed to the text by the friar-compiler, on one h and , and the indigenous informants, on the other. The vision of the Relacion de Michoacan that emerges from this discussion is of a text situated at the crossroads between different cultural systems, a synthesis of multiple h and s and voices, a palimpsest revealing traces of functions performed at various stages in the compilation process. The underlying premise that distinguishes my work from previous scholarship is that I focus not only on the ethnohistorical value of the Relacion, but also on its textual dynamics, in order to articulate a reading or interpretation of the work as a whole. 

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Citer ce billet
Olivier Jacquot (2023, 31 janvier). Thèse : A fragile coalition: The “Relacion de Michoacan” and the compiling of indigenous traditions in sixteenth-century Mexico. Amoxcalli. Consulté le 22 juin 2024, à l’adresse

Olivier Jacquot

Chargé de collections : manuscrits des fonds américains, Service des manuscrits ORientaux (SOR), département des Manuscrits (MSS), Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

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